Sunday, December 15, 2013

" 'Tis the season, to be merry... That's my name... No $hit..."

This is probably my favorite time of year.  Likely because with it brings some of my favorite memories.  

As a child, I vividly remember getting a knock at the door, only to open it and see a bag full of goodies and, when we ran outside, to see who delivered it, all we heard in the distance was the sound of jingling bells.  To this day, my parents still claim they, nor the neighbors, had anything to do with that bag of toys :) 

The stockings...oh the stockings.  Once all of the presents were opened, we'd all settle in to open our stockings. This was my favorite part of Christmas morning and something that, to this day, I still look forward to.  

As time has gone by new memories and traditions have formed.  I got older and began to appreciate new things - like the annual charity Christmas party my family used to host when all of us were more centrally located.  This was such a great party!  We'd have amazing food, do a Chinese raffle, I'd sell raffle tickets in my crazy Christmas hats, the kids would get a visit from Santa and it wouldn't be a party without Gramps getting out on the dance floor and doing some ballrooms moves with the kids.  This was a special event, not only because it brought together all our family and closest friends, but all proceeds went to a family in need.  It was an amazing experience that, at a young age, helped lay the roots for the person I am today.  

More traditions that hold a special place in my heart are our Christmas morning Dirty Santa gift exchanges and watching National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation at least once, but usually twice (that and A Christmas Story are by far the best holiday movies in my opinion).

The holiday season brings Christmas music and those that know me well know that, if I had it my way, I'd be listening to Christmas music before Thanksgiving. But once Thanksgiving passes, watch out and be prepared, because this is all I will listen to.  There was a time in my life when I would even work out to Christmas music... yes, that's right.  You'd be surprised how well Mannheim Steamroller can motivate you when you're doing front squats :)  
Now, the holidays are a time for new traditions with our amazing friends and being with those that you love the most. It really isn't about the gifts or the fanfare.  We've actually gotten away from a lot of the "giving gifts, just to give gifts"...  Sure the little ones still get a gift or two and immediate family will usually get a little something, but I struggle with giving gifts just to give a gift. We have so much already, we don't "need" for anything - instead fund a water project or give to a local food pantry.  According to the National Retail Federation, it is estimated that over $602.1 billion will be spent on holiday gifts and goodies this year. In 2012, holiday sales racked an astounding $579.5 billion.   Can you imagine what we could do with that money if, just for one year, Americans donated all that money to a good cause???  

I digress...  

This being our fourth Christmas living aboard, I can tell you that Christmas on the boat is magical. Not sure why.  Perhaps it's the smaller space - everything is softly illuminated and cozy. I've always loved white lights, I think there is something so peaceful and soothing about them.  So, down below we have lots of white lights and, since we obviously don't have the room for a large tree, we've got our authentic Charlie Brown Christmas tree.  Each year we add an ornament and I think we just might have enough branches left to last us through our upcoming cruise.  We've already discussed it, and the tree will be one of the few holiday decor items we bring with us when we go.  

Our trawler lamp makes it extra toasty!!

And the stockings were hung with care...

Authentic Charlie Brown Christmas Tree

So, while life here is still insane (it's finals week and J and I are both swamped with schoolwork), we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. This weekend marks the end of the semester so hopefully next week we'll be able to find some time to stop and smell the mistletoe or sip some eggnog or some other warm adult beverage (hot buttered rum?) by the trawler lantern fire.  

An elf got in!  I think this elf is trying to be a Santa look alike with that beard!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Home, Sweet Home

It feels so good to be "home". Home is a relative term seeing as how we live in a mobile, floating home. Of course for us, home is where our Hull is - haha, get it? Yah, corny I know... ;)

Anyway, we are back at our usual marina and it's wonderful. Neither of us expected to miss this place as much as we did but after a long and crazy 6 weeks we are so glad to be back.  It's much quieter here; less boat and people traffic - it's our sanctuary. 

We had a chilly and windy sail down the Bay this past weekend. Day got off to a rocky start - we had some engine issues but after a bit of basic troubleshooting and changing out a couple of filters we were on our way. We were able to sail nearly the entire 40 miles home, only having to turn on the iron genny once we turned up into our river.  Made decent time, about 7hrs and was able to pull into our slips 15min before sunset. A gale hit that evening so we were glad to make it home before it rolled in.  

