Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Spirits Locker

The spirits locker is in the forward cabin under the bunks, in a rack I built into the boat.

I generally keep gin, rum and scotch on board. I use Chivas Regal bottles for decanters because they are fat and steady in a seaway, or if the boat rolls at anchor. With limes and some tonic and ice, I can make a great drink, but plain scotch and boat water tastes awfully good too.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Zincs on Mooring Chains

Mooring chains do seem to wear out pretty fast and they are expensive. I am no metalurgist, but when I look at the condemned chain the erosion looks suspiciously as though galvanic corrosion (electrolysis) has been at work. Maybe it just looks that way, but I think the very slightly differing galvanic potential which must exist in the adjacent links (or in the galvanized shackles) is working on the metal.

In another career, a friend was responsible for maintaining moored instrumented sea buoys. He told me that after he started adding zincs to the mooring chains, chain replacement intervals increased by a factor of two, or more. He used a rudder zinc (two zincs connected by a bolt) with brass threaded inserts, and just bolted it through one of the links and tightened it down. As I recall the zinc was located near the top of the water column, which I have often seen is where most corrosion (or wear) takes place .

I mentioned this technique to my mooring company and they were dismissive - and why not? I may try it next season.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

It's gusting to 50 - Do you Know How strong Your Mooring Is?

Where my mooring is located there is, to the southwest, about a six mile fetch. If a strong westerly comes, or a bad rotating storm, I may see 4 to 6 foot seas at the mooring, I believe. So I can sleep at night, I have a beefy mooring system.

The mooring anchor is a 200 pound mushroom. The chain is commensurately heavy - half inch at the bottom half, 3/8 further up. The pennant is 3/4 double braid, and there is heavy rubber hose chafing gear, sewn on with stitches that pass through the pennant, so the chafing gear can't get displaced, as happens. (The yellow line is the dinghy painter.)

The chafing gear is long enough to give some protection even if the pennant gets fouled on the bow roller. I hang the anchor on the pulpit, because once I came out to the boat to find evidence that the pennant had fouled on the anchor. The cleat is big, and through bolted with a large aluminum backing plate. The deck in this location is cored with marine plywood.

I pay attention to the chock, too. It is oversized bronze, smooth and well made, and secured with two 5/16 inch bronze bolts. The chock takes a lot of strain as the boat surges, and if the chock gives way the pennant might chafe or tear up the pulpit.

Every fall the mooring company removes the buoy, attaches a cable to the chain, and drops the chain into the mud, where it slumbers the winter away in nice non-corrosive anaerobic conditions, with no constant motion to wear it out. In the spring they put the buoy back on, and every couple of years they send me a bill for replacement of a shackle or chain or whatever. It's the cost of doing business, and of sleeping well during a blow.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Job Description

A bunch of years ago my sister and her husband, my wife and I chartered a sloop in the Abacos. My sister is fairly amphibious but hadn't done much cruising. The sloop came with a 13 foot glass skiff with a 15 horsepower outboard, perfect for exploring for blue holes and downed drug planes. (We found both, deep in the mangroves of the mysterious Bight of Old Robinson . . . )

I was nominal captain, and I quickly named my sister keeper and captain of the skiff. She hadn't operated an outboard much, but she quickly got the idea and the engine was an easy starter. Operating the boat several times a day she became proficient, and I think her role as boatkeeper added to everyone's enjoyment of the cruise, and was satisfying and fun for her.

Cruising, someone with little experience can easily feel awkward and in the way. Giving him or her a masterable job provides a sense of belonging to the ship. Examples include being the foredeck hand in anchoring (which can include bringing the person into the decision as to where and how to anchor), hoisting and handing foresails (athletic and sometimes exciting, but easily learned), being the breakfast cook, or even being in charge of the bar. The goal is to give the person a particular role, and let him or her take ownership of it.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Cruise Planning

I was thinking about what I wrote yesterday – about never committing to the destination. I think that’s good advice, but sometimes, especially if the crew is strong, it is quite satisfying to strive for and win the harbor, even if it means a long beat in strong winds. So, if the crew is gung ho, one might hesitate to abandon a goal when conditions become harsh. “What does not kill us makes us stronger”, and all that, and the first cocktail after the boat is secured tastes pretty good when you’ve really earned it.

