How a 42 y.o. Nic 38 faired crossing the East Pacific

How a 42 y.o. Nic 38 faired crossing the East Pacific

May 26th, 2017  |  by Marilyn  |  Published in Maintenance and Repairs, Ship's Log

Rainshadow safely took us on our first passage from the Seattle area to Hilo Hawaii, but not without some failures. Here’s the list of things that broke while we were underway.  [Editor’s note Dec 2022: I have updated this original posting with how we addressed each failure.]

Sailing and steering gear

– The wind direction indicator fell off the mast, maybe because a bird landed on it?
Fix: We installed a replacement.

– When this wind indicator disappeared, then we relied on the anemometer to show us the wind direction and speed. But its display has a failed light so we could not see it during nighttime sailing. This trip made us realize how important it is to know the wind direction and speed in unsettled weather.
Fix: we fixed the failed light, and because our old DataMarine anemometer is getting flakey, we purchased a Le Capteurs Ultrasonic wind sensor.

– The Monitor wind vane control lines gave us tons of problems the whole passage. We had to hand steer too much of the time. The Neco autopilot gave us no problems, other than gobbling power so we couldn’t use it for long periods.
Fix: We talked with the helpful folks at Scanmar, and they advised a kit made with more appropriate lines for center cockpits. Early testing shows this works much better. Regarding the Neco autopilot, and accident at the dock meant we burned up its motor, so we installed a different modern autopilot that is more energy saving.

– We found ball bearings on the deck – a block must of failed. We have yet to figure out where they came from, which is not reassuring.
Fix: We suspect these came from old stanchion mounted blocks, which were the only smoking guns we found.

– The first reef block on the boom is squeaking and the sheaves on both reefing blocks are a mess.
Fix: We got both reef blocks rebuilt at Zephyrwerks.

– The gooseneck on the boom almost had a pin fall out, nearly allowing the boom to separate from the mast.
Fix: We replaced the pin with a bolt, nut and loctite.

– The outhaul on the main boom failed, and needs to be rebuilt.
Fix: We brought the boom home and completely rebuilt the outhaul, replacing lines and improving purchase.

– The Genoa foot tape stitching failed due to UV exposure. The brand new mizzen sail has some chafe from where we tied the furled sail to a shroud.
Fix: We thoroughly inspected all sails and made needed repairs.

– The mizzen cover was chafed through when the mizzen sail was chaffed, and the main cover is just old.
Fix: We sewed new sail covers for both masts.

Cockpit and Cabin

– The cockpit canvas zipper on the port side failed, allowing boarding waves to flow into the helm area where there are connectors that are not waterproof.
Fix: We replaced the canvas and made all connectors in the helm area waterproof.

– The floorboard under the helmsman seat is rotting, so the seat fitting came out.
Fix: Using epoxy, we repaired the rotten wood at the seat fitting, and also for all over engine cover/cockpit floorboards.

– The Lavac toilet seat hinges kept slipping, allowing the toilet seat to fall off. Very, very annoying when the boat is pitching.
Fix: We improved how these hinges are held in place, but more importantly, we made an “offshore” wooden toilet seat that fits snuggly onto the Lavac rim when the attached toilet seat is raised. This is now stowed directly behind the toilet for easy access anytime the head is needed while the seas are rough.

– The head pump clogged on the 2nd day of the passage. We tore it apart to unclog it, but its probably a jolly idea to rebuild the pump before we set off again.
Fix: We used SaltAway for many weeks to clear out all the salt, and then used Citric Acid to clear any calcium buildup. Head working good now.

– At least 3 portlights are leaking.
Fix: We rebedded all the portlights and replaced some with opening versions.

– The potable water began tasting of mildew after we used the hot water system to take a shower.
Fix: We removed the propane instant hot water and hot water plumbing. We’ll just use a tea kettle to make hot water when needed. We also installed a “day” water tank under the galley, which holds a few gallons separate from the main tank, which allows us to keep the watermaker produced water separate from the main tank under the floorboards.

–  The one handhold on the cockpit hard dodger failed.
Fix: We properly installed that failed handhold, and added several more throughout the cockpit to make it easier to move about the cockpit in rough seas.

Electrical and Charging

– The PO ran the solar panel wires through scuppers and out through the sidewall below deck. He gooped up these penetrations but after decades that goop failed, which meant the aft bunk got rather wet with each boarding wave.
Fix: We reroute the solar panel wires through waterproof deck fittings and glass over the holes in the scuppers.

– The battery charging behavior was erratic while underway and we didn’t understand why.
Fix: We figured out solar charger had a cold solder joint on a power FET that had failed. We reflowed the solder, and now the charger works again. We also bought a second charger for the additional solar panels we added, which adds redundancy to the setup.

– The house batteries were overly discharged due to the failed solar charger, and so we need to replace them. They were 6 years old so at least we got good use before killing them.
Fix: We installed 4 Firefly carbon foam batteries, giving us a total house battery capacity of about 350 Ahr. The Firefly batteries are sealed, so we moved them out of the battery box, which gets very hot inside the box when we run the engine now that the sea water temperature is in the 80’s rather than the 50’s.


– The anchor roller wore away because we left the anchor riding on it. It was secured and not much weight on the roller, but traveling 3400 NM is a long time for an anchor to wiggle on the roller.
Fix: We replaced the anchor roller. We will stow our large Manson Supreme anchor while on passages.

That’s it, according to my notes. Not bad for an old boat making such a long rough crossing.

So Rainshadow is currently undergoing a refit in Hilo Bay. Besides these needed repairs, we have other improvements on our wishlist, such as rebedding everything that penetrates the deck, adding a day water tank… the list goes on and on. As always, we’ll prioritize so we can set off again before we are too old and stiff to set sail ever again. We don’t seem to be aging as well as Rainshadow. Our excuse is that we are older than she is.

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