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.