091220 Year 5, Captain’s Ramblings 2-Keeping Windbird Fit
Major Re-fitting Since Leaving Boston

As we have traveled equipment as broken down and needed replacement or repair. At the same time we have discovered new ways to make sailing safer and more comfortable. The result is that we have made many additions and changes to Windbird.

The newly rebuilt engine never performed up to par. It ran hot and leaked every fluid that passed through it. Then the transmission leaked so badly that the bearings and seals were shot. We hadn’t even left the States yet! The upshot was that we replaced the old Perkins 4-108 with a new Yanmar 4JH4 along with a new V-drive transmission while in the Chesapeake Bay.

On the way to the Galapagos we hit a fishing net that broke the bell housing and the buffer (or clutch) plate. We ordered a new one and had it shipped into the Galapagos and a small, young mechanic crawled in on top of the engine to install it. Our main computer also stopped working on our to the Galapagos, so we had our daughter bring us a new one. Before she left for home, the old one miraculously started working again. So we now have a backup to our main navigation and email computer.

By the time we got to French Polynesia we had lost our gas grill overboard due to a loose connection and our water maker stopped working. My sister and her husband met us in Tahiti with both items. Now you can see why we say to visitors that: “To you, this is a vacation. To us, it is a delivery.”

Leaving Tonga our autopilot burned out and we ordered a new one from New Zealand. We later bought a new motor for the old one so that we now have two complete autopilots on board. Backups are good!

While in New Zealand the Windlass stopped working. We found a shop in Opua that discovered the motor shaft to be broken. They ordered and installed a new one with more power than the original.

On the way from New Zealand to Fiji we had some rough weather and a jib sheet got away from us. Before we got it under control we had lost two winch handles overboard, busted a solar panel, broken some of the plastic windows on our cockpit enclosure, and bent a stanchion. The stanchion was straightened in Fiji. We found winch handles in Australia when we got there at the end of the cruising season. And we bought a replacement solar panel from a cruiser at a swap meet in Australia. We also sold our folding bikes there as we had never used them.

In Darwin we bought a used outboard as a backup to ours which was becoming unreliable.

In Singapore we replaced our wet cell batteries, which were about 5 years old, with new group 31 Trojan AGMs. No more taking the bed apart to get to the batteries to check the water level!
In Malaysia we had a small leak from the transmission. We had it removed and new seals installed. We also had a welder reinforce the stanchion that we had straightened in Fiji. We also commissioned a new main-sail cover. Our cover was a Doyle “Stack-Pack” and the new one is essentially a replacement except that the main sail is not sewn into the sail.

Thailand gave us an opportunity to make some major “adjustments” to Windbird. Labor was cheap (relatively speaking) and our gel coat was so bad that there were places where it was chipping away. We had been talking of having her painted since New Zealand but this was the first time that the price seemed right. So the hull, cabin top, cockpit, mast, boom, pedestal, and the metal trim on the hatches all were Awl-Gripped. While that was going on, we cleaned all the hardware we had removed to make way for the painting. Some was so bad we didn’t want to put it back on a “new” boat, so we bought new.

Stainless welding was also relatively cheap and very good quality in Thailand so we had an arch built for the back of the boat and extended the stainless rails around the cockpit to the gate on each side. This gave us a better place to mount our solar panels and wind generator and davits so we could raise our dingy when not in use. (e still put the dingy on the fore-deck when sailing.) The arch and rails make for a much safer boat when getting out of the cockpit and moving around on the aft deck. This meant that we had to remove our Monitor windvane, but we had used it very little and still carry it with us, just in case.

Finally, we had new cockpit canvas made for Windbird. The old enclosure was showing its age and we still had some of the plastic windows taped where they were broken on the way to Fiji. We made a few changes in the bimini frame so that the new canvas would provide more sun protection for the cockpit.

This is a brief summary of all of the major work we have done to keep Windbird going since leaving the United States. Of course, I have not included the almost daily fixing of one thing or another. Where there is a boat, there is always room for improvement. Remember the definition of cruising: working on your boat in exotic locations. We are hoping that the upgrades done to date will get us back home to the US. That is wishful thinking of course, but cruisers are dreamers and we are hoping this dream comes true.