Having said that, if I am planning a pleasant day sail on a cruise, I take into account the weather report, current, and of course the crew. If there are kids on board, I might plan to stop at an island along the way. If there is an interesting passage, such as Fox Islands Thoroughfare or Thread of Life in these parts, we’ll go out of our way to transit. If we are all adults, we’ll probably plan a longer, harder sail, but always with alternatives built in. If the goal is an anchorage way up one of Maine’s sounds, I’ll certainly try to ride the tide up the sound. It’s not critical to have a fair tide for these sounds, but with a fair tide and a light wind one may be less prone to reach for the engine start switch. In a fading southwest breeze, running with the spinnaker and a fair tide one can make good time, but with the tide foul you’ll likely motor.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Biggest Cruising Mistake

My father sailed extensively with a man who cruised for eighty-one years. He was taken on cruises as an infant and he cruised until the end: the New England coast, points south, the Caribean, British Columbia, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and beyond. His crews were nearly always content and happy.

Among his secrets was never committing to a destination for the day's sail. This tip is so obvious as not to require elaboration, but I think quite often novice boaters ignore it, and maybe we're all guilty of that from time to time. I spoke to a friend who early one summer took a short cruise with her husband and kids in their powerboat, a 25 foot enlarged runabout type. Leaving Portland, the wind was whistling and in their teeth, the sky was grey and low, and there was a sea running. But they were bound and determined to make Boothbay Harbor (a forty mile trip) and by God they did, wet, angry and tired.

More about cruise planning tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


After passing up the west side of Bear Island in the last of the light, we anchored just north of infamous Malaga Island in eastern Casco Bay, on the last night of our cruise. I decided to get up early and get us underway before my wife and son were up. Although the passage between Malaga and Sebasco is used by lobster boats, it is winding, tight, unmarked, and ledgy even by Maine standards, and I'd never been through it. So I decided to go out the same way we'd come in.

With the engine running, I was on the bow getting the anchor in when my wife appeared in the cockpit. She took the helm and without discussion we headed out the narrow pass I'd decided against.

There came a shout from a lobsterman and I threw the engine out of gear. Too late - bump, bump, bump and we came to a tilted stop. With the tide running out from under us, it was only by shifting our weight to the bow combined with the good graces of a passing lobsterman that we hauled off before the tide stranded us for at least six hours in a most embarrassing situation, smack in the middle of a fishing harbor. No harm done, I think, but I'll know more when I decommission.

The grounding happened because we failed to brief. We try, before any complex mooring or piloting exercise, to look together at the chart or the situation and talk it through. My wife is pretty skilled at eyeball navigation and she has good judgment, so we can exchange ideas and thoughts and she can challenge my assumptions - I'm lucky. This technique keeps us out of trouble, unless we fail to use it.

Example: We were in Edgartown coming alongside the fuel dock. There was at least 1.5 knots of current more or less sweeping through the dock. We would need good fendering and quick work with the forward spring and other lines, coordinated with steering and engine control. We talked this through and the mooring and unmooring went just fine, with no screaming and no hate or discontent.

Briefing works on a macro scale too. On a cruise I will generally sit down with the entire crew and, chart on the table, tell them what my thoughts are for the day - what might be our destination, things we might see or visit en route, and alternatives in case wind or weather suggest another harbor or if we just want a shorter day. Comments and ideas are encouraged. Not only does this exercise bring the crew into the plan of the day, it also gives my wife and me a chance to articulate to ourselves the navigational exercise ahead.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Adirondack Guide Boats

We spent the weekend at a most fantastic wedding at the Adirondack League Club, a 60,000 acre private forest preserve developed soon after the railroads opened the Adirondacks in the 1890's. Some 450 families own carefully sited camps on the various lakes within the preserve. These camps, although old, are hardly the cramped, spider-infested camps I have seen elsewhere, but rather are large, comfortable and even luxurious, and very well cared for.

The camps have boathouses. Many families own Adirondack Guide Boats, very lightly built ceder and spruce pulling boats 12 to 16 or so feet overall, narrow, low freeboard, and, I believe, among the lightest traditionally built wooden boats in the world. I understand a light 12 foot solo canoe type, built a hundred years old without any veneers or glues, may weigh as little as 45 pounds. I estimated the weight of the 15 foot model I rowed, capacity three persons, at 85 pounds. The boats were meant to be packed into trout ponds, of course.

 This first photo is of a glass boat, to show the form.

Rushton was the great builder, and his surviving boats sell for a lot of money.

The oars are pinned, so a fisherman could drop the looms without the oars floating off. This means, of course, that the oars cannot be feathered, which must be a problem in a long pull against a strong wind. It also means the oars can't be stroked with a nice recovery "flip" at the end of a stroke (merging into the feather), which is where a fair amount of the power comes from in a rotating oar. Also, the boats are so narrow that the rower's hands cross over on each stroke and recovery.

