A Month of Boat Work in Georgia

After an epic winter sailing season in The Bahamas, we crossed back to Florida and made our way up the Intra Coastal Waterway to Brunswick, GA for a month of boat work.

Northbound on the ICW just above Cape Canaveral
Free Beer!

Why Brunswick, Georgia? Well, we’d be lying if we told you it didn’t have anything to do with the free beer at Brunswick Landing Marina. (Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings only, which is probably for the best.) A grocery store, a West Marine store, a hardware store, a liquor store, and an abundance of restaurants are all within easy walking or biking distance. The marina offers free laundry. And perhaps most importantly, Brunswick promises good working weather in March–not too hot, not too cold.

Grapenuts came out of her chrysalis and spread her wings in Georgia accomplishing many tasks.

Sundance has held up well and no major boat repairs needed our attention. But after 9 months of sailing, we came to realize some additional boat gear would make our lives better. In recent weeks, that gear has been moved off our wish list and onto the back of the boat.

Sundance gets some new junk in the trunk

The Work List:

  • Hydrovane self steering. The thing in the photo with all the pipes, a rudder and a red sail. This contraption will steer the boat to a constant wind angle using zero electricity. It also serves as an emergency rudder.
  • Watt & Sea hydro generator. The white fin with a propeller in the photo. Like a windmill, except in our wake instead of in the wind. When rotated down into the water, this device will charge our batteries when we’re sailing.
  • More Solar. 500 watts was plenty for us in New England in summer, but in The Bahamas in winter, we needed more. It’s counter-intuitive. You would think solar would work better in the sunny tropics than in not so sunny New England. Nope. Length of day is the reason why. (Also, the fridge runs harder in warm tropical waters requiring more power.) We now carry 7 @ 100 watt Sunware panels for a total of 700 watts of solar.
  • Starlink. Elon Musk built a thing he calls “Dishy McFlat Face.” We installed one and it promises to provide high speed internet when our cell phones won’t. In the photo, look for the white pizza box atop a pole. (This post went live from a rural corner of South Carolina with plenty of alligators but no cell service. Thanks Elon!)
  • Balancing an energy budget is a big part of life on the boat. The four items above are all a part of this balance. The Hydrovane saves power because it allows us to cut back on the use of our power hungry electrical autopilot. The hydro drive and solar panels produce power. Dishy McFlat Face is a big consumer of power. We will use our engine to move the boat when we need to, but we are committed to avoid using it just for battery charging. (We have no diesel or gas generator aboard.) We’d love to have a freezer aboard, but have decided it would consume too much power so we do without. These are the sorts of things we think about as we manage our energy budget.
  • 3rd reefing line. We have a new mainsail on the boat with three reef points. The problem is that our boom was only equipped with two reefing lines. Problem solved. Now, there are three.
  • Permanent preventer line back to the cockpit. In the old days, rigging the preventer was cumbersome and required a fair amount of foredeck work every time we needed to set it up. Now we have a permanent system that always stands at the ready. (We copied the system from Ariel. Thanks for the inspiration, Doug.)
  • New blocks for the jib furling line.
  • New cockpit shower. The old one worked but it wasn’t great. The new one is great.
  • 3 New i70 Raymarine data screens and new autopilot control head. Same functionality but better displays.
  • Paint Heidi the dinghy. There was no great place to set up for this work. In the end, it turned out to be more of a touch-up effort for now…
  • Varnish oars and Heidi seats. Rotate spare oars into service. Renew dinghy painter.
  • Purchase charts and cruising guides for Canada. Nice to have a mailing address.
  • Upgrades to our life vests, jack lines, harness tethers, and ditch kit.
  • Sewed new boat leather onto dodger grab bar.
  • Engine service. Changed engine oil, oil filter, fuel filters, belt and impeller.
  • Winch service.
  • Provisioning. We rented a car one day and used it refill propane and load up with a major food shop. Great to have a car for bulky/heavy things like canned foods, paper towel, beer, and dog food. We also needed the car to go pick up the Hydrovane which, long story short, was in temporary storage out on St. Simons Island when we arrived (thanks Quinn & Kathy).
  • Bilge cleaning. Pulled the anchor chain out of the anchor locker and cleaned the bilge from stem to stern.
  • Interior clean. We took everything out of every locker and cleaned the inside of the boat from stem to stern. Threw out a lot of junk too.
  • Exterior clean and wax. The Bahamas delivered a few boat cleanliness surprises: 1. The boat bottom and boot stipe stayed exceptionally clean with little or no effort other than sailing the boat. 2. With no rain and no hose water, the entire boat was always covered in salt. (Water maker water is too precious to use for washing.) It was a great relief to get to a dock with hose water where we could really clean, wax, and polish the boat thoroughly.
  • Varnish. Never ending, but we did our part to advance the ball while in Georgia.
  • Under water. Cleaned the bottom and changed the prop zinc. (Thanks Tyler & Tyler’s partner@ Burning Reels!)

