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 modest Alberg inventory.

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Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Gifts for Christmas and the New Year

A project boat!  This is the gift that just keeps on giving.  Summer into winter, past the seasons and holidays and into the New Year!

The sailing continues however, more sailing than usual because of the season.  Winter fronts provide some dynamic conditions on the lake requiring a bit of reefing.
This photo captures the dynamic of weather over the lake as a front slowly pushes across the SouthEast skies revealing some of the contrasts and shades the human eye remembers but cannot process until we think back on a day of sailing.

And so, back to drawing the plan for details ahead this year.  My list is changing of course, from major fixes, to smaller ones, from critical to advantageous, of the things I have to have to the things I'd like to have.  So, I have to establish a priority and keep in mind that I don't have a corporate budget to achieve them!  That's part of the fun to be able to find the right stuff at the right price and get the boat working to optimal performance just the same.

I don't have a staff working with me that can recommend courses of action or who can go source materials while I fix one thing after another.  I am the customer, the mechanic, the manager, the resource agent and the bewildered sailor.  

Therefore, I have to fall back on my trusted method, draw a diagram. 

Visualizing helps to order the chaos aboard and make mental sense of the deck.  This order is then translated into projects.

I realize it's not very sophisticated but its what I need to keep track of the variety of little nit-noid items that I think the Berg needs.  I think about these many things one at a time, not all of which really are nit-noid, but they are a gaggle of dissimilar things that require categorizing, arranging, as for where they'll come from, how do they fit, when to put them on etc.  After a while, I just have to map it out, else, I'll forget which company's item I'd wanted for this or which size I wanted of something else for that.

In this diagram I'm mapping out the deck fitments that I will need to run my lines to the cabin top, how many lines, how many blocks and what kind of blocks, various fair leads and locking clamps.   This is a great process.  Having previously owned the nicely appointed Beneteau 473, I am well aware of the value of each component which I do not have now nor do I take for granted the smallest component!

A skipper ideally must be able to single-hand their boat.  Most of my sailing is solo.  When folks are aboard, they can pull on lines.  But when alone, in a blow, it is nice to be able to reach over and adjust a sheet, let out the main, and trim one's vessel.  I had looked at the Berg and noticed that it was not quite ready for this.  In order to remedy this I would have to run probably 4 lines to the cockpit:  a main halyard, one or two reefing lines, and possibly one traveller line too.  Of course, that last line is to be proposed as the traveller at this time sits on the stern deck!  I envision getting a curved traveller to run over the cabin top in front of the dodger, whose line is easily worked under the protection from the elements.  Other lines may come later, for the boom vang I am putting on for instance, or for the topping lift.  

These are all preferences.  Yet they all have many requirements and must be fit into the scheme of the deck in a way that doesn't clutter an already busy area of the boat.  Thus, a diagram.  I figured I would run the first set of 4 lines to the starboard cabin top to locking clamps so that the current winch there can be used.  It will have to be reinforced again I think from below to be strong enough though.  I may have to put another winch on the port side of the cabin top for other additional lines. 
Back in July the naked deck appears as an open canvass for the handy yachtsman.  Hope I don't have to do that again!
The boat-math begins; that for every rope there is a block to guide it aft, up the incline of the deck to a fairlead, which in turn angles that rope in the direction of the locking clamps at the cabin bulkhead in the cockpit.  This single route for one line could probably run in an average purchase of about $250 bucks, depending on the brand used and whether you might economize by having two fairleads together or single, and whether also you might want to have an additional bevy of a 4 plex fairlead, which can be nearly $100 while an eyelet is merely $25 or so, but money adds up quickly.  And that is for the port side.  Multiply by two in order to add the starboard, now $500.... and so on and on, it goes.

But we sailors don't like to look at these things in terms of dollars but in efficiencies, for when you have that line within reach and you're able to single-hand that wild pony under any circumstance!

The good thing is there are some lines that don't need to be led aft, the furling headsail, the anchor, and perhaps maybe options on another one or two.  But at this moment, I'll focus on one side, the one with the winch.  That'll be cheaper!

This all led to rapidly prioritizing the need for a boom vang.  Being able to further control the shape of the mainsail will provide an instant increase in benefit.  I didn't want to purchase a new vang! Wanting to keep the costs down, I found an outlet for marine products and found a Harken setup for half the cost with the rope too.  The vendor is from the Great Lakes, so the benefit is the products have not been ordinarily soaked in salt waters.  At least as far as one knows...the rope did feel rather stiff.  But, it showed evidence of being left around in weather so...

Vendor's photograph
Of course you always hope you'll get a great deal on these things but I wasn't real happy when it arrived.  It was rather stiff, dirty and somewhat green.  But, ok, I bought it used and I had to expect that right?   Got over that quick, took it to the garage, disassembled it, tossed the line into a bucket of warm water with some dish soap for an hour before tossing it in a lingerie bag and washing it with a load of bedding. 
Customer's photograph
Looks old but not unserviceable.  I did not photograph the green parts however.  The gentle wash process worked great.  I'm happy.  If I were sailing the ocean and needed one, I'd grab this one!  After taking the rope vang apart and letting it dry out overnight and lubricating the bearings and cam cleat, for good measure, it turns out that although a bit worn it certainly meets my immediate needs.

 There appears to be sun bleaching on sections of the rope as if it might have been lying on a deck for an extended period of time.  I wanted to experiment with a rope before jumping into the abyss of prices for boom vangs with support, which involve a whole lot more expense.  Question is, will this function?  That's my logic.  We shall see if it delivers what is needed for sail shape as it is certainly ready for service now. Even the rope feels better to the touch!

So, this is simply one of the nit-noids that I'm chasing.  Meanwhile our lake continues to be 6 feet lower than normal not leaving me much draft to make my 360 turn...yet so far, so good, no scuffs and no stops.

