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, June 28, 2013

A curious thing happened in the boat yard.  I had gone to the yacht club to work on a couple of little items on the Cape Dory.  It was one of those hot summer days that seems to start cool but by 10am the sun is bearing down.  And it's not finished until late in the evenings, sometimes around 10pm when you can hear the cicadas in concert. 

My assigned position in the Club's yard situates the Dory so that the sun doesn't crawl onto the deck until about 1pm.  It's actually a rather delightful spot to have been so arbitrary.  Someone simply said, "park over here..." And that was my assignment.  The cockpit and deck are always covered by tree debris however.  Would-be sailors crawl around the vessel and I have to do yard work on the deck before I can begin what I want to do.  So, some housecleaning first.

My task this day was to replace a deck plate cowl vent I had unintentionally tossed into the lake while sailing.  I suppose the genoa lines crossing back and forth had picked up the old plastic vent and pulled it from its perch.  While pulling in on the mainsheet I noticed it bobbing below the waves saying goodbye forever.  Later I saw it had been broken, at one time, inside the deck plate and there was no way it would have survived some of the beatings it was to experience on the lake.

See the small cowl vent just in front of the cuddy cabin structure on which the mast sits.  This is before it was swept away.
These vents are curious things.  As a child, crossing the Atlantic several times on ships, I recall these vents, much larger ones of course, and I didn't know what purpose they might serve except perhaps to make the very loud "fog horn" sound.  So, being the 5 year old that I was at the time, I dubbed them "fog horns," and they continued to be fog horns for many years to come.  At least in my mind.  I had no idea those horns were steam driven and located in the much larger smoke stacks towering above the vents.  The vents make sense.  The ship moves forward, gulps air, circulates air through the hold and engine areas and out the aft of the ship.  It keeps the fumes from accumulating.  They're very functional.  And mysterious!   Here is a bronze cowl vent and a bronze deck plate:

So I was installing a bronze deck plate in the same location where the plastic vent had been for many years.  On this Cape Dory, the deck plate was located just forward of the cuddy cabin so I was down below, a bit cramped because it's not meant to be a large area, only a berthing area.  I installed the outer ring of the plate into the hole after blowing some compressed foam into the sandwich between deck and inner cuddy ceiling.  Some water had caused the balsa inside the cuddy to become wet.  It was rather insignificant so I scraped as much as I could out from between the sandwiched layers, foamed it, put the ring in place, and then it happened.

I glanced aft, out the hatch door, a cool breeze wound it's way from the deck plate hole through the cuddy and out to the cockpit area.  Some distant voices of the youth sailing school filtered the afternoon breezes with joy but the quiet serenity in this Dory's hull was amazing.  Suddenly I felt like a kid in a tree house, but this was the Dory.  No one was looking for me, I was waiting for the silicone on the ring to dry, and I realized how completely wonderful it was to have time to be quiet, to look, listen, feeling transported to another place in time.  I had brought a Fuentes cigar with me too, so adjusting the cushions, I laid back in the berth and watched the swirls of blue-grey smoke find its way out into the trees above.  I thought of how terribly busy life could be with digital things and how remarkably adolescent this Dory was making me feel.  I soon fell fast asleep while the sun made its way from behind the trees as if tip toeing across the foredeck to not wake me up.

When I woke, the Dory was smiling at me.  I felt as if this was what Baggy Wrinkles was all about for me, the small epiphanies of joy that come from simplicity, and the sense that everything will be alright.  I sat and wondered how many kids had fallen asleep in that cuddy as I had done and if they had felt as at home in her as I did then. 

Friday, June 21, 2013

The advantage of a small boat is measured in feet.  If that sounds obvious it's because with boats, one pays by the foot for slip space, for ropes and lines, and shrouds.  And sometimes the advantage is measured in square feet rather than foot length.  Bottom paints, anti-fouling prep, and sails, those wonderfully magical wings that turn a boat into an adventure at sea.  So, it's all about feet...

