Sailing to the British Virgin Islands in the Caribbean 1500
Preparing For The Voyage
|Two views of the bilge area below the saloon floor where the engine used to be. This is the view that greeted me when I first visited Night Heron: the patient in the middle of a heart transplant. The right-hand picture shows the cleaned-up and painted bilge ready to receive the new engine.
Outfitting and Refitting
When you think about preparing for a voyage, maybe you think about loading up with food and supplies, tossing in a few charts and cruising guides, then casting off the dock lines. Well, dream on! Preparing for this voyage required a huge amount of effort and expense, mostly for Jeff.
There were a few reasons for the extra effort and expense. First of all, Night Heron had suffered serious damage to the engine, electrical system, and bilge area during a fire on the trip down from Rhode Island. All that damage had to be repaired, plus the systems had to be improved enough so the problems wouldn't recur. Also, Night Heron is a "new" boat for Jeff, and he had come up with an ambitious refitting plan to turn the boat into a comfortable home and a safe and efficient ocean passagemaker. All the work would have to get done in less than two months to leave on schedule in the Caribbean 1500. Given the huge amount of work, Jeff hired out a lot of the work, but he stayed continuously busy himself right up to the moment we left.
Here are a few lists of the preparation work that took place (from what I remember):
- Clean out boat - As he relates in his blog, after buying the boat, Jeff got rid of tons of stuff from several past owners.
- Bottom job - One of the first jobs was to paint the bottom and replace the zincs.
- Electronics - Next, install lots of fancy electronics, mostly from Furuno, including two large Navnet chartplotters (one below at the nav station and one at the helm). They are networked together via an ethernet router, which also networks to a PC running the MaxSea navigation software. The chartplotters get position information from a rail-mounted Furuno GPS. On the mast is a Furuno radar that is networked to the chartplotters. There's also a Furuno weatherfax (with rail-mount antenna) that is also networked to the chartplotters and PC via ethernet. For communications, Jeff got a new Furuno FM-3000 VHF with a full-featured remote control at the helm, plus an ICOM M802 marine SSB transceiver and antenna tuner. Connected to the ICOM M802 is a new SCS PTC-II PACTOR controller for sending and receiving email via SSB radio.
- Masthead tricolor - Jeff had the masthead light changed to a new fixture that uses low-power LEDs instead of incandescent bulbs. The new tricolor also has a strobe light as a distress signal.
- Running rigging - All the running rigging was replaced, which totalled many hundreds of feet of line.
- Safety equipment - Jeff got a new offshore life raft from Revere, which was installed on the foredeck. He also got a new satellite EPIRB and new flares.
- Emergency repairs - While en route from Rhode Island, the boat required significant engine and electrical repairs after the fire, to restore necessary operations.
Most of the above work was done before arriving at Portsmouth; most of the items below were done after arriving at Portsmouth:
- Engine - Remove the old Ford Lehman engine and its accessories and spare parts. Clean and paint the bilge to repair the fire damage. Install a new Cummins diesel engine and its accessories, reworking electrical, exhaust, cooling water, and fuel lines as necessary. Design and install new engine mounts, including redesigning them when they proved to be too flexible. Remove the old engine instrument panel and seal the opening in the cockpit well, install the new engine instrument panel in a different cockpit location. Fabricate and install a cover for the back of the instrument panel. Carry out sea trials with the new engine. Obtain manuals, spare parts, and supplies. The old transmission was removed but reinstalled.
- Fuel - Remove the old fuel manifold, design a new system, install new fuel valves for the engine and genset, run new fuel hoses everywhere, remove the old fuel gauges, install a new "Tank Tender" system to monitor four tanks (two fuel, two water), cap off several hoses/lines that went to an old unused fuel tank, plug an unused external deck plate fuel fill.
- Interior controls - Remove the inside engine controls from the forward nav station bulkhead.
- Steering - Adjust the steering cable tension to remove slack. Remove the old autopilot electronics and remote controls by the helm and nav station. Install the new autopilot electronics (and rudder feedback sensor) with a remote control at the helm. Carry out extensive sea trials to calibrate and adjust the autopilot and verify its correct operation. Replace the mounting platform for the rudder feedback sensor (which was poorly installed), repair the rudder feedback sensor arm after it later fell off.
