Category Archives: Boat Details

Sweetie back from the spa

Dinghy Spa for Sweetie

Our sweet 20-year-old dinghy has had a slow leak for a few months.  However, she has required air 2-3 times per day over the last few weeks which is simply unacceptable.  One it is annoying and two it is not good for the velcro holding the chaps (chaps=sunbrella dinghy cover).  We decided it was time to take Sweetie out of the water. 

Getting Sweetie onboard Sugar Shack

Our Yamaha 25hp outboard is a beast weighing in at 50 kilos (110lbs).  Way too heavy and awkward to lift by ourselves. We used the main sheet and the boom to hoist the outboard over the transom (stern of the boat).  Matt was in the dinghy, in the water, holding the outboard steady as I hand cranked her up over the lifelines.  She is secured on the stanchion while we work on the dinghy.

Next, we had to find out how to get Sweetie onboard Sugar Shack.  Matt decided it was best to copy our monohull friends. Using the spin halyard that comes from the top of the mast, hoist her over the side of the boat.  Our dinghy is an Avon rib with a hard bottom.  She weighs in at 82 kilos (180lbs) and is 3.4 meters in length (without the outboard).  Matt cranked this time raising the main sheet as I attempted to keep the dinghy off the side of the boat and over the life lines.  Once onboard and safely resting on towels (to prevent scratching the deck), we deflated her.  She looks so sad.

Dinghy deflated and sad

Dinghy deflated and sad

She IS 20-years old which is remarkably old for an inflatable dinghy.  We’ve been very happy with her and hope to get a few more years out of her before having to buy a new one.

Patching Sweetie – Slow Leak

One day while snorkeling, we noticed a leak on the port side bow (just below the attached line hold). The valve cover also has a slow leak.  It was time to repair them. But first, Matt took dish soap and water to the entire dinghy to see if he could find any other leaks.  Luckily those were the only ones that were found.

The pontoons are made of Hypalon (it like a heavy-duty rubber).  Matt had purchased specific glue made for Hypalon.  Unfortunately, it was a few years old and had dried up making it unusable.  Of course!  You try to be prepared by purchasing necessary items in advanced – but it doesn’t always work out.  Instead, he used G/Flex waterproof, flexible glue which we had used before.  Matt cleaned the area, applied the glue to the patch, then applied the patch to the dinghy, and added weight to it.  Now we wait 24 hours until it is dry.

The valve leak repair is only temporary as we are waiting for our new valve covers to come from the States.  We need a visitor (or as we like to call them “pack mules” – you know who you are :).

The first image shows the exposed or weak area causing a leak.  The upper right photo shows the glue during with “weight” and the last is the new patch.

Patching a slow leak

Patching a slow leak

Sealing Up another Leak

Our dinghy has a false floor.  The floor inside the dinghy is a flat surface and is called the “false floor.”  Which is great as the “V” shape floor makes it hard to stand, walk, keep your gas tank, and groceries flat and dry.  Back to our false floor.  Between the false floor and the actual bottom of the dinghy is a space that would periodically fill up with water.  Not a big deal as you simply pull the plug to drain it (see bottom right photo with 2 plugs).  The top plug drains water out of the dinghy (above the false floor) and the bottom plug drains water between the false floor and the bottom of the dinghy.  But how did the water get in there?We also would get water in our forward locker where we stow our dinghy anchor chain, tools, and inflate pump.  Everything can get wet, but they rust and make a mess.  How did water get in there?

With Sweetie out of the water we are able to explore all possibilities.  Matt decided to remove the tow eye (bracket) in the front of the bow that holds our painter (long line that we use to tie the dinghy up).  He noticed that it was not sealed properly which is not a surprise considering it is 20-years old.  It appears that water was getting in through these two holes filling up the bow locker and the space under the false floor – ah ha!

Photo: top right is the bow locker.  Top photos show the holes that hold the tow eye.  Bottom row shows the tow eye out and then secured back in place with new sealant. 

Sealing a leak at Tow Eye

Sealing a leak at Tow Eye

Gluing Velcro to Hold the Chaps

Sweetie has a blue dress that covers her pontoons to keep them safe and last longer.  The dress, aka “chaps” have been sewn and patched several times over but are still in good working condition.  The chaps are attached to Sweetie using velcro.  The velcro is stitched to a small strip of Hypalon which is then glued to the dinghy.  Glue adheres better when it is Hypalon to Hypalon. Part of this strip needed all new velcro.  No small task as the thread/stitching is smothered in glue.  After a few hours of picking, I was able to remove the old velcro and stitches.  The new velcro was stitched to the strip which was then glued back on to Sweetie.

