The Haul-Out, and other things

I originally was posting infrequently because there wasn’t much going on while waiting for the sale to close. Now, I’ve been working until I just about pass out almost every night!

Marcia quickly conquered her fear of heights.

In April, we hauled the boat out for a week and a half to get a lot of things done that we couldn’t do with the boat in the water. We continued to live aboard while it was hauled out, which was a bit strange. We had a single, unisex shower closet, no water (we didn’t bring any hose – let alone one long enough to reach the one faucet we found), and we couldn’t use our sink (because the water would drain right out onto the ground) or our head (because the holding tank would quickly full up). But we got quite a few things accomplished that week.

Project #1: Standing Rigging

The crane behind the mast was used to pull our mast out

We took the boat over to one boatyard to have our mast pulled out so that Pacific Offshore Rigging can replace the standing rigging and overhaul the mast. I had already removed all thee sails, the booms and prepared the standing rigging to the Rigger’s specifications. The mast was pulled out without a hitch, and taken off to the Riggers so that they could start their work. As of this writing – almost a full month later – we still do not have a mast, but we expect to get installed this week. This project is ongoing – and will be discussed in more detail in a separate post.


Part of Marcia’s contribution – scraping the stain off the “eyebrows” in the cockpit

Susan Blair of Blairwood Marine Services did a really great job on our “brightwork” (wood) – or at least the trim around the outside edges of the boat. She sanded everything down and re-covered it over the course of the week. Marcia spent a lot of time with her, and helped out where she could. She has taken on the role of managing the brightwork. Suzan was able to get all of the trim done while we were hauled out, and it really looks great.

Polishing & Bottom Paint

A little touch-up paint on the area covered by the block upon which the keel was resting, right before she was put back in the water

We had the exterior gel coat polished, and the bottom painted. These are all services that are handled through Shelter Island Boatyard, and they did a really good job. The bottom coat needs to be repainted once every few years, to keep the sea life from making a home there.


A few holes, and a removed section of the rudder, ultimately showing the bronze within.

When we had the survey done, we noticed that the rudder was holding water. This was a bit of a concern – as most rudders have a cast iron support frame with a solid foam core inside fiberglass. When we cut it open, however, we discovered that the boat had bronze, and not iron inside. So we were able to patch it back up and forget about it. Having a little extra water in there won’t really cause any problems. Additionally, the foam core is in really good condition. The boatyard had every opportunity to up-sell me on this, but instead, were quick to tell me that any further work is unnecessary, and charged a vary reasonable amount for the work that they did in cutting it open and sealing it back up.

Bilge Pumps

This was the broken automatic bilge pump, pulled from the bottom of the bilge.

For the month we were in the water, I had been nervous about the bilge pump situation. We had one working bilge pump that had to be turned on manually. There was supposed to be an automatic one, but it didn’t seem to do anything. Also, the manual bilge pump (operated by hand) didn’t seem to do anything. Once we were out of the water, I felt a bit more comfortable poking around. As the bilge goes well down into the keel, and the pumps sit a the bottom of the bilge, I had a bit of difficulty getting them out. Turns out they weren’t screwed down in any way, and I was able to pull them out by the hose and wiring. The automatic pump (1,100 GPH, or gallons per hour) was indeed broken, but the manual electric one (1,500 GPH) seemed to be fine. However, when I looked into how the bilge pumps hoses were run, I noticed that the manual, hand pump, when operated, would go into a T-connection where it would drain right back down into where the 1,500 GPH pump was connected. Also, the two electric pumps were plumbed with corrugated hose – which, while cheaper, reduces the throughput of the pumps considerably. Needless to say, I removed all of the corrugated hose, cleaned up the 1,500GPH pump, threw away the 1,100GPH pump, and purchased two new automatic bilge pumps – one 900 GPH for the bottom of the bilge, and a 2,500 GPH a little higher up (the 900 will kick in, and if it can’t keep up, the 2,500 will kick in to help out). I’ve also placed the 1,500 GPH at the bottom of the bilge so that it can be operated when needed – but I still need to add a thru-hull for it – as well as the manual (hand) pump.


I started looking into the electrical, and didn’t like what I saw. All of the 110V AC outlet wire was original, and the insulation crumbled when touched. Once I discovered this, I disconnected the outlets and rewired the first one. The rest of the outlets I rewired a few weeks later. Many of the other 12V DC circuits were equally scary – unprotected (no circuit breaker or fuse) wires run the length of the boat, with multiple splices, and in many places, run through ordinary, household speaker wire. This is an ongoing project, and may delve into it in a bit more detail, but I’ve slowly been rewiring just about every circuit on the boat.

