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About Bosun Bird

Painting the bottom, Port Owen, South AfricaBosun Bird is a Vancouver 27, by the Canadian designer Robert B. Harris. The first Vancouver was built in 1973 as a one-off, for a young couple looking for a sturdy boat to take them from the Pacific Northwest to New Zealand. Canadian production ceased in 1988 but by that time Pheon Yachts, on the south coast of the UK, had already taken up the design and was running a production line that peaked at one boat per week; Pheon's production run eventually reached about 130. Bosun Bird is UK-built (1981).

Vancouvers quickly built a reputation as rugged and seaworthy offshore cruisers; they appear to hold their value well on the open market and a Vancouver 27 won Yachting World's  “One of a Kind” evaluation in 1981. Larger Vancouvers (also by Harris) continue to be built by Pheon's successor, Northshore Yachts but the 27 has been out of production for some years.

Bosun Bird is 27ft LOA (8.23m), with a draft of 4ft 6in (1.37m). Displacement is 8960lbs (4064kg), of which 3465lbs (1570kg) is lead ballast. She is cutter rigged, with roller furling on the forestay and a hanked-on sail on the inner forestay; she has twin backstays and running backstays to support the inner forestay.   The engine is a Bukh 20hp, two-cylinder diesel.  She is (as of 2010) equipped with an Aries windvane; other equipment includes an ICOM M800 HF set, Iridium satellite phone, AIS (receive only) and the usual GPS/VHF.  She has no refrigeration or watermaker. 





Repairing osmosisWhen we bought Bosun Bird in 2003, we inherited a case of moderate but widespread osmosis, which had no doubt been hastened by the boat's having spent nearly all of her life in warm tropical waters. The symptom was hundreds of blisters that became progressively more evident as the bottom dried; most were as small as 1p or 1c coin, but a few were as big as small saucers. When pricked with a screwdriver they would emit a drop – or occasionally a spurt – of brown, vinegary and acrid liquid.

The first task was the tedious one of scraping off all the old bottom paint, down to the gelcoat. Continuing with an electric sander, the location of incipient blisters could then be easily detected as well, as round islands of blue began to emerge from the white background of the innermost coat of primer. We excised the larger blisters – judiciously – with an angle grinder, the smaller ones with a 1cm-diameter drill piece. For several of the larger blisters it was necessary to excavate gently sloping craters as deep as 5 or 6mm before solid, dry GRP was encountered. At this point, the usual advice is to let the boat dry out on the hard for as long as possible, preferably under cover or under a tent. Time was pressing, however; we accelerated the process with frequent washings of fresh water and applications of acetone to the hundreds of indentations now pitting the undersides. The larger blisters we now filled with successively-larger discs of glass fiber and epoxy, up to eight or ten layers as necessary; the smaller we filled (after wetting out) with epoxy thickened to peanut butter consistency; it is important to get the thickness right as adhesion in downward-facing pimples can be a problem. We then coated the bottom with four layers of epoxy, using a different colour each time, and finishing off with a layer of white epoxy primer. It is only possible to cover about 2 or 3 sq meters at one time with each load of epoxy, which makes for a long process; in the case of one patch the local epoxy supplier mistakenly gave us “slow drying” hardener in lieu of the medium to rapid that was necessary in the cool Cape climate, and this patch would not properly set; in the end we simply had to paint more epoxy over it, in the hope that the next layer would harden the one underneath (it appears to have more-or-less worked, but don't bank on it!). As the boat was standing outside, it was necessary to cover recently treated areas with plastic at night lest the dew affect them. After the epoxy primer, two coats of regular bottom paint.

We found that the rudder had been particularly prone to osmosis, along with a presumably resin-starved strip running vertically downwards at the approximate location of the bulkhead immediately forward of the main cabin.

Two years after this treatment, haulout in French Polynesia revealed that all the major blisters we had treated were fine, but a number of the small ones were still gradually pushing out the small 1p size plugs we had inserted and needed treating again. Another year on, in New Zealand, the process seemed to have slowed; and when we hauled out in 2012 in Japan, only a few new plugs were calling for attention.

