Thursday, December 07, 2006

Thinking of Buying A New Boat?

If you own a boat you will at some time, want a new one - different, more suited to you or whatever. Usually, this occurs after a major trauma - engine problems, electrical or electronics issues, plumbing or whatever.

I am looking for a new boat, or new one to me. But part of the process is selling my boat. Part of that process is cleaning it up by removing all the stuff I don't want to sell with it and getting into all the nooks and crannies to clean them up.

There is a point to this discussion even if you're not selling your own lovely craft. First, you will be amazed at the crap you've accumulated. I mean, you'll find stuff you never knew you had. Or things you've been missing for years. Things you thought you threw out or wish you had.

For example, in cleaning out the head, I found a brand new tube of toothpaste that I actually needed at home preventing, or at least delaying a trip to the local Wal-Mart for same. How long had it been there? Could be up to five years. I don't remember putting it there. Not that that's any criteria to go by.

To clean your boat properly, though, means removing everything. I mean absolutely everything - all your glassware, cookware, personal items, books, videos, CD's, clothing, tools, little bits of batten material, screws, washers, spare parts, rags, flares, first-aid kits, and whatever else you have on board. As you might surmise, this is best done at a dock.

Doing this is not only fun, in that you get to see everything, but helpful because you get to throw stuff out (if you don't you're not being honest with yourself) and you find things that might be unidentifiable and moldy.

Next, you need appropriate cleaners - I use either Clorox wipes for interior gelcoat fiberglass liners or Fantastic or some other home cleaner. Where there's mold, Clorox or anything like Tilex will work, too. But nothing too strong or you'll make your life worse. After cleaning it, I usually use some detailing wax, like Meguiars or Turtle Wax spray on to seal the surface.

Naturally, you'll want to dust - with the bilges closed, dust down to the sole. Make sure you get all the horizontal surfaces, including under the stove - that collects the most gross stuff you can imagine. It may even be worth the effort to lift the stove out of its gimbals to clean underneath, but mostly you can swing it and reach everything.

Inertia has oiled teak and mahogany interior wood - the entire cabin is almost entirely wood. There are two products I use on unfinished wood - once every couple of years, I'll wipe it down with Penetrol and then buff it quickly. That seals the wood below the layer you see. Twice a year, however, I'll wipe it down with teak oil. Follow the directions for both.

An interesting tidbit about Penetrol: If you buy a quart of 'Marine' penetrol it will set you back nearly $13.00. If you go to Home Depot and buy a quart of regular Penetrol, then it's about $7.00. You may think to yourself, "Hmm, the marine stuff must have something interesting about it." You'd be wrong. A call to the company that makes Penetrol by Herb garnered the following fact: It's all the same. The line that cans 'marine' Penetrol is exactly the same one canning the standard stuff. What changes? The label. And the price.

Another surface in the boat is Formica - the bulkheads in the head and the surfaces in the galley and work table are all laminated. For that I use Clorox to remove stains and then wipe it with Fantastic. Finally in the galley where all sorts of cleaners have attacked the surfaces, I'll use the spray wax again to help seal it.

If you have Lexan or acrylic windows or ports, DO NOT use chlorinated cleaners on them - they won't affect the structural strength but they'll destroy the surface and make it look all crazed. Windex is chlorinated. Most cleaners are, but you can use specialty cleaners (check to make sure they say they're for plastics). I'll use soapy water or vinegar.

My final job is cleaning the bilge, since that contributes to the overall 'boat smell'. Some people like it, some don't. I don't. I've found a pine oil based bilge cleaner, and since mine is gelcoated or epoxied (I don't know which), a sponge, water and this cleaner does a terrific job.

Now is the time to put everything back - if you can, vacuum the cushions and rugs if you have them. Personally, rugs on a boat are a breeding ground for damp, moldy, sticky, smelly stuff. I don't use them. More to the point, in a seaway a rug can slip with you on it.

Before you put something back on the boat, think about whether you need immediately, need it occasionally so it doesn't have to be aboard, or don't really need it at all. In the first case, put it back aboard. For the second, store it at home or in a storage locker. For the third, sell or toss it.

Next, is it moldy? If it is, if it can be cleaned, clean it. If not toss it. Bringing moldy things on a boat virtually guarantees a continuous fight with it.

Is it something that can expire? Is it expired or will it soon? If not, back aboard, but note somewhere (ships log?) when it needs replacing. If it is, toss and replace. Flares are a big thing. Police and fire departments usually will take expired ones. What you don't need is expired, non working flares when the seagull poop hit's the fan.

Finally, bedding and clothing that need washing should be washed.

Everyone cleans the outside of the boat during the summer. Herb has come up with a once-a-season wax mixture that really works - it's a little harder to put on, but, boy, does it work like a champ.

Before I tell you what's in it, I'll have to make sure he's not going to trademark it!

I can do Inertia in one day. Two days if I wax the hull.

What's the point and what does it have to do with a new boat?

When you're finished with this project, you will find you've bonded more deeply with your vessel. You'll also see it the way you did when you first bought it - just like the new boat you wanted.

I'll be seeing you on the water!

Saturday, November 25, 2006

So Much To Do, But I'd Rather Be Sailing

Other than having another birthday, November is typically a slow month - The occasional day for sailing in the Northeast is characterized either by howling winds or cold rain or both. None of which is conducive to sailing.

What has been going on is the search for a new boat (new to me, anyway). The project is to find one, preferrably a ketch, in the 40 - 45 foot range with a center cockpit and walk under to the aft cabin. As fast as Inertia is, and as much wind as she'll take, she's just too small for a liveaboard for very long. Especially since I need an office of a sort. But no fear, if I sell my townhouse first, I'm there on Inertia for a bit.

There are several boats I'm considering, such as the Pearson 424, Morgan 43, Gulfstar Hirsh 45, and a few others. They all come in sloop and ketch rigs, but as I sail alone alot, a split rig seems more managable in more conditions. None of them are particularly fast, nor do they point very well, but I suspect that's because of the location of the genoa tracks and the fact that most of them don't have very good travelers.

I've even looked at a Beneteau 46 7 which is ocean ready. It's a lovely boat, but draws 8 feet and is a sloop with a huge mainsail. For me, a recipe for disaster. But it is well equipped. Contact Samalot Marine if you're interested. And you have around $125,000.

There have been several incidents in the news lately (at least the marine news). In the last month or so four incidents of Coast Guard rescues have occurred where the causes were either a poorly found boat or poorly prepared sailors. Check out these links:
There has been a lot of discussion about how much and how far Coast Guards should go to rescue private yachts in trouble. A number of countries in Europe and now Canada either require inspections of yachts going offshore or are contemplating the same - no inspection, no rescue. There already are strick inspection requirements for offshore racing for insurance reasons mostly. Look at the Newport Bermuda or Marion Bermuda races. It's really hard (read that 'expensive') to pass all the requirement's and inspections...

If you're going offshore, you should be prepared as best you can, your boat should be well found, and you should not be expecting rescue. If you can't meet these requirements you should really think twice about long offshore passages.

How can you prepare yourself? The simple answer is know your boat and its systems - not just that they exist but that you can find and fix them. Know how to navigate with a form other than the installed GPS. Several portable GPS backups and batteries, a sextant and the ability to use it, paper (preferrably waterproof) charts as a backup to the GPS charts.

There are so few things anymore where we're not protected from ourselves by those who believe they know better. Sailing, and especially ocean sailing is one of those things that can't be regulated all that well. Let's all keep it that way.

See you on the water!

