emergency rudder mounts

Emergency Rudder: Phase I

Monday November 18, 2013

emergency rudder brackets

As I’ve mentioned, Matt has a million different projects going on right now to spruce up Serendipity and get her ready for cruising.  Most of them have been for more along the lines of comfort features while at anchor, a sliding board that covers the stove for more counter space; reconfiguring our dining table to give more room to move around the salon; things like that.  But after doing much research online, we’ve taken on a new project that will improve the actual performance of Serendipity. Or, possibly save us from disaster.  However you want to look at it.

Our plans this coming summer are to take the ‘Dip from St. Martin in the Eastern Caribbean over to the Mediterranean, which includes crossing approximately 3,200 nautical miles of the Atlantic Ocean.  We’re hoping that this will be a very uneventful crossing for us, but you know what they say, ‘Hope for the best, plan for the worst’.

As you’ve probably been able to guess, Matt has spent many a night here in the Rio while we have internet access, scouring to see what are the biggest issues boats run into on ocean crossings, and making sure that we can do our best to prevent them.  What he ended up finding, is that the most common cause for distress while passaging is rudder failure.  For my non-nautical friends, the rudder is a vertically hinged plate of metal, fiberglass, or wood, placed at the stern of the ship and is used to steer the boat through the water.  Now I don’t know about you, but I consider steering a pretty frickin’ important necessity to get from Point A to Point B, and that is probably one of the last things I want to fail on me out in the middle of an ocean.

Throughout the summer and into the fall we toyed with the idea of building an emergency rudder, considered  the condition of our current rudder, and what options we would have if it did fail on us out at sea without having a backup.  Don’t get me wrong, there are still little things you can do to control steering a little bit without a rudder, such as trailing a drogue on one side of the boat to get it to turn that direction, or attaching boards to a spinnaker pole and using that as a replacement rudder.  It’s actually part of the reason we bought ours (with the added bonus that it could be used as an emergency mast should we ever be de-masted).  We were very back and forth on the issue if we wanted to put in the time and money, and take away precious storage space, to build and have mountings for a second, albeit, smaller rudder.  As if we were waiting for a sign to be sent to us, Matt came across this article of a relatively new Beneteau Oceanis 50 that was traveling between islands in the Eastern Caribbean this summer when their rudder sheared right off.  They ended up putting in a distress call and were towed through 6-8 ft seas for nearly 30 hours until they arrived on the island of Martinique. If it could happen to them, it could happen to anyone.  That cemented our decision.  We wanted an emergency rudder.  We’d both be much happier having it and hopefully never having to use it, than falling into a situation where we needed it and were only able to rely on the other backups listed above.

Since we’ve made this decision, we’ve been in talks with an American named Thomas that runs a welding shop in the Rio.  With his help, and some very detailed instructions from Matt, he’s spent the past few weeks making the mountings for the rudder and was able to bring all the pieces over this afternoon to install them.  The parts we had Thomas make/weld for us are: three stainless steel mounts to be attached to the transom; a rudder mount, and a gudgeon.  Here’s a rough sketch Matt made of how it will all fit on the boat.

emergency rudder

We’ve set it up so that the three transom mounts will be permanent and always visible, but the rudder mount, gudgeon, and rudder will be stored away.  Should our current rudder ever shear off (let’s hope not), we’d assemble the rudder mount to the transom mounts, slip in the the new rudder, and hopefully be able to maintain decent steerage.  Not enough to be a permanent fix if the original rudder was gone, but enough to get us to land and someplace we can do repairs.

After Thomas brought all of the pieces over, all we can say is that we are thrilled with his work and we’re so happy that we were able to find him here in the Rio.  Thanks for introducing us to him Luis!  Just yet another advantage of our little dinner club.

This is a two part project for us, Matt and I will be making the rudder ourselves once we get to a place where we can get the supplies necessary, probably Mexico or the US.  The rudder will be 48″ long, 12″ wide, and made from foam, fiberglass, and epoxy.  Consider phase one checked off the list though!

Thomas applying brackets 1

Lining up and installing the transom mounts.

Thomas installing emergency rudder mounts

Placing it all together.

phase one emergency rudder

Phase one complete.


The gudgeon, which will eventually be attached to the emergency rudder.



cushions on Serendipity

How NOT to Wash Your Cushions

Tuesday November 12, 2013

cushions on Serendipity

On this boat, neither of us claim to be experts on anything, although it has been mentioned recently that Matt is an Encyclopedia on all boats and every one of their specs (from too much time spent on Yacht World!!), so for simple things we’re  of the ‘try and see’ variety, and if something works for us once, we don’t find a need to change it.  Such is our excuse for how we’ve just tried to clean our settee cushions.  I think I’ve mentioned in a previous post how filthy they’ve been getting, our dirty and sweaty bodies lounging against them day in and day out.

From the time we left up until now we’ve only done spot cleaning in areas that have had noticeable stains,  usually where part of my dinner will roll first onto my lap and then on to the cushion, where upon the Woolite fabric cleaner is immediately exhumed from the depths under our sink and the spot is quickly removed.  I swear, that stuff is magic.  But lately we’ve  been looking at our cushions and realizing they need a lot more than just spot cleaning.  They need about 15 months worth of removal of our day to day living on them. We also tried to rope in a cleaning service after a friend asked us to look at this site, but then opted to go about the process by ourselves.

So, we decided to drag them out onto the docks and spray them down with a hose before scrubbing with some soapy water (from laundry detergent, not dish soap).  I know you might be thinking to yourself, ‘Why soak the whole cushion?, It’s never going to dry!’.  We assumed this would be fine because looong ago when we were still land lubbers and our dog used one of our settee cushions as a piddle pad during a particularly rough ride on Lake Michigan (it soaked through all four inches of foam and left a puddle underneath), we had no other option at the time that to take the now urine soaked cushion out on deck and throw buckets and buckets of fresh water on it along with whatever cleaning products we could find.  It sat up on deck for another two to three hours, and by the time we slid back up to our mooring ball, guess what?  It was completely dry.

