October 19, 2017   Joe Cline

From the February 2011 issue of 48° North by Knick & Lyn Pyles

A winter project in Ballard pays dividends 8,000 miles away.

The December issue of 48° North tugged at my heartstrings – especially the cover  painting of the Christmas Tree Schooner and Rich Hazelton’s editorial on winter maintenance projects. The following outline of how to spend a day getting ready for offshore sailing and faraway ports is an example of my memories jolted awake by the editorial.

Phil, a diesel mechanic for Stewart Marine in Ballard, was aboard one winter day to adjust the injectors on our Ford Lehman diesel engine, or do some other task I was incapable of or unwilling to do.

I mentioned to him that we planned to cast off and go cruising on the following May 15th, and did he have any advice to help me get ready to sail and to maintain the dear Murielle, while offshore and in foreign ports?

He replied: “Some Friday night, when a rainy weekend is forecast,  get a good night’s sleep. Get up early Saturday morning and have a good breakfast before heading for the boat. When aboard, put on some good music and have a notebook in hand and your tool kit close by. Then start at the very bow and check to make sure you have a wrench or screw driver that will reach and turn any screw, bolt, or nut on any piece of equipment aboard. When you have reached the transom and you know what other tools you need to buy – go buy them. You will be closer to being ready.”

I took his advice and found a number of bolts and nuts that needed a wrench, or an extension for a wrench, that I didn’t have in my tool kit.

Good examples were the nuts holding the faucets for the wash basins in the heads. I needed a standard “plumbers’ wrench” with an articulated head to be able to tighten or unscrew the almost impossible to reach nuts and thus stop leaks or replace a faucet.   

Other surprises were places where the bolt head was easy to reach with a socket wrench and extension, but the nut that had to be firmly held to loosen or tighten the bolt, was almost impossible to reach. Flat shank box wrenches made for narrow spots, plus various extensions, were the answer.   

The job of testing nuts and bolts in the open, or hidden away in a locker or down in the bilge, took most of the day. I knew, though, with the boat’s fasteners completely inventoried, we were just that much closer to being ready for sea.

A few Januarys later on, we anchored in Caleta Connor, off Canal Messier- one of the Chilean Channels in Patagonia leading down to Cape Horn. Caleta Connor is a bulletproof anchorage and is a favorite place for the few yachts that transit the Channels each year. In fact, it is the cove where many yachts since the early 1900’s have left name boards and other momentos of their passing. We dutifully painted up a name board for the MURIELLE and tied it to a slow growing Magellanic beech tree. It may be there yet.   

As it was Lyn’s birthday, we didn’t rush to get underway- besides it was just a terrible rainy and gusty day. When going over the engine, before raising the anchor, I found the tightening strut for the alternator was cracked. No Phil around Caleta Connor or any place else within a couple of hundred miles. So, I got to work and found a short, stout turnbuckle I could use as a temporary replacement (temporary meaning many days and miles). I had all the tools and fittings I needed to get the job done in a safe and workmanlike manner. From some 8,000 miles away I gave Phil a big thank you!   

Once underway in Canal Messier we found a steady north wind of some 30 knots that pushed us south under Yankee alone at over six knots. We were  quite happy as the fair wind drove us south to our next anchorage, even though we were bundled to the necks in foul weather gear.

We knew all systems aboard were in working order and could look forward to a birthday dinner in the next anchorage