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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Friday, March 30, 2018

A critical replacement

From the very first glance at hull number 614, then Queen Bea, now s/v Nautica, I knew various things had to be fixed, repaired, and or replaced.  But that's part of the fascination with this particular class of boat.

Yes it is the month of May in Nova Scotia as the First Mate makes some notes in our Log Book.  Much work was ahead.
I've chronicled most every significant change in this blog now for nearly two years.  I began my work aboard with one thought, "she must at least float!"  And from that erstwhile priority I gradually shifted to less critical items and on to better performance concerns.  I've tossed in a bit of philosophy here and there as well, seems sailors are off-times somewhat like that.  And with the traveler installation I have come to the end of what I'd consider the must-do items.  I am at 20 months of ownership and can truthfully say, she is substantially improved and upgraded and sails quite responsively for her class.
The 4:1 makes single-handing quite a breeze!

So I grabbed an Army pal of some near 30 years and tossed him into the Alberg 30 and put him to work earning his First Mate's position at the headsail winches.  It was a great sail together, winds were forecast to be 10 to 22 kts, but like all forecasts, they seem to take some time each season to develop accuracy.  The wind was fickle (another word for variable) and coming from various directions was a bit fitful for us.  We pulled into less than a knot of wind and I grabbed the windward side of the 4:1 traveller system and adjusted for the vespers as the Alberg purred and slid at 2 knots in this silver mirrored surface.  I was elated but knew my crew would not especially grasp the celebratory vibe I was experiencing.  However, this first use of the new traveler was impressive.  I'd not had this kind of control as my track and sliders were less than up to the task.  I knew that if it made this much difference in sail shape in a knot of wind, it would be substantial in a breeze.  Anyone can sail somewhere in a blow but few can turn a slight wind into a sail.  That I was even able to gain momentum was a thrill.  

You're telling me!  Yes it was archaic but it lasted a long long time!  Yet it did not provide any decent control and impossible to change positions under tension.  Impossible.

 After just short of an hour of more gliding petered-out, I suggested we flake the sails and enjoyed the warm sun of early Spring.  We caught up on all things friends catch up on and reflected and discoursed in a lake as placid as a summer day yet without the dreadful heat.

I was quite pleased the winds were not living up to the forecast however, as my pal had an orientation's worth of sailing experience, and I was anxious to Beta test my latest installation, the Harken traveler.

Installation was really pretty easy.  The only challenge is a bit of boat yoga to remove the track and some needle work to make the flemish eye for each line to attach to their blocks.
Like many of you sailors who trudge through this blog whenever you see it has arrived in your inbox, I was looking for the best deal and the best quality of track and cars I could find.  I was certain that I could invest quite a sum of cash in this one item if I was not careful.  I had had this on the back burner for the past 6 months in a realistic way while I finished off some less expensive projects.  This one was going to be expensive. 

Then there came the day this February the weather was permitting and I removed the mainsheet and its blocks, and removed perhaps, the original track, taped over its holes and went hunting in earnest for the system best suited for its size.  For in fact, the "system" which I inherited simply had no direct impact on the vessel other than to "hang on" to the boom. 