So as I popped my head out of companionway present day, and looked at the hot sun above us, I figured, “Nice, this things will be washed and dry before dinner!”.  I hooked the hose up to the fresh water spout, hosed each cushion thoroughly down, and got to work scrubbing any stains that I could see.  Stains that were quite apparent while they were sitting in our salon, but seemed to disappear as soon as the cushion was wet.  I hate when that happens.  Each cushion received proper Bed Bug Removal New York City New York treatment provides about thirty minutes of scrubbing and was then soaked one more time with the hose.  To help the drying process out a bit we folded the cushions in half and put our full weight on to them, letting extra water trickle through the dock below us.  Then for added purging I hopped on each cushion as if it were a trampoline, almost sending myself off the dock and into the river water below.

Sweeping my nose across the finished product I smelled the freshness and was quite proud of myself for finally tackling a project that sorely needed to be done for months now.  All that was left to do was leave them in the sun, and along with the afternoon breezes that wafted through, wait for nature to do it’s part.  I wish it had been that easy.

Going back to inspect the cushions just as the sun was flickering through the lower branches of the trees, we noticed they were still damp.  ‘Ok’, we thought, ‘Guatemala is a little more humid than Michigan, I guess they’ll need overnight to try’.  So we propped them up on the inside of the ranchito, away from the regular storms that pass through at night, and figured that with a few extra hours of sun in the morning, we’d be back relaxing in them by lunch the next day.  Only, that was a no-go as well.  We checked on them every few hours the next day, and not only were they not fully drying, but now they were beginning to smell moldy.  I wanted to fix it with some more sun and maybe a little Fabreeze.  Matt thought they were too far past that and needed another washing.  His argument won out.

Once again the cushions were brought on the dock, hosed down, soaped up, and really really squeezed dry.  They have now been ‘drying’ on the docks and in the ranchito for three days.  I don’t even know what do do anymore.  The things won’t air out.  We tried taking them in last night as we foolishly thought they had finally dried out, although, still smell a little moldy, only to find that after a few hours of sitting on them, little wet spots had risen to the top leaving our butts and legs damp.  We’ll just continue to leave them outside every day and pull them in at night until we’re satisfied that they’re ok again.  Next time, I think we’ll stick to Woolite-ing the hell out of them.

Lago Izabal, Guatemala

Down One Dinghy Engine

Friday November 8, 2013

Lago Izabal, Guatemala

If I haven’t mentioned it before, or if it’s just been a really long time I’ve talked about it, we left Lake Michigan last year with two outboard engines for our dinghy.  One of them is a 3.3 hp Mercury, and the other is a 9.9 hp Johnson.  Back when we had our boat on a mooring in Muskegon Lake we had no problem getting from Point A to Point B with our little Mercury, but after reading plenty of accounts from other cruisers that once you get to the Bahamas, it’s nice to have an outboard with a little oomph to carry you between the different cays so you’re not always moving your big boat 2-3 miles just to see something new for the day.  Scouring Ebay and Craig’s List for a larger engine, we came across the Johnson, coincidentally being sold by one of the workers at our marina.  It looked a little beat up (which is actually a good thing, makes it less desirable to thieves), but the price was right and it purred like a kitten once you got it going.  We purchased it, and pretty much left it hanging on the stern of the boat until we got to the Bahamas.

We did use it there a few times, but it was always a hassle getting it from the boat to the dink since it was so much heavier, 75 pounds versus the 28 of our Mercury, so we only used it when we knew we’d be traveling longer distances that the Mercury could not handle.  Which, between the Bahamas and Guatemala, is a number I can count on one hand.  I don’t think it was a huge chore to use the Johnson, but using the Mercury was just so much easier.  Sure, we may not get to where we going very quickly, but luckily for us, time is something that we now have plenty of.  And so, with a bit of contemplating and a week of going back and forth, we’ve decided to sell the Johnson outboard.  We figure with all the use it had (not) been getting, we were better off with the money in our pockets after selling it than keeping it around, constantly weighing down our stern and rarely getting use.  Besides, if we decide down the road that we want or need a larger engine again, we can probably find one in the price range we’re selling ours for.

Once the decision was made to sell it, we needed to make sure that it still worked properly.  For the next few days after making the decision to sell, we’ve been using it to travel back and forth from town, and even a few excursions to Lago Izabal.  I have to say, I forgot how much fun it is having that rush of power behind us.  Speeding along from once place to the next with the wind whipping through your hair and showering you with a nice cool breeze instead of putting around with only three horses, feeling the sun scorch you the whole way.  Part of me wants to keep it now, realizing how much I miss it, but we already have a buyer and can no longer back out.  I’m sure it’s for the best though, seeing how well we got along without it before, and soon enough my mind will forget that extra rush of power and be content to put put around once more.

Oh, and Serendipity’s stern is already loving the lighter load.

Lago Izabal, Guatemala

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Sewing Jerrycan Covers

Sunday October 13, 2013


If I’ve been waiting a long time to complete the shade curtains in the cockpit, I’ve been waiting just as long to do the project of making jerrycan covers. Probably longer. In fact, I think this was supposed to have been completed back in Michigan, before we even left on this trip. As much as I had been putting it off though, I knew that it needed to get finished now. Aside from the constant nagging from Matt, there were other reasons. First, is that our jerrycans look terrible sitting on the side of the boat. They were a visual abomination on an otherwise clean slate as they clashed with the colors and lines of Serendipity, and also making us look as if we were giving a lesson in primary colors. Do you know how many times I’d have to Photoshop those red and yellow cans away for a decent photo? Ok, so maybe it was only for our boat card photo (where I also edited out Rode Trip, ha!), but still.

