A Shakedown Sail to the San Juans

The importance of a shakedown sail is, I think, often forgotten or underestimated. A shakedown sail before a longer one helps discover problems with boat work done over the long winter. And perhaps more importantly, it rebuilds sailing skills, especially physical and mental stamina that might have grown weak over the winter.

Not just any shakedown sail will do – the weekend cruises we did twice a month over the last 7-8 months don’t prepare us fully for the 1-month cruise we’ll be taking this July (to the west coast of Vancouver Island, much like the route we did two years ago). So last Thursday evening we took off from Shilshole for a 4 1/2 day trip to the San Juans (2 days in the islands before we needed to head back for work the day after Memorial Day).

Thursday: Shilshole to Port Ludlow

We took off about 5pm and sailed upwind to Port Ludlow, taking about 5 hours and arriving after dark. There was only 6-10 knots of wind, and sailing upwind makes the journey take quite a bit longer, but we sailed 100% of the way except for the last 1-2 miles into the harbor. Going past Point No Point we had 7.5 knots over ground with the 2 knot current push.

Currents were a recurring theme of the four days – there are large tides currently, due to 2-3 ft minus tides and a new moon. We encountered many whirlpools and tide rips in the San Juans and around the Point Wilson washing machine. This was probably the biggest benefit of our shakedown sail – it was a good refresher in using currents to our advantage, and we hit them all right, often getting 3-4 knot boosts.

IMG_20170525_201819

Sailing into the sunset towards Port Ludlow

Continue reading

We’re Gonna Need a Bigger Pry Bar

The hardest kind of boat project, in my opinion, is any involving getting stuck things out of the thing they’re stuck in. Seized bolts, corroded screws, prop shaft couplers, etc. You may recall 3 months ago I started the project of rebedding our Navtec U-Bolts that connect the rig to the tie rods and chainplates.

Three months later I had completed 5 out of 6 but still had one stubborn one remaining – the first one I had started on, the last one to finish, and by far the hardest. For whatever reason, the starboard aft U-Bolt was more stuck than all the others. It wouldn’t pull free despite trying all the methods I had used on the others – a 2’ long pry bar, heat, PB Blaster, mineral spirits, BoatLife Release, hammering. I even sailed on it with the nuts slightly loose, and tensioned the shroud to 1500-2000 pounds (this didn’t do anything at all).

IMG_20170517_165925.jpg

Tensioning the U-Bolt with the main halyard while simultaneously prying with the pry bar

Continue reading

Making the Leap to Liveaboards: Hopes and Fears

In about a month, we’re making the leap to become liveaboards at Shilshole. We haven’t decided for how long, but will re-evaluate at one year – it’ll come down to how well we survive the difficult winter months when it’s rainy, cold and dark every day.

There are some big reasons making it worth trying the liveaboard lifestyle, and an equal number of fears / worries we have about it. It’s not right for everyone, but everyone we talk to who has made the jump to being liveaboards loves it and recommends it.

To me “liveaboard” means living on a boat while being tethered to one home port most of the time – either because you have to work a job on land, or perhaps you’re retired but just don’t want to go anywhere. Although last summer we lived on the boat for 3 months, that was cruising – which is living aboard while traveling, an entirely different matter.

Moving aboard involves lots of full carloads – to both the boat and storage

The storage locker already getting pretty full – we need to start stacking higher

The benefits to liveaboard life are clear:

  • Waterfront real estate. Living in a marina, your home is in a beautiful waterfront location with views of the snow-capped Olympic mountains and wildlife (sea birds, seals) passing by your back porch (cockpit).
  • Money. Not many people discuss this, but I think the biggest advantage of living aboard is how much money you can save. With Seattle’s surging real estate market, a nice 1-bedroom apartment in the city can run about $1500-2000. Liveaboard moorage for a 38-foot boat runs about $680. That’s a savings of up to $15,000 per year, which can be put towards cruising, vacations, or paying off debt.
  • Living life in a more Minimalist way – less consumerism, less stuff, less distraction.
  • Efficiency. We’ll no longer need to commute between an apartment and the boat to do project work or go sailing. This saves time and may make certain types of projects easier. We’ll no more have a “boat pile” at home and a “home pile” at the boat.
  • Carbon Impact. Living on a boat is a very earth friendly way to live. On the boat, we use a fraction of the electricity we use at home, a tiny fraction of the amount of water, and produce less consumerist discards (trash/recycling) due to the forcing function of having to live in a minimalist way.