One quickly gets used to these details and the boats have such an easy pull, they are an absolute pleasure. There is something pretty cool, too, about rowing a boat that is over a century old.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Parasitic Drag

When I bought Journeyman, there were flag halyards to both spreaders, an unused 6 foot LORAN antenna on the aft deck, and a big heavy Danforth anchor in a PVC sleeve mounted to the stern pulpit. All this was unnecessary windage (parasitic drag, as aircraft designers call it), and off it came. The anchor got stowed low in the starboard cockpit locker, the antenna was tossed, and I did away with the flag halyards. The boat sails the better for it, especially when beating in a breeze.

The anchor was high and heavy and at an end of the boat, so its restowing low and more toward the center was especially good. Weight at the ends of a boat adds to pitching - think of a see-saw.

I do think it is important to have a ready anchor, and I have a 7.5 kilogram Bruce on a roller at the bow. Like the stern anchor, it too is up in the wind, heavy and at an end, but seamanship requires that it be there. Were I to take Journeyman on a blue water trip, once offshore I'd restow that anchor in the cockpit locker.

Friday, September 18, 2009

What's for Dinner?

On Journeyman we have something of a specialty of the boat: fried pork chops with rice pilaf (or Rice a Roni) and green beans, apple garnish, and indian pudding.

Soak some chopped dried apple rings in a cup of water. You can buy dried apple rings in the bulk foods section. They keep indefinitely and are nice simmered with oatmeal or as a warm dessert, simmered with a little sugar, butter and water.

Salt and pepper the chops and fry them in a pan until done. Set them aside but leave the pan on the stove.

In the meantime get the green beans and the pilaf or other rice dish going.

Dump the dried apple rings and their soaking liquid into the chop pan. Put some heat under the pan and scrape up the bits as the apples simmer and cook a bit. You want the apple pieces to soften and sauce up with the drippings and brown bits.

Open a can of indian pudding, stir it up with a fork, put it in cereal bowl and set the bowl in a saucepan with an inch of simmering water. Put the lid on the pot.

Make up and serve the plates: chops, beans, rice and apples. A deep silence will settle over the table.

By the time dinner is done the pudding will be hot. Serve it with a little evaporated milk.

If you are not salivating by now perhaps your metabolism is faulty.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

What we Eat (sometimes)

I thought it might be of interest to see a menu/shopping list for a short cruise I took with the boys last summer.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Motorsailing as Art

Ok, maybe it’s not an art, but there is a certain technique to motorsailing. Under the right conditions, one can make big miles motorsailing, clipping along in high style with a steady, fine ride, the motor ticking away at half throttle.

I used to look at a motorsailer and wonder why anyone would want a boat that’s too heavy to sail in short of a gale, and too underpowered to really motor. I didn’t get that such boats are meant to be sailed under power.

One July morning we were 80 miles offshore in a fifty foot yawl with an 85 horsepower diesel. The wind was southwest about 8 to 10 knots, our course was north and we wanted to get to Newport by dark. Under sail (which would have included a spinnaker) we’d have made maybe 4 or 5 knots. Under power, the two-cycle Jimmy banging away, maybe 7 knots. There was a swell, and under power or under the spinnaker we’d roll and be in for slatting sails and an uncomfortable ride.

Instead, we put up a big genoa, the full main and the mizzen, and we got on course with the engine at about half throttle or a little more. The boat’s speed brought the apparent wind forward, of course, and we found ourselves reaching, with maybe 12 to 14 knots over the deck, at a speed approaching 9 knots. The boat rolled not at all, we made miles like a freight train, and steering was a pleasure. Hour after hour it was a sweet sail. The swell was behind us and at our speed we rode some swells and got to nearly 10 knots time and again. I remember coming in past Breton Reef with the sun just above the horizon, lighting the cliffs in gold. We were on the mooring half an hour later.

That kind of motorsailing requires a breeze that’s not too light, and “across the deck”: a little forward of the beam, abeam, or a little aft of the beam. When you are under power you’ll bring the wind abeam or forward of the beam, so the sails will steady the boat and you’ll get the smooth ride motor cruisers envy. You can’t really motorsail, therefore, if the true wind is already ahead or nearly so, nor when the wind is dead astern or nearly so.

