Getting to Know You Rocinante

Ben Eriksen Carey Words 7 Comments

In an effort to share a little bit more of the day to day, I’ll be posting some shorter posts here chronicling our journey…hopefully not in a lackluster fashion.

Although we’ve now owned Rocinante for over a year. [record scratch] Wow, wait, really? We feel like we are just beginning to work on her in earnest. This spring season we are tackling a bunch of projects… some of them being pretty important with regards to safety and establishing baselines.

Now, fortunately, last spring’s “shake down” from Panama to Maine went off without a hitch. Before we left, we checked the boat pretty carefully, but didn’t tackle anything except the essentials. A single chainplate got rebed, the hydraulic backstay got rebuilt, the raw water pump impeller was changed, we emergency-siliconed some of the portlights, painted the bottom, replaced two out of three seacocks that were frozen, greased the windlass, tried to fix a leak on the heat exchanger, and a few other little jobs, but I can’t remember them all.

After 3,000 miles, and some of the biggest waves we’ve ever encountered, we arrived in Maine safely, but both went to work immediately. I set sail with Rozalia Project aboard American Promise, and Teresa set off for a few expeditions with Outward Bound. We worked as relief captains for some day boats in Camden, and launched our sail training business, Morse Alpha. It was a non-stop summer. But we had to… we were pretty broke after not having worked for months, purchasing a huge boat, hiring two surveyors, hauling out twice, flying to Panama a few times, oh and of course insurance, taxes, etc… all the fun stuff they forgot to mention in ‘the brochure’.


So after a busy summer of trying to make some money, living aboard and working aboard, we put old Rocinante to bed, without even brushing her teeth, and covered her up for the long winter. Now, spring is just around the corner and our list is, well, long. It’s a wonderful opportunity to get to know our new girl intimately.

While the cover is on, and the mast down, we are tackling the sensible things like new standing rigging wire, new mast tangs,  complete inspection and rebedding of all chainplates, and removal and inspection of mast step.

So far I’ve discovered that the forepeak is really uncomfortable for trying to remove the headstay chainplate / bow roller. This massive hunk of stainless steel is held to the boat by 12 bolts. I’ve gotten 8 nuts off so far, but 3 of them were completely rusted and the nuts just fell off as soon as I put a wrench to them. Guess that’s why there’s 12! Forepeaks are miserable places. Miserable. And one thing I’ve learned, is that I prefer plumb bows!

On Elizabeth, our Bristol Channel Cutter 28, I replaced the bobstay chainplates. I spent a considerable amount of time in the forepeak of that boat. And I’ll be damned, but it was 500% more comfortable up there on that 28′ boat, then it is on this 44′ behemoth. The reason? The BCC has a plumb bow. The sleek and 1980’s style overhang of the Norseman bow makes accessing the very pointy end a miserable affair. I wish such miserable activities only on my most miserable enemies.


The job isn’t finished yet. I tried to move the step ladder to the bow to access the screw heads and begin some extraction. Nope. Ladder frozen solid to the ground. Try again in a few weeks… when it thaws.

Now, I’ve learned a few times over, that it’s best to start one project and finish it, before moving onto the next one. But when your ladder is frozen, you get a green light to move onto the next project. Up next: windlass rebuild. Take it apart, clean it up, order replacement parts. Waiting. Another green light. Next project! Remove the rest of the chainplates.

windlassApart650 chainplate-double650

The Yachtworld listing for Rocinante said “accessible chainplates”. I wasn’t sure what that really meant. I half expected to arrive in Panama and see the chainplates in full view while sitting at the salon table eating my PB&J. But what it means is that Ta Shing did a nice job of covering up the chainplates with simple vaneered plywood, which are neatly tucked inside the cabinets. I didn’t really consider this “accessible”. But it all came miserably clear, when discussing chainplate inspection with a friend who owns a Young Sun 36. His chainplates are fully encased in the fiberglass hull. They run through the cap rail and right down the middle of the hull laminate. To inspect his chainplates, he’ll need to grind away a few layers of glass mat. What a mess. I gratefully understand “accessible” now.

So far so good, two chainplates out, with minimal fuss, 6 more to go.