A deceivingly calm port with Nautica reefed and ready for departure on a very warm December day.

So the post-Christmas blues have set in for the week, as the flurry of that anticipation dissolves into real life again.  The weather report indicates some windows of opportunity, with a warming trend and winds increasing in our sector of the country.  If you've followed this blog for a while, you will know that not many folks sail in the winter here, despite the fact that the winds are good.  Weather was calling for a crazy 10 to 28 kts of wind.  Turned out to be about 12 to 15 max.  That's an estimate cause once again, I'd misplaced my anemometer.

Full genoa is heaving us over in this temporary gust.  Most of today's sailing was with both a reefed main and reefed genoa.
A few days after Christmas and the winds are pushing again.  Since I'm single-handing, most of my photos are captured in awkward positions like this one where I'm standing on the lee cockpit, leaning on the boom trying to grab this moment as the gusts stream across the lake surface.  Compare this photo to the one of the vessel in her slip reminding us all that reefing early is a handy rule!

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Sea trials on the lake!

Having finally located and arrested the pernicious and persistent leak, my agenda quickly shifted to the rigging.  After all, you wouldn't want to sail a boat which is taking on water and might sink?

Finally a weather break provided perfect conditions.  The forecast for a couple of days was for 15 to 25 kts, but as usual, especially early in any season, it seems the forecasts are a bit over-estimated.  But despite that, the two days of sea trials were extremely helpful.  I was able to get a feel for the way the Alberg handles in good winds, to see what was working and what needed fixing. 
Stiff breeze from the NW over Lake Murray in South Carolina.  Good to have solid life-lines as standing up in this vessel with tiller-in-one hand,  I needed another hand-grip to say in the cockpit!

Heeled over to port under one reef and partial genoa in a brisk blow on a beautiful early winter day in the south.

Despite what conditions appeared to be at the Club, which is in its own nook of the lake, I decided to defer to the forecast and put a first reef so I wasn't surprised by a rise in wind velocity on the "grande large."  Good thing, as the way the Alberg reacts to wind is a great deal different than the little Alberg, the Typhoon.  There is just so much more boat that everything takes on a coefficient of a bit harder to accomplish.  I had grown accustomed and comfortable with backwinding the genoa and putting in a reef for the Ty, but not knowing the characteristics of the Alberg 30, I thought it advisable to just wait and see how she reacts to some brisk wind.  That was a good idea.  
One of the Harken dual speed work-horses aboard.  Glad to have them as there will be no sail shaping without them!
Characteristics I noticed were:  the Berg reacts quite similarly to the Typhoon in the sense that it takes the wind, leaning over with intensity.  It's not quick to heel, it is intentional.  In other words, the Berg's design functions as it heels, giving the wind recognition, and at the same time seizing the wind in its sails with confidence.  Its forward speed was surprising to me, I expected it to be much slower with a prop turning below yet dragging a bit at the same time.  Yet the vessel seemed at home in the situation, heeled yet not overpowered with the reef.  

It pointed much better than the Typhoon and seemed to have an advantage because of its size, that it was able to push back against the point of the wind and get into the edge of the "no go," stealing a bit of angle otherwise unavailable to a smaller vessel.  That was a very forgiving feature, no stalling, just a push, and she was back in the close tack and ready for more.  

I was delightfully surprised by her ability to sail herself.  You always hear the statement, "a perfectly balanced rig will sail itself..."  Well, I guess so, but the additional length probably helped.  Yet I discovered her ability to sail solo without me at the rudder when I went forward to grab a line that had gotten eaten up by the v-berth hatch.  While there I snapped a few photos and checked this item, then that one, and then I instinctively sensed the she was in the wind and moving.  I turned around surprised that she was sailing her broad reach solo.  I was shocked.  I stood there and wondered if she'd head into the wind and stall or jibe by mistake.  Nope.  I took a variety of photos from the fore-deck and returned to the cockpit as if my 1st Mate was at the tiller.  I laughed at this remarkable ability that she was taking a broad reach and heading remained constant without the slightest tiller tap from me! 
We came from way out west and she is sailing herself in this photo, a quite remarkably capable vessel, well balanced and great to look at too!

After a couple hours, the winds from the NW now began fetching a very steady and brisk breeze across the surface of the lake, the kind that snaps your lack of attention to detail, tears or foils something, or causes you to go a direction you had not planned if you're not thinking ahead and watching it arrive.   The breeze was constant and also a bit demanding.  I had left my anemometer home in my other to-go pack, but the breeze was certainly nearing 15 and perhaps a gust to close to 18, but that was rare.  Whitecaps were everywhere but no streaking of the lake surface.  This sea trial was certainly not punishing, it was delightfully surprising!  Enough wind to work things out but not so much it demanded more attention than the rigging.

Day one was superb conditions and left me feeling quite energized for another day to do some refinements on tensions, adjust my head-sail a bit more and re-look the reefing setup.  I was glad I added length to my head-sail sheets as that one mistake in measuring would have cost me dearly in handling.  I added about 12 feet in doing my first double braids thanks to You Tube!  Day two opened with a hard cold temperature and uncertain skies.  By the time I set out, I had added more clothing and gloves.

Lacking much wind, an overcast and cold wintry day seems to close in and punish you until you run away.  This was at about 1pm.  I was tied-to by 1:30pm.

