Casualties–a summary from Port Townsend


Enter here all ye who dare.

Said my friend, David R Kelton, “It’s good you are breaking stuff now rather than on your big trip, but can you please stop breaking stuff already?”

Part of the reason for this summer’s long leaps is selfish–I’ve not singlehanded in quite awhile; I want to feel what it’s like to be on passage again. But part is to shake loose some of the weaknesses in the boat, her systems, and her skipper.

Along that line, here’s a list of what broke or has failed to perform up to spec since departure from Kodiak.

Sadly, it requires little insight to note a familiar refrain in the below, that being pilot error.

1. Broken Autopilot. This quit two days out from the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and as the wind quit a day later, I manned the tiller the last 50 miles into Neah Bay. Much of the next afternoon at anchor I spent assessing the issue. “Rudder Feedback Failure” was the warning sign, but no test revealed the source. An examination of the hydraulic ram assembly did reveal an oil reservoir nearly empty (note above reference to pilot error). Reservoir now topped off. The ram functions as should. I re-initialized the system. Result: now the Autopilot goes all the way to port and pops the clutch. I suspect the computer. A tech is coming out on Tuesday.


The hydraulic ram under the tiller…looking clean and new and not the least bit worried.


One of three error states in the controller.


The autopilot brain…AKA Hal.

2.Under-performing Wind Vane. In Homer, I renewed the Monitor tiller lines with 1/4 inch (zero stretch) Spectra. Result: I can’t keep the tiller line even remotely taught. At first I thought this was because my knots were slipping (Spectra is slippery stuff). After re-tying multiple times, same result. Finally “resolved” the issue by using parachute chord to pull the tiller chain links together. My best guess is that the line is not Spectra. Will replace while in Port Townsend.

Also, the Monitor tends to over-steer. Having used a Monitor extensively on Murre, I can’t think it a fault of the device, but rather my not balancing the boat correctly. Example, flying both head sails full in a steady 30 knots may be asking a but much of the dear (more on which, below).


The tiller lines from the Monitor with un-sailorly knots bringing the chain links together and STILL there is slack.

3. Broken Port Genoa Car. While learning how to fly these lovely genoa poles, I let the port pole rest too heavily against the forward shroud. This broke the plastic guard the keeps the bearings in place. The car is otherwise fine. The bearing guards cannot be bought. An entirely new car must be ordered; will arrive Wednesday from Selden North Carolina. At least it was in stock!


The black plastic covers on each end have torn, allowing the bearings to slide out.

4. A Cut Genoa Sheet. On my 45 mile run from Neah Bay to Port Angeles, the wind filled in solidly from the west. The day was clear, the radio, alive with gale warnings, and my two head sails out full. Wind built all afternoon, and I adjusted to it only by taking over from the Monitor when the wind hit 30 knots. The boat made a steady 7.5 to 8.5 knots and over 10 knots on the back sides of the steep chop. A Coast Guard helicopter came by at one point to check in with the only boat on the bay. I waved and smiled. What fun! I found I could easily keep the boat in control with all that pressure forward.

What was not so easy was rolling up those happy sails at the end of the day. I let the big genoa sheet out too far. It barked in the stiff breeze and quickly–and firmly– wrapped the stay. I had to cut the starboard sheet to loosen it and was lucky I didn’t have to cut down the sail. This drama played out in front of the Coast Guard station with me racing toward a lee shore. Damn!

5. Self-healing Wind Speed Indicator. It worked before the mast was pulled in Homer. It failed to work after the mast was stepped. It started to work again two days into the crossing from Kodiak. No idea why yet. Haven’t looked.

6. Depth Sounder Failure. This is due to a loose connection on the back side of the display. Remedied (for the moment) by unplugging and plugging it back in.

7. Engine Does Not Start. This turns out to be a faulty start switch, which only functions properly if turned to the right AND pressed down hard. Will be replaced while in Port Townsend.

8. Stray Current. I discovered this in Kodiak while doing the Nigel Calder stray current test on the house bank. I get 3v. But no amount of sleuthing, or generous amounts of advice from others on the dock, got me to resolution. This was one of the main reasons for coming all the way into Port Townsend, and am now working with the lead electrician at the marine co-op.

9. Miscellany.

-I tripped over the boat hook on day five and mistakenly kicked it over the side. I got to watch it bob in the swell as distance grew between us and thought, “there but for the grace of god…”

-Both temporary props holding up my two solar panels were washed away during our two days of being close hauled.

-The water pump in the galley is pumping poorly due to air in the line from our early sloshing around.

Not such a long list. But I am fortunate there is so much resource in Port Townsend.


In her Port Townsend slip …

7 Comments on “Casualties–a summary from Port Townsend

  1. Wow. All things sound usual. 🙂 It ain’t a boat if it ain’t broke. The Monitor chain attachment point way back on the tiller will make the setup very sensitive and perhaps prone to over-steer. You might experiment with simply lashing the line further toward the bow on the tiller and see if that helps. If so the chain doohickey could be moved later.

    • Hmm. Interesting comment, Kurt, re the tiller line location. There are two holes further forward on the underside of the tiller that suggest to me the location USED to be further forward and was moved back. I have the good fortune of being in contact with the previous owner to did all the sailing (Victoria to Victoria via the southern ocean). I’ll ask him. I still think it’s me pushing the boat too hard.

  2. Good to see you back out on the blue bashing yourself, fixing equipment, sailing wildly. Isn’t sailing fun! All the best for your next leg and look forward to reading more adventures.

    • Hey thanks Tony and Connie. Nice to see you here again. Sorry to have missed you in SF. Best on your own adventures.

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