Boat Work & Rewards:


Travelling from Montreal to Quebec City – what would take a mere 3 hours by car – filled our first week, and settled Tim and I back into the cruising groove.

Day 2 anchorage: south end of Lac St. Pierre

On the 2nd morning, we woke to birdsong at our marshy anchorage, and the dopamine-fuelled joyful realization that we were really underway. We were no longer toiling under timelines; our days could unfold as we wished. We could now reap the rewards of the work invested. This Ariose Note will share highlights of our first week underway, and then, for other keen boat-owners or wanna-be’s, we’ll run through the projects we completed to prepare Ariose for this voyage.

REALLY underway!

The St.Lawrence offers interesting variety. We’ve passed industrial areas, and pastoral lands, with ever-present church steeples as waypoints marking our distance. We’ve shared the waters with all sorts of vessels. We sailed by the dystopian-like waterfront of Sorel-Tracy, snaked through Lac St.Pierre to Trois Rivieres, raced double-speed through the Richilieu Rapids – no portaging necessary –  to arrive at Quebec City. We’ve enjoyed idyllic peaceful anchorages and others where wonky currents stressed our chain rode, and our sleep, through the night. (Click on images if you’d like to enlarge them.)

Life aboard Ariose is feeling comfortable. We are still organizing and reorganizing supplies, trying to figure out how best to stow things in our small space. It’s quite an art. Things need to be easy to access when needed, heavy items forward on the boat to balance the weight of the solar panels mounted aft, they have to be placed so that they won’t get battered, or damage the boat, or create anxiety-triggering noise in rough conditions, and if sensitive to moisture, won’t get wet. More on this latter point when I get into the boat projects.

Yummy start to the day.

Last year’s shakedown cruise has allowed Tim and I to recover our sailing skills quickly. We’ve made surprisingly few goofs, save a notably horrendous anchoring. What’s that? You want to hear more?

It was getting late on our 3rd day. Many folks use their motor to get in to where they will anchor, and employ it again when departing. We’ve become pretty good at sailing up to anchor (note the smug tone) . No engine needed. We’d already successfully anchored twice, and, well, maybe a bit of complacency had already crept in. So far on this voyage conditions had been benign, until this particular evening, that is.  It’s not wise to ignore rules, especially when 1-tired, 2-winds gusty, 3- currents on the strong side, and 4-crew a little rusty.  Despite all those conditions applying, we overlooked a few basic guidelines. One is that in all but the most routine situations, we talk out manoeuvres before taking action. This is probably good practise for any sailors, but for Tim and I who have very different communication styles and ways of looking at situations, it’s imperative.  I was at the helm, and Tim at the bow. I steered to our intended spot, and headed into the wind to stop the boat shouting “drop anchor” as our speed slowed to zero. Tim did so. And then all hell broke loose. The anchor chain noisily raced from the locker as the sails filled and Ariose bolted. Tim tried to stop the chain with his bare hands, and once he managed to get a few loops around the bollard – miraculously, without losing any digits –  Ariose abruptly halted, turned, and took off in the opposite direction. After several 360 degree spins, I finally wrestled down the main, and Ariose was tamed. It took longer to settle our nerves.  The track we left on our electronic chart resembled a drunken spider’s web.

Not only had we neglected the “pre-discuss the plan” rule, we then proceeded to forgo a few more best practices.  We should have realized the increasing wind and currents would complicate things, and planned accordingly. Tim neglected to lay out chain and tie it off before dropping the anchor to prevent it from getting away on him, as it did. I was way too slow in dousing the mainsail to prevent Ariose powering up again, as she did.  It was a wild end to an otherwise pleasant day. No injuries to crew nor vessel, and some valuable lessons (re)learned. Since then, we’ve sailed onto anchor and next morning off, calmly and in control.  One incident in one week… much better than our past track record!

Nerves beginning to calm.

This incident did bring some benefits. During Ariose’s vigorous donuts, the anchor, remarkably, did not budge, proving once again that our Rocna, a new generation design, sure lives up to its promise. Furthermore, hauling up a VERY well set in hook the next day provided an exceptional work-out.