I spent half an hour working on my genny, as the large grommet at the bow plate left no play to insert a new larger clevis.  With engine on idle and the winds now from the east pushing at about 10 kts, I fumbled with cold fingers against the pressure of an impossible fit and the closing shore.  I reset my boat position and fumbled in the cold once more as the clouds now covered the lake in a wintry tomb.  It was no use, my hands were turning that pink and white and feeling the need for hot coffee.  I could not persuade the genny to cooperate, pulling it down about a foot provided me the room to re-put the original clevis, small thing that it is, back into to the connection at the furler, re-hoist the sail and get to some more testing.
A simple rig but quite balanced set of sails for the A30

Noting a few things to do like extending my mainsheet line, another miscalc' I had made.  I deserved the double braid practice anyway!  In the more gentle but icy winds of the overcast day I pondered making passage through a preciously shallow cut between two islands, checked the map, and then sardonically turned north, deferring to another day when the lake was not 6 feet below normal.  The thought of grounding on a gloomy winter day and having to potentially get wet too, did not excite that idea for me.  I concentrated on the mainsail track which is oddly difficult to work with and stops about where it needs to continue...who designed that?  

Day two was much shorter than day one.  I can handle cold if there is some modicum of brief warmth from somewhere.  But that hard, penetrating, icy stab is too reminiscent of many days in the Infantry when the sun set and blowing cold and snow penetrated the night and without a tent you made do with your gortex sleeping bag, if you were able to find a few hours of rest.  This day had come to an end as I turned for the club after a couple of hours of this and that.  Nothing was under much pressure except me this day. 

This unusual exposure is enhanced by reducing some highlights which enables the human eye to see what it later remembers.  The radiance of the sun caught my eye as I had not used any filters on my lens (Nikon D3100).
Two photos from Day one which capture the experience are this one above, taken as one of some 100 photos, holding my camera in my one hand aside the lifeline while my other held the tiller.  I snapped automatically and managed to capture this remarkable view.  Pure luck.  A familiar view to any sailor, looking ahead on a windward reach.

And the other is this photo under first reef with a brilliantly deep blue winter sky behind it.  The distinctive A30 identifying the type and length of vessel and its hull number 614.  This is the first time these numbers have been seen on this sail and vessel as I applied them just recently.
Reefing system on this Alberg seems to be standard and quite simply effective.  The sole challenge would be taking it out and raising the sail as the first few feet of sail track slides are unattached due to design.  I welcome someone from the land of Albergs to write and explain to me the design of this as it requires re-putting each slide in order to raise the main.  Something quite difficult to do while tied-to at the dock much less pulling into the wind under active conditions to do the same.
I have realized now that i have done this a half dozen times or so, that each sail always ends with one last maneuver, a 360 degree turn-around in limited space in now, currently shallow water, to align the starboard at my slip.  I will have to have the first mate GoPro this maneuver because despite having done this mostly error-free, I never enter this last thing with over-confidence!  As I entered, the wind from the East blowing me gently toward a rickety private dock and an old pontoon boat adjacent to our Club property, I slowed to forward momentum and pushed hard-a-lee spinning the 4.5 ton vessel on a dime and coasting upwind 15 feet to the dock.  

Another good day to be on an Alberg 30.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Our weather has turned quite frigid but the sailing continues, at least for some.  Others' boats soldier through the cold windy months without ever seeing their owners, clanging in the wind, rocking in their slips.  Not this one.

Early morning photo of  Nautica in her slip waiting for the mechanic to find where she's taking on water while underway.  The hatch boards made of white azek boards with acrylic polymer UV resistant material making her look as if the hatch is open from a distance.  My eye caught the morning sun shining on her stern as I drove up to the dock  this December morning.

Today, my mechanic came aboard to assist in locating the pernicious leak which appears while running the diesel underway and disappears once the engine shuts down.  After checking absolutely every thru-hull (just in case) and every connection, every hose, and attempting to detect moisture in or around the dripless seal, still no resolution, still water comes aboard under diesel power.  

The curious thing is it rises to the point of the bilge whereupon the bilge does its job of evacuating any more than 3 gallons of water below.  Glad for that little bugger!  Nonetheless, there must be a reason water enters while the shaft rotates when we've done all we can to do not have water ingress under power!

While awaiting this service, I've been chasing a few more small leaks and have tried to reduce these to a minimum, or to the point that the small amount of moisture doesn't become an issue.  Regardless, the other day, I noticed on the port side where before my ownership, the bulkhead linked to the port shroud is positioned, was soaking wet.  Ugh.  Never saw that before.  However, I did notice the other day the mast plate had rocked aft and cracks in the adhesive underneath the base were revealed.  Using liquid math, I presume the water did enter at that point, then traveled and found its way inside the core to the port side and fell with gravity through the point of contact with the bulkhead.  I've been constantly advised to fix my cabin roof core as it is probably black and soaked from years of hydration.  But this season is not the season for this.  I will wait until perhaps next summer when the weather has turned oppressively hot, and when perhaps I've adjusted the mast to the point I can have confidence in its position on the mast plate, and then cut open that area and fix it.  The mast plate has to be right first and foremost, then a fix to its surrounding area.

The survey had indicated plenty of moisture on the cabin top, and I have no doubt that a thorough-going surgery of that area is indeed necessary.  That's my priority of work for that area but it is later.

Getting the mast adjusted was my first pre-occupation as it appeared when we stepped it some weeks back, we simply attempted to align the most logical holes with each other.  This began to reveal a mistake, as the photos here show, the cabin top began to push down. 
Yes, it is pushing downward about 1/4 inch.   And at the fore you see a speck of daylight underneath the mast base.  Also note the position of the bolts fore and aft.  There is about 3/4 of an inch of movement possible.  Plus, the aft through bolt was put in the tip of the ski tip shaped mast base when stepped as we had more leverage with our hoist.  Now there is more downward pressure as the bolt passing through the aft of the mast base is under constant downward pressure.
 This bend in the mast plate annoyed me for weeks. I began to determine after chatting with a pal who has a Triton 28, cousin to the Alberg, that I would move the mast itself 3/4 of an inch forward to perhaps alleviate this unintended downward sag.  If you look carefully you can see that at the fore of the plate against the top of the cabin, there is a gap.  Another gap occurred on the port side of the plate.  I wanted to eliminate this potential problem and get the mast as far forward as possible.  When something is as pronounced as a small footprint of several hundred pounds of pressure without the addition of being under sail pressure, every inch is important.  Plus, my distant pals in the Alberg Association, savants all, agreed that forward is better.  Then so it is...