First Mate was directed to take a few action photos.  This is after the wind began to blow a few knots.  If you can make the photo larger you will see the knot meter is about 4.75 knots on the vintage meter!  The boom is positioned nearly over the keel on this reach, a bit of heel but fairly well balanced for flow.
But I digress.  So back aboard, we continued talking and basking in the first warmth of the Spring, when I glanced upward and saw nature's signal of change.  I asked my First Mate if he saw what I saw, doing a bit of training on what to look for in terms of signs of wind.  In the sky had arrived many puffy small clouds moving west to east.  Then appeared in a matter of minutes on the horizon several miles to the west, a grey line slowly marching toward us.  "The wind is coming!" I said, and we raised the main and unfurled the headsail to receive an initial burst of 3 to 5 kts of persistent wind and in half an hour settled into a delightful 8kts of wind with full sail. 
First Mate showing he's retained some of that sail training! 
 My First Mate joyfully engaged in his winch duty, learning the technique of releasing one line, hauling in on the leeward side, the qualities of a two speed winch, tell-tails and their helpful information, and what to do and not to do.  None of it was duty as his meeting the task was met with lots of energy.  And I meanwhile, was having to get used to having the benefit of the 4:1 haul-in capability which is easily done with one hand, freeing the other to maintain course.  Before I had discussed this purchase with my "actual" First Mate, first in so many ways, I had to lay out the requirement for spending.  Although she never minds that I spend on sailing requirements, she does like, as First Mate, to be recompensed in other ways ashore.  Mostly in terms of shiny things and appropriate gear to wear which is not foul weather gear!  Having this clearly in mind I let her know that my push-pin slider had failed and that this was the nudge I had been waiting for that required putting down substantial dollars for the Harken system.  And I wasn't a bit bothered having a sorry track system as I had determined to use it until I was nearly half-crazy.
This is the track I inherited.  I'm not sure if it is original although from its simplicity, I imagine it is original.  It's failure was a spring inside one of the push pin cars failed to push the pin to secure the location of the main's slider.  I would be very interested if Albergers reading this would send me a photo of their system for comparison of this older hardware.  I am sure Whitby Boat works probably used several kinds over the run of this model.
The push-pin was the lynch pin of my decision making.  In my appeal to the First Mate's keen sense of shopping savvy, I reminded her that I would purchase these items on a day when West Marine provided double points to all shoppers.  She affirmed my sensible approach to the purchase and the Harken low beam track and prepackaged slider and 4:1 end controls arrived shortly thereafter.  Ka-ching, well you know, it's an old sailboat and it needed this more than bottom paint!

As for performance, because that is useful to readers too, the increased pointing capability of having the boom closer to the center of the boat enabled us to easily manage better shape of the main and its cooperation with the headsail.  The Alberg 30 points well anyway, but this addition just made her so much more capable.  

You don't know on these old boats until you look and see.  The high beam track on #614 seemed sturdy and useful enough in this configuration, however in the process of disassembly, I discovered 1/8th inch screws secured with a common washer and a non-locking nut!  It is remarkable that the track even survived 40 years of use.  It's replacement required enlarging holes three times larger than the original, locking washers and locking nuts. After a easy day of sailing in 8-9kts I'd say this addition to the boat is probably one of the last "had to do it" items on my original list.  Keeping it to this point ensures I have a real comprehension of how much better this boat sails now than it did when I first took her out.  It has created a sense of accurate measurement of the vessel's capability.
I simply cannot throw them away.  They are historical artifacts now! 


Thursday, March 22, 2018

"It's an Alberg 30,...yes, it's an old boat!"

Renovation of an old boat is not easy, nor fast.   

A couple of photographs illustrate this Alberg's progress.  From a deck stripped of all hardware for refitment to a graceful design in a slip at the end of the day are thousands of hours of labor that cannot be reimbursed with other than pure pleasure of the art of sailing.

It really is that nice.  And you're in charge of her for a period of time.  Do your very best!

And the complexity of renovation of an old boat is really made tougher by people who think the world began in 1990.  Well, for them it did, but they joined a "world in progress" not a "new world."   Only new to them.  The rest of us older, lucky souls, have had the pleasure of watching our world for many more years than we care to admit and are constantly shaking our heads at the daily ironies we face with this onset of being the "older" generation of sailors.  I recently experienced this in an online conversation with a sales agent for sailboat hardware who had no idea what an Alberg design was.  He was simply too young, uninformed or inexperienced to grasp the kind of vessel I was attempting to renovate and update. I did not purchase from that vendor either.

And think of the Alberg 30s' out there, the 750 some copies that have etched their mark on sailing's timeline, who have fallen into the hands of us few and our need for upgrading due simply to the effects of age and deterioration in aluminum screws, bolts, loose joinery (not just our own joints), blocked thru-hulls, cracking of old metal brackets, rust, and the list goes on and on.  

Eventually, if we keep our Albergs for the long term, we will have to replace things.  And that is simply due to attrition.  Going beyond waiting for our rigs to fail us, if we wish to renovate our Albergs, we will have the arduous task of keeping what we can in place while working a viable alternative.  I've noticed that many of us newbies focus on the same things routinely, thru-hulls, diesels, mast support, moisture adventures, chain-plates, etc.  And this is because they are key to the integral support of the boat and/or to its safe operation.  If these few items are resolved, these boats are nearly indestructible.

But, going past "safe" one can begin to push the envelope on these vessels and improve them incrementally, bringing about a very satisfying renovation which is shipshape and seaworthy and creates a fine sailing vessel.  I wonder sometimes if my 41 year old Alberg will be around in another 50 years?  I would hope so!