I usually end up motorsailing when I am motoring in a calm, see a breeze beginning to build, and I notice that the masthead telltale shows the wind abeam or so. We usually motor with the main up anyway, as a steadying sail, so up goes the jib or the reacher, the main gets trimmed, we throttle back, adjust the sails again to the new apparent wind, and off we go.

Not so long ago a cruising sailboat with an engine was called an “auxiliary cruiser.” If you have a sailboat and it has an engine, you have an auxiliary cruiser, which you could call a “motorsailer”. (You want a “sailboat”? Take out the engine.) Get the most out of the engine, and add motorsailing to your bag of tricks.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Sail Locker

Journeyman has the following sails: Storm jib, working jib, genoa, reacher, spinnaker, and main. They live in the port cockpit locker. Many of the sails are visible in the attached sail plan. You can see that the Vega has a short rig compared with most US boats, so we really depend on our light sails.

The main and working jib get the most use. The main has full battens and can take two reefs. It is made by Cressy in Marblehead and it is an excellent sail.
The working jib is miter cut, a bit old fashioned. But it is very well made, with leathered tack and head, very strong detailing. I set it on an 8 inch tack pennant made up from ¼ inch 7 by 19 stainless halyard shackled to the stem fitting.

The genoa is a little tired and could use replacement. I don’t use it much, preferring, often, to go from the working jib to a reacher, which means I rarely use the genoa close reaching or close hauled. The genoa is of course terrible for visibility to leeward and maybe that’s why I don’t set it much. But genoas are powerful sails for a light breeze, enabling one to sail instead of motoring, and I really should become more familiar with that sail.

The spinnaker is also a little old fashioned, being cross cut – the latest thing, in 1975. I wouldn’t mind a tri-radial spinnaker, which in my experience is far more stable and forgiving of trim than a cross cut sail.

The storm jib is a recent acquisition. I have set it once in no real wind, just to see. I followed Bacon and Associates’ guidelines: “Maximum storm jib luff = 2/3 of the working jib luff, maximum storm jib leach = 2/3 of the working jib leach, and maximum storm jib foot = 2/3 of the working jib foot. For off-shore work, limit the storm jib edge dimensions to a maximum of one-half of the corresponding working jib edge dimensions.”

My storm jib seems too small but I guess it will be right if it were to blow 50 or thereabouts. I plan to set it on a 24 inch wire tack pennant I use for the reacher, so the sail will be (a) in clearer air and (b) less likely to scoop up a wave.

There is no way I will go on the wind with my working jib in 30 knots or more, but I don’t think the storm jib will be effective in less than around 40 knots. So I have a plan for an intermediate sail, as follows: I will take the working jib and cut it down so it is about 2/3 its present size. The upper part of the sail will stay the same: I’ll move the tack and clew up. I’ll move the tack up say 40 inches but I’ll move the clew a good deal higher, so in effect I will have a yankee, see the illustration.

To save cost, I’ll ask the sailmaker simply to use the existing tack and clew, but to transplant them to their new positions, as was common practice in more frugal times.

And I’ll buy a nice new working jib . . .

Then I’ll have a yankee useful for upwind work in say about 30 to 45 knots, and off the wind in combination with a working jib in a strong breeze.

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Wood Stove

On Journeyman we have a woodstove, and it is a joy. Of course it extends the season, but in foggy Maine a little dry heat is often welcome in mid-summer. Last July my wife and I took a five day cruise and I think we had a small fire every night.

The stove is mounted on the bulkhead between the main cabin and the forward cabin. It is a proper job - the former owner's - with some stainless guarding, and a water collar on deck through which the stovepipe passes.

 I think it is a Cole Stove. It can be burned tight, with no fire showing, or with the fire visible behind a screen.

We burn charcoal briquettes. The stack has a rain cap and I take that off and put on another section so the stack is maybe 2 feet high. I tip the stack so it is pointed more or less downwind. I worry just a little about sparks and I think I should make a spark guard out of some bronze screening I have lying around, but I haven't put a hole in the furled main yet. (I don't use it under way.)

I start the fire with a paper towel and some lamp oil. Someone gave us fatwood kindling and I cut some up at home and I often use a piece or two of that too. The charcoal is messy and I keep it in a 2 gallon ziplock bag. Charcoal absorbs moisture and keeping it in a tight bag aids in getting the fire started.

I use 8 to 12 briquettes. I don't want to stuff the firebox because the set up really isn't made for lots of heat. As the fire burns down I add a few. Sometimes we gather and burn some spruce knots or hardwood chunks, mostly for the aroma and the dancing flames.