Boat projects are always hard. They are borderline impossible in The Bahamas with no dock, no water, no mailing address and no access to basic fasteners and miscellaneous supplies. So we didn’t work on the boat much in The Bahamas.

When we did get to a dock in Georgia with unlimited fresh water, trash disposal and an address for parts, it felt like we could build anything.

This simple kneeling workbench built from found items in the boatyard proved to be helpful.
In boats, everything is ALWAYS upside down and backwards. Lanyards on everything and a tarp under the work area just in case.
Coming soon: Look for a full write-up on the Hydrovane plus Watt & Sea install in an upcoming issue of SAIL magazine.

Exploring a new corner of the world

A Dukes of Hazzard sort of place

We’re not from around here. This is the Deep South. Fascinating to be here long enough to truly soak it all in. Old friends who live here helped us get our bearings. Chris went for regular runs in the neighborhoods around town. Alex went to daily yoga and almost as regularly to her new favorite local grocery store, Schroder’s Market. Lots of friends were made in all places.

Yachting! Bugs are problem in so much of the world. Especially in Georgia.

Brunswick Landing Marina is a major crossroads in the sailing world, and as such is full of all sorts of people from all over making their way from one place to the next. It was great to swap stories with this group. In the process, we developed a new boat crush: The Hallberg Rassy 43 (Thanks Claude and Sophie). Not to worry, just a mid-life crisis sort of idea…

Where to next? We had tentative plans to cross The Atlantic to Europe via Bermuda and The Azores this upcoming summer. That plan has been put on hold and Bill the dog is the reason why. He is old, poorly trained, and not capable of crossing an ocean. So instead, we will continue our coastal sailing with a cruise north to Nova Scotia and perhaps Newfoundland this summer. Not such a bad consolation prize!

Bill the Dog

Bill’s health has been frail in recent years, and we frankly didn’t think he’d make it to the start of this sailing trip. But now, nearly a year in, he looks to be aging in reverse. The Bahamas were good to Bill and he’s running strong.

Some say were crazy to sail with this old dog and should give him away. That won’t happen. He trusts us completely and we’ll honor our commitment to him. If you haven’t already, read Chris’ story about sailing with Bill in the March issue of SAIL Magazine: Old Dog Rules

Onwards to Canada!

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6 thoughts on “A Month of Boat Work in Georgia

  1. Chris, Alex, and Bill- Great update on your travels and experiences, love to hear all the thought processes, keep enjoying and living life! – living vicariously – AAK

  2. Hi Chris & Alex! Great update, as usual. Re equipment purchases: Lots of expensive new toys. Any concerns about thievery? Or does the boating community self-police? Re Bill: He’s gonna outlive you both! And, since he already considers himself the captain, he should have no problem carrying on.

    1. Thanks Jack. The theft question is a good one. The rudder and vane are usually removed and stored inside the cabin when not in use. This protects them from the weather and from theft. The rest of the wind vane apparatus would be relatively hard to remove and resell. The Watt&Sea hydro drive is easily removed and might be our biggest theft target. We plan to stow that in the cabin of the boat when we leave the boat unattended for any long period of time. There are lots of other odds and ends on deck that could be stolen. By far the biggest theft risk in boating is the motorized condom-craft style dinghy and we don’t have one of those! In 35 years of sailing I’ve had zero problems with theft. Hoping that pattern continues.

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