The First Year

Crew on the bowsprit
Crew on the bowsprit

Next week marks the one year anniversary for taking Satori home to Seattle. When I look back, I  can’t help but think about how my life has turned into a sailing life. Captain seems to be my preferred name around the office and even some friends are beginning to use it over my name. During the week I enjoy occasional two-hour sailing adventures just to get the motor tuned on and to stretch the sails, like a bird spreading her wings after days of nesting. Friends enjoy the trips and potlucks that ensue after watching the sunset right before heading into the marina. Paddle-boarding on warm days has become a regular pastime. This is a sailing life.

My old sails are still doing great after taking them out of retirement and I love the tanbark color that contrasts against the blue sky and while hull. The burgundy canvas also provides a coordination that is certainly eye catching. Unfortunately this will be the last season I will be using them. The good news is that Frank Schattauer has me on his schedule for a new set beginning in October. He came out and measured the boat to ensure proper lengths for all three sails. I have opted for a yankee roller furling headsail over the hanked-on working jib. This should make my life much easier when the winds pick up and enable me to run full yankee to increase her cruising speed.  I’m very excited for them to begin work on these sails as this is really one of the last major investments until it’s time to start cruising.

Schattauer Sails - sketch of the new sail plan with yankee
Schattauer Sails – sketch of the new sail plan with yankee

The only other project before the fall sets in is getting my diesel stove’s deck plate re-bedded and the stove’s water heating coil replaced. Once it’s raining, I’m stuck on interior only enhancements aside from some additional canvas. Speaking of canvas, I did order more for the weather cloths as well as new lifelines for the stern portion of the boat. Since the weather cloths need a tight wire to sit properly I’ve decided to get this completed so sailing in the rain isn’t too miserable. I’ve also discovered that the dodger is still a little challenging to see through while navigating in close quarters inside of the marina so I bought a universal joint for making a tiller extension so I can stand above the dodger and steer the boat for docking. After reaching out the the Westsail community for a wooden tiller extension, I was given the plans for something I think would look and perform well with the existing arrangement, yet keep with the classic teak motif. All of these projects are great additions for making life easier and more comfortable while sailing and living aboard. As I complete each project I will be sure to post photos of the completed work for others who might be inspired to make these kinds of enhancements for your own vessel.

Tiller Extension plans by Bruce Bingham from The Sailors Sketchbook
Tiller Extension plans by Bruce Bingham from The Sailors Sketchbook

One thing that I find difficult about living aboard is trying to avoid adding too many things to an already packed boat. There is still plenty of room but I find myself moving things around more often when I need to make space for guests and their own possessions. I also find that living in a house it’s easy to keep working on a project without putting anything away. I am sure many people can relate to the ‘project home’ where some things inside of a house are never completed because they are out of the way of your living space. On a sailboat living and project space are the same so if I need to work on something I must put it all away after I’m finished. Keeping the boat uncluttered is getting easier as I learn the best place to keep everything. There isn’t much on the outside of the boat and I like to keep Satori ready for sailing as much as possible. The only items that are really in the way are the guitar and the paddle board. I imagine during the fall and winter I will pack the paddle board away and put it in storage along with some of the other summertime recreational equipment.

One thing worth exploring is the capabilities of the galley since the fair weather brings a fair amount of crew. I’ve been hosting groups of people on sailing trips, followed by an evening dinner with barbecued meats and vegetables. For summertime this works excellent. We park the boat and secure the dock lines. Then we clear the cabin settee so there is enough room for the group and finally we swing the table leaf up so we’re able to load it with all of the food and beverages for the meal. I have enough dishes, glasses and silverware to effectively serve up to six people. There are seven life jackets on board so we’re also legal for USCG regulations. The only thing different about these kinds of sailing trips is how Satori is treated under sail. Because of the amount of lines in the cockpit and on deck, sometimes it’s better to just put up a little bit of foresail and move slowly under way. Perhaps a couple of knots maximum is all that is needed to keep her momentum and provide a pleasurable cruise. Since we have no real objective in mind other than being on the water, staying clear of the race course and commercial traffic provides the best perspective we need to feel like we’re sailing. It’s safer than putting all sails up because booms are not swinging through a tack and the crew can sit back and enjoy a safe ride. On the way back I recruit them to put the sails away and slip the canvas on her sails so the deck is cleared for docking. When coming up to the dock, I have them all on the port side to fend off the dock and other boat in case I make a mistake and it also gives me room to jump off on the starboard side and secure the dock lines once we’re stopped.