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Close Enough To An Anniversary

It was just about one year ago I started this blog, and I certainly hope to keep it going - inasmuch as I'm looking to move to a larger boat that will be my home and office. It's not that Inertia can't be that, but it would be very cramped and I'd probably not be able to sail her very much because of the difficulty of keeping stuff stowed.

But that's another story. This one is how you can modify your boat to make winterizing a snap!

Many people really dread winterizing and pay a yard to do it - but with a little tubing, some valves and an inexpensive air compressor you can do the job very easily.

Before we start, safety: If your thru-hull valves are not in good condition, or you can't operate them simply, then you'll have to do whatever you did or do the job while the boat is out of the water. You won't be able to modify the hoses while water is pouring in. Don't even try. Next, make sure you use good quality hoses, valves, and hose clamps- The valves should be stainless steel ball valves or plastic schedule 40 minimum (80 is better). The hose clamps should be all stainless steel. This isn't an expensive job - don't cheap out on the hardware.

Freshwater cooled engine's have two cooling systems - the freshwater (see my post about changing the freshwater pump back in August) and the raw water system. The freshwater system you just fill and check like your car's - it uses either the green stuff or the new red stuff available at auto or marine stores. Just make sure you get the right stuff.

You know this post wouldn't be complete without an opinion. My water tanks are clean. They have no taste and the piping to the faucets is cpvc. It is only on the very hottest days below that you can taste the plastic in the water from the tanks. I use it all the time for brushing my teeth and so forth. I generally drink bottled water, but I don't have to. Because of this, I hate the idea of putting the red potable antifreeze in the water system. It's too hard to get the taste out during the season. So I don't use it.

Now the theory: The only time water will hurt piping is if it's confined in freezing weather. A full cpvc tube will freeze and break. Ditto a water heater or water tank. But if there's just a little bit of water, it's no problem. Also: a dry thru-hull won't freeze.

When I bought Inertia, I put tees and valves at the potable water tank outlets - these are at the bottom of the tanks and and drain into the bilge. I open and drain the tanks and leave the valves open all winter. If you don't have access to the bottoms of the tanks (for instance, they're built into the keel) then you'll need to pump them dry - run all the water out until the pump sucks air. That means the pipes should be dry to the pump, or at least mostly empty. But the pipes after the pump and the hotwater heater will still be full.

Another project I did when I first bought Inertia was to install a shoreside water adapter. You don't need to do this, but one way or another you're going to put a fitting on the cold water side of your water system for a compressor. I made a fitting from parts at Home Depot that joined an male airhose connector to a male waterhose connector. One screws into the shorewater connection, the other connects to an airhose to the compressor.

Note: Make absolutely sure your compressor is oil-less, or oil free and there's no lubricator at or near the regulator. This is extremely important - you don't want oil in your water lines.

If you're going to install a shoreside water regulator, do that - it will require cutting a hole somewhere and following the installation instructions - it's an afternoon job and maybe $100 in parts including the regulator. You'll need to tee into the cold water line after your internal potable water pump. Most of those pumps have check valves so water can't flow backwards through it. If yours does not, you'll need to install one on the pump discharge as close as possible to the pump.

While I'm talking about the potable water pump you'll want to put a tee with a short hose and a ball valve just after the pump and the check valve I mentioned before - if you're not going to install the shoreside water supply, then you can use this valve and tee as a place for connecting the air compressor. The time to do this should be a couple of hours and perhaps $40 in fittings valve and hoses.

You may be getting the idea here - instead of connecting a water hose to the system, we're going to connect a compressor then open valves in the potable water system one at a time and blow the water out of the pipes.

Using a compressor, set the output pressure no more than 40lbs or so. Higher pressure won't work better and could burst a pipe. Most potable water pumps have cutoff switches at 45lbs, so you'll be under that.

On Inertia, I start with the cockpit shower hot water - I run that until all that blows out is vapor. Usually that empties the hot water heater. Then, to be sure, I open the hot water heater's drain valve until all that comes out is sputtering or vapor. Finally I open the head's hot water valve until just vapor comes out, and finally the galley's hot water valve. Only one valve is open at a time, and I wait for each to just release vapor. It doesn't make sense to try to dry the lines out.

Next, I do the same thing with the cold water valves - one at a time until only vapor comes out.

Finally, I open my tee near the pump and run that out - if you're using that to inject air, you don't have to do that.

It took longer to describe this than it actually took to winterize the potable water system.

The engine raw water system requires closing the supply thru-hull, cutting the hose to the engine, installing a tee with a ball valve on the T and a length of hose long enough to reach to the bottom of a bottle of antifreeze - here you need to use the red potable stuff since it will end up going out the exhaust hose.

Simply, get your bottle of antifreeze ready with the hose in it and the thru-hull closed and the new tee valve open. Start the engine- if you have a big engine or lots of exhaust hose, make sure you have a couple of gallons of antifreeze so you can switch. You could also have a friend watch the exhaust outside the boat to see when it turns pink or red. When it does, stop the engine.

Next, connect the compressor to the hose and while the air is blowing open the thru-hull. When you hear air bubbling out around the hull (you will), close the thru-hull and remove the air hose. Then close the valve on the tee. Remember, even if your thru-hull is three feet under water the back pressure is about a pound and a half - don't overdo it with the air hose. The last thing you want to do is blow all your hoses off. Not that I think you can do it. But who knows? I'm certainly not going to experiment with that.

Finally, I winterize the head - I installed a tee in the head inlet water line. I close the inlet thru-hull, open the valve on the tee, stick the hose in the antifreeze container, and pump the head just like it is being used. Then I take the hose out of the container, and pump the head until I hear air going out the discharge, then close both valves.

For the sink drains, in the head I can blow out the drain with air and close the thru-hull, but in the galley, there's no way to close the big drain holes so here's the trick with that: pour enough antifreeze into the sink until there's an inch or so in the sink(s). Open the thru-hull until the sink drains and then close it. Bada boom, bada bing, fuggeddabouddit.

The last things to be winterized are the shower sump pump and the bilge pumps - just pour antifreeze into the bilge (hopefully dry first) and pump it through the bilge pumps. Do the same with the shower sump and it's pump.

That's all there is to it. Total time to winterize Inertia - 1.5 hours, maybe 3 gallons of antifreeze.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Finally! I Get To Use The Spinnaker!

This week was signal for two reasons - well, maybe three. First, it's near peak color in the lower Hudson Valley. Next, Laura and Cory took some guests out on their boat, Cassiopeia and had the foresight to bring a camera, and finally, I got some great pictures from them on the sail which I'll share now.

Sunday was overcast, and started with little wind - so as we left Haverstraw Marina, with my friend Janet aboard, we just pootled around mostly pushed upriver by the current. Laura came out a bit later and we decided to travel up river into Tomkins Cove.

Haverstraw Bay is bounded on the north by Stony Point on the west side and Verplanck on the east side. As soon as we started upriver I decided to fly the spinnaker, and so with great swearing, hopping around, and so forth, I got the asym up and drawing very nicely.

We started to fly up the river to catch up to Cassiopeia, which is a fast boat in light air, even downwind! We passed just north of Stony Point and had to gybe before running aground. Of course, that's when I found out that downhaul (tack) was inside the lazy sheet. You can imagine the ensuing hijinks. A barrel of fun! I sure had Janet hopping about the cockpit as we ran towards the Tomkins Cove Quarry.