An 18.5 foot boat just fits well.  You're snug in a small boat.  And snug works well, especially when things get rough.  The wind, waves, and rain can threaten you but the Dory tends to snicker cause she's solid down below.  That 900 pound keel gives her confidence.  And sitting up top, you can feel the difference that small makes.  Small and heavy.  Advantages to both.

File:Parts of a sail.svg
Diagram of a Sail with Names of features
So it came one day to have to do a bit of repair on the genoa tracks.  The tracks are located just aft of amidships where the distance between the clew of the genoa can be adjusted. 

I add the diagram and link to the page here from Wikipedia for those who are not so acquainted with the parts of a sail and the various names that colorfully describe this piece of magical cloth.  This sail is actually a mainsail but the terms work for a jib or genoa as well.  So you see the clew is the part of the sail at the very bottom and trailing edge.  The clew of the genoa attaches to a line which runs through a "spring block," called that because it springs upward all the time to keep the line ready to feed into the winch.  From there I then can then wrap it around the winch and pull the genoa to the point it catches the wind in just the right amount to pull the boat into the wind.

And so for all that I needed to work on the genoa track.  And that meant I'd have to get underneath the cockpit of this 18 foot boat in order to pull-off nuts and spacers and bolts.  A job that I immediately thought of in terms of feet, and was so glad the genoa track was only about 2 feet in length!

But I'd have need of another helper to get underneath the cockpit.  As you can see it is pretty small.  One could get claustrophobic in there!  So I began to think of all the small things and small people in my life and I realized this was a perfect task for my 1st Mate or should I say 1st Maitresse? 

The genoa track bolts poke down through the toe rail into the actual seam between the hull and the top deck of the vessel.  I'm not sure whether the bits of peg board were original or whether they were the idea of a former skipper.  Nonetheless, it looks pretty nasty up in there.  This was a job for my qualified small 1st Maitresse...
And so she arrived complete with nails done to perform the bolt removal servicing I needed to perform in order to then get the genoa track fixed.  This was a "small" job requiring a "small person" which produced "big" results.  She came into the project with certain expectations of course. 
She didn't like the peg board crumbling in her face.  We did lose a few washers to the space between the hull and the inner liner, hmmm.  And there were periodic comments and questions about which direction do I turn the ratchet, left or right, or what are you doing now?  And then there was her need for refreshments during the project and comments about how this probably would not occur again in the near future.  But when it was done, I was able to remove the genoa track with little problems.
So then, as I was marveling in the condition of the toe-rail after so many years, and the quality of the stainless steel genoa track, I realized that I had left the 1st Maitresse down below...without her Diet Pepsi!  OMG!

Friday, June 14, 2013

It was grey and somewhat menacing that Spring day.  It came late this year, you could tell by the way the pollen covered everything.  The deck of the Cape Dory looked as if someone had played a prank and covered her with celery powder.  I didn't really mind.  I preferred colder temps on the water.  I'm too hot blooded I guess. 

The skies rolled furtively overhead and a 2 foot chop built up on the lake.  I'd kept my eye on the weather for weeks, waiting for that combination of ideal wind and waves in order to put her to the test, to see how she'd react, to find out where the weak points were.  The weather came.  She acted like she'd been cooped up all winter. 

It's better seen than told.  No sophisticated filming, the GoPro is in one hand the other on the tiller.  What you can see is a bit of the sail plan, genoa and its tracks, the degree of heel with that plan and the wind.  And if not that technical, you might just like the view of the Cape Dory from an artistic viewpoint.  In my mind, there is always some sort of music in these moments.  Hopefully it doesn't get annulled by censors...go sailing for a few minutes and get a feel of what this classic is like:

Since that Spring day I've had her out in stiffer breezes.  On one sail my friend Vinny thought he was going to have to hike out to windward, I almost had to grab him to keep him in the boat.  I kept telling him, "she's much heavier than we are, stay in the boat..."  "Really?" he asked surprised and a bit anxiously.  Many years earlier he'd been sailing with me on my 14 foot Hobie Catamaran, so I couldn't be too impatient with him.  Those days had quickly come to his mind as he stuck his legs and attempted to jump the coaming! 

