There and Back Again

there and back again

There’s something magical about going cruising the first time. There’s so much loaded into that journey, so many nay-sayers and personal doubts. So many boats sitting on the dock, while owners spend weekend after weekend getting “ready to go” but never actually leaving the dock with the lines kept aboard.

When you head off (and I don’t care if it’s for a week, a month, a year, or “forever”), you’ve joined a special club.

Leaving the second time somehow feels even more momentous. Somehow it means, to me, that we’ve really proved we can do it. Not just once. Bring on the next time.

December, 2008. Our 15th wedding anniversary, a rare occasion when we’ve got a babysitter to hang with the kids. We’ve opted for eating outside, next to a loud propane heater thing on the patio that’s covered with a plastic-looking canvas tent with plastic-looking “windows” designed to look, from the outside, like some floppy house. This is not the most auspicious beginning to dinner – we’d been counting on being indoors next to the tulikivi fireplace on this cold December night, complete with freezing rain and a chilly breeze. But reservations are not normally a part of our vocabulary, so rather than wait for 2 hours, we decide on immediate seating outside.

Drinks ordered, we settle back into conversation. It’s usually about the boat, about sailing, on these nights. Our first wedding anniversary was spent on Bimini, after a really crappy Gulf Stream crossing, and the tradition of talking about “where do you see us in xxx years” and “what was the best part of the last xxx years” started even then.

“Best part, hands down, was going cruising.” That’s been the standard answer since 1997.

“Okay. That’s not happening again any time soon,”

“Nope. Let’s put an air conditioner on the boat. It’ll make it more comfortable for weekends aboard. This Chesapeake weather is rough for sleeping when it’s summer.”

“Wait. Why not go cruising again? We’ve always talked about wanting to take the kids . . .”

“Why not? Umm, kids.”



“We’ll rent it.”

“The boat needs a new engine.”

“Really? Does it?”

“Hmm. Maybe not. And the economy stinks. You’ve already quit your job. I’ll just quit mine.” Jeremy was starting to warm up to this whole idea.

And the conversation continued, getting more and more animated as every objection we could mount became an exercise in figuring out ways around it.

By the end of that dinner, which had begun in an almost mournful way on an outdoor patio with zero ambience that somehow seemed fitting for a discussion about how everything was better once upon a time, we were casting off our lines in the fall.



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May 2017, boat work

IMG_2623Sailing magazines and blogs often are filled with gorgeous pictures of hammocks and perfect waves. Margaritas with umbrellas on white sand beaches. Fabulously plated meals against a backdrop of water-drenched sunsets.

They leave out the other stuff. The dirty, messy, curse-laden, blister-inducing, contort-yourself-into-impossibly-small-space maintenance. The mast needs varnishing. The deck prisms need rebedding. The carpet we laid down 25 years ago on the inside of cubbies needs to be ripped out – and all of that adhesive needs to come off.


And that’s just stuff from one weekend.

I promise, we’ll go sailing this summer.

Meanwhile, though, we’re working on the boat.

Think I should take “before” pictures?

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Checking engine valve clearance

Yanmar 3YM30


A few years ago, I replaced Calypso’s trusty 1976 Sabb GSP diesel with a new Yanmar 3YM30. The new engine is smaller in every dimension: length, width, height, and weight, yet cranks out 29 HP – albeit at 3600 RPM. We’ve finally racked up enough hours that it’s time for the prescribed 50 hour maintenance, which includes:

  • Drain the fuel tank.. Humm… nuts. No, not happening.
  • Replace the lube oil and filter. Yeah, good idea. I do that every year regardless.
  • Replace the gearbox oil. OK.
  • Adjust the alternator and raw water pump belts. Check.
  • Adjust the intake and exhaust valve clearance. Humm that looks “involved“…
  • Check the remote linkages. OK.
  • Check the shaft alignment. OK.

The engine is long out of warranty, and I need to start getting familiar with this baby. So I’m not inclined to hand this off to a certified Yanmar mechanic. So time to roll up my sleeves and get dirty.

The tank draining advice is whacky. I replaced everything when I put this engine in, including the tank. Unlike the Sabb, this engine recirculates fuel back to the tank – so to some extent it is always polishing fuel through the primary filter. Skip.

The meatiest part of this list for me is adjusting the valves. Everything else is pretty straight forward. Adjusting the valves involves taking the valve cover off – and the notion of taking what is still a brand new looking engine apart… well there is some trepidation.

Anyway, here we go…

Step 1: Remove the air filter

Undo the hose clamp circled in yellow below, and remove two bolts that affix the air filter to the engine block in the vicinity of the green arrow below. Then the air filter housing can just be pulled off.


Step 2: Remove the valve cover

Remove the 9 bolts circled in red above. Then the valve cover can be lifted off.

Step 3: Remove the bell housing inspection port

On the starboard side of the flywheel bell housing, there is a rubber plug covering a view port (circled in red below) which lets you see the flywheel timing markings. The rubber plug can be pulled off by hand – no tools required.


Step 4: Rotate the crankshaft to #1 TDC

Use a 17mm socket and driver to slowly turn the crankshaft CCW as viewed from the front of the engine – while observing the valves… and the flywheel through the view port. Do what? Yeah, you might need a helper. Continue turning until both of the #1 cylinder’s valves are closed and the “1” timing mark appears in the view port (see second photo below). The #1 cylinder is the forward-most – see photo below). The valves are closed when the the valve stem is not pressed down by the rocker.

