'Til the butter melts

Pursuing the cruising dream in 32' of sailing ketch

The first week aboard


The first week back is bound to be interesting.
Realistically, you can’t expect to walk away from something like a boat or a house for five months, in a hostile climate, and not have a few issues to deal with when you start to use it again, so we expected a few surprises.

But what’s been most surprising to me – in a good way – is how few and how minor those surprises have been. A couple little leaks to deal with (like that Dorade box, above), a few sticky, corroded bits of metal that didn’t move when they should, a leaking urine holding tank… 

Basically, though, Sionna woke up and went right back to doing what she does best – taking care of us.

So in the week or so since we launched from the boat yard, we’ve slept every night and eaten every meal aboard, plus we’ve sailed a grand total of 27 miles – from the yard in northern Charlotte Harbor to an anchorage called Pelican Bay, just off Cayo Costa State Park. That week has confirmed one critical, enormous, wonderful fact: We love our boat!
After we were launched last Thursday, we filled up the water tanks at the dock, (the diesel tanks were filled in the spring for storage, and the propane tanks were topped off before we re-installed them in the yard) said goodbye to Nicki’s incredibly patient and helpful parents, (who hosted us in their home and loaned us their car for the 8-days of recommissioning work) and motored out the canal from the boat yard to the man-made lake that feeds the canal – about 3 miles. There we set the anchor and settled in to re-learn boat life. How to move, how to sleep, how to cook. All the little peculiarities of living in a tiny home afloat came back surprisingly quickly.

And with those skills came contentment. We were home.
Oh, a word about sunsets. It’s possible that those of you who’ve never lived on a boat may not understand my obsession with sunsets, and I get that, I really do. I even had someone comment recently: “We have sunsets here regularly, you know.”

Yes, I recognize that the sun also appears to settle below the horizon where you live too. But sunsets on a boat are different. They last for an hour, sometimes. They begin in the west, but then they spread across the sky, until frequently we have a 360 degree sunset, like this one. Oh, and don’t forget the second sunset! Just as the initial glow is fading, round two kicks in. Pour another spot of wine and relax – you’ve got nowhere to go.

Anyway, after a couple days there, and having done all we could think of to make the boat ready to sail, we hoisted the anchor again and started north to exit the canal. We actually managed to sail a good portion of that trip, the wind being favorable, and discovered immediately that our one major purchase of the summer was totally worth it. The new sail ROCKS!

Two years ago we were told by a sailmaker back in Rockland that our headsail (or “Genoa”, because of its size) was on its last cruise. The fabric was too stretched to hold a proper shape or to be repaired should it rip. 

“One more year” he said, “Especially if you take it south for the season – the sun will eat it up.”

And sure enough, by May when we left the boat, you could see daylight through every stitch, and we were moving slower and slower in a given wind… our 13 year old Jenny was tired.

So we worked overtime during the summer, and had a brand new replacement sail made in Indonesia, which we brought with us on the trip back south. When the wind settled down briefly one evening while we were anchored out in the lake we installed and rigged it, and once we started moving, we unrolled that big piece of expensive cloth into a fresh breeze, and Sionna stepped out like a scalded cat. Marvelous! 

And that’s how things are, so far. Little steps, one day at a time, and face the tasks as they arrive. We’ve made a list (a rather long list) of food and condiments and such that we wish we’d brought aboard already, so the next time we have a chance to provision, we’ll do better. My list of projects to tackle isn’t getting shorter yet, but it isn’t getting longer either.  
I’m holding my own against entropy, so why complain? 


Author: s/v sionna

Living the dream in 32'. We left Maine on August 18th, 2016, and have gradually worked our way south until we felt warm enough. After spending the summer in Maine, working to replenish the cruising kitty, we’re back on the boat, with plans to visit the Bahamas later in the winter. Follow our blog here, and follow our progress in map form by joining www.Farkwar.com!

6 thoughts on “The first week aboard

  1. My genny is also very stretched and now patched. Bought it used several years ago and now regret that. Wondering what size % you choose to install. I can not recall the exact size on mine but I have considered putting a smaller one on. Maybe just a working jib. I think mine is larger then a 130%. The issue I find is it is great going on a reach or run in lighter winds but almost always has to be rolled in anytime you move into the wind, of course its shape is really bad once you do that. It is a quandary. On the dorades, mine look identical in installation so must be original install. I question this installation, although it has obviously been good for 50 years, well not really as mine leaked and caused a lot of deck failure. Mine are currently off so I have been thinking that perhaps I would put two blocks, fore and aft of the vent pipe, thru bolt those. Then the dorade would slip over those and then horizontally screw through the box into the blocks. I think that would add more structural strength to the box. From a horizontal force, like kicking them, lines, or a wave. Also you can simply unscrew them to pop them off and clean them out, replace the screening etc. Maybe it is overkill but just a thought.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Chris, our jenny would be about a 120%, I think, though I haven’t done the math. It has a fairly high clew, which gives us better forward visibility and reduces the area slightly from a “deck sweeper” design.
      That said, it’s an amazingly powerful sail in its new form. In a 12-15 knot wind, close reaching with the mizzen reefed and no main, we were making hull speed of 6.3 knots.
      And mostly we reef the main and mizzen, rolling in a bit of the jenny if we must, but only if we must.
      Statistically they say a cruiser will spend 90% of their sailing time in winds under 13 knots, so I think the larger genoa makes sense. Having the option of a smaller stay sail for heavier winds – as we do – gives wonderful versatility to our sailplan, and I highly recommend that route if one has the option. In our experience so far, keeping the boat moving in light air is far more of an issue than dealing with the rare days of really heavy stuff.

      As for the Dorade, strength hasn’t been an issue for ours. It’s screwed on with 8 #10 wood screws up through the cabin roof and is solid as Sears, made of 3/4″ mahogany. Our issue was just sealant failure due to age, coupled with a missing drain hole – it had one forward, but not aft, so water would pool near the vent pipe and, eventually, seep below. Fixed both problems and we’re all good.
      Good to hear from you!


  2. Glad the new headsail is working out so well. Sails are such a big investment, but such an important one. Sunsets are probably one of the best things about cruising. You can never talk too much about them or have too many pictures of them in my opinion.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Have to agree! Yes, sails are critical! The Genoa was by for the oldest sail aboard, main and mizzen are only 5 & 4 years old, respectively, while the jenny was 13 or 14. It was time!


  3. Glad the commissioning was relatively easy and you are back to enjoying sunsets! Cayo Costa is one of my favorite anchorages. It’s so peaceful!

    Liked by 1 person

    • It is a lovely spot. Very popular with day-trippers and cruisers, so it can be pretty busy, but there’s lots of room, and the sand bars force the boats to spread out a bit…


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