February 14 – Re-fit engage

Feb 14, 2023

While my time in North Carolina hasn’t involved much sailing, it has been quite productive. I have been tackling some large projects that I see as being a very high priority to sort out before real training, or a qualification sail can take place. The boat was in good enough shape to get down the coast and get to boat shows, move south for winter, day sail, etc. But it wasn’t up to the level of being ready to properly solo train or sail across the Atlantic. The first critical job that I attacked was the forestay chainplate, or stem fitting. It was not easily accessible and required cutting into the boat as it lives behind the bow, since Sparrow has a bit of a crash box up front. Because the chainplate was hard to access and the bottom of it was glassed in, it hadn’t been pulled in ages and that alone made it sketchy in my mind. So I tore into that project and eventually got the old piece out, had a new one made and installed it and it’s 90% done now, just needs some more glass work to close it all up. I will finish that job up this week during a spell of warm weather, that’s better for fiberglass work.

After that, I made an appointment to pull the rig out of the boat. Using the commercial port of Morehead City, NC, I motored the boat over two weeks ago (January 30) to the port and we pulled the mast out with the help of some riggers from New Bern, NC. Tyler, Jwall and John from Maveryk’s Marine were awesome. I also had friends George and Ronin drive down, and so with plenty of hands the rig pull went smoothly. Once onto the wharf, I did some general work to the rig and then also replaced all of the wiring in the mast and added two new NKE wind instrument brackets and cables. The old instrument/ cable both seemed to not be working properly, although I never quite sorted out what the actual issue was. I hope to get the original NKE carbowand instrument repaired or replaced as my primary unit, but for now I installed a new AluWind HR masthead unit and a new standard masthead unit. Not quite as sexy as the $4,000 CarboWand HR that was up there, but at least this one is a brand new high-end racing instrument that works properly. Should be quite good. Even the standard one should work quite well when and if I need it. Replacing the wind instruments with new ones, and cables, was a massive upgrade for the boat. This is the first time i’ve owned the boat with working wind instruments, so this will be a true game changer, especially for a solo boat that is steering to an autopilot most of the time. We put the rig back in, on-time and mostlhy on budget, last Tuesday with Tyler and his crew, but also Dave from the docks. I can’t thank everyone enough, who helped out with operation rig pull!

Sparrow at the port of Morehead City awaiting a mast re-stepping

After the mast wiring work, it was engine time. So four days after the rig went back into the boat, the Beta 3-cylinder diesel engine came back out again. The motor was hard to start, low on compression, leaked oil and had developed a ticking, or knocking noise. It’s a great little motor, but needs some serious love. To be considered a reliable diesel engine that will do what I need of it, it needed to come out and be rebuilt. Or be replaced. I priced out a new one, and nearly went for it, but the 8 week wait time was the killer, especially if the motor got delayed any more than that. So I began getting the motor ready to pull on a Friday, and with the help of some dock neighbors, it came out on a Saturday. By Sunday it was being town down in a friend’s garage, and by yesterday morning (Monday), I was discovering the culprit for the knocking, or ticking. It had a pretty thrashed lower rod bearing on the front piston. So I am now deep into an engine rebuild that, when back together, should be a solid little motor again. There is still a lot of work to be done, but I should be having the local Beta pro come by today to look at my parts and assess their condition, and then I should be driving the parts to a machine shop tomorrow, and hopefully get them back with whatever parts I end up ordering. If I could be throwing this thing back in the boat in a couple of weeks, that would be a power move. Time will tell how we go on that one…

The thrashed lower rod bearing. Fixing it is one thing, but it would also be nice to know why this happened. Lack of lubrication? At any rate, the oil pump could be trashed, as well as other parts of the motor including the connecting rod and perhaps the crankshaft. I am having a mechanic come by today to help me assess what I have and make a plan.

Also… the hydrogenerator bottom end went to France and back, and is now re-installed on the transom. Solar is up and working, and more solar is inbound soon, courtesy of West Marine. New sails should be in production now in Denmark. Making big strides on the NKE instruments, and I have Expedition up and running on my laptop. Starlink/ Space X should be coming onboard to help the campaign out as well, so I will be trying out Starlink technology and seeing how it works for us. We are still putting in place a lot of logistics regarding some yard time/ haulout, as obviously the most important part… some training sailing and qualifier and pre-race delivery sailing. I am hoping that after the motor goes back in, that I can do some serious training in March.

There is a lot going on with the campaign, and this is a busy time for sure. I have my first two public speaking gigs for this campaign, on Thursday in Charleston and then the following Thursday in Oriental, NC. There is also some big stuff happening behind the scenes that will hopefully result in finding a title sponsor, and more to be announced. Back to the garage to work on the motor.