Every couple of years, my old plywood dinghy begins to look sad. Paint faded and cracked, bottom scraped where I’ve dragged it up on a pier or a beach, firehose coming unlashed from the gunnels. That means it’s time to bring a little respectability back to the dinghy. . .  give her a little love.

Minor projects this time – reglass the bottom around the centerboard trunk opening. It’s been leaking ever since I ran aground a couple of years back.

Glassed all around the trunk and down into the interior.

Cured and Sanded.

There a several places where I’ve worn through the glass on the bottom and shallow cracks are opening up. These need to be reglassed.

Cracks opening where I’ve worn through the glass.

And I’ve relashed the firehose in one section. Finally, new paint will make her look fresh and protect her structure for a couple more years.

Nice new white line.

And while I’m into the epoxy, I might as well fill a couple of opening seams in my tiller prior to refinishing. It won’t hold varnish with those big gaps in the tiller.

I’ve injected thickened epoxy into the seams and clamped around a plastic bag so that my clamps don’t get glued on to the tiller.

Here’s the unclamped tiller.

I hope to finish the glass and sanding today and paint tomorrow.  Got to get her looking good for Memorial Day Cruise!


We’ve had a giant blob of rain and wind pass through our area dropping about an inch of rain water. The accompanying SE wind, blowing at sometimes 20-25 mph, combined with the extra rainfall resulted in a large quantity of water in Rockhold Creek, which is oriented SE to NW. This happens several times per year and the result is super high water.

Check out the water level compared to the finger pier.

Makes it hard to board one’s boat! On the plus side, all the pollen has been freshly scrubbed from the air, and we can breathe easier. The down side is that all the pollen is now in the creek and bay, and the water is absolutely opaque from runoff. No visibility at all.

We had a visitor swim through the marina too. This is a bad, fuzzy couple of photos but I couldn’t resist posting them.

What you can’t see clearly, is that Mr. Otter is munching down on a fish he just caught. Poor visibility in the water didn’t seem to affect his ability to catch dinner.

One of my boat neighbors installed 1000 watts of solar panels over the fly bridge of his Marine Trader trawler, and gave me the the stainless steel frame of his old bimini. I have great marina neighbors!

My old aluminum frame is a wiggly, bent mess that has been repaired at least twice. I left it up in a windy rain storm once, and it broke the long sections in two separate places. Photo below. . .

I sleeved the broken places with smaller diameter tubing, securing with screws and nylocks.

So it has been functional, if ugly. This was the opportune time for a new frame, because our old bimini canvas is wearing out in several spots where the boom chafes across it.

I had to take the new frame completely apart to configure it to fit our cockpit. I needed to cut about 15 inches off of the longest legs to fit under the boom, and then visualize what I wanted the frame to do in order to put it back together. My old frame had three bows, two of which were attached to the main longest frame member.  The new frame had five bows, so I needed to figure out how that was going to work.

I realized that I had enough material to stretch a larger piece of canvas over the new frame. This is a welcome change. I will actually get more coverage over the companion way and over the stern. More shade is better! Using all five bows but in a slightly different configuration, I’ve mounted it back on the boat. You can see from the photo below, that there is actually a bow aft of the backstay. The new canvas will need a zippered section to go around the backstay, as will the bimini cover.

Like my old frame, the whole structure is supported by the longest section.

I am so fortunate to have a talented wife. . .  She will do the sewing, bless her!

Have a seat.  This will be a controversial post.

So, can you successfully cut a propeller down to size on your own? Would you dare even try? I’ve done it twice now, and it worked great, but there are limitations. . .

First, why would I, or anyone for that matter, do this? Because my goal in sailing is to make it as reasonably affordable as possible, and I’m convinced that a lot of work done by “professionals” in the marine industry can be done just as well, and much less expensively by me.

So a couple of years ago my prop and shaft fell victim to a vicious crab pot line attack. Neither survived. They now reside somewhere on the bottom of Herring Bay. All through the winter that followed, I searched for a used prop that would match what I needed. No joy. I finally bit the bullet and purchased a new 3-bladed prop. My old prop was a 2-blade, and I’d always wanted to try the 3-blade.

Turns out, I hated the 3-blade. It needed to be reduced in pitch, and that would have improved it’s performance under power, but nothing would improve it’s performance under sail. It was like dragging a bucket behind. For a boat that’s as heavy and slow as a Watkins 27, that’s just not going to work.

