Do’s and D’ohs

Well, we’ve rounded an important bend in our journey. As of today, we’ve completed our trip up the notorious Delaware Bay which is infamous for its high currents, shallow waters, wide stretches and its shipping traffic. Combined with the open ocean sail that delivered us into the Delaware, we have now done what are normally considered the hardest parts.

We broke up our journey up the Delaware with an overnight in a quiet anchorage, and we are very glad we did. It was probably my favourite night of the trip so far. And it looks like there is more of that to come. For the next few weeks, we should enjoy quiet anchorages, gentle sails and… you know just writing these words makes me think I’m gonna jinx myself.

Anyhoo, now seems like a good time to reflect on some of the things we did well and some of the brain farts that have happened along the way. Now, I know most of you will want to be very charitable and ask me to focus on the positive. But these d’oh! moments are too funny not to share. But first, the Do’s.

Do get started early – When we first started out, we’d slip the lines around 9 in the morning. That seemed civil, and we were in no hurry, after all. But the days are getting shorter and we’ve learned that it makes much more sense to push off when the sun comes up. Our boat is our home, whether it’s in motion or not, so it might as well be in motion when there’s a place to be getting to.

Do fasten each jerry can individually – We’ve had to make adjustments to many things. As the winds pick up and the waves get higher, our definition of “well stowed” changes. But one thing we’ve been able to very much ignore is our jerry cans. There are three on deck and each is fastened to a 2×6 with it’s own ratcheting strap.

One of our three jerry cans. Seems like overkill for now, but we made them all in Bahamas.

Do put the dinghy on deck – Our davits have carried our dinghy throughout Lake Ontario without complaints. But before leaving New York, we took the time to figure out how to stow the dinghy on deck. I expected that we’d need to adjust our approach after several trials and errors, but we seem to have gotten it right the first time.

The dinghy is fastened at the bow and stern, and then has two (green) ratchet lines holding it down. The yellow lines are our jacklines.

Do wander down the dock and ask dumb questions – We’ve learned a lot by simply going up to people and asking for a bit of their local knowledge. Met some nice folks too.

Do make an X with jacklines – Jacklines are like seatbelt fabric that you run along the side decks. At night or in big waves, before leaving the cockpit, you clip into the jack line so that if you go overboard, you can’t go too far. I don’t like jacklines to run along the edges of the deck. The idea of being dragged through the water while the boat is rushing along just doesn’t seem too comforting for me. So we worked out a way of having our jack lines form an X, starting on one side of the boat and moving to the other side past the mast. This arrangement helps keep the jacklines closer to the center of the boat through much of their travel. So, while at the mast, it’s a bit harder to actually end up overboard. It does mean only one line can make it all the way to the bow, but I think it’s worth the trade-off.

Our jacklines let you get from the cockpit to the bow while staying tethered to the boat. Using an x keeps them more inboard, but does mean only one side can reach the bow.

Do celebrate the small successes – Kath and I are getting better at high fiving each other for every small grace or triumph that comes our way.

Do dock with panache – I’m sure we still have much to learn, but we are so much better at docking our boat than when we started. At least when it comes to side-long docking with the prop-walk in our favour, we’re getting good. Today, we arrived at a city dock and made it look like we were professionals.

Do wander through boatyards. We both (yes both!) enjoy wandering through boat yards to see boats in various states of repair. And sometimes, it’s amazing what people throw away. We scored a great ball fender (which doubles as a great back rest).

This ball fender will make it easier to spring off a dock. It’s also a great back rest.

Okay, now the D’ohs!:

D’oh! That radio won’t work without a mast! – As we were approaching our first canal lock, I reached for the radio and tried to hail the lock. I tried again as we got closer. And again. They would not answer. So we had to tie up the boat and go visit the lock. I was almost at the lockmaster’s office when I realized that, of course they didn’t answer! My antenna is stuffed in a drawer while the mast is down. We switched to the handheld after that.

D’oh! Neither will that radar – At one point while our mast was down I asked Kath to switch on the radar so I could get a sense of the weather coming our way. But nothing appeared on the plotter screen. I fiddled with the controls for far too long before realizing that, like my VHF radio, the radar was not going to work while it was on a truck, a hundred miles from the boat.

D’oh! Masking tape, of course! – I had gone a full night with only a morning nap when I started installing a swim ladder on the side of our boat. The job required getting epoxy (thickened epoxy was what was on hand) down a series of holes that I’d just drilled into the deck. I don’t know why I had the whole job completed before it occurred to me to lay some masking tape down to ensure the epoxy didn’t smear on the deck. I am hoping that some star board will cover up this boo-boo.

Okay, this one hurts. But I think it will look fine (ish) when I’m done.

D’oh, that hose just won’t do. We installed a washdown pump a couple days ago. After laying in all the supplies, we set to work. But as I was imaging attaching the flimsy little water hose to a through-hull fitting, I felt a pang of doubt. It took awhile to manifest into a conscious thought, but then it was a sudden “D’oh! That hose is completely inappropriate for use below the waterline!” It was a lesson I had learned only a few weeks earlier, but clearly, it’s still a long way from second nature.

We did find and use the proper hose for this project.

D’oh, there’s a secret switch for that! – When installing the washdown pump, we removed a macerator pump that we, with our composting head, no longer have a use for. I figured I’d be able to re-use the electrical wiring from the old pump, but I was stymied as to where the wires ran. I used both a signal tracer and a continuity tester, but I could not find the macerator pump’s wires among the bundles coming into the panel. It was only after I had bought and installed a new length of cable, tearing up the floors and emptying cupboards to do so, that I discovered a little pull switch for the old pump that was mounted underneath the bathroom vanity, back by the sink plumbing. I noticed it as I was removing the old wiring. I was spelunking my way to have a look at what I thought was a wire hanger, but it turned out to be the back of said switch. Had I found that switch earlier, I would have saved hours of work and $50 in new wiring. Oh well, the new wires are slightly better quality than the old.

In the middle of any project, it seems, the boat is mayhem. This one involved more tools and emptying more spaces than most.

I’m sure there are many other do’s and d’ohs to come as we continue. May all our d’ohs to come be d’ohs we can laugh about!


  1. Dear Thom,
    Such thorough entries! I think this is a book in the making. A combined how to sail, travelogue, philosophy and psychology book. Not to mention marriage manual! “High five your partner after every little triumph”. (Man I should have learned that one!) Congratulations on navigating through the hardest parts of the voyage!


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