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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.