Bon Voyage

One of the things we agreed on early in our boat ownership days was that projects were okay, but the boat had to be sailable.  That kind of got put on the hard so to speak for the past four or five years.  We now have most of the major projects done.  It’s time to go sailing.  We headed up to the the San Juan and Gulf Islands on Gypsy for a short three week shakedown cruise and to meet up with friends on Drømen.  There will be more about that soon.  Meanwhile, there’s a Bon Voyage party to invite you to before we head south. Hope you can make it.

Bon Voyage Party

Bill and Nina are sailing Gypsy to Mexico

Saturday, September 7 4:00-8:00 Rose City Yacht Club

Photo credit: Jerry and Joy, Drømen

It’s a potluck party, drop by and see Gypsy.

Please RSVP

Rose City Yacht Club, 3737 NE Marine Drive, Portland

Gate code: 572637# (Kramer on a phone keypad)

And you may have noticed we’ve changed the title of the blog.  We hope it reflects the direction our project is taking.

It is too late now, we’ve paid the entrance fee

It has been almost two months since our last post. A lot has been happening, but most of it is not about boats. We sold our house in NE Portland and bought a small condo in NE Portland. Thank you David, our super realtor and sailing friend. We moved off of Gypsy and into the condo June 21st. We then had to do those new house things, like empty boxes and buy a couch. Then just as we were starting to return our focus to Gypsy we had a trip to Minneapolis to see family over the fourth.

Since we got back we have been checking tasks off of the list. Gypsy has a new alternator and voltage regulator. The old ones are going to be our spares. We installed a single sideband marine short wave radio. This will let us get weather forecasts, send text emails and join boater nets.  We installed lots of wires and parts and managed to find spaces for them. We added an AIS transponder, which tells other ships near by that we are there too and lets us know who they are and how fast they are moving.  We installed three solar panels and a solar controller. Nina has been getting the overhead panels covered in white vinyl and reinstalled. The cabin looks much better. Our life raft is now installed on the deck. The cabin has a new bookcase and table and a galley storage cabinet.

knife block start-163704350
While we were living aboard we discovered that we really needed a knife block. Keeping the knives in a drawer was not working. This is how the block got its start, strips of wood with a knife blade slot got glued together. This then got sanded and finished.  Thank you, Randy for the wood.  It’s the same wood as the tiller.
galley box-113058000
The galley cabinet and knife block. The cabinet will give us storage for garbage on the bottom and thermoses on the top shelf. The trim is recycled from old Gypsy trim so it blends in. The door fronts are repurposed old drawer fronts that were on the boat when we bought her.  What’s really nice about the cupboard is we will no longer have a box of garbage kicking around the floor.
overhead 3-130734866
Nina has been getting the overhead panels installed. They hide the cabin insulation and light wiring. The vinyl also helps to deaden sound. The panels can be removed if we need to get to deck hardware or wiring.  But, since the lights and fan are all screwed through the panel and into blocks in the ceiling, we hope we don’t have to take them down too often.
overhead 4-183250282
The vee berth looks much better too.
You can see the life raft canister on deck in front of the dodger. You can also kind of see the SSB antenna going up the backstay.  New solar panels on the aft sides of the boat and one on the top of the dodger are now functional and are helping charge the new batteries.
The solar panels. The two aft panels on the stern pulpit can be adjusted to follow the sun. We left space on the dodger to stand on it when working on the main sail.
The table and bookcase. The table is the old table Bill made for Gypsy. It now folds up when not in use. It will be fantastic to have space for books. The wood slats in the middle of the shelves lift out to get at the books and to keep them from flying into the cabin if things get rough.

We also signed up for the Baja HaHa. It is a 150 boat regatta from San Diego to Cabo San Lucas. It gives a date to leave for Mexico and it may help us get more social. It leaves San Diego November 4th. We are working on a date for a Bon Voyage party in Portland before we leave. We will let you know once the date is set.


Save the Peonies!

flowers 1This is our new rallying cry.  Things get rough: save the peonies!  There’s a sailing tie-in?  Nina is getting close to retiring, and of her colleagues (thank you, Windy!) gave her a beautiful bunch of peonies as a send off.  They were put in a growler mason jar on Gypsy and we headed up to Government Island for the Memorial Day cruise.  We ended up on the outside dock and occasionally things got pretty bouncy.  The peonies made it through the weekend without mishap.

