“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain


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Officially Captains

I wrote back in May that Smitty Now Has Two Captains. That is when we had passed our tests and received the certificates from New England Maritime.  Shortly after that we submitted the actual paperwork to the US Coast Guard.  After going back and forth a couple of times about the medial forms that the doctor had filled out incorrectly, we have finally been issued our Merchant Mariner Credentials.

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Here’s the funny thing. We literally submitted the exact same application. I did the sea time form once and just changed the name on it for my Bride.  All of the information was exactly the same….

We applied for 25 ton Master on inland waters and OUPV on Near Coastal Waters (this is “off shore” based on how the USCG handles these things).  I received a credential for a Master of up to a 50 ton vessel.

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However, my Bride received a credential for a Master of up to 100 ton vessel.

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I guess this makes her the true captain of s/v Smitty!


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Upgraded Battery Selector Switch, Installing an Inverter and a Chart Book Holder

As I have mentioned before, we have been completing a lot of projects as we push towards our departure date.  Here a few that have been banged out in the last couple of weeks.

Upgraded Battery Selector Switch

My go to guru for all things electric, Maine Sail aka Compass Marine, has said on several occasions that all battery switches not made by Blue Sea Systems are essentially crap.  This means that our stock Perko battery selector switch was on the list for an upgrade.

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After checking the measurements I was glad to see that the Blue Sea Systems 9001e Selector Switch would fit exactly in the same spot.  The only down side is that the Perko switch had 5/16″ terminal studs while the Blue Sea Systems switch had 3/8″ terminal studs.  This mean cutting off the old terminals, putting on new ones and new heat shrink.  Using the same hydraulic crimper I had purchased last year (cheapy for Amazon) I made the new terminals.  Luckily there was enough excess wire to do this without too much difficulty.  I also had to add larger terminals to the wires from the analog volt meter and the bilge pump.

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I did have to get longer machine screws to mount the switch to the electric panel.  But the whole size is perfect for a direct change.  This took about an hour and cost about $60 ($40 for the switch plus terminal lugs and heat shrink).

Installing an Inverter

After some back and forth I decided to go with the Xantrex ProWatt SW 2000 true-sin wave inverter.  Our primary uses for this will be running power tools at anchor (i.e. heat gun, drill, jig saw, dremel), using our small 2-hp shop vac, and recharging our cordless tools (i.e. Dyson DC44 cordless vacuum, impact gun, drill, etc.).  Finding a location to mount the inverter was a little bit of a challenge.  According to the manual, Xantrex recommends mounting the panel within 6 feet of the batteries (12 foot total run) and using 0 AWG wire.  However the location of the batteries on a C310 make this a bit difficult.  The only places I could find were the port lazarett or on the bulkhead in the rear berth.  But we want to use that port lazarett for dry food storage and mounting it here would mean that I would have to open the lazarett every time I wanted to use the inverter. The bulkhead in the rear berth is where I think we will install a water-maker, if we choose to get one. While it’s not ideal, I found that with a 10 foot distance (20 foot total run) I could mount the inverter below the navigation table.  This was not perfect but it will do.  To accommodate the extra length I went up one wire gauge size to 2/0 AWG wire. I had already installed the fuse holder in the positive buss bar when I did my last battery system upgrade.  So I ran the wires, put on the end terminals and installed the inverter.  I used a 300 Amp ANL fues from Blue Sea Systems.

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Initially I had thought to tie this into the boats 120 V outlets but after thinking more about it I decided it was fine just to use the two outlets on the inverter instead.  This made the install much easier and cheaper. After the install I ran a couple of tests.  I can run my heat gun on low but not on high, which is sufficient to shrink heat shrink electrical connections.  I had no problem running a drill or jig saw off of the inverter.

Chart Book Holder

We insist on always having paper charts with us and easily available.  Typically this is easily accomplished from one Maptech Chart Book covering a large area.  As we start to head south we will need more and more chart books since our cruising area is expanding.  To keep these charts readily available but out of the way we bought a teak magazine rack from Defender. We mounted this on the bulkhead between the head and the saloon area by a couple of through bolts.  It’s now a convenient area to keep charts, cruising guides and some other items.

