Summer Is Over

Nina and I had a fantastic time on Gypsy this summer. Our cruise to the west coast of Vancouver Island was great and instructive. The great part is easy, being off work, living on Gypsy, getting relaxed, seeing incredible scenery was just what we needed. The instructive part was a bit more humbling; being sea sick and having to relearn how to do things after our extended project time. It was also good, such as when we were drifting near the entrance to Pipestem Inlet while trouble shooting the starter motor and being able to fix it.

An important part of the trip was to do some real world testing to inform our decision process. Ever since we bought Gypsy 15 years ago, we knew we needed to replace the tiller. Before we made a new tiller we wanted to solve the auto pilot and wind vane issues. The auto pilot no longer connects to the tiller and the wind vane connections to the tiller worked, so now we could design a new tiller.

tillerglue up

We brought the old tiller home and traced its shape on a sheet of 3/4″ plywood. We made some minor adjustments to the shape and screwed 2×4 blocks to the plywood. The mold was then covered in clear packing tape, which is a great mold release since epoxy does not stick to it. We then epoxied strips of wood and clamped them together and down to form the blank for the tiller.

In a world that is increasingly split and divisive, it is good to find ways to make friendship and community a part of our lives. The wood for the tiller came from a piece of Kalantas, a tropical hardwood, that our friends on Velic gave to us as they set off for the South Pacific. I was saving the wood for something special and it was just the right width for the tiller.

We also got some wood from our friends on JoySea, a wooden power boat. They gave us the off cuts from their mahogany planks and we turned them into cabin trim.

overhead strips

The trim strips for our overhead panels came from the hull planking leftovers.

We had a windy crossing of the Columbia River Bar as we returned to Oregon. We picked up a couple of rough weather lessons and we also discovered once we were back at West Basin in Astoria that our hard dinghy, which is stored on deck, had shifted in the crossing. We saw that we needed a better way to chock the dinghy in place. We had been using blocks of mini cell foam and we realized that this was not up to ocean readiness.

We decided that we needed fixed, solid chocks. Bill made some teak chocks and then fitted them to Gypsy. The forward chocks were pretty straight forward, but the aft chocks took a bit more thought. He wanted the chocks to transfer vertical loads to the cabin top so the hand rails would not get bent. He also had to drill a hole for the pipe at a compound angle. The drilling ended up being a very MacGyvered process. He was thrilled that they fit and that he did not end up back at the emergency room for more stitches.

We have known that Gypsy needed new sails before we take off for our cruise. Gypsy’s sails looked OK, but they were stretched out of shape. The last couple of years at the boat shows we have been talking to sailmakers and we have not found what we wanted. The sailmakers were focused on sails that would be fine for local conditions, but they did not offer a sail that was designed for extended cruising. Ocean cruising represents much more wear than day sailing and UV degradation becomes an important issue.

This spring a blog we read, Sailing Totem had another article on sails. Jamie, and his wife Behan have just completed a ten year circumnavigation with their family on Totem. Jamie is a sailmaker. He and his business partner Phil run Zoom sails. They specialize in long distance cruising sails. I started an email conversation with Jamie about our sail needs and decided that these sails would work well for Gypsy. Jamie’s son was starting college in Portland and I knew that they were back in the states for the summer, so I asked if when he was in Portland if he would come and measure Gypsy for new sails. It worked out and we got to meet Jamie and Behan  A few weeks latter Gypsy got a new full baton main and genoa. We also added a Strong Track, which is a low friction track on the mast for the mainsail to slide up and down on.

Image may contain: sky, ocean, boat, cloud, outdoor and water
Jamie measuring Gypsy’s sails. Photo credit Behan Gifford.
main sail
Bill is installing the strong track hardware on the luff of the sail.
The battens came rolled up in a wheel. It was securely taped and tied and took Nina quite a while to get them all unwrapped.

We knew we needed to replace the mainsail cover. The old cover was red, but even Sunbrella red fades. It was now a dirty rose. We also knew it would not fit around the new sail.

sail cover
The sail cover is lashed on to the boom. A new cover has been ordered.

We have ordered a new sail cover that will fit over the new sail. It will also have lazyjacks incorporated in it. The lazyjacks are ropes that run from the boom up to the mast to gather the main sail as it drops and keep it on the boom. Zoom sails also makes covers and since we were happy with the sails we also ordered a cover from them. Nina was going to sew a cover, but with all the projects we need to get done, she was happy to let someone else make the cover.

The new genoa. The cover is Parchment, which is the color we choose for the sun cover and the main sail cover.

We did go for a test sail, but we were so busy enjoying the new sails that we did not get any pictures of them up and in use.

main sail on mast
The new main. The black strip on the back of the mast is the Strong Track that we added.

Other projects include finishing off the cabin insulation and painting the cockpit locker floors and sides. The locker panels look much better painted.

When Gypsy was in Tom Becker’s shop one of the things we did was to replace the fuel tank. The new tank was made to maximize the volume and it is not a rectangular shape. Bill had made a fuel stick to measure how many gallons it held and I tried to mark it as the tank got filled. The result was a bit off, so he measured the tank and drafted a drawing of it. From the drawing he was able to calculate the volumes at different heights and compare these with the marks on the fuel stick. The result was a new fuel stick based on the old fuel stick and the drawing. It will be accurate enough for us to figure out how much fuel we have.

fuel stick

If you ever wondered how we figure out how we are going to do something, well here is one of Nina’s notes.  The pump handle was attached with brackets to the bottom of one of the companionway ladder steps. but the ball on the end was large enough that it needed a shim.  The drawings on the bottom are measurements for a forehatch cover that she will sew up this fall.

Nina note

5 thoughts on “Summer Is Over”

  1. Hi Bill and Nina,

    Thank you for taking the time to do your blog. I have considered doing one myself but I don’t think anyone would be interested. Just an old guy fixing things.

    I bought Feather, a derelict project Cascade 36, a few months ago in Saint Helens and have been working on it when I have the time. This usually means a few hours on the weekend. First order of business – keep the water out. I have been successful so far. Second order of business, get the engine running (old Westerbeke 4-91). Check – however I have a small leak from the injection pump that I need to fix. Third order of business, make it pretty. That is what I am working on now and focusing primarily on the inside since the weather has started to turn. I haven’t sailed much yet but I am starting to get itchy and so probably will soon.

    I eventually want to do what you are doing – retire and sail a lot. One of the first places I would like to go is the east side of Vancouver island. Just crossing the Columbia bar will be big for me. I did it in my last boat (Catalina 30) and as part of a class but haven’t spent a lot of time on the ocean. Eventually and depending on how things go, I would like to do a clockwise Pacific loop. Lots of work to get there though.

    If you don”t mind, I would like to ask you a few questions via email about your refit. I like a lot of what you have done (especially the toe rail) but I would like to know specifics about a few things. Let me know please.

    My email is if you want to contact me directly. I am not sure if this will even get to you since I did not create a wordpress account. Hopefully.

    Thanks and fairwinds.

    Tim Lesher


  2. OK, I think you are good to go for cruising. You can work on Gypsy in far away places. The north west Pacific coast is always a good test. Joy and I are thrilled to know you are almost ready to cast off.
    Thanks for sharing your stories. We met Jeanne Socrates last summer when she was preparing for her next circumnavigation (single handed, non-stop around the five great capes of the southern ocean). She was also recovering from serious injuries she got from a fall while working on her boat. Her blog is good reading.
    Fair winds,
    Jerry & Joy


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