October 25, 2018

Getting it all done: 10 pre-cruising projects we tackled

So what have we been doing for the past six weeks since we quit our jobs and moved aboard Borealis? Well, lots, since it takes plenty of preparation to get ourselves and the boat ready for offshore sailing and to leave the country for a year or more.

Since becoming officially unemployed in late-August, we haven't had a lot of time to really relax and enjoy our new liveaboard or cruising lifestyle, because it takes a surprising amount of work to sell nearly everything you own, move aboard a boat and sail off into the sunset :)

We've done most of the work ourselves and it's kept us going from morning 'til night. So here is a look at 10 recent projects we've completed. [Read about the long list of projects we tackled since December 2017 before finally getting Borealis in the water].

The to-do list

In project management, scope creep refers to how a single project can suddenly snowball into five. To avoid wasting our time on low-priority projects that spiraled into other projects and wouldn't help us get off the dock any sooner, we wanted a visual and well-thought out approach to completing projects.

We decided to go old school with a sticky note list, which we sorted by high, medium and low priority projects (putting safety and critical systems, like tuning the engine, in the high priority list and things like varnishing and polishing in the low priority list). We also created a life list for  coordinating boat and health insurance, mail forwarding, banking, new batteries for our iPhones, and other similar projects. In all, we had 50 projects on the to-do list!

Sailing, cruising, projects, to-do list

Each day, after our coffee and morning workout, we decided which of our project(s) we wanted to tackle, which we moved into the Today's Projects/underway category, and finally into the completed category. Slowly but surely, since some projects took only a few hours, but others took weeks of researching or sourcing parts, the majority of projects moved from "must-do" to completed. 

[Note, we also keep a more high-tech spreadsheet of boat maintenance, but this strategy was a great visual reminder of what still needed to be done]. 

1. New batteries

We replaced our one engine starter battery and four house batteries (with Trojan wet-cell deep cycle batteries), giving us 450 fresh amp hours to start the engine, run our fridge and lights, and charge our electronics. It took a full day to disconnect the five batteries, haul each 60-pound battery up on deck and then off the boat to the dock, trade them in at the battery store, and finally bring them back on board and reconnect all the new batteries...all without smashing any fingers or toes!  

Hallberg-Rassy 37 batteries, house batteries, Trojan, wet cell, deep cycle, Borealis

2. Engine tune-up

We hired AR Marine to help tune our 54-horsepower Yanmar engine, which has about 2,700 engine hours on it. Overall, it runs very well, but the engine has an after market, high-output 160 amp alternator for quickly charging the four house batteries, and a stock alternator for charging the engine battery, and the load was a bit too much for the engine when it first started and was in idle - simply put it "chugged" until it got to operating temperature. AR Marine solved the problem by increasing the idle speed, as well as replaced our somewhat corroded exhaust manifold and a variety of belts, gaskets and hoses. We also ordered all kinds of spare parts to have on hand, which will be more expensive and harder to get once we leave the states. 

3. More solar panels

Borealis came with two 50-watt solar panels, and a wind generator, which on a sunny or windy day keep our batteries level but don't produce enough energy to charge-up our batteries. Adding more solar panels was our best option, and we researched different installations for months. At the U.S. Sailboat show in Annapolis we saw a great custom rail setup by Kato Marine that allowed us to easily extend our stern rails to our stanchions and allow for more solar panels without requiring any extensive fabricating or welding.

Nick also sourced some great brackets for the solar panels that enable us to swivel them around the railing almost 360 degrees to catch the most sun and store them inside or outside the lifelines. He ran the wiring through a fitting on the deck and into our aft cabin and battery bank, which we can monitor via two Victron controllers that we installed to regulate flow to the batteries and let us track our energy production via Bluetooth.

Hallberg-Rassy 37, solar panels, Victron, solar installation, Kato Marine, lifelines, stern extension
Hallberg-Rassy 37, solar panels, wind generator
Hallberg-Rassy 37, solar panels, wind generator, stern rail extension

During the solar install, we also removed the lifelines around the boat and had them shorted to accommodate the longer stern rails; and while we had them off we replaced a couple of bent stanchions (or vertical poles that hold the lifelines). 

4. Carpentry

Borealis had three hanging lockers, and we thought shelves in one locker would be more functional than all that hanging space, so we spent a few days measuring, sourcing wood, cutting, staining and installing new shelves.

Wood shelves, hanging locker, sailboat
Sailboat, hanging locker, shelves, installation

We also needed a place on deck to lash our jerry cans, or extra fuel jugs. We cut and added wooden supports to the boat's stern rails under our two aft gin and tonic seats using pressure treated wood and stainless U-shaped pipe clamps. The jugs are held in place with strap webbing and adjustable quick-release buckles.