It was lovely to be out for a weekend cruise.  The weather was iffy: it poured one afternoon, right about happy hour, but we did get some sunshine the next day.  We turned the furnace on at one point to warm up and help cut the condensation that was building up in the cabin.  Cooler weather and three adults aboard create a lot of damp air.

Meanwhile, between March and now, an amazing amount of life has been happening.  Gypsy went to the Rocky Point Boatyard to get her bottom painted in March.  Bill has been working on various boat projects.  Nina still has a day job.  We spent much of April and May getting our house ready to sell, looking for and finding a condo to downsize to, and we have temporarily moved aboard Gypsy.

Sling location
Gypsy getting hauled out. It took a couple of trial hoists to get the slings in the correct place. Forward of the keel we need to avoid the transducer for the knot meter. Aft of the keel, the strap needs to avoid the refrigerator keel cooler plate and the prop shaft.

Getting to Rocky Point is about a three hour trip.  We started out and discovered that the autopilot was totally wonky so we hand steered the whole way down and back.  Bill had added a rudder sensor so the autopilot would know where the rudder was.  Because we have a tiller there was some slight confusion about how to set it – tiller direction or rudder direction?  He later figured it out and now it works beautifully.

New tiller, varnished and installed. Bill added the plastic shims under the tiller straps to prevent the straps from wearing out the aluminum tiller cap.


tiller cover
New tiller cover.


template makingAnother of Bill’s projects was replacing the laminate on the chart table.  He made a two layer template out of masonite strips so it would be thick enough and strong enough to be a router guide, and the overlapped corners solved the how to make strong template corners.  He did such a good job the template almost didn’t come out.

template making 2
Weighing down the pattern.
new formica_
New laminate on the chart table epoxied in place. The fit is perfect. All the countertops in Gypsy now match – no more 1970s butcher block Formica.
more like a boat
Gypsy with all her cushions back in place. Nina recut the back cushions so they would fit better. Sailrite how-to videos are really useful, but she discovered that sometimes they don’t explain the obvious. For instance, add 1/2 inch to the overall length of the cushions to help hold them in place. This works well if you have a single cushion. If you have three cushions spanning the length, don’t add that 1/2 inch to each. Trimmed down and the covers resewn, they now fit without bowing out.
bookcase gluing
The last of the big projects. This is the bookcase that the table will hang from. The other piece of cabinetry that Bill has been working on is a small cupboard that will go in the galley to hold thermoses and a small garbage receptacle. We have a couple of more weeks of having access to the garage and tools before the house closes.

We’re now temporarily camped out on Gypsy while we wait for all the house selling and buying to finish up.  Moving involves new routines and new neighbors.  This is a new neighbor that we did not want.

Eurasian Collared dove, an invasive species. A pair of them decided that our radar mount would be an ideal location for a nest. We managed to scare them away. It is pretty amazing how loud they are when they have a mast amplifying their coos. Thank you to Nina’s colleague Tom for telling us what kind of birds they were.
Oh, someday the storage locker will look like this again.

Invierno, it sounds so much better than winter

This has been a cold winter and we have been trying to stay busy with projects that do not require glue or paint. We also took time off to go to the Seattle Boat Show and to visit family in Minneapolis.

The boat show gave us a chance to visit with good friends, the crews of Dromen and Velic. We did order a life raft at the show and we got some neat new fids. We got Selma fids, they are lovely. Nina is happy. They are worth getting if you have any splicing to do.

Minneapolis was cold. We got off the plane and entered the polar vortex. There are reasons I moved away from Minneapolis and -15 degrees, (minus 30 with wind chill), is one of them. The weather did warm up and we left on a day that was a balmy 15 degrees and snowing.

MSP snow
Not the view you want while waiting for your plane. The deicing was cool, but it added an hour to an already delayed flight.
Mt Hood
Mount Hood out the window, we are almost home.

The cold followed us to Portland. We made cardboard mock ups of the table and bookcase. It was too cold to do much else.

table cardboard1

table cardboard2

We also worked on the cleats for the shelving in the hanging lockers.


