Bumfuzzle’s Cruising Buffoonery

23 Aug

We've often been accused of playing up our lack of sailing experience. People say things like, “They can't really be that dumb.”


To which we reply, “Au contraire, we most certainly can be that dumb.”


And I think, really, we all can be. The difference is that I don't mind admitting it. I got over impressing people a long time ago. What do I care if I appear to be a genius or an imbecile? If you need to act like a genius, it's a fair bet that you aren't one. Isn't it? And don't we all hate that guy anyway?


You're thinking, “This is stupid. Why is this idiot telling us this?” Right. I'll get to the point.


Well, we can't count how many times we've heard someone say, in reference to us, “Well if they can do it…” Everyone thinks that if a couple of buffoons like us can bungle their way around the world on a sailboat that they can too.


Of course part of the reason they think that is because we constantly tell people exactly that. If we can do it, anybody can.


I think it is pretty clear if you read our website, www.bumfuzzle.com, that we are upfront and truthful about everything in our life. Basically if I choose to write about it you can be sure that I'm telling it like it is. That's just the way I am in my writing. So when I tell you all about some of our greatest acts of idiocy on the high seas it isn't with a sense of bravado or a comedians search for a laugh, it is just the way it was for us, a couple of world cruisers who were simply learning as we went along. It's funny now, in retrospect, but at the time it was just discovery.


So here they are, in order, Bumfuzzle's Greatest Hits:


Ground Switch


October 30 2003: Fort Lauderdale, Florida


On Tuesday, we started the buffing of the boat. It works great and really shines it up nice. However, about a third of the way through we dropped the power cord in the water which promptly blew out our AC Power. After about two hours of tearing the boat apart looking for the breaker or some sort of reset switch we gave up. This was at noon, so it kind of shot our day. We still had lights and refrigeration, the plugs we blew are the ones like you have in your house that you plug regular appliances into, so really we just couldn't finish the project.


So Wednesday our friend Kent comes over and looks around for about five minutes before switching a breaker labeled Earth Leakage. Apparently in South Africa that means Ground. Problem solved.


Two-Speed Winches


june 24 2004 : pacific ocean crossing?

Yesterday when we were hoisting the main back up our winch completely died. It's not been working correctly for a while now but the one time I tried to fix it I couldn't figure out how to get it apart. So when it finally stopped working altogether yesterday I figured I'd better try again. This time I did what most women would have done in the first place, I got out the manual.


Jackpot. I had that thing torn apart in just a couple of minutes, figured out why it wasn't working and put it all back together without losing any pieces. Then since it was so easy I tore apart the other one and cleaned and greased it. It's amazing having winches that will actually help when you want to hoist a sail. Probably should have done that little project a while ago. Oh well, it's done now.


[Amazingly, at this point, despite having cleaned and greased the winches, I still hadn't discovered the real neat thing about them.]


July 03, 2004 pacific ocean crossing

Today I was once again reminded how very little I know about boats. I was searching through a West Marine catalog for a winch cleaning and repair kit. As I was reading through it I realized that it kept referring to one or two-speed winches. Judging from the description, our winch didn't seem to fit the one-speed category, but the catalog was saying that the two-speed winch should crank in either direction. Counterclockwise at a 1:1 gear ratio, meaning for every turn of the winch handle the drum makes one revolution, and the other direction at a 6:1 ratio.


Intrigued, I went over to the winch and turned it clockwise. Sure enough it spun six to one. I have been raising the main by turning the winch handle six times more than I need to be. What a moron. No wonder I would be so exhausted by the time I got the main all the way up. In my own defense, the winches were both broken before I took them apart and I'm 90% sure that the two-speed cycle wasn't working before. Of course that just shows that I should have fixed them earlier. Anyway, I'm now looking forward to the next time I get to crank up the main.





november 26 2004: gulf harbor marina, whangaparaoa, new zealand


So we got all the sails off, we removed the boom, and unhooked all the wiring. Then the riggers showed up with a little crane truck. Within a half an hour we had removed the mast. When the rigger was up the mast securing it to the crane he threw a line down to me on deck and said to tie a bowline knot around the jib pole. Of course, I only know about 3 knots, and don't know the names of any of them. So I tied one of those and he looks at me and asks, "Is that a bowline?" I just shrugged my shoulders. His assistant was grinning, and once the rigger had turned away, he just said, "That's not a bowline." Oh well, I guess that's just one more thing you don't have to know in order to sail 10,000 miles.






january 27 2005: gulf harbor marina, whangaparaoa, new zealand


When the riggers came over today, one of them was putting the wind speed indicator and the antennae's and stuff back on the mast. He asked Ali for the Windex, or at least to us that's what it sounded like he said. So obedient Ali, thinking he wanted to clean the mast went and grabbed him the Windex and a roll of paper towels. She came out of the boat and went to hand them to him, and you should have seen the look on his face before he burst out laughing. Priceless.

Turns out he meant wind-x, a plastic thingamabobby that goes on top of the mast and shows you the wind direction. A manual wind direction indicator I guess. We just use the one on the cockpit controls that shows us a nice picture of the boat with a needle on it that indicates the wind direction. Who wants to look straight up at the top of the mast?


