Boat Improvement Projects
When we bought Ladybug (fromerly Tropic Cat), she was
a tired and very poorly equipped charter boat. While she needed some love
and a lot of equipment, we could see that she was a solid, well designed
boat. Her basic design maximizes sailing performance and seaworthyness.
This is unlike many of the new cats that we looked at that are obviously
designed for the charter business, maximizing sleeping capacity and comfort
for a week of sailing from one marina to the next.
Since we moved aboard we have worked hard to convert her
into a true world cruiser. While the projects will probably never end,
we think we have come a long way in making her into a boat that will take
us around the world.
New Ground Tackle System: We started with a 35 lb CQR and a small
Danforth anchor on old nylon rodes. We have added the following items
to create a much more trustworthy ground tackle system:
- 75 LB Barnacle Anchor ("The Beast") with 200 ft of 5/16HT
chain (our primary)
- 44 LB Claw Anchor with 250 ft of 5/8 nylon (our secondary)
- Muir 2 speed manual windless (required making new anchor locker hatch)
- 50' (per side) 1/2" nylon bridle with chafe prevention hoses.
New Standing Rigging: All the standing rigging has been replaced in
the last 2 years.
New Net Attachment System: We didn't like the net attachment system
when we first saw it, but we really stopped liking it when it failed on
the starboard side on the way to Grenada. We made a much stronger system
by fiberglassing a 1/4" stainless steel rod in place. This was a
big job (hanging upside down between the hulls chipping gel coat, sanding,
fiberglassing, and painting) but will never fail again.
Dingy and Outboard Motor: Not really a project, but since the
boat did not come with a dingy, we had to buy one. We actually bought
the dingy in the US, and I carried it down in my largest waterproof backpack
(the airline allows backpacks to be larger than the normal size limitation).
The outboard was purchased in the US Virgin Islands.
Sunbrella Dingy Cover: Stacy made a beautiful Sunbrella dingy cover
to protect it from the sun.
Inflatable Sea Kayaks: Like the dinghy, this is also not really a "project",
but these have added a lot to the trip. They are heavily built and quite seaworthy,
perfect for doing a little exploration.
Navigation System and Charts:When we bought the boat it didn't
even have a GPS and only a few charts of the Virgin Islands. We have added
- 2 GPSs (a primary and a backup). Primary has wire that runs to laptop.Backup
also has cable to plug into laptop.
- Navetek navigation software on laptop with electronic charts of most of
- About 450 paper charts covering our route plus much more with especially
good coverage of the Pacific.
- Added an autopilot.
Safety Equipment: We added the following:
- Sea Anchor (high quality 15'). This is our chosen "ultimate survival
technique" (can be setup with 500' nylon plus a little chain)
- Drogue (with 260' of line and 50' (per side) bridle).
- New lifelines.
- Inflatable harnesses with strobes
- Radar reflector mounted 45' up the mast.
- Lots of flares
- New line on the horseshoe
- Very extensive medical kit that includes several antibiotics, pain killers,
general travel medicine, burn kit, dental kit, and lots of other misc. medical
kit type stuff. We also have several emergecy medicine books on board.
Communication Equipment: We have added the following:
- Single Side Band Marine Radio (SSB). We purchased this used and had it repaired
and tested at the factory. Also added lots of copper foil in the bilge to
act as a counterpoise and added a whip antenna. It is invaluable for getting
weather info and for keeping in touch with friends. It can also be used to
call for help over thousands of miles, a big plus in the middle of the ocean.
- Outside speaker for primary VHF
- Handheld VHF.
Electrical System: We added the following:
- Added E-meters for monitoring both battery banks.
- Added two 75 watt solar panels.
- Added wire and switch to be able to jumper battery banks together. This
is useful for starting an engine if it's battery is low or to allow both banks
to be charged by one engine..
- Added 600W inverter powered by port bank and a 300W inverter powered by
starboard bank. Each has a 110V cable that comes out by saloon table. These
are used for nav computer, charging batteries for flashlights and tools, running
power tools and sewing machine, etc.
- Added fusing/CBs for all wires coming from port and starboard 12V busses.
- Added a 12 V outlet in the cockpit for the spot light and hand held VHF.
Boat Instruments: The boat came with a NKE instrument package,
but the speed sensor and outside multi-display did not work and the wind
sensor was unreliable. We replaced the paddle wheel fixing the speed,
replaced the ouside display, and fixed the wind sensor. We can now see:
depth, boat speed, true and apparent wind speed and direction, water temp,
air temp, elapsed time, distance log, battery voltage, VMG into the wind,
and a few other thing that we haven't figured out.