I began the search again this winter, and again found nothing in the used offerings that would suit. I finally bought a prop that was too long, with a pitch that was one inch too shallow. I would cut it down myself, and it would be a grand experiment! After all, I only paid $95 for it instead of $350+ that a new one would cost.

Why did I think I could get away with this? I’m not a propeller technician.

Well, you see, I’ve done it once before, and it was crazy successful. When I repowered Cay of Sea 13 years ago, I needed a new prop then too. The old original prop spun up too far, by 500 RPM, and it had lost too much zinc to have the pitch adjusted (this makes them brittle). When I went looking for props I found out how expensive they are, so I turned to the used market. I happened to find one that was slightly too long – about .5″ at the corners. I cut off the corners so that it wouldn’t hit the bottom of the hull on every half revolution. It turned out to be the perfect match. I could develop all the RPM in the specs (slightly too much, actually) and nearly achieve hull speed.

So this time I was able to find a 15″x12″ right hand prop with one inch shaft, and I thought I would try again. After all, I needed a 13″x13″ rh 1″. So, if I cut an inch off of either side. . . perhaps the pitch would allow it to spin up too far, but I could always get it repitched next winter when I haul again. On the other hand, because the dimensions of the prop were larger over all (larger hub, broader blades, and longer blades) I might get away with only trimming the ends, having the broader blade size compensate in area for the slimmer pitch.

This is the old prop that I trimmed.

New three blade prop I hated.

New prop. Sorry for the bad photo – I forgot to get a good pic before launch.

What follows is an illustration of what I did to trim down to size.

Not the actual prop – I found this image on line. Note the pink color – this indicates loss of zinc. This prop would be pretty brittle.

This is a very crude photo, but it might illustrate what I did – in part. I carefully measured from the middle of the hub to the end of the blade on each side and marked it, then double checked by measuring back from the end of the blades. Making sure I was removing the same amount of material from each side, I used a cut-off wheel with my Dremel and trimmed the ends of the blades. I used my stationary sander to round over the corners and relieve the edges (thin them down to match the rest of the prop edges).

After making sure everything was smooth and even, and rechecking for balance, I installed the prop and crossed my fingers.

So how did it work?

I was really wasn’t confident that I had got it right – I fully expected the prop to need repitching, but hoped to get away with it for this season. However, I my hopes were fulfilled beyond my most optimistic expectation. The prop spins up to exactly 3600 rpm – specified in the engine manual as developing max horsepower – and achieved what I was led to expect from the prop size calculator on boatdiesel.com regarding boat speed. It actually performs better under power than the prop I lost – that one allowed the engine to over-rev slightly (to 3800 rpm).

So, the limitations are, as alluded to above, that 1) you cannot change the pitch of the prop at home. This takes specialized equipment (torches, measuring tools, bending jigs) that the average diy guy doesn’t have at his disposal. I would think that the balancing of the prop would also be a critical component of changing pitch. 2) you cannot easily change the inside diameter for receiving the shaft. In fact, I don’t know if you can actually go smaller that original, but I do know that the shaft opening can be resized larger.  Again, specialized equipment, etc.  Add to that, the shaft hole is tapered with a key slot cut into it – who can do that at home without a machine shop?

Finally, selection of your not-quite-perfect prop is critical. I think more that two inches oversized wouldn’t work well. I think you would lose too much blade surface area, and be left with too much hub. Also, I would think you would be limited to props that were designed with symmetrical blades – where each blade has the same shape top to bottom. Some blades are elliptical, and I think that shape would be difficult to replicate in a shorter profile.

So there you go.  Tell me what you think? Would you be brave or foolish enough to do this yourself, like me?

For all my years sailing I’ve used a hand-held GPS – when I had a GPS. For a very long time, I just used the tried and true method of paper charts, compass (fixed and hand bearing), dividers/parallel rule, and speed estimate or mechanical speedo.

I’ve had two different hand-held GPSs  (well, three actually . . . I sat on one in rough weather and broke it).  Of course, the hand-helds work fine. They give accurate position and speed over ground, and the ones I’ve had included a graphic screen with rudimentary charts on board – you can see your position on a map. The map, however, is small and it’s difficult to read. Additionally, manipulating the curser can be slow and cumbersome.

I was given an older Raymarine GPS 435. This obviously is not a state-of-the-art instrument, but it is quite an improvement from the tiny screen I’ve been looking at for so long. In fact, the manual I downloaded is dated 2004, so it’s quite a few years mature.