Rotten deck core

Judicious pushing and stepping (in 2003) revealed an irregular patch of “squidgy deck”, totalling about 2m square, forward of the mast and sloping principally down the port side of the coach roof. This was clearly caused by improperly sealed and caulked holes made when one of the previous owners had attached solar panels to this part of the decking. Conventional wisdom has it that if the area is small you might be able to drill a number of holes and, by judicious use of a heat gun, acetone and wire probes, excavate the suspect area then refill it with epoxy. But the area in question on Bosun Bird was clearly too large for this. We would need to lift off an area of the upper fiberglass skin, scrape out the rotten balsa wood, replace with new balsa, apply epoxy liberally and stick the excavated area back on again.

Squidgy deck after removal of outer layer of fibreglassPerhaps the most difficult part of the exercise is judging the extent of the rot before you take the circular saw to it – if you cut too small an area you will have to cut again and again, increasing the number of unsightly seams on deck, but you clearly don't want to cut too large an area either. Generally speaking, you will find that the rot is most extensive “downhill” from the guilty holes (as you would expect, water tending to run downhill). In our case we determined that the rot extended under the port forward grab rail, so we had to remove that first, before queasily taking the circular saw to the deck.

Once the top layer was off, a large area of literally sopping and rotted balsa was revealed to us. This was scraped out easily enough. Replacement core comes in sheets of balsa that has been backed on one side with fiberglass matting, then cut in a criss-cross fashion, creating dozens of blocks about 3cm by 2cm and allowing for the sheet to be applied to convex surfaces. The sheets are flimsy, awkward to handle and of course they will need trimming to size; in this instance we needed also to replace the marine ply backing plate of the staysail track. The sheets should be bedded with a generous amount of epoxy, then an even more generous amount – thickened so that it doesn't all just run downhill – should be applied in such a way that the myriad crevices between the blocks are filled. The external skin is then stuck back on; boards, planks and tight lashings are required to hold it in place; once off, the decking does not hold a permanent curve.  The joints should be carefully ground out to a very gentle V, extending maybe three cm each side, and the V filled with progressively wider strips of matting. It is of course impossible for anyone other than an expert to recreate the non-skid surface of the original decking along these seams; the seams will necessarily remain quite visible.

Partially completed refilling of balsa core New balsa core complete: ready for replacement of fibreglass decking

So as to prevent further such occurrences, if it is necessary to attach anything to the coach roof, then the initial hole should be drilled a little larger than necessary. The hole should then be blocked from below, thoroughly wetted out and refilled with epoxy. The hole should then be re-drilled, in such a way that its sides are solid epoxy; for good measure, a generous amount of sealant should also be used on the external surface.


With a view to transiting Patagonia, we glued 10mm closed-cell blue foam (it also usually comes in black or white) on as many exposed internal surfaces as we could reach, notably the interior of the hull in the Vee-berth, the interior of the three bunk lockers on each side, the bottom of the three compartments under each bunk, under the floorboards and so on. Regular contact cement does the job, but its fumes are strong and you need to prepare your material in such a way that once the foam is put in place, it is not necessary to slide/slip it – adhesion is instant. It is also important, of course, that the hull surfaces be clean and that no bubbles be allowed to form under the foam. Foam should also be stuck to the exposed chainplates.

The windows and the forward hatch generate heavy condensation as and when a heater is used for any length of time. Accordingly, we double-glazed these with clear, flexible plastic, using double-sided carpet tape in the case of the windows, and velcro for the forward hatch.

Interior, port side; Force 10 heater visible on bulkhead Exterior, port side: H-shaped chimney visible in front of crew's right foot

We installed a Force Ten kerosene heater on the port bulkhead, at the forward end of the port bunk. As a chimney we used a length of 1-inch ss tubing; as it passes through the coach roof the hole needs not just to be glassed but insulated from the core. Outside, we fabricated a screw-top fitting, allowing a custom-made H-shaped chimney to be screwed on when at anchor. The H-shape is necessary to avoid wind (and rain) gusts blowing the fumes back down the chimney. We do not use this heater under way; inter alia, the chimney would likely interfere with the staysail. At anchor, about an hour's use is normally sufficient to warm the boat up, but you do need to circulate the heat – otherwise you end up sweating, but with frozen feet. We have small low-power computer fans, installed on swivels at the rear end of each bunk, that do the trick (and which are also useful in excessively hot weather).

