Plan B

It’s been a long time since my last post. To keep this short and simple, there were problems with the Shannon documents that made a legal transfer impossible. After trying for several months, I gave up and went back to the Cape Dory 28. The seller and I have a deal and the survey is being done. I expect to close this deal soon and will be back posting about my preparations.

My plans are to leave Guatemala for Belize in December or January. From there I will head north to Isla de Mujeres, Mexico.  Beyond that, I’m thinking Columbia, the San Blas Islands of Panama, and ending in Bocas de Toro, Panama.

Plans, of course, are subject to change.

The Boat

Well, I’ve done it. I bought a boat. I should say that I have an agreement to buy, because no money has changed hands yet.No, it isn’t the Cape Dory. It seems that the relationship between the broker and the buyer isn’t going well. So I moved on


I saw this Shannon 28. This design is considered to be the best 28 ft sailboat to come out of the U.S. Shannon is still in business, building several models of sail and power boats. The design comes from Walter Schultz, a highly respected designer and builder. In total around fifty-five boats were produced between 1978 – 1986, after which they continued to be available from Shannon on a semi-custom basis right up to 1999, by which time the price had risen from $55k to $175k. ($175K???) The Shannon 28 remains one of the classic models of the Shannon line, and continues to be sought after in the used boat market with their prices holding up very well. This is hull 44 and was launched in 1982.

Presently, there are two offered for sale in Maine. A 1980 is listed at $48,500 and a 1984 is listed at $57,000. So why am I able to buy this boat for $10,000?

Well, it’s because I bought it “as is, where is.” Here’s what the interior looks like now.


It’s not as bad as it looks. I have done my best carpentry work with my wallet and plan to do so with this project. The present owner is a boat builder, marine surveyor, experienced sailor, and delivery captain. He and his employees will be doing most of the work. There are several things I can do, especially the electrical and plumbing. Most of the parts are in his workshop, just a few feet from the boat. His part of the job will be about another $10,000. I’m sure that I will spend several thousand more by the time I’m done with new batteries, canvas, dingy, outboard, etc, etc, etc.


In the meantime, I will be saving some money because it is at his dock at his home and workshop. It will remain there at no charge until the job is complete and there is also a cabin for my use at no charge. I stayed there one night and it is very comfortable and has a toilet and shower.This will save marina, boatyard, and hotel costs. The completed project should run $25,000 – $30,000 and will depend upon how many extra things I want. I am confident that the boat would sell at a profit at the end of the refit, but I don’t intend to sell it.

Everything will be done by the end of 2016. It will be live aboard ready before then. I’ll be posting the progress.




Finding the Boat

I did a lot of searching for a boat on the internet. I know what I want in a sailboat, but have not limited myself to a specific model. My basic requirements are:

  • Seaworthy. For me that means well built with a good reputation.
  • Hull, deck, and rigging in good condition.
  • Mast climbing steps or ladder.
  • Sails in good condition.
  • Hank on head sails (no roller furling).
  • 30 ft +/- a couple in length.
  • Tiller steering.
  • Sloop or cutter rig.
  • Fiberglass or steel.
  • Has to have a good sea berth.
  • Inboard diesel engine.
  • Minimum 2 burner propane stove. Alcohol possible.
  • Spray dodger and bimini (canvas).
  • Good rowing dingy.
  • Small outboard engine.
  • Strong ground tackle (anchors, chain, and line)
  • Auto tiller.
  • Good compass.
  •  Depth sounder and GPS.
  • VHF radio.

It’s not likely that I will find a perfect fit to this list, but a sound boat that can be fitted out the way I want it can be found. Some of the ones I will be looking at have extra things that are not on the list like radar, refrigeration, larger stoves, and wind vane steering. These are nice to have, but not essential. There are also a lot more details that I won’t write in this post. It would get too long and boring. I would write forever and never look for the boat.

I’m in Rio Dulce, Guatemala and think that I found “the one.” I looked at 3 possibles and narrowed it to a Cape Dory 28. The Cape Dory 28 is a solid and sound ‘pocket blue water cruiser’  with the famous Alberg full keel and moderate, well-distributed sail plan that result in a yacht that is easily handled by a minimum of crew. Her hefty displacement of 9,000 pounds, and her long keel with attached rudder allow the Cape Dory 28 to hold her course in a seaway

I’ve made an offer, contingent on a marine survey (inspection) and am waiting for a response. My offer is near the asking price of $14,000, so I think I will be able to close this deal soon.



New Plan

Valhalla is going on the hard in Puerto Rico and the time has come for me to jump back into the boat market. Until today, the happiest day in my life was when I sold our Tayana 37 in 1996. I still remember how a boat can Hoover your wallet, but I can’t help myself.