On the topic of exercise, one of the land-based routines I’ve transferred to Ariose is a mid-morning chat with my Mom, followed by a 20 minute session of t’ai chi. Neither of us have been great at keeping up our motivation to exercise, so this works well, and is a nice way to stay connected. My efforts at boat t’ai chi are not graceful, but I’m pleased to say I have not given myself a fat lip and I have provided Tim with a morning laugh.

Headless t’ai chi at the bow on a calm day.

Tim and I expected to make quick progress as we headed out the St.Lawrence, benefitting from the dominant westerly currents and winds.  Winds, however, have been consistently north-easterly, which happens to be exactly the direction we need to travel.  This has lead to some long days of sailing close hauled, with multiple tacks across the shipping channel. It is impossible to go directly into the wind when under sail. It is possible to sail slightly off it, zig-zagging (or tacking) upwind. We’ve had several 9 hour sailing days, covering a decent 50 nautical miles of water, but as the seagull flies, only making less than 20 miles. Glad our  timelines are loose.

So overall, we’ve enjoyed our downstream travel on the St.Lawrence, but the actual sailing has been a hard slog. And that is my awkward segue into part 2 of this post, which is the hard slog, i.e. the boat work, that went into preparing Ariose for this voyage.

Electrical work: a new take on high wire balancing acts!

Last year when we set out, it seemed that Ariose was well prepared. We did make a to-do list before tucking her in for winter, and with spring’s arrival, brought it out and added more items. That’s a cruel reality of boat ownership: the list only grows!  So here we go with the repairs and improvements Tim and I have bestowed upon Ariose this spring/summer.

REPAIR – Gouges in Ariose’s keel were painful reminders of my disastrous attempt on last year’s final day of sailing to turn her into an amphibious vehicle. It felt redemptive to grind them out, repair with epoxy, prime and put on a few coats of anti-foul paint. Accessing the base of the keel with a gap just slightly wider than my fingers was tricky.

 Little-by-little, it got done, and looked good as new!  If only all life’s mistakes could be so erased without a trace. While I was at it, I gave Ariose’s belly another coat of antifoul.  This wasn’t necessary with only had a few months in the water since the last paint job, but we’re not sure when we’ll next be on the hard, so it seemed prudent to do so now. This under-the-water paint slows the green beard growth, and dissuades little critters like barnacles from colonizing. Hmm. Should I have saved a little to try on Tim?

This next major repair was necessitated by others’ mistake. Last fall, while hauling out, marina staff had insisted on placing wooden blocks on the trailer under Ariose’s keel. It didn’t seem wise, but we always feel at the mercy of the operators. They do, presumably, have lots of experience, and know their equipment, but, we know all too well, errors can be made (insert). Yet, if we are one of “those” owners that insist they change their preferred technique, things will likely not go well and may not go at all. The blocks they used raised Ariose to the end range of the supports on her trailer, and didn’t provide the grip of the usual rubber mat. During our Montreal-to-North Bay transit, Ariose slipped slightly, causing a pad to break loose from the bow support and the remaining metal plate to carve a gouge in her recently painted nose. Nasty, yes, but it could have been MUCH worse.

We debated doing a “good enough” repair vs aiming for a professional quality finish. An eager consultant at Awlgrip convinced us that if we invested a few hundred more dollars and many more hours, we could achieve perfection. So, along with that offending gouge, we tackled the other nicks and scratches Ariose had incurred: meticulous sanding, filling, fairing, priming, spray colour coat, spray multiple clear top coats.  Sounds quick – it wasn’t. Sounds easy – it wasn’t. Either conditions or our skill set or both just weren’t right. Most of the “fixed” areas were now more obvious than before the repair. Tim did come to the rescue, buffing and polishing out the worst spots. Ariose now looks a little patchy close-up, but pretty from a distance, kind of like her crew.

