SOUTHBOUND LUNACY 2019: Coast-Hopping and Further Maintenance Adventures


Nov. 9/2019: During the early summer, you’ll recall, we dealt with two big maintenance items: Lunacy’s wobbly rudder and her “ovalized” autopilot/steering quadrant connection. Another adventure, not previously mentioned, was replacing the turbocharger on my 55hp Nanni diesel, as it had seized up solid through lack of proper exercise. There were two lessons learned in this last instance: a) I need to run the engine at 2,400 or higher rpm much more frequently; and b) Nanni is positively evil when it comes to replacement parts. One reason I wanted a Nanni is that they are simply marinized Kubota tractor engines, and I figured most parts therefore would be widely available and relatively inexpensive. At least as to the turbocharger, however, Nanni charges almost four times the price of the identical Kubota part and tries its darnedest to keep you from learning how to order it from Kubota.

In preparation for taking the boat south this fall, I ticked some other jobs off the list. One big one was getting a cockpit awning built. For this I turned to canvas maestro extraordinaire, John Lemole, of Gemini Canvas in Rockland, Maine. As you can see in the image up top, he came up with a super clever trick for tying the front of the awning into the air scoop on the back of Lunacy’s doghouse coachroof. You can also see that it is purple, thus completing the boat’s tri-color canvas palette so that it matches (at last!) its tri-color name.

I stashed the boat at the Wentworth Marina in Portsmouth for a while before taking off for lower latitudes and fretted over its fate during a big gale that blew through while I was in Annapolis. I returned to find one immediately evident piece of damage: a portside lazyjack line that chafed through. Daughter Lucy, an experienced mast-climber, agreed to be hoisted up the rig to help repair this

While up there she snapped an aerial view of the new cockpit awning

I had circulated a petition among former and prospective crew members soliciting help for this delivery, but received no useful replies, at least not for its early phases. So on the morning of Tuesday, October 22, I set out alone from Portsmouth bound south. I sailed a vigorous reach down to Provincetown, where I spent the night, arriving after dark in windy, drizzly murk. I left the following morning before sunrise, in a thick of fog, and so saw nothing of the place. I motored through the fog against a light headwind to the Cape Cod Canal, then passed through to a better place, Buzzards Bay, full of bright sunshine and a fair sailing breeze. After a cozy night aboard the only inhabited boat in the pond at Cuttyhunk I motored the few miles to Newport, RI, early the next morning.

One thing I quickly discovered sailing out of Portsmouth was that my NKE masthead wind sensor was all messed up. Peering up at it with binoculars I saw the little vane that detects wind direction was gone, stripped off presumably in the gale that took out my lazyjacks. So Job Number One in Newport was paying a quick visit to the U.S. NKE rep, Euro Marine Trading, to buy a replacement. Job Two was finding someone to haul me up the mast to install it. Fortunately my old buddy Hank Schmitt was in town with his NARC Rally fleet, so I dragooned him and one rally crew guy, Jan from Alaska, into helping me out

Another familiar face seen in Newport. This gorgeous 35-foot Aage Nielsen “Gumdrop” yawl Magic used to belong to my neighbors in Portsmouth, Jeff and Molly Bolster. They sold her a while back and are now roaming the South Pacific aboard their Valiant 40 Chanticleer (refit after being badly damaged in the BVI during Hurricane Irma). Magic, in case you’re interested, is again for sale!

Yet another one. I’ve seen this French Pogo 50 lurking around Maine for the past year and now it seems she too is heading south for the winter

I also found some crew in Newport, the old-fashioned way, at random in a bar. George Entrikin, an avid trimaran racer, had just joined Hank’s OPO crew network two days earlier and drove his tractor-trailer with his wife Colleen up to Newport from Florida on a flier, hoping he might find a crew spot or at least maybe a load to haul on the truck. I signed him up and he agreed to stay aboard for the duration. Colleen, an indefatigable woman, was left to drive the truck (with a load she found) back to Florida on her own. The next day George and I took a leisurely sail out to Block Island

Sunset at Block, inside Great Salt Pond

From Block Island George and I hopped the length of Long Island Sound in two bounds. The first was to Mattituck, a fine crawly creek of a place on Long Island’s eastern North Shore I had visited just once before, 30 years ago. I remembered, vividly, running aground there, for a long time, and fortunately avoided such a fate on my second visit.

