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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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.