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Last Updated on September 28, 2020 by Amy

We purchased our boat new from the Fountaine Pajot factory. The boat buying process was long and challenging, and there were a variety of things we opted to do aftermarket instead of through the factory. Outfitting our boat to cruise around the world was done in several stages.

Four Stages to Outfit our Boat

First, we did work in La Rochelle when we picked the boat up. We worked closely with Uchimata, who does a lot of work with dealers outfitting Fountaine Pajots – they know their stuff, were very helpful, and we got to know Pierre and his team pretty well. As we were delivering the boat to the States by ourselves, the projects focused on safety and bare-bones comfort; whatever we needed to make it about three months on the boat.

When we left La Rochelle we stopped in A Coruna and Las Palmas before crossing the Atlantic to Florida. In both stops, we had a few things we needed to fix or change that couldn’t wait, so we had some productive days in both those places.

After our Atlantic crossing, we spent five weeks in Miami with our dealer, commissioning the boat.

Then, we moved around to Palmetto, where we hired a consultant to help us spend nearly three months getting the boat ready for our world circumnavigation.

The end result has gotten us over five years and 30,000 nm in relative luxury and extreme safety.

La Rochelle

Uchimata installed:

We did small projects:

A Coruña Projects

After our 60 hour passage across the Bay of Biscay, we settled in for a few days of projects in A Coruna.   

Service our Volvos

We have Volvo D2-55 engines on Starry Horizons and they required their first servicing at about 50 hours of use.  That’s what makes A Coruña a great first port of call.  By using our engines (mostly one at a time) during the entire crossing of the Bay of Biscay, we had enough hours on them to get them serviced.  The marina we stayed at (Marina Coruña) has a sister marina (Marina Seca) that does all the service and technical work.

Immediately after we checked in to Marina Coruña, we motored over to Marina Seca to get the engines serviced.  It was a pretty simple process involving an oil change and changing oil and fuel filters.  We had all the necessary items on board to do the service ourselves, but Volvo requires the first servicing to be done at a certified facility.  All of the rest of Starry Horizons’ oil changes I’ve done myself.

Mainsail Reef Chafing

The biggest issue we had during our crossing was that we experienced significant chafing on our auto 1st reef line.  In order to be conservative, we put one reef in the main during our first night, even though winds were forecasted to be light.  During the night, as I was checking on things, we noticed that the line was chafing at the gooseneck so we dropped the main and actually didn’t use it the rest of the trip.

1st Reef Line Chafe
1st Reef Line Chafe
1st Reef Line Chafe
1st Reef Line Chafe

Thanks to our many friends who sent pictures of setups on other Helias, I believe I know what happened.  When the boat comes from the factory, the auto reef line is lead straight from the sheave in the boom, up the starboard side of the sail to the reef point on the main, and then back down the mast to the blocks leading back to the helm.  In La Rochelle, we had Incidences Sails re-rig our main with their square top attachment method and when they re-rigged everything, they ran the 1st reef line around to the port side of the mainsail, which resulted in it rubbing quite severely on the small white line which attaches the stackpack to the boom.

So while our engines were being serviced, we had a rigger out to the boat who replaced the 1st reef line with something more chafe resistant.  Throughout our time on Starry Horizons, we’ve found that the wear and tear on lines necessitate frequent replacements, so this was one of many.

Revised 1st Reef with Wichard FRX Ring
Revised 1st Reef with Wichard FRX Ring

I also found a great chandlery in A Coruña called Pombo and they were able to help me find a Wichard FRX Ring to replace the shackle used by the factory for the 1st reef point, as well as some 5mm Dyneema line I used to lash the ring to the sail.  This reduced friction in the system and makes it a bit easier to reef the main.

General Projects

Red Electrical Tape:  This one seems kind of silly, but the compass at the helm station has a light that is extremely bright at night.  So much so that it was ruining our night vision.  My first attempted fix was to put white electrical tape over it, but even with 3 layers, it was still too bright and that much tape caused the cover of the compass to be difficult to close.  So I got some red electrical tape and that works much better. We also did this at the light over the electrical panel in the main salon.

Compass with Red Tape
Compass with Red Tape

We also installed external antennas for both our AIS and Iridium.

At the moment we are going through our departure checklist again as with all these projects now being finished, it looks like we will have a good weather window to leave for the Canary Islands tomorrow!

Las Palmas Projects

Rigging

Mainsail

We’ve rigged a “pull-down line” that we will be able to use to help get the mainsail down if we continue to have problems dropping it in anything above light winds.  In order to do this, I took out our 3rd reef line so that the pull-down line could be run back to a stopper at the helm.  I view this as more of a temporary fix as I want to evaluate better ways to handle the mainsail once we get to Florida, but hopefully, this will help.

