On The Cusp

Preparing the boat for a cross-Pacific voyage and ensuring there are no major system failures is both stressful and exciting.

March 2, 2015
Sun setting over the La Paz magote. Michael Robertson

I’m starting to experience mild self-sufficiency anxiety related to our pending voyage across part of the vast Pacific Ocean. Along with a giddy eagerness I feel about the passage I’m experiencing a nagging, hopefully irrational sense that we’re on the cusp of major systems failures.

Over the past nearly four years that we’ve been cruising, we’ve dealt regularly with relatively minor breakdowns and maintenance, but it feels like we’ve gone a very long time with flawless service from our rigging and motor and autopilot and many other fundamental systems. Aren’t we due?

Shouldn’t the old Adler-Barbour compressor and corresponding tubes and circuits have failed to keep our beer cold by this time? The thing looked pretty old when we bought the boat, then it sat idle for a year, and it’s since run for 24 hours per day for forty-five months.


The condition of the raw water pump on our 1987 Yanmar was a mystery so I pulled it in Victoria and brought it to a rebuilding shop where they opened it up and suggested I do nothing. In San Diego, the story was the same for our stock 80-amp alternator. What would those same mechanics say today, roughly two years and maybe a 1,000 engine hours later?

I’ve proactively swapped out solenoids that still worked, just because they were corroded on the outside and because I wanted spares. I’ve done the same with toilet pumps and bilge pumps and fresh-water pumps and 12-volt wiring. I replaced the lower bearings on our 1980s headsail furling gear and the gypsy on our 37-year-old windlass—but what about the other key components of those important systems?

I guess that chair I set my camera on wasn’t level after all. We enjoyed the Bums’ company when they passed through after Christmas. Our paths have converged over the years, but that’s unlikely to happen again soon,unfortunately. Down the proverbial road I think they’ll be on a boat again, but we’ll probably be in a motorhome by then. Michael Robertson

I know we’re not sailing to Mars and that mechanical failures are bound to happen and that we’ve no choice but to take what comes. But I also know that it’s prudent to pretend we are sailing to Mars and that mechanical failures should be simultaneously prevented and prepared for. And that’s where I’m at.


Following are the few passage-specific things we have to do:

  • provision and stow a boat load of food and supplies
  • install additional pad eyes in the cockpit for use as additional tether attachment points
  • configure installation of the water generator we plan to tow (wiring and perhaps fashioning a stern bracket)
  • come up with a good approach for securing our dinghy/life boat to the foredeck
  • make a comprehensive rigging inspection aloft and at deck level

But the fact that we’re planning to sail for 20+ days and then be away from ready availability of stores and parts for much longer, kind of results in a confluence of other, this-is-the-obvious-time-to-complete-them tasks. This particular list is very long, and nothing on it is essential or critical, but it seems imperative to knock off as many as we can before going. After all, we’ve gotten on fine with that broken spreader light, but with so many nights at sea coming up, now is really the time to fix it. And that delaminated section of the foredeck isn’t going to repair itself so why inflict 3,000 more ocean miles on that spot? Also, if there was ever a time to remove and re-stitch our aging dodger, this is it. I could go on and on. Boats are like that.

I found this big beautiful guy a couple weeks ago on an Espiritu Santo beach. The body under the shell and in the head was completely gone, consumed by thousands of beetles. Yet the corpse still stunk to high heaven. Windy was off an a hike at the time and I spent 45 minutes selling the girls on my plan to harvest this shell and polish it up to hang on our bulkhead. I thought we had a pretty good case. He’s still on the beach as far as I know. Michael Roberston

I’ll do what I can and then we’ll be off.


In our twenties, we traded our boat for a house and our freedom for careers. In our thirties, we lived the American dream. In our forties, we woke and traded our house for a boat and our careers for freedom. And here we are. Click here to read more from the Log of Del Viento.


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