There aren’t any boats for sale in the mountains of Costa Rica. So I’ll be leaving for Rio Dulce, Guatemala soon. I have located a few possible sailboats there.

I’ll be posting the search, fitting out, and eventual cruising here.

The Plan

It’s been a while since my last post. I’m home in Costa Rica and I heard from Bob, the owner of Valhalla. It looks like I will rejoin the boat in Puerto Rico in late April. I will post more as the date approaches. In the meantime, this site will be idle.


Starters 101

I now digress from the travel portion of the program to share some important information about diesel engine starters. I have had so many frustrating hours of dealing with them in the last few weeks and may be able to save someone else a similar experience. I will explain all of this in very simple terms so that anyone with no electrical or diesel engine experience can follow the discussion. A few steps in the process have been skipped or combined for the sake of clarity.

In mid November I met Bob O’Brien and his C&C Landfall 48 in Oxford, Md. Bob was waiting for a new starter that was due to arrive the next day. It seems that the old starter burned out when it failed to turn off and could not be heard over the sound of the engine.


A starter has two main parts. A high torque motor which engages to a flywheel to turn the engine to produce compression to start the engine and a solenoid to switch the motor power on and off. The motor is designed to produce a very high torque for a short time and will overheat and fail if run too long. A solenoid is an electrically operated switch. It consists of two main parts, a coil of wire that requires a relatively low current to create a magnetic field to move high current contacts and the contacts that apply power to the motor. Solenoids are also used in many other kinds of applications and they all have the same basic function of controlling a large load with a smaller control current.

When the new starter was installed and the ignition switch was turned, there was a click but no engine cranking. We thought that we had received a bad starter. The click was obviously the solenoid operating, but the motor did not turn. We checked all of the wiring to the engine control panel and ignition switch and found no problems. We took a piece of wire to bypass the ignition switch and the motor ran, but then it wouldn’t shut off. Bob’s mechanic contacted his supplier and told them that they needed to get him a different starter.

A couple days later the second starter arrived and acted exactly the same. The local supplier said that he had bench tested the first starter and could find nothing wrong with it. He recommended that we check our battery voltage, the voltage at the starter motor, and at the starter solenoid. We found that the battery voltage was dropping when we tried to start the engine. We took it in and found that the battery was bad. That was replaced, but we still had the same problem.

We were still measuring a drop in voltage at the starter and the solenoid. The voltage at the battery was good. This loss of voltage in the cables is due to change in the resistance of the wire and connectors as they age and corrode or become loose. The next step we took was to install new cables from the battery to the battery switch and battery switch to the starter. Now the starter motor would run sometimes and sometimes it wouldn’t. It would also run and not shut off some times.

The starter supplier explained that if the solenoid voltage is low due to a bad switch or wire, the contacts do not come together properly and that can create a hot spot and electrical arcs that can weld the high power contacts together. So we installed a new ignition switch and we were still having problems.

After all of the failed attempts at making this repair, Dwayne Pasco, owner of the supply store said that he would come to the boat with a stater and work through the problem with us. When Dwayne arrived, he showed us a set of damaged contacts from the first starter we tried. Even though the solenoid is the lower current part of the starter, it can still require a significant amount of current. The cranking battery also has to be large enough to maintain voltage when the high demand of the motor is applied.

To ensure that we would have a large enough starting battery, we added a second one to the start circuit and to ensure that we didn’t loose any voltage in the ignition wiring, an auxiliary start relay was added at the starter. Like the solenoid, a relay uses a low current circuit to switch a higher current circuit. However, the relay has a very low control current. So the ignition switch operates the relay which then switches the power to the solenoid right at the starter. This resolved all of the problems and the starter operated correctly each time.

There was a lot more to the story. Much of that was wrong theories we had and wrong roads we traveled. I omitted those because I don’t recommend that you repeat our mistakes.

The biggest lesson learned is that if you only hear a click when you try to start your engine and then it does start after a couple tries, you are on the way to a failed starter.

I recommend the following:

  1. Check the voltage at the battery posts while the starter motor is running. Replace the battery if the voltage drops more than a few tenths of a volt.
  2. Check the voltage at the starter motor when it is running. If it is dropping much below the battery voltage, replace the cables.
  3. Check for any losses on the ground side of starter. Measure from the negative post of the battery to the ground side of the starter. Use an extension test wire for your meter, if required. A light wire can be used for the meter. There will be only micro amps of current in the meter circuit. Replace the ground cables if required.
  4. Measure the voltage at the solenoid. If it is below 11 volts, replace the ignition switch and wiring or better still, install an auxiliary relay.

My opinion is that you can’t go wrong with installing an auxiliary relay. That will give you the lowest voltage loss at the solenoid.

We now return to the travel portion of our program already in progress.