The second hop was to Port Washington, with a very useful gale of southeasterly wind roaring behind us. Once there we spied from a distance this monstrous old racing cat, done up as a cruising boat, with dinghy davits no less. My guess was maybe it’s one of those boats from The Race, that turn-of-the-millennium round-the-world multihull extravaganza I’m sure few remember now

We had a lazy morning at Port Washington, waiting for the tide to turn so we could get flushed through Hell Gate and New York City. This, I think, may have been George’s favorite part of the trip

Once again I pulled in for a night at the One 15 Brooklyn Marina, at the foot of Brooklyn Heights. Fantastic location, but that’s still all I can say for it. Last time I was here it was stupid expensive, the office was a desk in a nearby parking garage, and there were no facilities. Now it does have a proper office, but still no facilities, and it’s still stupid expensive. The staff assures me next year there will be toilets, showers, and a lounge in that old ferry boat you see here tied up across from Lunacy on her lonely T-head dock

Brooklyn to Cape May, NJ, was our first overnight jaunt during this adventure, a mix of sailing and motoring as we sauntered down the Jersey Shore, close enough in we could pick up cell signals and follow the unfolding World Series game between the ‘Stros and the Nats that evening.

I noticed they have a lot of these weird super-skinny pencil-line clouds here on the Lower East Coast

Docked at the South Jersey Marina in Cape May. I thought at first we would anchor out here to wait out a fierce southerly gale that was due, but then I remembered what happened last time I anchored here in a gale

One big upgrade completed before leaving New England was replacing Lunacy’s staysail. The old staysail, on a fixed furling rod, made it very hard to tack the genoa and most of the time might just as well not have been there. The new staysail, built by Richard Hallett of Falmouth, Maine, furls on its own torque-rope luff and is easy to pull out of the foretriangle. George and I played with it a bit while on the dock in Cape May. I was pleased to find it can fly over a dinghy tied down on the foredeck

The continuous furling line for the staysail is led aft to the cockpit through a series of special Selden fairleads. These twist open so you can quickly remove or install the furling line as needed

A Selden double cam block makes it easy to control the line when furling or unfurling the sail

We were three nights in Cape May, so I had plenty of time to fuss over other maintenance chores. One persistent headache has been the stern lockers on Lunacy’s transom scoop. Three out of four of these have leaked badly since the boat was new, filling with water anytime I’ve sailed in strong conditions. My first attempt to staunch the flow, with the foam weather-stripping seen on the inside of the locker lid here, didn’t work for very long. At Swain’s Hardware in Cape May I found some more serious rubber weather-stripping and spent hours installing it in place of the foam

Another fun project was messing with the Refleks diesel heater, which hasn’t worked properly for some time. Now that winter is coming on I’ve become more interested in sorting it out. Back in New England I opened the regulator and discovered it was full of pasty white gunk, the result presumably of it being flooded with a bit of salt water that came through the heater’s chimney cap (long story that, best not recounted here). So I replaced the regulator (that shiny box with a dial on it on the left, found in stock on the shelf at Hamilton Marine in Portland, Maine!), but still the fuel only flows into the heater if I frequently pump the priming bulb on the fuel line. So I learned in Cape May, after I removed and cleaned out the solid line between the regulator and the stove. Next step, at a date TBD: changing out the filter between the tank and the regulator. Not a simple job, as there’s no shut-off valve below the tank, so it must be drained by hand before the filter can be changed. If that doesn’t work, I guess I’ll just have to freeze to death, or spend the winter pumping that damned bulb

The naked autumn beach at Cape May. I walked down here on Friday after the gale blew out, studied the sea state, and decided to wait one more night

We departed Cape May at about 1000 hrs on Saturday, November 2. There was a big WX window in front of us, so the goal was to go non-stop to Brunswick, Georgia, our declared destination. After a mix of sailing and motoring we found ourselves in a squadron of sailing vessels rounding Cape Hatteras under power in light conditions on Sunday evening. That was the easy part. The hard part was getting around Frying Pan Shoals further south close-reaching in 30 knots of SSE wind on Monday evening. The wind was much stronger than I expected, and I cut it a bit too fine. For eight miles crossing the end of the shoals I was biting my nails, as the seas were quite lumpy, and if anything went pear-shaped there was no room to run off.