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Provincetown for the 4th of July

Finally! The third time’s the charm!

Let me explain. We have tried two times in the past to make it to Provincetown on our boat.  The first time was in 2012 and some rolling bands of thunderstorms kept us from going. Last year we had reservations for the 4th of July weekend but Hurricane Arthur decided to go within a few miles of Provincetown on that same weekend so we bailed then too.

Since this is our last year to make this trip happen we were pretty determined to get there.  We were again trying for the 4th of July weekend.  The group for this year was a mix of people we know from Hingham and from our winter marina, Constitution Marina.  From Hingham there were three sailboats, Pam & Chris on Windchaser, Paul and Jane on Provenance and us, and one powerboat, Steve and Sara on Excessive Behavior. From Constitution Marina there were 6-8 boats planning on going.

So as this year’s attempt approach we were all watching the weather with an unhealthy level of obsession.  There were texts going back and forth, sidebar conversations, group texts, emails. The plan was for Windchaser and Smitty to buddy boat down to Scituate on Tuesday night and then cross from Scituate to Provincetown.  This would theoretically allow us to sail to Provincetown.  Otherwise you are going directly into the prevailing winds if you try to go from Hingham to Provincetown.  The other boats were planning to follow on Thursday or Friday. The only blemish in a perfect forecast for the entire trip was Wednesday around mid-day.

Tuesday afternoon comes, we are provisioned up and waiting for Chris to fight his way through the traffic.  Chris gets there, the motors are running and we getting ready to drop the dock lines.  Nope. Chris calls and he has a technical problem. After starting the engine, Pam noticed a thumping sound coming from the engine area. Their waterlift muffler had come loose and was moving around while the exhaust was being pushed through the muffler.  It took us about 45 minutes and we had it temporarily fixed enough to be able to make the trip.  We left for Scituate around 5 PM. The winds were light and out of the southeast, so no sailing. We motor-sailed with the mainsail up. The seas were a little lumpy but nothing more than 4 footer.  We made it into Scituate Harbor around 8:30 PM.

First order of business once we were secured to the mooring was to check the weather for tomorrow. Actually, Stacey and I started looking at the weather when we were about 45 minutes outside of Scituate Harbor. All of the major weather sources (Weather Underground, Weather.com, NECN Weather, Passage Weather and NOAA Marine Forecast) we use were in agreement: thunderstorms in the Scituate/Hingham/Boston area starting at 10AM but only rain in Provincetown and the Cape starting at 10-11AM. My initial thought was to not go into Scituate, take a left and sail through the night to Provincetown. No one else really wanted to do this but we agreed to cast off by 3:45 AM.  So we ate dinner, walked the dog and got to bed early.

We woke up at 3AM and put on a pot of coffee.  While the water was boiling, we looked at weather again.  The Scituate/Hingham/Boston area thunderstorms had moved up to 9AM but otherwise not major changes.  Night ops on! We lead the way out of the harbor with Windchaser closely behind.  We picked our way through the lobster pot markers using our spotlight. By 5:30 AM we were past the majority of the pots, on our way to Ptown. The winds were a little higher than predicted at 10-15 kts, but they were from the east-southeast to southeast. This means we were directly into them. So again it was a mostly motoring kind of day.  We had a nice sunrise, the seas weren’t too bad, we were making about 5 kts and we should arrive in Provincetown Harbor around 10 AM. Windchaser tried to motor-sail for a little while with their genny out but the wind direction was pulling them too far north and they would have missed Provincetown on their tack. So they furled in their sails and we were both back to motoring.

One of the interesting things about the passage from Scituate to Provincetown is that while you spend most of the 30 nautical mile route kind of heading straight out towards the Atlantic, you never loose sight of land. By the time Scituate starts to fall past the horizon, the Pilgrim Monument in Provincetown is visible. First you just see the tower stretching above the horizon and then the duns of Provincetown start to appear. When you are out in the middle of Cape Cod Bay like this you still have a cell phone signal.  Its not enough to use data to check the weather or post on Facebook, but you could send a small text or make a call. All of these things give you a nice sense of safety are you make this passage.