Now pushed forward just that small amount the plate is flat on the deck and more centered over the aluminum support.  Our initial stepping was to insert the bolts where it was most obvious.  However, after 30 days, it was obvious it was not correct.  Action had to be taken to move it forward.  Note: there is very little room for improvement moving forward however little is much at this point.  Plus, the design of the hatch opening just in front of the mast is quiet inconvenient.  Who drew that design?
Loosening the shrouds to the point that shaking one by hand would make the mast base dance a bit at its base, I backed-out the bolts which served to "locate" the base in the fitment, and moved the mast forward as far as 3/4 of an inch would provide me.  I think you can see the result above.  I'm not an engineer but my limited capabilities in that area did suggest to me that since the rigging is holding the mast to the vessel that undoing the bolts was not going to be a difficult affair.  Yet the mast base had sort of a ski tip appearance, rising on the aft end with a tubular opening for a 5/16th bolt.  The fore end is flat metal.  Without any previous information to assist, I decided to forget the allure of the ski tip and convenient tube of that piece of metal and opted for positioning the mast as far forward in the fitment as possible.  I will perhaps re-drill 2 holes in order to insert a bolt across the aft end of the mast.  In any event, the base of the mast was under pressure downward as I had to hammer and punch the bolt out the other side of the through hole in the mast plate.  
This shows a bolt threaded loosely in the aft-most holes of the shoe plate while the ski tip of the mast bottom is seen rising, encroaching on fitting the holes in the next set of holes to fore.  I will punch through below and closer the aft part of the mast base and thread my bolt there.  Already the gaps have disappeared and the cabin top is sighing in relief.
Just for my own sanity I caulked Boat Life around the base as seen in the photo.  

But the mast was something to do while waiting for the mechanic.  Once he had arrived, we both set out on the lake under power to examine how this curious arrival of water into the bilge occurred.  It took about a minute to discover the problem.

He dove into the open cockpit hatch and called out, "here it is..." lifting his wet fingers out from under the rudder packing seal.  I had missed this because I kept looking in the wrong direction with my head under the deck, no one at the helm and the engine in forward!  It was a frantic position in which to be, frankly.  And, since I had Brightsided the below-decks, it was hard to see clear water streaming under the engine wet exhaust tube.  There it was, streaming into the bilge as water was pushed up into the rudder shaft and through the large 2 inch bronze packing bolt with its blue green patina.  It probably had not ever been serviced.

He looked at me smiling gleefully, "Sometimes it takes two people to find these things!"  I was sardonically happy that finally, after pumping out the bilge several times, my mysterious leak was found.  It was cause for celebration nonetheless.  He spent about an hour and a half twisting himself underneath the deck to beat on the nut and finally persuaded it to move ever so slowly.  Then he packed it with new material and closed it again.  "You probably will never have to do this again..." he smiled. 

After he departed, I looked around at the assorted tools, sails, and scattered things "needed" when one is working on several problems at once in such a constricted area.  I cleaned the salon, put away tools, straightened up below decks and sat in the winter sunshine below, light streaming in, warming the teak, and thinking to myself how little time I've had to sit and admire this old vessel until this moment.  Hopefully I will find more of this time now.  After all, isn't that why we get these old boats, to enjoy them?  

Like this beautiful schooner sitting quietly in my living room it is hard to imagine the difficulties such vessels can deliver us as their lines are seductively capturing our imaginations to adventures we might have aboard far far away somewhere.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Sailing and Contemplation

It was a curious connection to be sure.

Even spiritual.  After meeting the owners of Queen Bea, the Alberg 30 we found in Nova Scotia on a trailer in the little hamlet of River Bourgeois, we couldn't help but remark to each other how ironic, if that is the best word for something like this, that the sellers were devotees of the works and writings of a Christian pastor and author from Tennessee, with whom I was very close friends.  It came out in conversation, after Beatrix mentioned she had to go to the Nursing Home to play hymns on the piano and share their stories with the residents.  She asked if I had heard of the author and showed me his book.  I smiled and said, “yes I know him quite well.”  She asked if I had read the book, I said, “yes I have.”  I then told her the author had been my college roommate 40 years ago and that we were long friends!  With an incredulous surprise, she said that Pastor Robert Morgan's (link is to his Bio) written works were of such help and inspiration to them both.  They were speechless that this could be so.  I said of course, pulled out my phone and texted Rob, took their photo and sent it to him.  They were caught off-guard and quite surprised and delighted that on this sunny spring afternoon in Nova Scotia, far from the cosmopolitan world, that visitors to their gorgeous place overlooking the water, a visitor, and a close personal friend of their spiritual mentor had arrived.
Bea and James in May 2016, proud of the books by Robert she had read and used in her volunteer ministry of music and stories to nursing home residents in their community.  They became acquainted with my friend of 40 years while reading these volumes on life and faith. They owned the Alberg for 15 years before we found them and became its owners.  Thank you both!
And so our meeting in May of 2016 was over lunch in their lovely home which overlooked the water and the Alberg 30, sitting about a half mile away.  After reminiscing about our unusual serendipity and exchanging email addresses and taking note of some additional items of the Alberg, we finally said our goodbyes and reluctantly made our way home to South Carolina.  And all the way we simply shook our heads at this particularly unusual meeting.  If you've read the New Testament, it was similar to the disciples' reaction to having spoken with an unusual celestial visitor on their walk on the Damascus Road (Gospel of Luke).