My First Thru Hull

We purchased a B&G Instrument set, and one of the items with the set is a speed / depth sensor that needs to be installed through the hull. There was already a hole where the old (broken) speed sensor was, but it was too big. After consulting Morton Marine Services (no charge – thanks!), I understood that I needed to have the Yard fill the hole, then I could drill a new one. I asked them, and they completed it the next day. I was able to drill a hole, install and seal the new sensor – and I’m proud to say that it’s leak free and working perfectly!

The Name

Just a few hours before they dropped us back in the water, Shelter Island Sign Shop put our new name on the boat – Lift.


When all was done, they dropped us back in the water, and we headed back to our marina.

The second the boat was in the water – before they removed the straps – I jumped back in to check the new thru-hull, which was NOT leaking!

Still no mast. We currently have a very inefficient power boat


It’s been a busy two weeks

I haven’t really had time to write a new post over the last two weeks. Here’s a brief summary:

Wednesday, March 11th: We did a “Sea Trial” on the Ericson 36C. She’s a bit of a heavy boat, but she was a nice, smooth sail. Everything seemed to work well. The engine hour meter only read 139 – that’s VERY low! (Diesels usually last until about 5,000 – 7,000 hours)

IMG_1157Thursday, March 12: We did the survey. The owner and his broker motored the boat over to the haul-out facility, and our surveyor started working right away. He went over all of the systems and found a few items – but nothing I wasn’t already expecting. The rudder is waterlogged, safety equipment was all expired or warn out, some of the seacocks were frozen, some cooling issues with the engine. The surveyor said he thought the boat was a really good find, and appraised her for a bit more than I offered.

Saturday, March 14: We received the survey report.

Sunday, March 15 to Wednesday, March 18th: Waited for the title search / abstract from the USCG – a simple piece of paper that has the full owner history (since I was purchasing from the original owner, there was only one name on said piece of paper).

Wednesday, March 18th: Received simple piece of paper. All was good, and we wired the money to complete the transaction.

Thursday, March 19th: We took ownership of “Lift” – our new boat! (yes, we changed the name to “Lift” from “Alta” – we will soon be having a name changing ceremony. In the mean time, I would appreciate it if nobody mentioned the new name to Poseidon or to Neptune – they may get a little tweaked that we changed the name without asking first!).

We immediately moved aboard. Already had everything packed up, and with one extra trip back to the little “apartment” for a few more boxes, we were officially “liveaboards!”

The new Y-valve – installed

Friday, March 20th: I broke the “Y-Valve” on the head. This is the valve that directs the toilet to flush into the holding tank, or overboard. Since the previous owner “never” used the head, he had it switched to overboard. And it was stuck there – in my attempts to force it loose, it broke right off.

Saturday, March 21st: Fixed the Y-Valve. Also, after the first two nights on 39-year old foam “mattresses” – Marcia picked up a memory foam topper, and cut and shaped it herself. Yeah! We can now sleep through the night!

Sunday, March 22nd: We noticed an unpleasant odor in the salon. And saw a puddle on the floor. A smelly puddle. When looking into it, found that the manual pump-out for the holding tank (the boat’s “septic” tank) was leaking – and just for fun, I broke it even more.

During a quick jaunt to the pump-out station (to empty the leaking tank), we realized that the hour gauge on the engine doesn’t work, and has been stuck on 139 hours for a while – probably since it was put in (the engine was installed in 1994). The engine probably has at least a couple thousand hours on it. 139 was just too good to be true.

Original 1976 Water faucet

Monday, March 23rd: While attempting to fix a leaky faucet – I succeeded in making it much worse. The knob basically had no effect (the washers were in really bad shape). Until this is fixed, we need to turn the water pump on and off to use the water.

Macerator - Installed
Macerator – Installed

Wednesday, March 25th: Fixed the manual pump-out by replacing it with a new macerator (an electric “garbage disposal” and pump for holding tanks). All in all, this job was made much more pleasant than it could have been due to the fact that the previous owner never used his head for #2. (We aren’t saying that he used it for #1 while in the slip with the Y-valve set to overboard – because that would have been illegal). Also, replaced the Type I “Horseshoe” life preserver.

Also, picked up and installed new washers for the sink. No more leak!