The second reason I knew I needed to complete this project now is because one of our diesel jerrycans actually received so much sun damage that it cracked and began leaking fuel. Yes, this project could no longer wait. I should say though, that I tried to start making one in Florida, but I failed horribly at that first attempt and didn’t have the energy, or desire, to go back and do it correctly at that time. For 10 months, that sorry excuse for a jerrycan cover sat folded up in the aft cabin with wishes to never see it again.

Now that I really needed to finish what I started, I was happy to have some kind of template to work with. This one was made for our squarish shaped diesel can, and having Matt lug the full five gallons of it’s content to the picnic table in the ranchito, I slipped the cover over it to see it once more swimming in a sea of blue Sunbrella. Doing a bit of tugging and gathering here and there, I realized the four panel design was not necessary and I could take the back one off. After this was done I flipped the fabric inside out, placed it back over the jerrycan, and pinned the loose fabric together in the back. I realized that the original cover was way too long and I needed to take a few inches off from the bottom. Pinning these up as well, I kept making adjustments to the extra fabric in the back, trying to keep the lines as straight as possible. I spent a full day on this one jerrycan, pinning, un-pinning, repositioning, and then pinning again. The next day I went back to sew and ended up with something that wasn’t the prettiest jerrycan cover in the world, but it fit.

The other two jerrycans needed to be made from scratch and I seemed to be at a loss for this. Let me just mention right now that sometimes logistics are not my high suit and I miss very easy solutions that are right in front of my face. I’m sure there was a simple and logical solution on how to make good looking jerrycan covers without a predetermined template, but that’s not the route I took. Oh, I did go for simple, but good looking was left way back in the dust. For the next set of covers I took one of the jerrycans and laid it on it’s side on the Sunbrella fabric. From there I pulled the fabric up to meet the middle of the jerrycan and marked it. I traced the pattern all the way around and then marked another line a half inch further out to allow for the seam. Cutting the fabric I traced this outline once more on the Sunbrella so I could cut the other side.

Once I had both sides cut I pinned the fabric at the edges and placed it over the jerrycan to check it’s fit. I found that the sides were mostly accurate but there was extra fabric gathering at the top. Removing those pins, I positioned them lower for a tighter fit. Then it was on to the sewing machine. With my Brother, I sewed the exact line of the pins, pausing the machine every few moments to take out the next few pins before they were hit with the needle and thread. I was kind of surprised at what ease this project was turning itself out to be. Once I had the two pieces sewn together I once more threw the cover over the can to check it’s fit. There was still a bit of loose fabric at the top, so I once more pinned it closer to the body of the jerrycan. Another run through the sewing machine and a cut of the extra fabric later, I had a simple but snug cover that fit over the jerrycan but still easily lifted off.

I followed these same steps for the last jerrycan (at least I was logistically smart enough to trace and cut the fabric for the second cover from the first one), and I was almost finished. At the top of each cover I sewed a very tight rectangle of thread which I then cut a sliver in the center of to allow for the strap of the wrachet to slide through so we could continue to secure them to the deck. They sure don’t look like much from up close, and had I done a little more researching I probably could have found a better design (although all that sewing lingo completely throws me off and always leaves me utterly confused), I’m happy to have them done. Besides, at they sit strapped to the side of the boat now, they actually look pretty decent from far away.

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First attempt, ……. not even close.

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It starting to take shape!

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A couple more stitches, and the first one is done!

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curtain down

Get Back to Work!

Monday September 30, 2013

sewing cockpit shades 1

Have I mentioned that I can be a bit of a procrastinator when it comes to projects? Usually waiting until I have at least only 60% of the time necessary to complete the project before starting? This is especially true of anything to do with sewing since my sewing machine and I have never been on good terms and most of the time I like to forget that it exists.

Now that we’re back at Serendipity though, after six weeks of backpacking through South America (ok, so 10 of those days were spent in a comfy bed at Matt’s mom’s house in Michigan), we realized that we have about one month left of easy shore and electrical outlet access left, and it’s time to get our butt in gear on remaining projects. Matt has a whole lot of sanding ahead of him so he can finish varnishing the interior of Serendipity, but with the palm sander that was lent to us back in the hands of it’s owner for their own use, he has to put that project off until we can buy our own at a little hardware store in town. Something that we go in every day and ask for, only to keep getting the same response of “Mañana”. So now he’s focused his energy back on the project of reconfiguring our dining room table so that it will sit more compact with the mast and give a little more room in the salon (yes, that will be shown as well once it is completed)/

He’s busy with that, which means I have to get my own projects done too. All of which are sewing related. Excuse me one moment while I curse under my breath (son of a &%$, stupid sewing machine, I hate that piece of $**&). Ahem. Ok, I’m back.

My project is something I have been putting off for pretty close to one year now. Last October when we were in Washington D.C., we had a roll of perforated Sunbrella fabric shipped to us so that I could make shades for the cockpit. It didn’t take long for us traveling to realize that early in the morning or later in the afternoon the sun would no longer be hidden by the bimini, and would come glaring in at us in the cockpit. During travel days the extra heat could be a killer, and at anchor it could be annoying to try and cuddle up with a book (or a laptop) without going blind. Something had to be done.

So now, 11 months and two weeks later, I am finally pulling that fabric out of the aft cabin to turn it into what it was purchased for. The whole thing (pat myself on the back) actually turned out much simpler than I had originally anticipated. Part of it may have been because there was a large floor for me to spread my fabric on to measure, and a table that was not rocking back and forth while I fed the fabric through the sewing machine, but within two days I had it completed, and pretty nicely if I do say so myself.