Meeting James and Bea and the Alberg in Nova Scotia on a sunny day in May 2016.

Then just the other day, we learned that Bea, after whom the Alberg was named, 'Queen Bea,' had recently passed away from a cancer about which we had no idea of her having.  So, it is a bit sad to be sure, but James is keenly happy that Bea will go on in some way in this Alberg for years to come.  And yes, even with a name change, Bea will always be part of the interesting catalogue of owners' who've cared for her from 1977 to this day.

All of our vessels capture our lives and share them like quiet muses who nod their heads at our successes and comfort us in our sorrows.  Where else would I want to be if I were in need of comfort than on the Alberg, sailing in the wind, or rain, or at anchor, able to be alone with my thoughts and heal at my own pace.  It is a therapeutic experience to be so associated with a sailboat one loves.  And all of the previous owners, the kids, the pets, who've come aboard over 40 years are pieces of this nautical tapestry.  In my thinking, to have met Bea and James, and to have been the recipients of their Alberg have meant so much more to me than simply a contractual sale.  Our mutual friend Robert and I have remained friends since we met each other in a dorm room where we were assigned as college room-mates.  This deeper connection has brought something more than just a sailboat, it is a connection with people and enduring themes in our lives.

I felt too, when we discovered our mutual friend, that somehow the good Lord was looking over my shoulder when I had been poring over the photos on Yachtworld, and Sailboat Listings, trying to find just the "right" boat.  I recall I had decided not to purchase a larger sailboat just yet as my father was in the process of declining and eventually passed early in 2016.  I wanted to get through that process, which took until his burial in July at Arlington Cemetery.  Too, I still owned my Alberg Cape Dory Typhoon!  And yet, as I was sipping my cafe in the wee hours of the morning this past Spring, my eyes lighted upon the "Queen Bea," her white decks and blue hull an instant attraction (the First Mate had told me our next boat needed to have a blue hull!), her teak appointments and classic Carl Alberg lines lured me just as did the Cape Dory Typhoon, years previous.  It was in those moments there was some more providential impulse to discover this yacht, and then to offer full price to secure the sale.  It was not happen-chance in our opinion.  It sent us to Nova Scotia, where we met James and Bea, in their lovely hamlet facing the North Atlantic Ocean, a place of compelling beauty, and where we connected at several echelons at once.  We could not have planned such an encounter where all of those points of interest and people come together into one very interesting passage together!

Sailors often talk about something deeper about the yachts they've owned, and the waters they've sailed, and the effects of these things on their souls.  It's part of what these boats do to us and how they repay us for the brief experience of maintenance bogies, hot yacht yoga days (my term for those incredibly difficult places one must enter in order to fix a small but important part), and the endless trail of dollars that goes with keeping a good ole boat afloat and underway.  It's not something we really mind at all for the joy and the renewal they bring to our minds and hearts.  I find that sometimes when in the midst of a sail alone, there are epiphanies which occur, well not visions or anything, but moments when I seem to have the distinct and even direct impression to look and hear something which is speaking to my soul rather than to my mind.  I've sailed in many locations, but now, sailing in a closed lake area, I find my routes are rather predetermined.  Yet it also seems that once in a while, when I'm mulling some issue in my mind and heart, that there comes some renewal, some sort of inspiration, some grace of life that lifts my heart and mind and carries me to resolution, to some port of goodness that heals me again.  If you ask me to define this process any further, it does no good, it will break down and dissolve and disappear under reason’s limitations.  But if you keep quiet, listen and reflect on it, you will find again, and again that the contemplation while sailing is good for the soul.

Talk like this reminds me of how years ago, surfers talked about being “soul surfers.”  I wondered what they meant and how that was any different from ordinary surfing?  This small group of surfers weren’t so interested in competition, contests and standings as in finding that perfect wave, or that isolated break where they could surf and enjoy the natural harmony and beauty of the environment.  I too surfed as a teenager and as an adult and always found the same sort of soulful wanderlust in surfing.  In a very similar way, sailing has these folks too.  There is something about sailing which, like surfing, is a vehicle for the human condition, calms the nerves, salves the soul, and renews the spirit, without ever stating that it will do so.  These folks don’t respond to the whistle or fret over a start, they are more so on a journey when they tug on the sheets and keep an eye on the conditions.  It is there, in the midst of sailing that much is resolved in the complicated and often besetting affairs of life.  It is not dissimilar at all to a journey, much like the Camino I walked a couple of years back.( see the entry at )

And I think the great thing about understanding our sailboats this way helps in making our daily journey just all that much better.  Connections with people, their lives, their boats and our lives enhances life and brings us closer to a sense of the spiritual that we might otherwise miss in the rush of handling those lines on deck!

The Alberg 30 lying in her berth at the Club.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Soft winter skies and warm sun are welcome.

You can tell its winter in the southern USA when the sun lies low in the southern sky and the coolness near the earth eases a blended haze that softens the panorama.  Light bounces off the water brightly aboard the Berg and few vessels are interested in sampling these waters this time of year, except me, I do enjoy an uncrowded sail area.  
Mid afternoon on a calm surface with the low light of winter rushing towards early nightfall.  It looks deceptively warm but the cool temps have invaded the region giving us a reprieve from the oppressive heat which only a month or two back, punished me severely as I attempted to work on the Berg at the work yard.  Glad that period is behind me.
I seem to be making progress at a more visible rate now as the above photo shows.  Many of the components aboard are now functional and the Berg is beginning to take on the appearance of a sea-going vessel rather than a shipyard queen.  While most of the vessels around her lie idle, this dock space affords good access to improve some of the small issues that must be fixed before I can have peace of mind.