Then, to ensure Ariose was better prepared for her next road-trip, we used a bottle jack, cautiously lifting her 9000+ pounds to replace the wood blocks with heavy rubber, then manoeuvred her forward, what felt like a millimeter at a time. Ariose was sitting solidly on her trailer once again, and, for good measure, is also sporting 2 additional tie-down straps and brand new tires.

BEAUTY – In addition to that repaint, other parts of Ariose also got some TLC. We stripped and refinished the spreaders (the “arms” 2/3 of the way up the mast that hold shrouds out to secure the mast). Now, Tim has something to admire when he’s up there.  All the brightwork (woodwork) also got another coat of Cetol, and the maple sole (cabin floor) another coat of varathane. Ariose was thoroughly scrubbed, inside and out. She shone.

SAFETY – We plan to continue on this voyage as long as the rewarding days outnumber the trying ones. Not many things can dampen the enthusiasm for life at sea, though, as getting caught unprepared in an emergency situation, so beefing up our safety gear took priority in our project list.

Storms. We’ll do our best to avoid extreme conditions, but with the climate crisis fueling more severe and less predictable weather and with our intention to cruise through a hurricane season or more, we have to consider the possibility. A deep Google dive convinced us that a Jordan Series Drogue would be a reassuring piece of kit to have aboard in the event all other storm tactics fail, and it’s time to batten down the hatches, head downwind, and pray to Poseidon.  This drogue is a series of small parachutes tied to a lengthy line that is weighted at the end. While running with the wind, the drogue remains “anchored” in a least a following wave or two, thus slowing the boat, holding it in a good position for waves strikes, and also keeping the stern down to prevent pitch-poling capsize. The evidence of its effectiveness is compelling, allowing boats (and panicky crew) to go from a state of chaos to relative control. Better yet, it is DIY-able and we could save over $1500 if we made it ourselves. Another project added to my list. It was straightforward to make, but the sewing and splicing incredibly tedious. Absolutely mind-numbing! Maybe, should we ever need to deploy it, that karma will re-emerge to further calm things down. We’ll trial it sometime in the next few weeks and will share more about this ingenious device then. 

Sing it! 99 drogue cones on the line, 99 drogue cones. You thread on one more, splice 6 straps thru the core, and now 100 drogue cones on the line.

Water. Inevitably, water makes its way into the boat and settles in the bilge, which is okay in small amounts. In large quantities, it can threaten to turn a boat into a submarine. We have one manual and 2 automatic pumps. Testing their capacity was on Tim’s list.  Each electric pump ran well, emptying about 5 gallons a minute, but – strangely – a lesser rate when both ran at the same time. What? The 2nd is intended to kick in if the 1st is overwhelmed. It is supposed to increase the volume of water evacuated, not reduce it. This made no sense. Detective Tim folded himself into the locker and peered into the bilge to track the plumbed route. His findings? The existing 1” through-hull through which the hoses exit seemed too small and was causing a bottle-neck. So, another project: Out came the hole saw and Ariose now has another, larger, opening. Also, the T-fittings that joined the 3 pump hoses caused one stream of water to interfere with and actually slow the other.  It took a while, but Tim finally found suitable Y-fittings, so now the flow is streamlined where hoses merge.

We’re really pleased with the result. Both pumps running concurrently evacuate 5 gallons in only 10 seconds, and double that with the addition of the manual pump. Very reassuring!

Other safety upgrades?  A neighbour, having sold his boat, very generously gave us a life raft, a back-up vhf radio, hand-held GPS, ditch bag with survival supplies, an EPIRB (satellite alert device) and a robust medical kit including supplies to treat gunshot wounds! (He lives part-time in Texas.) Thank you so much, Steve. We also mounted our new radar and wired it. We can now see through the dark and fog. Seems like magic. We re-secured all stanchions (the posts that hold our lifelines in place around the perimeter of the deck), and made security bars for companionway that won’t impede our exit from the cabin but do add a layer of difficulty for any intruders.