The first step was to take the measurements. We only had enough fabric to hang down from the top of the bimini to the lifelines, so I needed to find the length and width in which I would be measuring and cutting the fabric into. Since there is a slight arch to our bimini, mostly by the stern, but a little bit on the sides, this took a little extra step. I had to run a piece of string that was level from one side to the other. From there I measured down to the lifelines to get a general rectangle measurement. To add the arch to the top, I measured from the bimini down to the piece of string every six inches, all the way across. When I was finished, (after three double checks, I was not going to get this wrong) my measurements looked something like this: 83” wide, 18” long; 6” in: add 2”; 12” in: add 3.5”; 18” in: add 4”; and so on.

Once I had my triple checked measurements down on paper (and good thing I did it three times, there was a little bit of variation each time) I took the median number and used that. Rolling my fabric onto the floor of the ranchito, I then pulled out my white marking pencil and got busy making an outline of my measurements. First was the general rectangle. Then for the arch, I placed a line where each 6” measurement was taken. To then transfer a nice arch to the fabric, instead of having jagged straight lines from one mark to the other, Matt helped me as we took one of our fishing rods and bent the pole to cross over each mark, which I then followed with my pencil, fully outlining where I needed to cut.

Had I needed to make seams to finish the edges, I would have then measured 1/2” out from those lines, making dashes every few inches that would have been my cutting line. I didn’t need to worry about finished edges though, so I just cut along the lines I had drawn.

Then came the time consuming part of the project. I didn’t need to finish the edges, because I was using piping around them. Pulling the piping out of it’s bag, I measured each side, and then cut the piping and pinned it to the fabric. Just to break up the days a little bit and make them more interesting, I alternated by sewing one of the (port, starboard, stern) sides each time I finished pinning it. I was worried that my little Brother sewing machine wouldn’t be up to the job of sewing through semi-thick piping, but she handled it just fine. There was barely any cursing on my part. I did find out that I have an issue with the tension in my bobbin, but after doing a little research, I think I have to take it in to have that fixed.

Two days of work and not much trouble later, I finished my project. I handed the sheets of fabric over to Matt so that he could add the grommets, and now they are hanging from our bimini, giving us some extra added privacy in the marina. Are they perfect? No, not really.  There’s little spots here and there where the stitching isn’t perfect and the grommets were added in the ideal location, so a little extra string needs to hold them up.  Do they work? So far, so good. Once we get some snaps on our hands I’ll have to make a few pieces of fabric for each side so that we can roll them up and snap them in place when they’re not in use, but for now we can just use strings to tie them up, or take them down. Whew, there’s one thing off my plate. And I have to say, I’m actually quite proud of myself.

sewing cockpit shades 2

sewing cockpit shades 3

sewing cockpit shades 4

curtain down

curtain tied


I can See Clearly Now the Acrylic Plastic is Gone

Wednesday July 31, 2013


There has finally been a boat project (half) completed on Serndipity where we can actually see the results.  Not that our half varnished glossy interior isn’t an indication that things are getting done, but today we were able to complete something that Serendipity has been needing for a long, long time.

When we bought her, she came with deadlights (or non opening windows, in landlubber terms) made out of acrylic plastic, and the years had been taking a beating on them.  They were getting cracked, way beyond hazy, and no matter how many times we cleaned or polished or buffed them, it was only a matter of time before they went back to their previous state.  Perfect for when you’re in a marina where your neighbor can only see fuzzy outlines of what might be happening inside, but not very useful for the rest of the time you’re on the water and would actually like a clear picture of what is going on outside.  Which is, 90% of the time.

This is a project we had been back and forth about ever since we bought the boat, and almost took care of those months spent on the hard in St. Augustine, but due to the money we were hemorrhaging on other projects, we decided to hold off.  That is, until we were on Luis’ boat admiring his tempered glass.  They really were beautiful, custom made, and fit to perfection.  It was also then that we found out that he had actually had his glass replaced while in Guatemala, using a company based in Antigua.  The best part?  He mentioned that it was incredibly cheap.  We like incredibly cheap!

Long story short, he contacted this company on our behalf to get an estimate, we replied with measurements, and found out that we could replace all four of our deadlights for about $35.  Back in Florida, we were looking at close to $200.  Between a few phone calls, emails, one money order, and three weeks later, we were picking up our new windows from impact doors – Impact Glass USA, where they had been shipped to the local bus company.  Don’t ask me why, I do not know.  All I do know, is when we finally lugged the crate from town back to the docks, Matt was like a kid in a candy store while opening it up.  All in all, our new package included the two starboard side deadlights we had popped out and initially shipped in for a perfect match on sizing, four new deadlights, and three tubes of Dow Corning 795 to seal the new windows to the boat.

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 Now I don’t feel as bad when I misspell a foreign name.

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“Oooooh!  Gimme, gimme, gimme, gimme!”

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Oh my god, you can actually see through it.

Since our old glass was already out on the starboard side, we wanted to work as quickly as possible to get the new glass in.  The same afternoon we were picking up the package, we were able to position the new deadlights into place using a few screws on the outside of the boat (they didn’t go through the glass, but were placed below the glass for it to sit upon, and above to keep it in position).  Matt took a tube of the Dow 795 and ran it along the edge of where the glass met the inside of the boat, and as he ran back out on deck to keep it in place, I took a plastic blade, smoothing out the edge, and then cleaned up any smudges with mineral solvent.  Of which, there were plenty.

That part needed to set overnight (or approximately 12 hours) before we could do the outside, so we thought we’d wake up with the sun to finish the starboard side completely.  Typical reaction as the alarm clock went off at 6:00, we hit the snooze for another three hours of sleep.  When we did wake up, the sun was baking and we were not looking forward to sitting out in it, even for an hour.  Working as a team again, we had the plan that I would work the caulk gun, and before the sealant had any chance of hardening up in the heat of the day and become tacky, even in the two or three minutes it would take for me to go all the way around, Matt would be following right behind me with the plastic blade to smooth out the edges.  These did not have pretty frames to cover up imperfections like the interior, so the calk needed to be even and precise.

