Baggy Wrinkles

Baggy Wrinkles
S/V Nautica, Hull #614, Built at Whitby Boatworks Ltd., Ontario, Canada 1977, one of the most recognizeable Carl Alberg designs. A masthead sloop displacing 9000 lbs, keel hull, Yanmar 15 hp diesel, LOA 30.27 Beam 8.75, Draft 4.29, roller furling headsail, tiller, berths for 4, interior teak bulkheads, teak cap rail and cockpit teak coamings, 12 volt lighting, aluminum mast support, Harken self tailing winches, in its day was designed for customers as a Cruiser-Racer, the Alberg 30 remains a Classic design of the large Alberg inventory.

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Friday, March 17, 2017

Sailing with a Mentor Aboard

Having a seasoned sailor aboard can definitely improve your sailing performance.  

A second set of experienced eyes can immediately calculate and suggest a more optimal way of managing the wind and our vessel’s capabilities for prevailing conditions.    Because most cruisers are not necessarily avid racers, they seldom have the opportunity to have a “Pro” along as observer, coach, and mentor, taking into account boat design, sail plan and tactics on the water.  

Yet I had that opportunity recently when I invited a seasoned sailor and competitive racer along for a sail.  It was a great experience to have another set of eyes on the sails, hands on the lines, and a certain depth of knowledge from which to draw. My experience resembled a re-certification process, with my “Pro” taking the First Mate’s position as I took the helm.  We were fortunate to have some stiff 23 to 30 knot breezes across the lake that day, conditions under which some cruising skippers might not risk leaving the docks.  

With a single reef in the main and a second in the genoa, we headed out to see what the lake offered that day.  Reefing is too seldom employed by cruisers but is an essential skill for all sailors.  Even large vessels can become overpowered by carrying too much sail.  Strong winds can tear sails and create frantic emergencies.  Reefing manages sail power and, if trimmed for the unique characteristics of each vessel, will balance the boat and "tame" strong winds for safe sailing enjoyment .  

The reefed sails on my Alberg 30 provided us with a good pointing to windward and good hull speed over the water in a very fresh blow.    Most of our time was spent doing what sailors do, we tacked and hauled on lines, we hiked out a bit, we talked.  While obvious that we both knew how to sail, it was helpful of him to observe what I might be doing that was getting in my way to being a better sailor.  In collegiate racing, team coaches often use megaphones and shout corrections so teammates learn best practices under the pressure of drills and practice races.  Here, there was no yelling aboard.  This was quite collegial as my mentor assessed the performance of the Alberg and then pointed out beneficial tips on sail shape, rudder handling, and pointing.    

My learning curve peaked suddenly, after several hours on the water.  The wind was a bit cooler and the sun was beginning to hide behind the winter clouds when we turned toward home.  We’d had a great time under sail and I savored the chance to get real time coaching.  During the reach home, I saw something happening that didn’t match my idea of sail trim. 

With wind on our port beam, my “Pro” had let the main out to starboard looking as if we were headed downwind on a run.  Posing the obvious question while looking at the Windex, I asked “Why not pull in the main to leverage that wind on the beam?”  In a revealing teaching moment, he pointed to the tell-tails on the leech of the main.  Hauling in a bit to windward the tails began to flutter in the disrupted wind flow behind the main.  He then eased the sheet and explained the concept of flow over windward and leeward surfaces as the tell-tales streamed off to leeward and the boat pushed forward, the main now cooperating with the wind on the beam.  We looked as if we were sailing downwind but were actually on a beam reach.    

In that instant, I realized that,  somewhere in that catalogue of sailing lore we keep buried in a mental drawer, I’d lost track of such a simple but important characteristic of sails.  By my advice, we would have continued to sail fighting the wind instead of trimming for optimum power.    Not having the “Pro” along that day would have meant that, unless I could remember enough of my sailing instruction and articles I’ve read, I’d continue to mishandle that point of sail indefinitely.  What a waste that would be!
This was one of those moments where I changed the point of sail but did not do the mental math on what I saw with the wind direction.  Deflection and flow is everything to a wing, even the vertical wing we raise on our sailing vessels.  But on this particular point of sail, I learned a valuable lesson: watch the sail position carefully and give it the best flow on every point of sail maximizing boat speed and balance. 

