Shipyard list: refit for the South Pacific

Siobhan and Mairen replacing the pole track and cleaning the mast

Hot days pulling sticks on the hardstand, digital postcards from a dusty town in the Sonora desert, animal farm in the shipyard… anyone following our social media updates knows Totem is hauled out, and there’s a lot going on. Wait, didn’t you just spend a bunch of time hauled out?

Last year’s extended stay at Cabrales Boatyard served a primary purpose: dry out our wet (surprise!) hull, verify that is dry, and apply a nice Coppercoat bottom. We completed a bunch of smaller projects as well, like removing four thru-hulls, but with plans to head back to the South Pacific in the spring there’s a lot more to do than we could tackle at the time. Why? Partly because we didn’t have the time (we barely made it south to Puerto Vallarta before Niall landed for winter break!). Partly because the full scope of what we’d undertake wasn’t clear yet (can we get another year out of that ______?). Partly because we didn’t have the funds – well, that’s a showstopper!

It turns out that when you circumnavigate, things wear out. There’s also a dose of maintenance creep. Our crew has especially enjoyed out-of-the-way corners of the world; these more remote locations often have fewer resources to properly fix something that’s broken. You fix it well enough, and you keep going.

Beautiful shades of a Sonora sunset over the shipyard

Totem’s boatyard list right now is blend of re-doing some of those bandaid projects, replacing what’s worn out, and taking advantage of a good location to make improvements. Here’s a rundown of what’s ahead: curious about any? I’ll get to specifics on a few of these in subsequent posts, and we’re interested to know what readers care about.

Critical work

New rigging. New standing rigging after 60,715 miles. Much of the wire looks OK, even under magnification, but that’s a lot of cycle loading. It also gives us a chance to correct a few past rigger oopsies, including a tang bolt replaced in 2008 with a cut in it (hidden in hardware) and sloppy lower spreaders.

New mainsail and main cover. The recently retired main added in Australia in 2012, has done about 42,000 miles and 2 ocean crossings. Not bad for mediocre cloth (what we could afford at the time) and a lot of tropical sailing. UV was its undoing, as is the case with most sails on full time cruising boats in the tropics.

New liferaft. Our current raft is a great product, but it’s aging (circa 2008), it needs a re-certification that’s half of replacement cost, and it’s a make that’s difficult to re-certify overseas.

Bulkhead repair. Jamie’s suspected that water leaking under the shower pan was affecting the starboard aft bulkhead that divided our stateroom from the aft head. Surgical inspection (that’s wry humor, there was nothing surgical about breaking into this bulkhead!) revealed the lower 18” was spongy.

Mast maintenance. THE MAST IS OUT. This is a big deal! Component part maintenance, from spreaders to step, is meaningful. In addition, Jamie’s helping project manage other re-rigs for boats here, because he doesn’t have enough work to do on Totem…

Heavy corrosion on the mast step…and what’s all that fluff in the middle about?!

Reconditioning or replacing all eight of Totem’s hatches. Our hatches are original, 1982 hatches; the deeply scratched and worn, the lenses are probably original too. The hardware is failing. These keep the water out, so are non-negotiable on addressing.

Chainplate inspection. We pulled and inspected several during last year’s haulout and will finish the rest now. All but the stem fitting were replaced in 2008, and it’s likely time to do that one.

Bimini additions. We love the custom frame that friends at TurboXS built for Totem in 2016 (no, that’s not a marine supplier; yes, they are awesome humans); the frame begs a cover, and we’ve played with options over the years. How to best to balance needs for shade (big cover!) and visibility (no cover? windows? rollup?). Jamie’s come up with a new, mucho better shade design that he’ll build out.

New watermaker. We’ve had plenty of headaches with ours over the last few years, and can’t wait to replace it with an easier-to-maintain, high-output watermaker from CruiseRO.

New inverter to power said watermaker. It will largely be powered by a portable generator, but we’d like an inverter big enough to handle it in case the generator fails.

