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Swan Song Part III: The end of Reconstruction – the beginning of an Adventure

In Parts I & II, I described how we purchased and reconstructed our classic Roughwater 58’ trawler, Swan Song, in the British Virgin Islands.  Upon finishing the interior it was time for Dave to turn his attention to the pilothouse and electronics, which was left until the rest of the vessel was completed.  A computer geek in a former life, he keeps updated on every electronic gizmo on the planet.

We are frugal by nature, so Dave watched E-Bay and the Internet for the latest in electronic deals.  As each arrived it was installed.  Before leaving the BVI we were equipped with two Uniden 625c DSC Class D VHFs with 6 and a 9 db antennas, King Air SSB with a 23’ whip antenna, Raymarine 4KW 10” color radar with Marpa, Raymarine 10”color chart plotter with C-map cartridges covering the Turks & Caicos to South America & west to Central America, Raymarine wind speed, angle, depth, knot and temp instruments, Navman fuel gph/mpg system, PC based Coastal Navigator software on a Dell laptop, an AIS receiver connected to the Coastal |Navigator/laptop, Interphase PC180 forward and side looking sonar and three GPSs – Raymarine Raystar 125 GPS, Garmin GPS and a Deluo GPS.  In answering as why we three GPSs – one is for the Raymarine, one is for the computer and one is for the Navman.

On the exterior he installed five 150 watt perimeter flood lights and port/starboard remote control search lights for greater safety and security.  We also have a set of 135 db air horns.  Our dinghy, Leda II, has grown into a vessel in her own right – 14 ½ ft with a 4 stoke 60 HP Mercury, Humminbird chartplotter/depthsounder/GPS; a radar reflector; tanks for 24 gals of fuel for a 100 mile range; an arch with flood/running lights/antennas, etc. and a full power all channel VHF with DSC.

The most amazing thing that was added was our roll tank, built on top of the pilothouse for stabilization.  That is a story in itself and will be featured in February’s All At Sea as it needs to be explained more thoroughly.  We are delighted with this as a viable form of stabilization as opposed to klutzy paravanes and expensive active fins.  Our roll tank does the trick – we pitch as much as anyone but the roll is kept to less than 10 degrees and usually fewer than 5 even beam-to in 8’ seas. 

After some wonderful Bon Voyage parties over the years due to over-eagerness, we left in August of 2006 to cruise down to Venezuela for the hurricane season. The forecast of 2-5’ seas and 10-15 knots turned into 5-8’ with occasional 10-12’ and 20-25 kts for the whole trip – ideal weather for our old CSY 37 but less so for a trawler. Swan Song took it in stride and the roll stabilization was just great. We arrived in Puerto la Cruz, the Venice of Venezuela, on the 17th of August, knowing that Swan Song is comfortable and safe at sea. 

We still have some work to do–hey it’s a boat!—with a never ending combination of maintenance and improvements. However, the pressure is off so Dave can enjoy life again. We are currently in the process of getting davits made for Leda II – we towed her 600 miles from the BVI, but really need to be able to haul her up from possible theft or loss while towing. 

Two things I might add as advice to potential cruisers – most important, keep healthy!  Maintain your body like you do your boat.  Next – pay for improvements as you go along.  This way, when retirement comes, there will be enough money for smelling the roses.   Living on pensions/social security, with savings, is great and because the expensive items are finished, there is actually very little else you will need.

In January of ‘07 we’ll leave Puerto la Cruz and work our way back up the islands to the BVI, then cruise the Spanish Virgins/Puerto Rico and the USVI.  In June, after Foxy’s Wooden Boat Regatta, we will head slowly back to VZ or Curacao, gunkholing all the way, for hurricane season before returning, once more, to the BVI.

Nancy Terrell has lived in the Caribbean for 20 years.  She is an international free lance writer and holds a MA Degree in Literature.  Swan Song is her 6th boat during 40 years of sailing.

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