For the most part we did really well, I’d create a steady bead of sealant coming out, and Matt would be six inches behind with the blade, smoothing it down to perfection.  The first deadlight was a little iffy (editors note: we ended up ripping out and redoing that one), but the second one was as close to perfection as the two of us were going to get.  There was one ‘oh shit’ moment on the second window where we were cleaning up after a few smudges with the mineral solvent, and a finger indented the freshly laid caulk.  Luckily, another squirt of 750 and some magic finger work from me had it 95% smoothed out again.  As we always like to say to each other when something didn’t go exactly as we had wanted, “It’s good enough for who it’s for”.

Since we were only able to get three tubes of the Dow Corning 795, and we expect that we’ll need 4-5 to properly do all windows, the port side will be held off on until we can do some shopping in the States and pick up a few more tubes.

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 Old acrylic plastic.  Can’t. See. S#%t.

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 New tempered glass.  It’s like….looking through glass!

Georgie lounging on Serendipity

Boat Work & Getting Sick

Monday July 1, 2013

Georgie lounging on Serendipity

Georgie is loving watching all the fish swim around her.

I never got to go over my little project of finishing our deck shade/cover before we ran off to El Estor over the weekend, but first, a little recap of what happened when we got back.  I’m a pretty big believer in yin and yang, good and bad, and a bit of balance in the universe.  If something good happens, there’s usually something bad preceding or following it.  Which is why the whole time we were in El Estor and Denny’s Beach, I kept thinking to myself “This seems too good to be true.  Too perfect.  Something bad is going to happen to balance this out”.  And it did. When Matt and I got back from our little tour with friends on Saturday afternoon, we were both struck with the worst case of food poisoning we’d ever had.  It came on slowly, starting on Friday, but we both just shook it off as a little stomach bug, a change in diet, something that would pass in just a few hours. Saturday afternoon was a bit worse, maybe one or two extra trips to the head, but still manageable.  I think our minds were subconsciously telling our bodies to hold it together just long enough for us to get back to Serendipity, because as soon as we stepped foot on her, we were done for.

We could barely eat, we could barley move, and, TMI, neither of us could make it more than about 30-40 minutes without a trip to the head.  And then there were the stomach cramps, oh, the stomach cramps!  I don’t think I’ve ever felt so much pain in my life!  All of that coupled with the dehydration we were experiencing, and I was starting to wish I was dead.  Even though both of us were trying to stay as hydrated as possible, actually switching from our beloved Pepsi to water, it got so bad that first night that each time after using the head, I literally wouldn’t have the strength to make it back up to the v-berth without first stopping and chugging a glass of water.  There were a couple of times I’d have to sit on the floor and drink my water because I couldn’t stand up or walk without getting lightheaded or dizzy.  We found out through ‘the net’ this morning that there was a rash of people who had suddenly come down with ‘some kind of bug’ over the weekend, but we knew better.  It was the food that was served to us at the regatta.  We’re thinking it was probably the potato salad which hadn’t been properly chilled and went bad (even though it tasted fantastic).  But then again, who wants to come out and say on the morning net, “A big thanks to El Estor for inviting us cruisers out.  Half of us got food poisoning from it, but we appreciate the gesture!”.   ‘A bug going around’ sounds much nicer.  I do have to admit though, I’d probably still do it all over again, even knowing we’d get as sick as we did.  When we look back at it all, I’m sure the good memories will far outweigh the bad ones. In dealing with sickness, being prepared with medicines from trusted pharmacies, like the Canadian Pharmacy, can be a huge difference-maker.

So now that’s out of the way, back to my story on the shade cover.  One of the first things I noticed when we got to the marina last week, is our slip is parked right in front of this little ranchito, furnished with a hammock and two picnic tables on the main level (and dorm beds for travelers on the upper level).  The next thing that came to my mind when I saw the picnic tables was ‘Wow, finally a nice big area I can lay my fabric out on and work on my sewing’.  Which is exactly what I did when we got back from grocery shopping the next morning.  There wasn’t much left to be done to the cover, luckily.  All that was left to do was add strength to the areas the grommets would be punched into, so that the stress of the lines tugging at those areas would not weaken and destroy the fabric.  Matt cut out little triangles of fabric for me, and first I sewed them together (two in each area for double strength) and then to the cover.  There were six areas that needed this strengthening, so although it wasn’t complicated, it was a little time consuming.  I, however, was just happy to be doing this in an area where I wasn’t rocking back and forth and getting sick from concentrating while lightly dipping from side to side.  My sewing machine and I were getting along for once since I think I figured out where our issue lies, so there was no screaming or threats of it going in the water.  Throw in a Tervis tumbler of cold Pepsi, and I was actually enjoying myself.

Only three to four hours work on my part, and I was ready to hand it off to Matt.  He hammered in the final grommets and went about stringing it up.  I sat up on the foredeck while it was raised, happy as can be that my part was finished.  It took a little tweaking to get it just right, but soon it was in place.  I swear that within an hour you could feel a difference in the temperature of the deck, having it nice and cool in the shade, but blazingly hot in any area the sun was still touching.  With daily highs inside the boat around 91 degrees, and only going down to 87 or so at night, we’re hoping this will make a big difference.  Was it worth the $175 we spent in fabric alone?  I hope so.  But for the aft part of the boat, those 3mX3m pieces of already cut and stitched fabric being sold in town are looking pretty good at the moment, even if it will make us the mis-matched hillbillies on the dock.

working at the ranchito

Setting up shop at the ranchito.

cover laid flat

Our shade/cover, laid out flat.

strengthening patches

Sewing the strengthening patches.

sewing patches to coverAdding the patches to the cover.

finished product

Finished product!  We now have shade on half the boat!

