The Last Steps

After the mast was installed, there was actually an end in sight! 

Well… there were still a couple of steps left. The rest of the deck hard ware had to be installed, the water tanks put back in, all interior reinstalled, the missing parts of the galley built, the electrical system reinvented, the installation of the motor finished, the plumbing, the stanchions and lifelines, a cockpit dodger…. 

Wooden sailboat interior
Installation of the settee lockers.
Wooden boat restoration Guatemala
As I couldn’t find a fitting sink for an acceptable price, Tom built one out of wood and fiberglass.
Interior Alani wooden sailboat
The water tank going in and getting ready for the floor boards. Bit of a chaos in there…
Interior wooden sailboat Alani
The electrical panel
Interior wooden sailboat Alani







Interior wooden sailboat female captain
Bilge pump installation.

I don´t know if you have ever made the experience to be ALMOST at the end of a project. The biggest steps are done and now it´s just “a couple of little things left”. What I experienced was, that by underestimating those “little things” and thinking they will be done quickly, I actually was surprised how much work and time was still needed. It seemed like every deck cleat I installed, every electrical installation I put in, every plumbing hose I connected took 5 times as long as I thought it should. 

Wooden sailboat Alani restoration
…or the jib sheet turning block. It all seemed to take forever!


Wooden sailboat Alani  Captain Sarah
Splash guard for the motor controls…
Wooden sailboat Alani captain sarah
…the galley counter top







Wooden sailboat Alani restoration
The galley coming together. Isn´t it beautiful? The stove is the original Luke Heritage stove.

And then – on August, 3rd I made my first test run up to town under motor! It was a beautiful morning on the lake and it seemed so unreal to me that I was driving my boat around. This day was not only special because of Alani´s first motor voyage. It was also the day that my only long term permanent crew member joined the team. I picked up the cutest little 5 week old orphaned puppy from a village outside of Rio Dulce. Since I was six years old, I had wanted a dog and ever since I had Alani, I had waited for the “right” moment. When the opportunity had presented itself now, the doubts and worries had come in, of course. “Can I really care for a dog?”, “Will a dog be happy on my boat?”, “Am I ready for this responsibility?”. Well, sometimes you just gotta go and do it. I had a huge smile on my face that day when I was driving my beautiful boat back across the golden sunset Golfete with a sleeping furry baby cuddled next to me 🙂

Sailboat puppy Rio Dulce
Picking her up, we rode a local chicken bus, a tuk tuk and my rowing dinghy! The poor thing was pretty tired by the time we started the journey home.
Sailboat puppy Rio Dulce
May I introduce to you – Maya Papaya, also known as the cutest puppy ever having existed on this planet!

Thinking about installing the stanchions for the lifelines, I had been very hesitant about the idea to drill more than a dozen holes into my newly repaired and glassed decks. Superman Tom had another great idea though, and built some wooden blocks, which could attach the stanchions to the toe rails and avoid the drilling of holes. Unfortunately, this installation turned out not to be quite strong enough, and I had my local welder build some reinforcement pieces. So yes, some drilling through the decks had to be done, but definitely less than the former installation.

Wooden boat restoration Alani Sarah
The installation of the stanchions. You can also see the reinforcement pieces that we added at the toe rail by the chainplates/shrouds.
Wooden boat restoration Alani Rio Dulce
That is the reinforcement that got welded on later.

My friend Tyrone came down to help with the installation of the amazing brand new Wooden boat restoration GuatemalaWindpilot I had brought back from Germany the previous year. Windpilot is a German company and of course, the German designer Peter Förthmann, had sent me the full perfectly organised package with the instruction manual – in German. Now, German being my native language, I have learned all my sailing, boating, mechanic, carpentry and tool vocabulary in English. I stared at the instructions, becoming super frustrated by the fact that I couldn’t understand a thing written in my mother language! Of course, this issue was easily solved, but I was very surprised that even after three years working, I could still get so frustrated about a little detail. The learning never ends!

Wooden boat outfitting Rio Dulce Windpilot
Despite some language issues, Winny the wind pilot was successfully installed and tried out.

We had repaired Alani´s rowing dinghy Barkito the first summer after I bought the boat, so I supposed that it was alright. Well…taking a closer look I found some very soft spots in the fibreglassed plywood that definitely needed attention. Don Chuz, a super cute very old local who builds canaletes – the local paddles for the cayucos – the dugout canoes, build me two new oars.

Wooden rowing dinghy
oh oh…. the quality of that plywood was´t as good as advertised.
Wooden rowing dinghy
But, like Tom said, it´s just a little boat, easy to repair.
Wooden rowing dinghy boat dog
Maya modelling in front of the “new” barkito.









Wooden sailboat Alani
The old and the new oars. A bit of finishing was still necessary.
Wood repair sailboat Rio Dulce
But they looked ok in the end.

Whenever others had asked me what I am putting on Alani for a dodger, I had replied that a dodger is for the wishy washy sailors, the real salts don´t need one. Now, my sea time approaching, I started imagining long wet days at sea with waves splashing into the cockpit…and revisited my arrogant viewpoint. I ended up even deciding for a bigger dodger that would not only cover the companionway but the complete forward side of the cockpit. And sitting here, writing right now, am I ever happy I made that decision!!! 

Dodger for wooden sailboat Alani
Dodger in the making

Dodger for wooden sailboat Alani










I had already taken her out motoring with friends a couple of times, but by mid October I was ready for a test sail up to Belize. I went with Maya for four days into the beautiful familiar waters of the Belize Barrier Reef. I was very nervous, especially since I didn´t plan to go alone, but my crew had to cancel in the last moment. All went well. I was not able to sail quite as much as I would have liked to, but that´s part of it as well. 

Sunset sail on wooden sailboat Alani Rio Dulce
Sunset trip with my friends on the golfete. (Foto: Ellen Nicholas)
Wooden sailboat Alani in Belize
Moored in the Pelican Cays on my shake down sail to Belize.

Read the next chapter The “End”?

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