We have LONG been getting Banyan ready for our circumnavigation. In reality, we have been preparing for this since we first bought Banyan in 2014. Many of the big items are done and have served us well as we have traveled down the coast and up in the Sea of Cortez. SSB radio (check), rigging (check), awesome and plentiful ground tackle (check), crazy med kit (check), Windvane (check), well supplied ditch kit (check), solid bottom dingy with a motor that allows it to plane when full (whoop whoop! check), shockingly expensive life-raft (check), and a solid, ocean-going boat full of spare parts, good sails and large water tanks.
When we pulled into La Cruz a month ago, we thought we only had three more things on our list. Well, how mistaken we were. The first three things we tackled right away and we were happy to have them checked off. But just as we would complete one task, something else would pop up.
1. Outboard Engine Fix: Our new-to-us two stroke 15 horse outboard engine was found to be leaking gear oil from a lower seal when we were leaving Guaymas. This was bad news but we’re glad we caught it. Even more challenging was that the make of our engine, a Johnson, is not common in Mexico, luckily they are more common where we are going. Fortunately, I had a quick trip to the states planned so I ferried a few parts home to help with the repair. With a little help from a local mechanic, our outboard is now performing as expected. We are thrilled to have a planing dinghy now and we all giggle when we open up the throttle and fly out to the anchorage.
2. Chart Plotter and Navigation: Our chart plotter is analog and is getting older as we speak. She is good in many ways and we have been really happy to have her. She IS becoming a touch temperamental about her connections but we have figured out just what kinds of coddling she needs to keep going for now. As a back up for navigation, we have three other sources. We have a pile of old-school – but still totally relevant – paper charts. We have Navionics, a popular app for your tablet that gives your GPS dot in relation to the charts, and we have an open source navigational program called Open CPN with a load of related KAP file charts. Cameron has been getting lessons from a fellow boater on overlaying google earth shots and weather data. So, even if our chart plotter decides to give up the ghost at some point, we will have back up until we are in a place where we can replace our systems.
3. Life Lines: We have been planning to replace our lifelines for a while. It was getting to be time and we had looked at several different options. One we hadn’t taken totally seriously was hard stainless steel lifelines. I would drool over boats with this feature as they are so solid and add to the safety of those on board, plus they just seem more convenient. But, we had always thought they would be out of our price range. When a boat down the dock showed us their newly finished hard lifelines and told us what they had just paid to have them done, Cameron and I perked up. It was a do-able number. So, within a week, we had hard lifelines put on. They did a beautiful job, the welds were incredibly well done. It was done quickly and was affordable. I’m so so happy to have these, I can’t even tell you. When walking up the side of the boat there is a solid rail to hold and it just feels way safer.
4. The Shaft Seal that Turned Into Engine Mounts: Our shaft seal is “dripless”. This is the seal that goes around the shaft and stops water from coming into the boat. We had never had any issues with it but it now has a slow drip. Cameron has been working on dealing with this for some time and we have finally resolved that it is some imperfection in either the carbon or the stainless steel ring that are just not perfectly flat to each other. When looking to solve this, we re-aligned our engine which made us look harder at our engine mounts. We decided it was probably wise to have some spare engine mounts on board. So enter the cross-border parcel-sending-in-Mexico craziness. Sending things in Mexico is never seamless. When I left my lifejacket on another boat and they sailed off to San Blas with it, the POST OFFICE actually recommended that they send it on a bus. The engine mounts took about a week longer than advertised to reach us, but hey, we found a few other jobs in the meantime, so we couldn’t have left with the previous weather windows anyway.
5. Hull Epoxy Job: As we were hopping into the dingy the other day, Cameron noted a bit of unevenness on the hull just below the water line. Hum.. what’s that? We investigated and found that we had some bubbling of the layers of paint and perhaps epoxy that at one time may have been a repair. Who knows but we pulled them all off and then had white patches on the hull that need epoxy and bottom paint. Nothing structural, just something we want to take care of before traversing 3,000 miles of open water. This involved heeling the boat over for a couple days in the marina to make the repair.
6. New Holding Tank Pump: There is nothing quite so indicative of the cursing life than dealing with the head. Some cruisers just give up and use a bucket because it’s such a pain. I can’t remember what Cameron was supposed to be doing that day, but he didn’t. He was forced to rebuild the holding tank pump. Note: No more grapes with seeds allowed on Banyan.
6. Diesel Tanks: Our polypropylene diesel tanks seemed like a great choice after the 36-year-old steel tanks rusted through in 2014 but they have been a bit of a pain. The inspection ports never seemed to want to seal and we kept weeping diesel when we were heeled over. This is less than ideal so Cameron and I traversed Puerto Vallarta day after day looking for different gasket materials and sealants that might work to deal with this. Cameron finally solved the problem by making a liquid gasket and then letting it sit until it hardened far beyond the instructions indicated (8 hours vs 5 minutes), he then slowly tensioned it down over the period of 36 hours. Permatex #2 worked on the port tank and Permatex Gasket Dressing and Sealant on the starboard tank. We took her for a sail and heeled her over as best we could and they are holding!
7. New House Batteries: So, with all the provisioning (and early provisioning since we thought we were leaving weeks ago) we filled, for the second time in its life, our freezer and plugged her in. Our batteries, after much abuse from two summers in the heat of Guaymas, started to send up distress signals. When Cameron told me on Thursday, a week before our planned departure date, that we might not be able to use our house fans at night while in the heat of French Polynesia because our batteries were performing so poorly, we decided it was time to crack open the wallet and see what we could do about getting some new batteries on board. It is now the following Tuesday and, as I write this, Cameron is (as usual) head down in the bilge connecting up our new battery bank.
We have had a few delays to our departure, but God always has the right plan and we’ve been praying that we will leave just when He wants us to and that we will have a safe and successful passage. Several boats that are currently crossing have had issues, with their heads, batteries, hydraulic steering (which we don’t have) and rigging. Some have even had to turn around due to these problems. We are glad they popped up while we were still anchored just offshore.
So, with all our jobs done and a decent weather window showing itself, our departure is IMMINENT. I will send out one more post about the kids and provisioning and just some LIFE stuff. After that, we will be sending regular updates to the blog while we are underway so you can come along with us!