Pull Down Line
Pull Down Line

The other issue we’ve faced is twist in our main halyard, which is apparently a common issue with 2:1 halyards primarily, but the fairly cheap line used by the FP factory doesn’t help the issue.  Amy hauled me up the mast and I untied the main halyard from where it attaches to the head of the mast and reattached it using a swivel.  This is supposed to help combat twist so we’ll give this a try and look at replacing the halyard with better line later.

While I was up the mast, I also sprayed the entire track with a silicone spray, including all the batten cars, in an effort to make the dropping of the main as friction-free as possible.

Outboard Jib Lead

We bought two more blocks that will enable us to rig up the barber hauler on both sides of the boat.  So now, rather than having to move blocks from one side of the boat to the other when we change tacks, all we’ll need to do is re-run the line.  Much easier.

Air Conditioning

When moving on a boat full time, the number of things you have to learn about is overwhelming.  While we were in La Rochelle, two of our air conditioners stopped working properly.  Since we have four other ones on board and had lots of other things to be doing, we just stopped using them until I could find time to look at them.  We made it all the way down to the Canaries without them, and then once we got here, our port side air conditioners stopped working as well, and one of them gave me a fault code “Hi PS”.

With enough time to do research, I discovered that this code results from lack of water flow and sure enough, no overboard discharge from the AC while running.  I looked online to see if I could find any more information about the pump used to supply water to the a/c units and it was slim pickings.  So I figured I could at least try to rule out any blockages in the line as a first step.  I opened up the strainer (subsequently all the water that was upstream of the system made an appearance in the bilge, which was anticipated but still not fun) and found that it was clean and opening up the thru-hull made it clear water could enter the system.  So this left me stuck.

Fortunately, Paul at our dealer hadn’t left for Christmas vacation yet and told me that the pumps are magnetic driven fixed impeller pumps and as such can only pump water when the pump chamber is full of water.  Any air in the system and you have problems.  So he told me how to loosen the either of the hoses at the top of the pump, turn the pump on until water starts coming out of the hoses (signaling air has escaped), then tighten the hoses and voila, you have bled the system.  I got a lot of pushups in getting down to check water flow coming out of the boat, but the process was a success!

Air Conditioning Pump
Air Conditioning Pump

Repeating this process on the pump for the salon air conditioners also got those working, so we went from 4 out of our 6 a/c’s not working, to having everything back up and running.  In the end, it was a fairly simple fix, but man it felt good!

Fix Drawer Track

Up to this point, we stored my tools in the drawer under the berth in the port aft guest cabin.  I guess I’ve got a lot of tools because the track for the drawer broke.  So the first step was moving all my tools over to underneath the starboard side owner’s couch, and the second step was taking apart the berth to get access to the track.  A screw had come out of the track so it was quite simple to re-screw it, but man it took forever to move enough stuff to actually get to the track!

Fixing Drawer Track
Fixing Drawer Track

Fix Stove

Amy had several issues keeping the burners lit while we were underway, so she took a much closer look at the stove, adjusted a few things, and now we seem to have a much more consistent flame on all the burners.  This is good in that it’s much easier to cook, but bad in that it means she can use more pots/pans and I have more dishes to do!

Miami: Commissioning with Our Dealer

Even after adding another 4,000 nm under Starry Horizons’ keels, the work done in Miami was mostly small projects. Our dealer had a list of things to accomplish to “Americanize” our boat.

Through-hull Scoop

As I have detailed previously, we had lots of issues with air getting pulled into our Cruise RO watermaker system as we attempted to make water while underway during our Atlantic crossing. Paul and several other people suggested a scoop on the through-hull as a way to help combat this problem.

I was impressed as Paul, Sandy and Miguel swapped out the through-hull while the boat was still in the water, and the boat didn’t sink! I’m hoping to test out this upgrade while we sail to St. Pete this next week.

Holding Tank

The boat was supposed to come from the factory with 3 holding tanks, one for each head. However, for some reason, Fountaine Pajot didn’t install the 3rd one in the port forward head. Instead, they gave us the holding tank while we were in France and we brought it here to Miami where FYG installed it for us. So now, we have 3 holding tanks on board.

Air Conditioner Condensation Drain

This was a surprising problem for us. When I would run the air conditioners on the boat, I would notice a pool of water in the compartment where the AC was located. I checked all the hose connections and couldn’t see any obvious leaks, but when I mentioned this to Paul, he knew exactly what the problem was.

