Preparations – February 6, 2011

The house is an utter disaster. We have boat gear and trip related projects scattered and strewn about the whole house. Hardly a room is spared. Sandy is running a 3 ring circus in the kitchen, fixing up large quantities of granola and several varieties of sweetened and spiced peanut and almond snacks. Stacks of foodstuffs, the result of her first few trips to the grocery store, are stacked on the counters, pending their transfer to the guest bedroom which presently serves as our provision organizing and packing room. The dining room table is covered with her sewing projects: lightweight pull on pants made of solar-guard fabric, a Sunbrella cloth pocket organizer for the head, and a cover bag for my big landing net (so the netting won’t snag on anything in the king berth when she grabs for it while I’m battling the Big One). I have gear spread out all over the living room. Maps, charts, books and travel guides are stacked in the back corner. The cockpit cushions line the entry hallway (why I’m not quite sure, except that I haven’t figured a better place to put them just yet). Assorted gear bags are stacked below the TV in the family room, ready to be hauled out and packed in the boat. Clothing duffels and miscellaneous cruising stuff lie in piles in the front bedroom. My shop has yet to be cleaned up following completion of the latest boat projects, which include installation of the new auto pilot and fitting Dri-Dek tiles into the vee-berth. The garage sports several stacks of boat gear which have been pulled down from shelves but not yet organized for loading into the boat. It’s gotten to the point we need to call time-out and organize things a bit. Lately, we’ve been spending way too much time asking each other where the heck the scissors or the West Marine catalog or the hardware for the fishing reel ended up.

And what about the boat, good old Chinook? I look out onto the driveway where she normally sits, and the parking pad is disturbingly vacant. I know the reason why, of course, and it’s both reasonable and necessary. Last week I towed her across the mountains to Blue Water Yachts, to get some last minute work done on the trailer and outboard. I hadn’t relished taking the winter cover off this time of year, but it had to be done. As far as the drive was concerned, the first 30 yards were toughest. We got freezing rain the night before I left, so boat and truck were both encased with ice on Friday morning. Our parking pad is at the head of a steep driveway (16 percent slope), and it too was a solid sheet of ice. I scattered snow melt crystals up and down the driveway, and once it was secure enough to walk on, I slowly eased her down to the street. Roads were good heading over to Seattle. Now I’m just hoping for good conditions next week when I drive over to retrieve her.

I’ve already mentioned a couple of boat improvement projects. Early in the planning stages I was forced to make a serious strategic decision. Should I bite the bullet and spend 7 boat bucks or so on re-powering, or attempt the trip with our Nissan 50 hp TLDI. We got the Nissan new with the boat in 2002, and she now has around 800 hours on her. I’ve maintained her well and she’s performed reliably throughout most of her service. We’ve had a couple of problems along the way, but nothing too serious. I’d like the peace of mind which should accompany cruising with a new engine, but budget considerations suggested this just wasn’t the time.

I opted instead to upgrade a wide range of systems and equipment. I opted to go with an inflatable instead of the 10 ft. Porta-bote which has faithfully served as our dinghy up until now. I selected a 9 foot, high pressure floor inflatable which is lighter overall, less bulky to store, and more easily hauled out of the water when we prepare for major crossings. I replaced our 9 year old Garmin GPS/Sounder, since the sounder part no longer worked. We got a new laptop to run our electronic charts. The old laptop was also about 9 years old and had become quite “quirky”. I ordered and installed a Raytheon Smart Pilot X-5 wheel pilot model. Considering the number of major crossings and passages this cruise will entail, I’m really eager to give it a try. I’ve rigged up a stern anchor, complete with nylon rode and chain and a storage bag which mounts on the stern railing. This will free me from going up to the bow and grabbing the spare Fortress Guardian anchor and rode, and toting it back to the stern when we need to set a stern anchor. I’ve installed panels of Hyper-vent material between the foam and the underside of the cockpit seat cushion covers, to help keep the seat cushions dry. The new tiles of plastic Dri-Dek, which I’ve fitted into the vee-berth area should also help in that department. Most recently, we’ve purchased a large Breeze Booster wind scoop for the forward hatch, which will provide improved ventilation in the cabin when we’re basking or baking in those sunny Bahama anchorages. This last thought is particularly appealing as I look outside at our dreary winter landscape.

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