Sail Away

A lit­tle know-how goes a long way on va­ca­tion, says Zuzana Proc­hazka

SAIL - - Contents -

Keep­ing things run­ning while on char­ter

They say cruis­ing is just fix­ing your boat in ex­otic places. Maybe that’s why so many peo­ple pre­fer to char­ter. Af­ter a week of sail­ing you pack your bags and step off your char­ter boat with­out an­other care in the world, leav­ing the base man­ager and me­chan­ics to deal with the after­math. Char­ter boats work hard, though, up­ward of 300 days a year de­pend­ing on the base lo­ca­tion. No mat­ter how well cared for, a boat is a boat, and when you char­ter, you had bet­ter be pre­pared to do a lit­tle MacGyver­ing.

A re­cent 10-day ex­cur­sion in French Poly­ne­sia found us on a 7-year-old boat. She was a strong sailer, with crispy new sails, but she had been a work­horse. Ev­ery day I had to crawl into the port engine room and open and close the valves on the two fresh­wa­ter tanks. It was the only way to clear the air lock so that the fresh­wa­ter pump would stop run­ning when not in use and not drain our al­ready strained house bat­ter­ies.

Ev­ery other day, I also had to crawl into the star­board engine room and fid­dled with the wa­ter­maker to over­ride the sen­sor, which deemed all wa­ter it made to be in­ad­e­quate and tossed it over­board. One night I filled the la­goon with 100 gal­lons of per­fectly good wa­ter, and the crew had no show­ers.

An­other time, a boat in the Gre­nadines re­fused to start at a rather cru­cial mo­ment, un­til I grabbed the winch han­dle and gave the starter a good whack. Voilà!— so­le­noid contact made! I used the same strat­egy with an elec­tric wind­lass in Tonga. The char­ter skip­per seemed per­plexed when he saw me beat­ing the wind­lass, but hey—it worked.

In Greece, one of the boats in a flotilla I was managing had a more se­vere wind­lass sit­u­a­tion, so we made a washer from a tuna fish can lid to keep the mo­tor run­ning the rest of that week. My own boat also had an an­chor that was miss­ing a weld and would col­lapse on contact with the seafloor. A bit of macramé with string held it to­gether for the next five days—just long enough. I also once had a jib car ex­plode in a fan­tas­tic shower of ball bear­ings and a main­sheet block that just sadly dis­in­te­grated with bits of black plas­tic trail­ing down the deck. Luck­ily, both hap­pened in light air and both were quickly man­aged with co­pi­ous amounts of tape.

Break­downs aside, char­ter boats will also have idio­syn­cra­sies. Ours in Tahiti, for ex­am­ple, didn’t want to drop her main­sail—not a

2 scrap of her heavy 800-plus-ft moved an inch af­ter we re­leased the hal­yard. Hav­ing ex­pe­ri­enced this be­fore on other boats, I grabbed the boathook to pull the cars down, only to have the sun­burnt head of the boathook snap off, bounce once on the deck and be­come lost to Po­sei­don.

Af­ter a few min­utes of climb­ing into the sail bag to di­ag­nose the sit­u­a­tion, we found that the chafe point was ac­tu­ally un­der the deck. How­ever, that still left us in a sit­u­a­tion where we had at least three places where we couldn’t an­chor and would need a boathook to catch a moor­ing. Rum­mag­ing through the rusty tools in the on­board tool­box, we set­tled on a ham­mer, some zip ties and, again, a lot of tape. The re­sult­ing “boathook” worked for the rest of the trip. I won­der what the base man­ager thought when he found it.

If you’re the cap­tain on your next char­ter, bring a few essentials. I find the fol­low­ing to cover most odd jobs: zip ties, elec­tri­cal tape (duct tape is too heavy to travel with), a mul­ti­tool, a roll of 1/8in Dacron line, work gloves, headlamp and a tele­scop­ing mag­net, be­cause you just know you’ll drop stuff in the bilge. The tuna fish can is op­tional—you can prob­a­bly pick one up lo­cally.

The au­thor’s im­pro­vised boathook made with a ham­mer, zip ties and tape

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