6.8.13 (1)

(Sittin’ On) The Deck of the Boat

Sunday June 9, 2013


Ever since Nate dropped us off at the docks on Wednesday night, we have not been off the boat.  Once.  For anything.  Normally that would drive me insane, but I think we just got really into project and relax mode.  One of the places that Nate helped us run errands to before dinner last week was to a fabric store, where we purchased about 8 yards of what we told was Sunbrella (we’re still not sure) so we can made a shade cover to hang over the deck while we’re at anchor.  In can get incredibly hot in the cabin with the sun beating down on us all day, usually with interior temperatures reaching 90 during the day, and only cooling off to 85 at night.  We use our fans so much that, at this rate, they’ll probably have to be replaced in about six months.  And those things are not cheap.  Although, through reading through forums and accounts of other sailors, by shading your deck, you can bring down the interior temperature by up to five degrees.  We were sold on finding some way to shade our deck.

Until…dun, dun, dunn…..Matt said we had to make it ourselves.  Which I thought meant, ‘Here’s the fabric Jessica, go to work while I watch from the sidelines’.  Dear God, do I hate any projects involved with configuring and sewing.  Which happen to be the only projects that get thrown my way.  Believe me, I understand that Matt gets plenty of projects himself, none of which ever look very fun, but when you’re only project is different variations of the same task, and that task happens to be something you loathe more than anything in the world, it gets old really fast.  So imagine my surprise when the day after we bought all our fabric, Matt pulled out all my sewing supplies to begin measuring and marking the fabric.  He had already been up on deck taking measurements of where it would start and end, and was now transferring those measurements to the fabric.  He was taking over all the logistics, the part I actually hate the most, and all I had to do was push the fabric through the machine.

The first thing we did, since we read it’s better not to have the seam running straight down the middle from forward to aft, is measure the width of the fabric at it’s widest part as it would hang from the beam ends, and cut it at that length.  Then those pieces of fabric were laid side by side and sewn together, using three zig zag stitches.  One in the middle, and one on each end, just to ensure extra strength.  The piece we’re working on now will only be long enough to run from the bow to the mast, so we’ve measured the width of the deck at different spots moving forward, since the deck angles to a point near the bow and isn’t as wide there as it is midship.  We’ll probably have to take the fabric to shore tomorrow where we can lay it out flat, transfer those measurements, and make the necessary cuts.  After that it will just be sewing the the edges to make some pretty seams, and adding reinforcement patches to where the grommets will be.  Dare I say….that might be it?  It could actually be ready to hang after that?  We’ll see how the rest goes, since from my experience, these projects tend to get effed up somewhere along the way.

Other than that, we’ve just been hanging on the boat relaxing.  Taking advantage of the Burger King internet signal that has been coming in strong for the past few days, and, while Matt’s been distracted with that, I’ve been able to steal my Nook back for a few days to get some reading in.  Tonight I tried to remind myself of the splendors around me, and went up on deck with a glass of wine to catch a gorgeous Cayman sunset.  Which I’ve kind of been needing, since once more, I’ve been feeling a little off for the past few days.  Maybe it’s because I’ve been stuck inside the boat working on sewing projects, even though having Matt tackle this one with me has been a huge help, or maybe it’s because our friends have been gone for almost a week now and I’m feeling a little lonely.  Who knows.  I just hope I get out of this funk soon, because with Matt starting to fall into one as well (“I hate fricking boats!  Everything on them always breaks!!”), Serendipity might eventually succumb to our secret desires of pyromania.

6.8.13 (1)

Clear bottom of the anchorage, 15 ft below me.

6.8.13 (2)

This little face can always cheer me up.

6.8.13 (3)

Packin’ It Up

Tuesday March 5, 2013

As much as we would have loved to lounge in our sunny cockpit yesterday, enjoying our new water views, there was still much work to be done. Now that we’re back in the water, it means we’ll be LEAVING, and this requires a lot of work. Yes, we had just thrown a weekend away while sitting in front of our computers, but it was cold and windy, and not preferable for any of the jobs we needed to tackle. Just after we were tied off to the dock, the cockpit was emptied out and washed. We had skipped this part the other weekend since up until about two days ago our cockpit had become another garage, spilling over with sport-a-seats, grill parts, and cleaning products. We had managed to pack all the items back into place just before getting lifted back into the water, but all this did was reveal a bevy of new stains and spots on top of the normal dirt build up that could only come from three months of a construction zone with no cleanings. Pulling out the hose and almost every product in our arsenal we attacked each spot, some coming out with ease and others leaving us with the two questions of ‘What caused this’, and ‘How the hell do we get it off?’. (Like the resin I told Matt to make sure doesn’t spill, but he said would clean right off, cough, cough)

 Some of the areas were hit with Zep degreaser which when placed in a plastic spray bottle, I thought was Simple Green. When I began to complain to Matt that it felt I had just been stung by a bee on my foot he goes, “It’s probably the acid from this cleaner. You’ll want to keep your skin away from all the areas we just sprayed.”. Uh huh. Thanks for the warning. Once the all over cleaning was done, I left Matt with such messes that were of his own doing, I took on other time consuming areas that I at least knew would eventually come clean. Such as the Butile tape that had been mushed into a few areas of the cockpit seats. Patiently working with a Goo-Gone kind of remover along with dental picks I was able to turn the ugly spots to pristine off-white, matching the surrounding areas. When we each finished our jobs to the best of our abilities I realized how late in the day it was and there were time dictated errands to run. I still needed to make it up to the post office to mail out a spare part we had just sold on e-bay, and then would be one of the never ending provisioning trips to Walmart. We had done a HUGE one with Matt’s mom while she was here, completely filling up the trunk, but now we needed all the perishables and other little things we’d forgotten. As quickly as I could, I walked the mile from the boat yard to the post office, linear drive in my backpack and a large empty cardboard box in my arms. I must have looked so awkward walking down the street, looking like I was making a slow get away with a box full of kittens.

