Back to Boat Work

Yes, we're back aboard Nine of Cups. Our trip to Swaziland and Kruger Park already seem like a lovely, but distant memory. I keep looking at all of our photos to remind myself it was just a few days ago that we returned. It's easy to forget what you've just experienced once you're immersed in boat work again. As much as we enjoyed our trip, towards the end, getting back to Cups was always on our minds. Our new bimini and dodger were in place and though a few tweaks were necessary for the dodger, we were well satisfied with the final result.

bimini and dodger

I had recovered all the saloon cushions back in Panama in 2009. It was really in need of replacement, but it's a big project and I wasn't game for starting it now. As David mentioned previously, the South African rand is quite soft against the US dollar at present (R11.5:US$1). We took advantage of this by ordering new saloon upholstery before we left. The final cost wasn't significantly more than my cost for just buying the materials. The new saloon upholstery wasn't quite finished when we got back to the boat, but Clyde delivered everything within a couple of days. It adds a whole new elegance to the saloon, I think … and it's new and unstained. Hallelujah!

new saloon uphostery

We returned the car to its downtown Durban location … about a 20 minute walk away. It seemed odd to be in the midst of the noisy hustle-bustle of the city after nearly 10 days of pretty much peace and quiet. It's hot and humid here … except when it rains, then it's hot, humid and wet. The city sidewalks are always crowded and the decibel level of the noise is incredible.

The boat was a wreck when we first unloaded all of our stuff, lugged it below and crammed it into the saloon. We sorted and stowed everything almost immediately and Cups was shipshape (at least below deck) for nearly 14 hours before David got to work on his projects. He wasted no time. His latest effort was installing our back-up autopilot system which required access under the aft bunk in our cabin. The mattress came off. Tools and parts and equipment were everywhere. This is not unusual on Cups or any boat for that matter. Everything is compact and snug. When a project needs doing, everything is affected and is in turmoil until the project is complete.

turmoil in the aft cabin

As for me, I've been writing up a storm, cooking, cleaning, sewing and … dare I say it? … preparing for another inland trip. We just got word from Brennan and Hannah (our oldest son and our daughter-in-law) that they're planning a trip to Africa in early February. We only have them for a few days. They're hiking enthusiasts and want to visit Lesotho (Leh-soo-too), that tiny landlocked country surrounded by South Africa only a few hours drive away. How could we resist that opportunity?

lesotho map

We need to get all of our work done before they arrive so that we can play and then depart Durban on the next weather window after their departure. Always lots to do and lots to look forward to.

Boston and Durban - Working Together

On this side of the world … While David's working hard on the boat in South Africa, it hasn't been all fun and games here in Boston, although what I'm doing definitely beats polishing stainless. Apart from socializing with my sister and friends, my jobs have been to write and publish the Christmas newsletter, get Christmas cards and gifts sent out to family and, the hardest part of all, gather together boat parts and bits to transport back to Africa. This is not always as easy as you might think.


In many cases, David has specified and ordered parts online and had them delivered. I just have to accept them, make sure they're what was ordered and figure out a way to get them all packed into two duffel bags and still have room for my underwear. Despite the fact I have internet and a car at my disposal, it's been hard locating some of the parts and quite time-consuming.

A “for instance”? An o-ring for the windlass. We purchased a windlass back in August in Australia, if you'll remember. Evidently an o-ring was not seated properly when we received it and got squished and subsequently broke after a couple of uses. We had purchased a repair kit ($150) which included one o-ring among other bits, but now we've used it and wanted a spare. Well, they're not to be found. I've gone to plumbing supply stores, hardware stores, Home Depot, Lowe's. I'm still on the prowl, but it's been a challenge. In the meantime, the clock is ticking and the duffels are quickly filling up.

the duffels are filling up

On the other side of the world ...

Here in Durban, I have been under the gun doing a lot of time critical stuff. There are many very skilled people here – machinists, sailmakers, canvas fabricators and other tradesmen. In addition, the rand is soft against the dollar right now, and we are finding the cost of getting things done is quite reasonable, especially compared to what things cost in Australia. So, the to-do list is longer than just the needed repairs. We are getting a new staysail, new bimini and dodger, and perhaps new upholstery below.  I also plan to attach a generator to the prop shaft so we can generate power as we sail. This has been on my list for a long time, and I now have the opportunity to get the necessary brackets and fixtures made.

A complication is that most of the local businesses and their suppliers close shop over the Christmas holidays, more or less from Dec 15th to as late as Jan 10th. Many of the smaller businesses and the individual tradesmen don't all take such long vacations, but they may not be able to get the materials they need during this period. So I have been working at getting drawings made and parts on order before the summer holiday begins.

part drawings

I also need to get the parts on order for Marcie to bring back. Everything needs to be received by Dec 24th, and I don't want to wait until the last minute and have to pay for expedited shipping.

In between these things, I've been knocking off a few items on the repairs list... the anchor shaft has been straightened, most of the whisker pole repairs are done (I'm waiting on fabrication of a part), the alarm/indicator panel is done, the jib halyard has been replaced, as well as a host of smaller tasks.

I also drank my last bottle of home-brewed beer last night. Fortunately, I had enough ingredients for one more batch, and it is brewing as I write. It will be ready for bottling in a few more days and drinkable in another week or so, but in the meantime, the yacht club bar is only a short walk away where the ambiance is pleasant, the yachties friendly and the beer is cheap.

beer brewing

Happy Anniversary, Nine of Cups and Crew!

leaving Kemah, Texas


It's an anniversary for us and Nine of Cups. Thirteen years ago today, we arrived in Kemah, Texas and began our lives as liveaboards on Nine of Cups. We had “sold up” and now we planned to “sail off”. As we drove into the marina parking lot with our little U-Haul trailer full of everything that had survived the massive yard sales we'd had and began moving our belongings aboard, I couldn't help but wonder if this would be a grand mistake or a grand adventure.

Looking back, it was a time of excitement and angst. Talk about a major life changes. We two workaholics had just retired two weeks prior. We'd sold off virtually everything we owned except the U-Haul contents and the car we drove to Texas (that would be sold later on). No more house, furniture, closets of clothing, lawn equipment, patio chairs … stuff. We'd trimmed down to the bare bones, so we thought. Once we moved things aboard, we found we still had too much and had to pare down even more.


jelly, the new kitten


We spent another month in Kemah, getting used to the boat, adopting a kitten, getting used to living in a small space together, figuring out where to put this and how to operate that. We took Cups for a couple of trips out of the marina, had a couple of adrenaline moments when things didn't go quite as planned and then prepared to leave.


renaming Nine of Cups


Before departure, we de-named and re-named Cups in a grand dockside ceremony, then got her ready for her first offshore trip … across the Gulf of Mexico. We had a fire in the engine room on that first passage. Another story for another time. Obviously, it worked out okay.

It all seems so long ago and yet, just like yesterday. It has indeed been 13 years of grand adventure … beyond our wildest dreams. As we start our 14th year aboard, we wonder how many more years we have left in us. The plan and philosophy remains the same. We'll sail till we're physically unable or until it's not fun any more. Right now, it's still fun.

Days and Ways to Celebrate
A daily list of mostly obscure holidays and fun ways to celebrate them.
Sylvester's Birthday
Sylvester J. Pussycat made his first debut in 1945. Watch that well known Puddy Tat.