The shelves will get a front trim pieces. The shelves and lockers will get painted, and doors made. Clothes and linens will be stored here.
happy day
Oh happy day! Bill now has more time for the boat.
Remember that chunk of wood that got laminated up in November? Well, Bill’s first retired project was to head back to Tom’s shop to get it shaped into a new tiller. Those bits to the side are some of the wood that got trimmed off. The tiller is almost ready. Seven coats of varnish later and it’s ready to be installed on Gypsy.
vee berth overhead
Trim strips in the vee berth.
l trim
L shaped trim for the cabin sides getting fitted.

As I write this the weather is finally warming up. We have had two days in the low sixties. Gypsy is going to the boat yard tomorrow for a survey and bottom paint. The nice weather will be great. It also means that you will get to watch more paint dry in the next installment.


Sistine Chapel Here We Come

January’s ceilings led Bill to the Sistine Chapel.  We have ceilings.  We don’t have the art work.  Nor, honestly, will we.  We will have overhead panels.  They will have vinyl glued to them shortly, but still no creation story memorialized overhead, only in the blog.

overhead strips framed
Ceiling over the galley. The small circles are where bolts come through from the luggage rack and the line organizer on the deck.  On the right, the first door skin panel is in with battens holding it in place.
marking holes in panels
We made patterns out of brown paper. Bill is cutting a hole for the dorade vent on the starboard side.  The boat is back in construction mode with a temporary table set up for the miter saw and/or saber saw.


panels main cabin
After more work, panels in place looking forward. It took a couple of weekends to get this far.  The short pieces of batten held in place with blue tape are where we have aluminum blocks for the hand rails so we can’t just screw the battens into cleat stock. Once the vinyl is glued onto the panels, these short battens will be attached with dummy screws to continue the batten line and dress up the panel seams.
bin cleats for shelves
One of our other projects is installing cleats in place for shelves in lockers. We split up the hanging locker across from the head into a hanging space and a space for shelves. The shelves are spaced six inches apart and will add more usable storage space.
And what would we do without friends? A confectionery celebration from our wine group. We’re hoping they will join us when they can (but wow, they need better photos to work with…).

November Projects

vee berth vinyl
The vee berth with its new vinyl installed.
vee berth shelf
New shelf in the port vee berth locker. It originally had a shelf which got taken out when we installed a holding tank in the locker. When we switched over to the AirHead, our composting toilet, the holding tank was no longer needed. This space will get a little bondo filling to smooth the fiberglass seams, everything will get sanded and painted once it’s all smooth.
vee berth shelf 2
Starting to bondo. This killed off the gallon can of filler. It took two tries to get it to kick. It looks a mess, but it will be fine once a lot of sanding is done.


sail cover
Old faded sail cover tied in place to protect the new sail until the new cover arrived.
sail cover 2
New sail cover!  The Sunbrella color is called Parchment.  The old red sail cover had turned pink over time so red was no longer a color option.  The new one is sewn with a UV impervious thread, Tenara, so Nina should not have to resew the cover together every other year.
sail cover 1
View from the fore deck.  We chose a stack pack cover over the traditional sail cover.  The lines holding the cover up will help corral the sail when it’s dropped.  The new sail is very stiff and is a challenge to get flaked neatly over the boom but once it’s been used, it will drop nicely into the cover without being blown all over the deck first.
port locker fore sides
Engine covers in place and engine blower fan hose installed. The handle makes is easier to remove the panels to access the engine. This is what Bill was working on while Nina was working on the port vee berth locker.
Espar exhaust
Furnace ducting installed. This is the same locker as the engine blower hose, just facing the aft direction. Bill spent a lot of time on his back in the locker reaching up to install various and sundry parts.
port locker aft sides
Port locker looking aft. Bill added lights in the lockers and led strip lighting in the engine compartment. The furnace ducting is finished. When we turned it on, it worked!
instrument cover
Galley wiring cover painted and reinstalled. At the top left is the Maxwell anchor windlass control and on the right a Blue Seas breaker panel for the engine blower fan and engine lights.  Someday we’ll find a better place to store paper towels than on the stove…
head covers
Wiring cover installed in the head. It has a switch for a red night light.
CO detector and smoke detector installed in the hallway outside the head.