Four hours of sailing with a “Pro” was never better for me.  We often laugh about the fact that we’ve been sailing for years and years and repeating the same mistakes whether they’re right or wrong.  And that’s often very true.  With another set of experienced eyes aboard, will we be able to maximize our learning curve and avoid our tendency to repeat the same mistakes.  We often look but don’t see our deficiencies.  

This mentoring moment aboard the Alberg 30 had a profound impact on the way I look at my sails and boat’s balance in the wind. My instructor’s mentoring moment that windy day helped me to apply a basic principle of sail shape overlooked because of a failure to read my sail to best advantage.  Those four hours of "re-certification" will pay big dividends helping me sail a terrific classic design in an optimal manner.

They are not called "tell-tails" for nothing!
 [I wrote this originally for our Club Newsletter.  It was edited and published in our club newsletter by Ryan Gaskin, our former Commodore and Sailing Instructor at the club and my Pro for this sail.]

Friday, March 3, 2017

March is being itself again.  

Blustery winds are sweeping across the country and creating some sustained breezes for sailing in our region.  

Gone are the hazy winter skies and pleasant breezes, easy to bear with a bit of sunshine.  Now the wind is definitely upset, and the fetch is annoyed too, the sailing demands some tactics and procedures that you don't use everyday.  It'll be cold going out that's for sure but it will also be a good time to reef-up and test the water sealant along the cap rail again.

During the period passage of storms, I've been on the phone trying to find the problem of my Alternator's outputs and the requirements of my Tachometer.  Also, I'm looking in town for someone who can open up this tach and put in a wire for 4 volts of AC power which the it requires.  Some frustration over this little wrinkle.  It all seems to come down to "sourcing" again.  It was harder before the internet existed. All we had back in the day was the yellow-pages.  At least we can scour around and quickly spot who might most likely be able to get this odd job done.

Purty little thing in its box.  Needs to get to work!

And I found the guy.  Working out of an old garage that showed signs of several generations and hundreds if not thousands of alternator and starter parts, the guy knew exactly what I handed him and exactly what it needed.  Whew.  What a relief.  As he pored over a real desk catalogue to insure he had the correct part, I gazed at the exposed rafters, one or two bowing toward the ground, and the fridge, which looked like something from my early days that held old bottles of coca-cola, yes, the real ones that were small and very cold or so it seemed.  Because in Carolina it gets very hot in the summertime, and this garage showed the signs of it.  

I wondered what we will do when this guy is gone.  Who will be the resident Yoda of electricity here?  The folks at the bright and shiny stores don't have this guy's encyclopedic knowledge or the stories to go with that memory.  He told me all about my original alternator, how GM used these in every car they built, and how the Japanese Hitachi item in his hands was really the same thing except made strictly for one use only, power.  It was 35 watts and it only had a DC outbound peg.  He would pop the alternator open and solder a connecting wire with a 4 volt outbound AC current for my tach.  I breathed a sigh of relief as the internet company had no other recommendations than to find this guy, this one right in front of me, and ask him to fix the additional wire.  And they didn't even know where this guy was.  

And, after securing my refitted alternator from him this week, I installed it and began calibrations.  The fix is good, it works!  Plus the new alternator is just so much smaller than the original Delco monster alternator, so there is a bit less stuff in that crowded space.  The journey of the panel is now complete, from the old faded and sad looking face to a happier and more informative one.

Bringing back life to the original electrical panel.
These photos show what is on the other end of the alternator, the original engine control panel in the cockpit.  Of course the tach did not fit the original hole (you were wondering that I'm sure), I used a curved hand rasp to enlarge the hole for the tach.  

Everything in it's time and sequence.  I want every item I do to be a good fix, not just a band-aid.  If ever there comes a day when I might choose to sell Nautica, I can at least proclaim the fixes were done with attention to longevity not timidity.
Winter winds sweeping the playing field.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Who cares about a Whale Gusher 10?

Details is where the problem lay.  The corrosion around the rim of the pump prohibited a seal, the rubber product had dry rotted and many of the interior parts were clogged with corrosion and its natural debris.
I hope I never have to.  But I could not stand the fact that mine did not work and that the rubber gaskets were dry-rotted.  If, in that one moment of extreme danger and possibility of sinking I looked at my crew and said, 

"Um, ...the electric bilge can't save us but if the Whale Gusher worked, perhaps we could pump out the water but I never fixed it, so,...everyone in the water with life jackets now!" 