Jerry cans, fuel jugs, Hallberg-Rassy 37, gin and tonic seats, wood brackets, U-clamp

5. Sewing

Borealis came with a custom sun/winter cover, which we attempted to put up last fall. We had a custom winter cover on our previous boat, Houd Vast, which we successfully used for three years, but we just couldn't make this one work without any pictures or instructions. The cover was also stored in three large bags that were unwieldy and took up precious space aboard. Since it was great Sunbrella fabric, rather than tossing it, Sara spent several days at the sewing machine cutting and fashioning smaller sun tents for the deck and covers for our hard dodger (windshield), outboard dinghy engine and man-overboard rescue Lifesling.
Hallberg-Rassy 37, deck sun tent, Lifesling cover, sailrite, sewing, wind dodger screen

6. Automatic float switch for bilge pump

The bilge is the lowest point on the inside of a boat and is designed to collect excess water, which is discharged overboard by an automatic or manual pump (Borealis has both). Most modern boats have a float switch, which turns on the automatic bilge pump once the water reaches a certain level in the bilge - a real life saver if a hose or thru-hull fitting were to unknowingly fail and the boat started taking on water.

Borealis didn't have a float switch, meaning we had to click a button to make the pump turn on...and the only way we'd know we were taking on water is if it rose above our floor boards (yikes)! So Nick spent an afternoon removing the cabin sole, tracking and laying new wires between the float switch and the pump motor, and installing the switch at the right level to automatically turn on the pump. All we have to do now is check it every week and make sure it's working properly.
float switch, bilge, automatic pump, Hallberg Rassy 37 bilge

7. Leaks: Caulking the teak deck and re-gasketing hatches

To protect the boat from any unnecessary leaks or water damage, we spent two days on our hands and knees inspecting every inch of our teak deck for loose or missing caulk, which we reefed out, sanded and then re-caulked.

Hallberg Rassy 37, teak deck, caulking, Teak Deck Systems, reefing

We also replaced all of the gaskets in our four deck hatches since some of interior wood around the hatches showed signs of previous water damage.

Hallberg Rassy 37, hatch, gasket, Lewmar, regasket

8. Safety Communications: AIS and Iridium Go!

An automatic identification system, or AIS, is a tracking system used on marine vessels; it was mostly used on commercial fleet and large ships but is becoming increasingly popular on pleasure craft. Borealis had an AIS receiver, meaning we could see on our radar and chart plotter boats around us that were broadcasting, but we didn't have a transceiver, meaning unless those boats had radar, they couldn't "see" us, which could be a very dangerous thing in low visibility or bad weather conditions. After installing our new Vesper unit, boats with AIS capabilities can now track us via our MMSI number, #37192240.

We also installed an Iridium Go! satellite communication device so we can call, text message and access weather reports when we are offshore or outside the U.S. and without a cell signal.  It also uses GPS to relay our coordinates every 30 minutes to a Google map, so our position can be tracked in real time.

Track us! You can find our location at https://forecast.predictwind.com/tracking/display/Borealis.

9. Recommissioning the watermaker

We have a Spectra watermaker aboard that desalinates sea water (which we'll use once we get south and into clearer water) and turns it into drinkable water that we can store in our 100-gallon water tanks. The unit makes about 9-gallons of water per hour and was dormant or "pickled" for several years, which can destroy the crucial internal membrane. We wanted to ensure the unit was in working order before we got offshore, and making drinkable and safe water, so we spent a few days sourcing filters and other parts to take it apart, recommission and flush the unit clean. Thankfully the membrane and all other parts appeared to be in great working order! After a few fresh water flushes, Nick re-pickled the unit with preservative, and it should be ready to go when we need it later this winter.
Spectra, Hallberg Rassy 37, watermaker, antifreeze, desalinator

10. Provisioning

While we'll be along the U.S. East Coast the next two months with somewhat easy access to stores, we'll be without a car to get around, and once we get to the Bahamas - where we could end up for two or three months - food prices are often double those in the states, so we wanted to stock up on food staples and supplies.

It's not easy to provision for up to 90 days of breakfasts, lunches and dinners, especially with limited fridge and freezer space and access to fresh produce since we'll mostly be at anchor; buying too much food means items could go to waste, but not having enough food could be a costly mistake. So we followed two important pieces of advice from past cruisers: 1) Develop and follow a rough meal plan so you don't simply buy a ton of random food items that don't translate well into meals, and 2) If you don't already eat something, like quinoa, you aren't going to suddenly start eating it on a boat, so only plan for meals and ingredients you already like to eat. Stay tuned for more on our meal plan and provisioning!

Hallberg Rassy 37, provisioning, food, shopping, cruising, sailing
One of our several stores of food; we hopefully provisioned enough for 3 months of
breakfasts, lunches and dinners
So there's a quick look at 10 - of the 50 or so projects - that have kept us busy the past six weeks.

After all that hard work, we are ready to throw off our dock lines and start making the trip south!

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