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.