So the first thing to do was to find out if it actually worked. I took it to the boat and attached the power leads (red and black) to pos. and neg. terminals, respectively. No joy. I was disappointed, but then decided there was nothing to lose by reversing the leads – black to pos, red to neg. And it powered up! Now, I just have to ask. . . who does this, and why? Why would you make red the ground lead? The only answer I can imagine is that it’s a product of the UK, and they just do things differently there. Regardless, the unit powers up. Now I need an antenna. On a trip to Florida last fall I stopped at Sailors’ Exchange in St. Augustine (salvage boat parts store ) and found a Raymarine passive antenna for $25. Perfect. A couple weeks ago I began the installation.

First decision: Where to install? Do I want a bulkhead mount? That means it stays out in the weather all the time. Then I remembered – when I first bought Cay of Sea she sported an ancient Loran unit that didn’t work. I removed it, but saved the bracket upon which it was mounted. The bracket was mounted in turn on a piece of teak stock that was attached to the bulkhead with a pintle and gudgeon – a swing mount. I dug through my old boat parts and found it! After a quick sanding and application of varnish, it was ready to go.

That was easy. . .  The hard part was wiring, but only because I had to chase the wiring from the fuse panel, and the antenna coax from the stern rail. Fun time in the cockpit locker. Emptied most of the locker contents and replaced it with myself, then wriggled back to the stern. Fortunately the coax was within easy reach, and all I had to do was support it with zip ties to existing screws. The unit is installed on the opposite side of the boat with respect to the cable runs (of course!), so a partial dismembering of the interior joinery was required to fish the cables underneath the bridge deck area over to the starboard side. After cutting a small relief in the top of one trim panel, I was able to pass both cables through with minimal destruction.

Making the electrical connections was a bit more challenging, but only because my test light was faulty (c’mon, I repaired it with duct tape two years ago!). Not being able to get a consistent signal with the test light, I broke out the multimeter and found the hot side of the circuit breaker. After crimping a few wire fittings and attaching them to the right contacts, and I had power. But before buttoning everything up, I powered up the GPS just to make sure.

From a scrap piece of teak, I fashioned a mounting disk for the antenna. I attached the disk to a dowel which I inserted into a piece of pvc pipe zip-tied to the stern rail. The cable passed through portside passive engine room vent.

The final installation looks like this:

Now, when life approaches normal again and Maryland DNR lets us begin boating (post-covid-19), we can enjoy sailing and using the “new” instrument.

A number of years ago the original forward hatch risers (made mostly of plastic) gave up on Cay of Sea. After repairing them several times, I gave up on them, and acquired a powerboat-styled windshield bracket to hold open the hatch. It worked fine, and is still in good shape, as it’s make of bronze – that stuff never wears out, it seems. It wasn’t an optimal fix, however. In fact, there were two annoyances with it. First, its limited travel didn’t allow the hatch to open much past an angle 45 degrees from the closed position.  Second, its binding bar extended into the cabin when closed by any degree, which means it also extended into my forehead a number of times (too many to recount, actually). Why I put up with it as long as I did . . . there are just some things I don’t understand about myself. Regardless, I found a genuine hatch riser at Bacon’s Sails (another second-hand part) and it was far past time to retire the bronze head banger.

Here’s a photo of the wretched thing. Very sturdy. Very unyielding.

Here are a couple of photos of the real hatch riser I just installed.

As you can see, there is nothing protruding into the cabin, and the binding rod is telescopic – that is, sliding in on itself. Although not shown here, it also will support the hatch at a 90 degree angle from the deck. Significant improvement with regards to funneling breeze down below. It’s also sturdy stainless steel, so I have no worries about plastic parts breaking from age and UV damage.

I now approach the vee berth absurdly gleeful at the prospect of not sustaining a head injury.

Ah yes – the signs of Spring. Warmer temperatures, copious rain, budding leaves, crocuses, trees leafing out, and people in boat yards getting ready for the boating season.

Scuffed and sanded – all that sanding dust is in my shop vac now.

I love the smell of anti-fouling paint in the Spring time!

Some of the keen-eyed among you might notice a change of color for the bottom paint this year. This is as a result of deep research and scientific investigation. Following my deep look into bottom paint color, I went to the store and got blue, because they didn’t have the same red color that I really wanted. Oh well. . .

