A month of boatwork

Rowan ‘helps’ us do boat work

It is September, and Monsoon has been at anchor in San Diego for the past month and a half, both of us hard at work making upgrades to and maintaining our boat. We haven’t given ourselves the opportunity to sightsee yet, and the daily obligation of boat work is starting to burn us out. So as we have promised ourselves before, with the new month comes a new focus in direction, and we have cleaned up our living spaces and put away all our tools. From here onwards, boat work will be relegated to only once a week. On the upside, it has been a very productive month for us and Monsoon is now far better equipped as a cruising vessel. Here are the projects that we have accomplished:

Mast step and whisker pole storage
  • Mast steps install

Our nylon composite, foldable mast steps have already proven useful in installing other new boat parts, including the whisker pole and SSB antenna. Wearing a rock climbing harness attached to a halyard*, we can climb all the way up either the main or mizzen* masts to perform repairs, watch for reefs, or just for fun.

Halyard: The rope used for raising sails

Mizzen: The back sail

Water tank selector
  • Water tanks install

All 3 new inflatable water tanks have now been cleaned and hooked up to the galley* sink in such a way that we can choose which tank to take water from.

Galley: Kitchen

Whisker pole demonstration; it works better when we are actually sailing and not on anchor
  • Whisker pole install

Sailing around the world following the classic westward route as we are planning to do involves sailing downwind the majority of our time. To help hold out our jib* when going dead downwind*, we have installed a whisker pole, that prevents it from collapsing on itself with every wave.

Jib: Foremost sail

Dead downwind: Sailing with the wind coming from directly behind the boat

AIS lets us identify marine vessels within close range
  • AIS install

We now have an Automatic Identification System hooked up to our chart plotter, to help other boats spot us, and to help us spot other boats, especially cargo ships out at sea, to avoid collisions.

SSB antenna attached to our shrouds
  • SSB install

Another safety equipment onboard is our Single Side Band radio, used for communication at sea. We have our antenna installed, and are now in the process of studying for and obtaining a license to operate it.

Anchor windlass installed on top of a work-in-progress wood carved base
  • Anchor windlass install

On Monsoon, we have an oversized 55 pound Mantus anchor with 60 feet of chain, which equals 145 pounds of dead weight if we have to raise it from depths of more than 60 feet. And that doesn’t include the weight of seaweed that sometimes gets stuck on the anchor. Heaviness is good, as that makes ours a very strong and dependable anchor, unlikely to drift even in heavy winds. The problem is raising our anchor when it is time to leave. On Anacapa Island, we found ourselves hauling on our anchor for an hour, trying to get it back onboard, in heavy seas, next to a rock wall, using our main halyard winch* in desperation. So in order to save our back muscles in the future, we have installed a manual anchor windlass. To add an extra dose of fancy, Travis is in the process of carving out ornamental details into the wooden base of the windlass.

Winch: A hauling device consisting of a rope wound around a drum


  • Steaming light repair

Our steaming light* gave out on us on our passage from the Channel Islands to Santa Barbara, and since then we have been using our anchor light instead, hoping that it would be common sense that we were not anchored in the middle of the ocean. A quick bulb change up the mast steps was all that was needed for this quick repair.

Steaming light: A light indicating that the engine is being used on a boat

Our cabin top becomes our workshop during boat work season; here wooden parts are receiving several layers of varnish
  • Boat and dinghy varnish

Admittedly, we have not been very good at keeping to our boat maintenance schedule. Generally, all the woodwork needs a new coat of varnish every 3 to 6 months depending on how intense the sunlight is. By the time we got down to a good solid round of varnishing last month, there were parts that needed up to 7 coats of varnish. We use a marine grade, UV resistant, high gloss Epifanes varnish for this purpose. As compensation for all that work, nothing is more gratifying than looking at a beautiful golden glossy piece of woodwork.

Clementine the dinghy, in restored condition
  • Dinghy cleanup and chain bag

We have been having problems with a very rusty chain that we use to lock up our dinghy. Regularly leaving it to rest on white surfaces has left rust stains, so we used some Starbright rust remover, followed by a deck cleaning solution to return Clementine to her former spotless self. Then, I made a chain bag to ensure that no further rust stains would appear.

Oar wrapped up in tarred twine, finished with turks’ head knots at each end
  • Dinghy oar wraps

The rubber oarlock* rests on our oars gave out after overuse last year, and hasn’t been replaced since. After months of half-heartedly attempting fancy rope work, I resorted to a simpler wrap to finish the job.

Oarlock: Metal pieces that hold oars to a boat and act as a pivot point when they are in use


  • Dinghy rub rails and deck cap install

Once the varnish was finished on Clementine, we brought her to a public dinghy dock, where she was summarily scratched up again by being jostled against other dinghies in the waves. To prevent that from happening, we added rope rub rails to her sides. We also replaced a broken deck cap in her hull.

Bug netting
  • Bug netting

Up here in California, the weather is too cold for bugs to be a huge problem, even though we have had some bouts of beach fly infestations. More importantly, we want to protect the boat from bugs that spread disease in the tropics, namely mosquitoes. So we added bug netting to all our hatches and vents, and stocked up on DEET.


  • Water catchment

It does not rain much in California, so attempting to catch rainwater to fill our tanks here would be fruitless. Nevertheless, we designed a water catchment system to be used in more rainy locations, using an old sail and a funnel.

Sail repair kit; patch sizes range from 3 to 12 inches
  • Sail repair kit

With the access material from our old sail, we also put together a sail repair kit, basically spare material to be used as patches if and when our current sails experience holes or tears.

Travis cleaning the hull
  • Hull clean

The worst chore on the boat is having to clean the hull. There is anti-foul paint on the bottom of Monsoon, but nevertheless, if left too long, plant life and other sea critters start growing on her. Cleaning involves putting on a wetsuit, free diving, and scrubbing the hull while holding on to the boat with glass holders. I have made an agreement with Travis that if he is in charge of cleaning the bottom of the boat, I will be in charge of laundry and washing the toilet. I think I got the better deal.

Life raft cover
  • Bonus: Life raft cover

With the access carpeting material from the water tank project, I made a cover for our life raft to help protect it from the sun.

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