Finally, with everything under control, we set off to catch Cassie again near Jones Point where the river turns from northeast to northwest towards the Bear Mountain Bridge, away from Peekskill. We gybed again and realized as we were taking the chute down that we should have paid more attention to the wind behind us. As usual.

The sail back was a rousing beat back down the river - with a final reach into the marina. And as usual, the wind died exactly after we tied up! Cassie had already gotten there and the crew was on the Amistad which is the ship from the movie. By the time we got there, though, the tours were closed. Ah, well.

Hey! News Flash! My First Post To Google Earth! Search for postings by 'Mad Sailor' or L. C. Tiffany!

Look, there's still some season left! See you on the water!

Monday, October 16, 2006

One More Year Under The Belt

Every year has its cycles. Like the swallows of San Capistrano, Inertia travels down the Hudson in the spring and back up in the fall. Last weekend was the trip back to Haverstraw Marina about 32 miles up the Hudson from the Battery on west shore just below Stony Point and Grassy Point.

In the past thirteen years, it usually has been a slog through bad weather - 20 to 25 knots on the nose, short chop, cold rain or mist, and general uncomfortablness. This year, however, was very different.

First, rather than hosting a party on Inertia, we had a convoy - a flotilla, as it were. Herb & Gina, Laura & Cory and Bob & Carol all decided this year to winter in Haverstraw. Mostly for reasons of cost. The marinas on the Long Island Sound have all suddenly gone insane, mostly due to the Brewers Yards. Apparently in an effort to ensure that boaters with a budget don't have anywhere to go they raised prices to astronomical levels.

Anyway, Friday afternoon we all met at the Haverstraw Marina to ride to over to Stamford, Ct. Along for the ride was Aaron and Suzanne travelling on Laura's boat. I went with Laura as well as a hand. Unfortunately, there was wind, directly on the nose - out of the west. That's ok, because all we were going to do was go to City Island for an evening at my club. We arrived at about 8 pm and all picked up a mooring with help from the launch driver.

Off to the clubhouse for a spectacular meal. We all got back to the boats around 11 for a great, if short sleep - Laura and gang wanted to go out for breakfast, so in order to leave at 9 am, we had to get to the Island Cafe at 7:30 or so. For early morning food on City Island, there are really only two sit-down places, the Island Cafe and the City Island Diner. Both are good, and the only benefit of the Island Cafe had this day is its proximity to the yacht club.

Well, after a big, comforting, and filling breakfast we waddled off to the boats to await the departure time of 9 am. I had to wait for Jack to show up, as he was coming along with me. I've been known to do this trip alone but it's always much nicer with company.

A side note, here, about tides. The best way to travel down the East River and up the Hudson is to reach the Battery (southern tip of Manhattan) 2 hours after low tide. Plus a little. The nature of tides in these two rivers is such that going from west to east there is a four hour window. From east to west, only two. Moreover, the currents in the East River can reach 6 + knots. Timing is everything. One trip took me 21 hours because with a fouled prop I couldn't make it through the East River in time.

This trip around the Battery is a bridge lovers dream trip. There are 10 bridges to travel under. If your mast is less than 40' above the water you could add one more. From City Island the first bridge is the Throgs Neck Bridge connects 95 to 295 via 695 and spans the waters from the SUNY Maritime College on Throgs Point to Cryders Point. It separates the Eastchester Bay from the beginning of the East River to the west. Willets Point is just to the east of Cryders Point.

The next bridge traveling west is the Whitestone Bridge spanning the neck fro Old Ferry Point to Whitestone Point. It carries US 678.

As you continue west, you pass Flushing Bay to the south where La Guardia Airport is. A little farther on the channel passes between Riker's Island (the NYC Dept. of Correction's prison) to the south and Hunts Point to the north. Shortly thereafter is the channel between North and South Brother Islands. South Brother is just a bit of rock and scrub, but North Brother is where the sanitarium Typhoid Mary was housed. The island is overgrown, but most of the buildings still stand.

There is a channel that goes north of North Brother Island, but only really big ships go that way. Passing South Brother there's a channel to the southeast into Bowery Bay. Don't bother going there.

The next bridge you pass under is the purple Amtrak bridge named Hell Gate Bridge. Right next to that is the Triboro Bridge at Negro Point. The area called Hell Gate runs from the Hell Gate Bridge past Mill Rock to the mouth of the Harlem River to the north and Roosevelt Island to the south. Although Hell Gate can have some wicked currents and eddies, all but the very smallest of boats will pass without problem. Hell Gate is named after the Dutch "Beautiful Water" rather than the more ominous interpretation.

Travelling south into the East River you'll see Gracie Mansion to your right. Roosevelt Island has an east and west channel. Stay to the west channel unless your mast height is less than 40 feet or you'd like to take you mast down in the most spectacular manner possible.

The East River channels are narrow and can be very fast flowing. I've gone past Roosevelt Island at 14 knots over the ground and 5 knots through the water. Because it's deep and narrow it can set up mogul like standing waves that are really unpleasant to travel over. Most vessels, including tankers and barges go through during or near slack tide. If you're not travelling up the Hudson, you can go at max ebb. It's a real sleigh ride.

At the middle of Roosevelt Island is the 59th Street Bridge (real name: Queensboro Bridge). It's the one from the song by Simon and Garfunkle. It's a beautiful iron link suspension bridge with exquisite tower top ornaments.

A mile or so later is the Williamsburg Bridge. There's not alot to be said about it. It's short and functional, and it precedes the turn west towards the Battery. As you round that corner Governors Island, the Statue of Liberty, South Street Seaport, and the Battery heave into view.

Shortly you'll pass under the Manhattan Bridge and then the famous Brooklyn Bridge. At this point, if you've calculated your tide correctly you'll be fighting between a 1 and 2 knot current. No worries, though, because it's only for a quarter mile or so until you round the Battery with the Staten Island Ferry Terminal to your right. There will be a short way with no current, and then you'll be sucked up the Hudson.

By the time we got to the Battery, we were worried that we would not make it - our speed had reduced to 3 knots against the current. Of course, we did, as planned. The wind was out of the southwest so we set sail as soon as we rounded into the Hudson River. We were travelling at 5.5 knots through the water, but up to 8 knots over the ground in gusts. What a ride!

By 2pm we had reached the George Washington Bridge with the Little Red Lighthouse beneath the east tower. With the wind still more or less from the southwest we were able to cruise up between the Palisades to the west and the Bronx to the east, past Spyten Dyvil, the northern terminus of the Harlem River.

When the river widened out a couple of miles south of Piermont, the wind increased to 18 - 20 knots and away we went in earnest! It was spectacular sailing! A couple of squalls passed, and we still sailed under the Tappan Zee Bridge. Sailed on towards Hook Mountain. Then, in the shadow of the mountain took the sails down in preparation for arrival. Good thing, too, as the wind veered north - or, on the nose for the last half hour.

All of us arrived at the Haverstraw Marina within a few minutes of each other, with Cassiopeia first, Inertia second, Goldeneye third, and Spirit last. No matter - the entire trip was 8 hours and 15 minutes - the fastest I'd ever done it. It was just perfect!

Of course, nothing would do but to have cocktails and snacks aboard Cassiopeia, and so we did. The group broke up around 7:30, and I took Jack to Suffern for a bus - we ate at a little Mexican place called Sal y Limon. It's the smallest restaurant with only a few tables, but the food is good, service is great, and if you like Mexican food, it's the best place in Suffern. The other Mexican restaurants there are to fru-fru or expensive for me.

Anyway, Jack got on the 9pm bus to Port Authority, and that was that. I toddled on home for a well deserved good night's rest.