New head. Referring here to both the cabin, and to the toilet! The ‘before’ scene is kinda terrifying: the ‘after’ will be glorious. Let’s call this a critical item for crew morale!

Cue the psycho soundtrack

Greywater system. We’ve experimented with a catchment system, and using water from the sink drains to flush the toilets. The trial is declared a success, and will be put into use with the new head: an install I’m looking forward to sharing.

Washing machine. At long last, the washing-machine, I mean, 5-gallon-bucket will be retired! The high capacity watermaker makes this possible. Another crew morale item…it may not be that critical, but it’s not on the wishlist.

Jamie and yard manager, Salvador Cabrales, confer before pulling Totem’s mast

Maybe / wishlist

New batteries. This may be necessary, but we’re not certain yet. We’d hoped to get a couple more years out of this relatively new (2017) bank, but it’s behaving as if it’s late in life. If they truly are, it would be much easier to do here than to do “somewhere” in the South Pacific.

Painting topsides. Totem’s hull is well worn! Cosmetic work always falls last on our priorities with limited funds; we’d rather be safe than look pretty. We say (and it’s true) that every ding has a story – a friendly visitor in a wooden canoe, a remote customs dock, a wild night. But fiberglass is showing through the gelcoat in places (and we’ve got a painted hull on top of that gelcoat, too). We’d really like to do this, and hope we can fit it in; cosmetic work always lands last on our list of priorities.

Cabin rehab. This is two part: there’s some fun stuff, like getting the girls’ cabins freshened up; maybe paint, maybe wallpaper (a nice biaxial and epoxy pattern?), still trying to decide. We’d love to fix the headliner, too. It was replaced in Thailand some years back; a complicated story.

Water tank. Our secondary water tank is a bladder tank. This makes ineffective use of the space it resides in (square peg, round hole); replacing that with a built-in tank like we installed in Thailand (same yard, fantastic job on this count!), would increase capacity.

There are, of course, a multitude of other projects – “too many to list!” – you can see why we cut short summer sailing in the Sea of Cortez to start cracking into these!

23 Responses

  1. we’d rather be safe than look pretty. Too many people get this backwards, enjoyed your piece here on french tv up here in Canada, here’s hoping you get at least half that wishlist. Thanks for posting.

  2. Exciting Stuff. I’m particularly interested in details of unstepping mast – especially the step?? & Jamie’s new design for the Bimini.
    Have fun

    1. Yes … Bimini design please. Everyone is unique in their trade-off between sail visibility / navigational look out and sun / wind / rain protection. But it would be great to get your take in it.

      Mast stepping … How do you feel the hole thru the coach roof? Another blog I read used good old roof sealant. With the wiggle of the mast I believe this is a grip for many sailors.

      Thank you for your hard work in sharing all that you know and helping set the dream that we can all take flight, even if only from our arm chairs at this stage!

      Benjamin and Belinda

  3. Lots to do! Totem’s been the family home long enough under all imaginable conditions so that your punch list makes solid, experience-driven practical sense. Those scrapbook-worthy dings in the topsides don’t matter to the mission Static boat show beauty contests are fine for some but Totem has more dynamic things on tap. She could not be in better hands. Best to all & Cheers!

  4. Hi. How’s the coppercoat going? Are you happy with it. Are you going to do a post on the first years use?

        1. CopperCoat update is coming soon! There’s been a lot of interest in how it’s gone. The spoiler is that we’re very happy with it – but good explain in detail, soon.

  5. Whoa! You’re going to do all THAT in how many months? What % your labor v. yard? While living on the boat at the same time? Amazing!

    1. HAHA, does prevent boredom. Let’s see – Jamie’s labor = 99% / yard labor 1%. I had the machinist fabricate new mast tang bolts for us, but that’s it. We’re 6 weeks in and I’m slowing a bit, but have a break coming up when we go to Annapolis to teach/present at the boat show.

