How to launch a sailboat in 31 short steps

The title is pretty self-explanatory

Dear friends,

What a difference a few weeks can make! Since our last post, there has been lots going on, yielding much progress. On November 22, our boat was launched, though without the mast (we were still waiting on some new rigging, also known as the strands of wire that hold the mast up).



 Our plan was to wait for the new parts on a mooring ball in the lagoon, so we could get out on the water, away from the stifling heat and swarms of mosquitoes. Unfortunately, when we started up the engine, our transmission was making an awful clanking sound, so we decided it would probably be best to stay in the marina while we troubleshoot the problem. Within a week, David had solved the problem (yay!), but then our outboard motor on the dinghy stopped working properly, and once you’re out of the marina, you need a reliable outboard motor if you ever want to leave your boat, so once again we felt it was best to stay in the marina until that was resolved. Then our new rigging arrived, so we decided we might as well stay and get the mast rigged and ready to put up.  


David in boat mode


People often say that a boat is just a large fiberglass hole that you throw money into, because there is always something that needs fixing (didn’t you know that BOAT stands for Break Out Another Thousand??). And that’s what the last five weeks has seemed like. As soon as one problem gets resolved, you discover another one. Some days it felt like we had accomplished nothing because the list of things to do before launch was longer in the evening than when we started in the morning. So we thought it was important to jot down some of the tasks that kept us busy, if only to show ourselves that we have, in fact, accomplished a lot. Here is a by-no-means-exhaustive list of the boat jobs we undertook during our five weeks in the marina:

  • wash cushion covers to remove mold/mildew/salt water stains

  • wash/wipe down all surfaces

  • clean out drawers

  • clean out cupboards where cans of food had exploded

Get right in there!
  • sort through everything that was left on the boat by previous owners

  • upgrade lights to LED

  • buy a new dinghy

  • replace anchor chain

  • replace hot water heater

  • replace water pump

  • replace shower sump

  • repair outboard motor for dinghy

  • disassemble windlass (mechanism that pulls up anchor), clean parts that were not completely corroded, price having replacement parts shipped vs getting them made; decide to just buy a new windlass; install new windlass

  • inspect rig and decide which stays (wires that hold mast in place) to replace

  • repair furler (disassemble, find problem part, order new $12 part and pay $70 in shipping, put back together)

  • sand hull


  • apply anti-fouling so hull isn’t covered in barnacles by the end of the year

Mel applying anti-fouling
  • repair outboard motor again; hurl threats at it

  • wax hull

  • replace navigational lights

  • troubleshoot which battery is draining the system, and replace it

  • replace hatches broken during Irma

  • figure out why engine started yesterday but not today

  • fix transmission linkage so Reverse works

David hanging out in the engine compartment
  • grease winches on mast

  • repair outboard motor; kick it to see if that helps

  • figure out why alternate outboard motor won’t start

  • figure out why we keep getting electric shocks from our boat (particularly when climbing the ladder – exciting!)

  • find new ways to get water for the boat after the yard loses its supply due to an overzealous garbage man who backed the digger into the street’s water meter

  • get propane tanks for stove and bbq filled

  • repair outboard motor; give up on it and just use the alternate 3.3 hp one we thankfully brought in our suitcase; factor in an extra 15 minutes to get anywhere.

Out and about on the dinghy

Of course, these tasks were in addition to general daily living tasks like getting groceries, doing laundry, partaking in the yard’s happy hour, and other critical activities. And keep in mind that we didn’t have a car, so provisioning and getting to and from the chandlery was all done on foot or by dinghy (hence the importance of having a functional outboard motor).


Laundry day (and they have wifi so we can put up new blog posts)!

But it was all for a good cause, and on December 4, the yard stepped our mast and we were released into the lagoon! 




It took a lot of hard work, but we made it out! We are staying in the Simpson Bay lagoon for the week to sort out our electronics, which seem to have all gone haywire since Irma. If all goes well, we’ll do a shakedown sail next week!



In the meantime, we are finding a nice balance of work and rest, while enjoying the wonderful breeze out on the water. Mel even has a bit of a tan!


Stay tuned for news of our shakedown sail around the island!


10 thoughts on “How to launch a sailboat in 31 short steps

    1. Maybe in intensity, but hopefully not in time! We don’t have 4 years to fix this ol’ girl up! Today’s job is installing a new bilge pump to get rid of the sludge that accumulates in the boat’s bilge so it doesn’t slosh around while we are sailing. The fun never ends!


  1. When you started this process did you think it would be this much fun? I think if you survive this and actually get to sail you two can survive anything. Happy sailing…eventually.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Toujours dépaysant et passionnant de suivre vos aventures “boatesques”! Continuez de partager ça avec nous !!
    Et surtout j’apprends tellement de vocabulaire en anglais sur le thème du bateau…(est-ce que ça me servira un jour?…)
    Bisous de nous 4 (bientôt 5 en Juin)

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s