John here, formerly of Barbara Joyce, hull #141. I bought my boat from Peggy Slater Yacht Sales in about 1984. She was completely stock and had been sitting in a slip near the power plant in Redondo Beach, CA. She had so many barnacles on her hull that when I released the centerboard line it failed to go down. As I was walking around her the weight of the centerboard must have been too much for the barnacles and it eventually, without warning, fell out of the well with a lowd commotion. Her teak was dirty grey/black and her gel coat was chalky. To me she was the most beautiful boat I had ever seen. I took her home to Newport Beach accompanied by uncountable California Greys migrating south.
Once in Newport I started what was to be a three and a half year refit and prep for a cruise. The mast and boom came down and got etched and awl gripped in the alley behind my house, I bought Norseman Staylocs for the next wire size over stock and re rigged her with staybright 1x19 wire. Moved the winches back to the aft end of the fiberglass coming and replaced them with some larger self tailing Barlows from a 30-footer. Basically every piece of standing rigging and blocks were for a 30-footer. I put double lifelines and stanchions on to keep things aboard.
The main and jib were old and ugly but not worn out so I kept them. I added a cruising spinnaker, a 155 Genoa, a reef able 120 to 85 Genoa and a storm jib. I put a track on the front of the mast for a downwind pole which I used a lot. The inboard end of the pole went up the mast and the outboard end locked into a fitting on the mast for storage when not in use. There were turning blocks at both ends of the rack and a control line that sent the sliding eye up and down. I added 2 sets of slab reef points which worked well until I got to the Caribbean and then I needed a third reef.
I bought both an Auto Helm 800 and a Navik self steering vane. I can't rave enough about the Navik. It was lightweight and functioned perfectly! It steered better then I did most of the time, especially in heavy weather. I had one bad experience with it in a storm at sea where the stern got hit by a huge wave as I was running under storm jib alone. A quick disconnect linkage, kind of a spring loaded thingy, popped loose. It was unbelievably crazy trying to lay across the lazarette lid in 55 knots of wind with breaking seas doing 7 knots over bottom, steering with my feet and trying not to get my fingers crushed as the paddle blade violently whipped side to side in the dark. By an act of GOD I got it reconnected. And it steered through the rest of the storm.
One important change I made to the cockpit, to add seaworthiness, was to reduce the size of the footwell by bonding in a bulkhead right at the front edge of the locker lids in the footwell and installing an aluminum propane tank in it. This kept the gas out in the cockpit and vented to outside air. Because the cockpit drains are in the forward corners of the footwell, I cut a piece of 6 inch PVC tubing in quarters, sanded the sheen off of them, and bonded them to the sides and bottom of the cockpit footwell. The bulkhead had the same 1/4 round 6" diameter cutouts. Basically I created two little "'tunnels' through the propane locker to the drains. This locker reduced the volume of the footwell substantially, made a great place to sit in the companionway under the dodger, and had a double lid hinged so that from the cabin I could lift the propane locker lid to turn the gas on and off, or from the cockpit, I could lift the smaller lid and get lines and winch handles out. I used 1/4" teak strips glued with epoxy and filled seams with WEST SYSTEM and black graphite powder on the marine ply lids.
Another major addition I did was a turtle cover for the main hatch. I made it out of marine ply also and glued the teak strips and graphite powder to it also. Across the aft end of the cover I laminated a rail to attach the dodger snaps to. I NEVER took water through the main hatch! The turtle cover was a safe place to sit while working the mast or reefing. To keep with the teak hatch theme I also roughed up the nonskid of the forward hatch with a grinder and glued the teak onto it too. It was just enough teak to make her look yachty and yet not too much to maintain.
I left the interior stock forward of the main bulkhead with the exception of bonding in an anchor locker bulkhead that I left open at the top. I added a hawser and a baby bowsprit with an anchor roller and a huge hollow base cleat on it, and through bolted the heck out of it with 3/4" marine ply backing block. I washed the chain on deck with a bucket before lowering it through the hawser. Once underway I could lay in the vee berth and reach over the top of the bulkhead and kind of push the chain side to side to spread the weight around a bit. For The Pacific I used 75' of BBB on a Bruce designed for a 30' boat. I also carried a CQR for a 30 footer and had 50' of BBB on it. It was stowed in the cockpit locker for most of the trip. I preferred the Bruce as it didn't flop around so much and stayed put on the roller.
The main cabin got attacked by a sawzall. I cut it into pieces that would fit out the companionway and carried them to the dumpster. I made one long cabinet on the port side that had a great ice box (save the old one! ) that I insulated with two layers of rigid polyurethane foam glued on with WEST epoxy. The bottom needs to be 6" thick. Forward of that was a sweet two burner, flush mounted, propane stove. Found that with the accessory pot holders even the SEB pressure cooker stayed put while sailing. Gimballed stoves are nice but impractical in a boat that small. Forward of the stove was counter space. I did away with that little seat area. The cabinet had no doors, just cutouts and nonskid material cut to fit on the shelves. Worked great. Had some 1/2 x 1" sticks that fit in little wood retainers inside the opening to block the opening in rough weather, but only used them once.
The dodger had a roll up front window which was great. In tropics it helps. Nice thing is, with the ice box and stove locations, and the large main hatch and a dodger, that allows me (6-footer) to stand up straight under dodger, I was always standing to cook. Oh, I also ditched that heavy ladder! I made one built in top step that my skinny butt just fit on to sit facing forward looking out the dodger, and a removable lower step that allowed me to get at stuff under the cockpit footwell without trouble. I got rid of those pesky hatch boards and made one solid plywood board with two latch bolts to hold it in. In rough weather I ALWAYS had it bolted in and would climb over it when coming or going.
VERY important item. . . A big stainless pad eye bolted into the cockpit with a substantial backing plate to attach my harness to. I had special double webbing straps that ran from the aft port and starboard cleats to the hollow base cleat on the bow. The webbing lays flat so it doesn't roll under your feet. It's much safer. The carabiner clips to it before I leave cockpit. Allows me to go all the way to the bow without ever unhooking. My tether was long enough to allow me to work at the mast. So I had a port web and a starboard web. I also put two steps on the transom that had cutouts for handholds also. Very helpful when snorkeling or cleaning bottom to get back in boat. Realistically, with the boat sailing I don't know if I could have gotten back aboard using these - though that was the idea when I installed them. But then again, adrenaline combined with two steps might work. Better than no steps. That's pretty much it.
This design has so much ocean crossing potential. I was going to sell Barbara Joyce and get a 30-foot cruising boat but a good friend of mine Dennis Palmer, of the Vertue 25 Salmo, convinced me not to do it. He kept telling me, "John, the best cruising boat is the one you own! This boat will do it!" He mentored me and I trusted in his judgement and I have never regretted it.
If you have a Dolphin 24 and are dreaming of cruising, do it! Prepare the boat properly, think about safety, and prepare yourself. Sail in as much crappy weather as you can. Learn the systems and the boat. Practice reefing every time you go out. This boat, properly prepared, will take more abuse than you will. There was one time when it was so bad that if a copter had lowered a basket it would have been a tough call what I would have done. Fortunately no copter showed up and I was forced to keep on sailing and it got better. But the boat most likely would have survived without me.
One tough little boat!
Barbara Joyce, #141