The Boatist

Sailboat Ownership, Translation Work and Tales of Minor Adventure

Retire early, be passionate, don't worry, die poor

Friday, July 8, 2016


I've been mute, deaf and dumb since April 19, but I'm still alive.

And I'm hoping to sail south next week, all the way to the anchorage in Culatra.

I offer you a photo-story of what's been going on.

travel lift in Nazare
I sailed - wind, not engine - to Nazaré, spent the night at the marina and got hauled out the next morning.

Installing a thru-hull

Installed a new thru-hull with a ball valve for the galley sink. It's barely above the water line so it could potentially flood the boat if, for example, the anchor dragged and the boat ended up lying on this side in the water.

Boat yard in Nazare

Typical boat mess when working.

Docking accident

This was the first time in 16 years I had a docking accident. When leaving the travel lift pontoon at very low tide with little room to maneuver, the wind blowing in the wrong direction and, if you must know, in a big stupid rush, the boarding ladder caught on the pontoon cleat and this was the result.

Although I had a beautiful fast sail to Peniche, this misshaped mess in my face spoiled the ride.
Later I tied a line to the top pipe, ran it to a snatch block on the railing and back to the big winch and managed to straightened it to a semi-respectable condition.

That's Jakatar on the far right raising sail for the annual regatta in Peniche.

And here's Jakatar flying for the starting line with all 3 sails up. With a freshly painted bottom got a big lead on everybody and gybed around the first buoy, where the wind was blanketed by the cape. Everybody else tried to tack and went into irons.

Then I started yapping with my inexperienced crew of 2, went way off course, bungled the next buoy twice, got caught by a lobster pot which we dragged for quite a while, finally god rid of it, went way off course again, the wind died down and we finished 4th. Don't have the racing mentality, I guess.

See you in Culatra.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Downsizing to a Pocket Cruiser

tiny sailboat

Sooner or later sailors, specially solo sailors, with a somewhat large sailboat will face some harsh realities: 
   a) the need to downsize to a smaller boat
   b) life without a boat
   b) death

I prefer option a). I Can't imagine not having a boat, and death is a problem I'd rather worry about after I die. In contrast, planning to downsize to a smaller boat is obscenely titillating. 

Downsizing will give me the opportunity - and the illusion - to finally buy the perfect sailboat, in other words a boat perfectly suited to my needs.

Why do I need a pocket cruiser (ideally under 8 m)?
  • I'm tired of struggling to keep up with never-ending maintenance and costs
  • I can spend more time sailing instead of fixing
  • I can still continue with my yearly coastal cruise south
  • It's easier to sail single handed
  • It's more exciting - closer to the water is better (sometimes wetter too)
  • It makes it easier to step into and out of the dinghy
  • Docking is easier even on windier days
  • Etc. 
The process began when I fell in love with a Frances 26. 

Frances 26

The "Frances 26" infatuation lasted for a while, until it hit me that they're too slow for my solo cruising in Portugal where I need to sail between a number of anchorages ranging from 45 to 60 miles apart. Small classic boats, besides being generally slower, are also more prone to high maintenance because of their construction materials and age.

With this in mind, I started focusing on a sailboat offering a balanced combination of speed, ease of use, affordability and low maintenance. Before I knew it, I was salivating over an  Etap 21i.

Etap 21i

These boats are amazing. They're unsinkable and, astonishingly, can be sailed even after opening the bottom sea-cock and leaving it open. A family of 3 sailed an Etap 21i around the world and it only took 3 years, although they, like the boat, looked very compact in the photograph I saw.

etap sinking test
Four men (the other one is in the cockpit) aboard an Etap 21i after having opened the head's sea-cock, and this is as bad as it got. ~ Courtesy of Yachting Monthly
But...and there's always a you can see in the photograph, it has a maximum headroom of 1.4 m and about 1.2 m above the marine toilet. That didn't faze me at first, until I placed a 1.2 m mark on the wall above the toilet at home and tried using it while keeping my head below the mark. I'm 6 foot 2 and let's just say that in a rolling boat I'd most likely end up crawling around the floor with my pants around my knees. Next boat!