For me, having a boat like the Alberg is a trust assigned.  It's like being handed a charge to keep the vessel and improve it or posterity, or t least the next skipper.  How many of us have decried with some disdain a "previous skipper," whoever that skipper might have been.  Perhaps not the most recent, but perhaps a few back of course, someone who had no sense of the history of the boat and let things fall to their lowest state of affairs.  Or, perhaps a skipper ran long on sailing and short on cash, and could not sustain her, passed her along with  a wistful sigh, hoping that perhaps the next skipper would do to her what he could not start nor ever finish.  In forty one years, the princess meets more than a few frogs!

The usual suspects of a main sliding car, push-pin stops and end pieces of a traveller system that finally failed me.  It wasn't much that failed but when a spring collapsed inside the push-pin I could no longer move the pieces and was constrained to replace the components, and then the track, which would not function with new parts.  It was time.

Like BaggyWrinkles, my first Alberg, a Cape Dory Typhoon, after which this blog is named, Nautica is also a debutante in waiting.  Waiting for my next improvement.  I always try to improve to her level and not beyond.  I'm not trying to make her into someone she's not.  She's an Alberg not a fancy new Beneteau.   And the traveler replacement is going to be along these lines.  Putting the pieces together with consultation, I decided on a Harken kit and track.  

 The traveler and I came to loggerheads when one of the push-pins broke and fixed the setting nearly dead-center.  Well, at least it was a modest attempt to make the vessel useful until a new track and system could be secured.  I didn't fret.  I've come to anticipate things breaking.  It's not a big deal.  It is big dollars but it was inevitable after so many years.  I always think to myself, "this boat is like a teenager...," lots of expenses and little thanks from the kid!  But this ought to pay back handsomely.  Now awaiting that shipment of Harken products to get her ready for spring winds.

At the outset I scribbled a metaphoric flow chart of tasks that I knew had to be done.  I keep that photo everpresent in my expectations and in my approach to fixes aboard.  Not everything is critical.  The water tubing I inserted a few weeks ago has still not been finished as I am awaiting a haul-out to fix one of the thru-hulls which needs to be replaced on the portside.  I'm patient, I'll get to it.  Keep perspective, I say to myself.  These two photos show the progress:

From disorder at the outset to usefully beautiful now. 

It is a process that I scribbled out at the beginning.  When will it all be done?  Never.  This is not a horse race, this is a journey.  You don't fix your car once and declare, "My car is now finished!"  You maintain it and enjoy the ride.  And with this project, you enjoy the sail!  There will be things to fix, replace, and modify, but along the way, you will be part of fine sailing vessel that turns eyes whenever she's on the water.

Notice the traveler system was not on the original cartoon! 

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Work Schedules, Snakes and Boards

I have worked quite hard to establish a fulfilling routine as a retired guy.  A routine which involves more than texting from my phone, sitting expressionless in front of the flat screen, or going to movies everyday.  I'm back at work; I'm the employee and the boss!  Le Skeep!

Can't say that everyone would enjoy my routine, but it seems to suit me.  Plus, I don't have to worry about having a boss that asks me for "products" like powerpoint slides or inspection results, or training statistics, etc. etc. ad infinitum.  But I do have a quite demanding schedule to maintain as I continue to check off items on my to-do list on the Alberg 30.

You see, I'm not doing boat maintenance on a crisis basis, I'm trying to borrow some of my military discipline and training to actually attend to things on a schedule, inspect, verify, prepare to fix things, and also do as much sailing on Nautica as possible.  Some of my readers will understand this while others of you might think I'm out of my mind.  Yes, to the latter, I'll admit to some derangement if you will too!

Anyway, I have to commute to work too.  It takes me an hour to get to work even if it is only 30 miles by the crow's flight.  But there's no easy way to get there.  It's either go the back roads, which are not so well taken care of, or it's take the freeway, which is often filled with anxious, texting drivers, who are eating food and having conversations while they careen in and out of lanes with utterly no regard to others.   Either way I go takes an hour.  It's sometimes painful but I make the best of it.  Waze helps keep my mind on traffic while I often sort out my repair and maintenance agenda.  I use that time productively.  That's work isn't it?

On my way to the slip I often meet "Louise," a brown water snake who loves to snooze on the warm dock.  She used to scare the bejesus out of me until I realized I was scaring the scales off of her when I showed up stomping along with all my gear.  Now I try to be very quiet so as to not awaken her as she is warming up.  I even rubbed her tail on this encounter.  Her eyes are completely closed in this photo.