Handmade boat hook finished with Cetol
Handmade boat hook finished with Cetol

Indeed it’s summer and in just another month and we’ll start feeling the cool winds of fall. Gales will kick up and I will be back at foul weather tactics under shortened sail. Even without much time for projects, I’m still able to pull some time aside to keep working towards a better boat. I’m enjoying this lifestyle and so is my pup and many of my friends. It’s not uncommon for someone to stop by just to hang out on the water and maybe take the paddle board out for a bit. Life is good here. I just wish I had figured this out sooner but at least I have discovered it now. Time to make a fruit smoothie.

Sasha diving for the ball from the paddle board
Sasha diving for the ball from the paddle board

bu·reauc·ra·cy

bu·reauc·ra·cy
bu·reauc·ra·cy

When I think back to the last year, I can’t help but to enjoy all of the accomplishments that has led to owning and operating a blue water sailboat. There have been several challenges that I never thought I would face. The biggest so far has not been broken parts, upgrades or even sailing. The very worse part has been bureaucracy. Take my boat insurance for example. I first contacted the same insurance company as the previous owner had to see about getting insurance but not only did I need to have the boat surveyed but I also needed to have prior experience owning a boat. Next I decided to use Geico since they insured my car and it did not seem like an issue to use them. The insurance company is called Seaworthy and when they accepted my premium of $800 apparently I was put on something called a ‘port restriction’. This basically means that the only time I am covered for any incident is when I’m tied up to my home port marina slip. Any other time I am not covered. Fast forward ten months and I finally realized that I have not been covered the whole time I’ve owned Satori, except while docked at home. So after several back-and-fourth calls and emails, not to mention lots of photos of their required upgrades I still need to print a form, fill it out and mail (yes snail mail) it back to them. So what were the required upgrades? First was the leaking muffler, which I had upgraded back at the beginning of this year. Uninsured because of a leaking muffler, yes. Another requirement was to ‘bolt down the cockpit floor’. Okay, I understand while in the Pacific Ocean I might want to have the floor secured. For sailing around the Salish Sea I cannot imagine a situation that would capsize the boat and cause the floor to fall out. So I bought some screws and nuts and ‘secured’ the floor. I will not bolt the floor down because I cannot unbolt the floor in an emergency without having another person to help because the screw head is up above and the nut down below so it requires two people to un-secure it. Next is the fuel vent hose, which my surveyor mistook a water hose for a vent hose and therefore miscommunicated this to the insurance company in the survey and I needed to prove to the insurance company of this error by taking a photo of the vent, assuming they know what they are actually looking at. The final issue that prevented me from having insurance was a navigation light issue that I fixed on the first day out sailing. I replaced the bulb because it burnt out and since then has worked fine but I need to prove to the insurance company that the bulb is in fact working again, even though it might burn out the next time I use the boat.

So fast forward to today. I sent the email on Thursday and followed up with a phone call this morning. Why did I follow up? Well, since day one Seaworthy Insurance Company has not called or emailed me about anything. I discovered that I have been without insurance because they sent a renewal document that stated this port restriction. They never followed up with me at any point in the last year even though I carried a port restriction, unknowingly. They do not care about their customers and have no idea what customer service is. The new name and brand I propose for this company is ‘Seaworthless’ and their motto, “Because we could give a shit about you or your boat, but thanks for the money”. Needless to say, I will be shopping for another insurance company even after all of this is done. I have a couple of months to look around.

Also, in case anyone is wondering about the bureaucracy involved in boat ownership, here is a list of things you need to do to own a blue water live aboard:

  • Prove to the marina that you are not pumping waste overboard every three months
  • Prove to the marina that you are insured every year
  • Boaters safety card for visiting state parks (many hours of sitting online watching Flash videos of really stupid crap)
  • FCC license for EPIRB, SSB, VHF, AIS, etc
  • NOAA registration for EPIRB
  • State vessel registration plus stickers on the hull
  • Boat tender registration or some other bizarre method of indicating that it’s a tender
  • Homeland Security vessel registration
  • Shellfish license+catch card, saltwater license and salmon/steelhead license+catch card
  • Annual mooring pass for state parks
  • Boat towing insurance

Granted, not all of these are required but for anyone living this kind of lifestyle, undoubtedly you do need all of the above but if you get caught without your license or insurance or whatever, you can expect to pay huge fines or ridiculous costs for assistance. Owning a boat outright is pretty simple. Satori doesn’t need much to keep going. Her bilge has been dry for months, her electrical, plumbing and mechanical systems are in great shape. I imagine getting her appraised would place a much higher value on her but I could care less. Boats are not investments. They are the closest thing to being alive that a human can create and therefore should not be treated as an object. They should be cared for with the same kind of attention as a family member. In return they will protect you from Neptune and keep you living a happy and fulfilled existence.

Screw you Seaworthy.