A cleat on the toe-rail track at mid-point on Ariose’s starboard makes docking on that side ever so much easier. As we get within a safe step from the dock, one of us disembarks with the line secured on that cleat in hand, and ties off to the dock. We can then take our time and tie the rest of the docklines.  No frantic lasso or yanking shenanigans required. On the portside, where mysteriously, no such cleat exists,  docking can be a harried affair. Either bow or stern line is taken to the dock and secured, and inevitably, the other end of the boat will swing out threatening the expensive yacht docked alongside. This simple cleat retails at what seems an unreasonable $200, so I’ve kept an eye open for the last few years on used part sites. This spring, I thought I found a substitute. And the seller threw it in my pile of treasures for no additional cost.

In the end, we should have just put out the cash and got the proper cleat. This new one mounts on the deck, and because it lifts/retracts, is not a toe or line-catching hazard. Cool design, I thought. I drilled the required holes (poor Ariose! More holes), epoxied and redrilled to protect the balsa core from water, made and installed a backing plate, and la voila, we could be masterful dockers on either side. It never occurred to me – until our first heavy rain – how effective a conduit this retractable feature would be. Outside water now pours into the cupboard where we usually stow electronics. This style of cleat, when bought new, comes with a catch basin and hose that is plumbed to the bilge, to be pumped out by – as you now know – the bilge pump. So one week into our voyage, and this snazzy new cleat has been sealed up and taken out of service until I have the energy to uninstall it and repair the deck. Sigh.

Okay – I’m going on too long. I’ll speed it up. Tim added bracing to solar panel arch, and in the ELECTRICAL Department, repaired the steaming light, and added deck lights on spreaders. What luxury to be able to see what we’re doing after dark or what is causing that annoying clanging. He also added a new inverter and a new receptacle for AC to charge our laptops in the cabin. He reinstalled the controller, and rewired so everything goes through a shunt to monitor amperage. Lots of small CONVENIENCES were completed, like creating fridge organizers to prevent small chunks of cheese and other goodies from escaping, only to be discovered weeks later, lodged in the crevice below once their smell gave them away. I kept my Sailrite sewing machine busy making  bags and more bags, for the cockpit to keep tether, ropes, and sunshades handy, at the mast to tame bundles of lines, at the bow to contain the secondary anchor chain, errand bags, and more. And we now also have new curtains to keep hot sun and peering eyes, out, and padding on the emergency tiller post so no more bruised ankles.

Our Yanmar ENGINE got some attention too, with a repaired and better secured exhaust.  The back flow preventer had chafed through and was leaking. Fixed! When we filled the diesel for winter, a leak at the intake made itself known, so it got repaired too. Add to that, regular engine and bilge pumps maintenance.

In addition to repairing the gooseneck (where the boom connects with the mast) and replacing the genoa’s furling line, we completed the RIGGING upgrades suggested by Danny, the marine surveyor extraordinaire who inspected Ariose last year. This included adding a connection between the foredeck and the bulkhead to transfer forces exerted by the stormsail’s removable stay. No chance now of that stay separating our deck in gnarly conditions. Another Danny find was that our forestay (holds the foresail but more critically, keeps the mast from falling), which should allow movement in 4 directions, was installed in a way that restricted it to only fore-aft wiggle. Like so many binary perspectives in life, this unnatural strain could eventually cause failure, and that could be catastrophic.  It took a bit to get our heads around what we needed, but eventually found and installed the proper hardware – the descriptively named double jaw toggle.

Whew! When Tim reads this post, he’ll likely remind me of projects I’ve forgotten, but I’ve clearly detailed (more than?) enough. When people learn I’m retired and ask how I’m enjoying not working, I’m at a loss how to respond.

Early summer, with our projects surprisingly on track, we decided to take a day off. We headed to Georgian Bay to lend a hand. Friends were launching Nimbus IX, their newly purchased Alberg 30. So much fun to share in Sue & Steph’s excitement.  Witnessing the labour they have ahead, and recognizing how much work is now behind us was also a welcome morale boost.

That’s it for this post. As recompense for persevering through that arduous post, here’s a preview of where we’ll pick up in our next Ariose Note: Our mooring at the base of Quebec City’s Pont Jacques Cartier. Ahh. Now that’s reaping the rewards.

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