Now that we are home the to-do list continues. I have to do a thorough inspection of our sail inventory and identify what repairs/improvements (or "Hassification") can be made. I also need to get a sail cover made ASAP - that will be a fun project. We need to build up our lazy jacks - we ran out of time before we left our "working marina". Those along with lots of other prep tasks...... Back to work!


Tango with her new mast, newly painted boom (hidden under the mails'l) and sails bent on...  We were finally ready to head "home". 

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Game Changing Weekend...

This past weekend we traveled all the way to the beautiful state of Washington so I could attend a sail repair seminar in Port Townsend. The seminar was hosted by world renowned sail maker Carol Hasse and her sail loft crew. It was an intensive, long two days but such an amazing weekend. Words really can not describe the high I feel right now. First, if you've never seen the quality of Hasse sails, you can see some of it HERE.

Sails build by Hasse and Company are built from premium Dacron and all of them (some 3500+ to a date) are built in their Port townsend loft. Each sail is carefully designed, cut, assembled and finished by a talented group of 12 women. Each sail is reinforced with leather and all corners, rings, chafe areas and hardware are HAND sewn! Not only is the quality of these sails superb and far superior (in my opinion) to other production sails but they are beautiful!! They are truly works of art. 
I attended the class with 10 other people. Almost all of them were from the west coast - Canada, Washington or Oregon. One other couple was from Illinois but I was definitely from the furthest away. Each person was shocked to learn I traveled so far especially when I lived so close to one of the nations sailing capitals. Well, there is something to be said for learning from the best. 
The seminar was Saturday and Sunday - a total of 14 hours of curriculum. We went over offshore sail inventory, sail inspection, sail construction, sail repair and reinforcement (patch a hole, install a chafe guard, fix a torn seam, apply a spreader patch and reinforce a corner ring with webbing) and hand sewing with a palm and needle to sew in a ring, seize a jib hank, attach a mails'l slide, mend a seam, add a leather chafe guard and make "easy reefs".  The wealth of knowledge these ladies possess is amazing! 

Reinforcing strainer, round stitch and cross stitch

Leather chafe strip with running stitch and flat stitch

Sewn on slide, hank, easy reef and hand sewn ring

All the sail repair work, with machine.  Fixed holes, tears, seams, added patches and chafe guards.
As I mentioned part of the cirruclum was sail inspection. We were given the option to bring along a sail or two of our own to be inspected so we packed up our storm stays'l and checked it through to Seattle. 
We were so lucky to have Carol Hasse teach is portion of the seminar. She went step by step through the process of inspection, using our sail as an example. We knew this one was in rough shape - she had been used and put away wet. Her tack, clew and head rings are "batteries" and all her hanks are press on or crimp on and attached to grommets - so basically there was a lot wrong with this sail. She has another year, maybe two, left in her but I envision her being a training platform.

Battery... this is what happens when rings are not sewn in.  Only way to fix this is to cut it off. Not good when you're hundreds or thousands of miles offshore.

Crimped on hanks, with grommets.  Massive corrosion and unable to be reused or repaired.  Have to remove entirely and replaced.  This would not happen if done properly with sewn on rings and jib hanks.

Armed with this new knowledge, I plan on doing a complete inspection of our existing inventory and making improvements where I can, or "Hassisify" them as they say ;)  I'm so excited to put my skills to use! 
I also did some shopping while I was there. I purchased some tools and supplies for my offshore repair ditty bag, a new and beefed up palm from the local wooden boat chandlery as well as The Sailmakers Apprentice book - aka the sailmakers bible as I like to call it. 

New palm and needle case from the Wooden Boat Chandlery
I was also able to pick up the necessary hardware in order to turn our furling stays'l to a hank on sail.  Yes, we are once again going the KISS (Keep it Simple Sailor) route. Most folks transition to roller furling, not the other way around. So now that I can successfully, and quite easily, hand sew rings and sew on jib hanks I plan to convert our sail. I'll also be Hassifiying it a bit with some additional leather in the corners and doing necessary repairs I find during inspection. I'll be sure to blog about that project once it gets started. 
So we knew before heading to Port Townsend that we were going to order a new mains'l from Hasse. After the seminar, J and I were able to meet with her and put down our deposit. Our new main should be done around September - yay! A long wait but well worth it. We're also toying with the idea of ordering a couple of other sails (trys'l and light air sail) but we're going to have to see how the budget looks after we get done with our current projects. Ideally we would leave with a full suite of Hasse sails but not sure if that will be possible. Perhaps I'll attempt to do a trys'l and storm stays'l... Both are pretty straight forward, small sails - who knows, could be fun or could be a disaster ;)
We were able to enjoy some of the local sights while we were there too  - it was such a lovely town, honestly it was hard to leave. Awesome people, great sights, amazing food (didn't have a single bad meal) and the craft brew was some of the best we have had!  
Mount Baker as seen from Point Hudson in Port Townsend

