Joint replacement

I’d been warned by the PO (previous owner) to periodically check the four bolts at the gooseneck where the furling boom joins the mast as they tend to loosen and can cause serious problems. I’ve been checking those four bolts faithfully for well over a year. Nice and tight, no problems, so with a confident relaxed attitude we pushed back the leather sleeve that protects the universal joint that connects the boom furling mandrel to the mast and were surprised to see a couple of bolts lying in the bottom of the boom. No, that’s not right, we saw all the bolts that were supposed to be attaching the mandrel to the mast lying bent and scattered about the boom cavity.

This whole inspection process started because Marce found a tiny bolt lying on the side deck. I recognized the bolt as the type used to secure the batten end caps to the sail. Sure enough, upon further inspection we saw that one of EV’s battens was trying to de-camp.

If one goes looking for trouble on a boat, you’ll soon find it, and once again I’m glad we did, thanks in no small part to our friend Mark.

It was worse than we thought. The universal was bent and broken, with bolts sheared off and pins missing. How it was still working I’ll never know. I knew we wouldn’t be sailing any time soon because this is a specialized part and the manufacturer, while very helpful, informed us that there are no dealers in Grenada.

This tale, Dear Escapees, is tied up in our paucity of Internet and phone connections here in Clarkes Court Bay. After relying on the understanding of Grenada’s shipping agents with seriously poor results we thought we’d try a different tack. We’ll use a shipping consolidator person, let’s call her Sherri, who sources parts for yachts in transit and takes care of all the fees. It took a month and some cash but we got our beautiful new universal, although, “it may need some infield fitting” really doesn’t describe the $500EC worth of drilling, sawing and tapping necessary to fit the universal to our older model Leisure Furl boom furler.

We’d designed a fix for our overly stressed aluminium mandrel which would reinforce the bolt holes. The rigging shop liked the plan and, like all good plans, it featured a reasonable cost estimate as well. We pulled the sixteen foot long mandrel out of the boom, loaded it into Catnip.


Truth be told, we had more sticking out than in but we’ve done this kind if thing before so we headed out for the rigging shop two bays over. I’m afraid we’re giving Mark a bad reputation in the anchorage with our antics. There were a lot of smiles when cruisers saw us. I told Mark I thought we shouldn’t get up on plane but after a few minutes I just had to make some time, but no worries. After reaching Secret Harbor a truck from our rigging shop pulled up at the dock. That’s a break. If I play my cards right we’ll bum a ride. No worries mate, we’ll have you there in a jiffy.


So now we’re on the far side of Prickly Bay with a very long hike just to get back to Secret Harbor when a couple I knew walked in. Sure they’d dinghy us over to the other side of the bay. Ah…that’s better and Prickly Bay has a Tiki Bar in case one of us is in need of restorative fluids. We trudged the well worn trail over the ridge through the fence and down into Secret Harbor for a quick run out of Mt Hartman Bay around the corner, taking care to avoid the reefs to the right and left of us watching the bottom go flashing by just under Catnip, through Hog Island anchorage, under the foot bridge into Clarkes Court Bay where another left turn found Escape Velocity lying quietly to her anchor, sail flaked and wrapped up on her side deck and no furling gear.


Marce decided to email our man at Forespar just to confirm that our plan B passed muster, but after the email was sent our wifi disappeared and we didn’t receive an answer. Marce frantically kept at it and about 4:00am our wifi kicked in and we finally had a reply, in all caps, no less. Under no circumstances should we do this! So it was back to original installation specs but we had to get to the shop before they did something irreversible to our beautiful new universal.

Six am, launch Catnip, I rev the Yamaha with a purpose, up on plane running down Clarkes Court Bay on a beautiful morning, turn right at Hog Island under the foot bridge weaving through the anchorage picking up the flag marking the edge of the reef, right at Mt. Hartman Bay, tie up at Secret Harbor. It’s about at this time I realize that I’ve never actually walked all the way around to that corner of Prickly Bay. Mark and I bummed a ride yesterday so Marce quickly pulls up a map on her iPhone and we start the long climb up the ridge toward Prickly Bay. No rides today I’m afraid. We stop several people to ask how to get to the rigging shop but no one seems to know how to get anywhere on this island. We finally find our way through washed out dirt roads over the last ridge and from the top of it we can see Spice Island Marine.


The rigging shop is open by the time we arrive. I can see that they’ve started but haven’t gotten very far. Close call. I outline Plan A and while they’re not happy they’ll do it and it will be done this afternoon!


No sense going all the way back to EV. We run into friends at De Big Fish next door and they say they’ll take us over to the Tiki Bar across the bay where we can get breakfast and wifi.


After replenishment, still more friends ran us back over to the rigging shop but we’re on island time now so it’s back to de Big Fish to wait.



Finally word came down that soon it would be ready for us to take.


This is where we needed another of those minor miracles but I decided that the timing wasn’t right as the owner’s wife was pouting more and more the longer it took. They’re French, you see, so I decided the best strategy would be to just expect a ride for my wife, me, and our sixteen foot mandrel back to Secret Harbor where I fortuitously ran into them in the first place.

Voila! It seems all the guys in the shop wanted to escape with us so they each grabbed the mandrel and we all piled into the tiny van with the mandrel sticking out the front door.


At Secret Harbor they were all amused when they saw that we were putting it in a dinghy but it seems they had somewhere else to go and disappeared in a cloud of dust.


We carefully reversed the track laid down early that morning, waving to bemused friends. One even asked if that was us running past at dawn because I’m not known for dawn dinghy rides.




Our friend Mark was waiting for our arrival on Escape Velocity just to help. Maybe that’s what this story is really about. Yes, I like that. Friendship.









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6 Responses to Joint replacement

  1. Wess Smith

    Marce/ Jack
    Nancy and I are once again flummoxed by your never ending string of boat problems. This last one defies reason. I don’t think you’ve had the sails up for weeks and yet pins sheer, bolts bend, parts fall off all of which require Herculean effort to repair. You seem to spend half your time discovering problems and the other half planning for and making repairs. It also sounds like it is taking its toll on your pocketbook.
    I am serious, can you trust this craft to get you across thousands of miles of open ocean? We wonder and we worry.

    • Dear Wess and Nancy, this boat has already crossed thousands of miles of ocean. The universal had 14 years and a circumnavigation on it so it didn’t owe us anything. Apparently you’ve never heard of the definition of cruising: “fixing your boat in exotic places.” Ocean-going vessels undergo extreme stresses and things break. There’s not a boater on this island who isn’t fixing something daily, whether it’s a toilet or a rig or a sail or an engine or a watermaker, etc. I don’t think you’d scrap your house just because it needs a new roof every 15 years or so. We’ve sailed 5000 mostly upwind miles on this rig so far and fixed two things. That’s a pretty good record and probably way lower than average. Don’t compare us to people who only daysail in the bay. But thanks for worrying about us.

    • I forgot to mention that this is the same part that we blogged about in July; it just took this long to get it shipped here. We discovered it in July and finally got it installed in September. Luckily we weren’t planning on going anywhere because it’s hurricane season so it didn’t hold us up.

  2. All is well that ends that way. Well done, you two. I think your most important characteristic is your ability to make friends. Have you seen “Kon Tiki”. Watch that and be grateful you are living on fiberglass.

    • Cruisers are without a doubt the most helpful people on the planet. We are all living mostly off the grid, and tools and parts and helping hands and advice are all readily offered. The motto here is “pay it forward,” and the only thanks expected is a cold beer at the end of a project.

  3. Jennifer

    Good for you! Nothing easy is really worth doing anyway. I love your spirit for adventure!

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