Blue View: Refitting in Exotic Places

deck in vanuatu  

Our sailing and passage making pattern over the years usually involves most months of each year cruising. We sail someplace, stay for a short time while exploring, sightseeing and repairing things, then move on. After doing this for 8 or 10 or even 12 months, however, we like to find a place to light for awhile.

For Marcie, this fulfills a need to “nest”. She needs to lay down roots for awhile – a couple of months or so usually does it. I don't mind these respites at all. Constantly moving on, always on your guard for weather changes, hazards, ships and all the other things that can ruin your day is tiring. It's nice to relax in a safe haven somewhere. We take advantage of these breaks to do some inland travel, and from the “Blue” point of view, these nesting times are a good opportunity to start a refit project.


mast in opua new zealand


The definition of “refit” is to “replace or repair machinery, equipment and fittings in a ship”. In my mind, however, a refit project is different from a repair project, the difference being in the magnitude and cost of the project. For example, if the bilge pump quits and I repair or replace it, that's a repair project by my definition. The cost would be under $100 and it would take a few hours to complete. If the water tanks start leaking and I have to replace them, that's a refit project. Now we're talking weeks and more than a thousand dollars. I have no exact definition of when the crossover occurs between a repair and refit, but I have no difficulty categorizing a project as one or the other.


fuel tank  in ecuador


So not only have we had the opportunity to make repairs in exotic places, we've done some major refit projects in exotic places. As a few examples, in Trinidad, our beautiful teak deck boxes were starting to show their age, and I dismantled and rebuilt them. We replaced the standing rigging in Colombia, installed a new chartplotter and radar in Panama, and installed a daytank in Chile. We stopped three times in Ecuador and did a lot of refitting there, including new fuel tanks and a new autopilot. We also removed the teak decks in Ecuador. We really liked the look of our teak decks, but each strip of wood was secured with dozens of screws. Many of the 3000 or so screws began to leak over time, causing problems in the underlying fiberglass decks. After removing the teak, all the holes were filled, the damage was repaired and the decks repainted.


engine removal in new zealand


Likewise, we stopped three times in Opua, New Zealand. The first time we removed and replaced our 26 year old engine from its location under the cockpit. This entailed removing the steering mechanism and hydraulics, as well as the cockpit floor and hoisting all 1000 lbs up and out of the boat while sitting at the dock, then reversing the process for installation of the new engine. Definitely in the refit category. The second time, we replaced our sails; and the third time, we unstepped the mast, replaced the fittings, rewired it, then sanded and repainted it.

I've found the key to successfully starting and completing a refit project is to make sure Marcie is either involved (not usually preferred by either of us) or has projects of her own to complete. We break up the refit and repair projects with inland travel, whether it be by “chicken bus” in Ecuador, car hire in New Zealand or dugout canoe in Panama. Usually by the time I've finished my refit project and we've done a bit of inland travel, we're both ready to move on.


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