There are also a few fears we have about living aboard:

  • Will it make us end up sailing less? When your boat is your home, it’s more work to get it shipshape for sailing. Not only that, since it’s our only home, we can’t easily go sailing separately – if I want to go out sailing while Natalie is at work, a happy hour, or just doesn’t feel like sailing that day, she won’t have anywhere to return to after the event.
  • Storage – will having massively less space to store stuff be a considerable burden?
  • Will the wet, rainy weather we get for weeks on end (before the summer starts) be tiresome? Will heating be a problem?
  • Commute – my commute gets slightly better (biking between Ballard + Fremont rather than Capitol Hill + Fremont) but Natalie’s gets worse. Getting to downtown from Ballard isn’t easy. She can drive in 20-25 minutes on an early schedule, but then has to pay $30/day for parking. Public transit involves a 1 mile walk followed by 2 buses, totaling about a 1 hour commute. Biking is an option but also takes close to an hour. Any Ballard-Downtown commuters know of better options?
  • When we go cruising now, being on the boat in anchorages is truly special. Will that experience lose its magic when being on the boat is a more routine, everyday occurrence?

As with any change in life, there are some scary aspects, and some exciting aspects.

We’re currently working on massively downsizing – selling possessions on Craigslist and giving carloads full to Goodwill – much like we did last spring before renting our place for 3 months. But this time we’re also selling our condo, which means getting rid of all our furniture too. We have a small storage locker we’re using for keepsakes, winter clothes, ski gear, etc.

When you can’t agree on whether something that hasn’t been used in a long time is worth keeping, put a note on it marking a discard date – if you still haven’t used it in X amount of time, then clearly it wasn’t really needed

It’s strangely liberating to get rid of so much stuff. You don’t realize how much you have until you do it. Further, you don’t realize how much of a disposable purchasing society we live in. People buy so much stuff they don’t really need that it means possessions are not treasured, and Goodwill gets piles of barely used stuff every single day. Some things are impossible to sell on Craigslist because they’re not valued.

Despite a lot of work, we’re still getting out sailing about twice a month!

Fishing in Puerto Vallarta

“Fish on!” was called out across the boat. It was my turn in the fighting chair – 9th in a lineup of 9 on our charter in the Bay of Banderas. Everyone else had caught yellowfin tuna, so I was expecting that was what was on the line. But immediately it was clear this was something very different. The line on the spool started running – fast. The spool was at max tension, but it did nothing to slow this fish as it dove deeper and deeper. The two Mexican crew running the boat looked at each other and started speaking in Spanish, too fast for me to understand. El marlin negra – black marlin – is what they think was on the line.

Black marlin can grow to 10+ feet in length and hundreds of pounds – a whole different story than the 20-40 lb 3’ yellowfin tuna. The captain stopped the boat and they told me to go slow, a long fight was on my hands.

The fish kept running – 100 feet, 200 feet, maybe 300 feet of line spooled out. The line was going straight down, and was so tight you could play piano notes on it. As he kept running we started worrying the spool was going to run out of line. Finally he stopped and I worked hard to bring that line back in. It was a full body work-out pulling the rod up and then coming down, cranking the spool hard, repeated again and again.

Then the fish started running again, careening way off to the side, and the line started running out – losing 100-200 feet or so of my progress. At times I could only stop and rest, shaking my numbed arms to bring some life back into them. I was out of breath and drenched in sweat. This was more of a workout than I imagined fishing could possibly be.

Eventually I passed the torch to the next in the line-up – Natalie – and she fought the fish for a while. In the end, four different people took a turn, but as we were transferring to the 4th person, the marlin (we think) snapped the lead on the line, and we came up empty handed. It sure would’ve been great to see what it was. But, the experience was worth it in itself, and we had some delicious yellowfin tuna for dinner that night.

Continue reading

Choosing a Non-Skid Paint

Recently we passed the 2 year anniversary of owning our boat – two years since Feb 14 2015. It’s amazing to think how far we’ve come in that time – with many major projects completed (a rerig, rudder removal + steering system repair, rebedding lots of deck hardware, etc), plus two major summer cruises (lower west coast of Vancouver Island, and Seattle to the Broughtons and Back), along with lots of weekend sails in between those.

Somehow that 2 years feels like much longer.

One project we still haven’t completed is redoing the nonskid on the deck. In some areas the old non-skid was literally worn away – it was so smooth behind the helm that when sailing upwind our feet would gradually slide down the floor until we wedged them against something. So before leaving for our 3-month sail last spring, we painted the cockpit with KiwiGrip. That was a great help – but there are still more areas to do.