The obligatory selfie, snapped on Tuesday afternoon, after surviving the Frying Pan, as we sailed on a power close-reach aimed straight at Brunswick

George enjoys our fourth sunset before reaching Georgia

We entered St. Simons Sound, which leads up to Brunswick, on Wednesday morning, November 6, having covered a distance of just over 600 nautical miles in almost exactly four days after leaving Cape May. We were immediately confronted with this fine sight. The car carrier M/V Golden Ray, which capsized here on September 8, with a load of 4,200 Korean automobiles aboard. As you can see, they are still sorting out the mess. According to the story we heard from locals here in Brunswick, the pilot leading the ship out noted she was listing and suggested to the skipper he adjust the ship’s water ballast. He declined, saying he would deal with it later while underway in open water. They met another car carrier coming in at the one big corner in the channel. While turning sharply through the corner to give the other ship room, Golden Ray just rolled over. Four crew who were trapped in the hull afterwards were eventually rescued

Lunacy in her winter quarters, at the Brunswick Landing Marina. Many thanks to my old friend Melanie Neale, best yacht broker in northern Florida, for stopping in to visit on the fly soon after we pulled in!!!

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9 Responses
  1. Randall Reeves

    Same heater. Similar issues. On Mo, I have two old (refurbished–came with boat) and one new (Toby–bought in Halifax before NWP) regulators and found all have same problems. Good fuel flow for a while, but slowly it diminishes over a week or two of use till finally there is none. My heater is purely gravity fed. Have had all regulators completely apart multiple times, even in the Arctic. Finally figured out that the pin/plunger regulating fuel flow INTO the regulator is clogging somehow (filter in regulator sparkly clean; honest). Regulator must come entirely apart to get at this pin; then I put a straightened safety pin through the hole. Heater works great…for a time. Have inline filter between tank and heater (standard Refleks type). Have had it apart too. Seems fine too. Work in progress. Sharing in case is helpful. Freezing is fun until it gets cold. ~RR

    1. Charles Doane

      Hey Randall! Thanks for this. It may be very useful, depending on how this plays out. I had a Refleks heater on a prior boat and never had problems with it, but then I never used it that much. best best! charlie

  2. Charlie,

    Most turbo rebuilders would be able to tell you about the turbo you have as well as rebuild the one that failed on you. Kubota doesn’t make their own turbos and instead buys them, probably from the same supplier as Yanmar. Only part they might not have dealt with is the water jacketed turbine housing. But they can clean that up for you as well. Be sure to select one that has the equipment to balance the cartridge assembly. Shade tree mechanics typically don’t have it and a rebuild from them is typically short lived.

    Watched you on AIS coming south. Somewhat disappointed you stopped in Brunswick. We’re in St. Augustine until the end of November, and then off to Puerto Rico.



    1. Charles Doane

      Hi Don: I looked at getting my turbo rebuilt. Reckoned a new part, once I got the proper price, would be a better bet long-term. Have a great time in Puerto Rico! Wish I was going there again myself. cheers! charlie

  3. I keep hoping to get together so you can sign our copy of your fun book. I was hoping you might have joined Hank in Dominica last year, and just missed you in Puerto Rico. We were in Culebra while you were in Vieques. Sigh.



  4. David Hills

    always enjoy your reports on the sailing life! Also interesting to see what one misses by going offshore as we did to St Augustine. Glad you made it safe and sound, David

  5. Hi Charlie
    I wonder what’s up with your refleks heater. Have had mine for five years and it has run like a champ. Have run over 20 gallons of fuel through it. Never had a moments trouble.

    One difference is I had it jetted for kerosene. Which is all I run through it—A1 grade. It’s plumbed to a dedicated 10 gallon tank.

    Would not think that would make any difference though…just a little easier to start.

    If you don’t have one I recommend you look into an Ecco fan that runs via the pelitier effect. Sits on top of the cast iron heater plate. Spreads the heat all over the boat.

    Have a great sailing season.

    1. Charles Doane

      Hi John! My last Refleks heater, on my Golden Hind, never gave me any trouble. This one has been a different story. Still trying to sort it out after spending two days working the problem last week. Seems to be a plumbing issue.

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