Inertia may be up the Hudson for the winter, but I hope I'll still see you on the water!

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

News and News

Well, today I'll be seeing how public transport works from my client in downtown Manhattan to City Island where there will be a yacht club meeting. I just want to see how it goes. Frankly, I was going to try this earlier in the season, but didn't because of time constraints.

So, it's an adventure.

I put up a silly little ad in Boat U.S. for Inertia and not expecting anything from it, I got a call. That was a surprise, let me tell you. It makes the sale of Inertia all the more real. And hopefully, it will result in a view and offer. We'll see.

Of course the buyer wants to see the boat, and maybe this weekend - the problem was that I wanted to go sailing Friday and return Monday, but since the boat's coming up the Hudson October 14th, I thought, no, let's hang and let the person look. So I may not get to meet my friends in Northport for Saturday evening. Ah, well. That's the way it goes. But it was a close decision.

It's certainly sad to have someone come aboard and look at your boat not as a thing of beauty, which it no doubt is, but as a series of repairs and problems. They're looking to see if they could live with the flaws, or at least deal with them within their budget.

More, they'll see all my winter projects as a reason to bargain down the price. And I'll have to take it. Arrrrgghhh!

Last weekend I went to look at a Gulfstar 41 and a Tayana Surprise, which is a ketch with equal height masts. The Gulfstar was inexpensive, but for my needs would have to have the interior redone. The 41 is just a little too small.

The Tayana was nice inside, with some very cool features, but the teak deck (I hate teak decks for so many reasons) and the fact that the mizzen was as large as the main were deal killers. The big thing about the large mizzen is that it takes as much effort to manage as the main. That's not a good thing for singlehanding or sail balance. I hate teak because it's a maintenance nightmare (although I'm prone to live and let live when it comes to that) and because it's hard to repair and finally because it's an endangered wood species.

So, the search is still on. I'm thinking of an Endeavor 42, a Pierson 42, or a Gulfstar 43/44. I really want a ketch, but will do with a sloop if easy enough to manage.

More on this later, and one way or another, I'll see you on the water!

Friday, September 22, 2006

Patience and a Bittersweet Race

It's been a while since I posted. There is some news that I hope to let you follow in, but more on that later.

Last weekend, September 16 and 17 was like an August weekend, sunny, hot, and nearly breeze-less. Still, because of my new sails, I could noodle along at three or four knots in eight knots or so of breeze. And so, on my way to where else, Oyster Bay to meet Jack, I got to sail for six hours. Slowly - Oyster Bay is really only about three hours away!

So, patience was the day's keyword. But it was so lovely, how could one complain?

As I passed Greenwich, CT, I noticed several very pretty boats in something of a race. As I drew closer I recognized them - a fleet of 12 Meters. Before the bastardization of the America's Cup with catamarans and other stupid stuff, 12 Meter yachts were the fleet. They were built to follow the rule that a competitor must be able to sail to the course from their home.

The new IACC (Internation America's Cup Class) yacht is a pure racing machine - a class boat engineered specifically for the race. You can check out for more information on them. And in some cases, perhaps not engineered well enough (see New Zealand's boat failures).

But the 12 Meter was/is a boat completely capable of crossing an ocean. They typically didn't, but they were capable of it. True, they had reached the end of their design cycle, but that's what match racing is about. The rule allowed differing dimensions. To compare, 420s aren't changing, and neither are Stars, Lasers, Sonars, or any other number of class racers.

That said, I'm sure we're not going back to the 12 Meter rule. But they were the graceful ladies of the America's Cup. Stately, sure footed, strong, and mostly swift. They were the three-leg masters, that is beat, reach, and run. The new IACC yachts are windward/leeward racers. I say, "Feh!". Talk about boring. Up, down, up, down, up down. Whatever.

Ok, so maybe there are others who feel the IACC boats are beautiful, but to me, they're big racing dinghys. Totally useless for anything else.

But the 12 Meters. They are the Marilyn Monroe of racing boats, curvy, sweet, and beautiful. They take your (well, my ) breath away.

Ok, well, enough of that, since I could go on. So the sweet part of seeing the race (remember the race?) was all those lovely ladies sailing stately around the marks. The bitter part was seeing how low they had fallen. Crappy sails shown, conservative sailing. No longer the belle of the ball, sort of floating amusement parks.

Oh, sure, I know it takes money to keep them up, and one way is to rent them out, like the J-Boats. Still, to have fallen from the pinnacle to this. It would almost be better to have converted them to cruising yachts. Ah, well.

Ok, now the news! I have decided to find a new boat and move aboard. This is a whole new project, and one I look forward to with great glee. Also, I hope to change career. So if you've gotten tired of hearing about projects on Inertia, then be prepared for totally new projects on whatever the new vessel's name will be (probably 'Inertia' as well as I'll make that a condition of selling the boat).

So, all the trials and tribulations of finding and buying the new vessel, the projects and everything else. It'll be fun for me. Maybe you'll all get something out of it, too.

'Til then, I'll see you on the water!

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Fall Sailing Is Fun!

Finding a fall day that is perfect is always a surprise. This weekend I had planned to work on a new server install, but it went totally well and I finished Saturday. So Sunday I got up early and headed down to the boat.

I got there around 9 am, and it was lovely with a terrific breeze, and overcoming my natural inertia, I decided to see if I could go the whole day without the engine!

Clearly, if you're a powerboat owner, going a day without the engine is, uh, well, not going. But for a sailor, it's a day of challenge and a rosy feeling when successfully accomplished. Rosy in a very different way when not so successfully done.

Anyway, I sailed off the mooring through the mooring field around the island and off to infinity and beyond!

Almost a guilty pleasure, this found sailing time. A fluke, a gift. Perfect weather, perfect seas, perfect wind, perfect temperature. Another one of the days that makes owning a sailboat such a pleasure.

One of the things I did notice, however, is that my rig needs adjusting. So I'll have a bit to say about that later. It's ok if the leeward shrouds are a bit loose, but they shouldn't be flapping about.

Still, I sailed about for a few hours with nowhere in particular to go and then returned to the mooring to pick it up under sail. Only two tries!

I strongly recommend anyone with a sailboat learn how to perform four activities - sail up to and away from a dock (oops! ran out of fuel!), sail off and back on a mooring. There's books about that, but you know what? I think there are at least two more entries here on those subjects. And no, the day's activities were not experiments. I really do know how to do them.

Clearly sailing into a slip is a bunch harder, but it can be done if there's room to tack or jibe. But most marinas, with good reason, don't allow it. It's one of those activites that lead to good judgement. (Good judgement comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgement.) Definitely and emergency type of thing.

Anyway, more on that later.

And since there's still some great weekends left to the year, I hope to see you on the water!

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Labor Day 2006

Here in the Northeast U.S. summer is delimited by Memorial Day and Labor Day. Between those two dates, slips are hard come by, moorings are iffy, and the Long Island Sound is thick with boats on weekends. Before or after, one has most of all facilities to themselves.

This Labor Day weekend started with the remains of Ernesto which left a number of moored boats on lee shores. Saturday was consistantly rainy with winds out of the east. On the Sound, east and west winds are absolutely the worst. There is nearly 100 miles of fetch and the Sound shoals at either end. It can get very nasty with waves in the 10-15 foot range but very close together. I've been in 10-12 foot waves that were little more than 60 feet crest to crest. That's short, steep, and very uncomfortable.