Having eaten up an hour of my day with that stop, I rushed back to the yard so we could still make a run up to Walmart and make it back before it got dark. That gave us two hours to go six miles round trip and do all of our shopping in between. Peddling as fast as we could on our bikes, we made it there in record time and started filling our cart with things like milk and seven pounds of ground beef (five to be kept frozen). We were doing so well on time until we pushed all our items up to the checkout lane where we then waited 20 minutes just to get our things on the conveyor belt. So much for our tight schedule. Stuffing everything into our backpacks and stringing extra bags on the handle bars of our bikes we set off into the dusk, making sure to stick to the sidewalk this time instead of the bike lane that runs through the street. Completely beat up and exhausted when we got home I still did not have time to rest. We had two weeks worth of laundry to be done and I envisioned the next day being even busier without a spare moment for such things as washing our clothes. Packing the laundry bag to the point of zippers breaking I walked to the boat yard next door which has machines, and sneaked past the gate to empty area and began throwing clothes and quarters into the machine. The open air room soon became very chilly in the night, with temperatures now in the 40’s, and I shivered as I had to take off the layers I had been wearing to keep me warm and throw them into the second load of wash. Getting back to the boat at nearly 11:00 at night I didn’t even bother to put the fresh clothes away before passing out in bed.

Giving ourselves the luxury of sleeping in a little for what we knew would be the last time for awhile, as soon as we pulled ourselves out of bed and hopped on the bike to run yet more errands. We went to what I hoped would be one of our last trips in a looong time to Home Depot (we literally go there every other day), and then to Target to stock up a few other random things we had forgotten or couldn’t find at Walmart. Back at Serendipity we were busy stocking things away when one of the yard workers, Andy, came up to our boat. He had been doing rigging inspections all day so we thought it was work related, but he calmly called down to us “You might want to come up here, and if you have any spare fenders you might want to get them out at well.” Giving quizzical looks to each other we stepped out of the companionway in time to see a Catana that had just been launched, having some steerage issues in the river. Between exchanges of the captain and the men working the travel lift, we quickly figured out that the catamaran had just wrapped a line around it’s prop and lost an engine. The men on the travel lift were trying to give him instructions to put it in forward and gain any control possible, but while all of this was going on he was beginning to drift dangerously close to us.

Remembering what Andy said, I knew our only fenders were currently holding us away from our own dock, but there were a few that could be taken off without causing any damage to our boat. Untying the lines as quickly as I could I kept checking behind me, waiting for our imminent crash with the cat and wondering if my movements would be quick enough to get a fender over and soften the blow. Just when I thought I might have to keep them off with the force of my hands alone they were able to divert course and start moving away from Serendipity. What they were not able to move away from, however, was the end of a finger dock, and they crashed into with a force that made my stomach clench. Finally having freed the fender now, I jumped onto the dock and ran toward them, ready to keep them from having any other sickening blows. Before I could get there they did have one or two more collisions with the end of the dock before the men who had been working the travel lift had run down to grab their lines and guide them into a slip. Seeing as they did not have any of their own fenders down, the one I brought over was still necessary, and their boat pounded it against the side of the dock until it looked like it was going to pop. With the quick thinking and work of the men at the yard, the boat was secured before any total destruction could be done, although they had not escaped destruction all together. Along the side of their starboard hull were a few long scratches, and a hole about 6-8” above the water line. The really sad part was that this Catana was going back in after having spent a year and a half on the hard for repairs, and now they’d still be stuck around until repairs could be done on the new damage. I wasn’t lying yesterday when I said that I didn’t trust us to go in under anything other than slack tide around here.

Later in the evening we were taken out to a bon voyage dinner by Chris, as well as being extended an offer to make yet one more Walmart trip. (I think we can fit one more jug of cat litter in storage!) Having recommended they Hypo Cafe to us just after we arrived, but we had never made it out there on our own. Knowing our schedule for the day was still a little crammed, he brought us there for our last St. Augustine dinner, knowing we’d be in and out in under an hour. From the outside the cafe looked like what would be any other linolium floored, plastic tabled restaurant in a strip mall, but opening the door you could tell this place was special. Wooden tables and chairs filled the cafe, and there was a lounge area in the corner, nestled next to a book shelf full of various volumes and games. The walls were painted a soft sage green, and vibrant yet muted photos hung from pegs. Looking at the menu, they also did not carry your run of the mill ham and cheese sandwiches. Trying hard to decide between all the appetizing choices, I wound up going with The Goat, a roast beef sandwich with goat cheese, and Matt had The Elvis, and peanut butter and banana sandwich. Everything was incredible, as always, and between sips of my bottled Coke I’d steal sips of Matt’s Watermelon Cream soda. Thank you again to Chris for one last amazing meal and always being there to help us out. You’ve made our stay here in St. Augustine so much more easy, and fun!

Having made our run up to Walmart and getting dropped off by Chris, there was one more thing on the docket for the night: saying goodbye to Frank and Yu. We had told them we’d be over right after dinner for a drink, but needed to finish a few things on our computers first while we had internet access, we spent an hour huddled in the shed with our computers. Our new spot at dock was too far away from the wifi signal now, and the only way to get it was to go to the source. Going back and forth between sitting on the picnic table, and then on the cold cement floor next to the outlet when my battery ran low, we finished up things like getting the latest Navionic updates for our charts and scheduling a post on the blog. Satisfied with the work we were able to get done, although we honestly could have stayed there all night doing last minute internet based things, we walked next door to Moitessier. Catching on what the others had been up to for the past few weeks, we stayed out past what we said would be our bedtime, hanging on to the last few minutes with our friends. Finally saying our sad goodbyes we joked that we hoped we wouldn’t be seeing each other soon, for it would mean that something would still be wrong with Serendipity and we’d be stuck here yet. Walking down the road that separates our yards for the last time, we crawled into bed with excited anticipation in our stomachs. We’re finally leaving tomorrow!!

