Many people who hear about the lifestyle of cruisers are convinced that it’s all fun and games. Every day is spent enjoying a cool breeze in the warm tropical sun, playing in or on the warm ocean. Every evening is spent sipping fancy umbrella adorned drinks while relaxed on deck watching the sun set on the horizon. It’s easy to believe that we have few worries or concerns. The biggest concern is planning our next beautiful anchorage. It’s easy to come to that conclusion, especially when that is what is most often penned about on blogs. We call it sharing, but it may be more like bragging. However, I would like to point out, there is a darker side not as often written about.
Cruisers do deal with many of the same problems anyone living on land deal with. How we deal with them is the big difference. We don’t like to write about it because we don’t want to re-live hardships any more than you want to read about them. Plus we know we get little sympathy. After all, we are living the life.
Full time cruisers know the true definition of cruising is “fixing your boat in exotic locations”
Here is one example of how we deal with them differently. I’ve mentioned our broken furler a few times, and I’ve put off working on it since before we parked Stray Catz back in 2015. That’s because it’s too big a job for me. I’ve spent hours searching online on how to fix it. Studying the Profurl website and the Wichard America site first just trying to figure out what model # I had. (No id or serial #’s on it) Pricing out a new one. ($5,400) Trying to order the parts to repair mine. ($500 and back ordered for 6 months) Searching other blogs, help sites, and YouTube to find someone who had done a similar repair. I found some resources online, but my greatest resource was our friend and fellow cruiser, Jack from the sailing vessel Sea Fern. His background and knowledge convinced me that I (we) could do the repair ourselves. The cruiser community is very helpful to each other. Often sharing parts tools and knowledge with each other in order to continue to the next port.
On a cool La Paz morning Jack and I with the added help of Bill from the sailing vessel Tigger, set about taking apart my forestay and removing the furler. The forestay is the cable from the top front of the mast to the forward center of the boat. It keeps the mast from falling backwards.
Many times I asked, “are you sure you’ve done this before?” And “the mast isn’t going to fall is it?” Many times their answer was “It’s no problem, and if it is a problem, at least it’s your boat” After about two hours the furler was removed and the forestay reattached. What a relief. That’s where the fun begins.
Inside the furler there are two sets of sealed bearings and a spacer. In my case all that was left was a spacer and bearing cases. Removing these from the inside of the mechanism became a two-day job. I ended up using a Dremel and cutting them out.
But I now had the parts in my hands that needed replacement. The following morning I set out to locate replacement bearings. I found through the local cruiser network a bearing shop located just a few miles away from the waterfront and off I walked. At the shop I was fortunate to be met with an English-speaking person for help. I bought the last two bearings they had that were the correct size and necessary seals and I was on my way. I did a few more errands and was lucky enough to find a bus headed back toward the marina where the dinghy was parked so I didn’t have to walk. Back at Stray Catz I pulled out the parts, and realized the seals were the wrong size. The next morning I was back in the dinghy headed for shore. Looking forward to another long walk to the bearing store. (not)
Once all the parts were located, I spent a whole day trying to put the furler mechanism back together. The lock rings were quite difficult. I needed Jack’s help just to put the bearings and lock rings in. These furlers are put together well. Once reassembled it was time to reinstall the furler on the head stay. The next morning Bill and Jack came over and we set to work. The big difference was now the wind was blowing about 15 knots. Not a good thing if your mast is not supported properly. Again I asked, and the answer still was “no problem, but if it is, it’s your boat.” You thought I was nervous during removal. Oh, and did I mention we are doing this over the water, so if a part or tool is dropped, bye-bye!
Everything reinstalled properly and without incident. The roller furler works like new and I am one happy cruiser. This simple job under the right conditions should only take a day. It took six days plus hours of preparation and planning. At the end of the day, I’d rather fix my home in exotic locations, but I just wanted to share this with you so you know there is a not so fun side to cruising.
Of course, afterwards we all got together for umbrella adorned cocktails at sunset on the beach.