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Extend your cruising age

Jun 24, 2015
Harry Hungate using a heaving line to bring an LPG bottle aboard.

Harry Hungate using a heaving line to bring an LPG bottle aboard.

After 16 years of cruising full time and some 55,000 miles under the keel, we certainly do not have the strength and stamina that we started out with in 1997. However, we have no plans to quit cruising. We would like to share a few ideas that we have developed to extend our time afloat. While our intent is to have several more years of happy and capable cruising, these ideas will no doubt be of interest to the younger cruisers as well. 

Handling the mainsail
Our mainsail is the conventional type — no in-the-mast furling for us. We have always had lazy jacks to aid in furling the sail. Several years ago we reduced the hoisting effort by adding a two-part main halyard with a single block on the headboard of the mainsail, and one end spliced to a thimble and bolt on the masthead. With this simple idea, Harry can hoist the mainsail almost to the masthead without the use of the winch. We also made the new two-part main halyard long enough to reach the electric anchor windlass in order to be able to haul one of us up the mast in the bosun’s chair. 

Around the same time, we added Antal reefing blocks to each of the three reefing cringles. These took away the resistance created by the reefing line trying to slide through the reefing cringle. We also had the aft end of the boom modified, adding individual sheaves for each reefing line and the topping lift with the bitter ends leading to the mast, where we have a reefing winch to use if needed. Now putting in a reef — and shaking it out — is almost a joy.

Bringing heavy items aboard
Whether from the dinghy or the dock, heaving heavy items aboard is much simplified with the use of a length of line kept handy for use. This is especially useful for bringing aboard full jerry jugs of diesel. For very heavy items we can always swing out the boom and use the boom vang, or use the outboard motor hoist on the stern. These back-saving features are more important with each passing year. 

A two-part main halyard setup makes raising the sail easier.

Hauling items while ashore
A folding cart is a handy item to have aboard. We have a plastic one that serves us well and we use it to carry laundry bags, gas cylinders and groceries. 

Eliminating heavy items aboard
When we purchased Cormorant in 1997, it had some group-4D lead acid batteries aboard. I fell while lifting one of these very heavy batteries, so we now have a battery bank consisting of five group-31 AGM batteries. I can lift one of these batteries with one hand but have never had to in seven years, as they are maintenance-free. I just wish that I had done this when we started out. 

Shortly after purchasing Cormorant we added a crane to lift our outboard motor. This allows for safe handling of the outboard motor even when the sea is less than calm. Commercial models are available and most welding shops can produce a custom model at reasonable cost. 

Jane Lothrop using a cart to haul items down the dock.

Wash day
Doing the laundry aboard became increasingly problematic due to loss of hand strength from arthritis. Wringing water from the clothing is now much easier and painless with our old-fashioned clothes wringer. Search the Internet for Mennonite websites that offer such devices. A simple bracket made of two two-by-fours can mount the wringer to the pedestal guard. 

Exercise
It goes without saying that exercise is a vital part of continued good health. We do quite well exercise-wise when offshore just by holding onto a constantly moving boat, although our leg muscles suffer a bit. We make up for it while ashore, as we have no automobile, so we walk everywhere we go. 

Memory aids
We have inventory lists of medicines, foodstuffs, tools and supplies with their locations clearly marked. We print out the inventory lists as we find that keeping the paper lists up-to-date is much easier than firing up the computer each time we add or use something from the inventory. Lately, we have begun to use the iPhone app “What’s On My Boat?” but we still maintain the paper lists.

A crane for handling the dinghy’s outboard engine.

Medicines
Review your medical kit contents every year, not only to remove and replace expired items, but to add items that the aging body might need. Two items that you might consider adding are a catheter kit and an EpiPen. Prostate trouble almost ended Harry’s cruising while on the five-night Cape York to Darwin, Australia, passage. We should have had a catheter kit aboard — we do now.

Harry Hungate and his wife, Jane Lothrop, have circled the globe aboard their Corbin 39 cutter Cormorant, from 1997 to 2012. They have recently sold her and have purchased a Grand Banks 32 sedan trawler to continue their cruising in the inland waters of the U.S.

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Oct 2, 2015 02:54 pm
 Posted by  AGP

Harry, I enjoy your articles from time to time and always smile when I see them. We worked together years ago at the Foxboro Company; and later I learned you went cruising. My wife and I have been living aboard our Island Packet 40 for a year (which we've had now 11 years), so we're way behind you! We'll try hard to catch up! :) Keep the articles coming!

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