When it's windy the stove may smoke. Usually that stops when the stove warms up and if I make sure the stack is tipped downwind. Perhaps I should carry another stack section to get the top above the furled main and into clear air. I have heard of folks using very flexible metal steam pipe and pointing it right downwind, apparently curing the problem.

We are not fools about carbon monoxide poisoning but neither do we fret. If it is really chilly I may keep the forward hatch open a crack and the sliding hatch cover open a couple of inches, with the slides in. In warmer but still cool weather I may leave all the companionway slides out but pull the hatch and the cabin warms nicely.

On a cool October evening we invite friends for dinner on the boat. Anchored, we get dinner cooking, start a fire and watch the charcoal glowing behind its screen, with maybe a little spruce flaming as well. The cabin is lit only by the fire, an oil lamp and candles on the table.  I look around the anchorage, and step down into that warm cabin.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Spinnakers Part 3

If it is too windy for a spinnaker or you just don’t want to mess, try the following. On a run or broad reach, fly your genoa to leeward, like usual. Well off the wind a genny won’t fill well. But you can fly your working jib to windward on the pole and it works wonders. Here's how: Tack the working jib on but don’t hank it to the forestay – you will "set it flying". In any case you either have a roller furling jib on the forestay or the genny is hanked to the forestay, so the forestay is unavailable.  Put the spinnaker pole on the mast with a topping lift and top it up to level or thereabouts. No foreguy. Put the windward working jib sheet through the end of the pole and bring the sheet aft to a winch as usual. Hoist the working jib and take the windward sheet in pretty snug - you want the sail fairly flat.

It doesn't matter if it is the genoa or the working jib that's hanked on. If you have twin headstays you can hank on both.

The jib will scoop wind into the genny and both sails will pull nicely, even if you come up nearer to the wind. And if the helmsman comes up too much, the working jib just backwinds, no big deal.

To drop the working jib, just ease the sheet so the sail and pole go forward, and lower the halyard while you bring the sail down to the foredeck. Easy, and one man can do it.

And if it really pipes up, you can drop the genny and keep on going with the jib poled out. Or, big boat style, you can switch out the genny for another smaller jib. Conversely, instead of a genoa you can use a lightweight "reacher" jib, and the rig allows the reacher to fill and pull much further off the wind than usual. It's a flexible set up.

This technique is nothing new, but the particulars are from Bob Griffith’s wonderful book Blue Water (Sail Press?), which may be out of print but is very strong on sail handling and anchoring and many many other topics, and a joy to read.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Spinnakers Part 2

Trimming the spinnaker: the pole should be square to the apparent wind, or a little forward of that if it is blowing. Ease the sheet until the windward edge of the spin starts to break. If it blowing over trim the sheet a little, or more than a little if you are running and the wind is piping up.

You want the sail to break on its “shoulder”. If it breaks too high, bring the pole down. Too low, lift the pole. You will find that the closer to the wind you are, the lower you will want the pole. If you are running the pole might be all the way up on its track.

Don’t let the pole push too hard on the forestay. Keep good tension on the afterguy to prevent that.

If it is really blowing you can get better control of the chute by running the sheet through a block at the rail a little aft of midships, maybe at the forward end of the jib track. The windier it is, the more you are concerned with "locking" the sail over the boat. Fine trim becomes much less important. Running in a strong wind you absolutely want the center of effort of the spinnaker over the centerline of the yacht, and that means trimming the sheet hard and easing the afterguy.

That (as well as making sure the halyard is “two blocked”, or all the way up) keeps the sail locked (sort of) over the boat when broad reaching or running. I rarely do this on my Vega but we often used it on Solings to have good steering control broad reaching or even running in lots of wind. You can do the same thing with the afterguy to improve the pull angle and also help keep the pole down.

I don't worry much about the after guy chafing on the shroud or not having a good angle to keep the pole back. With good modern low-stretch line you ought to be able to keep the pole off the forestay well enough, and if it is so windy you can't do that (and you are using nice low stretch line for your spinnaker sheet and guy) it is probably time to ease your course off a little or take in the chute. Big boats use a "reaching strut" rigged on the mast five or so feet off the deck and sticking out 90 deg to the centerline to a few feet outboard, with the guy running through the outboard end, to improve the afterguy pull angle.

