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Time to go

Early in the planning of this winter’s cruise I had discussed with Rob and been pretty excited about, sailing together on Skylark as part of the Salty Dog Rally from Norfolk to the BVIs.  This would be about a 2 week run as you need to sail due east for a while before turning south.  Once you get to the approximate latitude of the Bahamas the easterly trade wind is prevailing and strong.  If you try to go from Florida to the Caribbean you’d be fighting your way upwind or waiting for the brief breaks that occur in the prevailing wind.   

Sailing with the rally means that you at least think there will be other boats around if things go sour.  The boats all check in daily and provide position reports.  They also use the services of a weather router to minimize the risk of truly heavy weather.

After much consideration I decided not to do this trip for two reasons.  The actual passage to the Caribbean would be challenging and fun but I had concerns about what happened after.  I’d be down there for months on my own.  Now it’s not hard to make new friends when you’re on a boat, other cruisers are in the same, well, boat as you are and so tend to help each other out a lot.  I felt it would be difficult and expensive for me to get back to the States or for Linda to visit and this made it feel like I would be isolated.   I’d also need to work my way back on my own.  I’m not that confident in my visual piloting skills yet and I believe I’d need a lot of that in the Caribbean.  I use and rely on the GPS more than I think I should or is prudent so that’s the next thing to work on.  So overall it seemed more stress and responsibility than I wanted to take on at this point. 

Then Irma and Maria made a big mess down there anyway… 

 So this year’s plan is to sail to Florida, mostly outside and down the coast, stay off the ICW as much as possible, take care of anything that needs doing on Skylark, decide whether to head for the Keys and Tortugas or the Bahamas.  I’m still not clear on the conditions after Irma in the Keys and south so we’ll see.  I feel I can work on visual piloting and reading the water in the Keys and the Bahamas and still be able to bail and head back to Florida if I need to.  Baby steps.  Still planning on sailing to the Caribbean on another cruise.

I’m writing this Thursday morning, October 12.  I’ve been waiting for weather to lave NY for close to two weeks.  I’ve used the time well to finish Skylark and other projects but I’m getting really antsy waiting.  Hurricanes and gales have passed by.  The days are getting short and the leaves are falling fast.  The air is still warm but the sun is low and it’s time to go.  As of this morning’s forecast Monday looks like a good day to leave NY harbor so we’ll stay on the boat Saturday night in Croton and head south on the morning tide.

Who’s we?  Tom Bryan, a friend I made over the winter in the boat yard will be on the NY to Norfolk leg.  

Lots of Projects

In the mad rush to get ready to head south I’ve been busy working on Skylark and not posting….again.  Here’s some of the projects that got done.  

Linda made this sweet lee cloth to help minimize those port tack loud bumps in the night.

A simple pocket for snacks and gear.


Rain and sun shade.  I also made a Sunbrella bridge between the dodger and bimini.

A nice new hanked on staysail.  Along with the 3rd reef, Skylark should be good to 30+ knots.  I’m hoping she’ll go upwind in a stiff breeze better now too.  This sail will live in a bag on deck and remain hanked on.  We’ll leave the removable stay up when offshore and put it away when short tacking inshore as it can be a pain to get the genoa through the slot.

Skylark’s normal factory staysail option included a staysail boom, commonly refered to as a club.  I didn’t want the club, I think the boat is too small to work forward with one.  Using the club allows for a single track on the cabin top running athwartships so it’s self tacking and since the clew is attached to the boom sail shape is easily managed.  The exiting jib tracks on the deck were too wide so I had to put new fore and aft tracks on the cabin top.  I wrung my hands over this project for many many many many months.  I only know of one other Orion that’s set up this way, a boat named Morning Star owned by DIck Schaeffer.  Dick was kind enough to share details of his track placement with me so I had a new sail made to the original factory specs and extended to position of the new tracks just to be sure.


Yanmar exhaust elbow.  I had been concerned about the internal condition of the exhaust elbow as I’ve heard a number of horror stories where the elbow looks good outside but rots out internally.  I bought a stainless steel elbow and riser from HDI Marine but used the factory elbow at the head since HDI didn’t make one like mine.

No I didn’t cut it open.  I really don’t want to know.  