MOB Pole


february 08 2005: gulf harbor marina, whangaparaoa, new zealand


Today I was painting our rusty barbeque propane tank. I had this cool spray paint that leaves things feeling rubbery. Well it turns out the paint was nearly the same gray color as the fabric on the boat, and since I was having so much fun with it I asked Ali if I could spray the man overboard pole too. More commonly referred to as the flag pole on our boat. The MOB pole was painted dark red, which didn’t match at all, although I'm guessing there may have been a safety issue involved there. Now it is this sweet looking gray that really ties in nicely with our color scheme. A classy choice indeed.


Roller Furler


february 08 2005: gulf harbor marina, whangaparaoa, new zealand


So yesterday morning the wind finally died down and we were able to work on getting the sails back up and furled nicely. The screecher went back up without a problem since we have done that one a dozen times. The jib was a different story however. We hooked up the jib halyard and pulled the sail up to the top of the furler. Not without some minor problems along the way though. It's hard to explain, but essentially we just couldn't figure out how to hook the jib halyard up at the bottom to pull the sail tight. But we solved that problem eventually and were ready to roll up the sail.


The wind was starting to pick up a little bit at this point so we were trying to hurry. We got all the lines straightened out and started rolling. The furling drum turned once and stopped. No matter how hard I pulled that thing was stuck. I couldn't see any reason the line should be stuck and Ali was starting to get worried about the wind since it was now filling out the sail quite nicely. So I made an executive decision to call in reinforcements in the form of the riggers.


Ali ran across the boat yard and within about two minutes Phil, who already is quite sure that we are complete idiots, came riding around the corner on his bike. He came aboard and looked around really quick and told me to pull the line. It jammed, his eyes slowly went to the top of the pole, then back down to the bottom of the pole, and I could see that the idiot factor I had calculated wasn't even close.


Turns out there is another drum that needs to be at the top of the mast in order for the sail to be able to roll around and around. That drum was still sitting at the bottom of the pole, probably wondering why it wasn't at the top. So down came the sail again, we clipped it onto the drum and ran it back up the furler, and wouldn't you know it, that sail rolled right up. I just laughed, while Phil shook his head and told us to drop off $15 later on. Oh well, $15 to learn how to work a furler, seems like a pretty cheap lesson to me.



Untwisting Chain


january 28 2007 : terre d'en haut, îles des saintes, guadeloupe

Just when we think that maybe we've got all of this boat stuff figured out, we do something so stupid it's as if we had just moved aboard. We noticed recently that our anchor chain was really twisted up. Causing the windlass to work harder and the anchor to spin in circles as we dropped it, leaving us not knowing which direction the anchor was lying on the bottom. I came up with a brilliant solution to the problem though. Since we were in a deep protected bay with flat waters, we could motor to where it was 300 feet deep and drop the chain all the way out. Once it was all hanging freely it would untwist itself and we'd bring it back in. Simple enough right?

Well it turns out there is a kink in my theory, a rather obvious one in retrospect. The kink, 250 feet of chain is extremely heavy. We removed the anchor, fortunately, and dropped the chain down. Once we reached the end and it had untwisted, I sat down alongside the chain and got ready to pull it in. I knew it was going to be heavy, but had figured that with me pulling and the windlass cranking, it wouldn't be a big deal. I was wrong about that.

The windlass couldn't budge it, and even with my feet planted firmly, pulling with all my might, I only managed to get it up about two links before dropping it again. I don't know what a foot of chain weighs, but assuming it’s rougly two pounds, we now had about 500 pounds of dead weight hanging off the front of the boat.

Some people probably still don't quite understand why we would have 250 feet of chain on the boat if the windlass couldn't lift it. At least I hope there are a couple of people who don't. Well normally we are only anchored in water under 50 feet deep. So even when we have all 250 feet of chain out, the most the windlass has to lift at any one time is the fifty feet hanging from the boat to the ocean floor. I of course knew and understood all of this, but for some reason just didn't think my whole project out very well.

We sat there a few minutes trying to figure out what to do. The only solution we could come up with was to simply drive the boat to shallower water which would lighten the load. Now the trick was to not snag anything 200 feet below us. If that happened we'd end up having to cut it away, losing all of our chain in the process.

To add insult to injury it began raining heavily while we were coming up with this, and we were expecting at any moment to have a squall come ripping through the bay to really cause us problems. We motored along slowly, oh so slowly, until we reached 130 feet. At that point we gave it another try and found that with me pulling as hard as I could, and the windlass churning away, we could just get the chain to inch its way up. After a few minutes the chain was back in the locker, the anchor reattached, and we were on our way to Guadeloupe. The only difference was that now we had a nice straight chain.


Anyway, I'm sure there were plenty more along the way that I just can't think of now. Reading back through these makes me smile. I've come a long way and I'm glad I was able to make my own mistakes and learn as I went. If I had it to do over again I wouldn't change a thing.

If you haven't already, be sure and read Sailing's Seriously Simple Stupid to get more insight into just how I feel about a get up and go attitude to sailing.


  1. Mike Tessitore

    I really admire your actions, I should have done this myself a little late now am 77 and cannot get around so good but if I had it to do over I would try it, I have lived in the Philippines for most of the last 35 years and the ocean scares the hell out of me

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