Silver linings to an extended haul out

Dog stands watch at gravel shipyard with people conversing in the distance

Early morning shadows stretch across the gravel lot of Cabrales Boatyards hardstand where Perro Negro (black dog) holds court. Mairen and Siobhan get the first of today’s Spanish vocabulary from the night guard as we’ve affectionately come to call maestro (teacher) for his enthusiastic lessons before he heads off duty for the day.

Sailboat on hardstand with ladder alongside for access

Boats in many parts of the northern hemisphere haul out for the season at this time of year; boats on the hard here in Puerto Peñasco are waking up from a hurricane season respite. Tucked onto jackstands for a long winter nap or summer away, maintenance or repairs can be worked into the months that stretch out ahead. But when active cruisers haul their boats, the situation is entirely different. We’re either cooped up in temporary dwelling spending cruising coin at an alarming rate, or trying to manage life on stilts with limited use of normal onboard utilities like, you know, toilets. The moment a cruiser’s boat is out of the water, the clock starts to tick: how quickly can we complete the projects that stand between us and the freedom of a blue horizon? Time is our enemy.

We’ve hauled Totem on three previous occasions since we started cruising: twice in Thailand (2013 and 2014), and once in Grenada (2017). Each experience felt like a race to the finish; hot, sweaty, dirty days of hard labor to minimize the days on land. On one occasion we left with significant projects left largely incomplete, facing the disappointing reality that a yard would only continue the pattern of extending our timeline.

This time it’s different.

We were absent during Totem’s extended hardstand stay this summer. From afar we dreamed about getting back to cruising, exploring corners of the beautiful Sea of Cortez. Hectic weeks before our return hampered advance planning, slowed ordering parts and supplies. It’s holding up the primary job ahead to put a new bottom on Totem.

Silver lining to delay in the larger effort is the gift of time to address projects that have shimmied their way up in the world of boatkeeping priorities, but in many cases could be pushed off. At a measured pace, we can remove a few bandaids that were applied over time, tackle some deferred maintenance, and correct less-than-ideal installations.

Jamie looks through a loupe at the chainplate
Jamie looks through a loupe at the chainplate

Chainplate viewed through magnification shows pitting
Rather have nooks and crannies in a muffin than a chainplate!

Chainplate inspections bubbled up first. Not a normal visual, but actually removing them entirely to inspect both sides as well as the point at which they intersect the deck. We replaced every chainplate except the stem fitting in 2008. Original (1982) plates had a rough finish where they were backed to a bulkhead or fiberglass knee, less easily inspected, and more subject to corrosion. The replacements are polished to a mirror finish which is highly resistant to corrosion. Great! But to get that shiny smooth metal well sealed is difficult, especially on a boat that flexes.

Edit/update: we’ve had a few questions about that loupe Jamie’s using. It’s actually the eyepiece from a failed pair of binoculars, and magnifies at 7x. But don’t destroy a pair of binos! You can get a good loupe (like this one) for less than twenty bucks.

Chainplate removed and placed on a table and surrounded with bolts, all showing signs of surface rust
This surface rust cleaned up and chainplate passed inspection under magnification

Bolts from above picture shown 'after' cleanup looking much better
Much cleaner now!

Somewhere around the five-year mark, a few began to weep, and that’s continued despite bandaid efforts along the way. So out they go for complete inspection and peace of mind. We started with those most suspect there are early signs of the crevice corrosion to which stainless is susceptible. It’s VERY minor at this point. Repeat: it’s very minor! Carefully cleaned and replaced, they just need monitoring. This time, they are through-deck portion is re-bedded with butyl tape to, hopefully, further prevent weeping or leaks for a longer time. The bolts all looked good, but three nuts failed inspection and were replaced.

using a chisel to force butyl tape around the chainplate deck fitting
Wedging butyl tape around the chainplate deck fitting

Side by side views of a nut with and without magnification, showing crack
Same nut with magnification on the right. YIKES! Yup that’s been replaced

Another project without burning urgency but “this could be better” was the rudder indicator for our autopilot. Two days before we left Puget Sound in 2008, Jamie did a last-minute autopilot install (surprise!). It wasn’t the cleanest installation, coming at a slightly hectic time. The rudder indicator was placed smack in the middle of the lazarette, and awkwardly mounted and subject to being knocked if something fell over in the space. Jamie built a cover to protect it from damage but the location bugged him. OK, so it has since done a circumnavigation; fixing it is possibly a little pedantic. But the placement could be improved, and now it is: Jamie made a new bracket and installed it in a better location. A more functional lazarette space and saver placement out of the way are the result.

