Peter the Pilot.

Dry fit.

14th December 2023

Linton Bay, Panama – Linton Bay Marina, Panama

Every crew member on a boat has their own special requirements. Some are flexitarian/vegan/DfB*, others have high electricity demands, while others crack corny Dad jokes constantly (that’s Iain). On Ruffian we’re not used to pandering to crewmember needs, as we never have them, but we now have a new permanent crewmember who has needs we need to tend to. This crewmember is called Peter, is a Windpilot, and will be able to steer Ruffian for 1000’s of miles without complaint and without having a special diet.

Peter’s needs were simple. He just needed a few holes drilling in the back of Ruffian, changing a bit of metalwork and a teak plinth to sit on. The questions we had to answer on Peter’s behalf were where should the holes be drilled? How to should the metalwork be modified? And would Ruffian be happy with these changes?

Bolting things onto the back of Ruffian was never going to be easy. Inside there are bulkheads to consider, shelves to avoid and structures that couldn’t be be altered. Taking exacting measurements we marked up the stern of Ruffian showing where everything sat inside, what the constraints were and offered Peter up to the stern.

Holding Peter on the stern was no easy task as he articulates in every which way, weighs more than we can hold and seemed to be badly behaved in every-way. After hours of holding him high, setting him low, fiddling with brackets and scratching our heads we finally had a plan and a home for him. Now the wood and metal just had to altered.

‘Stanley the Welder’ was totally unfazed by our conundrum and disappeared off with all the bits we’d removed from the back of Ruffian. We worried how he could execute our plan after a simple 2 minute conversation, some sketchy sketches and our pigeon Spanish, but with confidence he sauntered off opened his workshop and got to work.

As sparks flew from the stepladder and sawdust filled the air from the teak plinth we could see our plan forming in front of us and it became real when we got back to Ruffian. The ladder was a perfect fit, the plinth slipped into its spot and Stanley had proved to be a master in all respects. Now we had to make things permanent on Ruffian.

With the teak taped to the back of Ruffian Iain gingerly loaded the drill with a drill bit of unfathomable proportions and hoped that all our measurements would be mm perfect. The drill slipped through the hole in the plinth and started eating into the fibreglass. Dust filled the air and covered Iain’s worried expression and suddenly it broke through into the boat. We were now very much committed to this course of action.

The bolt slipped though the hole smooth as silk and then simply stopped. We’d clearly not thought about something and scary thoughts ran through Iain’s head. It then dawned on him; the engine exhaust. Had Iain just drilled a hole through the boat, across a void and into the exhaust?

Running inside and climbing around all the steering gear Iain could see light streaming into the back of the boat and ran his hands gently along the exhaust. The hole in the stern was exactly where we expected it to be and we’d missed the exhaust by mere millimetres.

With our plan being executed to perfection we were congratulated time and again by every resident of the marina as they passed by the back of Ruffian. We revelled in this congratulation as we went though the processes of measuring, marking up, dry fitting, wet fitting and finally unfitting. All our measurements had been perfect, all our planning exacting and our execution had been exemplary, much to the surprise of everyone we met.

With Peter the pilot installed, the ladder slips over his brackets and is safely ensconced on the back of the boat. When Peter isn’t on watch, and stowed in his cupboard, we hardly know of his presence as his plinth sits unobtrusively on Ruffian’s stern, not getting in the way and not impeding our swimming fun. Peter is the only Wind vane that this would be possible with.

Having another crewmember on board Ruffian will be dreamy as we get ready for our next ocean crossing and having bent to Peter’s special requirements we’re sure he’ll be happy steering us along not complaining and not taking any power.

* DfB. Dessert for breakfast. This sounds like an amazing diet.

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Author: Iain & Fiona Lewis

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