Fortunately for my clubmates and I, City Island Yacht Club is on the west side of City Island, so although there were steady east winds at 35 knots gusting to 50 (or so I've heard), our boats were well protected. The club had its Labor Day cookout, but I spent the day creatively napping.

Sunday, however was a different story. I got to the boat around 8 am. when it was cloudy and threating looking. But as someone's mother said, there was more than enough blue in the sky to make a pair of pants. Also, a nice breeze was filling in from the southwest.

I took a few minutes to install the lovely toerail cleats I purchased (pictures show why - new on top), and then started calling my friends to see if they could come out and play. My first call to Herb went something like this:

"Hi Herb, you coming sailing today? Let's go to Oyster Bay!"

"Uh, I don't know it's looking kinda gloomy here."

"Nah, it's sunny with white puffy clouds - it's heading your way."

"I don't see it - it looks like, uh, wait a minute! It's getting sunny! We'll see you there!"

Essentially the same conversation with Bob and Carol, and Jack. So a plan is afoot. My guest couldn't make it, so I had enough food for an army. (There is nothing wrong with keeping a well stocked boat. Besides, my friends all expect it from me.)

The wind was delightful as I sailed off the mooring around the southern tip of City Island, then up between City Island and Hart Island. The morning had become quite comfortable so I took the opportunity to go shirtless for a last time this year, I supposed.

I sailed through the channel between David's Island and Hart Island out towards Execution Rock Light. The wind was building out of the south southwest, so it was nearly perfect for a broad reach. And so I went. A lovely day, a lovely sail.

About three hours later I arrived at the entrance to the Cold Spring/Oyster Bay harbors. Since there was no rush at all, I sailed almost to the agreed upon anchorage. I know I could anchor under sail, but running the engine for a bit gives me hot water for later. How hedonistic...

Herb & Gina's Passport 40Jack's Olsen 38Not too long thereafter in sailed Herb & Gina on Goldeneye (a Passport 40), followed by Jack on Barefoot (an Olsen 38), and Bob & Carol on Spirit (an Ericson 35). Since we planned to all leave at different times, we all anchored seperately. Normally, I'll raft up with Jack or he with me.

Herb getting me with dinghyAnyway Herb blew up his dinghy ( I didn't bring my kyack) and came and got me with all my food and wine and so forth to instigate a party on Goldeneye. So as we waited for the others, we figured sun over the yardarm and all, it was time for wine, cheese, crackers, and anything else we could put out.

Bob & Carol show upJack showed up, followed by Bob & Carol who had gone to look for the mooring they'd be using for the night after the party. So they rafted to Goldeneye and I took the dinghy to pick up Jack, and all were there for the cocktail hour(s).

Jack ArrivesGina's neverending stream of food from belowThe official hors d'oeuvre of Inertia is hot soprasotta, brie cheese and Triskets. Although a new one is being added for variety: smoked oysters with cream cheese on Triskets. Triskets figure prominently in my boating because even if damp still retain the necessary structural integrity to contain the toppings. Your soda crackers and so forth become too mushy. But I digress.

The night was cool and as it progressed it got cloudy, almost looking as if it were going to rain. But it didn't.

Dinner, eventually, was barbequed chicken and salad and other sides - down in Goldeneye out of the cool evening. Very toasty, very comfortable, and very good. It must be the fresh air!

Eventually, even veteran partiers must give in to Morpheus' gentle prodding, and Bob & Carol dropped Jack and I off on our boats on their way to the mooring. After checking the anchor, taking a lukewarm shower in the cockpit and reading for a bit I went to sleep.

Barefoot in the morning in Oyster BayGoldeneye in the morning in Oyster BayOyster Bay in the morning

Because Laura was having a barbeque on Monday, I had to get up early to get the tide out of Oyster Bay at least and to sail back to City Island. So I got up around 6 am and made my coffee, and because of the lack of wind, started the engine, weighed anchor and started my journey back. As usual I was mildly irritated that I'd have to motor home against the tide, but lo and behold, as I got to the harbor entrance, the wind came up out of the west (feh! Nothing but tacking back and forth!).

Still, I raised the sails and off I went. The problem of going west against the tide and into a west wind is that huge tacks across the sound take lots of time but gain very little towards the goal so when the wind died about two hours later, I decided to motor the rest of the way (still over an hour away).

The surest way to get a fair wind is to lower and cover the sails. I guarantee it. After a half hour of motoring the wind veered to the northwest, a perfect point for sailing back to the club. It also increased to 15 knots or so, so being lazy, I unfurled the jib, and shutdown the motor. Woohoo! Perfect! The Best! Sunny, puffy white clouds, boat heeled in a most nautical way, speeding along with the champagne bubbles sound, breeze in what is left of my hair and flat seas.

What a perfect moment. These moments (ok, hours) are what make all the aggravation of keeping a boat worthwhile. More than worthwhile.

Eventually, I got back to City Island, cleaned up and put away the boat and headed off to Laura's party. Some pictures - all people you may or may not know, but all having a great time! The food was excellent, as was the company.

Laura's only complaint was that we should have done the Vineyard Race - from Stamford, CT. to Buzzards Bay Light and back. It started on Saturday, and all but 4 boats dropped out. She was pissed because we could have won! Yes, well, that's true. But let's see, a day racing in storm conditions or two days gently sailing about and partying? Hmmm, which shall I choose?

You know which one.

Well, Monday ended when I scooted home and toddled off to bed. The weather was so perfect for sleeping I almost didn't get up in time for work. Yech!

Still, there are a lot more weekends to be had this year! So I hope I'll see you on the water for a few of them, anyway!

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Sail The Weather, Not The Weather Report

I think I've learned this now. Time will tell. Last weekend, although rain was predicted all weekend, Saturday provided some spirited lazy man's sailing (15 -20 only the genoa) . And anchoring in Oyster Bay was quiet, pleasantly cool, and very relaxing. I was joined by another club member and we had a pretty good time, I must say.

Sunday resulted in a very pleasnt sail back, with the attendant downpour upon arriving at the dock. But still, I'm glad we went. Got some good sailing in, and the normal anchoring fun.

This is not to say one should totally ignore NOAA's weather reports. Very often, ok, sometimes they're spot on. Sometimes, they totally underestimate wind and sea states. I got stories about that, too.

But for coastal daysailing, expecially in a sound, you're probably a better judge. You're right there, and NOAA is doing all this from geosynchronous satellites. Clearly, if it's nice weather but a hurricane is coming up within 24 hours, that's a whole different matter. Use your common sense.

Oh, yes, and sometimes you'll be wrong.

On another tack, I've been on the web looking for nice track mounted cleats. I have these cheesy black plastic ones that came with the boat. They serve the purpose, but I saw in West Marine some really nice ones by Schaeffer - beautiful, shiny stainless steel. But they were $111 each there! Arrrggghh!

Ok, so you might not find cleats titillating. But get this: at I got them both for $139.90! All right! I can't wait. Also, from D&B Marine I got a replacement speed sensor for my Raymarine ST-40. Feh. Didn't need that! Anyway, got a good price, and had it the next day! What a surprise that was! More surprising was that they were still in business- I had heard years ago they went out, but apparently they are doing well still. For what they have, they have good prices.

This weekend, Labor Day 2006, is promising to be a washout - as it was last year - but last year it was actually spectacular. So who knows.

One way or the other, I'll be on the water - I hope to see you there!

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Sometimes A Boat Is Place Away From Home

Even though I know better, instead of sailing the conditions, I sailed NOAA's predictions which were for bad weather - thunderstorms, rain in the afternoon for all night basically, and rain on and off all Sunday.