The Force Ten is fed by the same tank that feeds the stove, installed under the port bunk, towards its aft end.


Having seen (and heard) the results of propane explosions on small boats, we are unabashed fans of kerosene for cooking (it only burns when pre-heated). We have a two-burner gimballed Taylors stove, with oven. Over five years we have replaced two burners and used a good number of prickers and aluminum annealing washers.; once you find a good source of spare burners, latch on to it, for they are not easy to come by Such problems as do arise usually seem to be the result of dirty kerosene; make sure there is a filter in your fuel line. If you can get it in a sufficiently small quantity (try small, local airfields) Jet A-1 is the best kind of fuel (it's just a fancy name for very clean kerosene). We have had no problems obtaining kero, but it is important to be sure of the exact translation – e.g in Latin America, confusingly, it is petroleo.

For priming, alcohol or methylated spirits are best, delivered by a small syringe into the burner tray bedded with asbestos wool. Sometimes alcohol can be a lot more difficult to obtain than kero and/or may only be purchased in very small quantities from chemists.

We carry two small fire extinguishers, one large one and a fire blanket.


We carry a sextant, the HO 249 tables and a perpetual almanac, with a view to being able to find our position even in the event of total and long-term electrical failure. From a previous circumnavigation, we are familiar with how to do celestial navigation; if you are not, then some prior practise plus an idiot guide would probably be a good idea. Old-fashioned one-year nautical almanacs are now difficult to find.

We also keep aboard our old Walker Log, “just in case”; these items now have antique value and spare spinners are almost impossible to find

We make every effort to have at least a basic paper chart for everywhere we go, but we do use C-Map, installed on our laptop, heavily. For North America, most of Europe, Australia and New Zealand, C-Map is of course very accurate and can be used confidently in conjunction with GPS and paper charts – all three will coincide exactly. But in the South Pacific (e.g Tonga) and little-frequented areas such as Patagonia, positions charted on paper may be as much as three miles out from what your GPS indicates, and the electronic chart may or may not be based on the paper chart: much caution is needed. Even in much-frequented waters such as those of Japan, we have found great featureless grey areas on C-Map in crucial places such as Kanmon Kaikyo, the narrow strait between Honshu and Kyushu that is transitted by up to 300 vessels a day.

Our main GPS is a Standard Horizon CP180i, which doubles as a chart-plotter. We also have a small Garmin GPS76 wired up and on hand, and a second one of these – with AA batteries stored separately – in our emergency grab-bag.

In New Zealand, in conjunction with our VHF and with a view to the very busy and sometimes fog-bound waters around Japan, we installed an AIS (Automated Identification System) receiver.

For the uninitiated, this is a poor man's radar. Cheap, with low power consumption and no windage, it allows you to identify from as far as 50 miles away, most ships over 300 tons – their name, their call-sign, their course and speed, with their Closest Point of Approach (CPA) and Time to Closest Point of Approach (TCPA). On a dark and windy night, with a lot of shipping around, just having a “threatening” vessel's name on hand is a great boon: they are an awful lot more likely to answer the VHF when you summon them by name rather than the vague “northbound vessel at position x”.

AIS display, Osaka Bay; each triangle represents one vessel AIS display: details of vessel Sanyo Maru

There are various packages and options on the market. Ours is a Comar AIS-Multi receiver/splitter; this takes the signal from our regular masthead VHF antenna and splits it so you can use AIS and VHF at the same time. It then sends the AIS information to our Standard Horizon chartplotter which displays it. We bought from Milltech Marine in the Seattle area who specialise in AIS and were very helpful. You can now buy VHF radios with the AIS incorporated in them. If we were starting from scratch (no VHF) this is the way we would go though you might still consider interfacing it with a chartplotter..


A VHF, preferably with a masthead antenna is pretty much a must everywhere – with the odd exception of Japan, where hardly any fishing boats carry them, and very few yachts; the fishing boats communicate with their own version of CB.