The Cruisair (now Dometic) air conditioners we have on board have plastic condensation collection pans, and when FP installed the connector for the condensation drainpipe, they tightened it too far and cracked the plastic. This was on the bottom of the pan, so I don’t feel too bad about not finding it, but 4 out of the 6 air conditioners on board had this problem. Fortunately, it was a relatively easy, but time-consuming (to take out all the air-cons from their hiding spots), fix and they’re no longer leaking.

Crack in Drain Pan
Crack in Drain Pan

Convert Boat to Propane

The boat came from the factory set up to handle butane, but the USCG requires propane to be used (I still haven’t figured out exactly why!). So the FYG service guys added an electrically controlled valve (also required apparently) but set up the system so that we can keep the butane bottles and easily swap from one to the other depending on what gas we find for that part of the world.  We added a 17-lb fiberglass tank.

Propane Install
Propane Install

Tri-Color Light

I think is completely ridiculous that Fountaine Pajot doesn’t offer a tricolor light at the top of the mast as a standard piece of equipment, but they also don’t offer it as an option! The navigation lights at deck level are very bright (not a bad thing in order to be seen) but the stern light especially is located in a bad spot. It lights up the entire cockpit at night, which makes it very difficult for our night vision.

We installed an Orca Green Marine TriAnchor light (meaning it has both a tricolor and anchor light combo) with a photocell that will automatically turn off the light when it’s light out. I’m very excited about this upgrade, both in terms of preserving our night vision, and increasing the odds that other boats will be able to see our lights at night. It’s much easier to see a light that’s 70-odd feet in the air, rather than lights at deck level that can easily be hidden behind waves!

Helia TriColor/Anchor Light
Helia TriColor/Anchor Light

Boat Lettering

Starry Horizons now officially has a name! It felt a bit odd to sail over from France on an anonymous boat, but we finally had the time in Miami to get lettering made. She looks great!

She Has a Name!
She Has a Name!

Cleat Backing Plates

While we were in Las Palmas, the starboard forward cleat somehow got bent during a crazy day in the marina when the wind and swell were slingshotting Starry Horizons forward and back. While I’m still not sure how this happened, the cleat needed to be replaced. We also noticed that our stern cleats had come loose and were no longer held down tight. Given this, and that other Helia owners have reported lots of problems with the aft cleats, we decided that we needed to upgrade the setup.

We had larger, single-piece backing plates made out of aluminum for the 2 forward and 2 aft cleats. This will be a much better way to distribute the force on the cleats compared to the two small plates (one for each bolt) that was used from the factory.

Beefed Up Backing Plates
Beefed Up Backing Plates

Shower Pump Filters

Our starboard shower pump failed on the way over across the Atlantic, due to what we think was bad wiring. Paul replaced the pump for us and also added a small inline filter to both shower pumps to help prevent any future clogs from things such as Amy’s hair, which gets everywhere!

Shower Pump Filter
Shower Pump Filter

Maestro Head Door Latch Protector

This was a small upgrade, but we noticed that the latch for the door into the owner’s head was scraping against the frame of the door and scratching it. We had a small latch protector installed to fix this problem.

Door Latch Protector
Door Latch Protector

Anchor Chain Counter Calibration

At this point, we’d only anchored for 2 nights on Starry Horizons with a lot more to come. The chain counter on the boat was set to meters from the factory, and when I swapped the settings to feet (still working on intuitively knowing the metric system) something was obviously wrong. When we put out chain in Las Palmas, it showed that we had 350 feet of chain out, when we only have 300 feet on the boat! That made it very difficult to judge the proper scope.

Paul showed me how to calibrate the chain counter and we discovered that for every turn of the gypsy, it was calibrated to count 3 feet of chain when in reality it should have been counting about 9 inches! So that is now fixed and we should be able to accurately judge how much chain we have let out.

Port Hull Escape Hatch Leak

I have held off on mentioning this so far because I didn’t want anyone to freak out on us (that means you parental units!), but the escape hatch in the port hull had a (very small) leak as we came across. We couldn’t close the hatch tight enough which meant it couldn’t make an entirely watertight seal.

In order to fix this, two small spacers were made that allow the latches to make a much tighter seal. We’ll get to test this as we head up to St. Pete, but there should be no more leak! You can all rest much easier now.

Escape Hatch Spacer
Escape Hatch Spacer

That’s pretty much it for the big-ticket projects that were accomplished while we were here in Miami. There were a few other things that were taken care of for us, gelcoat repair, LED replacements and fixing a few small things that broke, but the boat is ready to move on to St. Pete.

The current plan is to leave Miami on Monday to take advantage of a weather window and arrive up in St. Pete likely on Wednesday. We have a whole additional slate of projects scheduled including a custom bimini hardtop, cockpit enclosure, and solar panels so there is still plenty of work to be done. Fortunately, we are at least nearing the end of our delivery/work phase and getting close to the enjoyable “cruising” phase!

