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This week i’ll post a video montage i had made of taking the boat back to Puerto Rico.

Turned out that our arrangements in Vieques made it very difficult to actually get the necessary modifications made to the boat since we lived on one side of the island and the only safe harbours are on the other side, making me waste far too much time going back and forth.

The changes the boat needed were a cabin, some basic accomodations and changing the rig from racing to something more suitable for cruising. But the most pressing thing to attend to was the weak chainplates; since they had been changed from the original outside the hull setup to the present inside the hull arrangement, it created a leak point and the constant passage of rainwater was very detrimental for the structure in that area.

The boy in the video is my son, and he is feeling noticeably green towards the beginning of the trip. It is Dia de los Reyes, which is why the presents at dawn.

If you watch the video, you’ll notice i did not put up the mainsail, despite the weather being perfect. This was because i was worried about putting too much stress on the chainplates. In fact, as it was, the planks were flexing inwards every time the boat rolled heavily due to the inertia of the mast. It’s the sort of inevitable thing that comes with a “new for you” boat, even one that is ready to sail, which this one was. In fact, the problem had been creeping up for some time, as was evident by the patch-up work done above the chainplates where blocking had been added to help hold the plate supports down, in turn shifting the loads from hull to deck. The thought of these guys racing like this was scary enough, but was also a testament to how sometimes pretty improbable things work. At any rate, i was not in the mood to take any additional chances.

The jib had a little rip in it too which held up fine downwind, but the moment i rounded up for the last leg up the bay it ripped the stitching the rest of the way, par for the course with “new for you” boats. No big deal, even like that the boat climbed up to windward well enough to make the last couple mile beat.

The best part of course never got taped, precisely because it was exciting. There is a shortcut into that huge bay, which cuts some fifteen miles off the deep anchorage if approaching from windward; it is called “La boca del infierno” (hell’s mouth). It is a cut between two of the barrier islands with 3.3 meters of water if you cut it at the right place, but with a bit of swell running becomes a very ugly bit of surf over the coral heads indeed. Now with 2.2 meters of draft that does not give a comfortable margin, but conditions seemed good enough, so i cut through with my wife being my second eyes up front and the corals flashing by underneath so close you could see the veins on the brain coral.

At one time it had occurred to me that it may be worthwhile to make a video documentary of this supposedly “impossible” voyage to windward to Brasil from the Caribbean and it had also passed through my mind that just when it may be interesting to film, everyone is busy dealing with the boat. Therefore, there has to be a person on board dedicated solely to the camera.

Now it so happens that a while ago already, i decided that i will no longer take men on board small boats with me. At first my wife was ok with this but eventually jealous feelings cropped up, so the whole idea was ditched. And that is how the best part got lost.

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In other news,

Dmitry Orlov over at cluborlov.blogspot.com wrote a post about about moding his boat with a permanent auxiliary rudder, in order to facilitate a suitable self steering method. He is of course completely correct about the absurdity of wheel steering in small boats. I would go further and say that wheels in anything under several dozen tons is for fashion, not for any practical benefits.

It reminds me a little bit of Eric Sponberg’s moding of another sailboat’s rudder. Although considerably more sophisticated (and expensive) the concept is somewhat similar and was also a great improvement.

It is very important for rudders to have enough power, and unfortunately, this is something that seems to be rather neglected in a lot of designs. I have plenty to add to that, and rudder issues in general, but it will have to wait for a future post.

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