Three French Guys…

Posted on Tuesday 12 July 2011

Lately, I’ve been helping my friend Glenn out.  He sold his Jeanneau Sun Leisure 34 to three French guys, who are planning to sail it back to France in about a week.  He asked me to keep an eye out for the three French guys that had bought the boat. I decided that helping them re-commission Avalon Explorer would be a good idea.

The captain, Antoine Sebastien, was the first of the three that I met.  He came over to finalize the purchase and start prepping the boat. The next crew member to come over was Adrien Montoille.  The last arrived a couple of days ago, Vianney Baron.

Here they are working on re-reeving the halyards.  Clockwise from the guy up the mast are Adrien, Vianney and Antoine.

Adrien aloft, re-reeving the running rigging with Antoine and Vianney on deck.

There was a fair bit of work that needed to be done to prep s/v Avalon Explorer for her upcoming pond crossing.

Some of the ports leaked, and they were rebedded using Dow-Corning 795 silicone structural adhesive.  I had a couple of tubes of the adhesive left over from the restoration of s/v Cheers over the last year.

The anchor windlass and bow bi-color light needed re-wiring due to severe corrosion damage to the connections and equipment that was left exposed in the anchor locker.  The old anchor windlass relay was installed by simply bolting it to the aft bulkhead of the anchor locker, and the terminals for the windlass remote control had corroded completely away.  The ground wire for the relay was spliced into the bow bicolor’s wiring and the non-heatshrink crimp fittings had all corroded away as well.  I had them re-run the wiring and they connect to the old wiring inside the boat’s v-berth, via a proper terminal block, safe from the salt water spray and exposure of the anchor locker.

The replacement windlass relay is installed in a component box we bought at Radio Shack.  The box was screwed to the aft bulkhead, with the location basically dictated by the existing wiring.  The relay and the socket for the windlass remote were mounted into the box and then it was wired up.  I then sealed the box where the wires entered with heat-shrink tape, to help prevent water from getting into the box.  I left two drain holes in the back, just in case water does get into the box.  The finished product isn’t the prettiest, but it should last for the voyage. Here is a photo of the anchor locker with the new relay in its waterproofed box.

Anchor locker with new relay in a waterproofed box.

Anchor locker with new relay in a waterproofed box.

The windlass remote was re-wired to a 30 amp trolling motor connector, which is one of my favorite electrical connectors to use on a boat—it is robust and fairly waterproof and secures via a twist-lock design.

Tracing the windlass wiring was an interesting challenge.  Apparently, the 100 amp breaker in the cockpit is for the anchor windlass, though it wasn’t labeled as such.  The windlass works quite nicely now though.

The forward water tank had a broken inspection port cover.  I fixed this by making a 3/4″ thick PVC disc and dogging it in place using two 3/8″ bolts to a 3/4″ thick PVC bar that was fit into the tank. The base of the disc was large enough to seal around the opening for the broken port cover and I used two layers of butyl tape as a sealant.  The bolts had butyl tape wrapped around them under fender washers, and that sealed the bolt holes. We pressure tested the tank, and there was no leakage. The bar inside the tank had two t-nuts embedded into it, so that a wrench wasn’t required to hold the nuts in place as we tightened the bolts.

The electrical panel had about six broken circuit breakers.  Unfortunately, the older French-designed breakers that the panel used are no longer available.  I suggested that they take two banks of five  breakers out and convert them to allow the modern circuit breakers to fit by enlarging the switch hole slightly and drilling a new screw hole to accommodate the longer base distance between mounting screws on the modern breakers.  This way, they would have four back up breakers for the older French style ones, and could have a couple of new breakers as backups for the ten new breakers.  I think it was a pretty good compromise between replacing all the breakers and keeping as many of the older breakers as possible. JT, the local boat repair guy, did the actual conversion.

I also helped sort out issues with their electrical system’s charging setup.  Getting the solar panels and wind gen working was key, as they will be a necessity on a crossing like the one they have planned.  The two solar panels are about 100 watts each, and the wind gen is a small Air X unit, probably close to 400 watts in higher winds.

Their AC-based battery charger wasn’t working, but that was because they were feeding a 230 VAC device only 120 VAC.  They had a step-up transformer, which allowed us to get the AC battery charger running, once we fixed some wiring corrosion issues. Corrosion of the wiring was a serious issue in a lot of this, and we had to cut back the main wire for the 230 VAC shorepower system almost 3 meters.

I got the VHF and GPS up and running…both of which will be key for the trip.

