This past weekend we sailed to Vashon Island and anchored in Quartermaster Harbor. It was the perfect weekend – sunny, warm and a steady 15 knots of wind both days. We flew the spinnaker for the first time on Saturday and the ATN sock was fantastic – made hoisting and dousing so much easier.
We also had lots of other “firsts” – first time using a whisker pole (ever! None of the club boats we’ve sailed had them), first time going south of West Seattle, and first time sailing upwind for over 8 hours. A whisker pole by the way for non-sailor readers, is a pole that holds out the foresail (genoa) when sailing downwind – to help catch more wind and make the sail easier to manage.
The Ballard Locks continues to be the most challenging part of our trips, but we’re getting better each time. The Locks seem like they’d be about as easy as docking, but I think that’s a deception – I’d take docking over the locks any day. The Locks are like docking would be if 5 other boats were trying to simultaneously dock next to you, the entire marina was watching, your target slip could be randomly changed at the last minute, and there was a 1-2 knot current or forward/aft breeze in the marina.
Going to windward like a champ
Cleaning Nearing Completion
In other news, we’re almost finished up with all the cleaning projects! Cleaning an old boat is a lot of work (there are lots of nooks and crannies!) and we’re perfectionists so want to do it right once and not have to worry about a deep clean for a while.
A toothbrush really is your best friend for a lot of boat cleaning jobs. I always thought scrubbing floors with a toothbrush was a joke or something only prison convicts do. But actually it’s the best way to get into small nooks, and the hundreds of bristles on it scrub off dirt quite quickly – I guess that’s why they work so well on our teeth.
During cleaning with a toothbrush + water
The first time I climbed the mast, I was surprised how tiring and somewhat frightening it was. Since then I’ve gone up twice more, and it was much much easier! I’ve worked out a good system that I can setup in 5-10 minutes, climb in 10-15 minutes, and do that safely with just me (no one else onboard).
The biggest thing I did wrong initially was use a dynamic climbing rope. I used that because I had one unused from my climbing days, and wanted to avoid the abrasion of ascenders on my working halyards. But a dynamic rope stretches a lot when you put your weight on it, so I was basically doing twice the work. I’ve now switched to a spare 7/16” line I had in the cabin, with the spinnaker halyard as backup.
Also instead of having someone raise the backup halyard as I climb, I just fix it next to the climbing halyard and use a Prusik knot with webbing connected to my harness to act as a stopper – that way I can be completely self-reliant.
Here’s what you need:
- 2 ascenders – I used Petzl Ascension, about $55 each on sale at REI.
- Climbing harness.
- 2 lengths of climbing webbing or accessory cord, about 3’ and 6’, for waist harness and foot loops.
- 1 length of accessory cord, about 6’, for backup Prusik line.
- 2-4 carabiners for attaching to the ascenders and harness.
- 2 halyards, plus a spare line if you don’t want to use ascenders on a working halyard.
- Gloves (belaying gloves are great, but sailing gloves will do if that’s all you have – note belaying gloves are better made than sailing gloves and are the same price or cheaper).
Here’s the setup:
- Find a low-stretch spare line (this will be the climbing line and tie with a bowline to the main halyard clasp, then raise the main halyard to masthead. (Note if you don’t have a spare line you can use the main halyard instead, but I prefer to avoid wear and tear to it).
- Anchor the climbing line to a deck tie-down ring. Make the line as taut as you can comfortably get it.
Halyard anchored through U bolt and run to cleat.
Backup halyard connected with a snap shackle (not load bearing – if it came undone it wouldn’t really matter, because the top is anchored and the Prusik will work reasonably well with a slack line).
- Attach 2 ascenders to climbing line.
- Attach upper ascender to your harness tie-in point, using about 1-2’ of webbing and carabiners if you have them.
Upper ascender with webbing attached to harness
- Attach lower ascender to a nylon cord that is formed into a V shape with two foot loops. It should be about 3’ from foot loops to ascender.
Accessory cord foot loops attached to lower ascender
- Anchor a backup halyard next to the climbing line. Spinnaker halyard works well.
- Attach webbing with a Prusik knot to the backup line, then attach webbing to harness. Webbing length should be about 4-5’ so you have some slack and don’t need to be constantly moving it.
Prusik with webbing (a bit messy – I would’ve rather used cord, but was out – webbing still works fine but doesn’t look as neat)
- Climb using inchworm / squat technique – move the upper ascender (waist attachment) as high as you can get it, then move the lower ascender to within a few inches of upper. Stand up in foot loops, using your hands to pull laterally on the climbing line to help stand up. Then repeat, starting with moving up the upper ascender again.
- As you move up, slide the Prusik knot up the backup line. Remember to do this before it’s out of reach, and slide it as high as you can reach.
- To descend, just reverse the climbing technique. When lowering the feet ascender make sure you don’t lower too far such that when you stand you can’t unweight the waist ascender. If you don’t unload an ascender you won’t be able to unlock it, and will need to readjust your position.
Gloves make things much easier on your hands