Nope, can't do that.  Had to fix it.  It's a very reliable hand pump and quite expensive to refit with all the rubber and plastic components about 80 bucks.  Plus, the company reminds us that the gaskets ought to be replaced about every 5 years. Hmmmm, so my boat is 40 years old this year, and this Whale Gusher looks like the first one ever made, hmmmmm?  So, just because you have one does not mean all is well does it?

This valve was so corroded it hardly moved and the seal, as you can see, sealed nothing.
 I did it anyway just because of that one possibility.  And, I tested it by sticking the intake in the lake, over the gunwhale.  It sucked and sucked the water into the tube which was held vertically over the side.  Once water invaded the pump the suction was very strong.  I felt rather good about this small but pernicious little bugger being refitted. 
After a long soak in vinegar and rinsed with water, still in need of debriding and some bondo work too.
Well I should take more "after" photos but I was so enthralled the bondo worked to smooth out the rim of the canister, that I painted it trade-mark yellow and slapped it all back together, anxious to install it aboard Nautica.  

Once aboard, I ripped out the old tubing, measured and cut my new stuff, and set forth to re-clamp everything.  This involved more Yacht Yoga, getting into the lazarette, avoiding pressure on the front of my one knee (much painful) and then twisting around for best installation position (photo shows the contortions and lack of space)

This bugger is almost easy to get to...if you're the size of a first grader!
Oh yeah, this is conveniently the other side of the photo where you can work on the electrical components after you finish.

Well, it had to be done, at least in my mind.  Not wanted to be in an awkward position on the day it might be important to have it.  Gave me the opportunity to test, to make sure I understand exactly what is down below decks in the bilge area and how it may serve my needs in an important time.  Knocks off one more item on my "to - do" list as well.

The Whale Gusher 10 is a unique device and probably not ever examined.  From their website this description:

"Whale's long life diecast alloy range - robust designs for extreme conditions.  Install Gusher 10 for the long haul."
  • Durable Diecast Alloy Bilge Pump
  • Robust design stands up to the  toughest marine  conditions
  • Top performance- High flow non-choke valves, 65 ltrs (17 US gals) per minute
  • 3 mounting options available Bulkhead, floor or thru deck mounting
  • Designed for  simple installation and  maintenance
  • Efficiency - Large non-choke valves
  • Ideal for workboats, cruisers, offshore racing
  • Easy pump action - Self priming
  • Suitable for diesel transfer with Nitrile diaphragm (service kit AK3714 available separately)
I think that says it all, especially that 17 gallons per minute!  

Oh well, that's done!

Monday, February 13, 2017

The First Mate is at the helm.

Seems the Alberg almost requires you to stand up and sail regardless of your size in order to peer over the cockpit and gain an advantage of port and starboard ways ahead.  Here, the First Mate does just that in some brisk winds and balmy temps.

I sail every week, sometimes several times, and am so often used to single-handing that I don't spend much time as a passenger aboard Nautica.  The weather has been quite forgiving this Winter in the Southern USA and temps have bounced from freezing to balmy in the space of a week this season.  We'll take it!  First Mate took a few photos before grabbing the helm.

First Mate took this photo on the leeward side which reveals the reefed genoa which, along with a reefed main, provided some balance to the vessel in gusty conditions.

The human eye grasps the colors and action but needs to relook the photos to recapture what was seen.  This photo is one of those where you see the wind flattening the genoa and the hull slicing the waters to windward, dark clouds are not ominous but drift overhead as if so, the main is also reefed and you see the crinkles bunched on the side of the photo.

So the wind projection for this past Sunday was 12 to 22 kts, temps were projected to be 73 F, and partly cloudy.  Reality was that it was very balmy, in the low 70s, but winds were a friendly 8 to 15 from the SW and fetch on the lake was quite manageable for the day, making for a delightful time at the tiller.