 As I've worked along, I've also developed a working Excel spreadsheet of my fixes with price estimates (I've already shown this on this blog) and this helps me get a concrete idea of my progress.  Plus, it's a good way to keep track of when an item was installed or fixed.  Like the PSS stainless steel propeller shaft...what in the world is that?  Check the spreadsheet.  It's not good enough to ask a skipper when the diesel was last serviced, you'll get a wandering answer accompanied by huffs and puffs to betray that you'd ought not question a person of such stature.  Nope, it's easier to check the spreadsheet.  It's in the book, as they say...

Lately, I've been targeting my hatch boards.  I've been using my temporary hatch boards made of smoked acrylic and have been quite pleased with them except that they're not secure (in a thieving sense) and they're not quite high enough to block some rain from jumping onto the steps inside.  So, more wood, more work, seeking to produce a gawrunteed (said with emphasis) solution to keep inquiring visitors and wasps out of below decks.  The acrylic boards make the hatchway appear black in this photo:

I decided to be consistent with the cockpit design of wood tones and have used the same boards as I used for the lazarettes.  The lazarettes, by the way have been noticeably sturdy and trouble-free since their fitment, doing a great job of looking good, being sturdy and dry in the face of adverse elements.  It remains to be seen if they will stand up to the harsh demands of a furiously hot summer--that is to come.  I'd put money it though.

I suppose on these older boats it is a matter of trade-offs for those of us who are not artisans of the caliber who have the skills and resources to produce period replicas of our boat design.  For me, I figured a near fix is a good fix and these lazarettes are a suitable trade-off for me.  I think the UV gloss resin (I used this on many surfboards I built back years ago) should hold up.  I can always sand and recoat if necessary.

 So the hatch is not a perfectly designed opening either.  It is canted a bit this way and that and the fitment need not be furniture quality operation and finish. It needs to be useful. After all, how many times do we sit around and say,  "Oh my, what beautiful hatch boards you have!"

I've got an outdoor bag coming by slow camel from West Marine for the sheets piled around the winch.  Need to protect these as much as possible.
So after initial cutting the fitment of the hatchboards and was quite good, at least for my echelon of word-working skills.  It's not easy to chamfer edges in my garage with a handheld power saw, but I managed to do so without seriously wounding myself.  I again used the gloss resin in several coats to provide a thick protective barrier for the boards. This was not for the hurry-up sailor.  This takes time to apply and to dry, to sand between some coats, and so on and so on.  A good project to have on the side while working another.

This wood is available at Lowe's in my area, and makes for a nice appearance and a rather flat board for a hatch.

They're only hatch-boards and their purpose is to fend off the elements and deter the bad guys from easy theft.  I will retain my flimsier acrylic boards as they are a great temporary defense against the elements especially when you want air draft but visibility.  While finishing with the boards with a smooth thin coat of Epiphanes UV resistant varnish I awaited a small but critical item in the mail, this latch-pull, a non key lock design.  Once I determine my inside has lots of high dollar stuff, I'll swap this one out for a key lock.

The problem of critters and insects and rain are the biggest annoyance at this point.  So this will slow down intruders of the human kind and deter the mud-dobbers that like to put their sleeping beauties in the most hard to get to places inside.  They manage to find the slightest opportunity to ingress the boat.  I must look to cover my cowl vents on deck to deter them as well--thinking hair nets from the Dollar Store!

The design worked nearly although my brain failed me on the final install of the latch-pull.  I knew the macrame pull was not centered and dutifully accepted it as centered when I put the board down for drilling out the 2 inch hole for the pull.  Brilliant.  Once again, it would be nice to have 2 or 3 brains when sorting things out as this sort of quality control is not my forte.  Oh well, they're only hatch boards right?

Yes, it is not in the middle.  Of course not.  It has become a conversation piece.  Perhaps one day with little to do I will grab another one of these rather inexpensive boards and refabricate that top board and put the pull in the center of the board; where it belongs!

What remains is to clean up the fascia of the top hatch and install something appropriate there in either wood or perhaps plastic, to inhibit rain seepage and provide a bit of a finger ledge for pulling the top-to for closing.  

Next, I turn around and face another victim of time and my ownership, the mainsheet track, cars, and blocks....  The cockpit is full of items to repair and this track replacement will give the old gal a new perspective on sheet control!