We also have an ICOM IC-M800 SSB/HF radio. We use this principally to talk with/on the various cruisers' nets that exist around the world; things have changed to the extent that hardly any of these are now on Ham frequencies, and it is not necessary to undergo the Ham test. Finding out what frequencies the nets are - and when - can be a challenge; some thrive for a few years then die away, some have been operating on the same frequencies and at the same times for 20 years or more, others still are seasonal.

Some nets are a lot more useful and professional than others. Unless you have a sense that the controller is actually writing down the position you report and will take some action if you miss the sked inexplicably, then you shouldn't rely on him for safety purposes. Some nets seem to consist largely of gossip and/or sports scores. Honourable exceptions, in our experience, include the Patagonian Cruisers' Net – longtime controller Wolfgang has saved a number of lives with his prompt action and coordination – and Russell Radio out of Opua, NZ, whose volunteer operators will keep your land contacts daily updated with your news, should you so desire, and who limit chitchat to the weather.

Receiving weather information by Iridium and laptop GRIB file for Tierra del Fuego

For many cruisers – including ourselves – satellite phones are gradually displacing HF radio, with the distinct advantages that (with an Iridium at least; the competition is not truly global in coverage) you can call anyone, anywhere at any time; and you can throw it into the life-raft as you sink, and immediately dial up the rescue service of your choice.... We use our Iridium to receive e-mail offshore and in places with no Internet access. We subscribe to a service ($240 US per year) provided by GMN (Global Marine Networks) which compresses E-mail to minimise the amount of Iridium time you use. They also allow you block large E-mails and choose whether to receive the large E-mail by Iridium or wait until you have Internet access. They provide a separate E-mail address which we are parsimonious about handing out, lest it be choked with Spam and people sending you pictures. We use the Iridium and the GMN E-mail account to receive weather information in various formats – grib files, web pages, weather information provided by subscription services etc. Saildocs.com is a free subscription service.

Before arriving somewhere we look at the various subscription services to see what is available and also choose the relevant web pages. You are looking for mainly text pages which are small; as soon as they have many images they become too large/expensive to receive by Iridium. To receive a set of grib files – giving a wind/weather forecast in graphic form for up to a week in advance – plus a text forecast for the ocean area in question, along with a text forecast for our nest destination and miscellaneous e-mails, requires us to connect for an average of 75 seconds each morning, downloading onto a laptop. We usually buy 500 minutes, valid for one year, for approximately $650 US; we usually don't use it all (we carry over the minutes). So for less than $2 US we get our day's weather. It is still very expensive and slow (but possible) if you try to use an Iridium to access the internet.

If we want to receive a weather fax (a large file for the Iridium), we use the SSB radio, in conjunction with a laptop; but we tend to favour weather information received via the Iridium.

Once on land, you can access your GMN account more conventionally – by regular Internet using wi-fi or the Internet cafe.

The handset will cost you some $1200 US with data cable etc. Installing an external antenna is useful but not essential.

More and more cruising destinations, some of them surprisingly remote, now have paying or free wi-fi; some yachts instal special signal enhancers with this in mind.

Other electronics/instruments

We have an ancient Seafarer rotary depth-sounder that probably belongs in an antique store but which does the job; it is situated by the chart table, but in such a way as to be visible from the cockpit. We also have an improvised lead-line, which is very valuable when you really need to know the depth within, say 30 cm (e.g when tied up in a small harbour with the tide receding).

We have a traditional barometer and a barograph, on which the pressure is displayed by pen on a rotating drum, each rotation taking a week. Unless you are going to take the trouble to write the pressure down every hour or so, this is a great way to watch the pressure trend.

Barograph: pressure falling Ampair wind generator and main solar panel (in snow)

A Sony car radio/CD player, with two speakers and SW capacity, provides entertainment; unless you want to locate the speakers in the cockpit, it seemed to us not worth it to pay the much higher amount necessary for a “marinised” player. For those long night watches, our iPod is a lifesaver. The crew-member on watch always wears an LED-headset; cheap, strong, easy to replace.

