Ranger’s Refit—and the Real Rewards
Inspired by the fateful day of September 11, 2001, this sailor brings his old 35-foot Allied Seabreeze to life for a transatlanic journey.
Crew of Ranger ready for the Atlantic
Stuff I Didn’t Need
Electronic charts: I had the Bahamas on a Garmin BlueChart CD ($140), and it was fun to watch the shore move across my laptop screen. I chose BlueChart because the CD could be loaded into both the laptop, for real-time navigation, and the GPS unit. But when I asked for an Azores/Portugal chart, Garmin reported its software didn’t include these stopover islands, so I went back to paper. Nobeltec (www.nobeltec.com), MapTech (www.maptech.com), and SoftChart (www.softcharts.com) provide this coverage.
Apparent-wind autopilot steering: This Raymarine ST40 Bidata and Wind System, with transducers, cost me $325, but I never got it dialed in. It was both fun and scary to watch the wind reach 40 knots, but the helmsman kept us trimmed.
1,000-watt hard-wired inverter: I could have saved the $725 I spent on the ProSine 1000 and used an old ProWatt 300-watt plug-in unit that I carried as a spare.
Monitor windvane: Call it autopilot atrophy, but I simply never used it during the crossing. Without another ocean ahead, I’ll probably remove this expensive (bought used for $2,400) redundancy from an otherwise gorgeous stern.
Mounted searchlight: On a pitching sailboat, a plug-in handheld spotlight is handier and cheaper than the $250 model with remote control that I purchased and installed.
What Caused Trouble
Corroded electrical gear: Despite all of our caulking, water got in everywhere, due, I think, to the old boat’s joints working at sea and a relatively low freeboard. Large waves that hit Ranger activated hydrostatic strobes and set off engine warning buzzers. During one squall, water poured through a forgotten hole and cascaded over distribution boxes, busses, and a Heart Interface Link 10 Battery Monitor, frying it. Batteries began to drain. I remounted busses higher and disconnected meters that wouldn’t dry out.
Aluminum centerboard: This is a nice tool to reduce weather helm in bay waters, but it became a nightmare in heavy rolling. Even cranked up tight, the banging inside the trunk was frightening and sleep-depriving. And with it, we waged an endless and expensive battle with corrosion.
The Refit Goes On
Cosmetics: As much as I wanted to sail Ranger in Bristol fashion into Bermuda, the toerail teak remained mostly gray, the cabin walls were patched but not painted, and the counters remained dingy yellow. Alas, the nav station—my Starship Enterprise dream corner—remained a tabletop, a bolted-on GPS, and radios stuffed in a book space.
A new bottom: Thirty years of bottom paint had left a mottled surface with too much water in the hull. Out of time and money, I slapped on some copper paint and took off. When she dries out in Portugal, we’ll tackle it, maybe.
Refrigeration: To satisfy a long-delayed yearning for cold beer and frozen steaks, I bought a $2,310 engine-driven Technautics holding-plate system and ended up carrying it uninstalled to Portugal, a victim of priorities. I plan to insulate the old box and install it before I get to Monaco. The prince might ask for ice in his cocktail when he comes aboard.
Jim Carrier is the author of seven books, including The Ship and the Storm: Hurricane Mitch and the Loss of the Fantome (2000; McGraw Hill, $25). He left Ranger in Lagos, Portugal, as a base for future European cruises, with Spain and the Med in his immediate sights.