I always ask the First Mate what she would do if I happened to fall overboard for some reason just to probe what goes through her mind.  "Undo the blue line and release the red lines..." just having that color-coded idea in her memory might help stop the Berg under such conditions.  I told her to forget trying to pick me up this day, as that is a "practiced skill" and would require quite a bit of seamanship that we don't have time to achieve under these delightful circumstances.  Perhaps when the water temp gets into the high 60s we can try a man overboard (MOB) but not this day...

The view from the cockpit
 And so she took the helm while I took some photos, at least for a good while until the warm temps coaxed her to lie on the cockpit bench and soak up the sounds of sailing, something that ought to be bottled for busy lives.  My cell phone was buried in my backpack down below.  We don't care about answering the phone when sailing by the way, so if anyone is calling, you'll have to stand in line and take a number.  Sailing is supposed to provide a diversion to our lives, restore the soul a bit, and take you from your "rat race" into another space, where these natural elements will rejuvenate you even if they tend to wear you out at the same time.  It can be a taxing experience, but this day was not, it was simply what sailing on a Sunday afternoon should be, it was pure enjoyable fun.

The view to stern

The view past the reefed genoa looking over the bow rail

That is something rarely found in our lives.  

We were out for the wind and the sun and the sound of the water.  Crossing the lake this way and that, and drifting in the lee of several islands to scout out summer anchorages where grand children might find a mysterious Pirate hideout one day, and then catching a broad reach back toward our nearby cove where flat water gave way to brisk winds, the Alberg confidently carried us till the sun began to dip closer to later afternoon.  

Any time spent sailing is worth hundreds of dollars and sometimes thousands, depending on what you need to see and experience.  But we must keep this a secret lest the lake fill up with people searching for this infusion of goodness.  The next few days are projected to be cooler and winds less impressive.  So I will turn again to my current bewilderment, installing a tachometer on my diesel engine.  But for now, the pure enjoyment of sailing has left a balmy imprint on our minds and souls once again. 
Tell-tails, battens, bend in the sail, shrouds, stays, windex, and a beautiful palette of baby blue sky as a back drop.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Birthday Sail

Not everyone gets to do this.  But it just happens that the weather window looked quite good for the 31st of January and Nautica took to the lake for some more of that brilliant winter sunshine and brisk winds that have been streaming from the west now for about a week.  The pattern has been simliar, cold in the mornings, coolish but sunny skies and a strong westerly wind over the water pushing consistent breezes of over 10 kts every day, with a good degree of fetch toward the mid-afternoon.
Who gets tired of this?  I'm afraid the Dept of Natural Resources may begin charging me for over-use of the lake as often, there are no sails to be seen for many miles in conditions like this. 
Across platforms, the prediction was for a warmer than average day and increased winds from 15 to 25, even gusts to 30 miles an hour!  And this was on the radio as well.  Dark colors like orange and red were used on charts across the internet.  Makes one wonder what comes with this wind?

Well, you just can't always choose to sail when it is 70 degrees and 5 to 10 kts of wind...  Sometimes it helps to go out in a mess and handle your vessel.  We used to say the same thing about surfing in bad waves.  How can you ever hope to be competent if you only surf, or in this case, sail, in ideal conditions?  There is something beneficial to knowing how a slip on a wet deck can lead to an injury, or how a wet line can be ripped from your fingers if you don't have gloves on, or how the boom can knock you out if...., and so on.  So I was committed to this predictably aggressive day of wind knowing quite well that Nautica has plenty of depth in her resume to handle such things.

You could tell that the southwestly wind was hitting the lake.  Looking to the east, the turbulent water washed away from our slips.  The blow was occurring on the other side of the ridge so we were sheltered from it.  

A fast wind swept over the flat and protected waters of our cove yet upon entering the vastness of the larger lake, the brisky winds had not done much to fetch onto the lake.  Not surprised, I figured this happens, forecasts are too aggressive sometimes even with all the digital stuff we have these days.