After being there for the long weekend and talking to the sail loft crew as well as some local sailors we're thinking we may alter our route a bit and after the South Pacific, head North and make our way through Alaska and down into WA to spend a season there. It's seriously beautiful there! Oh and did I mention the beer?? ;) 

Thursday, November 7, 2013


J and I live in a world of acronyms.  Just when you think you know what they all mean, another gets added.  While boat life doesn't have nearly as many, there are a few - not counting those which we've made up over the last few years, e.g., ASSWOP :)

BOAT - if you have a boat you likely know what this stands for.  Break Out Another Thousand.  

We've been busy trying to get things done with Tango's new mast and boom refurb so that we can sail "home" in the next week or so.  However, as J put it last night "we have more money than we do time" - how often can that be said!  Not only are our jobs hectic right now, but J is in school full time and I am in school part time.  AND tomorrow (Friday) we head to Port Townsend, WA where I will be attending a sail repair seminar at Hasse & Company, Port Townsend Sails ( and J will be meeting with world renowned sail maker, Carol Hasse to discuss the construction of our new mainsail.  While we are both very excited for the trip, the timing is not ideal.  There is still a significant amount of work to do before we can sail home and we're quickly running out of time. 

That said, we've decided to "BOAT" or perhaps "BOATs".  So far we're slightly under budget on our tasks which played into our decision to let the yard do nearly the rest of the work.  There are some smaller, easy items which don't need to be done until right before we leave to sail back, which we'll do. Our main concern is that there are things that must be done before other work gets done and being out of pocket for 5 days really throws a wrench into things. So, J met with the yard this AM and gave them a list of things we'll need done.  By the time we get back, she'll be that much closer to being ready to head "home".  

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Back to the Grind

We're getting back into "work" mode after a wonderful weekend away. We headed to NC to witness a beautiful and wonderful couple tie the knot. It was a fantastic weekend! Our wedding was a crazy blur so it was so nice to actually enjoy a wedding! We drank, we danced (we got do our waltz) and met lots of wonderful people! We wish C&A the best of luck and lots of love in their marriage! 

So now that we're back we've got lots of work to do before we head back out of town this coming weekend (does the crazy ever end??).  First up we have to prepare all the new halyards. I started this task last night. J and I have been going around and around about these - do we eye splice them or do we use hitches? Our previous halyards, as well as halyards on all of our previous boats were spliced. However, we feel there are some disadvantages to this. First, there have been accounts of increased chafe from the eye splice rubbing against the mast head sheave box. Second, if it does chafe and we redo them (if it's possible and hasn't elongated too much) we'll have to sacrifice a few feet of line to do so.  Third, we're unable to end-to-end the lines if they are spliced. And last, it takes a while to do eye splices (and we've each only done them once before). Based on our research, a buntline hitch is an option. This is a very strong knot and commonly used for halyards. Chapman's recommends it as well as Brion Toss - both reliable sources in our opinion. 

So we've made the decision to give the buntline hitch a try. Worst case we can always eye splice them later. First thing to do is to whip both ends of the new lines. We decided to go with a sailmakers whipping as opposed to the regular whipping as we feel it is a better whip. 

                                                  Handy palm, needle and waxed twine. 


                                            Finished product except for hot knifing the end. 

While I am working on the halyards J is working on making adjustments to the headstay. As with most boat projects lately things are not going according to plan. What should take an hour is now already at 2.5hrs and counting. The roller fuller has three stripped screws which are refusing to come out. J was able to get one out last night but the other two, no such luck.  On to plan D which is yet to be determined but may end up being to enlist the yard to take care of it. 