The top image shows the old velcro (white) just above the rub rail. The new velcro (black) was sewn on to the strip of Hypalon which was then glued on to the pontoon (bottom photo)

Re-attaching the velcro strip

Re-attaching the velcro strip


Every dinghy has a rub rail as the rub rail takes a beating to protect the pontoons.  It is not us ramming into things, but rather the dinghy bumping against docks while we are at shore.  Also, the glue loses its adhesiveness when the dinghy deflates as there is no pressure holding the rub rail to the pontoon.  So, we had to do lots of gluing with special epoxy to get the rub rail back in place.

Attaching the rub rail to the dinghy

Attaching the rub rail to the dinghy


The last part of Sweetie’s spa day is a scrub and shine.  I know she looks really disgusting with the green growth, but I have to tell you this is nothing compared to most dinghy bottoms.  However, this is bad for us and for our dinghy.  It is really difficult to clean her bottom as she has to be out of the water.  Our dinghy and outboard are too heavy to lift by ourselves unless we bring her on deck which is a huge ordeal.

It takes a lot of muscle and several products to clean the growth off.  We use “On Off,” bleach, and soap and water.  Some of the products we can only use on the hard-bottom surface while others we can only use on the Hypalon.  I’m pretty darn pleased with how she turned out.  The hard-bottom is white again and the green, black, and brown spots are done.

Bottom of dinghy scrub and shine

Bottom of dinghy scrub and shine

Fiberglass Repair

The hard bottom of the dinghy was a little banged up.  Partly from us dragging her on to the beach and partly just wear and tear.  So, Matt added some fiberglass and epoxy to some of the worn areas.  Almost good as new.  Top left photo is the “before picture” and bottom right is “after.”

Fiberglass repair

Fiberglass repair

After a week on the deck, she was finally ready to go back in the water.  Lucky for us, we did not need our “car” while at our current anchorage.  We swam to shore a few times. Remember, Sugar Shack is our home and our dinghy is our car to get from our home to everywhere else.  Putting the outboard back on the dinghy.  Matt tried a new method using a dynema line and 3:1 purchase which reduced the rubbing and pressure on the main sheet and boom.

Putting the outboard back on the dinghy

Putting the outboard back on the dinghy

It was really good to be mobile again. 

Sweetie back from the spa

Sweetie back from the spa

Dinghies can be very expensive so it is in our best interest to make our little girl last as long as possible.  Check out new dinghy rates.

Events from this blog post occurred during the month of January 2021.  Our blog posts run 8 weeks behind our adventures.

Wash down pump replacement

Servicing our Girl: Sugar Shack

What do you do on a beautiful day in paradise?  Get dirty?  We had a few boat projects that needed to be completed in calm weather (no wind and no swell).  So, we set out to do some maintenance and servicing of both Sugar Shack and Sweetie (our dinghy). 

Anchored in calm waters with very little breeze made it much easier to accomplish these specific projects.  We dropped the hook at North Totegegie where we had beautiful views. 

Servicing the Boat in Paradise

Servicing the Boat in Paradise

Windlass Service

What is a windlass?  It is an electric wench that raises and lowers our anchor and anchor chain. It is a very important part of our boat as it would make anchoring nearly impossible without it.  In a pinch, we can manually raise and lower our anchor using the hand crank method.  However, we have 100 meters of 10mm stainless steel chain attached to a Spade x140 anchor that weighs in at over 65lbs.  Imagine cranking all that chain and anchor up by hand – no thank you!

Our Lewmar Ocean 3 windlass (2000 watt) was running a little slow when raising the chain.  Once it got going it was fine, but the startup was less than optimal.  Not a problem, just needed a little love.  We are at anchor with our anchor chain connected to the windlass.  Can’t rightly service the windlass without removing the anchor chain, right?  First things first, Matt ties a line to the last link of chain (just at the rode) and then secures it to the anchor roller so he could remove the pressure off the windlass.  Then he jumped in the hole (locker) and cleaned the brushes and removed the corrosion.

Servicing the Windlass

Servicing the Windlass

Not yet at 100%…it might require a more comprehensive servicing in a month or two.  For now, it is better than it was and that is good for us (maybe at 95%).  A few days later, Matt took the windlass apart and cleaned all the connections.  He found a loose wire that was the culprit and now the windlass is running perfectly!