We have gradually converted most of our cabin lights, plus the masthead tricolour, to LED; the masthead may not be as powerful as it was, but the old conventional tricolour bulb sucked up so much power that we rarely dared use it; now we confidently leave the LED on all night.

As well as from the engine alternator, one large solar panel and two smaller ones supply 80 watts; in the tropics this keeps us charged up every day. An Ampair wind generator, on a pole and frame on the starboard quarter, supplements the solar power, but it takes a good 20 knots to generate 4 amps; the noise can get on your nerves and if it gets rough, turning it off involves a delicate manoeuver over the stern. The aged Ampair has now lost its ability to “hunt” for the wind.

We have no fridge and no autopilot (both of which would be major power drains); the panels and the wind generator serve only to generate power for engine starting, for electric lights, for the HF radio (significant when transmitting), the GPS/AIS, the VHF and charging the laptop. We have to admit that it would be nice to have cold beer on hand in the tropics (or even cold water) but are thankful we do not have to worry greatly about electricity.


We have a Furlex roller-furling gear on the forestay, which so far has given us no problems. A previous owner had also installed a light furling gear on the inner forestay, but as we often favour the staysail in heavy weather, when simplicity is key, we replaced this with a conventional sail/rig with hanks. The staysail roller had been set up in such a way that there was a 2cm gap at the top between the crimped T-fitting to the mast and a crimped fitting at the top of the furling gear; this was a bad idea; the small amount of free wire stay is subjected to abnormal stress and in mid-South Pacific it failed on us, necessitating a new stay, with a Sta-Lok fitting.

Broken inner forestay fitting Inner forestay fitting repaired with Sta-Lok

We found that over the years previous owners had replaced toggles and pins on the rigging in a haphazard way; it is in fact important that pins match the holes in the chainplates, so we undertook a certain amount of re-rigging to remedy this.

We also discovered (after some 15,000 miles... ) that when the vessel had last been re-rigged in Hong Kong, the T-fittings at the top of the shrouds and running backstays had not been properly matched to their sockets and internal backing plates; this can be catastrophic so we remedied it immediately.

Running en route to the Cook Islands with two reefs in the main, a less worrying but rather bizarre problem manifested itself: from the top meter or so of the mainsail track, on the mast, we could see what looked to be an electrical cable emerging, flopping around a little, then re-entering the track. This clearly had the potential to impede further raising of the sail and might also block taking it down. It turned out that this was the VHF antenna. Oddly, it seems that this was designed to lie in a plastic insert in the channel that runs up the port inside of the mainsail track (i.e. NOT inside the body of the mast, except below the gooseneck). Over the years the plastic insert had perished and the cable was now free to edge out into the center of the mainsail track and thus emerge from the mast.

The remedy was to draw the antenna down as tight as possible, haul up a line with five or six sail slugs on it to ensure the antenna sat in the right position, then to insert small gobs of silicon at 30cm intervals all the way down the track; this was done by bending a short length of copper piping into a right angle and attaching it to a syringe, then squeezing the silicon in by syringe. Once the silicon has had time to dry, you can run the line with the slugs up and down a few times to ensure there is no obstruction.

In the middle of the aptly-named Gulf of Sorrows, on Chile's ironbound Pacific coast, an attempt to put in a third reef went all wrong for us when a small section of the temporarily S-shaped luff of the mainsail passed forward of a mast step, about half way up. It could not be persuaded to come loose, leaving us unable to haul up or lower the main, which was flapping energetically and noisily in 25 to 30 knots of wind. The captain was forced to climb the mast in a heavy seaway, at night, and free it by hand – not a pleasant task at all. We pre-empted any repeat of this by running a light line from each of the steps outboard to the upper shrouds; alternatively you link each of the steps, at their outboard edges, with a light line parallel to the mast.

Ground tackle

Main anchor: a 15kg Bruce-lookalike, with 30m of 8mm chain and 60m of line;
Secondary: 25lb CQR, with 20m of 8mm chain and 60m of line.