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Mast Update

Good news to report - the new mast is in!! It's been a long few weeks, filled with more moments of frustration than of joy; but it was a great feeling, yesterday, to come home and see the new mast stepped! Tango looks awesome with her new rig, or at least most of her new rig.  Icing on the cake is that all the rigging that J replaced two years ago fits!! We don't have to modify the rest of them (we know we have to do the headstay). Shortening the standing rigging beyond the capacity of the turnbuckles is NOT a fun, nor easy undertaking, so we're relieved everything fit as well as it did. 

So with one small (but major) victory, we move on to the next. The boom, which we treated for corrosion and repainted to match the new mast, is still curing. The mast and rigging will need a few days to settle in before we do a final tune and install the Spartite. In the meantime J and I have to build up the lazy jacks, splice the halyards (maybe, still debating that one), start reinstalling some hardware, and get our sails back on. We've decided to get our headsail (genoa) inspected and cleaned so we'll sail home with our new-to-us Yankee. We're anxious to try it out as it's been in the bag since we bought it from the M's last year. 

If all goes according to plan the boom will be installed early next week and then it will be time to work on the reefing system. We're trying to follow the example of the M's reefing, which runs through sheaves at the boom end to jammers internal to the boom, just aft of the gooseneck. J's phoned and emailed Forespar, the makers of the mast and boom, to find out if they still produce the jammers, but still no luck. If it doesn't work, we'll just run them through cheek blocks forward to external clutches on the boom. With any luck, we may be able to sail home late next week or, at the latest, the following week. Here's hoping! 


Here's an update of where we stand:


Remove sails from old mast DONE
Bring to local sail loft to be inspected and cleaned
Wire anemometer and masthead light DONE
Install trysail track DONE
Fill radar holes and other holes not used DONE
Touch up paint on mast DONE
Treat/paint corrosion DONE
Remove/install winches DONE
Remove/install radar reflector DONE
Replace masthead sheave pin NOT RQRD
Replace masthead sheaves NOT RQRD
Swap best lights DONE
Measure/adjust (as RQRD) standing rigging DONE
Shorten headstay 
Lubricate sail track and whisker pole track DONE
Install whisker pole track fittings DONE
Install reef lines
Check cleats/clutches for halyards (ensure sufficient) DONE
Fill mast step holes DONE
Install mast step DONE
Silicone cotter pins on mast DONE
Swap over rigging DONE
Silicone mast head holes/wiring DONE
Safety wire shrounds to spreaders DONE
Reinstall spreader boots DONE
Install secondary VHF antenna and coaxial connector DONE
Install/run halyards (splice all new halyards)
Install new cleat
Polish all stainless hardware


Replace outhaul with messenger line DONE
Remove outhaul track DONE
Remove all fittings DONE
Remove paint DONE
Treat corrosion DONE
Paint (Awlgrip Eggshell White to match the new mast) DONE
Install lazy jack tie down points
Install reef points
Build up lazy jacks
Install clew reef line clutches
Replace boom sheave pin NOT RQRD
Replace boom sheaves NOT RQRD
Lubricate outhaul track
Replace spacers with sheaves at end of boom NOT RQRD
Install jammers on boom
Polish all stainless 
Install outhaul track
Install all hardware 

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Mast Progress

After the boat show we sailed Tango over to Solomon's where we had the new (to us) mast shipped.  It was a long and not so fun sail.  What should have taken us 6hrs ended up taking 11hrs.  As usual, the weather was not what had been predicted.  NOTE: I am taking a meteorology class and hope that once I am done and we have our pactor modem all set up that I can do a better job of verifying/predicting weather.  Seems our weathermen lately are more weather guessers...  Anyway, I digress...  I was getting over a head cold and still had some head conjestion which unfortunatly messed with my equilibrium and caused me to be sick for the entire way (very green, didn't actually get sick).  Not fun!  Thankfully ASSWOP was ready to step in and take my place. She did awesome!!!  I have to admit she kept a course better than we do!  It is amazing technology!  We had winds over 20 knots and she loved it!  She'd fall off 5 or so degrees and then counter to get back on course.  Heavy gusts she'd get blown off maybe 10 degrees but would immediatley correct.  It was so cool to sit back and watch her work.  She will be awesome during those long offshore passages.  

Above: J making some minor adjustments to ASSWOP while she does all the "heavy lifting" :)  

We've been in Solomons for about two weeks now and as with any major project it never really feelsl ike your making progress becuase the list is just so long.  Add to that our work and personal lives are very busy right now with training, travel, events and we're BOTH taking classes.  I am taking two classes and J is taking three.  Life right now is wake up, go to work-work, come home change and report to the other work (mast), work until sunset, make a quick bite to eat, do 1.5-2hrs of school work, crash for the night...  Rinse, Repeat...  