- Electronics - Repair a couple of bad connections in the GPS signal wiring, repair a bad connection in the SSB "position" input. Modify the system configuration to get DSC (Digital Selective Calling) position information to appear on the SSB. Unlock extra features of the SSB using a special code. Install the "Airmail" software on the laptop to do PACTOR email, modify the system configuration, get the PACTOR email system to work via SSB radio. Configure the Furuno weatherfax interface and get it to work with Navnet and the PC. Configure the "Airmail" weatherfax software and get it to work on the PC. Get GRIB files to download and work with the MaxSea navigation software. Buy and configure a new laptop computer. Rent an Iridium satphone. Install the position-reporting satellite transmitter provided by the Caribbean 1500 organizers. Purchase, install, and activate a Sirius satellite radio receiver.
- Electrical - Replace/repair a significant amount of battery wiring, install a big system fuse in the battery wiring. Refurbish eight interior fans and install two new fans. Install two 12-volt convenience outlets below. Test the operation of the solar panels. Remove some cable TV wiring.
- Galley - Replace the old galley stove with a new and better stove, replace the microwave with a bigger unit. Rebuild the propane system with all new hoses and fittings including a new regulator and solenoid.
- Plumbing - Replace/rebuild the freshwater manifold, remount the freshwater pumps, repair a significant leak in a freshwater line, install new faucets in the galley and both heads, install a water filter and spigot by the galley sink. Install two tank level sensors for the "Tank Tender" system. Install a new high-capacity pump for the air conditioners and reefer/freezer with new wiring, plumbing, and a controller board. Repair the wiring for the sump pump. Replace the macerator pump for the forward head holding tank pumpout. Replace the Y-valve for the aft head holding tank pumpout. Install a high-water alarm (including float switch, alarm, and wiring). Install two new electric bilge pumps and repair their wiring. Refurbish the manual bilge pump, replace the part of the suction hose with the check valve and strainer. Replace the washdown pump and its on-deck fitting.
- Safety - Purchase offshore PFDs, heaving line, backup nav lights, freon horn canisters, handheld spotlight, accessories for MOB pole. Purchase and install several fire extinguishers, wood plugs for through-hulls, a rescue ring with retrieval line, and an abandon ship kit. Reinstall the bell. Write up and print out the boat's safety procedures.
- Deck - Remove all the lifeline stanchions, clean and rebed each stanchion base, reattach with new bigger screws. Clean the old caulk from along the toerail, sand the toerail, recaulk the toerail. Jeff did this himself, and it was a huge job, absolutely backbreaking work, especially since a number of the stanchions were very difficult to remove due to frozen screws. Dismantle and remove large the cockpit dodger so the new engine could be lowered into the bilge, afterwards reinstall the dodger frame and cover.
- Rigging - Replace the car control lines and repair the cleats for the mainsail traveler. Move the mainsail furler winch and replace the control line. Install the staysail and the staysail furler control line, reconfigure the staysail rigging and install new control lines with tackles for the staysail traveler car. Inspect the rigging, seize some shackles with wire ties.
- Miscellaneous - Mark the anchor chain with colored wire ties for length markings. Cut the saloon table into three pieces to make a drop-leaf table, purchase and install the operating hardware. Install a plywood reinforcing panel on the saloon floor under the table. Replace the old carpet for the saloon floor under the table and in the aft cabin. Assemble and install a large storage cabinet for books and manuals. Obtain manuals for all the equipment and gear, assemble notebooks and file the manuals, prepare indexes for the notebooks and for location of all stored gear and supplies. (I read as many of the manuals as possible in the time I had available—I like reading manuals to get a quick education). Obtain and stow lots of galley equipment (pots/pans, dishes, silverware, etc.). Buy a ton of tools (full sets of mechanic's tools, numerous small hand tools, plumbing tools, electrical tools, some woodworking tools, several power tools with accessories, boating-related tools, etc.).
On the next page, I have some pictures of Night Heron getting a new engine.