Projects in Palmetto

In Palmetto we hired a consultant to help us finish the boat outfitting. Pat was extremely familiar with the area and was able to recommend and work with several contractors to get a lot of big projects done.

I should note that I am obligated to say that all the good ideas that we’ve done have been courtesy of our boat guru, Pat Reischmann, and all the bad ideas, I take full responsibility for.

Winches

We elected to go for the bowsprit and gennaker rigging package from the FP factory.  This added a dedicated winch on the port aft side of the boat but didn’t add a corresponding winch on the starboard side.  Instead, there was a pad eye on the toe-rail with a block to take the headsail sheet back up to winches at the helm.  We disliked this set up as it led to too many lines crossing over the deck at high angles and made for a significant tripping hazard.

To solve this problem, we got creative.  The factory setup consists of three winches at the helm (one Harken 46 electric winch and two Harken 50 winches) and a Harken 46 winch for the port aft winch.  This was a bit of overkill as we never needed all 3 winches at once and only one line (mainsheet) was led directly to the port winch.  We took the 2 Harken 50 winches and moved them aft, took the aft Harken 46 winch and moved it to the helm and added a small Harken #8 winch as a snubber winch to redirect the mainsheet.

This setup has worked very well in our sea trials and we lucked out because the bolt pattern of the Harken 50 and Harken 46 winches are the same, which means they swapped out easily.  We did have to do some fiberglass repair to cover up the exposed bolt holes where the snubber winch was installed.  One thing that we have discovered is that the Harken 46 winch doesn’t appear to get the port genoa sheet up off the gelcoat quite as high as the Harken 50 does, so there has been some rubbing into the gelcoat.  We’re planning on getting another Spinlock sheet stopper which will raise the line higher and also let us take it off the winch.

The biggest issue with this set up is that the headliner in the owner’s cabin wasn’t designed for easy access to bolts for the winch.  The port aft cabin has a removable panel and a drop-down so the headliner isn’t right up against the fiberglass, but there is no such panel on the starboard side and the headliner is right up against the fiberglass.  In order to get access to the bolts for the winch, we cut 5 small holes in the headliner and had a little cover made to hide everything.  I’ve heard of other Helia owners who reworked the entire starboard cabin headliner set up, but this was a much cheaper method and didn’t have too much of an aesthetic drawback.

Headliner Cover
Headliner Cover

Shroud Pad Eyes

When coming across the Atlantic we used an outboard jib lead to great effect whenever we sailed deeper than about 90 degrees.  I attached a block to our midship cleat, tied an additional line to the genoa clew, ran it through this block and one further aft and then back up to the helm.  The only drawback to this setup was that when we would reef the genoa, the additional line would rub against the shroud.  So we’d have to re-rig the setup to run inside the shroud.

In order to fix this, we had a pad eye custom made that we attached to the pin in the shroud turnbuckle.  This allows us to mount the block a bit further forward and prevents us from having to re-rig the extra line when we want to reef the genoa.

Shroud Pad Eye
Shroud Pad Eye

Convert Electric Heads to Freshwater

Read about converting our heads to freshwater.

Turned Starboard Forward Hatch/Re-bedding Hatches

The large hatch over the head in the owner’s cabin opened facing backward, presumably to take advantage of the Venturi Effect and suck bad-smelling air out of the head.  However, with the conversion of our head to a freshwater flush, we’ve eliminated lots of the bad odors.  Instead, what was more important to us was to increase airflow in our cabin.  The hatch over our berth is hidden behind the helm and is also inside our new enclosure, so it won’t be a great source of air.  There is a smaller hatch amidship, but turning the hatch over the head to face forward has provided a lot more airflow at anchor.

2015.06.27 - Forward Hatch
Forward Hatch

We also had to re-bed two hatches due to leaks.  The factory uses silicone to bed the hatches and in the Florida heat, it doesn’t maintain a good seal.  We used Sikaflex 295 UV white and it seems to have fixed the issues.

Bad Boy Wifi Extender

It should be fairly apparent that we like our internet and seeing wifi on our laptops/digital devices but being unable to connect due to poor signal is cause for justifiable rage in my opinion.  So we elected to install a Bit Storm Bad Boy Xtreme MJ wifi extender.  A custom bracket was made to hold the antenna and installed at the aft end of our hardtop.  The cables were run through the boat up behind the tv and connected to a router, which is used to create our own internal wifi hotspot.

Bad Boy Xtreme MJ
Bad Boy Xtreme MJ

The Wifi Extender solved our problems while at Regatta Pointe Marina, but so far the only wifi we’ve found while out cruising has been at West Bay on New Providence Island, which is fairly well developed.  I’ve heard it can be difficult to find usable wifi these days, so we’ll see what the future holds.