Jibing: I use the swap pole ends technique. When it is blowing hard that operation really is easier if you run the sheet and guy through those midship blocks, because if it is windy and you go before the wind to jibe and take the pole off the mast, the chute can really rise up and start bobbling around, not so good and also it makes it hard to grab the "new guy" to snap the pole on. If you use the midship blocks and maybe overtrim the sheet a little the chute is still pretty locked in even when the pole is off. But all that's only an issue in I would say at least 18 kts plus. Otherwise just use the quarter blocks.

Here’s how I jibe:

Bear off to a run or very broad reach.

Overtrim the old sheet a little and be ready to trim the new sheet some when the pole comes off it.

Take the pole off the mast and bring the old guy in with the pole. If it is hard to get the pole off the mast ask for a little ease on the guy.

Take the old guy off and snap the other end of the pole into old sheet/new guy.

Jibe the main and trim on the new course.

Steering is key. If you jibe and the helmsman lets the boat up to a reach before the pole is on, the sail will blow into the foretriangle and make a mess unless helm bears off quickly. In a wind it takes 3 good hands, trimmer, helm and foredeck. Take one out of the equation and it makes for a poor show.

Handing the sail: Like hoisting, in reverse. Get the boat right before the wind, and dump the guy so the sail collapses behind the main. Keep the spinnaker in the lee of the main and one man brings it down while another eases the halyard. Hard for one man to do both and keep the sail out of the water. We put the sail right down the forward hatch and then repack it below.

All this makes flying the chute seem very intimidating. But it is a really useful light weather sail, and sailors have used light sails for centuries and I think all sailors ought to be comfortable with a chute, at least in moderate winds. Like anything else in sailing, take it in bites, increasing your comfort level in stages. But don't practice in a light air: you can't tell what you are doing right or wrong. 7 - 15 kts or so is perfect for practice.

When you are running dead downwind, clew of the chute at the headstay, pole 90 deg to centerline so the whole chute is in the wind, main boom all the way out on the other side, and with that great spread of canvas you are making good time in a modest breeze on course and in perfect equanimity, you will feel like a good sailor.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Spinnakers Part 1

I like to fly the spinnaker. In the Soling we flew it in winds up to 35 kts (as measured by an anemometer on the committee boat) and I am comfortable with the sail. Here is my take on spinnaker handling.

Terminology: The spinnaker has a halyard and two lines: the sheet and the guy, also known as the afterguy. The guy is on the spinnaker pole and attaches to the tack of the spinnaker, the sheet is on the clew.

The pole has two lines on it: the foreguy (pulls the pole down) and the topping lift (holds the pole up).

I run the foreguy from the pole bail to a block at the mast step if it's not too breezy. That way I don't need to adjust it as I trim the after guy in or out.

If it's really breezy I run the foreguy to the mooring cleat. Sometimes I run it through the cleat and then aft, so I can adjust it from the cockpit. If I run it aft I don't use a block at the cleat, the friction isn't bad. But mostly I just take it to a block or padeye at the deck near the mast.

Hoisting: Make sure the sail isn’t twisted. You may want to repack it down below. Bring the sail in its bag or ”turtle” to the leeward rail and secure the bag to the lifeline. Get the boat to a very broad reach. The after guy will have been run outside all the shrouds back to the cockpit. Put the guy into the end of the pole and bring the line around the forestay and back to the turtle and tie the guy to the tack of the spinnaker (a bowline is good). In a light enough wind you can take back on the guy so the tack of the spinnaker is at the pole, but if it is windy that risks the sail blowing into the water ahead of the boat, not good.

Secure the spinnaker sheet to the clew with a bowline Take some slack out of the sheet but don’t pull the sail out of the turtle.

Double check that your lines are all led correctly, not through lifelines etc.

Only then attach the spin halyard.

The idea is to hoist the sail near the main, in its lee. (But don’t hoist it into the shrouds.) Then, when the sail is all the way up and the halyard fast, take back on the after guy and the sail should fill nicely.

If it is windy consider putting some turns of the halyard around a winch as you hoist, so if the sail fills unexpectedly you don’t burn your hands or go up the mast, as happens sometimes.

Double check that the halyard is all the way up. Especially when it is blowing, if the head of the sail is a few feet from the mast the sail will wobble around and be hard to control. Sometimes people don’t notice.

A trick to consider is leaving the jib up until chute is hoisted and at least partially trimmed, then drop the jib. This way the chute can't wrap around the forestay. I don't usually do it that way but it is a good trick, especially at sea where it is easier (because of rolling)for the sail to get wrapped tight around the forestay. Some boats use a "spinnaker net", hoisted up the forestay on a halyard, for the same purpose.