Thursday, March 26th: Replaced the impeller on the engine. This is the part that pumps the sea water through the engine to keep things cool – and the source of our heating problems. Unfortunately, the engine hasn’t seen this kind of water pressure running through it in quite a while. A hose popped off and sprayed Marcia quite thoroughly. I re-attached that hose, started the engine up again, only to find that the raw (salt) water is getting into the fresh water side. This is NOT a good thing!

Friday, March 27th: After taking the offending components apart a few times and putting them back together, I decided to call a mechanic.

Saturday, March 28th: Mechanic showed up, found a clog in the part where the raw water enters the exhaust. After he cleared that out, cleaned everything up and put it all back together, we were back in business!

Sunday, March 29th: Hired Captain Ken to practice docking (the two times I docked were very difficult!), and to do a bit of sailing to prove to our insurance company that I can, indeed, sail. Turns out, even Captain Ken had some difficulty docking smoothly; tight maneuvers just take some practice with this boat.

When we finished docking practice, we took her out for our first sail since we bought her – and it was a blast! Marcia spent almost the entire time at the helm, while I ran around raising sails and talking with Captain Ken about how the staysail works (I’ve never used one before). We really had a blast.

In the evening, we spent a little time scrubbing the unfinished teak with salt water. Works like a charm!

Intermixed throughout all we have been emptying every locker, lazarette, and shelf, getting rid of multiple loads of trash and give-away items, and repacking what we want to keep of what was left, and everything we own. This process will continue for a while longer.

As of this writing, on Sunday evening, everything critical has been working for three days, and we (both) have loved every minute of it. (Well, “love” may not actually describe how we feel about walking up to the marina to use the bathroom first thing in the morning when the head is inoperable – good thing Marcia’s such a good sport!)

There are still a LOT of things to do, and our list is growing daily. Getting our 39-year-old boat updated, safe, and reliable is not a simple task. But we expected and budgeted for just about everything on the list, and are both looking forward to all the work – almost as much as all the sailing!

It’s bigger on the inside

“Cutter” rig – two staysails forward of mast

Our offer was accepted on a 1977 Ericson 36c “Cruising” cutter “Alta”. After over a year of searching, this boat is the smallest, oldest, and least expensive. Unexpectedly, Marcia and I like Alta the most. For the length – 36′ – we find her to be roomier than many of the 39′-45′ boats we’ve seen. It really does seem like she’s Bigger On The Inside. We are also purchasing her from the original owners, who have loved and cared for her over the past 38 years.

We’ve read and have been told many times that buying a boat is all about compromise. We have found this to be true, but the compromises on Alta are few:

  1. The stateroom bunk is narrow
  2. The galley is a bit small
  3. She needs some TLC*

*TLC includes such items as brightwork (wood) refinishing, polishing, new lighting throughout (We’re keeping the oil lamps, though!), possibly new standing rigging, possible engine work, and new canvas within the next few years.

She’s a cutter – which means she has two staysails forward of the mast, instead of just one. This gives us more sailing alta_31options, which can be important in heavy weather. She also has a “flush deck” – the deck is the full width of the boat, with no raised cockpit interrupting the surface area. This adds freeboard – the distance from the waterline to the deck – and opens up the cabin area quite a bit. The forward hatch in the image to the right is over the V-birth, and the closer one is a butterfly hatch over the salon.


Large, roomy cockpit
Cockpit, looking forward to companionway

She has the largest, most comfortable cockpit we’ve seen – with a high backs on the seats and an ice chest in the center that, surprisingly, doesn’t get in the way. The reverse-mounted wheel is a bit strange, but either sitting behind it or off to either side is actually very comfortable.


Salan, looking forward
Salon, looking forward

The salon is cozy. Not much wasted space here (the image to the left is a wide-angle, and a bit misleading; the mast isn’t quite as far into the salon as it appears, and the salon isn’t quite as wide as it appears, either). We had planned on replacing the salon cushions in any boat we purchased, but these are actually in pretty good shape, and we may hold off on that decision for a bit.

Aft stateroom bunk
Aft stateroom, facing starboard (right)
Aft stateroom, to port

The aft stateroom is small, and the bunk is a bit narrower than a double, but we’ve made our peace with a small bunk long ago. There’s a bit of a knee room issue as well. The lights pictured here, as many of the lights on this ship, will be replaced with smaller LED fixtures. Also, we will probably move the refrigerator motor and compressor, which are on the shelf to starboard.

 What’s next?