Ion Dissipators

Edit: We lost one of the ion dissipators a few months after installing, and then took the second one down.  We do not have any particular lightning protection on our boat now.

I’ll admit it, lightning scares the bejesus out me.  The thought of being struck and losing all electrical systems on the boat is not a pleasant one.  We have protocols in place if we sail through a lightning storm in order to protect some essential electronics in our oven (a natural faraday cage) but it would be far better not to get hit in the first place.

To that end, we had two ion dissipators custom made and installed at the top of our mast.  These are supposed to discharge the charge build-up on our boat and, in theory, make us less attractive to a lightning strike.  I did a lot of research on this and this is one of the most divisive topics on the sailing internet (other than cats vs monos of course) but in the end, decided that I’d like to take a “better safe than sorry” approach.

Ion Dissipators
Ion Dissipators

Splendide Washer/Dryer

Let’s be honest, there’s just something about clean clothes, especially bedsheets, that are warm and fresh out of the dryer that makes life better.  We plan on cruising to some pretty remote places where an easily accessible laundromat won’t be found, and I’m not a huge fan of washing my skivvies in the sink.  So a washing machine it is.

Amy did the research and found a Splendide 2100xc for a good deal so we ordered it.  And while this unit does fit in the designated spot in the owner’s head, it just barely fits.  In order to get it into position, I had to do the following:

  • Remove the sliding door from track to widen the opening
  • Remove door into head
  • Remove frame around the door into head
  • Remove frame around washer/dryer location

And it still cleared by about 1/4″ on each side!

Everything I’ve heard is that ventless dryers don’t work all that well, so we elected to go with a vented model.  To run the vent hose, we cut a large hole into the generator locker to run the hose and added a lint collection container (complete with nylon stocking) to prevent lint from flying everywhere in the generator locker.

Battery Upgrades

I’ve put this as the overall category, but there were 3 things we did that I qualify as battery upgrades.

  1. Increased House Bank Battery Capacity
    • From the factory, the boat came with 600AH (4 x 150AH batteries) of battery capacity.  We added two 6V, 400AH batteries in the port engine compartment.  These batteries are wired in series to up the voltage to 12V, and then wired in parallel to the rest of the system to increase the total capacity to 1,000 AH.  This, combined with our solar generation capacity, should be more than enough for our electrical needs.
  2. Added Dedicated Starboard Engine Start Battery
    • Previously, the starboard engine was started using the house battery bank.  Given how much capacity we had, and our solar panels to keep up a good charge, this likely would have been fine, but we added a dedicated battery to start the starboard engine, just in case we ever run into problems with the house battery bank.
  3. Connected Generator Start Battery Into System
    • The only way the generator start battery received a charge was when the generator was running.  Since we may go quite a while without running the generator, I wanted to make sure the battery had a way to stay topped off.  We installed a combiner and connected the generator start battery into the rest of the battery system.  That way, when the house bank is getting a charge, the genset start battery will as well.
Additional Batteries
Additional Batteries

Reverso Oil Change Pumps

Changing the oil in a boat is a no-fun, dirty job.  And because we have a cat, I have 3 large engines that require oil changes!  I did one oil change on our genset while we were in France after the break-in period and it took a long time with the siphon system that I was using.

So, instead, we installed three Reverso oil change pumps, one in each engine compartment and one in the generator locker.  These pumps are reversible, meaning we can start with sucking out the old oil, flip a switch and then pump new oil back into the engine.  Pretty sweet!

Reverso Fuel Polisher

Our hope is that once we get out cruising, we’ll rarely have the need to use our engines or generator, mostly just to get on/off anchor or make water and do laundry.  That means we’ll get a pretty long lifespan out of a tank of diesel.  In order to keep the diesel in good clean order, we installed a Reverso Marine Fuel Polishing System (80 GPH) that will circulate fuel in the tank and help keep it clean.

Note that this won’t do any good while the engines are running before we’ve had a chance to polish the fuel, so we also bought a Mr. Funnel fuel filter that has a 15GPM flow rate so we can try and make sure we’re getting clean fuel into the tank to start with.

Reverso Fuel Polisher
Reverso Fuel Polisher

Remounted Courtesy Flag Cleats

The cleats used to tie off the lines for hoisting our courtesy flags were located along the forward part of the mast and at a height that could be reached when standing on the deck.  From a convenience factor, this made a lot of sense.  However, we had lots of problems with our genoa sheets getting caught up in these cleats when we would tack.  Getting the sheet out from under the cleat wasn’t fun, and I was worried that the force of the genoa could rip out the cleats.