So I popped down to the boat figuring I'd take the good weather in the morning to clean the bottom of the boat. For some reason, City Island grows slime and grass like it's nobody's business. It only takes two weeks and your bottom needs scrubbing. Even with the paint I've used from Florida which is supposed to last two seasons there.

Anyway, after scrubbing the bottom - an onerous and tiring task, I showered in the cockpit - if you have pressure water on your boat and you don't have a cockpit shower, you really should install one. It's such a pleasure! And it helps to keep salt from below. Salt in the upholstery keeps the below damp, even on dry days. It's best to minimize it.

But I digress, as usual.

So with almost no wind, I decided to take a nap. With the hatches open so a breeze flows through the cabin it was cool and dim and oh, so comfortable. Nappies! Perfect.

Around 3 in the afternoon, I woke up and went out into the cockpit to read for a while. The breeze had picked up, the clouds that threatened thunderstorms had blown away, but I was just to relaxed to get the boat ready to go. So I didn't.

Some days, the boat provides a haven. And that's pretty much ok.

Of course, the day ended with cocktails and dinner at the club. How bad can that be? I'll tell you: Not at all. I met and renewed acquaintances from the club including the owner of a Tartan Ten I used to race on! I may actually race on it again for fun one day.

During dinner, apparently, it rained. But since we were eating on the porch, no worries. Later, I toddled off to Inertia for a great night's sleep.

Next weekend, a club member will come with me to either Northport or Oyster Bay to raft up or moor or anchor for some much needed partying. (I mean, partying is always needed!)

There will be pictures and more notes on that.

Maybe I'll see you on the water! I hope so.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Perfectly Ending A Vacation

Normally I end a sailing vacation in a horror show of motoring into 20 knot winds, rain , and six foot chop. By the time I get back to the dock or mooring the vacation forgotten in drenched clothes, broken gear, empty fuel tanks, stress of getting myself together to go back to work.

This time was characterized as one of the best sailing days of the year - the kind of day where the tide, wind, and sky all come together to make almost a spiritual experience! The sky was deep blue with little puffy cumulus clouds over land and a few high cirrus clouds all in a deep blue sky. Wind out of the north, and the tide in flood (the best for going west in Long Island Sound). A perfect beam reach. It was the kind of day you want to hand steer the whole day so you don't miss any of it!

But how did I get here? When last you heard, I was at Watch Hill, RI. Well, that's a long story.

My friends, Herb & Gina and Bob & Carol started their journey back to Stamford, CT on Saturday and I sailed over to Fisher's Island to anchor for the evening. Once the thunderstorms passed through Thursday night, the weather turned really pleasant - in the 80's during the day, 60's at night.

Fisher's Island, the island that is the southern bound of Fisher's Island Sound (obviously) and between Watch Hill, RI and the Race at the very north eastern end of Long Island Sound is actually part of New York State. It's obviously nowhere near New York, but that's a whole 'nother story.

On the west end there's a harbor with a large anchorage outside, called interestingly enough, West Harbor. Given that the prevailing summer winds are out of the southwest, this is well protected and the holding ground is perfect. The only thing you need to be aware of is the rocks and in the south eastern end. You'll see them before you hit them. The only direction the harbor isn't protected in is to the north east.

I spent the day swimming and kyacking throughout the main harbor. The Fisher's Island Yacht Club is in there and also a fuel dock. There are a few pretty inlets that go on for quite a bit, almost bisecting the island. All very pretty. I think I could live there! If you look at a chart, you'll see that West Harbor is only about 5 nautical miles (nm) from Watch Hill, so it's a really short sail. There is a store on Fisher's, so if you really need food, then you can get some.

Monday I was supposed to pick up my friend, Julie, (the very same from the Bermuda trip) for a couple of days of sailing about, so Sunday I sailed the 3 nm to Spicer's Noank marina. They're a Boat U.S. participating marina so if you're a member, you get a discount on slip rates.

I can't say enough good things about Spicer's. The docks are floating concrete - solid and well maintained. The heads are clean and comfortable. The office people are universally friendly and helpful, and Abbott's Lobster In The Rough is a short walk away! In fact, within easy walking distance is a general store with an excellent butcher, and four restaurants, including the aforementioned Abbott's. Next to Abbott's is Costello's Clam Shack. Get it? Abbots and Costello's? These links may not be working. Do a Google search if not. But Noank, CT is so small that you can walk easily from one end to the other in 10 minutes with a few minutes left over.

Back to Spicers - I spent the day cleaning the boat for company, talking to people on the dock and generally just fooling around. It was a pleasant day, to say the least. In the evening, I walked over to Fisherman's Restaurant about a half mile away to the west. After a very pleasant meal, I tootled on back to the boat to sleep.

The plan was for Julie to get there around 1 pm so we could get the outgoing tide for Newport and Naragansett Bay (we were going to Bristol), but due to traffic and other delays she didn't arrive until about 3:30pm, or the end of the outgoing tide. Since I'd gone shopping and had a fully stocked larder (from the general store mentioned above), we decided to just go to Fisher's Island again to anchor. So that's what we did.

I grilled some fresh chicken and made a salad, and we ate in the cockpit watching the sun go down. Very relaxing.

The next day, which would be Tuesday, we sailed from West Harbor west past New London and then back to Watch Hill, RI. It was a day of swimming and kyacking again - Although Julie had to get some work done, so I spent the day doing other stuff. That night, we grilled steak, had salad and rice & beans. Mmmm. Eating during sunset is really special. The moon was full so it was almost like day. The sky was totally clear. Very beautiful.

Wednesday we sailed back to Spicer's and I got a slip for the evening. We ate on the boat again, and Thursday morning I had to start my journey back, so Julie left the boat at 6:30 am so I could catch most of the tide back towards City Island.

The wind was 8 to 10 knots out of the southwest which is exactly the wrong direction for going southwest - I ended up motoring the day to Milford, CT, just west of New Haven. It was a long day of motoring but the autopilot really helped with that! I got to sail for about an hour before I anchored in 'The Gulf' north of Charles Island outside Milford Harbor. The holding ground is pretty good, and as the afternoon and evening got on more and more boats joined the anchorage.

At low tide there's a bar that connects Milford to Charles Island and apparently a number of people walk the bar and around the island. They fly kites from the bar. And just before it's flooded again, they run back to the mainland.

A few thunderstorms moved through north of us and the wind moved to the north during the night. The next morning it was 65 degrees and breezy and brilliantly sunny. I motored out of the anchorage and set sail as soon as I was clear of the marking bouys.

That brings me to the wonderful sail back to City Island. As I mentioned, it was one of those days that makes the whole boat ownership thing worthwhile.

I figures I'd refill the fuel tank at Capri Marina in Port Washington (Manhassett Bay). It turns out that it's been purchased by Brewer's - who owns a large number of marinas in the northeast. They have universally driven up prices for slips and moorings and apparently have the attitude that if you own a boat you should pay through the teeth. It should be painful.

When you go to one of their marinas, not only do you pay top dollar for the slip ($3.00/ft/night during the week, $3.50 during the weekend) but you pay extra for electricity. In other words, for the price of a decent hotel room with all of it's amenities, you get a hole in the water. Nothing more. Also, although I don't use their services for repair, I've been told, at least in the case of Yacht Haven in Stamford Ct. that it's less than stellar and expensive besides.

Because of this, I no longer go to Branford (because Lenny's is there) , Greenport (Preston's is there), or any other Brewer's marina. I'm not against making a profit. I am against usury. Spicer's was $2.50/ft/night but discounted for Boat U.S. members, so Inertia ended up being like $67/night with electricity included. No extra charge. In fact, they were surprised when I asked about that.