The current bogie is a leaking shaft seal which it seems we (the mechanic and me) have isolated to be the result of a connection he made from the exhaust water into the seal which could not contain the pressure and spilled the results into the bilge every time I was underway.  Testing this revealed that once that connection was discontinued, the seal worked just fine.  If this is so, then the major problem of my "drip-less seal" dripping into the bilge will then have been discovered and fixed.  

Meanwhile, looking above, the rigging is shaking out a bit and before any heavier winds arrive this winter, I am taking the luxury of time to identify how things are arranged in the rigging.  The furling headsail has had some work, from getting a sacrificial on its borders to protect it further from UV damage.  Much of its stitching was dissolving from this damage and so I had the loft re-sew the entire sail. However, it had some anomalies too.  The next few photos of the headsail reveal many interesting things:
I like to take this type of photograph because when looking at these images in larger format, one is able to study the elements above, which get little scrutiny when scrambling around below on decks. You can see here the blue steel strength cord at the head of the sail above.
It was not until closer examination of this photo I realized my lower port stay has a pronounced bend at the swage.  You'll have to click to enlarge to see what I'm talking about.  Plus, the block at center, just below the steaming light, is a curious addition from a previous skipper.  All I can figure is that the claw at the end of its old tattered line was used to hold open the forward hatch.  Really.  I don't really care for the position of the block at the top of the genoa halyard--needs a twisted clevis perhaps to get it to lie down properly.  If you see something I've missed please let me know. 
This bugger, with a too-tight small clevis in the grommet could not fly freely nor turn without pushing itself around the furler.  By using the steel line, it permitted the top of the genoa to wrap normally.  A temporary fix.

Another view of the problem wrap.  This is not halyard wrap, this is sail wrap! And yes, the keen eye will look in the background and see the extremely low water level of our lake allowing my keel a precious 2 feet of space at present.

The top tack attaching to the swivel would not lie down and wrap.  The sail had a mischievous wrinkle at the top which resisted its furling and drove the swivel around rather than it lying down at furling and wrapping itself accordingly.  Conferring with my loft, we used a cord of steel-like strength to attach the grommet and for the time being the sail is beginning to accept he new wrap.   We will pick up this fix later.

I should remind myself to kick myself once again for accepting the length of the mainsheet and genoa leads as I received them.  Once    again, this turned out to be incorrect but only after I arrived back aboard with my new sheets and realized they were all about 6 to 10 feet too short to be truly effective.  They are marginally correct.  Oh well.  They will have to do for now.  Later they will enter the inventory of "dock lines" and be replaced by a better fitment.  When will I learn this lesson?  Verify, measure twice, then decide. I told the First Mate about this and she laughed. 

Smoke from Appalachian fires obscures the water and sky, but provides me the luxury of time to examine my sheets, sails, and idiosyncracies of my setup.  Every boat is different and changes made by previous skippers have to be assessed and decided upon if one wishes to accept the arrangement or change it.

My effort at this point however has been to get the Berg up-and-running, and to then, after a season of sailing to make some decisions about further fitments, sail changes, and proper sheets. 

One of the things I keep in mind with this Berg is that she was not sailed habitually throughout the year.  Many of the additions appear to be "last minute" ideas that might have been applied one season but not tested over time.  Cleats are dissimilar and hastily riveted here and there on the mast, attachment pins were worn and corroded and none of the rigging turnbuckles had cotter pins to keep them from turning once tuned.  It was essentially a "day sail" vessel and for that it probably was sufficient--however not that safe nor durable in testing conditions.  Now, it is being subjected to my critique and its "due-outs" are my work-list.  

And finally, I was able to get the name "Nautica" on the transom.  There will be a naming Ceremony later, but the relief of finally affixing a name is a "rite of passage" for a skipper, as this is the phase where things have finally begun to look like real ownership and a bit of endearment.

Saturday, November 5, 2016


This has been my preoccupation since the Berg arrived in South Carolina.  Whether from rain or from the lake below, I wanted to make sure that any leaking was arrested.  That is probably too tall an order when you consider there are a thousand places where screws are loose, or fiberglass adheres to metal, and leaks grow over time and find their way into the boat.  Nonetheless, that was and continues to be my preoccupation.  

So, you can understand why a leaking valve in the bilge got my attention the other day.  She'd only been launched when one of my club pals said, hey there's a leak down there!  Yup.  About one drop of water sweated off the valve on the port-side.  How frustrating.  I had made sure I addressed both of these deck drain valves.  I replaced the through-hull on the starboard because it was not seated well but on the port it was very firm.  However, I failed to turn the valve sufficiently to stem the sweating and stop the endless stream of the lake into the bilge.  

A pal looks down below and says, "I believe you have a leak...!"  Not the words I wanted to hear just after launch.

Good news was that the bilge pump was not concerned.  It was set on Automatic and had not felt any compunction to start tossing water overboard yet.  Ok, that was a win.  Still I had to stop this sweating valve.

After scratching my goatee overnight, I decided the best solution was to undo the valve completely, re-apply plumber's teflon tape to the threads on the valve, and re-put the valve, tighter this time.  This of course meant a trip overboard to plug the through-hull entry.  But I also thought of the difficulty of dealing with a "live" valve, that is, there is water ready to jump aboard if I but remove the valve.  This means that I must have some sort of way of stopping the lake from entering the Berg.  After some whimsical images in my mind of what this might be I was walking past a plant on our patio outside and noticed a champagne cork staring at me from a planter.  Voila, that's it!  A cork.  And, as we used to drink quite a bit more wine than now, we have a few hundred wine corks in a basket ready for such service.  I grabbed another champagne cork of different size and several wine bottle corks from German white varieties and French reds.  Off to the club with a viticultural solution!
Just the right size for a through hull .
Seems that at an older age we're not so excited to be jumping into a lake in brisky Autumn.  There was a chill in the air the other morning when I changed into my surfing gear (no wetsuit however) and plunged into the murky lake water.  I love the water but I also love it on my own terms, and the more I get older the less I want to have my breath taken away by a plunge.  The effects of age I guess.