This weekend we have a lot we want to accomplish on the mast as we hope to step the mast early this week.  We'll be out of town next weekend for a wedding and the following weekend we'll be in Port Townsend, WA for a sail repair seminar so we're running out of time.  I'll post some pictures of our progress but here's our list of things we needed to do on the mast and where we currently stand.  


Remove sails from old mast (bring to local sail loft to be inspected and cleaned)
Wire anemometer and masthead light
Install trysail track
Fill radar holes and other holes not used
Touch up paint on mast
Treat/paint corrosion
Remove/install winches
Remove/install radar deflector
Replace masthead sheave pin
Replace masthead sheaves
Swap best lights
Measure/adjust standing rigging (shorten headstay)
Lubricate sail track and whisker pole track
Install whisker pole track fittings
Install reef lines
Check cleats/clutches for halyards (ensure sufficient)
Fill mast step holes
Install mast step
Silicone cotter pins
Swap over rigging
Silicone mast head holes/wiring
Safety wire shrounds to spreaders
Reinstall spreader boots
Install secondary VHF antenna and coaxial connector
Install/run halyards (splice all new halyards)
Install new cleat
Polish all stainless hardware


Replace outhaul with messenger line
Remove outhaul track
Remove all fittings
Remove paint
Treat corrosion
Paint (Awlgrip Eggshell White to match the new mast)
Install lazy jack tie down points
Install reef points
Build up lazy jacks
Install clew reef line clutches
Replace boom sheave pin
Replace boom sheaves
Lubricate outhaul track
Replace spacers with sheaves at end of boom
Install jammers on boom
Polish all stainless hardware

Our girl, looking naked without her mast and boom.  

HOW could we forget?!?!?

So yesterday I was going through some pictures and came across our wedding photos. Such a wonderful day ( just wish it hadn't gone by so quickly!).  As I was going through them I realized that we failed to share, on our sailing blog, what we felt was one of the coolest parts of our wedding - the cake!!!! For those familiar with The Food Network you'll recognize the name "Charm City Cakes".  The show on Food network is Ace of Cakes. We went back and forth about this during our wedding planning but seeing as how we're relatively close to Baltimore, where their cake shop is, and we had some extra money in our budget from other cost savings we decided to go for it. We were not disappointed!  We wanted a 3D replica of our Tango, underway, complete with all the details, and with J and I at the helm. It was crazy how accurate it was!! 

They captured detail on our mainsail, our solar and radar, the dorades.... 

While J has a bit more gray here than he actually has (hehe) they did a really good job capturing everything even down to our attire. 

It was very hard to cut the cake as you can see by J's expression in this pic, and mine in the next photo. 

It was SO good!!! It was a blueberry and lemon curd cake - absolutely delicious! We had expected approx 75 people at the wedding but asked for a cake to feed 100 (hey, we like cake and it was so good during our tasting, we knew we'd want leftovers). Well we had 67 people show up and there were no leftovers!!! Guess it wasn't only us that thought it was so good ;) 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Sailboat Show - The Booty

So an update from our visit to the Annapolis boat show...

It was a LONG couple of days at the boat show but as usual, we really enjoyed attending. 

This year there seemed to be less vendors which was upsetting, especially since some of them we had planned on visiting. We heard from the M's, who attended the Newport Show, that the same has happened there as well.  Hopefully this year was just a fluke...

We made some progress on our list, did lots of research and price comparison, and even walked away with a few items not on the list (shocking, that never happens). Here's where we stand:
  • New Screens for the Port Lights
  • FX-37 Fortress Anchor - DONE
  • Offshore Foul Weather Gear - DONE (and they rock! So much better than our current gear. They are breathable and super comfy)
  • Boom Vang (we have one but not sure if we are going to replace it or repair it)
  • Replacement Reading Light for the Saloon
  • Breeze Booster (we have one for the port light and LOVE it! We want another)
  • Solar Panels (we want two more to add to our existing two)
  • Blue Sky Solar Regulator
  • Wall Thermometer
  • P4 Dragon Pactor Modem
  • Sea Anchor
  • Drogue
  • Wind Generator
  • New Batteries
  • Hatch Refurbishment
  • Filter Boss Commander
  • Swim Ladder
  • Piston Arm for Main Hatch
  • Handheld VHF - DONE
  • Chain Stopper
J in his new offshore gear (please ignore the mess - this was taken just as we got home and were unpacking from our weekend at the show.)

