The Offshore Voyaging Reference Site

Tips, Tricks & Thoughts:


  • Why Cheap Boats Are Not Inexpensive

    An irrational drop in price makes a boat cheaper. A rational drop in price makes it more expensive.

    Originally Gautam Baid about investments, modified for boats by me

    Never truer words were said. Refits almost always cost more than the purchase price of the boat, often double or more. And worse still, the money we spend on a refit depreciates by 50% to 100% the day we finish it.

    So it’s almost always cheaper to buy a better and more expensive boat in the first place.

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  • Check Your Emergency Tiller

    The stuff I have found on our new-to-us J/109 amazes me.

    When I first inspected the boat, we found that someone had siliconed the hatch over the rudder-shaft head. I guess it leaked a bit so, instead of replacing the O-ring or the hatch, they glued it down.

    So after we fixed that with a new hatch, I figured I should check the emergency tiller, actually a better design than found on many production boats, except that the threaded rod that was supposed to hold it in place was misaligned so it would not stay attached in use.

    No, not bent, misaligned. It had been like that since the boat was built and no one—particularly TPI who built the boat, or the two surveyors who had inspected her since—had ever thought to check whether it actually fitted.

    In half a day I both fixed the misalignment and improved the design of the retaining bolt and its bracket to make it more secure.

    Check your emergency tiller and, while doing so, assume that everyone who came before you was an incompetent, uncaring idiot. And if that turns out not to be the case, be happy.

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  • A Shed For Your Boat

    A couple of years ago my friend David sent me the above photos of a Stimson shed he built to winter store his lovely Hinkley 41, the same boat he so kindly lent me for a cruise.

    I’m ashamed to admit that said photos have languished on my computer until I stumbled over them while searching for something else.

    Anyway, he built the shed for less than ten grand (Canadian), so this seems a good alternative to winter inside storage at a yard for those who can find a piece of land reasonably near a haulout facility, and also a great option for a refit.

    He broke the cost down as follows, all costs in Canadian dollars:

    • Ground: excavating prep/ gravel etc. about $2000.   
    • Materials: bows and knee walls, bolts, etc $2500.
    • Griffolyn custom cover $2500.   
    • Added about 5-6 days of 2 days’ labour to assist $2500   

    Could be done for much less depending on materials, access to machinery, labour, etc.

    Here are some links David shared that might be useful:

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  • Simple Alcohol Heaters Are No More

    I have been thinking about heat for our J/109 lately. Not a full-on system for the Arctic like we had on or McCurdy and Rhodes 56, but rather something to take the chill off on a cold morning in early or late summer.

    One idea I had was one of those portable alcohol heaters that used to be available. Origo used to make one, but then they got bought by Dometic, who promptly discontinued the product along with the much loved (by some) alcohol stoves.

    And there was one from HeatMate that Practical Sailor liked a lot, but that seems to be gone, too.

    What I’m realizing as I strive to keep things light, economical, and simple on our new-to-us boat, is that the market’s fixation on ever more high tech and complicated gear is making my goal harder and harder to achieve.

    And the constant buying up of small companies by bigger ones like Dometic is not helping either.

    Pissing me off.

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  • Sounding Hammer Trick

    I was working with a very experienced and smart composite technician today to check out a crack in the gel coat in the bilge of our J/109.

    I was pretty sure it was not structural and just the result of sloppy gel coat application but wanted a pro to check.

    He sounded it with a hammer, just like anyone would, but then put his hand down as shown and explained that if there is a void he will be able to feel “bounce back” when he taps. Never seen that before.

    Good news: all is fine. He figures someone just poured resin in to level it. Seen it before. That said, he is going to grind it out and repair it right with cloth and then brush gel coat.

    Says it should take about half a day. The good guys are fast, too. If I tried it, it would take half a day to get the resin out of my hair, never mind the repair.

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  • White Paint Is Our Friend

    Before and after shots of a small locker in our J-109. Way better to paint the water damaged ply than mess around with varnish trying to fix it. Brightens the boat up too. We like semi-gloss, not gloss. White is brighter inside the locker too.

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