After about an hour's sail across the lake under ideal winds of hardly 10 kts, I pulled into the lee of the Jim Spence islands, wrapped the genny and dropped the reefed main, hooking into the mud and rocks below with success.  Nearly 70 degrees, and hardly a whisp of wind for several hundred feet to port and starboard.  An ideal day for taking a quiet break from the routine.  I dug into my onboard humidor and took out a cigar labeled, "Libre Cuba" and assisted it with a bit of Irish Dubliner whiskey which made for a most pleasant couple of hours in this gorgeously quiet leeward anchorage.  You could hear the waves hitting nearby shores sounding like a bit of a brook washing through the channel across the way.  Above, the airliners streaked in and out of airspace and the new moon was peaking through the atmosphere from its position deeper in space looking greyish and mysterious.  "What a beautiful planet!"  I thought and wondered at the same time why the world was in such a mess all the time!  It is a brilliantly beautiful piece of terrain and water floating in space.
Hiding on the leeward side of the island, the sun warmed the deck and I would have jumped in for a swim but the water is about 52 degrees.
Looking aft, the shoes are off, the hatches are open, and very little breeze enables everything to warm up to t-shirt weather.
January, and the shoes are off on deck. 
Without companions to guide the conversation, I checked on the anchor periodically and even spilled my first finger of Dubliner by putting my foot on it haphazardly stepping precariously from the companionway.  The day was warm and I lay against the cabin bulkhead with my shoes and socks off, texting some working friends who were close to retirement, just to irritate them.  What a great day of sailing!

The sail out had been a very close reach as the Alberg pointed extremely close to the wind.  This return was a broad reach and the genny pulled us into the Club Cove, across the flat water and home to her slip next to the pines and the occasional barking of the bird dog who lives in the large house you may often see in my photos of Nautica.  In 30 minutes I'd put her to bed and jumped in the First Mate's rag top and headed home.

It was delightful to spend a birthday aboard under such sublime conditions.  I am glad I ventured into the forecast prepared but happily able to sail in a relaxed manner just the same.  I was ready for something more challenging but glad I got my way on my birthday and enjoyed every bit of the way to the island, time at the island and the return to the slip.

Check out my YouTube Channel for videos you might have missed.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Time to Sail

With a few projects now complete, the end of 6 months of aggressive re-fitment comes to an end.

The last few weeks has been a mid-winter project time.  Putting on the swim ladder, installing the anchor roller and anchor, affixing the vang, splicing several sheets, and fiddling with the mainsail track.  
A West Marine product, this is probably the longest folding step ladder in their line-up.  This heavy unit pivots off the starboard and does not make contact with the hull at all since the hinges are deliberately designed to create a slanting ascent for the swimmer.  The white plastic-wood creates the mounting through which the four 5/16th shoulder bolts grab both 6 by 6 backing plates below, located inside the salon cockpit cabinets.  For safety of foot traffic, I insert a flat fender underneath the steps to prevent any pedestrian pressure being put on the hinge mount.

The white plastic wood material here creates a leveling support for the anchor which lies primarily on the bow plate. 

The fitment is secure and during sailing, there is no movement of the anchor because it lies perfectly in its position with its chain and as it is also tied-to for additional security.

The vang installation was simple.  It's role is debatable but I want every bit of sail adjust possible.  Got this vang used on Ebay, picked up the mast base bail from Grhauer.  Will run this to the cockpit for control.

Now I turn my attention more to sailing than fixing.  The beauty of the southern USA is that the climate is very moderate.  So I'm now focused on sails, sail trim, handling, and routine maintenance.

It took six months to get to this point, that point being catching up to where I can address routine maintenance issues rather than critical issues.  The big list is finished.  It feels similar to graduating from a masters program in sailboat restoration 101.  There is much more to do for sure, but I think I am ready for restoration 102 now.

Meanwhile, I need "tiller time."  

So seizing a perfect day, temps in the high 60s, winds about 5 to 8 knots, I secured my GoPro on the stern rail and took off.   After several hours on the water my GoPro finally ran out of juice.  I stripped endless footage down to 9 minutes, a long video itself, but ran the footage at 4x speed.  You might like the Chopin Piano sonata I choose to marry up with this perfect day!

Everything aboard worked quite well on this day.  It will take a little more practice setting the anchor in these clay bottom conditions.  But this is true for any anchorage.  The Delta plow worked much better than the Danforth for my conditions.  I found using the diesel to pull it deeper into the mud was important.  I also think the 4 feet of chain needs some work, a swivel and about 2 more feet to extend its pressure on the anchor.  The main anchor line is not chain but line.  Haul-out is a messy affair due to the mud.

But at least I'm sailing more than working on the Berg!