The items which we left with that were not on our original list:
  • ATN Mast climber (just the ascenders, we already have a bosuns chair)
  • Chain markers for our anchor rode (we tried using rescue tape to mark the chain in 25ft increments.  While it withstands being in the water, when it is deployed/brought in the windlass tears it apart. Time to look for alternatives, maybe what we got at the show will work).
  • Snatch Block for Sea Anchor (we LOVE Garhauer.  If you ever need any sort of block, tackle or stainless work done, definitely check them out.  
  • Lifeproof waterproof iPad cover 
  • SSCA membership

We had a wonderful time meeting with other Mason owners. We met 4 other couples and had an opportunity to share storeies about our cruising adventures, future plans and of course boat projects.  Turns out two of the couples are in the same area as we are!   We look forward to seeing them out on the water in the coming years.  

Volunteering was a blast - the folks at Good Old Boat are awesome, nuff said!  We had the last shift of the day so the boat show traffic had started to die down a bit (the rain didn't help either) but that didn't stop us from bringing in some renewals as well as new subscribers.  It really is a great magazine.  We're planning to volunteer again next year as well.  

Thursday, October 10, 2013

One of our favorite weekends of the year!

Birthday??  Christmas??  Beer Festival?? (That's a close one!)

No, it's the Annapolis Sailboat Show! 

Unfortunately this year the weather is not cooperating with us.  Looks like it will be in the mid-to-lower 60's (loving the temps!) but will be raining for the two days we'll be there. 

This year we are heading up with a longer list than in previous years.  Some must buys, some hope to buys and some things we need to research. 

Here goes:
  • New Screens for the Port Lights
  • FX-37 Fortress Anchor
  • Offshore Foul Weather Gear
  • Boom Vang (we have one but not sure if we are going to replace it or repair it)
  • Replacement Reading Light for the Saloon
  • Breeze Booster (we have one for the port light and LOVE it! We want another)
  • Solar Panels (we want two more to add to our existing two)
  • Blue Sky Solar Regulator
  • Wall Thermometer
  • P4 Dragon Pactor Modem
  • Sea Anchor
  • Drogue
  • Wind Generator
  • New Batteries
  • Hatch Refurbishment
  • Filter Boss Commander
  • Swim Ladder
  • Piston Arm for Main Hatch
  • Handheld VHF
  • Chain Stopper

So yah, it's a SERIOUS list!!

To make this year even better we've got two exciting events.  First we are going to be volunteering with Good Old Boat on Saturday.  This magazine is awesome and more than once we've been able to use their articles to help us with our own projects.  We always look forward to getting our copy in the mailbox!  Second, we'll be meeting up with 4 other couples who are also Mason owners.  We've met one couple (the M's) but are very excited to meet others!  Can't wait to share stories, lessons learned, cruising plans and future adventures with them!

While the weather has been less than ideal the last couple of days, the sunsets at the dock have been spectacular! 
Wednesday Evening

Tuesday Evening

Brain Break... Sort Of

Things have been busy aboard S/V Last Tango since our last post.  We're continuing to make progress on our refit/offshore/long term cruising prep (more detailed posts on those projects to follow) and I think we've got a good 6 or 7 lists in work: things to buy at the boat show, projects to complete now, projects in work, must do before we leave the dock, must do before we cross an ocean, things to do when we have time, aka the nice to haves and so on...

But between life (read: schoolwork and work-work) and some fun landlubber trips to play tourist and visit family we've been trying to get away from the dock when we can.  It can't be all work and no play!  

A few weeks ago we threw off the lines and headed to one our favorite spots up the St. Mary's River and anchored out for a night.  We got there early enough on Friday that we got some down time but sadly had to head back the next day.    Our dock mates and very good friends aboard S/V Doggie Paddle joined us.  It was a wonderful weekend, but as usual, all to short!  This is a pic, captured by A aboard Doggie Paddle - Thanks A!