I launch this Tuesday, then begin the other ritual of Spring – cleaning the boat so we can standing being on board. Four months of winter storage and closed-upped-ness affords the perfect environment for the growth of mold and mildew. That must be eradicated before any cruising can take place.

I also have a slate of projects for this year. Some new-to-me items that have come into my possession for installation include a hardshell case for our Lifesling MOB system, and an older GPS chartplotter. That, combined with the usual round of re-varnishing and cleaning should keep me busy while the virus keeps us all at home. Luckily, COVID-19 doesn’t affect sailing or cruising, since we don’t normally come in close contact with anyone else while doing so. Come to think of it, that is often one of the main attractions of cruising!

First, just a few photos of a big tide on the low end, and what it does to boats in my marina.  My boat dried out like this one one time, and it bent a stanchion as it leaned over against the finger pier – that’s the main reason why I haul out every winter.  The boat featured here is a Compac Yachts 23.  These are beautiful little boats, with quality componants, a fixed stub keel, and I suspect, pretty sailing characteristics.  I’ve always admired them, so it’s nice to have one in the marina to look at all the time.

If you’re interested to know more about Compac Yachts, here’s a link: https://sailboatdata.com/sailboat/com-pac-23-mk-3

The tide is about -2 feet today, so all the shallow slips dry out.  We had a shallow slip when we first came to this marina, but after the first season, we asked to move the boat to one of the deeper slips.  We haven’t had a problem since then, but we also don’t leave the boat in the water for the winter either.

A little photo of the muddy foreshore

I delivered Cay of Sea across the creek last week for haulout.  Here’s the evidence.  Winterizing seemed unusually easy this year. . . hmmmm, I wonder what I forgot!  She’s out of the water now, and I still need to put on the winter cover.  I guess that will make it seem like I’ve done enough work.

The weather was too perfect today. I had to get out on the water. I asked my wife if she wanted to go, but she had business in town. I went alone. 55 deg. F.  Wind SE at 12-15. Partly cloudy skies. Perfect.

I started with reefed main and full jib, but that was too much. I dropped the main and sailed nicely at 4+ knots. Back and forth, keeping a sharp eye out for crab pot buoys – don’t want a repeat of last year, when I lost my prop shaft. Tiller pilot is steering, so I can move around and take photos.

Others thought the day was too beautiful to miss also.  Quite a few boats on the water, mostly sail. I love the light at this time of day – makes every image warm, full of contrast.

In three weeks, Cay of Sea gets hauled for the winter, and I’m looking for another prop – again! I don’t like the three-blade prop I installed last spring. It needs to have the pitch adjusted, which is no big deal, but more importantly the boat’s performance under sail takes a pretty big hit. I’m going back to a two-blade, and maybe a folding prop. If you are looking for a three blade, 13×13, right hand with 1″ shaft, drop me a line below. This one is for sale at a less-than-new price.

Last time we checked on our hero, he was patiently waiting for engine parts, whiling away the days with varnishing projects.

Well, the parts finally arrived and I reassembled the engine and reinstalled it. Then (of course) corrected my errors in hooking up the various wires, cables, hoses – then it ran! After my first test run, the prop shaft began to back out of the coupling as I backed into the slip, and I nearly lost it again – but it hung up in the shaft log, and Ruth and I managed to fit it back into the coupling. Yes, the set screw was installed, but I’d done it incorrectly. Turns out, you have to “spot” the shaft. That is, drill an indentation in the shaft into which the set screw “sets.” I did that (easier to write than to do – involved long, sweaty minutes bent over the top of the engine with a drill, boring a divot into the shaft), then reinstalled the set screw with thread lock. It’s been fine since I did that.

Next thing, the engine ran away. You read that correctly. . . diesel engines can scavenge fuel from places other than the fuel injectors, and run without regard to the throttle position or stop lever. But why and where? Much reading ensued, afterwhich I concluded that my engine’s symptoms matched those which indicate that the fuel lift pump was leaking, thereby dumping fuel into the crank case, thinning the oil, which was then burnt in the cylinders. The run-away only lasted seconds before all the excess combustibles were gone, and so no damage occurred. I ordered another pump and installed it. Problem solved, but a scary experience.

Family commitments intervened as well, and then we got to go sailing for the first time this year. In July. We over-nighted late last week, crossing the bay, up Harris Creek ’til we got to “Drew’s Cove.” It was stunning, deserted, perfect. Here are a couple of photos to prove it (Ruth gets the photo credits this time).


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