Skidding Into the Dock

You know, Facebook is a great archive of memories. Regardless of how irritated I get with that application, I do like being able to pull up memories to see what I was doing on this day in year’s past. Pulling up today’s memories I discovered that this is the 3 year anniversary of doing our final provisioning for the passage to San Francisco. We were in Friday Harbor, where we took delivery of our headsail. Three years. It hardly seems believable.

These have been three years of hard wear on Galapagos. Using a boat the way it’s intended to be used makes it work hard and things start giving up the ghost. Lately it feels almost comical. Today I noticed that one of my collapsible silicone bowls has developed a crack. My yogurt emerges through the crack and threatens to drip onto the table. This is the second bowl of a set of three that has done its duty well but is just worn out. Probably it’s not real silicone. Probably it’s just plastic. Who knows? We have used these bowls every single day for over 3 years (because we lived aboard before we left the dock). I guess they have earned their keep.

I am reminded most fondly of the trip we had bringing this boat from Astoria up to Tacoma. Because we were still learning about the boat systems, especially the exhaust riser for our then-new engine, Hiram, we literally skidded into the dock in Tacoma just as the riser broke for the second time in that trip. It absolutely broke in half just as we came to a stop.  I don’t think this landing will be quite that dramatic. So far the riser on that engine exhaust is the one thing that is holding up well after three years.

We joke that now we have a boat that we could advertise for sale as ‘kept her owners safe for a three year cruise and is ready to go again!’. Laugh. Out. Loud. Not only are we not selling her, but if you are in the market for a boat and it’s advertised in that vein, bring your calculator to add up replacement costs for every single thing on board. Be sure to check their silicone bowls because they will surely be worn completely out.

You might be wondering what else is giving out on this fine vessel we call home. Here’s a short list:
1. Our battery charger – no longer charges at the dock. Must run engine or use solar panels. Will be replaced by the charger of Mike’s dreams; a Victron Multi-Plus. That’s a charger/inverter combo that would also make my wildest dreams come true. We’d be able to just plug things into the regular plugs on board. Whaatt? What magic is this? After living aboard for this long, my bar for thrills is super low.

2. Our Force10 stove – The burners only work on high now, and even then the big one is barely hot enough to keep my pressure cooker going. The oven is a joke and must be babysat continuously to be sure the temperature is not either too cold to bake anything or a blazing 500F. I am not making that up. I still manage, just, to bake bread and other assorted goods, but believe me when I say I have to sit by the oven door and keep checking that temperature gauge. Ridiculous. Either fix or replace. We are not sure yet.

3. Our toilets – they are the Wilcox Crittendon big old fashioned bullet proof types that eventually wear out because everything does even though Michael rebuilt them both before we left. They will be replaced. We’re just done with them. Electric fresh water flush is coming to Galapagos. Be still my heart!

4. The entire rig – that’s an entire post by itself, or three. We are a sailing boat again but our trust in any part of the rig has been destroyed and pulling the mast and replacing all the rigging and hardware is one of the main reasons we are here. This includes all halyards and lines, sheets, everything. All of it. That’s right, we are made of money.

5. Our hand held cheese grater, the kind that grates parmesan cheese. Broken beyond repair. Sad. Already replaced while we shopped in Port Townsend. This was a big deal.

6. Every stitch of clothing. Michael will just be throwing his pants away. Between his lack of haircut in months and his clown pants, well, I don’t want to talk about it. He still shaves and I am grateful for that. I have already disposed of many articles of clothing but cannot seem to part with some of my sun-faded tshirts because they still remind me of warm water and sea turtles. I’d like to say they smell like sunshine but that’s a bridge too far. My heart bleeds.

Because this is more interesting than a photo of my shirt.

7. Every cushion in the salon. They are disgusting. To be fair, they were not meant to last this long anyhow. We just ran out of money to spend on things like cushions and decided we could either go with what we had or work longer and never leave the dock. We chose wisely.

8. Mike’s favorite volt meter. We have multiples. You cannot have too many volt meters. But it’s sad when your favorite tool wears out. And speaking of tools, I’ll just include right here the hand held vacuum that goes with our Ryobi rechargeable tools. It’s going to give up any second now. Hard use. Very hard.

9. The switches on the electric windlass. When we landed on Vancouver Island to drop anchor in a safe harbor, the windlass switch failed. It was straight up a corrosion issue. Mike has fashioned repairs but both switches need replacing. One does not want to raise an 85 pound anchor and big chain by hand.

Fixing the windlass switch. Could have been watching sea otters, but no.

10. I’m leaving this blank so there is room for whatever decides to break tomorrow. Will it be the shower fixture that already leaks? Will it be yet another door that stops closing correctly? Will the chartplotter give up? Will the spigot for fresh water on the aft deck finally break off? Will the light in the aft bathroom finally stop working altogether? So many juicy possibilities.