Then the following weekend, with the weather working in our favor, we headed back to St. Mary's but this time we'd have a couple of nights on the hook - yay!  A few hours after dropping the hook, our friends on Doggie Paddle (unexpectedly) pulled into the creek as well - a great surprise!  That night we met for sundowners and decided to meet up again in the morning for a potluck breakfast.   This is one of the things we love about boat life - impromptu gatherings.

S/V Doggie Paddle in the background and the S's on their way over for breakfast!
J took the dink over to the college to pick up our friend P for breakfast. Love that we can pick up our land friends while we're on the hook!

The weather couldn't have been better, cool temps and a light breeze. We had two days in the river and while it was a much needed brain break from "normal life" it was a rather productive break.  J did some work on our electrical system and battery charger (more from him on that, I'm sure), he troubleshot and fixed our solar (seemed as though they were not working but turns out it was just a bad connection).  We've applied a Band-Aid for now until we can find better electrical connectors for them.   WM only carries one brand, the same ones that we currently (which we don't like, they broke after a few short years) so more researching on those will be needed before we can fully be done with that project.  We are swapping out our mast (post will be done soon on that topic) and were able to find a great deal on a used winch (we needed one more) on eBay so I spent a couple of hours servicing the "new to us" winch.  Also I knocked out some polishing and rust/corrosion treatment and was able to finish a couple of school projects.

I don't know if other boaters feel this way but boat work for us always feels cathartic, especially when being done on the hook.  You're outside, away from it all - just you, the water slapping on the hull and the project at hand...  

The Mast - revisited, again...

So we've posted about this before.  Last year we stopped in Connecticut on our way home from visiting family in Maine to check out a fellow Mason owners used mast.  The M's decided to swap theirs a few years ago and their used mast is in great shape.  At the time we were seriously considering buying it, see post here but since we hadn't had many opportunities to sail Tango with her in mast furling, we felt we needed to give it a chance and see if we really wanted to swap them out (not an inexpensive endeavor).

We had an in mast furling main on our previous boat and never had an issue.  It was super simple and we really liked it.  However, the system on Tango never seemed to work as well.  Over the last year we've done research, talked with other Mason owners with in mast furling mains, tried every scenario (seems all things need to be just right in order for it to come out/in smoothly) and still have issues on a more often than not basis.  After many discussions and back and forth we've decided that we don't want to take off on our extended cruising with an in mast furling system.  We've chosen to swap over to a traditional rig.  

So we've purchased the mast from the M's, it's been shipped down from CT to MD where the swap and work will be done.  We've got a lot to do in order to transition it over.   Everything on our current mast needs to be removed and placed on the new one, the wiring needs to be modified, the boom will need to be modified and we'll have to install the reef points.  We also bought the mainsail from the M's which we'll use until such time we get our new sail. So a lot of work left to do with regards to the mast but we're definitely looking forward to having them swapped out!



Badass Ground Tackle

Once we take off cruising we don't plan on spending nights on the dock.  We won't have the money to be able to and we prefer being on the hook anyway.  Since we'll be spending so much time on the hook, our anchor and ground tackle is our life insurance policy.  When rough weather hits we need to know we can hunker down and ride it out. We like to call it, "The Shiznit"...

We replaced our primary anchor with a Rocna 44....


Our chain was replaced with 300ft of 3/8" high test chain...

Then we added an additional 200ft of 1" three strand line...


And this, friends, is why we call it "The Shiznit"...

P.S. With this new setup J no longer wakes up every couple of hours to check our position.  We sleep like babies!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Long Time, No Blog

Okay...time to revive this blog as it was beginning to appear DOA. Much has happened in our lives, and aboard Last Tango, since our last post...where to begin? We've gotten married (to each other even!), had a wonderful sailing honeymoon completing a leisurely DelMarVA circumnavigation aboard our girl, and have done a metric crap-ton of work continuing to make Tango our home and getting her ready to leave the proverbial "safe harbor". Instead of picking up where we left off, I'll just give some voyage prep highlights.