Comments 7

  1. Kim

    Plumb bows…I can understand you preferring a plumb bow while working on the hard. But doesn’t that make for a less comfortable ride in the water? I thought that was one factor in what made a sailboat “seakindly”.

    I am a new subscriber to your newsletter. Thank you for blogging!

    We have some parallels to your story, on a smaller scale, with our own sailboat. We bought “Magic Gal”, a 1980 Sabre 34, in December 2013. She was located on the hard in Pentwater, Michigan, about halfway up the Michigan side of the Lake Michigan. Blocked in by other boats, we couldn’t move her until Spring. I cut out four rotten chainplate knees and glassed in new ones over the Winter — the minimum required to get her sailing. We sailed her around the Michigan mitten to Detroit, and soon after had to put her to bed for the winter. Now I have my laundry list of tasks to complete this Spring and Summer to get her in real Cruising shape. But at least we can still sail her this Summer while we work on the list. 🙂


  2. Chris Troutner

    I have had the same experience getting my boat, Solace, ready over the last year. You can only get so far until you need parts, then carefully put the project aside and start on another while you wait for parts to arrive.

    It’s amazing that boat manufacturers don’t build their boats to be worked on. Of course, I’ve worked in the automotive industry and they are *way* worse than boats. Still, I want to punch every boat designer in the face who installed inboard engines in a boat *before* they installed the top-deck.

  3. Eliazar Johnson

    I probably missed it somewhere, but I am curious as to what year your Norseman 447 (Rocinante) is? She looks nice for all I can see!! I am looking for a boat and am perplexed the number of them that are out there for sale. Where to start? So far I am leaning towards a Valiant 42, but it is a little more than I want to pay!!!

    Happy sailing to you two and I look forward to seeing more of your work!!

    1. Post
      Ben Eriksen

      Hi Elizar, Rocinante is a 1984. V42 is a really nice boat, but definitely pricey! The v40 is the same hull basically, without the bowsprit, and a slightly simpler, older layout.

  4. Eliazar Johnson

    One more question: If either of you were going to go back to single handing and sailing around the world, would you go back to a Bristol Channel Cutter 28 or a Norsea 27? Or would you want something bigger?

    So far the boats I have looked at that I liked have been in the 36 to 42 foot range. And that is based on my comfort level. But I could see the wisdom of sailing in a smaller boat.

    1. Post
      Ben Eriksen

      Well, depends on who you ask… the BCC 28 has it’s merits, as does the Nor’sea 27. A combo of both would be ideal. Singlehanding round the world… hmmm, not sure where I would go with that. I’ll have to think. Definitely nothing bigger than 35′. Bigger boat, bigger problems, bigger expenses.

  5. Fred Roswold

    Ben, I completely agree with you about the friggin’ hard job it is to remove the stem fitting and probably would be easier with a plum bow because there might be more room. I did it on Wings in Trinidad and the heads of several of the bolts had to be ground out with a right angle grinder because the nuts on the inside were buried under the stringers (how did they DO that?). And it was HOT up there! Then we found that the stem fitting was perfect and we just polished it and put it back. All of this because the backstay chainplate broke under sail and it made us worried about the bow. Now I want to pull the side chain plates for inspection which is going to be easier except for the fact that I have to take off the shrouds and then get them back on and tuned, etc etc. I am putting it off.

    Plum bow boats have big advantages mostly by increasing the sailing length and buoyancy forward which keeps the bow from burying into waves so much (and of course allowing more working space inside). However, many new boats, with their fine entries, don’t actually have any more, or even as much, buoyancy forward so some of that benefit is lost. The other thing is that plum bow boats have less flare forward so they are naturally wetter going to windward. Trade off’s everywhere. If you have ever sailed on or seen a long overhang vessel pitch and slam going upwind in waves, to the point that it stops going forward, compared to a fine ended plum bow boat which drives marvelously past sailing higher and faster, then, if you like sailing, the choice is clear.

    If I was building or buying a boat now it would have a plumb bow and a long waterline and would be light in the ends. Faster, less pitching, more comfortable to my way of thinking, and unfortunately, wetter. Working in the bow would be a bonus.


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