Tomorrow I'll talk about spinnaker trim and jibing.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Reefing and Sailing in a Breeze

Last Sunday it was blowing about 25 and I went sailing. I couldn't find anyone to go with so I went alone. When I sail alone I like to experiment with sail combinations and practice things.It was breezy enough to warrant a single reef in the main, so I put the reef in on the mooring, which is a lot easier than reefing under way.

I have slab reefing with grommets (instead of reef points). I let the main out of the sail ties. Journeyman was built for rolling reefing and there was not a tack hook as original equipment, so I used to just lash the tack cringle (grommet) down at the gooseneck. But a few years ago I bought a tack hook and attached it to the boom near the gooseneck. I put the tack hook in the cringle in and then set up the reef line ("reef earing" or "earing") pretty taut. You really want that line tight, to keep the sail flat. I didn't bother with the lacing line to take up the loose sail. With one reef there isn't much sail hanging down anyway, and the tack hook and the reef line are pretty tough and can take the strain. Then I hoisted the main right up, secured the halyard and took in on the downhaul, again to keep the main flat.

I set the boom vang nice and tight. Dinghy racing teaches how important it is, in a strong wind, to have the main shaped like a nice foil, with the leach pretty straight. Among other things, it makes jibing much easier, for if the boom is lifting and the main is all curved, the lower part of the sail can jibe unexpectedly. Try keeping the vang really taut in a breeze, you'll see how much easier the main is to handle.

I have a tiller auto pilot (Raymarine) and it is great when single handing. I let go the mooring and hauled the mooring pennant over to the starboard to get the boat off on the starboard tack. Then I went back to the cockpit, put her on a close reach, set the pilot and went forward to hoist the jib, which I'd already hanked on. It is a working jib, pretty much fills the fore triangle. I made sure the halyard was nice and tight, important in a breeze if the sail is to have a nice shape. You really don’t want a scalloped luff in a breeze. It is hard on the sail – the hanks can tear out – and the jib won’t drive the boat.

The reefed main and jib was about right. I beat up the sound in good order, the boat marching along as boats do when sailing well close hauled in a breeze. I used the traveler a little to keep the boat on her feet - Vegas don't like to heel much beyond around 20 degrees. The tight vang helped too.

I'd decided to round Cow Island to starboard and run back. Bearing off around the island to a broad reach I set the autopilot again and went forward and shook the reef. My routine is this: 1. Ease the main sheet about all the way, or in any case enough to allow the boom to lift. Slack the boom vang. 2. Ease the halyard enough to get the tack hook out, then hoist the main all the way. 3. Ease the reef line. Before you ease the reef line, the main boom will take quite angle upwards. It looks a little funny, but as soon as you ease the reef line the boom comes back down. Flatten the main with the downhaul, set the vang, and you are off.

It is important when reefing or shaking a reef to look at the sail and see if anything is keeping the sail from doing what you want. For example, when I reefed the main back on the mooring I took the slack out of the second reefing earing, so the line wouldn't hang right down on the cabin top. When I shook the reef I needed to make sure that line could run, or I wouldn't have been able to ease the first reef line. You have to look at the sail and if it is not doing what you wanted, see what is keeping it.

The boat really took off with the added sail, a little surprising considering it didn't seem like so much sail was added. I jibed a couple of times, easy enough. Again, the taut vang kept the main stable. I took the main most of the way in with the main sheet, and I made sure the traveler was centered, to limit the motion that much more. Then over the boom goes, and maybe I try to snap it over by grabbing the parts of the sheet, so I and not the sail decides when the boom goes. But if it really breezy I don’t try to do that. Jibing is a steering maneuver, and it really is important to allow the boat to jibe over firmly but not to come up beyond a broad reach, and let the sheet run. If you don’t come up much after the jibe, the boat will stay in perfect control and the maneuver is easier and quieter than coming about.

As for the jib, the trick is to ignore it until you are on the new jibe - no need with a small crew, or any size crew, to do the main and jib at the same time. I take the slack out of the new sheet, and ease the old sheet - that way the jib doesn't get blown forward to the forestay, where it might get wrapped or something. Easy.

The run was short so I didn’t set a preventer. I do have a 40 foot piece of 5/8 nylon that I secure to the end of the boom and take forward and then aft to the cockpit, usually through a snatch block at the chainplates. That preventer, which is nylon because you want some elasticity here, keeps the boom in place no matter how wildly the boat may yaw. It is very important to use such a preventer running or broad reaching in a seaway, to avoid a possibly disastrous sudden jibe.