  6. That’s a lot of work! I’d be interested in the bulkhead repair. Is the soft area long enough that you consider it a structural issue, or is it more of a “fix before it spreads” kind of issue?

    1. Soft area is, I mean was, structural. It was like wet cardboard in an area that was uninspectible without really digging in. New section of marine plywood is scarfed in and with multiple layers of heavy biaxial fiberglass. The bigger job is rebuilding the bits that caused and hid the core problem, but we’re making good progress – more to come on that.

  7. Hi Jamie
    Interesting shot of the mast step! The corrosion is all aluminum wastage. The base plate is fiberglass and not sitting in bilge water, but the mast/base plate interface has not fared well! What is your solution? Will you have to cut a few inches off the mast heel and make it up with more spacers?

    I recently surveyed a steel hulled boat with a composite deck and keel stepped mast on the hard in Florida. It had so much water coming down thru the masthead that it had rusted out the hull from the inside. Metal boats with welded decks and deck stepped masts should have cobwebs in the bilges. Almost an argument for deck stepped masts even on fiberglass boats!

    On another topic, how about an article (or series) about dealing with sun exposure for long term cruisers? As I recall you had a serious bout with skin cancer recently. Like your family I am cursed with Northern European genes designed for hibernation during long winters rather than sailing to the South Pacific! I notice your girls are not deeply tanned, so your family must have a very rigorous program to prevent excessive exposure?

    Fair winds

    1. Mast step photo doesn’t tell the story well.

      There is very little corrosion actually. The stuff inside the step is degraded foam that I had zip tied around a radar cable installed outside the mast conduit. I did that in Malaysia (after our prior radar was fried by indirect lightning strike), to limit the banging noise. As you can see, it only worked for a while before the foam powdered. Now that our mast is down, I was able to cut access into the conduit and the cable is run properly.

      There is minor surface corrosion. Mostly though it is failed powder-coating. I’ve scraped, cleaned and inspected the step. All is good, and well coating now in CRC Heavy Duty Corrosion Inhibitor.

      The mast step does sit on Garolite base. I installed this in 2008 because the base of the mast had much corrosion – so I cut off the bottom 1″. This from when Totem was new to us and I found the anchor light didn’t have strain-relief and the wire insulation was worn through causing accelerated electrolysis every time the light was on.

    2. Cursed with northern Euro genes indeed! Growing up on Connecticut coast, boating all summer and no sunscreen at the time except a T-shirt, has taken it’s toll. Cruising contributes to that past damage of course, but we are very good about covering up and/or sunscreen (without reef harming chemicals). We’ll put your request on the blog list. It’s an important topic that we are unfortunately having to deal with in a big way.

  8. Hello Totem!

    Where were the four thru-hulls that you removed? We have a 1976 Spencer 35′ MKii from Canada. I read the Hal Roth book “After 50,000 Miles” (this book referenced our boat) they removed 7 of the 8 thru-hulls. Which might be a little extreme… Also, we currently moored in the Puget sound and would love an article recommending local boat yards and services.

    1. Thru-hulls removed – 2 were sink drain that no go into a grey water system. 1 was toilet flush water that is now using grey water instead. And 1 was unused. So we are down to 6: engine raw water, watermaker, 2 x cockpit drain (1 of which is also galley sink drain), 2 x toilet/holding tank outlets. And each of these are new or relatively new.

      A component of our aft head rebuild is relocating the toilet outlet to a more accessible place. It’s a hassle to move, but nice to have located where it’s easily seen and used.

  9. New to the tribe. Noticed the TurboXS shirt in the featured photo, but it was the mention again later on that lured me out of the shadows.

    As a longtime gearhead who knows a LOT of TurboXS customers over the last 20 years–and is currently in research mode for bluewater dreams–I’m curious if there’s and automotive connection here I’ve not yet discovered?

    Good luck with that to-do list all the same. Built vs. bought, right?

  10. This is a great update, but can we take a moment to admire that hair dye job?? So what if you have to wear sunscreen at night? When you go blue, people _know it_.

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