Totem’s steering system is fine, but also getting a full review. In lumpy seas off Colombia last in January the steering chain broke. Jamie’s fix with Dyneema put in has worked well since, but a closer inspection of the whole system has been in the back of his mind. Good thing he took it apart yesterday! When the steering cable is in place and under tension, the sheaves appeared fine. But once the entire steering system was disconnected, the sheaves showed a bit of a wobble – too much wobble. Pulling the sheaves, Jamie then noticed that both the bronze bushings and the stainless steel pins were worn enough wear to warrant replacement. Not unreasonable after 36 years and a lot of miles. 

A few more days means the space for a break. If this was a crunch, the beautiful opportunity to experience Mexico’s Dia de los Muertos, Day of the Dead, would have passed by unmarked. Instead, there was time to wander through the municipal primer cemetario on the day families gather to clean the graves of loved ones while refreshing their paint or decoration. Gathered around family plots, sitting on the marble or concrete or ceramic-tiled slap that covers a mother or cousin or uncle… playing music, eating, drinking, while children tussle and play soccer in sand thoroughfares dividing the cemetery or lay hide and seek behind statues of the Virgin Mary. A more intensive haul out wouldn’t have allowed a night off to wander a competition for altars created to remember the dead, and then land in the throngs of a crowd in a fashion show for Calavera Catrinas, “dapper skeletons,” complete with catwalk.

Village scene at dusk in Mexico, cutout paper streamers hung across the road
Papel picado strung across the street where altars staged and Catrinas strolled

Children take in the memorial at an altar
Children take in a memorial altar

Candle, charcoal brazier, and marigold petals at an altar
Every altar element is weighted with symbolism, or tells a story about the person memorialized

Strings of papel picado, or cut paper, garlands hung across a road
Streetlights shine through papel picado, cut paper garlands strung across the road

Glamorous costumed Catrina
Dramatically costumed Cartrinas paraded down the catwalk

Adoring crowd watches the fashion show
An enthusiastic crowd takes in the contest for the best-dressed Catrina

 

 

Woman in Catrina facepaint
My partner in crime for the evening! Katja (SV Imagine) generously shares her experience with Puerto Peñasco

More yard projects are planned: new anchor rollers, new prop shaft, new cutlass bearing, new engine mounts, new dripless seal. Unnatural as it is to be out of water, this work makes us better prepared. We’ll return to a familiar environment soon enough, the dissonance of life on the hard disappearing, stronger for this patience and happier for this pace.

8 Responses to Silver linings to an extended haul out

  1. Keith & Nicki, s/v Sionna November 9, 2018 at 5:34 am #

    It feels so good to know you’re back to Totem! Of course our original intention was to return to Sionna (she’s in West Florida, on the hard – we’re in Maine) and continue our cruising. That plan has changed drastically, with working through the winter in Maine now our fate. It’s good to know SOMEONE is back to cruising! We’ll be following avidly!

    • Behan November 16, 2018 at 7:05 pm #

      Thanks guys! A little part of me envies the winter wonderland you’ll get. We’re actually cold (it’s in the 40s at night this last week) but it’s still the desert!

  2. Max November 9, 2018 at 1:37 pm #

    Great post as always. Wow, great project list. I am envious on one hand as I would like to do these jobs again on Fluenta but also not envious as I know how much work all of that is especially in the Mexican heat.

    Still in Fiji waiting for a part anchored near my parents and then intending to head north towards the Marshalls again. First step on the passage back to BC. Benjamin, now four, says we need to sail around the world so maybe after a few years in BC to get the big kids launched we can leave again and do a “Totem”.

    Best wishes with the project list.

    Cheers,

    Max
    SV Fluenta

    • Behan November 16, 2018 at 7:04 pm #

      I love that Ben is saying you need to sail around the world! Keeping faith we’ll share an anchorage someday. Hope the parts are sorted in Fiji!

  3. Tim Clauson November 9, 2018 at 1:43 pm #

    Good to see you back at Totem. I may have missed it somewhere, but how is the moisture level in the hull after drying out?

    • Behan November 16, 2018 at 7:03 pm #

      It’s doing great! Really very happy about the progress. We have a dry boat now.

  4. Neal Schneider November 12, 2018 at 5:39 pm #

    Great post. Good luck, fair winds and calm seas.

    • Behan November 16, 2018 at 7:02 pm #

      Thanks Neal, hope we can see you on this side of the continent!

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