Boatyard work

Having a boat hauled out is normally a big production because the owner is always attempting to get done all the projects which can only be done while the boat is out of the water. Not only that, but there is a cost associated with each day you are out of the water, so you are time constrained as well.

This haul-out is particularly challenging for Tahina because we are not just performing maintenance, but also installing equipment needed for our long journey. And, our time constraint is not just cost, but also our desire to leave by early November. We’ll need at least a few weeks to complete our departure tasks, and to thoroughly test the new boat systems.

Yesterday was the first full day of work at the boatyard. I met with boatyard workers to set them on tasks I won’t have time, or skills to perform. This includes some cosmetic work on the fiberglass, installation of a washer/dryer, modifications to some of our rigging, and developing a custom mount for satellite antenna.

Meanwhile, I began more planning on installation of the radios. We are installing an SSB HF radio, and a Satetllite system. Both these systems will be used in important capacities on the expedition. I’ll explain why we have these systems in another posts. At the boatyard, we need to install a ground plate underneath the boat which will be in the water and through two holes we will make in our hull (which is why we do it now). The bronze plate provides a “ground” to our radios so we can communicate far distances. We need to install antennas in good locations on the boat, and ground them as well. And we need to install the radio equipment and control boxes so they are accessible for use at the nav station.

Rope Antenna for a sailboatFor the SSB radio, I found an interesting solution for the antenna from RopeAntenna.com. On PatiCat, our previous boat, we did a traditional SSB antenna install for a catamaran which meant cutting one of the shrouds (steel cables that hold up the mast) to add insulators and make a piece of the cable into an antenna. The rope antenna is a much more practical solution. The antenna is embedded inside a rope “loom” and attached to the mast and along the side of the boat. It appears just like any other rope on the boat. And, its easy to install. I spoke to another boat owner who loved his antenna from the same company.

The web site for Rope Antenna also includes very handy instructions on installing an SSB properly. I called up the owner of the company, Dr. John Gregory, and was impressed with his knowledge and advice. He has been very helpful in making sure I have the necessary accessories and proper installation plan to maximize our radio’s effectiveness. He’s also been advising me on the satcom grounding strategy.

In the late afternoon, Gerard came by, and we began the installation work. We reviewed all the equipment, and reviewed the cable layout plans. Then we started pulling the cable for the one cable we hadn’t previously scouted. The satellite antenna is going to go on the aft port quarter of the bimini (the roof over the cockpit). It will be on a custom platform a few inches back so the boom won’t interfere with the antenna. We needed to run a cable in a convoluted fashion from that location to the nav station. It took a while, but with a cable snake we finally got it in place.

Meanwhile, we installed the antenna tuner for the SSB and determined the best location for the ground plate. Also, we were a little confused over instructions on the satcom for grounding. So, we called John at Rope Antenna and he provided us with some excellent advice. He’s going to make us some custom cable and accessories to help improve our satcom grounding.

By this time, it was getting late, so we closed down for the night. The plan is to have all the work done by the end of the month. In addition to the other items mentioned, there are over two dozen maintenance projects, and several smaller items being installed. It’s going to be a challenging effort to balance the list with the time available.

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