Next, browsing for something a bit larger I came upon the Jeanneau 2500, a well-built high-performance beauty. Headroom is 1.60 m and 1.65 in the toilet. So I went back to the bathroom at home and raised the mark on the wall to 1.65. Not bad at all. But like I said, I'm tall.

Production began in 2001 and the asking price for one with an inboard diesel is normally 25,000 euros or higher. That's still a hefty price for an 1.85-m-tall guy to pay for 1.6 m of maximum headroom. Next!

I then began looking at the Etap 26i, which appears to be a better deal with asking prices ranging from 27,000 (1995) to 35,000 (2003). It seems well worth the slightly higher cost for a much more spacious boat. At first I was discouraged because all the ones I could find are for sale in far-away ports. But, on second though, what could be better than starting out with a long leisurely cruise back to Peniche. To think of it, I bought Jakatar in Toronto, Canada, and sailed it here.
I try not to look at this photograph too much. 
And then there is also the Jeanneau Sun Fast 26, a bit cheaper than the Etap 26i but a good boat nonetheless. Food for thought.

The bad news is that none of this will happen any time soon. It will be at least a couple of years before I'm ready to sell Jakatar and before Jakatar is ready to be sold. In the meantime, I have a plan.


A friend has suggested that I should downsize to a 32 footer and then, lastly, to a 26 footer when I get older (old). But I'm a solo coastal sailor. A 26-foot boat has a good bed, a marine toilet, enough storage room for me, why would I want more space just for the sake of space.

I also considered something like a 1970s Invicta 26 with encapsulated ballast in running order with an asking price of €6,000. But then I began asking questions and doing the math: is the standing rig OK, are the 40+ year mast and spreaders OK and will they still be OK in 15 years, are the chainplates pitted, is the deck mushy, is the engine going to last as long as me? One thing you know for sure, it's narrow, gloomy down below and needing all kinds of TLC. So I'd be back to maintenance/refit mode, albeit on a smaller scale but the cost and time still add up. Nope, once around, big or small, is enough. I want to go sailing, not fixing.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Getting High

The weather has been bad and I've been lying low.

Lying low means changing the engine oil, transmission oil and fuel filter.

It also means getting high - up the mast that is.

If you haven't read it before in a previous post (and I'll forgive you if you haven't), I'm on a mission to scrape all the paint off the mast and to leave it naked. This is the naked boat, so the "nakeder" the better.

bare aluminum mast
I'm like a bird crapping all over the deck. The glove lying on the deck looks ominous.
removing mast paint
Not sure if dry two-part paint is toxic, but why risk it.
I'm doing the job with a regular 1.5 inch stainless scraper. I tried a real paint scraper, but it's no good. And that's because I'm scraping bubbly paint rather than stripping adhering paint.

Now, you may ask, how do you get the paint to flake (bubble)? Simple: any bare patches are a like a conduit for water and salt to penetrate under the paint and cause it to separate from the aluminum. I'm also slicing gouges into the paint to speed up the process.

I scraped all the way to the second spreader yesterday morning. I figure I'll have the stick totally grey and naked in two years, at which time I can kiss mast maintenance goodbye! I could also kiss Jakatar goodbye and get a smaller boat. I'm hungering for a small boat, I tell you.

Bare aluminum mast
It's original, it's strong and it's going to outlive me and the next 5 owners.
Future hassles

I have to renew my VHF licence by taking a refresher course and writing an exam. Utter stupidity and expensive.

Jakatar is due for its 5-year legal boat inspection in early May, which means sailing to Nazaré for a haulout (more expenses).

That also means that nearly everything else expires: liferaft, flares, medical kit, 3 fire extinguishers, circulation tax and beacon lights tax.