 

Sleepy Saturday

It’s been a month since I’ve taken Satori on the water. From my previous post you should know that the engine has been out of commission and was in need of a new oil return pipe due to corrosion over the last ten years, maybe longer. The engine cooling system is leaking saltwater all over the starboard side of the engine which has caused some issues. Fortunately I was able to get the pipe removed with the help of a friend and his blade conversion on his angle grinder. After some back and fourth with L.A. Maritime Services down in California I received the part last week and had plans to install the new parts. The only issue was that the engine mount was blocking the banjo bolt from being able to thread onto the engine properly. I tried to recruit my friend and his angle grinder last week but he decided to commit, then flake out…twice. Yesterday I broke down and bought my own angle grinder and installed the parts and also tested the engine to see if there was any oil leaking. Problem solved, no more oil leak. I did notice however that the raw water intake was leaking with a steady drip while the water pump was running and found the culprit to what has caused all of the corrosion. For now I’ll let it leak and be very careful to mitigate any more corrosion. This winter Satori gets a brand new raw water cooling system, from the strainer all the way to the exhaust. I figure if this is replaced then I can expect another decade from the engine. From what I can tell, the transmission is in good shape so it’s only a matter of mitigating leaks, corrosion and keeping up on oil changes. Next week I’ll take her out for her first trial run since she sprang a leak back in Port Townsend.

 

Bukh Oil Return Pipe - Old and New
Bukh Oil Return Pipe – Old and New
Completely removed oil return pipe prepared for the replacement
Completely removed oil return pipe prepared for the replacement

 

New oil return pipe
New oil return pipe
Next project: Leaking freshwater intake hose
Next project: Leaking raw water intake hose

Another milestone for Satori this month was getting a new Dodger with an additional solar panel. I am now running 300 watts of solar to keep the batteries charged. The dodger is as good as it gets. The construction is absolutely amazing and the details are stunning. They did an excellent job working with me on coming up with a way to mount the panel on the top of the dodger and it looks, and works great. They even decided that the amount of rub from the sliding hatch needed to be dealt with to eliminate chafe over time so they’ll be back to trim up the edge. I was able to wire the dodger panel from the other two panels and run wiring out of the way. It’s not completely finished but it will work until I have time to secure them. In the meantime I’m getting up to 20 volts of constant electricity and have even more protection and privacy from the dodger.

In case you plan on using Iverson’s, here are the options I went with:

  • 1 1/4″ tubing
  • Welded top grab rail
  • Welded side grab rails
  • Teflon thread
  • Makrolon polycarbonate windows
  • Burgundy sunbrella and reinforcements

The total cost? $4630. Expensive? Yes. Worth it? Absolutely.

One really nice addition is they have a zipper attached to the aft edge and gave me the additional matching zipper so I can fabricate my own enclosure that attaches to the boom gallows bimini so I’m mostly enclosed while enduring really rainy weather. With the addition of this extension and weather cloths on both sides of the cockpit I should be able to cook outside and stay dry while in a really heavy downpour. My bimini top is pretty ghetto compared to the dodger but I have plans on doing some adjustments to make it more taught and more protective. For now it works great as a sun canvas and solar panel mount.

Kyle & Mike from Iverson's with Satori's new dodger
Kyle & Mike from Iverson’s with Satori’s new dodger
New canvas
New canvas
Iversons Detail
Iversons Detail

While I’ve been unable to sail, I have taken advantage of the great summer weather and spent last weekend backpacking on the western slopes of the Cascades. My friend Matt and I decided to do a trip up to the West Fork of the Foss River in search of views, water and a place to enjoy a remote night out. Sasha was able to join us on this trip and enjoyed running freely on a remote trail. It’s been a while since either of us had been on any kind of backpacking trip together. I’ve been so busy with Satori that life has shifted to sailing, while climbing, skiing and backpacking has been put on hold. After spending the weekend in the mountains, I’ve decided to spend more time on getting back to these endeavors.

Sasha and Matt at Big Heart Lake
Sasha and Matt at Big Heart Lake

 

It’s been almost a year since I started sailing Satori and since then a lot has changed about her, giving her a new personaility. I’ve managed to place enough trust in her to visit some far off places of the Salish Sea and have even felt the Pacific Ocean swell under her hull. Most of the projects now are better to hold off until winter, while it’s raining and I have more time on my hands. I’ll try to mitigate the leaking right now to mitigate corrosion and allow me to keep taking her out whenever I want without risking further damage.

Shilshole Bay Marina Sunset
Shilshole Bay Marina Sunset
Dockside neighbor; great blue heron sharing the sunset
Dockside neighbor; great blue heron sharing the sunset