Before I got near the mooring I went forward again, autopilot on, to hand and bag the jib. Then I started the engine for safety, but actually moored under sail. A little messy, and the boat reached off after the pennant was on, but I got the main down right quick and all was well.

It was a good sail and gave me practice reefing. I don't reef much around here because Maine summer winds are generally light. But soon "the gales of October" will be here and I wanted to check the gear and my technique. I love sailing in heavy winds - not too heavy.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Why me?

I do a lot of sailing and I've been sailing a lot for 40 years. I know a lot about sailing - not every kind of sailing, but I do know about cruising, big boat and small boat racing, how to get performance out of a boat, and I know something about blue water. I can rig, repair, service an engine, cook, provision, steer in bad weather, and navigate. When I am not sailing I read about it and I think about it. When I meet someone who is a "good sailor", I very often find that he or she may know something about some aspect of sailing, but can't "hand, reef and steer", as the old sailors used to say.

So I will write this blog, and every day, or most days, I'll tell whoever looks what is on my sailing mind.

I own Journeyman, a 27 foot Albin Vega sloop, built of glass in Sweden in 1971.
I keep Journeyman on a mooring in Casco Bay, Maine. She is tough, has bunks for four, and has a turn of speed if handled right. I ask of a cruising boat that she be tough enough to really take it without fear that the deck is going to lift or something, and that she not be a slug. I call her Journeyman because that is how I think of myself as a sailor. I do know a lot, but I know much less than a master sailor. There aren't so many of those around, but I have sailed with some and I know the difference between my abilities and theirs.

My sailing life began when my father bought a Soling. I was fourteen, and for the next 8 years or so I sailed the boat 4 or 8 hours a day, from May to September. We sailed from Edgartown to Nantucket and to Newport. I was often alone. We could reef the main, and we sailed in northeasters and in southeast storms. I learned that a strong enough wind (50 knots, I think) will blow the bow of a sloop off the wind and maybe into a bad jibe. A Soling has no engine and no accommodation and if there is a better boat for a boy to really learn to sail in I don't know it. (But maybe an Ensign, which has bunks.)

I worked as a paid hand on yachts and got to know an English sailor, Dudley Knott, from Manchester. He and I sailed together up and down the New England Coast. He was schooled in the English Channel and raced with the greats from the 1950's. We generally agreed on sail and course changes with hardly a word and it was a pleasure to sail with him. I am sorry he is gone and that I never told him, as he was dying, what a pleasure it had been to know him.

After college I crewed on a 54 Tripp designed yawl, Geronimo, skippered by Steve Connett and built by Abeking and Rasmussen in Germany, of aluminum. (She was sister ship to an early Ondine.) Steve was - is - truly a master, having worked as a paid hand and boat boy on the early 1960's 12 Meter American Eagle, and then sailing Geronimo 11 months a year for many years, on cruises from New England to Haiti to Bermuda and across the Atlantic. If he stepped on board Journeyman he'd see tricks he'd recognize, and if anyone taught me how to run a boat it's Steve. Geronimo was a research vessel, tagging and releasing sharks, and we had a gas. Our best run was Cap Haitien to Key West in 3 days, December 1980, with 24 hour runs of over 235, 210, and 215. Only Steve and I could steer, with the mian reefed, and genoa, and the wind 25 to 30 knots on the beam, down the Old Bahama Channel

After college came a stint in the Coast Guard, as a deck officer on Steadfast, a 210 foot cutter out of St. Pete, Florida. We cruised the northern Caribbean and the Bahamas - some of the same water I'd seen on Geronimo. That was 1982 and 1983, and we navigated with one Loran line and a sun or star sight. Maybe we were the last to navigate a US warship using celestial. It was fun, and of course I learned a lot. When we'd bust a yacht carrying pot, the captain (Chick Murray) would detail me to bring to to Key West. Then to Juneau, and a desk job. We did have a 14 foot centerboard sloop and found out about katabatic winds.

After the Coast Guard, and now married (still am), my wife and I went back to Geronimo for 4 months, April to August, and made two Bermuda trips. We tagged 800 blue sharks that summer, hand lining them, mostly. I'll tell you about it sometime.

Then law school, and since 1988 I've had an admiralty law practice in Portland, Maine. I am pretty involved in the waterfront and keep my hand in with Journeyman, a bunch of small boats, and the occasional blue water trip on someone else's boat.

So tomorrow I will start in with whatever topic is on my mind, perhaps from a recent experience. I'm just trying to figure it out. I'm still a journeyman.
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