Hunker Down Maintenance
Like Roman Emperors, we have been smothering ourselves in the lavish decadence of suburban land life. Our togas are drenched with hot meals, hot showers, and beds that don't relocate on you in the middle of the night. Why? Ohhh, my friends. Because of MAINTENANCE. Before we could skeedaddle any further south, we needed to dock Drakka somewhere safe (and free!) to address a list of projects. For every hour you get basking in the breeze in a bikini with the wind Beyoncé-ing your hair, sailing demands 20 hours of knunkle-grinding maintenance. After arriving in Vandemere Creek, NC in late November we scrutinized Drakka's wish list.
This is a reality post. There are tedious details. Because the detailed posts of others' who've gone before us have been worth their weight in whale blubber. We pore over forums, blogs and YouTube for everything. This one's for the collective ocean. Thank you, ocean! We really really appreciate you.
DRAKKA'S WISH LIST
1. REPAIR HER BROKEN NOSE: C found a local welder who was able to muscle the crooked bowsprit at his shop, weld the broken joint, and polish the stainless steel for a couple hundred smackers. Two running lights (starboard: green, port: red) are mounted on the bowsprit with wires that wriggle down the steel tubes, through the deck, and into the boat. They let other boats know what direction you are heading at night, and they demanded rewiring. Using 14 gauge wire, butt splices, heat shroud (tubes that you shrink with a torch!), and toxic remounting goop, I discovered what a short circuit was, and then had to do it all over again. But now they work. I hope.
2. REPLACE LIFELINES: Lifelines are steel cables that wrap around the deck at ankle and knee height, and keep a stumbly sailor from pitching overboard. Ours were corroded with rust, and because they had a plastic coating we could not see the true rate of mortal deterioration. After C's extensive research into Dyneema line (bullet proof vest material!) which we thought would be cheaper to DIY and splice ourselves, we ended up going for traditional bare cable lines. Because: timing, and because a local price was at first estimate comparable. Travis at SailCraft swaged new lines for us ((swaging is like bullying the loose cable ends into straightjacket hardware) side plug: awesome project T is a part of in Kenya). The lines ended up costing us $600, which was a brass knuckled hammerhead to the gut, but we learned our lesson in expectations, estimates, and the cost of a stainless steel double-D ring.
3. NEW WIND VANE: Tells us which way the wind is blowing! Our old one was busted by the fat rump of a garbage gorging seagull. So I nimbly scampered up the 35' mast like a coconut cutter to plop in a new one, eazy breezy.
Actually C double strapped me to a harness and the bosun's chair, and hoisted me up inch by creaking inch. It's as awkward as it sounds. At the top I discovered 1. I am only lukewarmly afraid of heights and 2. the hole was too small for our new vane! Piss in a pelican! So C hoisted up a cordless drill with some bits on the other halyard, and I jockeyed drilling behind my head without getting metal flakes in my eyes while not dropping the 5lb tool. Fun! Hole, screw, goop, screwdriver and success at last. I greased the track as he lowered me down and I felt very badass, I'm not gonna lie. Thank you to Steve at Queen's Farm for both the new wind vance and the homemade bosun's chair.
4. WING REPAIR: Our headsail, a 150% genoa (that just means big), had ripped during a 47 knot gust on the Alligator River and needed a patch sewn on. One sewing machine and four broken needles later, voila! And only one spot of blood to mark the surgery.
5. TIDY UP NERVOUS SYSTEM: Imagine the rat's nest that accumulates from 39 years of tinkering with electrical wires. Now cram those nests into inaccessible recesses and corrode them with saltwater. Also whatever color wires are supposed to be (like red, white, and black) just go ahead and Grateful Dead that shit until it's a nasty rainbow dreadlock. Drakka needed a new deep cell battery as well as various colors of the rainbow attached and detached to make way for the new toilet and fan. It sounds simple, but whenever we removed a wire we thought was irrelevant it turned out to be the pulse of the flipping beast and left the whole herd dead. Ugh. All the YouTube videos we scoured portrayed glowingly tidy electrical systems that gave poor Drakka a complex. NOTHING is as straightforward as it appears. NOTHING.
6. JUICE CLEANSE: Drain and replace Little Penny's engine fluids, oil & fuel filters. A labyrinth of contortionist plugs, bolts and caps, which one must blindly seek in the narrow engine compartment. Figure out what the heck is wrong with the glow plug connections (G-Plugs preheat the engine), or is it just the cold water temperatures delaying the old gal's turnover? Sometimes we hold the glow plug switch for a tender 30 seconds and she flips, other times it takes 2 eyebrow furrowing minutes while one of us is down below tapping the glow plugs anxiously waiting for one to scald a fingerprint off. Check her zinc plug (oops, shoulda checked that sooner). C stayed up with the moon one night scrubbing years of grime from her metallic hide with a toothbrush. Now Little Penny is completely in love with him, and I think she's plotting to throw me overboard so they can sail away together.
7. RUMP COVER & GUTS INSULATION: The lid/seat in Drakka's cockpit that covers the lazarette is one of her few exterior wooden parts, and it was rotting faster than a banana at the bottom of a backpack. C's dad Don took on the project with Herculean effort and hand crafted us a sturdy replacement of epoxy and oak. He also oversaw engine maintenance and stripped off the decaying insulation of duct tape and garbage bags that was spreading black magic over the engine like satanic dust and installed fresh new panels to cushion the auditory jackhammer of that rollicking diesel stallion (stallionette?)
8. TOILET: Also known in marine terms as The Head. Most inappropriate misnomer, ever. I have so (SO!) much to say on this subject, but I'll save it for a future post when it can be fleshed it out in full. Pun intended. Suffice it to say by the time we reached NC in November we were using a 2 1/2 gallon bucket that C had snagged from his old farm that was used for flowers. We were truly pooping in a plastic bucket labeled "flowers". I shit you not. Pun obviously intended.
9. A ZILLION OTHER THINGS: Like rigging up a PVC pipe holder for a stern anchor. Like dismantling our roller furling (more like beating it senseless with an impact driver) in order to tension the forestay, as well as rotating the drum so that it wouldn't chafe the roller furling line, as well as replacing that line which was growing chafed. Like rebedding a stanchion post that was leaking, and speeeeaking of LEAK, that slippery little bastard, he's resurfaced with a Die Hard vengeance and is cascading down the whole port side of our cabin interior! Gahhh! Picture me ripping off teak panels, beating my chest with gorilla fists and bellowing at the thunderclouds. If I ever catch that sunnuvaswordfish I'm gonna suffocate him with enough caulk to embalm a goddamn mummy.
Glamour! That's us! That's sailing! I'm ready for my Beyonce hair now.
And on that note, departure awaits around the next weekend's bend.
Nope, just kidding, I wrote that last week but am finishing it now, at the end of our first day away, as we bobbily dock in Oriental, NC. We'll head south to Wilmington, then Charleston, perhaps Savannah, down along Florida, and onward until we fall off the edge of the equator. Ready? Me too.
Enormous thank you to our families who so generously hosted us these past couple of months. My own in WA state for a few weeks, and even more so Don & Becky in NC who hosted us, fed us, laundered us, engineered us, and provided Drakka a sea dragon's dream dock. We could not have done it without you!