Our solution was to move the cleats up higher and further back on the mast.  This will keep them out of harm’s way and hopefully make tacking a much simpler chore!

Courtesy Flag Cleats
Courtesy Flag Cleats

Additional Bow Cleats

The forward-most cleats installed by FP were actually aft of the pulpit seats and affiliated stanchions/hardware, yet these were the most logical places to run lines to a mooring ball.  I was worried a lot about chafing as mooring lines rubbed up against the stainless legs to the seat.  In addition, we wanted a way that we could pull the tack of our big headsails to windward in order to increase our efficiency downwind.

Adding additional cleats up on the forward edge of the bow will give solve the chafing problem and give us a free and clear run for mooring lines.  I also will be able to add a soft shackle around the cleat (we specifically chose one with rounded edges) and attach the snap shackle for the continuous line furler.  This will essentially pull the tack to windward and hopefully make us even more efficient when sailing downwind.

Davit Work

As I touched on in my Helia review, I think the davits on the Helia are too low.  With the standard lifting points in our dinghy, the outboard would hit the davit before the stern could be raised all the way.  Rather than risk the outboard sitting too low, we stored it in our genset locker for the Atlantic crossing.  While we were here, we brainstormed lots of ideas about how to fix this, including doing pretty major surgery to raise the davits, before Amy came up with her brilliant idea.

Rather than doing surgery, she devised a new bridle set up that pulled the aft lifting point forward, bringing the dingy back (to the port side) and allowing more space to tilt the outboard up, and letting us raise the stern of the dinghy even higher.  Sometimes it is really awesome being married to an engineer.  🙂

We also discovered, much to our horror at 11 pm as we tested out the new system before leaving back to Houston the next morning, that our davits had developed a silence shattering shriek that we were sure woke up the whole marina.  The davits are rated for 200kg (~440lbs) and our dingy/outboard setup weighs a little over half that, so there was no way the davits were overloaded.  Further investigation revealed that the sheaves in the davits were all made of plastic, so we upgraded these to custom ones made out of aluminum.  Presto… noise gone!

Moved Stern Light

As I also mentioned in my Helia review, I didn’t understand the rationale for where FP put the stern light.  It was located inside the cockpit and when in use at night, it lit up almost the whole cockpit!  That meant if you wanted to preserve your night vision, you needed to shield your eyes, which isn’t exactly the smartest thing to be doing on a moving boat in the middle of the night when you don’t want to fall overboard.

Old Stern Light Location
Old Stern Light Location

So we took inspiration from another Helia and had a custom bracket made to move the stern light out to the end of our starboard side davit.  While we plan on using the tricolor light at the top of the mast (installed in Miami) the vast majority of the time while we’re sailing at night, I feel this ‘upgrade’ has vastly improved our odds not being blinded (and thus tripping overboard) and that’s a rather good thing.

Lounge Deck Drain

This is a bit of a teaser for upcoming posts, but part of our desire for the helm hardtop bimini and enclosure was to keep the elements out as much as possible, specifically rain.  Unfortunately, FP didn’t really put a lot of thought into keeping the rain out of the helm station as all the water collected on the lounge deck was designed to flow down the stairs into either the helm or the cockpit.  This would defeat the purpose of an enclosure in my opinion.

Thus, to solve this issue, we installed a piece of starboard to act as a barrier and a through-hull in the lounge deck with the hose led down behind the helm station and outside of the enclosure.  The early returns are good and it’s not a visual eyesore, but it sure would have been nice if FP had addressed this from the beginning.

Boom Vang/Raising Gooseneck

Edit: We removed our boom vang within the first year of cruising.  We don’t think it was sized properly and think it was more technical sailing then we wanted to tackle while cruising the world.

Yet another teaser, as part of the design for our helm hardtop bimini, we decided to raise our gooseneck by 12″.  This allowed us to raise the forward edge of the hardtop and give lots of visibility forward, but also gave us enough room to install a rigid boom vang.

The boom vang is made by Garhauer and we led a line aft that can be used to either crank down on the boom and flatten out (control twist) or let out and put a bit more twist in the mainsail.  We elected to take out the 3rd reef line from the mainsail (if it’s blowing that hard, we’re just going to drop the main anyways) so we were able to re-purpose the 3rd reef stopper.  The vang will really prove it’s worth for just about any sailing deeper than 90 degrees, as at that point the traveller is almost all the way out and you can’t control twist with the mainsheet.  I wouldn’t categorize a boom vang as a necessity, but I do really enjoy trying to get the boat to perform at its peak and being able to control the twist in the mainsail will hopefully give us a bit of an advantage when we’re out racing another Helia!