We had this nice passage going until around 9AM. The Pilgrim Monument and the dunes of Provincetown started fading from sight. This indicated there was a fog bank ahead. The mainland behind us had turned into a solid wall of grey. We still didn’t have enough of a cell signal to check the weather.  We turn our VHF to a weather station and I panned out with the radar to see if I could see any storms approaching. Still nothing to indicate a change in the forecast.

Another 10 minutes passed and we lost sight of Windchaser. We were in the middle of the fog bank and had about quarter to half mile visibility. We called Windchaser on the VHF and slowed down to allow them to catch up. With the fog the safest thing was to buddy boat into the harbor so that we could see if any boats are approaching on our radar. We didn’t see any boats in the immediate area but we did see a squall line. After watching it for a few minutes it was apparent that the squall would pass behind us. But it was time to rock the foul weather gear just in case. The lightening hitting the water around us and the sound of the thunder made it seem a lot closer.

While this squall line was passing a second squall line showed up on our radar. This one was much larger. And heading right for us. I called Windchaser on the VHF and told them to prepare for weather.

When the rain hit the winds kicked up slightly, going from around 15 kts to just under 30 kts. The rain was coming down hard in bands but we were mostly able duck below the dodger and the bimini. The lightening was coming down every few minutes now. We were able to watch many of the bolts hit the water. Not a great feeling when you are on that water with a giant metal pole sticking up from your deck.

Just as we were getting into the second squall line, we were close enough to the cell towers in Provincetown to get a weather update. The first thing we saw was “Tornado Warning In Your Area”. What? Tornado warnings in Provincetown? That’s a far cry from just some rain! We looked at the radar on our weather apps and it didn’t look good.  Yellows, reds and purples all southwest of us making a track right for us. The Tornado warning was in affect until 10:30AM.

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Luckily we never saw much worse conditions.  The max wind gust we had was in the low 40 kts.  Eventually the shoreline of Provincetown came into view and the visibility improved to about a mile. We rounded Long Point and headed for the safety behind the breakwater.  The storm decided to give us one more good down pour just as we were trying up to our moorings at Provincetown Marina.

We waited out the rain and headed for shore when it eventually let up. The first thing on the agenda was a cocktail and some lunch. And after the morning passage we had what better cocktail then a Dark ‘n Stormy! A few rounds of those, some Mermaid Orgasms at the Purple Feather, some espresso martinis and various other cocktails mixed in and we were all ready for an early night.

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The next day our friends Steve and Sara joined us on Steve’s power boat. We spent the next couple of days having some good meals, drinking and eating too much. We spent some time out at Long Point Beach. There were Nature Ops (i.e. chasing seals around in dinghies). We met up with the others who had come to Provincetown for the holiday weekend at various points but the group was too big to do anything all together. We mostly split up into smaller groups. One evening, after far too many Maker’s Mark bourbons straight up, our friends Steve decided to debut the “Clutch Dance”.

This all led to a slow and lazy 4th of July morning. By the time we made it to shore it was almost time for the parade. We walked down the main street where the parade would happen to get an ice coffee from the Wired Puppy.  Ice coffee in hand we found a spot to watch the parade.

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After the parade we spent some time checking out the local art galleries.  Provincetown has some of the best local artist we have found anywhere.  We made the trek down to the west side of Provincetown to a restaurant Chris and Pam insisted would be one of our favorites. Victor’s opens for raw bar happy hour from 3-5 PM but you need to line up there by 2:30 PM or you might not get in.  But for those two wonderful hours you can eat all of the raw oysters, little necks and jumbo shrimp cocktail at 99 cents each.  They make some dam good cocktails too.  After an hour here our group had consumed 10 dozen oysters, 2 dozen little necks, 3 dozen jumbo shrimps, 2 hot appetizers and who knows how many cocktails. We were primed to make our way to the Tea Dance Party. The Tea Dance Party happens every day from 4-7 PM at the Boat Slip Club.  There is a pool on a deck over looking the harbor and the place gets packed with people drinking rum punches and dancing.  You need to be open minded to go but it’s a lot of fun.  The most popular outfit of the day seemed to be a very small speedo with a leather harness.  We met up with our friends Dena and Lee there and had some great times dancing and people watching.