It would seem that choosing the best non-skid paint would be simple, but it’s not. Any time there are 5 or more product choices available for one purpose in the boating world, it’s a good sign there’s no clear winner. If it were a simple answer with a clearly superior option, there would only be 1 or 2 products, not 5-10.

There were three things we wanted from a non-skid paint:

  • The non-skid part (not slip and slide around on it)
  • Look reasonably nice
  • Not hurt our butts or bare feet when we sit or stand on it.

Continue reading

Rerig Completed! The Ups and Downs of a 3 Month Boat Project

Since I started the rerig planning three months ago, two of the suppliers I considered have gone out of business – Navtec (news broke on SailingAnarchy) and Hall Rigging USA (announced on SailingScuttlebutt), both in Rhode Island. Both still have foreign operations, but shuttered their US operations while I was waiting for our rigging to be produced by BSI. Despite significant delays from BSI, it could’ve been even worse if I had decided to go with Navtec or Hall – I could still be waiting!  

At the same time it’s sad news for their employees and the sailing community, because the US sailing industry has two fewer suppliers now. Navtec’s equipment and inventory is going up for auction (“by order of the secured creditor”), featuring an impressive array of very advanced machinery. Quite sad, but if anyone wanted to pick up where Navtec left off, all the equipment and more is there.

Completing the Rerig – Success!

As we hoisted the sails last Sunday, I quickly scurried about the deck checking the mast – is it leaning to port, to starboard? Is anything about to go horribly wrong?  Amazingly, everything was perfect – my at-dock tune was good enough that no tuning was needed under sail.

As we sailed out of the protection of West Point and Discovery Park into a 20 knot southerly, the boat heeled more and the mast still looked good – no fall off to leeward or bends at the lowers or intermediates. And the mast rake was good (some weather helm but not too much) and forestay tension was good (no sag).

It was a huge relief to have successfully finished a rerig. After nearly two months (plus one month of planning), it felt really good to be out sailing again.

img_20170217_142915

Heading out of the large Locks.

img_20170216_161808

The entire rod rig (not counting D2s which were replaced last year), coiled into a circle weighing about 40 lbs.

Continue reading

Rerig Part 4: Stuck Navtec U-Bolt Chainplates

It’s been a long road to finishing our rerig. Going on 5 weeks now with the mast out, I’ve started to get very antsy to go sailing. Being patient is always the hardest part of any project that takes the boat out of commission (ex, haulouts). After 2 weeks, most projects had been finished and it was just a matter of waiting for BSI to produce the rod.

The downside to rod, as mentioned in Part 1, is it generally can’t be made locally / onsite and therefore takes longer to get. That downside is apparent now in the delays with BSI producing the rod – even though we gave them the end fittings order 5 weeks ago, and final measurements 3 weeks ago, they still haven’t started producing the rigging.

In contrast, a couple weeks ago two new Selden masts arrived in the yard for brand new boats going to the Seattle Boat Show, with wire rigging ready to go, and those masts were fully rigged and stepped in a week.

I wouldn’t change my decision to go to rod – it’s worth it for keeping the mast tang system the same – but if we were buying a new boat someday, I would probably try to avoid rod or would consider it negative points for a boat being considered. It’s a wonderful material, but for a cruiser, availability and ease of access are more important.

Navtec U-Bolt Chainplates

The hardest part of the rerig however (other than the waiting) has definitely been pulling the chainplates for inspection. More specifically, pulling the Navtec U-Bolts above the chainplates.

C&C’s with rod have a somewhat uncommon chainplate system (O’Day’s and Ericsons also have a similar system). At the deck there are six big ½” U-Bolts (one for each shroud) that go through the deck to a thick aluminum backing block. That backing block has a recessed cup on the upper side which is used to capture the head of a stainless steel tie rod. The tie rod then goes down to connect with traditional chainplates inside the boat, attached to a fiberglass bulkhead inside some cabinetry.

img_20170122_132904

img_20170122_124107

Totally inadequate lever arm for pulling 1/2″ U-Bolts

It’s actually a pretty great design, because the chainplates are completely dry and pristine – I have no concerns about those since they never see water. And the U-Bolts likely do a better job of sealing out water at the deck level than traditional chainplates do. This is because they have a cover plate which fits tightly with the deck, and then the legs of the U-Bolts are flanged (they have a “lip”) so that they are wider than the holes in the cover plate – they overlap it and fit quite snugly.

The downside is they’re really hard to get out. The SS U-Bolt legs interact galvanically with the aluminum backing block, producing pasty white powder which basically locked the U-Bolt into the aluminum block.

Continue reading