At Long Last

We waited a week for a custom Starboard base plate to be manufactured. It, and the two-man installation crew, arrive on December 30 for what we hope will be the last day of installation. The day did not go as smoothly as one might hope. Tempers flared; words were exchanged. We had endured a week-long delay at the beginning; the wrong davit had been ordered and a replacement HPU was required, forcing another delay; the camber of our deck had not been anticipated requiring manufacture of a custom base plate; holes had to be drilled requiring fiberglass repairs that our installer can’t do (nor could he recommend anyone); and so on. Each issue was met with argument and excuses. I spend the day watching every facet of the installation so that shortcuts would not be taken that would come back to haunt us down the road. What an ordeal. By the end of the day the unit was bolted securely to the deck; powered up and tested without load. All that remained was the load test. Lifting our 700-pound tender out of the water and onto the deck.

We fired up Tivoli and turned the boat around in the fairway; tying up again with the port side to the dock. This places the davit and starboard side away from the dock so that we can hoist the tender over the starboard side into its chocks on the boat deck. The tender has been tied to the back of Tivoli for 3 weeks; fortunately we are in fresh water as there is no bottom paint on the tender to prevent barnacle growth. Nevertheless its bottom is now covered in brown slime. We use lines to maneuver it around to the starboard side and manipulate the davit to attach the tender lifting harness to the davit’s hook. I cross my fingers and we slowly lift the tender out of the water. Will the through-deck bolts hold? Will the boom clear the handrails? Will the davit extend far enough away from the boat to provide adequate clearance for the tender? Will the davit operate properly?

To our great relief, all goes well; nothing breaks and all works as it should.

One last thing: the hose test for leaks. After allowing the caulk to cure for 24 hours we begin the cleanup which includes washing down the boat deck. No leaks. Still, caulk can take 1-3 days to fully cure, so we resist re-installing the salon ceiling panel. The weather has been sunny for 3 weeks but, of course, that evening it rains. Not hard, but enough to have us inspecting the through-bolts periodically. No leaks. Fingers crossed, but I think we are done. We re-install the upholstered ceiling panel and the boat is finally back to normal.

The new davit is installed, it looks nice and it works beautifully. What was a manual and downright dangerous operation is now a pushbutton affair. We can use a wireless controller to place our tender, bicycles, etc. where we need them, without risk of smashing them into the side of our boat.

The davit in its stowed position is much more compact than the old davit; its boom retracts to 6 feet and extends to 10 feet whereas the old davit was a fixed 9 feet. The new Steelhead also uses Amsteel cordage for a winch cable rather than the traditional stainless steel cable. With a breaking strength of 12,000 pounds it is more than sufficient for this duty and is quiet. The old steel cable had a tendency to snap off the winch drum – startling the operator. Another nice feature is the cable weight can be stowed on the end of the boom and doesn’t require attachment to a deck fitting. This eliminates the constant flexing and pressure on a deck fitting from the motion of the old davit; and looks better too.

The davit boom is raised, rotated aft to the center of the tender, the boom is fully extended, and the hook is dropped to attach it to the lifting harness and we are ready to launch.

The extended boom is rotated over the starboard side of the boat; plenty of reach to safely launch and retrieve the tender.

Now that this project is complete (aka the davit ordeal is over) we will head down to Palm Beach Gardens to complete a few more boat maintenance tasks before crossing to the Bahamas sometime in February. While there is always a long “to do” list on any boat of this complexity, the major item needing attention is our NAIAD stabilizers. We have a small oil leak on the low pressure side of the oil cooler and one on the fluid conditioner/gyroscope itself. The fin seals may also need replacement as it has been nearly 4 years since we bought Tivoli and we aren’t sure when the previous owner had them serviced. Since these are key to our comfort and safety this item will be addressed first. It will require hauling the boat and will likely take several days.

While waiting for the davit I’ve been studying the Bahamas and Exumas charts planning our upcoming Gulf stream crossing and trip. Because we are familiar with the Abacos our current plan is to leave Lake Worth inlet at West Palm Beach and cross the Gulf Stream direct to West End to clear customs. Another option is to cross onto the Bahama bank near Memory Rock and continue to Great Sale Cay, anchor overnight, then continue to Green Turtle to clear customs. This is a short trip; roughly 55 miles to West End; 100 nautical miles to Great Sale Cay; 180 nm all the way to Marsh Harbor on Great Abaco. The challenge is the Gulf Stream. Moving at 3-4 knots the Gulf Stream flows North along the coast and has a major impact on boat speed and direction. If the wind is out of the North dangerous steep and short-period seas can develop quickly. So, all cruisers wait for the right conditions and, like a flock of birds, fly over to the Bahamas in a group. This season the weather has been beautiful and many crossing opportunities have already come and gone. Many years periodic Northerly’s move through and often make it difficult to find a window of opportunity.

Maybe we will get lucky.

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