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After the Tea Dance we headed back to our boat where we had a prime seat for the fireworks.  We were less than 200 feet from the barge from where they were launching. We drank some more, eventually grilled some food and played Cards Against Humanity until sometime in the early morning of July 5th.

Pam and Chris were up early on July 5th and left by 8 AM to head back to Hingham.  With now wind and a long power in front of us we slept in a little bit.  We didn’t drop our mooring until close to 10:30.  Once we made it around Long Point we set a course for Hingham. There was less than 5 knots of wind, it was sunny and the seas were dead calm.  I set the autopilot and started working on little projects while my Bride alternated between sleeping and reading.  I was able to finish changing out the running rigging with the new line, I changed our flag halyards with some 550 paracord, tried to fix some solar LED lights that I eventually trashed and did some cleaning and organizing.  It was a productive day for me but no sailing to be had.


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Tuning the Rig on a Catalina 310 with a Traditional Mainsail

Catalina does provide a pretty decent tuning guide in the owner’s manual.  But a lot of the specifics in that tuning guide are more qualitative then quantitative.  So it’s difficult to judge if you have tuned the rigging correctly.  I mean how do you really judge “a 50 pound push should deflect the upper shroud about 1″ at shoulder height”?

Loos & Co. Inc. does make tension gauges that give you some quantifiable numbers relative to your rig tension.  And we have the PT-3 Tension Gauge (a tool, of course I have it). But the answer isn’t to simply put every wire to 15-20% of its breaking strength.

TENSION GAUGES

To tune the rig correctly you need to account for rake (the distance aft of the mast base that the top of the mast will bend), prebend (the bow in the middle of the mast) and performance under load. Add to that the complication that the boat wasn’t constructed with all of the shrouds precisely located an equal distance from the mast base and that split backstays need to tensioned differently than a single back stay.  This can get more complicated then simply turning turnbuckles until you get to a number.

Side note on turnbuckles.

Turnbuckle with cover

These brass turnbuckles with a built in cover that Catalina used on our C310 are horrible.  There is not flat spot to grab these with a wrench, so you have to resort to putting a large screwdriver into the slot and using that to turn.  When you actually start to really torque down on them the soft metal bends and you can’t really tension them well.  I will eventually switch these out for standard, open body stainless steel turnbuckles.

Open body turnbuckle

Back to tuning.

Here are some resources that I used to put together a rig tuning plan: Selden Masts Hints & Advice (large pdf); Practical Sailor’s Article Boat Clinic: Tuning the Masthead Rig; the C34 IA Techwiki on Rig Tuning; and the C34 IA Rig Tuning Chart.

From what I have been able to gather from Catalina, riggers and other mast manufacturers when you setup a deck stepped, masthead rigged mast with perpendicular spreaders for cruising you want the mast centered between starboard and port, a 4-6 inch rake and a 0.5-1 inch prebend.

The forestay should be set at approximately 15-20% of the breaking strength of the wire.  This is impossible to measure directly because of the roller furler. You have to measure this indirectly by the tension on the backstays. This is where it really gets a little complicated.  The angle from the bow to the front of the mast is larger than the angle from back of the mast to the stern. This means the back stays will have more power in their pull than the forestay.  The forestay is 5/16″ wire and has a breaking strength of 12,500 pounds.  So 15-20% of this would be 1,875-2,500 pounds.  Based on the angle difference I estimated that the backstays are 20% more efficient than the forestay (this is a bit of a SWAG). So that would mean that I would be looking for a tension setting of 1,500-2,000 pounds on the backstays.  The backstays consist of a single 1/4″ wire from the masthead to approximately 12 feet from the stern.  At 12 feet from the stern the backstay is split into two 1/4″ wires at a stainless steel plate.  A 1/4″ wire has a breaking strength of 8,200 pounds; the tension setting of 1,500-2,000 pounds would be 18 to 24 % of the breaking strength of the wire.  Based on this, I set my goal tension at 1,500 pounds or 18% of the breaking strength of the wire. As I said, the backstay splits at 12 feet from the stern.  This point is too high for me to measure above the split.  So I have to take my readings below the split on each leg.  But that means accounting for the tension of both legs.  The angle of the split is approximately 25 degrees.  If the angle was at 45 degrees then each leg would just need to be set at 50% of the desired tension.  Using another SWAG, I estimated that each leg needs to be set at 60% of the desired tension.  That would be 900 pounds.