Remember, transients are not in slips, generally, that are transient only. They are already sold for the summer and provided to transients when the owner is out. So the marina makes the money for the summer (very expensive at Brewer's - in Stamford, $122 - $133 per foot) plus anything they make from transients. It's win/win for the marina. I don't feel bad for them. But of course, if Brewer's raises their prices, so do other marinas because, well, they can. It's partially the reason I left mine in Harbor House.

I can't do anything else but vote with my money.

End of rant. It falls under the heading, "Just because you can do something, doesn't mean you should do that something". It's a great big nose thumb to customers.

Well, I got back to City Island Friday evening, had a great dinner and met some more of the members. It was a very pleasant end to the vacation. I'm only sorry I can't continue...

Next weekend is another weekend, eh? See you on the water!

Friday, August 04, 2006

And So It Goes...

As I write this I'm sitting on the deck of the Watch Hill Yacht Club, a fine establishment located, well, in Watch Hill, Rhode Island. I met Herb & Gina and Bob & Carol here aboard Goldeneye and Spirit respectively yesterday morning. As you will no doubt guess, I've replaced the pump and done my best to get out here.
But let me digress. From my last post you know my freshwater pump failed and resulted in Laura and I sailing almost back to City Island where we got a tow from Towboat US. If you are not a member, become one. If you don't have towing insurance, get it, and for $99, you get pretty much unlimited towing. Do it.

So back at the mooring Sunday I did some research for Kubota parts distributors. Laura got a ride home from her friend Cathy. Sunday night had dinner at the club (I still love saying that) and got moderately drunk with friends. It is a club, after all!

In case you didn't know, Universal Marine (now ow
ned by Westerbeke) are Kubotas. So are Beta Marine engines. There are parts and there are parts. The basic block and fuel system is purely Kubota. The raw water cooling, the transmission (Hurth), and the exhaust system is Universal. But Universal ground off the Kubota serial numbers of everything. Still, you can find the right model by year and cylinders of the engine. Anyway, mine is a Kubota D950 engine.

I went to Engine Distributors, Inc. of 400 University Court, Blackwood, NJ 08012 (Telephone: 856.228.7298, Fax: 856.228.5531) for the water pump. They were courteous, and responsive, and helped me identify the pump properly. And they agreed to send it overnight, 10:30 delivery. And at 10:30 Tuesday, I had my pump! Woohoo! Pump from Universal dealer: $238. Pump from Engine Distributors: $80. Difference in pump: Nothing. Part of the basic powerplant.

Well, almost woohoo. There's a fitting on the pump that supplies water to the hot water heater (in a tractor, it supplies it to the cabin heating system). The fitting doesn't come with it, so I thought I'd take it out of the old pump. Well after hours of swearing and banging and hacksawing I find that my fitting was pressed in. That's no help.

Off I went to Buddy's Hardware Store, just a couple of blocks from the yacht club. He has a 1/8" pipe to 3/8" hose barb fitting, but the pump has machine thread! Crap. But wait, I'm not going nuts. Let me see a 1/8" pipe tap. Wow! The threads are correct! Ok, I'm outta here with the barb fitting and a can of 3 in 1 oil, and the pipe tap. Twenty minutes later, I'm on the boat with the new pump, newly tapped hole with the hose barb installed (using teflon tape) and installing it on the engine.

Done deal. Pictures abound here, so enjoy.

Two hours later, engine's up and running, I've filled the water and fuel tanks and I'm on vacation!

As you all are aware, it was hot. It was hotter than hot. It was like a million degrees! But on the water, only 950,000 degrees. Much better. Since there was no wind, I motored over to Stamford Connecticut and anchored out for the evening. It didn't cool down until 2 or 3 in the morning! Yech!

To catch as much of the tide as possible and to get as far as I could, I left at 6:30 in the morning to get to Saybrook, on the Connecticut River. The day was unbearably hot. I sat under the umbrella killing flies.

This makes me wonder - where did all the damn flies come from - they're biting black flies. And my only weapon was a rolled up Tick-Tack wireless instruments catalog. I must have killed a hundred of them. The cockpit was littered with smashed corpses of flys and splotches of my blood. I was going to anchor out, but I decided to go to Between The Bridges Marina so I could hose the boat down and refuel.

But it was hot there. They had a pool which I partook of and the men's room was airconditioned. Had I known that, I'd've stayed there!

Anyway from Saybrook to Watch Hill is only about 20 miles, so I left with the tide and motorsailed there. Herb & Gina and Bob & Carol showed up about 2 pm, having come from Newport. We had a lovely hot dog dinner on Herb & Gina's boat, followed by the most spectacular thunderstorm I have ever seen on the water or off!

The lightning bolts were purple and orange and white and blue - they struck ground and traveled what seemed miles along the clouds - this was real wrath-of-God type of lightning. Along with it was 50 knot winds, and rain so hard it beat the waves flat! It lasted for about half and hour - just enough for my boat to get soaked through the small hatch I forgot to close!

Today is Friday, and as I write this, a front has come through and it's now overcast with a nice cool breeze - it's supposed to get into the 60's on Tuesday, but we'll see.

Since I'll be without access until Sunday night at Noank, I'll have to see you on the water!

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Not The Best Start...

You know how sometimes things seem to be going your way and then without warning it all turns to poo? Well, this is exactly how this vacation has started.

I picked up my friend Laura Saturday morning so she could help me get the boat as far east as possible in two days - her husband was coming down from a boat delivery to Maine so he'd pick her up on the north end of the sound.

We got to the boat on time, got all loaded up and watered up and ready to go and off we went - motoring until we got past Execution Rock Light in the western Long Island Sound. The wind filled in from the west southwest and I was so excited because I could use the new spinnaker. Woohoo!

Set the spinnaker and main (you can do that off the wind if you don't have lazyjacks or other sail handling gear). Anyway, we were moving along at 5 knots or so in light wind so we shut down the iron jenny.

But it was hotter than the hammers of hell. Downwind is not the coolest point of sail - the breeze is dimished by boat speed, and the sun was killing us! Luckily I had the foresight to pick up a couple of golf umbrellas... And hey! Presto! Sunshade. It worked out spectacularly! There's always something to tie, clip, or otherwise fasten them to.

In the hottest part of the afternoon, the wind was lightening so we decided to douse the sails and go for a swim. The water was 77 degrees, but it felt cold compared to the air. Still it was spectacularly refreshing!

While we were swimming, the wind changed direction so we'd be dead downwind to get where we wanted to go, so we decided to motor the last hour or two to our goal, Milford, CT. Well, about ten minutes into the trip a really funny noise came from the engine and the water temperature started climbing. So I shut the engine down quickly - and Laura got the jib unfurled so we had some way.

When I removed the engine cover there was foul smelling smoke and I thought I'd seized the engine! The first thing I checked was that there was no fire. Then I checked that the things that should be cool were cool (raw water pump, heat exchanger, exhaust mixing valve) and the things that were supposed to be hot were hot (exhaust manifold, engine, hot water heater hoses) and the things in between were, well, in between (fan belt, alternator).

The fanbelt was warm -the water pump pulley was very hot (shouldn't be) and the raw water circuit was cool. So I got a wrench and used it to wobble the alternator pulley nut to see if everything still rotated - within the motion allowed by the crankshaft, it seemed to.