I had expected the crankshaft to be difficult to turn through the individual cylinders’ compression strokes. But you can easily relieve cylinder pressure by just pressing on the relevant rocker with your hand to push down the valve stem and open the valve. You might have to do this a few times as you slowly rotate the crankshaft.



Step 5: Adjust #1’s valve clearances

Each valve is actuated by a rod coming up from the crankshaft. The rod engages one end the rocker, and the other end of the rocker engages the top of the valve stem. When the clearance between the rocker and the top of the valve stem gets out of spec, you sometimes can actually hear more pronounced engine clatter when it is running. To adjust this clearance, back off the lock nut on the rod side of the rocker, and back off the screw which adjusts the clearance. Insert a 0.20mm feeler gauge between the valve stem and the rocker, and then close the screw until the feeler is lightly pressed by the rocker. The feeler should not be tightly bound, but it should take a little bit of hand pressure to move the feeler while it is in the gap.  Once you have the right clearance, leave the feeler in place and tighten the lock nut with a wrench while holding the screw in place with a screwdriver. Double check the pressure on the feeler. If too tight or too loose, adjust again. Do this for both #1’s valves (intake and exhaust).


Step 6: Repeat for #3 and then #2

Once done with #1, continue turning the crankshaft slowly about 240 degrees CCW until the “3” mark appears in the view port. Then adjust #3’s valves. Once done with #3, rotate he crankshaft CCW another 240 degrees until “2” appears in the view port. Then adjust #2’s valves.

Step 7: Reassemble and test run

When you are done adjusting all six valve clearances, use a socket and driver to ensure that all six lock nuts are tight.

Reassemble the valve cover reversing the steps above.

Run the engine and listen to her purr.



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Stem fitting, unloaded

Waterline now.

It’s a while until we set off again, though that number in years is close enough to have us flurrying with project lists and budget crunching. Suffice it to say we are closer to heading off again than we are to the last time we went, if that makes sense.

What could possibly need to be done at THIS point? The biggies, the cleaning the garage and selling the house and redoing the interior and sourcing a new jib and oh wow. That’s a long list.

But right now, on a day to day basis?

I can look at what we eat. I can check out the grocery store for interesting and easily stored items. Try them. Create on-the-fly recipes that use them. I can challenge myself to cook from the pantry once a week, and be really really good at knowing what staples we actually USE.

Eating will happen on board pretty much the same way it does at the house. We will still like the same flavors.

We’re not suddenly going to be happy eating canned corned beef and canned salmon just because we are sailing.

This day will come, when I am list making and buying and stowing with wild abandon.

For now, though, I can document what we eat, and what we use. That document, created over the next xxx years, will be invaluable when it comes to actually provisioning for our new cruise life.

van loaded with provisions


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Life on board

April 9, 2017

No, we’re not “out there” yet, but the fact remains that when we get to the boat (ahhhh), we get to live on it.

And life on board can be tight, complicated, and unbelievably awkward.

Making the bed on board counts as cardio in my book!

Does every single boat need this kind of circus act just to have a habitable bed at night? No. This one, though, does.

See anything else odd about our bed shenanigans?

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Working out, Calypso style

Have computer, will travel workout.

Er, more like have computer will travel AND workout. Love having streaming videos available at my fingertips anywhere I have wifi.

Sure, I’ve got discs, and an external drive, so when I don’t have wifi, I am still set to get in a good sweat session. But wow is this streaming thing easier!!

The dog likes it too.

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Preparations begin

March 26, 2017

IMG_9277Bread is rising, the dishwasher is humming. I’ve just returned to the kitchen from a trip to the garage, where I eyeballed the dinghy engine, the generator, and the garden sprayer we use as a shower. Yes, they all will need to come with us when we go to the boat next weekend. If we have a 5th person with us, will we need to drive 2 cars?

Last fall, Jeremy elected to leave Calypso in the water rather than hauling her out, reasoning that if she’s floating, it makes it a heck of a lot easier to go sailing at the drop of a hat. IMG_8366When our spring break plans to go to Panama fell through, and the temperatures in mid-February rose to flip-flop and shorts levels, we immediately realized we could take Calypso for a jaunt.

Spring break is in a week. Temperatures are still looking good. Let the preparations begin.

Prep means thinking about essentials. Julian is hoping a friend will join us – that means  the quarter berth will be pressed into service as a bunk again. The cushions are in the attic. Food means cooking. Are the tanks filled? Can we cook? We can get to the boat on Saturday, prep everything on Sunday – and if we need to deal with propane, we can do that on Monday (but we better have a back up plan if the tanks are too old to be refilled).

I need to be able to do my workouts. Can’t necessarily plan on internet, especially if we go somewhere like Cape Charles or Onancock. So I ordered a USB dvd drive for the computer, and I’ll download yoga workouts on my phone. Add “yoga mat” to the growing list of things to remember to bring.IMG_1678

The thing with preparations? It’s not about the sexy stuff like “where are we going” – that’s a given. We have a week. It’s the Bay. We want to sail. If the wind lets us go across, great. If the wind lets us get to Gwynns, great. If all we do is go around to Fishing Bay from Jackson Creek, and we anchor in dinghy distance from the showers at the yacht club? Great.

Preparations are remembering all the mundane things that let the magic shine.

And there’s something really magical in miring myself in those mundane things.


Skipper in his element.


Sailing at sunset.





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