You usually see these dories in photos drifting about on lakes with a party of 3 or 4 aboard, and if you look carefully you might even see cocktails in hand.  Not this one. 

Thursday, June 6, 2013

A friend and I were sailing in the Caribbean.  It wasn't aboard a Cape Dory, but aboard a 51.5 foot Beneteau cruising yacht.  We were headed from Norman Island, northeast in the Sir Francis Drake channel, towards Virgin Gorda, and the Bitter End of the British Virgin Islands.

Weather was perfect, about 80 degrees, a stiff wind carried us forward like we had a long team of spirited horses pulling in front of our bow.  This particular Beneteau was familiar to us both as we had both owned Beneteaus of varied lengths for a number of years.  But this cruise was to explore the 50 foot class and determine if either of us really liked that size over the 40 or 30 footers we had owned.  It was a harmless test and a terrific cruise with our wives and friends. 

While underway, with stiffening breezes of about 20 knots, the big Beneteau leaned over, and despite her overall weight and length, she sailed simply, almost without effort.  All these Beneteaus and like vessels are so easily sailed it seems.  Fantastic creations!

I was reveling in the ease of handling and day dreaming a bit at the same time of a smaller boat that had taught me how to sail some 46 years previous. So, while at the helm, I said to my friend, "You know Hugo, it really doesn't seem to matter how big she is...she still sails like that 12 1/2 foot dinghy..."  He knew my sailing history and he smiled back, a seasoned sailor himself, who had first sailed on a boat he had made from spare parts of wood lashed together, a simple sail for power, and the North Sea as his playground.

There is something about one's first sail that never seems to fade from memory.  And the feeling of the wind in her teeth, her graceful lines slicing the azure waters, her rudder responding to a touch of the helm, these were the identical ingredients in a sailing dinghy of long ago.  Just multiplied by one hundred or so!

If you ever find the perfect sailboat, don't ever let it go.  If you can at all help it!  You'll seek to find her again and again in every vessel you sail.

For me it was a 12 and 1/2 foot wooden, lap-strake ( another shipbuilding term! ), cat rig, dingy sailing vessel, in the ink blue waters of the Pacific when I was 14 years old.  My teacher was a young man named Stephen Tibbetts-perhaps he'll find this blog?  He was probably 20 years old then.  I can remember my task was to man the mainsheet.  Stephen was calm and confident as we ripped out into the ocean in a stiff breeze off the coast of Hickam Air Force Base.  I loved the water.  Even as a younger boy crossing the Atlantic, I had stood with my chin on the handrail of cruise ships watching the water pass by the ship's hull.  Even then I was drawn to the water and heard it talking to me in splashes and colors.  This day it was very close to the little dinghy's gunwales, and I was certain that this couldn't be a good thing for us.  Yet, Stephen told me to haul in on the mainsheet, "further, further," he said, and as I did the little vessel skimmed faster.  We ballasted her by leaning out to windward.  I was enthralled.

And that day in the Caribbean with similar conditions, I was enthralled.  Size didn't matter at all, because the sensations were identical, only larger in the Beneteau. Yet in the small boats, like the dinghies and the Cape Dory, it is closer to you.  Because she is smaller you feel every puff of wind, even a vesper will scoot her along.  She responds quickly to the tiller wherever your dreams wish to take you.

Recently, another friend came aboard the Baggy Wrinkles for some pleasure sailing with me.  A large Italian with a hearty appetite and gregarious personality, Vinny was quite impressed with the Cape Dory's sturdy design.  Yet as the winds picked up to over 20 knots, he was quite certain he'd need to counter-balance the heeling as the water passed near her toe-rail.  I smiled and said, "No need to get excited Vinny, she can handle it, you'll see."  He braced backward to sit upon the coamings but I was afraid he might destroy them if he tried to hike outward!  "Stay in the boat Vinny, this is where the Dory shows you her capability to sail..." He was not quite convinced but she showed him she could handle the pounding of the wind.


Stiffening breezes took us away for several hours to places only a sailor can imagine.  I felt as if I was back in that dinghy in the Pacific yet with a Classic Dory underway.