Welcome To The Dockside

Thoughts For Sustainability In Propulsion and Steering.

We live on a sailboat, and want to ride the wind, but what about when we want to move, and the wind or water doesn’t necessarily comply with our intended direction? We just received back (after three weeks) our transmission from the shop. Yay! Now we feel comfortable to begin traveling. Again. At least for the warmer months summer. This year.

We take a short break from earning money, to spending it again, as we install a rebuilt transmission and yet more upgrades. Slowly we’re learning about how everything works on Fayaway. And more importantly learning what works for us, and what doesn’t. We have priorities, and aside from propulsion, we feel that a working autopilot is essential for long cruises. It’s like having another crew member to take over steering so one can sleep, pee or whatever.

Remember, our goal remains on The Prize: November ‘22 departure.


So, now that we have propulsion, today it’s finishing the new autopilot controls. I really do love doing these projects! Hmmm. In retrospect, I’m thinking that is a big reason for our swapping boats: We ran out of challenging projects to do? I never thought of it that way!

While we had hoped we’d get at least a few months out of it, we couldn’t seem to wake up the factory-installed autopilot system. So I proceeded to rip out more gobs of excess wiring. It’s amazing how these systems have improved. Similar to the expectations of a 25 year old personal computer, these systems have evolved tremendously in recent years.

Getting organized on the settee: Garmin’s retrofit kit, along with a few adaptations, turns a defunct system into an autopilot with sophisticated new features!

So what was then several thick bundles of wire buried into narrow chases back in 1996, now is a simple network cable connecting a new steering computer with solid-state gyro/compass, which also talks to our chart plotter and wind instruments. We can now steer via compass, gps, or wind angle. The only tangible challenge was to adapt the only piece which hasn’t changed much: the hydraulic linear drive unit. And with three simple adapter cables the beefy drive cylinder, clutch and linkage is again pushing our massive rudder. Yippee!

So, we plan for our first small outing tonight. We’ll time an early-evening traverse of the Cape Cod Canal, running with the flood tide northward, through the whale sanctuary of Stellwagen Bank, around Gloucester’s Cape Ann, and enter the mouth of the Merrimack River in time before the ebb tide begins. As always, timing is everything if you want to go up a river and reach a busy port during daylight hours, especially in a sailboat. Fortunately, we’re familiar with the potential treachery of the Mighty Merrimack. But what if we weren’t?

And here we have a simple example of a short passage to suggest how important a reliable auxiliary engine (and transmission) can be for a cruising couple on a sailboat. And we’ve certainly experienced that situation many times before, and will do again – we purposely look for new places to explore, and sometimes propulsion helps when current and or wind aren’t in your favor. But those hard-core sailors will balk and say real sailors don’t need a motor. We can sail when the conditions allow, and the issue is just that: when conditions allow. And if you want to wait while life ticks by, and accept future opportunities lost to waiting for wind, then more power to you my real sailor friend!

Making breakfast on a chilly morning!

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