Wedding Day Bliss...He may kiss the bride!
Notice the ball and chain...
At the Waterside Marina in Norfolk, VA

Have you ever had to move 400' of 3/8" HT chain weighing 600lbs onto the dock, put 200' of 1" 3-strand nylon line in a 2 cubic-foot box that rode home in the front of a Porsche Boxster (not a practical SUV), or man-handle a 40 kg Rocna anchor that would look at home on the bow of a ferry? If not, you may have never outfitted the ground tackle for a Mason 44 headed on an indefinite period, world-wide voyage. Some might consider this extreme overkill, but we consider it life/boat insurance. We decided to invest heavily (literally) into a primary bower that could handle a blow in less than ideal conditions. While it will take a week to raise should the windlass fail, we'll sleep well knowing we have ground tackle that will keep us firmly attached to said ground. Thanks to Bob and Linda Hargreaves aboard S/V Bright Angel, currently cruising the Pacific, for confirming that we are not crazy, that this tackle is not excessive, and it actually fits quite nicely aboard their Mason 44. Now comes the weekend fun of splicing and installing the lot. More to come on that in future blogs...

400' of 3/8" HT Chain - 300' for primary, 100' for secondary
200' of 1" three-strand line
Rocna 40... well over half the size of Kelly

How many out there have used a spoon to remove excrement from clogged lines in their head? If you live on a boat, and have a "normal" marine head, this will eventually happen to you too. Ahhh, the joys of boat life. We lucked out and this happened to us while securely fastened to the dock, but it would have been a far worse mess had it happened halfway across the Pacific in a churning sea. For this reason, and our disgust with the smelly lines associated with Tango's bowels, we took the plunge and ordered an Air Head. Yep, you may have heard of these composting gems before, and now Tango has this throne perched high in her head. While it does take some getting used to (it is really tall), and neither of us take pleasure in having to empty the liquids container every day or two, it is far better than the smell of malodorous hoses or the joys of having to clean a clogged line. We were both a bit concerned with the smell that it would generate, but are happy to find that the odor, which is only noticeable if you stick your face up to it (of course we had to...we wanted to know if it stunk), is that of moist earth with a hint of coconut. The coconut aroma is likely because we use coconut coir in it. Much better than what we smelled when cleaning out the clogged line...can you say gag reflex fully initiated?

Who here has hand steered a course through rolling seas for 31 hours straight? On a starless night, staring at the red ball of death (i.e., compass) turned Tango into a bit of a vomit comet for one crew member, who shall remain nameless. In those rolling and windy conditions, the auto-pilot doesn't do such a great job (and it uses way too much precious battery power), so hand steering was the solution. Not anymore. May I introduce the newest full time crew member aboard S/V Last Tango...Her name, with thanks to Paul Hofmann, is ASSWOP (Automatic Self Steering WithOut Power) and she is a lovely new Monitor windvane. Though it took a couple days of measuring, drilling, filling, remeasuring, cursing, redrilling, mounting, and finally fully installing, she is now worth her weight in grog. ASSWOP uses wind and water to steer the boat, both normally available to a sailing vessel, and with our limited experience using her, she has demonstrated she can keep Tango on course within about +/- 5 degrees, making her better than many helms-folk. 

This was a vital part of her refit and in making her lean and green and ready to sail the world. We do have an electric autopilot, but there are several drawbacks to relying on these. The first being that it isn't really a question of if it will fail, but more a question of when. With a full time crew of two, hand steering for 31 hours is fine, if not a bit uncomfortable, but for 15 days it would be Miserable (notice that was with a capital M?). Secondly, they just don't sail that well when broad reaching or running, they tend to want to over correct for every little roll, which is unavoidable on certain points of sail. I've seen times on our previous boat sailing a broad reach where hand steering was quite comfortable, but the autopilot had us rolling from gunnel to gunnel. Talk about testing ones stomach. Finally, they are amp-hogs. They can burn through a battery bank faster than Congress can bury a bill. As we mentioned earlier, we are attempting to sail green. We have no generator and prefer not to burn dinosaurs to keep our batteries charged, and a greedy autopilot chomping away can quickly deplete the stored amp hours...until it gets finicky and breaks anyway. ASSWOP is our choice for long distance voyaging.

These are but a few of our upgrades over the last several months of silence, along with a new stove, new backstay adjuster, new fans, new interior LED lighting, etc., etc., etc...For now, suffice to say we've been keeping busy with regular maintenance, rebuilds, and upgrades, but those will have to wait for another day. There are many more "to-dos" on the list. Some that will get done before we depart, and others that will wait until we reach Someday Isle.  For now, we just focus on the shining light at the end of the tunnel, growing brighter with each passing day, until the day comes that we can jump off the merry-go-round and head to sea for points unknown. It will get here before we know it, and yet not soon enough.