Instant Cruiser: Just add Water

Monday March 4, 2013

Today is the day we have been waiting for, for three months. To the date. Today we finally went back in the water. Granted, we knew the accident was bad when it happened, but when we arrived to St. Augustine Marine Center back on December 4th, we honestly thought we’d be hauled out and put right back in after a quick survey. After receiving the damage report we were thinking ‘Ok, this is really bad, we might be out for two to four weeks.’. And then we sat and sat and sat. Shortly after being out of the water for one whole month, we finally got the claim approved by our insurance company (they were still swamped with Hurricane Sandy claims), and work finally began. We thought it could be done in two weeks since we had already started a lot of the projects ourselves. Then the keel came off and we found out that bolts needed to be replaced and there was no one in the area that could do the job. From that point it didn’t matter when the rest of the projects were finished, we weren’t going anywhere until the bolts were replaced and the keel was put back on. When we had hope that we could fly someone out to do the job, we forged on with other projects. The engine and transmission were taken out to be fixed, and the rudder was sent off to be straightened. Matt fiberglassed all the tabbing on the port side salon. The bilge and engine bay were painted.

Although we had a great experience with anyone that worked directly for the marine center, there were a few issues with vendors, and work on our boat kept getting pushed back and back. When I got back from Arizona at the end of January, I honestly thought we’d be splashed and moving by the middle of the month. We had canceled the guy flying out to repair the keel bolts and instead went with the owner of the boat yard next door who took on the project and did it fantastically.  There was the long wait for the transmission to  be repaired that we had not been expecting, and then once we were finally being put back together, the fact that the new  bushing for our rudder did not fit.  Eventually after a lot of blood and sweat, but surprisingly no tears, we’re finally put back together and ready to go.  Three months behind our original intended scheduled, and now six weeks behind all of our friends who have been enjoying the white sand beaches of the Bahamas for at least that amount of time.  We’re finally ready to go and join.


Although it’s been spread out through months and multiple posts, you might be wondering what work went into Serendipity while we were here.  Taken straight from the estimate being sent to our insurance company, this is what kept us on the hard for three months:

  • Remove max prop

  • Remove shaft

  • Remove strut

  • Rudder shaft repair

  • Glass repair A.) Rudder B.) Interior bonds C.) Stern tube and strut fairing D.) Fuel tank drained and removed

  • Lift to remove rudder and keel

  • Remove and replace multiple keel bolts

  • Lift to install keel and rudder

  • Repair bushing

  • Align motor and shaft

  • Strut and shaft reinstalled

  • Reinstall max prop

  • Pull & inspect transmission

  • Rebuild transmission

  • Reinstall transmission

  • Install new motor mounts

  • Bottom paint, one coat over entire bottom, second coat on repairs

  • Replace cutlas bearing

  • Canvas – Replace glass on two panels

  • Inspect Rigging

Over the weekend we had tentative plans to launch around 12:30, as close as we could get to slack tide. The river we’re on has a terrible current, and I’ve watched and heard of multiple boats bang up against the side while making their approach into or departure from the well. Having been out of the water for three months, as well as not even being as skilled as some of the captains who have beat up their boats here, we didn’t want to get swept away or banged up our first day back in the water. After talking with the yard manager, he penciled us in after a catamaran getting hauled out for a survey, and said that if it didn’t go over time they’d have an hour available to get us back in the water. Hiding out in the salon for the better part of the morning, and occasionally peeking out to keep an eye on the cat that was being surveyed, we received a knock on our hull, telling us to be ready right after lunch because we were going in.  As the minutes ticked by, I could feel myself getting stage fright and I could feel it growing.  We’d never had to move our boat out of a boat well before, it was always done by the marina, and we had never tried doing it in an area with such strong currents.  In front of a crowd no less.

We tied the fenders to the side and waited for the lift to come.  Georgie was locked below to make sure she wasn’t trotting around deck while all this was going on, although at the first hint of a loud noise she’s usually hidden in the aft cabin anyway.  As promised, the lift pulled up at thirty minutes to one.  We climbed down the ladder for the last time and unattached it from the boat while the large sling was wrapped around the bottom of Serendipity.  Lifting her up and removing all the jackstands, she was slowly moved away from her home and closer to the boat well.  She was lowered down with ease, and just as she was floating, we were allowed to climb back on.  Firing up the engine, everything was looking good and after not having a slip assigned to us we chose the one that was at a 90 degree angle from where we were currently sitting, and would require the least amount of turns.  Backing out, the small current that was flowing through did begin to catch us a little bit and begin turning us ways we did not want to go, but Matt quickly got it under control and while putting us into forward and giving it a lot of gas, began to move us with ease toward our intended dock.  The men working the travel lift were already waiting to catch our lines, and within moments we were neatly tied off.  Floating once more, as we had been waiting so long and patiently for.

We’re hoping to leave on Wednesday, after we finish a few last minute things around town.  The weather is looking too nasty to jump out and head straight to the Bahamas like we wanted, so instead we’ll be making our way south via the ICW once more, getting to Lake Worth and making a jump across once we get there and find a weather window.  But I am so excited to be back in the water, we are cruisers once more!  Or will be, once we take care of that enormous bill waiting for us at the service desk and are given the OK to leave.