Boom Vang
Boom Vang

Another advantage is that the vang allowed us to remove the topping lift from the back of the boom.  This will give us a spare halyard we can use if anything happens to the main halyard, and also frees up the leech of the mainsail when tacking, so it doesn’t get caught in the topping lift.

Fiberglass Cockpit Table

Teak looks really nice when it’s properly maintained and cared for.  Unfortunately, I don’t really enjoy doing that and there are a lot of other items on the boat that are higher priorities for me.  Plus, our teak table is already starting to stain from things spilled on it.

So in the interest of easy maintenance, we had a custom fiberglass cockpit table made up by Mondo Marine down in Bradenton.  The table has a lip around the edges which will help prevent things from sliding off while underway, will be much easier to keep clean and will cross one item off my maintenance schedule, which is perhaps the biggest perk of all!

TV

Let’s be honest, sometimes there’s nothing better than sitting back with a movie marathon on a rainy day.  And on a big boat like Starry Horizons, a small 15″ screen just wasn’t going to cut it.  After shopping around, I found a 42″ 1080p LG LED tv on Amazon that was a good deal and consumed a lot less power than other options.

The most logical place to mount the TV was on the panel facing the salon couch that had been used as shelving by FP.  I wanted to mount a swing arm so we could pull the TV out to get a better viewing angle, and then “store” it flush up against the panel so it would be out of the way as we walked down into the owner’s cabin.  Only 2 problems with this location.

  1. There was a shelf in the middle of the panel.
  2. There was no source of power easily available

So, since it’s always fun to cut things up (especially when there is no risk of sinking the boat!), I took out the panel, cut out the shelf and mounted the TV using a large backing plate.  That thing isn’t going anywhere.  As for the second problem, we had George, our electrician, wire in a new plug into the back of the panel.  This worked out great because not only do we plug our TV in here, but we use a power strip and provide power to our wifi router, media server and hard drives as well.

Grill

What is a proper cruising boat without a grill?  We had ordered our Magma Catalina grill at the Miami Boat Show but waited to install it here in Palmetto when we got the appropriate “extended” legs.  This pushes the grill back far enough from the enclosure that we don’t have to worry about melting it.  We also designed the enclosure with a big U-Zip to provide easy access to the grill.

For the time being, we haven’t hooked the grill into our regular propane system and are just relying on the small green propane bottles.  Tying everything in together is something we may revisit at a later date.

Magma Grill
Magma Grill

Upgraded Lines

The lines on the boat from the factory aren’t the best quality, and in fact, the genoa sheets at 16mm were too big for the winches!  The Harken winches are rated for 14mm as the largest line in the self-tailer.  Plus, the main halyard was 14mm, which was the max size allowed through the Spinlock stopper.  This caused a lot of friction in the system and I believe helped contribute to all the problems we had getting the mainsail down.  So while we’ve been here in Palmetto, we made the following upgrades:

  • Upgraded the main halyard to 11mm T900 line
    • Take special note that the Owner’s Manual listed the main halyard at 55m, but when I measured the factory line, it was actually 63m!  And of course, this was discovered after we had already run the new halyard through the mast.
  • New headsail sheets at 100′ each of 11mm Sta-Set line
    • The old sheets had been used for various purposes around the boat, including as an emergency dockline when the weather got rough in Las Palmas so it was worth getting new sheets.
  • New 2nd reef line at 135′ of 11mm Sta-Set line
    • I’ll touch on this more, but we re-rigged our second reef to be a single line reef and this required a new longer line
  • Cut up the old main halyard to make new genoa sheets
    • Now we have genoa sheets that will fit properly in the winches
  • Ordered new Mega-Braid lines
    • We ordered three 45′ lines that will be used as additional dock lines, as well as lines to pick up a mooring ball.  Our old genoa sheets have been re-purposed into dock lines as well.
  • Ordered new line for continuous furling drum
    • The original one would just barely reach back to the helm, but since I wanted the option to move the furler over to the port bow, we needed a longer line.  I’m quite proud to say I did the end to end splice myself

Re-Rigged 2nd Reef

As I’ve mentioned multiple times, I’m not a big fan of having to go forward while under sail, especially to put in a reef when the boat is bashing into waves.  We ordered the boat with a single line first reef, but the second reef required me to go to the mast, feed a strap through a cringle in the sail and then attach said strap to a snap shackle on the mast.  This process involved a lot of unsexy grunting, groaning and swearing while holding on to the boat as she behaved like a horse spurred out of the shoot.  Not fun for anyone involved.