Even I'm expiring, so to speak. I wouldn't be surprised if the authorities start taking my pulse at regular intervals to check whether I'm still alive!!

And speaking of boneheads, I ordered a hull anode (€90) from Mailspeed Marine in the UK and they erroneously sent me this monster, which is not even listed in their online shop. Crafty way to get rid of an "unsalable" piece of metal. It doesn't fit my bolts and weighs about 6 kg. I weighed it to make sure it's made of zinc and not magnesium. I sent them an email pointing out their mistake and they never even replied. Until now I was under the impression that all British people are honest.

That's it from Jakatarland, where the new motto is go now, go small, go naked. None of which applies to me, sadly enough.

"Give me the facts. Save your whims, desires and dreams for Santa Claus."  ~ Martello Mateus

Friday, January 15, 2016

The Oberdorfer Pump Mechanic

Why does a 30-minute job take 4 hours on a sailboat? 

This is how I replaced an Oberdorfer N202M-07 raw water pump that cost me the incredible sum of €486.
($266 for the pump + $127 for UPS freight + €118 customs + €9 credit card fee).

changing an oberdorfer pump n202m
Pump housing plate, with the pump already removed from the Universal 5444 engine (Kubota 1902 block).
1. Position, light and tools
I had to work on my knees with kneepads, needed a good source of light and had to search for a number of tools stored in what could be the largest (7 x 3 feet) and most disorganized tool box ever to exist on a sailboat.

2. Corrosion
For 14 years, the pump has been intermittently dripping salt water onto the lower 1/2 inch mounting bolt. Its head has become severely corroded, deformed and slightly stripped. The stripping part probably happened in the Azores where I removed the pump in an attempt to fix it.

The 1/2 inch wrench did not work so I tried using vice-grips. The bolt did not budge, but I managed to strip the head some more. Then I tried some metric socket heads and, you guessed it, mangled the head even more. Out of desperation and frustration, I selected a metric socket that was a touch too small and started hammering it onto the head. And, by God, it worked (but now I can't extract the bolt from the socket).

3. Finding an imperial bolt in a metric country
So now, with the pump off, I needed a 1/2 inch bolt of the same length which, incredibly, I found at a nearby car parts shop. I noticed that it weighs a lot less than the original bolts - obviously it must be made of superior quality Chinese material.

4. Scavenging parts
The new pump did not come with hose ports, which I needed to scavenge from the old pump which I clamped in a vice.
The hard part was placing the hose ports on the new pump at an angle matching the hose connection directions, which implied placing the exact amount of teflon tape so that the port would be nice and tight at the perfect angle.

oberdorfer marine pump
You can see 1 of the 2 accesses to the cluttered toolbox, which occupies the cavernous space under a long settee. I also have other smaller tool areas here and there.
5. Disorganization and bad memory
Although the pump came with an engine-to-pump gasket, it wasn't in the box. I looked in my gaskets bag but couldn't find it. No need to panic, the boat is only 39 feet long and I have all day. After searching everywhere, some places twice...nothing! Then I gave the gasket bag one last shot and there it was neatly packed in a thin envelope that looked like a piece of paper. At that moment, I wished I had beer or wine aboard, but I didn't.

6. Cleaning
The plate is attached to the engine with four bolts in cavities filled with muck and goo. I cleaned them out, drenched them with WD40 and then anointed the cavities with oil using Q-tips. Then, after sanding the pate surface with 400 metal sandpaper, I was ready for the big event.

7. Assembly operation
This was actually pretty easy; I simply followed the instructions I printed out from a website: Align engine slot with the pump slot; insert pump with bolts and gasket; tighten mounting bolts until finger tight; open sea-cock and start engine at low revs to allow the pump to self-center; lastly tighten bolts with a wrench while engine is running without losing your arm in the pulley belt. That's it! 

Port of Peniche

I was a happy man watching a copious flow of water gushing from the exhaust outlet.

Time for a late lunch and a walk around the port before cleaning up the huge mess.

Peniche Port Entrance