I thought it best to be prudent and check the vented loop when I did the elbow.  It was completely clogged.  Under certain conditions this could cause seawater to siphon into the engine through the exhaust ports.  Ugh.

I couldn’t find a fitting for the exit end of the mixing elbow as it’s threaded BSPT internally.  The outside of the elbow takes a 2″ hose and luckily Vetus makes a range of fittings to fit their water lift muffler.


You know what these are for.




I added a Recovery Engineering Power Survivor 35 to skylark.  The old military surplus Survivor 35 is close enough to use for spare parts except of course for the motor and gearbox.  Produces about 1 gallon of fresh water per hour from an average of 4 AH consumption.

Rob’s boat Sheerwater had a super stiff dodger with grab handles.  Skylark’s was flimsy feeling and it always felt unsteady to climb in and out of the cockpit so I added struts and handles.  Wow what a difference.



The Fridge

It’s great to have a refrigerator on the boat but it consumes a lot of power.  We used around 60 amp hours a day on our last cruise and that’s just too much.  In good sun Skylark can almost keep up but I’d love to have smaller panels or not need to run the engine at all.  So the only thing to do is make the existing box more efficient.

Refrigerator lid.

I just don’t have the heart to tear out the counter top and rebuild the fridge completely.   When Skylark was built poured or spray foam was put in place around the fridge box.  I drilled a couple of exploration holes and found it dry and in reasonable condition so I’m going to assume it has a R value between 5 and 10.  I’d like to end up with a fridge box with R 30.  That’s a total of 6 inches of pink foam or 3 inches of the exotic Aerogel.  Subtracting for the existing insulation 5 to 5 1/2 inches of foam and around 2 1/2 of the Aerogel.  Aerogel cost woul be around $85 per square foot at that thickness.  Ouch.  Rigid pink foam would be around $3 square foot.

Inside the lid

I figured I’d start by dissecting the lid.  We’d get huge amounts of condensation inside the box and the lid was always cold so it seemed a good place to begin.  There was an inch of Styrofoam maybe R 4 and the inside lip was 5/8″ short of a tight fit.  

Fridge before

The pink foam will require a thicknesses that will take a lot of space from the box and it’s a really awkward shape to begin with but what’s a sailor to do?

Pretty ugly at this stage

I measured and cut the foam as best I could.  I didn’t have the patience to cut templates.  The top of the box had a thin layer of foam sheet made in 3 pieces so I used them as templates.  I staggered the joints and got 4″ top and bottom and 1 side.  The other 2 sides got 2″ so I can use the existing hatch.  On the 4th side the bottom rises up to meet the top so I cut wedge shapes.   I filled the gaps with spray foam and epoxied and gassed over the whole thing.

Finished box

The box had a Frigoboat vertical bin evaporator I installed in 2014.  Since it won’t fit in the now smaller box  I drilled out the rivets and straightened it out as best I could. 

Forming the lid seal with Saran Wrap.  It really Works!  Only thing is it blocks to O2 so it won’t completely harden wile wrapped.

Oops…wrong hardener.

Seeking sailors

Here’s the mail I sent out to my sailing buddies describing my next trip.

Ahoy all you salty sailors,

It’s almost time to head south and I’m looking for crew.  I’ve divided the trip into segments so people can join and leave at convenient locations.  I’ve addressed this mail to all so feel free to reply all.  We all welcome your questions, thoughts and suggestions.  I’ve tried to describe the boat and the trip as best I can but I’m sure I’ve left a lot out.  It’s long but great reading.  I’ve broken the trip into segments that made sense to me different endpoints are possible and might be preferable for reasons I haven’t considered.  Dates are also negotiable at least initially until people start to sign on and make travel plans.  Segments could be combined, this could shorten then time betweeen.

Overview.  The plan is to sail from Haverstraw, NY to the Florida keys and then head for the DryTortugas and or the Bahamas leaving Haverstraw NY Oct 1 and returning Haverstraw May 1.  Boats and plans are usually incompatible so we’ll see how it goes.  This will be  the 2nd trip to florida for Skylark and me.  I’d like help sailing Skylark south particularly with the overnight runs. 