When island-hopping, both of the above are carried forward and ready for use (each with its own hawse-hole). The Bruce has only dragged once – bizarrely, in 2m of water with all the chain and most of the line deployed . At Easter Island, when dislodging it from a crevice on the bottom, we bent the outer three cm of one fluke; we were able to bend it back with a sledgehammer. On passages, so as to minimise weight carried forward and high, we stow the two main anchors below and stop up the hawse pipes with plastic bags and tape.

Bosun Bird anchored and stern tied, Beagle ChannelAs a spare we also carry (in ta cockpit locker) a 10kg Bruce, with 15m of 8mm chain and 30m of line.

We have a Goiot manual windlass mounted forward; this has jammed a couple of times, necessitating dismantlement and replacement of one of its internal bicycle-style chains.

Ideally we would like to carry more chain, but weight considerations preclude this. In Patagonia conditions are such that it is usually necessary when anchoring/mooring to tuck in very close to shore, stern to windward, and lay out lines to land; to this end we carry four 100m floating polyprop lines.


Offshore, a mainsail preventer is more or less obligatory in the seas that prevail. We run a line from the outboard end of the boom, forwards to blocks (one each side, attached with lanyards to the base of the first stanchion aft of the bow pulpit), and back along the side-decks to one of the cleats on the outside wall of the cockpit.

Fourth reefWe make very heavy use of the staysail, and run using a winged-out main (with at least one reef) and the staysail poled out with a light whisker pole. Keep the pole and the boom on the same alignment, and the pole at right angles to the mast. We have also rigged a downhaul on the staysail so that this arrangement can easily be doused singlehanded and with no need for anyone to go forward.

We have four reefs in the main. Offshore, we have the first reef permanently lashed in at the outer end and attached to its hook at the mast end. Sail-makers like to scoff at the option of the fourth reef, but we have used it – and been glad of it – several times.

In moderate to strong winds we find that Bosun Bird heaves to quite comfortably with the genoa doused, the staysail backed, and three reefs in place, the main sheeted in hard and centered. In heavier weather we have several times hove to with just the fourth reef in place. It's important when hove to in a heavy seaway to disengage the windvane (see below) and bring its paddle up out of the water.

Running wing-on-wing, staysail poled to portWe have run under bare poles, in 40 – 50kts, with no problems, at a speed of about four knots.

In normal offshore conditions we average about 4 knots; sailing in variable areas and or heavy weather inevitably slows us down a lot; our best day's run – with no current assistance – has been 135 miles. We only use the engine after we have been becalmed for several hours and/or for psychological reasons, if it looks as though our day's run will be zero or worse.


Some typical runs:

  • Laaiplek (Cape Town) to Luderitz, Namibia: 440 nm, 5 days; strong winds and heavy seas on the quarter; one gale;
  • Luderitz to St Helena: 1366 nm, 14 days; reinforced trades, favourable angle;
  • St Helena to Rio de Janeiro: 2169 nm, 22 days; trades, favourable angle;
  • Bora Bora (Fr Polynesia) to Aitutaki (Cooks): 485 nm, 5 days; reinforced trades, favourable angle;
  • Aitutaki to Vavau (Tonga): 640 nm, 7 days; reinforced trades/gale;
  • Fiji to Opua (NZ): 1242 nm, 15 days; a week of upwind work;
  • Opua to Aneityum (Vanuatu): 975 nm, 14 days; one spell of 50kts plus (hove-to);
  • Solomons to Ponape (Micronesia): 935 nm, 13 days; variable, across the ITCZ, many calms;
  • Ponape to Guam: 908 nm, 9 days; perfect trades;
  • Guam to Kagoshima (Japan): 1425 nm, 15 days. 3 gales then long calms.


We have no autopilot.

Aries wind vaneFrom South Africa to NZ we functioned with an antiquated German-designed Wind Pilot wind vane – a large sail around a vertical axis, driving an auxiliary rudder. This was very heavy and had a tendency to slip in heavy following or quartering seas. The auxiliary rudder would no doubt be useful in the event of losing the main rudder, but it made reversing under power complicated, and when going about in close quarters you needed to remember to turn both the auxiliary and the main rudder. Not recommended.