We are slowly but surely making way to the south sound, trying to make the most out of the last drops of summer. We’ve been living in summertime for the last three years. I know you feel sorry for us as we shiver in our fleece. We spent a lot of time in Port Townsend, remembering why we love that town. Next stop was Port Gamble, where we had two very lovely days and wondered why we had never visited by boat before. We’ll definitely go back there at some point.  Last night we were in Blakely Harbor with a 180 degree view of Seattle’s lights. I tried hard to enjoy them as they were very pretty from a distance, but the truth is I never missed Seattle even a little bit. Today we will carry on down Colvos Passage to Gig Harbor where we started this trip over three years ago. We said a tearful goodbye to our kids right there at the guest dock.

After Gig Harbor we’ll hang out on the guest dock in Tacoma for a day or two. If you are in the neighborhood, come down and say hello. I wish we could invite you onto the boat like we would have before. But even so, we’d be glad to see you from a respectable distance. Alas. What a world we are living in. Re-entry is hard, folks. It’s just hard.

Spinner dolphins in the sun. We sure miss these guys.

The nights are getting colder out here. We were socked in with dense fog at Port Gamble. Yesterday afternoon I was wearing shorts. Today it’s sweatpants and polar fleece all the way. Fall is on the way and we keep our fingers crossed for a slip on the guest dock at Swantown in Olympia. They don’t open that dock until after Labor Day. We’ve been on the waiting list for a slip since December, but with the Covid-19 thing, the waitlist is not moving much. Clap your hands real hard for us, spit and spin, pray, and do all the things to send us good joojoo about finding a temporary slip for us to skid into for the winter. We’ve got a lot of projects to get started on.

When the October issue of 48 North hits your inbox, look for an article about our landing in Canada after our rig failure. You’ll get all the scoop about it there.

S/V Galapagos, standing by on channel 16.

8 thoughts on “Skidding Into the Dock

  1. Love that scene from Ace Ventura. We watched the movie recently with our grandson. Bummer to have so many broken items that need repairing/replacing, but at least you will make it ashore without being stranded.

    • It’s just part of boating, to be honest. It’s something I like to remind people of because it’s easy to just get focused on all the pretty photos and all the animal encounters; basically the whole reason we love cruising, and forget that things wear out. And boy do they!

  2. We SO hear you! Our three seasons aboard Sionna – and her three summers stored under the south Florida sun – have absolutely raised havoc with her condition. We left Maine on a nearly perfect boat, but we returned to home waters in a nearly trashed hulk. Rigging, mainsail, main boom, all exterior paint, chainplates, hull-to-deck fasteners, toe-rail… All must be replaced or rebuilt. And that’s just what we can see, the metaphorical tip of the iceberg. Looks like we won’t have a sailing season next year while we piece together the necessary refit! Here’s hoping your work list gets shorter faster than it gets longer!

  3. Thanks, we hope so too. Yes, using a boat the way we have, one expects that things are going to wear out. Using an old boat, where some of the systems are still old, one expects even more things to wear out. We look forward to getting busy!

  4. Just read your 48N article. Well written! Two things I was left wondering: how did you manage to not lose the mast when the backstay broke? And how old was the rig? (If I recall your boom broke in MX too – what bad luck – good plan on replacing it all)

    • Melissa has written another article about the actual backstay event but to answer your question, we have a keel stepped mast which gave us enough stability after the event to douse the sails and use the main halyard as a temporary backstay. After we got the mast stabilized, we used the topping lift and a handy billy to create a second backstay. Without the keel stepped mast, we would have lost the whole rig.

      We do not know how old the rig is. We did have the rig inspected last year in La Cruz and we noted some issues that we were going address when we returned to the states. Interestingly the SSB insulators were not considered that big of a risk at the time and the rigger that built our new backstay in Port Townsend was a little surprised at this particular failure.

  5. One more question (sorry!): What was your means of communication with the coast guards and shore person while 500 nm offshore? Do you have satellite internet or was it something like a Garmin InReach?

    • We have used the Iridium Go for the past three years Patrick and have found it to be the best solution for us. It isn’t perfect; the software is comically poor and outdated and we had one unit fail on us two years ago, necessitating our purchasing a refurbed unit. We now have two.

      Like the InReach, we can text with the Iridium Go and that is how we use it for about fifty percent of the time. Voice calls of course are possible but we have only used the calling capability a few times. That said, one of those times was when we contacted the Canadian Customs officer about clearing into the country. That was a very important call. But the real value for us was email. We were able to stay in touch with our weather router, the U.S. Coast Guard and our Canadian friends as we sorted out our options. The Iridium product is more expensive and the subscription plans are quite a bit more but the difference in cost was insignificant when the chips were down.

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