Since we decided to take out our third reef line, we had some extra room for more lines in our helm storage bin and decided that a single line second reef would be just the thing to take up the additional space.  I lashed a low friction carbon ring to the cringle at the second reef point in the mainsail, as well as an additional ring on the mast to help pull the line forward before it runs down to the blocks, making the turn back to the helm.  I also had to re-run the line through the boom so that it comes forward under the sheave at the gooseneck and then runs up to the ring, rather than coming over the sheave and straight down to the blocks leading back to the helm.

This solution requires pulling in a lot more line in order to put the 2nd reef in the main, but as it eliminates a trip to the mast, it’s a trade-off I’m more than willing to make.  (The new 2nd reef line is the red line in the below pictures)

Corrosion Prevention

When we arrived in Florida, we noticed that we had a lot of corrosion in our engine compartments, specifically the aft end over the sail drive.  I suspected that water from the few waves that rolled up our transom steps, or from spray had gotten through the LED courtesy light “covers” on the steps.  To confirm we had to do what I believe is Amy’s favorite experiment on the boat.

Courtesy Lights
Courtesy Lights

I got down in the engine compartment while she locked me inside and got the hose.  (I think I heard a bit of gleeful laughing at this point)  She then proceeded to spray the hose at all possible points of ingress into the engine compartment.  We discovered that the hatches were sealed tight, but that water was definitely leaking in through the light covers.  I took the covers off, added some silicone to where the legs of the cover inserted into the base and voila, no more leak.

However, that didn’t fix the issue of the corrosion we’d already experienced, so we purchased some Rust Bullet coating.  Amy spent a couple of days in the engine compartments and generator locker scrubbing down things with corrosion and applying the Rust Bullet coating.  Hopefully, this will help prevent any future corrosion but we’ll definitely be keeping an eye on it.

Engine Compartment Corrosion
Engine Compartment Corrosion

New Trampoline

We replaced our boat trampoline.

Downsized Anchor Chain

You can read all about our adventures in trying to downsize our anchor chain in this post.

Air Conditioning Pump Bleeder Valve

We’ve had a few issues with air getting into the magnetic driven fixed impeller pumps, which only work when the pump chamber is full of water so any air in the system is a problem.  The service manager at our dealer (Paul) said it best so I’ll quote him here:

Warning repeated running of the pumps when no water is in the pump will cause a melt hole to appear in the back end of the pump body and it will leak saltwater over the 24-volt motor causing a short and it will blow up the pump.”

I don’t really like blowing things up, so I followed his instructions to loosen the hoses running from the pump to let the air out and got the things back up and running with no melted holes.  However, this is a pain in the ass to do, especially because you’re upside down in the bilge, trying to loosen hoses that don’t really want to come loose.  Bonus points for when this happens at sea and you have to do this in a rocking boat.  (We ran our air conditioners when using the generator to provide more of a load)

So instead of having to do this fix forever, I cut into the line leading to the air conditioner and added a tee with the additional hose having a ball valve that can easily be opened when I need to bleed the system.  Much easier.

Air Con Bleeder Set Up
Air Con Bleeder Set Up

Fixed the Polarity of our 110v Plugs

We probably should have expected this given we ordered a 110V powered boat from 220V France, but it turns out they wired all of our 110v plugs incorrectly.  The polarity was reversed and this caused some issues with some equipment we had on board.  Our electrician George did some testing, told me how to fix the issue and I fixed all the plugs myself.

Since the boat is wired using European color conventions, all that was necessary was to swap the hot (brown) and neutral (blue) wires on each plug.  Once that was done, all our 110v equipment worked properly!  This article does a good job of explaining how to test for reverse polarity.

Installed Custom Hardtop and Enclosure

We had an amazing customized hardtop installed above our helm and a full enclosure for our helm and cockpit made.

Solar Panels

We installed over 1000 W of semi-flexible, walkable solar panels to power our boat.

Off to go Cruise the World….

Of course, our boat has been tweaked and modified in the years since we’ve departed Palmetto, and we’ve updated this post as much as possible to reflect what has worked and what hasn’t. We’ve been very happy with our boat and all the work we put into it!

Watch the Video

9 Comments

  1. Would you be willing to share a spreadsheet you have on ALL that aftermarket enhancements you made to your Helia? I’m curious on total cost and categories you could break it down to. You provide great details, Thanks!

    1. Hi Stephen, We’ve typically been pretty good at keeping track of things but there may have been some items we missed. It’d take a bit of work to go back and detail everything. I’ll put it on the list to do someday.

  2. I have actually missed 3 posts – so had a wonderful time reading this evening! Amazing amount of stuff that you have gotten done! Don’t claim to understand all of it, but I certainly understand enough to see that you are making the boat a safer place to be – and are investing in current projects to make future maintenance easier. It all sounds perfectly brilliant to me. Thanks for the info. It was fantastic to get to talk to you last night. Miss you! Love you both!

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