The upper shrouds are 5/16″ wire.  Based on my research I wanted these to be set at 15% of the breaking strength.  The intermediate shrouds are 1/4″ wire and should be set at the 10% of breaking strength. The lower shrouds set the prebend and are 1/4″ wire.  Since you want a 0.5-1 inch prebend you will have more tension on the forward lower shrouds then the aft lower shrouds. Neither should be more than 15% or less than 8% of the breaking strength.

Based on all of the above, here are my goal tension settings:

  • Backstays: 900 pounds, 10 on PT-3 Loos Gauge
  • Upper Shrouds: 1,875 pounds, 29 on PT-3 Loos Gauge
  • Intermediate Shrouds: 820 pounds, 9 on PT-3 Loos Gauge
  • Forward Lower Shrouds: 1,230 pounds, 13 on PT-3 Loos Gauge
  • Aft Lower Shrouds: 656 pounds, 6 on PT-3 Loos Gauge

In an ideal world these tensions would be equal on the port and starboard sides of the boat but that would not likely be the case since the boat isn’t laid out exactly symmetrical.

First thing I did was loosen all of the shrouds and backstays to hand tight.  I measured to two points on the toe rail that was the same distance from the mast base.  I then used the main halyard to measure if the mast was straight.  It wasn’t so I straightened the mast by adjust the upper and intermediate shrouds.  I sighted up the mast to make sure it looked correct.

Then I tensioned the backstays until I got to the desired rake.  But guess what? The turnbuckles bottomed out and I could only get about 3-4 inches of rake.  I measured the rake using the main halyard with some weight hanging from it (I used a water bottle).  The backstay is too long.  The easiest way to fix this is to cut about 6 inches off of the backstay above the split and use a Sta-Lok Eye Fitting to terminate the wire. But that will have to weight for another day.  I was able to get to 3-4 inches of rake and an 8.5 on the Loos gauge (around 800 pounds).  While not being perfect it would work.

Next I tensioned the forward lower shrouds.  At 12 on the Loos gauge I had about 1/2 inch of prebend.  I measure the prebend by attaching the main halyard to the goose neck for the boom and putting tension on it. I then made a visual estimate of the bow towards the bow at the point where the forward lower shrouds attached. I then took up the aft lower shrouds until they read 7 on the Loos gauge.

I then alternated port and starboard side, making a couple of turns on both the upper shrouds and the intermediate shrouds.  I kept checking that the mast was straight with the main halyard. Eventually I got to a point where I couldn’t tension the upper shrouds any more.  The brass turnbuckles were just warping under the pressure and I didn’t feel comfortable.  Both the port and the starboard were reading 25 on the Loos gauge.  But when I sighted up the mast and measure it with the main halyard it appeared that there was a slight bend to port. So I loosened the port a half turn at a time until it was straight.

The next step in tuning is to see how it performs under sail.  I simulated this at the dock.  When sailing in 10-15 knots of wind we are healing between 10-15 degrees.  So I attached the main halyard to a cleat at the dock and cranked it in until we were healing 10 degrees.  I then went and checked the “leeward” side.  Only the intermediate shrouds felt loose.  So I took up two full turns on it.  I repeated the process on the other side and got the same result.

I pinned the turnbuckles and I am ready to sail. The whole rig feels a lot tighter and more secure than it did prior to the tuning.  I had one of my sailing buddies that races a lot and has been crew on many delivers over and he took a look.  He was amazed at how straight I got the mast port to starboard.  He said he would feel very comfortable sailing on our boat offshore.