I knew I would video this event because there's just something about a wine cork in the hull that evokes such utility that it cannot be left to imagination.  And, if I had not been so safety-minded, I would have left the PFD aboard and jumped in without it so that I would not have had to fight my own bouyancy to insert the cork.  This proved to be ridiculous and the video betrays it.  This footage is after I fought to remain underwater and shoved the cork into the opening as I resubmerge, sounding like an alien, and I push the cork a bit further to assure that I would be able to keep the water back while I changed the fitment in the hull and reset the valve tighter.

Now that the slow 10 second sweaty drip is over, I can relax a bit more that the Berg will not be resting on her keel full of water when I arrive at the club.  In retrospect, the issue for me was not over-tightening either through-hull upon refit.  I completely changed the starboard through-hull but only the valve on the port.  And because the piping used, I presume original, is of an old-school variety, it won't hurt my feelings either to change it out later.  But this refit is only meant to get me into the water with the least of changes to see what works and does not work and to see how I would improve on the Alberg's systems after a season or two of sailing.  That also gives me ample time to get the trailer tires replaced etc., etc.

I am sure there are more of these sorts of adventures ahead however I hope they are few and far between.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

The Berg is in the water.

With the help of some "usual suspects" at the club, seven of us, without fanfare or incident, stepped the mast and launched the Berg in the warm waters of an Autumnal Lake Murray where she will learn the forgiving seasons of the Southern USA and forget those cold winters on the hard in Nova Scotia!
The empty work yard which for 120 days hosted the Berg, as I worked one problem after another.  It's good to be gone.
The day was perfect.  Overcast and a bit cool.  The gang arrived as planned, at about 1pm, they gathered and meandered to the work yard where we discussed procedure of movement.  Then one of our gang, our 747 pilot said, "hey I've already had 3 things go wrong today, and I want this to go right...a prayer might be in order don't you think?"  I agreed and suggested we pray as Jesus suggested, pray and watch, and then we were off to hook her up and get to the gin pole.

Once there, no one was taking photographs as all hands were "on deck," as they say in the Navy.  Even an Army guy knows this.  So we assembled near the gin pole and began studying how we would approach this task.  A few of us were a bit nervous despite the fact that several of us had participated in raising a large mast before in this very spot.  Each time is filled with a bit of anxiety, "will the mast swing and hit the hull, is the knot holding," or fear that someone might trip and fall, get hit in the head, or otherwise injure something in this process.  But none of that happened.  It was a careful and smooth process.

The next phase was to proceed to the nearby ramp, attach the extension, and back her some 30 feet into the lake.  I had measured the depth and we were fine as that was concerned.  The pilot had brought along his Z71 4X4 2500 Chevy truck which had no issue pulling or dipping the Berg into the water.  Once again, it was less eventful than we expected and all were relieved at the simplicity of this stepping and launching.

Gotta love the guy holding the line!

One hand observes the launch from the cockpit while another holds onto the 9000 pound vehicle in the event it jumps off.
Once launched, we realized our success and I brought over the beers for reward and relief,  We gathered on the gunwhale for some self-congratulations and associated remarks sailors make when there's no more work to be the conversation drifted as you might imagine!  One of our crew, the electrician, stuck his head below to check on the hatchway I had installed and spotted a bit of water dripping from the deck hose which has now become a work concern for me as I seek to stop a persistent sweat from one of my Groco valves that was not quite secure enough.  Aside from that small irritation, all was very well taken care of.  She was in.

And here are the folks who did it, a retired teacher, a 747 Pilot, an electrician, a retired businessman, a retired engineer, and me.  In the following photo is the photographer, a retired military nurse.

These are the gang of six who made this launch successful and for whom I owe a debt of gratitude!

The Berg has made it back into the water and found her personal slip.  Here she is the morning after in the cool morning light of an November morning...
One of the most gorgeous lines on a sailboat ever, the Alberg 30.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Splash is nearing.

Many things run through my mind before doing something dramatic.  I recall encountering an armed mob on the road in Somalia years ago and contemplated how my day was going to be if one of the members of our entourage over-reacted with armed force.  Bandoliers of ammo wrapped on the backs of very agitated and skinny, even boney, men waving AK 47s in the air, is a metaphor for chaos. I was glad we were able to prevail with some sense of calm and pass through that "choke-point" on the road near Kismayu and back to our fortified base.  The splash is an event almost as dramatic for me.  There is that undeniable pit in the stomach and dryness of mouth that goes with repeated mental checklists days before, and the mental imaging of what a successful launch looks like and, what an unsuccessful launch might also look like.

There's a lot of boat there on that trailer! 

I'm sure I'm not the only one who has experienced these feelings of woe.  But these are my feelings at present.  And I've tried to prepare for contingencies; the mast stepping, bolts, tools, safety issues, the gin-pole operation, and the "I don't know about...." of something which will inevitably go wrong.  How do you prep for something you've never done before?  Well, I have participated in a mast stepping before but it wasn't my boat so what did I care?  I was nervous for the skipper of that 36 footer but my concerns didn't have the gravitas that seems to be growing as my launch approaches.