Tail Tails

Do you know what a tail tail is?  It doesn’t have anything to do with your posterior or an animal.  A tail tail on a boat is an indicator of how your sails are trimmed while underway.  They are small, light pieces of fabric attached to the sail.  When the sail is trimmed correctly, the tail tails on the windward (inside) and leeward (outside) of the sail will stream backwards.  That’s when life is good.  If the sail needs trimming the tail tail will either fly up or down indicating the need to tighten or loosen the jib sheet (working line) to give you optimal performance.

Our tail tails were very sad and in need of servicing.  Easy enough job when there is no wind.  Matt had to drop the sail onto the deck in order reach all the tail tails.  You don’t want to do this in windy conditions as your jib will be flopping all over the place.  We bought a kit which made replacing them super easy.

Washdown Pump

Our Jabsco washdown pump is located in a locker near the mast.  This pump provides pressure to our hose to enable us to wash down the boat, the anchor chain and pretty much anything we need.  It is great because we can use it with salt water or fresh water depending on how the valve is turned.  We usually hose things off first with salt water, then do a final rinse with fresh water.  Why is that?  Because we have an abundance of salt water and a very limited amount of fresh water.  Our pump was very corroded as it is in and around salt water and salty air.  It worked, but it was limping along.  Instead of ‘servicing’ we decided to replace her.

The pump is only attached with a few screws and clamps.  Matt had it replaced in under an hour.

Wash down pump replacement

Wash down pump replacement

Servicing Sweetie – Our Dinghy

I had intended on putting the work done to service Sweetie on this blog, but it was so extensive that I ended up giving it her own blog post.  Stay tuned for “Dinghy Spa for Sweetie.”

Events from this blog post occurred during the month of January 2021.  Our blog posts run 8 weeks behind our adventures.

What’s Inside Sugar Shack?

We have posted bits and pieces of our beautiful home in each blog, but I am not sure we have ever dedicated a blog post to showcasing the interior of Sugar Shack.  So, why not now?  As Matt loves to say “pourquoi pas?”  I will try to explain as much as I can without putting you to sleep so if you have any questions, please send them in the comment sections.

You board Sugar Shack by either the port or starboard sugar scoops.  A sugar scoop is the nautical term for the aft (transom) which has “swim steps.”  It is easiest to board on the starboard side as we have hand holds and cleats to tie off guest dinghies.

On the top step is a hatch that leads to each engine room.  The engine room is large enough for Matt to work all around the engine (front, back, sides).  The front is a little challenging to get to as he has to lay across the top of the engine to get to it, but he manages.

The Cockpit

We can operate all of the lines and sail the boat from the cockpit.  The only time we have to go forward, while underway, is when we launch or take down the spinnaker.  Most of our life is spent in the cockpit: happy hours, passages, reading, dining, and hanging out. 

The beautiful teak table opens up and doubles its size easily seating 8 people for dinner.  In addition, the table itself is storage for most of our fishing gear and tackle.   

There is also storage in each of the floor hatches.  The one under the table has a spare outboard, spare anchor, drogue, and lots of other “stuff.”  The other hatch has all of our snorkel gear, cleaning products, boat towels, and drinks.

We have “pockets” installed to hold miscellaneous stuff that tends to muck up the cockpit (lines, hoses, scrub brushes, etc…).  You can see here that all the lines come to the cockpit.  The main electric wench, main halyard operates back stay, 3-foward reefing lines, 3 aft reefing lines. The two smaller wench handles operate the dinghy lines and main sheets.

Of course, we have our two helms on port and starboard.  The starboard helm is the “main” operating helm as it has the engine controls. However, both helms have instruments, autopilot controls, and a steering wheel to operate the boat.  We take lots of photos from the helm looking out and at the helm.

The Salon

There is a large glass door and glass window that remain open 98% of the time. The exception is when we are away and/or asleep.  This lets the outside in and brings the two areas into one. (upper right photo).  The salon has super soft alcantera seating in a U shape that allows for fun movie or game nights.  There is lots of storage under each of the settees (cushion seats) for our house batteries, canned goods, pots, pans, inverter/charger, etc…

The inside table also flips open and doubles its size.  This is a great place to do our sewing projects.  Under the table is another storage unit for glasses and a few select liquor bottles.  And below that is a large drawer for large, paper maps and charts.