Before we close, we will be taking her out on a “Sea trial” – where we go out on her with the current owners and check that everything works. “Kick the tires”, so to speak. If all goes well, we have a Marine Surveyor check her out – which are akin to both a home inspector and appraiser. The survey will tell us if there are any issues with the ship, from rigging to keel. After the Survey, we will have the option to move forward, cancel, ask for a price adjustment, or ask the sellers to fix some of the issues. The escrow terms are 25 days or sooner – and we expect much sooner. We’re shooting for more like 14 days.

Please leave a comment – we’d love to hear from you!

We’ve Moved!

After 23 years in the Temecula area, we have finally moved to San Diego. Escrow will close in just a few more days, at which time we will be able to begin the process of purchasing our sailboat / new home.

Estate sale staging
Estate sale staging – every room in the house had tables with junk on display

I have had many people ask me if we were sure that sailing is what we really want – were we really sure. I’ve read many blogs on the subject, including Windtraveler (raising children aboard is SO cool!), Zero to Crusing! (TRX workouts on a boat! Who knew?), and This Rat Sailed (with whom I have much in common). We have researched Sailing, and I’ve obtained ASA 101, 103 and 104 certifications. However, I believe the biggest lifestyle change has less to do with life aboard a sailboat, and more to do with what we undertook back in August, when we “cleansed” ourselves of virtually everything we

10x5 Storage Unit
(Almost) everything we own

It’s amazing how our options have opened up since cleansing ourselves of all the unnecessary crap we’ve accumulated over the years. We now only own what is in our under-used, 10×5 storage unit plus one car load (well, two, if you count the Mini Cooper). This, combined with the prospect of not having a mortgage, allows us more flexibility than we’ve ever had in our lives.


Studio 819
Our temporary home

We are currently renting a tiny furnished apartment in the Hillcrest area. It’s an older building, but clean. And, according to Yelp, we have about 60 restaurants within a half mile from here. Balboa Park – and the San Diego Zoo – are just over a mile away. We are thinking of treating the month or so we are here as a “mini working vacation” – eating out almost every night, and seeing the sites of San Diego.


Where do I start?


My name is Doug. I’m in my mid 40’s, and I figure it’s about time for a good mid-life crisis. Fortunately, my wife, Marcia, will be right there with me. Our kids have moved out, we have sold virtually everything we own, our house is in Escrow, and we are about to buy a sailboat and begin the next phase of our lives.

In a way, this is not quite as spontaneous as it seems. I first learned to sail when I was 12 years old – before the ASA was even formed. My mother enrolled my brother and me in sailing lessons in Newport Beach, and I absolutely fell in love with the sport. However, I made an assumption that I had not corrected for 30 years: Sailing is so awesome that everyone most love it. Unfortunately, my logical mind figured that due to this (apparently erroneous) fact, Sailing was only for the élite – otherwise, everyone would be doing it. I never looked into it myself, and thought everyone that did must be independently wealthy, and therefore beyond my means. I moved on with my life.


In that 30 years, I met Marcia and fathered two lovely girls, Beverly and Gwendolyn. I would mention sailing from time to time over the years, but only took Marcia and the girls out a few times in a VERY small dingy, on a VERY small lake. I had a blast each time, but as my wife’s first exposure to the sport, it wasn’t the best. With the constant tacking back and forth to make our way up the leg of this VERY small lake, having to shift from side to side every minute or so, Marcia was not impressed. Again, I put the thought out of my mind. For a while.

Lei-LaniIn January of 2012, I found a groupon for a sailing tour of San Diego bay on  Lei Lani – a beautiful 36’ classic 1967 sailboat. My wife instantly fell in love with the experience. A year and a half later, we found ourselves in Lake Tahoe at a family reunion. We rented a 24’ Catalina for the day (somehow, I was able to convince them that summer lessons taken 30 years ago was enough experience to handle the boat), and, even with very mild winds, we all had a blast.

About this time, with Beverly living in Seattle and Gwendolyn going to college, Marcia and I talked about what we wanted to do with our lives. I suggested that I would like to sell the house and move onto a sailboat within the next 5 years. Marcia asked, “Why wait? Is there anything keeping us from doing this now?”

The next month, I enrolled in ASA Sailing lessons at Harbor Sailboats on Harbor Island, San Diego, and have since taken their 101, 103 and 104 lessons. I’ve discovered this world of cruising, and wanted to be a part of it all the more. In August of 2014, we finally put our house on the market, sold everything we owned in an estate sale, and are now living in our own guest house, with 1 bed and two borrowed bean bags for furniture. The items we own can fit into two or three (Prius) car loads, and we are two weeks away from close of escrow. We are, quite literally, counting the days at this point.