My purpose purchasing Eliana was to circumnavigate. Or at least, to make an extended cruise around the Pacific. Not every sailboat is up to the task. Most boats are made for daysailing inshore or nearshore. The may have accommodations for a few people to spend a few nights on board, but don’t have the storage for a long journey, or the construction to sail in rough or stormy conditions. So most boats that were in the local classifieds would not work for me.
Before I decided on what boat to buy, I spent several months reading. Many hours on the Internet looking at classifieds, and then doing research on the boats that I found. I bought a few books on the subject, by far the best of which was The Voyager's Handbook: The Essential Guide to Blue Water Cruising by Beth Leonard. A hardcover book of nearly 600 pages, this book covers what makes a good boat for ocean cruising, what upgrades will need to be made, and what will likely need to be replaced. I now consider this book essential reading for anyone considering crossing an ocean.
I was looking at older boats to fit my budget, so I expected repairs. Also, since few boats are sailed across oceans, I would need to outfit it with gear required to do so. Even boats built for offshore work tend to not be equipped for it from the factory, leaving the owners to choose what modifications and gear they prefer. So, for every boat that I looked at, I figured the cost of the boat, I estimated repairs, and estimated upgrades. I looked at dozens of boats online, figuring all of these costs. I only looked at two in person.
The first one was local, in Alameda. Like Eliana, it was a Morgan 382, but an earlier build. She was in poor to fair shape. There seemed to be no major damage, but lots was worn out and needed replacing. The engine, the standing rigging, all the teak in and out was old and needed refinished. And the asking price was very high. All the electronics needed replaced. All the winches needed replaced or at least major service. This was definitely not the boat that I wanted to buy. Nevertheless, I spent a long time looking at her, and really liked her “bones.” So I turned my attention to looking at other Morgan 382s.
I found 3 more in Southern California. All were in much better condition than the one I had looked at, but one stood out as looking nearly brand new. It was also listed for much more than the other two, but if it was work I would need to do anyway, it’s cheaper to buy a boat with the work already done. I called the broker and arranged a trip to go look at her.
Indeed, Eliana was beautiful. In person, she still looked like new, with a new engine, new top paint, the mast had been refurbished and painted, new rigging, and all the teak inside and out had fresh varnish. The downside is that she was very bare, with no instruments and no extra equipment other than the bare minimum. So, I would need to be buying all of that, but could at least pick what I wanted and know that it was all new. I mulled it over and made an offer, a week later returning for the survey, and then returning again with Travis for our Catalina Island trip.
I got Eliana home in November and was anxious to start working on her. At this point I was naive enough to think that there was a chance I could leave the following October, for the famous Baja Ha Ha cruise to Mexico, and then continue with my trip. Boat repairs were much slower and more expensive than I had hoped.
The first projects were those repairs that came up on our trip to Catalina, and those required for me to sail around the bay area. At the top of that list was to work on the head. The valve that diverts waste between the holding tank and overboard was stuck, meaning that every time the toilet was flushed the waste was just dumped into the water. Aside from being gross, this is Illegal in the bay, even if the toilet isn’t used. The problem was a brass gate valve that was too badly corroded to move. The way it was installed required the cutting out of most of the PVC plumbing and basically repluming the entire head. It wasn’t very big project in the scheme of things, but limited access into the small area under the sink made it difficult enough. I opted to replace the gate valve with one made from PVC. I don’t know if that was a good idea or not, but my reasoning is that PVC will not corrode, and I could disassemble it and clean and replace the seals without removing any other plumbing.
Next was to fix the fuel gauge that worked backwards. Fuel gauges are simple to hook up. This one was connected properly. It was like the sending unit was operating backwards, but I didn’t see any way that could be. Plus, the fuel gauge was new, having been replaced with the engine. The sending unit had obviously not been removed in a long time. After some research, I discovered that there are two electrical standards for gauges, a US standard and a European standard. The fuel gauge was a European gauge. So the purchase of a new gauge was an easy and relatively inexpensive fix.
Lastly, in order to sail the bay, I needed new sails. The main tore during the delivery from Marina Del Rey to San Francisco, and the Jib was worn out. Since I was going to be ocean sailing, I ordered sails with three reef points, so in a storm I could reduce them in size to a small fraction of their full size. I also ordered slightly heavier material for strength, full battens, and a new track for the mast that would operate very smoothly to make handling the extra weight and the battens easy. The total cost of the sails was about $9000. For a wear item that occasionally needs services or replaced, they are not cheap.
The most difficult repair I've made thus far was to replace the cutlass bearing. This is the bearing that supports the propeller shaft where the shaft exits the stern of the boat. I hadn’t anticipated this repair. Eliana was hauled out for new bottom paint. Bottom paint by itself is no big deal and needs done every couple years. I asked the yard to inspect everything while they were painting and it was found that the cutlass was very worn and desperately needed replaced. A new cutlass was $30, but with labor the yard estimated $2000. They said that I was welcome to replace it myself while they were painting the boat. So I did.
To replace the cutlass, the propeller and shaft need to be removed, and in order for the propeller and shaft to be removed, the rudder needs to be removed. Removing those took me half a day. Then I needed to clean up the gudgeon (hinge) and fabricate a new bushing for it. I did that at home the next day. I also built a special puller to ease removing the cutlass, and purchased some hardware, nuts and bolts, that I decided to replace. The third day, with help from my brother, I replaced the cutlass, re-installed the prop and shaft, and reinstalled the rudder. Once the boat was in the water, I reconnected the shaft to the engine and found a major miss alignment. I got it very close, but not perfect, new engine mounts became another project I would do before the year was completed.
Over the next year or so, while I was sailing as often as I could, and making overnight trips as often as I could, I was also making repairs and outfitting Eliana for more serious offshore sailing. New bigger anchors, rewiring the mast, new navigation lights, extra bilge pumps. A propane system. I spent about $30,000 during the year, far more than I anticipated. There is still quite a lot that I would love to do, but for every thousand I spend, I have that much less “sailing kitty” to finance my extended leave.
In the end, at some point I would need to determine if I have enough done to be safe and successful, and consider the rest luxuries that I can do without, lest I never actually leave on my trip. Some of these omissions not only save money now, but save even more maintenance and up keep later. For example, to add a refrigerator instead of an icebox, I need more power, more batteries, solar panels, and maybe a wind generator. Then down the road, I have to worry about biannual changing of expensive batteries, and the possible failure of charging systems and generators, and the possibility of the refrigerator itself breaking. These are all things that I would rather not have to deal with while on vacation in another country. What I am left will are less luxuries than many boats have, but much less up keep.