Navigation and Control Center

The nav station where we set our course, monitor conditions, and operate the boat while underway.  It is the heart of the boat while navigating.  However, the heart of the monitoring is our CZone control panel which tells us everything from battery state and amp usage, to controlling “everything” electronic on the boat.  It is the main control panel.  We have it in triplicate.  You can access the control panel here or on Matt’s ipad or on the small control panel in the master suite.

The Galley (Kitchen)

The galley faces aft (back) which is great as it allows the chef to chat with guests in the cockpit.  We have a decent oven (smaller than U.S. ovens), which allows me to bake until my heart is content.  We have a 3-burner propane stove, a 200-liter refrigerator (which can also operate as freezer) and a 100-liter freezer (which can also operate as a refrigerator).  Storage above each counter and below the sink.

Portside Hull

The port side or guest side, has two cabins and a shared head (bathroom).  The hall is full of tons of storage on each side of the hallway.  We have one tool cabinet, one towel cabinet, one foul weather gear cabinet, 1 tupperware cabinet, and two pantries. 

The port head is rather small but functional.  We usually have our guests shower in the master head or off the back of the boat.  The shower in this head is the sink faucet which pulls out.  It just tends to get everything wet.  Not a big deal as it is meant to be all wet, but really its just easier to have guests shower in the large head or off the back of he boat.

The aft cabin is a special option by Catana where it is called an “office/cabin.”  You can set it up as an office with a double bed or you can fold up the bed (to twin size) and use the cabin as an office.  It too has lots of storage behind the bed, under the floor boards, under the bed, and to the side of the bed (another pantry behind the curtain).

The forward cabin is the most comfortable guest cabin as it has a huge escape hatch that lets in tons of air, another large window, a closet, and a storage shelving unit for clothing.

Starboard Hull

The starboard hull is the “owners’ cabin” which means it only has one cabin, lots of storage and a huge head (bathroom).  It is another option Catana offered.  This is where you can clearly see I have “nested.”

Most of the décor is from the islands, but some I brought with me from the U.S.  Yes, I have put double sticky tape on most of the items so they don’t fall over while we are underway.  We are a catamaran which means that we are more stable than monohulls, but we are still a sailboat and $hit can go flying.

The hallway leads to the master head which is large and airy.  We have a full stand up shower (which is separated from the toilet and sink by a curtain).  This is a luxury as most heads are one space (like our port side).

The hallway has tons and tons of storage.  We have 3 cabinets for hanging clothes, set of shelves for Matt’s folded clothes, another cabinet for my folding cloths, 2 cabinets for electronics and a washer/dryer.

Under all of the floor boards is more storage.  We keep our medical kit, emergency evac bag, dried goods, spare liquor, milk, juice, filters, here.  In addition, the water tanks can be accessed from the floor boards.

Exterior Storage

We also have lots of storage on the outside of the boat.  At the mast, or the center of the boat we have 4 compartments.  We have two fuel tanks (one for each engine) and two large hatches.  We store our dock lines, spare fuel tanks (gasoline and diesel), extra anchor chain, main anchor chain, exterior hose and more in these two areas.

Each bow peak also has storage.  The starboard bow peak stows our 3 spare spinnakers, 2 lounge chairs, 2 bean bags, luggage and noodles. The port bow peak stows all of our fenders, anchor “pearl” floats, passerelle (gangplank), spare cushions, spare ceiling panels, and life jackets.

Sugar Shack

Our beloved Sugar Shack, a Catana 471 has been an amazing sail boat and home for us.  We have enjoyed being her 3rd owner for the pat 10 years and look forward to many more years and tons more miles under the keel.  I’d say the reason I love her most is because she is a sturdy, well-made, strong, safe boat.  This boat makes me feel safe while underway and comfortable while at anchor.  Sugar Shack offers tons of storage, wonderful air flow, and modern conveniences without compromising her performance.  She points well into the wind, she handles big seas amazingly, and she still looks great for being a 20-year-old broad.

More fun photos

Sugar Shack looking down

Looking down Sugar Shack 

Lounging on the bow tramp

Lounging on the bow tramp

For more photos of Sugar shack visit this link.

We are blessed to be able to have this experience and to live on Sugar Shack.  Thank you for coming along our journey with us.  Stay tuned for more fun adventures.

You can check out other Catana 471…most of these are newer than our boat, but still gorgeous.  These are friends of ours.