I also repaired the ancient Autohelm wind instrument, which had the wind vane snapped off by one of the clumsier crew.  It was a fairly simple fix, cutting a replacement vane from a plastic package and then affixing it to the remnants of the old vane.  Probably not quite as accurate or elegant as the original, but it should work well enough to get them across the pond. They were looking to replace this ancient wind instrument transducer, and I was pretty sure that the part wasn’t going to be available.

The autopilot had a strange setup at the end of the drive arm. The thrust coupler was missing and been replaced by a plastic hook, which I didn’t think was going to work very well.  Fortunately, the old Autohelm design is still basically the same as current Raymarine models, which were based on it, and we were able to order a new thrust coupler from Raymarine.  I was pretty sure this was the case, and had removed the thrust coupler from one of my tiller pilots to check my theory.

The tiller extension had a problem.  The extension was supposed to lock into the tiller via a ball-lock fast pin.  The problem was that the fast-pin couldn’t lock in the socket on the tiller.  It turns out that the metal tube that the fast-pin went into was about 1.5 mm too long and the ball wouldn’t lock because it was still in the tube.  I had one of the crew file down the end of the tube until the ball was able to exit the end of the tube inside the tiller handle and lock properly. A simple fix, but only if you understood what the actual problem was.

I also helped them find a source for the steaming light bulb.  It seems that 44 mm festoon bulbs are a bit tough to come by, since most of the boats here apparently use the smaller 39 mm festoon bulbs.

I introduced Antoine and his crew to some of my favorite local vendors.

We ran up to R&W Rope Warehouse for running rigging. Fairhaven Hardware and Sears Appliance and Hardware were good sources for stainless steel bolts and nuts, including the 6″ long bolts needed to make the temporary water tank seal.  They were already using Harding Sails, my local sail loft, to handle some of the repairs to the sail inventory.

We went to both local West Marine stores, and two of the local auto parts stores.  Yes, auto parts stores often have gear that is well suited to marine use, since it is designed to be used in the underhood environment of an automobile and is often designed for conditions just as hostile as a marine environment, but at a far lower price.

We also went to Bennys, a local store that has a very wide variety of supplies, for a portable BBQ grill and some propane canisters, to act as a backup for the stove, which is not in great shape.  Only one of the burners works, and it isn’t in the best of shape.  This gives them an alternate source of cooking heat—since cold food for the entire passage in case the stove fails would make for  a pretty rough voyage.

I do have some concerns for Antoine and his twenty-something crew, as their boat maintenance and repair skills are rather limited.  In my opinion, if you are making a voyage or passage of this nature, you should have the requisite knowledge and skills to troubleshoot and repair almost every system on the boat.  From what I have seen, they do not the in-depth knowledge about boat systems in general, that I think is a necessity for making a crossing.

I hope that they do not run into any issues, since the lack of such trouble shooting and repair skills is going to be a serious handicap for them. While they may be experienced sailors, I don’t see them having the wide experience in maintaining, repairing or troubleshooting that is a necessity for jury-rigging and making emergency repairs when on a long passage.  Their response to the broken wind vane is a key example—they immediately thought of purchasing a replacement—rather than even attempting to jury rig a quick repair to it.  It took me all of two minutes to make a functional repair to the wind vane, but I have decades more experience repairing, re-fitting and tweaking boats than they do.

If you want to follow along with these three intrepid, twenty-something, if a bit foolhardy, sailors, their blog is at

I wish them fair winds, following seas and good luck.  I have asked my beloved weather goddess to watch over them. I often wish I had done something like this when I was their age, by my life at their age was far too complicated with grief and learning how to deal with the death of my identical twin, and breaking up with my fiancée Su, to be able have done so. 

1 Comment for 'Three French Guys…'

    August 24, 2011 | 6:03 pm

    Hello Dan
    I hope you re going welll!
    So we did it : Atlantic was a real pleasure during a month (from 14th of July to the 15th of August), thanks to a good wheather, downwind 24 days out of 29. Few reparations : Adrien is skillful for that and we repaired boom rivets, pulleys (spinnaker and mainsail sheet) engine’s belt…
    We had great time and a nice stop in the Azores. Arrived in Britanny, we were received happily by friends and family..
    We want to tahnk you a lot for all the help you provided us before our departure at Moby Dick Marina. It s a bit with you we did our transatlantic, as the preparation is such an important part of it.
    Let’s keep in touch, take care, and be ensure that you will be always welcome in Paris.
    Adrien, Vianney, & Antoine

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