Aries wind vane in actionIn NZ we installed an Aries – now made under license in Denmark. This has been just excellent; it is rugged, powerful and it was easy to install; Peter (in Denmark) will customise the two holding brackets for your boat and is accustomed to dealing with Vancouver 27s. The Aries is heavier and more expensive than the more widely used Monitors but in our experience it is more ruggedly made, and its control system – with positive incremental “notches” - is better.

While on the subject of steering, we did have one problem with the upper rudder pintle. It became possible simply to lift out the vertical threaded bolt that forms the core of the pintle – it had somehow sheared off, deep inside. We had it re-welded.




We have the original Bukh DV20 diesel.

A previous owner, no doubt frustrated with the problem of a seal (or seals) failing on the raw water pump (the result being that seawater creeps along the SS shaft, into the crankhandle casing and thus into the lubricating oil system) decided to dispense with this arrangement entirely and rigged a standalone pump, which he arranged to be driven by the same belt that also drives the alternator (albeit longer, of course...). This may have seemed like A Good Idea At The Time but by the time we inherited the boat it was causing all manner of problems; notably the pump drive shaft would unaccountably disengage from its impeller at random times; the pump leaked onto the port forward engine mount (ultimately causing it and the crankhandle casing to rust through) and if the arrangement slipped at all out of alignment, friction was transmitted to the belt and the alternator, causing the alternator to cease functioning. Do not repeat! We cannibalised an old DV20 and reverted to the original arrangement, making sure periodically to check the water pump's lower bleed hole for any obstruction.

In Chile, to assist the engine dealing with cold weather, we installed a Bukh-supplied preheating element on the air intake; this appeared to help starting considerably.

The Morse engine control started to slip in Japan – essentially the button would either not engage, or could not be disengaged (embarrassing when coming into a slip). We replaced with a second-hand unit (the small rectangular box that housed what was no doubt the problem, bears the legend “do not open”)...

For some time we had a slow oil leak – about half a litre in 50 hours – from behind the crankhandle case. When we removed the latter in Japan we found that it had no gasket (as it should have) where the upper of several bolts holds it to the engine body.

Also in Japan, our 2-year old Halyard shaft seal (fed by a small oil reservoir) started to fail, the symptom being oil seeping outwards down the prop shaft and then making itself visible on the surface of the water astern. We replaced it with a PSS seal. Access to the area was quite awkward and it was particularly difficult achieving the required compression when installing the new seal, but we were able to make this changeover without moving the engine (you do need to be on dry land!).

Approaching Guam, the small drain plug at the bottom/aft of the muffler (water trap) dislodged itself, the result being a steady dribble of hot exhaust water into the bilge when the engine was running. Once we had traced the fault, we got at the muffler by removing the stern LPG locker and leaning in (uncomfortable...). It is in fact easier to undo the exhaust hose where it exits the stern, then pull everything (the trap plus two lengths of hose) out over the top of the engine; we discovered this in Japan when we replaced the trap and hose.

Catastrophic scenarios

We carry a 4-man liferaft (supplied by Safety at Sea/NZ).

The previous owners carried their liferaft on a rack just forward of the dodger; however, we did not like having such a weight so high up, and this location was also very exposed to spray. Accordingly, we carry ours in the cockpit, on the rear seat and under the tiller; it is difficult to find a canister that will actually fit in this position (eg the Avon 4-man does NOT) but it is ideally located for an emergency. A disadvantage is that the tiller cannot now lift – it remains permanently in the “down” position.

We have a McMurdo “Smartfind” 406MHZ EPIRB, of the variety that automatically transmits your position (and which should thus expedite rescue significantly...).


Bosun Birds are also known as Tropicbirds, and they come in three varieties: Red-billed (Phaethon aethereus); Red-tailed (Phaethon rubricauda) and White-tailed (Phaethon lepturus). They are medium-sized white tropical seabirds found in all the major oceans.  They range far from land and are notable for their very long streamer-like tail-feathers.  Bosun Birds owe their familiar name to the days of sailing ships, when their call was thought to resemble the sound of a bosun's whistle.

Bosun Bird, Tobago, West Indies

There is an active association of owners of Vancouver yachts, the Vancouver Yachts Association.  For a review of the Vancouver 27 see Blue Water Boats.



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