Stereo: We added a AM/FM/CD stereo with new speakers inside and two
other ortable speakers in nice wood boxes that we take outside when we have
- We had sails inspected. They look good, but we had them add even more chafe
protection to main.
- We purchased a used spinnaker. It worked great, but ....see below.
- Fix the spinnaker. It initially had a couple small rips that Stacy patched.
Then we ripped it pretty much in half and Stacy, with help from Jo, fixed
it again. We love this sail and use it a lot, so more repairs will probably
follow. (Later: We have thousands and thousands of miles on the spinnaker'
and Stacy's repair still looks good.)
- Added 3rd reef to main.
- Added padeyes so the jig can be sheeted way out for going down wind. Though
a small change, it has really worked out well.
- Stacy added extra chafe protection to the jib.
- Purchased a used sail that can be converted into a storm sail or used for
patching main or jib. Also purchased lots of sail tape and other supplies
for doing future spinnaker repairs.
Water System: The boat carries 110 gallons in 2 tanks. We added
- Four 6 gallon jugs.
- Water collecting spouts in bimini
- 2 Pur35 manual watermakers (for emergency use)
New Bimini Cover: We had a new bimini cover made in Australia. We used
the best material the company offered which should be good for 10 years.
Refinished the Bottom: Ground and saneded 10 years of bottom paint off
the bottom. Put on two coats of primer and 2 coats of new bottom paint.
Head Remodeling: Both heads had vinyl liner with disintegrated foam
behind it. The port head also had a broken toilet seat. We did the following:
- Replaced broken plastic toilet seat with nice teak seat in port head.
- Ripped down vinyl, scrapped off foam and glue, sanded and faired, and painted
walls in port head..
- Added brass hooks for towels, etc. in port head.
- Rebuilt toilets in both heads.
- Jo is in the process of redoing the walls in the starboard head.
Window/Hatch Related Projects:
- Cleaned and polished saloon windows so that we can actually see out of then.
- Added Textaline shades that snap on the outside of the big, curved saloon
windows (keeps out some of the light helping keep boat cool, but can still
- Added curtains to inside of saloon windows.
- Replaced gaskets for several of the opening hatches.
- Added curtains to windows in the port hull.
- Fixed handle on port safety hatch (broken again).
- Fixed ratchet on window in port aft cabin.
- Replaced undersized bolts used for mounting hatches over v-berths.
- Made windscoops for side portholes in both aft cabins.
- Made some mosquito screens.
Misc. Beef Up Things That Had Broken Or Will Break Projects:
- Reinforced the deck with plywood and fiberglass were cleats are mounted.
- Replaced aluminum hinges on anchor locker and cockpit lockers with
stainless steel hinges. Also beefed up the area were the hinges are
mounted with more fiberglass.
Engine Related Projects:
- Buying spare parts. We have ordered a number of spare parts and will possible
order more if we have enough money.
- Added 6 jugs to carry additional diesel fuel. These fit perfectly in one
of the cockpit lockers. This adds 36 gallons to bring our fuel storage up
to 66 gallons - enough for approx. 250 hours of motoring. We also added a
5 gallon jug for gasoline for the dingy outboard.
- Rebuilt one of the starter solenoids on the port engine. This had been repaired
by somebody in the past, but they did a poor job and it failed again. After
finding out how much it would be to buy a new one in Trinidad, I tore it apart
and fixed it better.
- Replaced engine control face plates
- Replaced fuel hoses.
- Replaced lift pump on starboard engine.
- Rebuilt water pumps.
- Made new rubber seals around saildrive.
Other Misc. Projects:
- Made short saloon table support tubes so table can be dropped to become
a huge bed.
- New helm seat with custom Sunbrella cover
- Added barometer.
- Made a wind screen around the stove.
- Added numerous hooks in the port hull for hanging hats/cloths/etc.
- Added fans in the aft cabins.
- Purchased new locking winch handles. There are two of the normal type and
one two handed handle used for raising the main sail.
- Stacy has made courtesy flags for all the different countries we have visited.
- Stacy patched the sailcover and added a ladybug on each side.
- New foam in aft berth on port side.
- Added carpeting in each hull.
- Refinished some of the wood trim (lots more to do)
- Added more storage space on kitchen counters.
- Replaced white lights over saloon table with white/red lights. This allows
us to us these, selecting the reb bulb, when we don't want to ruin our night
- Added handholds on stern.
- Replaced dark (hot, hot, hot) nonskid on stern with white nonskid paint.
- Replaced stove. The original one was in bad shape when we bought the boat
and got worse. Replaced it with a nice stainless steel stove.
- Replaced lots of running rigging.
Other Projects that are in Process:
- New cockpit cushions
- New sail cover