That’s it for November.

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

Barkely Sound, part 4 Cool Rocks -Dempster Island

We spent two days in Ucluelet. Groceries, propane, diesel, water and laundry were taken care of. We did get to go to the aquarium where we learned more about the sea life we had been looking at in tide pools and while rowing around islands.

We left Ucluelet early Saturday morning. We were heading to Jacques Island, which is in the south eastern corner of the Broken Group. We had been told of a good spot to anchor there. It was another overcast day with very low clouds and some fog.

low clouds
Looking west, a small island in the Broken Group and low clouds.
islands and clouds
Looking east at the mountains behind Barkley Sound.
islands and sun
The sun is starting to break through. It must be getting close to lunch time.
Nina knitting
While I do the hard work of telling the autopilot where to steer, Nina knits.
Dempster Island.

We passed Dempster Island getting to Jacques Island. Dempster Island has very interesting rocky shores. We got to Jacques Island and anchored in a cove on the south side of the island, about a half mile from Dempster Island.

After lunch we launched the dinghy and rowed around Dempster Island. Click on the picture to get a larger image.

Colorful Gypsy at anchor.
Francis Barkley
The next morning we saw the Frances Barkley. The Frances Barkley and the Lady Rose carry passengers and supplies down the Alberni Inlet and Barkley Sound.

Barkley Sound, part 3 Turtle Bay

For all the islands in Barkley, there are only a few good anchorages.  Turtle Island has one of them.  But whether or not they provide a good spot to drop the hook, a fun thing about all those other islands is that they are close to where you can anchor and they are usually small enough to row around easily.  Dodd Island is one of those islands just off Turtle Island.

One of the amazing features of Dodd Island is an old First Nations fish trap.  The edges are lined with rocks and it’s still easy to imagine how at high tide the fish would have been channeled into the pool at the end. Simple and brilliant at the same time.

After checking out the island, we got back in the dinghy and rowed around the island.  The shore is pretty rocky and we saw lots of sea stars and quite a few crabs.  It was exciting seeing bat stars, which we hadn’t seen before, and ochre and purple stars.  A couple of years ago the sea stars were hit by a virus that almost wiped them out.  It was good to see them coming back again.  We also saw a sea cucumber.

Bill dinghy
Bill sailing the dinghy around the anchorage at Turtle Island.  Bill went sailing.  Nina made brownies.

After a relaxing night at anchor, we headed back to Ucluelet for groceries and laundry.

Gypsy in Barkley Sound, part two

We wanted to anchor between the west side of Turret Island and two small islands. This is a sheltered anchorage and it was close to some good beachcombing. When we got close to the anchorage we saw another boat from Rose City Yacht Club, Nepenthe, a Cascade 42. Nepenthe invited us to raft up with them and we had a sociable evening. We got several suggestions of places to visit also.

These are some pictures of where we anchored. The tide is down so you can see some of the rocks that are covered at high water. You can click on a picture to get a larger image.

The next morning we wanted to row over to Trickett and Lovett Islands. At low tide those two islands and the two small islands in between form one land mass. It is a good place to go beachcombing.

This is the chart of the area we are in. It is a Canadian Chart so the depths are in meters. the white area is deeper water. Blue is shallower water and tan is dry land. The asterisks and plus signs represent rocks. I have added a red A where Gypsy anchored. The green B is where we landed the dinghy to go beachcombing. It is about a mile from A to B. The purple T is where the big tree is.
beachcombing 1
When we landed the tide was coming back in. When we returned about 90 minutes later the water was up past where Bill is standing. Yes, the dinghy was anchored.


We landed on the sheltered side of the islands. We did our beachcombing on the more exposed side.

We had to do a bit of wading to get back across a low spot that now had about a foot of water over it. You do have to watch the tides. We launched the dinghy and rowed back towards Gypsy. We kept on rowing and landed in a small cove on Turret Island that has some very big old trees. There is a path through the woods to the trees. The woods were very calm and quiet, a peaceful retreat from the wind and waves.

After a late lunch we headed off to our next stop at Turtle Bay.