All distances are in nautical miles and approximate, travel time is based on a 4kn average speed, departure dates listed are the date I expect to be able to leave that location so you can be reasonably confident I’d be waiting for you in the place we agreed.  At that point we may need to wait for weather.

Transportation.  You need to find your own way from home to the origin of your segment by bus, car, train, uber or plane and home from the destination.  Google maps is awsome for this, it will route a public transportation route for you.  We’d agree on a location for Skylark to be waiting for you and a place to drop you off.

Gear.  Layers and rain gear.  Expect anything from warm to low 50’s and it may be wet.  Nothing is more miserable than getting cold and wet on a boat.  

Seasickness.  It happens sometimes.  If you have medication you’re comfortable with, bring it.  There are patches and Dramamine aboard Skylark.  

Provisioning.  Skylark will be provisioned with staples and snacks and we usually go grocery shopping in most ports we stop at.  There’s a small fridge on board so we’ll usually be eating fresh food.  Super salty sailors usually eat cold beans from the can.  If there is a food or snack you love and want, bring it.

Skylark equipment.  Skylark is a cutter rigged 1983 Pacific Seacraft Orion sailboat, 27′ on deck and 31′ overall weighing 10,000 lbs empty.  A heavy, solid blue water cruising sailboat.  People have sailed the Orion around the world multiple times.  She has 2 separate berth (bunk) areas but don’t expect much privacy, it’s a small boat.  Skylark is equipped with a motorized dinghy, refrigeration, propane galley stove with oven and a well equipped galley, sun shades, insect screens, heat, water maker, Garmin GPS chartplotter and backups, radar, AIS, shortwave and multiple VHF radios, EPIRB, PLB, jack lines, harnesses and inflatable life jackets, automatic inflatable life raft, flares and other safety equipment, pressure hot water, deck shower, multiple oversize anchors with lots of rode, long range Wi-Fi and good coffee.  She’s small but safe and very comfortable both underway and at anchor.  

Here’s the working segments and schedule:

Haverstraw to Cape Charles / Norfolk 312 miles, 3.25 days, leave Haverstraw 10/1.  We wait for our weather in Haverstraw or preferably Sandy Hook.  Down the river, through the harbor, under the Veranzano bridge and down the coast.  We’ll be 2- 10 miles off for most of the trip.  Most likely to do this in one shot but it’s possible to stop overnight in several places along this coast.

Norfolk to Morehead City 180 miles, 5-7 days, leave from Norfolk or Cape Charles 10/10.  This is a 5 or 7 day run through the ICW and the Dismal Swamp canal.  Mostly motoring in confined water but there’s a few open spaces.  Anchor every night as it’s only possible to move in daylight.

Morehead City to Beaufort 263 miles, 2.75 days, leave from Morehead 10/25.  Heading SW down the coast here, hopping over the crescent shaped bays along the coast so we’d be up to 35 or 40 miles off shore.  Several stops are possible.

Beaufort to St Augustine 145 miles, 1.5 days leave from Beaufort 11/8.  Another outside run down the coast of Georgia and North Florida. Augustine is a cool town.

Augustine to Ft Lauderdale, 260 miles, 2.7 days leave St Augustine 11/19.  Outside run, north to south  Florida.  Linda gets on the boat in Augustine and off in Ft Lauderdale. 

Ft Lauderdale to Biscayne bay and the keys  25 miles to Biscayne bay, 1 day, leave Ft Lauderdale 12/1.  Explore the keys.  The water turns a beautiful blue in south Florida.  No particular end date, we’re here.

Dec-Jan Explore the keys, maybe go to the Dry Tortugas and or the Bahamas.   No specific plans.

April  Start heading back to Haverstraw 

I’d love to have you guys join me at any point along the way.  Please let me know what dates and segments work for you.


We drove (the car) to Georgetown, SC for the eclipse.

We were really lucky as the clouds moved in just after totality. 


Rob met us in Myrtle beach.

We made a 2 week trip out of it and had a blast.  Atlantic City, the Cape May ferry, Fenwick island, Ocean City, MD, Myrtle beach, Georgetown and a sail on Ron’s boat Shearwater.  And a side trip to Bacon sails.  

And Roger the squirrel