Thursday, October 20, 2016

Refit Priorities

Windbird's refit has finally begun in Charleston, three weeks into the month in which I was hoping to complete it. Most of that is thanks to Hurricane Matthew, plus some shortcomings in my communication with the boatyard. As a matter of fact, due to our early arrival to the yard last month I neglected to insist on an estimate before the boat was already out of the water. It finally came in earlier this week, and was quite a bit more than expected - $20k to replace the standing rigging alone, plus another $3.5k to yank the mast and restep it. It's considerably more than we were budgeting, but it needs to be done, and frankly I put myself in no position to bargain. So onward we go, the refit of our old boat behind schedule and over budget. Shocking, right?

I had a 5-day trip to Lagos from Saturday until Wednesday. I've been to Africa a number of times but never for work and never Nigeria. Due to the crime & security situation in Lagos, my airline "strongly recommends" not leaving our layover hotel compound. So I had 52 hours to be productive writing my monthly column for flying, researching boat stuff, ordering supplies.... HAH! No, I frittered it away eating and drinking with the crew, sitting by the pool while keeping one eye out for malarial mosquitos, and finishing one book ("Steaming to Bamboola") and starting another ("Seraffyn's Mediterranean Adventure"). Actually, I also did some thinking about our goals and priorities for this winter.

We want to do a shakedown cruise  - really, shaking down the boat but mostly gaining experience ourselves - that lasts several months. I don't think I've actually said this explicitly in previous posts, but we've modified our plan to include cruising Florida and the northern Bahamas this winter/spring, returning to cruise the U.S. east coast next summer, and then heading to the Caribbean in Nov 2017. This new plan (really our original plan) allows for some of the refit to be done next summer, but the most important things should be done this fall. If we try to do it all, we'll never even leave Myrtle Beach. To my mind, the three areas that are most important are: #1: Current & adequate safety equipment. #2. Sound mast, rigging, and sails. #3. Good navigation and self-steering equipment.

We've just began to address safety equipment by purchasing good offshore PFDs and tethers at Annapolis. We will be getting the liferaft repacked while in Charleston. I still need to go through the ditch kit, inventory its contents, and replace expired items. Ditto the medical kit, which is actually still up in Cape Cod with Judy. The mast, rigging and chainplates we're taking care of in Charleston at great expense, and hopefully will be done by ~ Nov 10th. We'll also be repacking stuffing boxes and repairing some water intrusion into the skeg while on the hard, and also refreshing bottom paint, but we'll not repair the small blisters that have started to pox Windbird's bottom at this time. We got quotes for a new mainsail from multiple lofts at Annapolis and ended up going with Doyle; we'll be getting our replacement main for considerably less than we thought ($3300 vs $4600). Windbird was previously adequately equipped for #3 but the lightning shot that all to hell, so installing the new chartplotter and autopilot will be priorities once we get back up to Myrtle Beach.

One previous priority - replacing the dodger, bimini, enclosure, and stack pack - has been shoved aside. Like everything else, this has turned out to be more expensive than we anticipated, and it would've taken up additional time too. The reality is that the fabric is faded but still servicable; the expensive issenglass is just fine; it's just the stitching thread that is sun-rotted. So after I landed in Atlanta from Lagos on Wednesday, I flew to Charleston, grabbed all our canvas out of our V-berth, and drove it to Georgetown to be restitched. The boat would look sharper with new canvas, sure, but the current stuff should get us through a year just fine. Another thing I would like to improve but that can really wait until next year is our solar power array. I got some great ideas by talking to knowledgeable folks at Annapolis, and I'm sure I'll learn more by looking at other cruiser's setups while we're down south.

I have several more trips to fly this month so I don't think we'll be getting back to Windbird until November 2nd, when we'll drive from MN after having moved out of our apartment. We've decided we don't really want to live on the boat on the hard with Piper, so we're looking into alternative accommodations until the boat is splashed. In November I don't fly until the 18th, which I'm hoping will give us time to get the boat back together and up to our slip in Little River. My goal is to head south sometime in January and be in the Bahamas before March. Like all boat plans, we'll just have to see how that goes,

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