I have a group of "usual suspects" who have indicated they might assist in the launching but since this is a voluntary event, one can't be quite sure just who will drag themselves to this drama.  Thus further adding to the anxiousness of the event in my mind.  There is the engineer, who analyzes weight distribution and angle of descent and offers caution as to the viability of anything but a very large vehicle for moving the Berg down the ramp.  The Commodore who has gone hunting somewhere up north at the time, who points out caution about the cross frame on the trailer which caused him injurious suffering when the fin keel of his Express 27 hit that rather than coming off the trailer into the water at his launch.  And there is the 747 Pilot who very happily offers his expertise and vehicle and has unlimited confidence that we can pull this off which I like.  Plus there is the retired Merchant Marine who brings a bit of military sobriety and over-watch for me.  He makes me feel comfortable, as if another military guy saying this looks good, somehow helps me stomach the event so much the better.  And then there is the Photographer, and sometime part-time Funeral Home assistant whose southern, dry wit, is perennially hilarious and observations of the obvious are not without noting.  He was curiously perturbed to know why it was the birds decided that with 40 boats in the water there was only his boat that deserved the privilege of being pooped upon as he furiously attempted to wash his boom cover again and again.  And so many more.  They are all great people and sailors who share in the adventure.  I am happy to have them all and looking forward to the instruction they will offer.  It is great to know these things happen during the day while the rest of the world is at work!

Well, it will be a Tuesday afternoon, a work day, so at least we will have the club to ourselves.  There would certainly be more pressure to do this on a weekend while moms and their kids are squinting and asking questions like, "Are ya'll sure you know what you're doin?" and "Mommie, why is that tire smooshing like that!" Just being able to accomplish this with limited comments will help immeasurably.

Splashing should be something of great fanfare if all goes well, and congratulations will be passed along as if a birth has taken place and proud parents are standing about admiring their work.  Or, there will be the pensive reflection if something goes awry and comments about what shudda been done are passed back and forth, nodding quietly.  

I could however just leave the Berg in the work yard and keep preparing for this...

But that's not where it's meant to live. The splash will take place.

Monday, October 24, 2016

One thing leads to another.  Sometimes, it becomes a dive into unexplored territory.  And sometimes, despite my ignorance, I wander towards hubris and actually get lucky. 

So, my attention has turned to prepping the mast.  Along with this, I began the sourcing for how to setup the electronics inside.  

Things to fix, reroute, improve upon.
For me, there's a nagging temptation to over-improve on an already fine design.  Perhaps its the assumption that technology is so improved since 1977 that it would make the Alberg so much better.  And perhaps this is also just the very sort of thinking that could ruin an already great design and complicate it with odd combinations.  Sort of like having Grandma wearing a mini-skirt?

On the way to improving things, I had already done some improving of down below, sanding the bulkhead below the cockpit and the transom area.  I wanted to freshen up the paint but also use Brightsides so that it enhanced the visibility of those areas, as often they are dark and foreboding and should be accessible areas where wires are neatly arranged and hung, and piping is out of the way, and where you could toss some gear without fear of it becoming soiled with diesel fuel or something gooey.  A cleanup was in order.

I tied the electrical harness on the starboard bulkhead out of the way of moving parts, the opening to port is the access the mechanics needed for the engine.  There's not lack of strength however.  There's the deck hatch above too.  Lots of light.

These below-decks areas are places where one might send a grandchild to retrieve a wrench or pull a plug on something.  It needs to be ready for inspection at all times.  In my thinking.  I'm a hard supervisor at the yacht yard.

So, gone is the dingy mustard color and all is bright white. 

Enhancement.  Top of this photo is underneath the cockpit sole.  In my next purchase of paint, I'll finish that too.  I want the underside of things to look cared-for and easy to identify problems, find things dropped, and to generally brighten the down-below area.  Nothing more.  Below is the view to the other direction:

This is the best for now,  without removing the diesel and going underneath it, there's no need to attempt that area.  Perhaps next year if I get extremely concerned I'll see about lifting it out...maybe.  For now, this helps with routine maintenance and overall cleanliness below.
So back to the mast.  I'd laid it out in the yard and began the process of identifying entry points for the wires and detaching useless metal loops along the mast and removing anchor and steaming lights.   The cost of these items is prohibitive.  But at least I can find something to fit!

So I was able to procure an LED anchor light for 50 bucks but the steaming light, a legacy version with normal bulb, was 70.  I begrudingly uttered something about "kids with braces," an aside referring to purchasing things I need but would rather not have to pay so much for.  I spent $5k on one of my childrens' teeth.  Amazing.  So spending a few bucks on the mast had to be acceptable.  I consider these refits to be like braces.

Having the mast crane accessible I decided to remove it and see for myself what mysteries were going on inside it and how I might improve simply on that area.  A long bolt ran from fore to stern on the base, itself  bent from use over the years.  I removed the six 

This pin shows the results of some extreme pressure.  That is perhaps due to the fact that it dissects the underneath of the crane from fore to aft securing the tangs for the jib halyard fore and the aft-stay aft on the cap.  Seems a lot of bending going on up there.  Ordered a replacement.
A bit of corrosion but overall healthy.  I re-drilled the rivet holes and surface prepped this cap for assembly up top.

rivets securing the cap and began redrilling for 3/16ths rivets.  I also re-routed the electrical wires to run to the LED light and will keep them far from any moving parts of the rigging.  Mid-mast I am readying for the steaming light replacement.  Once these items are done, and some of the rigging attachments are properly ready, I will issue the call to step the mast at the club.

Yes it's expensive, and not an LED!
I'm not going to over-do this phase at all.  I simply want a standard setup, comply with USCG Navigation light requirements, and make sure the rigging is correctly setup.  I've already found cotter pins in the shrouds that were never bent-on, I really did.  So, taking nothing for granted, I am combing through everything with careful examination so there should be fewer surprises once underway.  

This week "should be" my final week of preparation before requesting a gang of thirsty sailors to assist in splashing the Berg.