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Time Seems To Be Moving in Fast Forward

The last couple of weeks have been a flurry of activity.  We have been working on the boat, getting Summer’s vet paperwork in order, getting our final vaccinations scheduled, getting our captain’s licenses all set, dealing with work and trying not to get overwhelmed by everything we still need to do.  I have lots of photos and lots of upgrades to post about.  Hopefully I will be able to throw up some of those really soon.  But man does this final push really feel stressful.  Here are some of the things we have done in just the last two weeks:

  • Took Summer to the vet to get an international micro chip installed, an expensive blood test for rabies, and start the paperwork for her health certificates;
  • Installed a tank monitoring system on the freshwater tank and holding tank;
  • Tuned the rigging;
  • Cleaned the bottom on Smitty;
  • Installed a 2,000 watt inverter;
  • Installed a chart book holder;
  • Tuned the outboard for the inflatable;
  • Cleaned the bottom on the inflatable;
  • Upgraded the battery switch.

More posts will be coming soon on these items.  As I write this we have only 33 more days of work left (48 days total).  It’s hard to believe that our cut the lines date will be here that soon.


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Departure Dates, Corporate Life and To-Do Lists

One of our biggest motivations for wanting to cruise is the rejection of the corporate life.  Neither of us are happy getting up every morning to commute to a box to sit at a desk and stare at a computer screen.  I know, we should just suck it up.  That’s part of being an adult. How else are you supposed to live?  Blah, blah, blah!  We’ve already established that we reject those assertions.

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But we have been letting our corporate lives control one aspect of our cruising plans: the departure date.  Our October 17th date for cutting the lines was based on a work thing.  It was based on my Bride’s bonus which is typically paid out on at the end of September.  Her company has made it clear that if they know you are leaving the company for any reasons….no bonus for you!

So our plan was get the bonus in the account, give two weeks notice and then cut the lines. This meant we were leaving a little later than we would like and we would end up rushing south until we were ahead of the cold.  So we wouldn’t be relaxing and enjoying our time until we got to around the Carolinas most likely. Based on some recent events we have figured out that the bonus is not likely to be as large as past years and our expectations.  This brought up discussions of not waiting for the bonus. After much deliberation we have decided to forgo the bonus and leave earlier than expected.

Our new departure date will be September 8th!

That means we have just a mear 64 days before we go.  Only 44 work days at our jobs! Holy sh@t that seems close.

A little explanation of the new date. For the past 4 years or so on the Labor Day Weekend we have done a trip to Gloucester with a large group of boats.  Last year there were 18 boats that made the trip.  We had already booked the trip for this year and over 20 boats are expected to go. So we decided that a Labor Day Weekend trip with friends would be a great way to celebrate our escape from the corporate world.

Now the downside of this is that it compresses our to-do list time frame.  Originally, I was going to stop working about a month before my Bride and that would give me time to get some stuff done. Now we have just 8 weekends and what ever time we can fit around working to get things done.  We understand that no boat will ever be “done” and that there are plenty of things that can be done along the way. So we aren’t overly stressed.  But there are some things that will have to be (or we really want to be) done before we go.  So here is our short list of things we need to work on:

  1. Check Dates on Flares
  2. Install Port Visors (2)
  3. Add Anchor Chain or system to prevent keel wrap
  4. Install the Sonarphone from Navionics
  5. Install Stern Anchor and Line Holder
  6. Check Steering Cables
  7. Install Inverter
  8. Install 12 volt outlet at Helm
  9. Rebuild Winches
  10. Cockpit Table Upgrade
  11. Tune Up Outboard
  12. Install Tank Sensors on Holding Tank & Water Tank (about half done)
  13. Change Head Intake Plumbing & Fix Leak on Head
  14. Security Doors for the Companionway & Bars for Large Hatch
  15. Organize & Store All of Our Parts & Supplies Stored at my Office, Sell the Rest
  16. Summer Vet Checkup & Get Full Copy of Vet Record
  17. Apply for Bahamas Import Permit for Summer
  18. Close PO Box
  19. Donate or store work clothes
  20. Sell Car