I went on deck to get the main up and we started sailing towards Norwalk with the idea we could get a mooring and hang until Monday. More on that later.

Next I asked Laura to turn the engine over while I watched. Everything turned except the freshwater pump. Well, that was that. With much discussion, we decided to sail back to City Island - this is around 4 pm, so having traveled all day one way we had to go back.

You might ask why. The reasoning was this: I have Towboat US account for unlimited towing. Still, as long as there's wind and we can make way, we can get somewhere (it is a sailboat after all). But I don't want to be towed somewhere where I can't sail out of, number 1, and number two, I'm not interested in paying usury rates for slips. Here in the Sound, slip fees have increased from $1.50/ft. per night including electricity to $3.00 plus! And electricity isn't included! So, since the pump failed on a Saturday evening, I couldn't get a pump until Tuesday - that ends up being up to $500 for slip fees if I leave on Wednesday morning!

The winds on the Sound are typically light and variable. So anchoring somewhere where there isn't a way to get to a marine store is pretty much out of the question, too. So we decided to night sail back to City Island. Hey, it's an adventure!

Anyway, we got to Execution Rock Lighthouse by about 11:30pm, and called Towboat US for the last bit to the mooring. I can sail to my mooring but at night in no wind and current against you it's not a good idea especially if the boats around you are expensive!

So, we got to the mooring and had a toast and collapsed for the night around 2:00am. If you think you're ever going to be towed, which means you have a boat, get the Boat US towing insurance. Get the full thing -it's $99.00 per year. My 6 mile tow last night probably would have been $1000. You do the math.

Monday (tomorrow) I will continue with the saga including the replacement of the pump....

See you on the water, but I'll still be at the mooring...

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Preparing for a Cruise

It's now nearly the end of July and the time I normally get my act together to go for a two week cruise. The cruising grounds of Long Island Sound, Block Island Sound, Naragansett Bay, and Vineyard Sound are rich and varied.

You could really spend a lifetime in this area and never tire of all the great places to go. I've explored Naragansett pretty well, but I hope this year to make it to Woods Hole (yup, the place where the oceanographic institute is), then maybe to Cuttyhunk and Tarpaulin Cove, both in the Elizabethan Islands that border the Vineyard Sound to the west.

Funny story there. Ok, funny for me, less so for the Cunard line. I had bought Wind Hawk in 1991 and the summer of 1992 I cruised her along with Laura on her Albin 28, Penn Central to Nantucket. Laura's uncle owned a place there where we visited. Anyway, I had to return the next day because of work schedules so left.

As I was travelling down the Vineyard Sound I noticed (the way on might notice an elephant in the livingroom) a huge ship coming up the sound. Now, I was near the middle of the channel and my depth indicated 28 feet. That's not too much. Soon enough, off Cuttyhunk, the big ship stopped. It had run aground. "Well, well," I thought, "That boat is way to big to be here!"

From, "In August 1992, her hull was damaged when she ran aground off Cuttyhunk Island near Cape Cod, while returning from a five day cruise to Halifax along the east coast of the United States and Canada. A combination of outdated charts and faster than normal speed (proportional to the distance from the coast, only 20-30 miles) led to the ship's hull scraping a rock on the ocean floor. The accident resulted in the ship being taken out of service while repairs were made in drydock. Several years later, divers found red paint on rocks in the vicinity of where the ship was said to have hit bottom."

Turns out, I was right.

But what does that have to do with preparing for a cruise? Well, outdated charts for one thing. True, my 6' draft is hardly ever a problem, but it's good to know when it will be. So I have recent charts. But more than that, you need to make sure the boat is good, too.

So, I've changed the oil, the transmission fluid, will fill the water and fuel tanks Saturday, make sure I have food, snacks, and all the other stuff you'd need on vacation (water toys and so forth).

Also, I'll bring my inflatible because I went to the trouble to fix it, and probably the engine which I haven't gone to the trouble to fix, and some gas for it.

But the big deal before cruising is to check things like the steering gear (done that), the rig is tuned (did that). I also will be rigging the jack lines and making sure all the loose gear is stowed. Day sailing is one thing, cruising puts much more strain on the boat for longer times so it makes sense to do all that sort of maintenance before hand. Better than fixing after.

Of course, that doesn't mean there won't be any disasters, but it does mean there should be less of them....

Anyway, I expect to have data services for my laptop so expect some posts, and hopefully some cool pics.

See you on the water!

Monday, July 17, 2006

Once Again, It's Been A While

Unfortunately, I've been busy with work and, well, partying on weekends with ma peeps in various harbors on the west end of the Long Island Sound. Other than normal maintenance I haven't done anything really spectacular with the boat.

This time of the summer is horrible -it's hot, humid, mostly windless. Typically, if you're going somewhere, you're motoring. There is nothing remotely pleasant about this except in the afternoon sometimes there pops up an afternoon wind my aunt used to call 'The Mooring Breeze'.

Bedouin VII Launch at Nevins in City Island 1929 photo suppied by Bill CAnnell, Cannell Classic YachtsMy aunt and uncle owned a converted 8 metre yawl that was out of Port Washington. The name of the boat was Bedouin VIII and she was built in 1929, designed by Charles D. Mower and built on City Island, NY by Henry B. Nevins. Her sail number is KC-12. Apparently before that she was named 'Lazy Eight' and 'Arroway'.

It's actually cool how she got the name Bedouin VIII. My mother's family had boats all their lives. My grandfather's last boat was Bedouin V, and my aunt's previous boat was Bedouin VI. When they purchased Lazy Eight, the skipped VII because it was an 8 Meter, after all. There was some pressure for me to name my first boat, Mudlark, to Bedouin VII. I never did, though.

Anyway, she was or is a magnificent boat built of mahogany and oak with bronze knees. She drew 7 feet and carried 7 - 1/2 tons ballast in her keel. She's 46 feet long and has a beam of around 8 feet. She carries an unimaginable amount of sail - I think something near 2000 ft. sq. Her mast is 60' tall.

She was fast and I remember some truly amazing times aboard her.

One of the fun things she carried (other than a tupperware container full of Oreo cookies) was a Dyer sailing dinghy that my aunt and uncle would allow me to zip all over Port Washington. Hmmm, some of the fondest memories of my youth...

Anyway, my aunt absolutely abhorred the engine. She'd sail up to the mooring and the boat would stop right at the pickup bouy. My uncle would pick it up and calmly throw a loop over a cleat then walk back to the mast to drop the mainsail. This performance always went without a hitch. I think I saw them make a second try only once in the years they had me aboard. There was no shouting, no frantic running about and waving arms and other things. It was simple and graceful and I've wanted to be able to do that all my life. Imagine it.

Now this is easy to do in light winds. Less easy in stronger ones. And they'd always come up around 5 pm. Hence the mooring winds.

Well, that was a sort of round about way of getting to the point.

Now I'm nearing my two week cruise - I expect it to start on the weekend of the finish of the Around Long Island Race. Depending on who comes with me or no one I'll go somewhere interesting or somewhere comfortable. Or both.

As usual, I'll keep you posted. I'm thinking of getting a digital access card from Verizon so I can keep up with this blog and I guess my clients, too.

There is a better than even chance I'll see you on the water!

Friday, June 30, 2006

Back from Bermuda

This is going to be a big post. It's all about adventure and the high seas and exotic locals and the stuff of dreams, at least for cruising sailors. Ok, maybe not all that. But some surely.

I've just finished a delivery trip from Bermuda on Laura's boat, Cassiopeia, a Beneteau 42 7, pictured here. She's pretty fast, light and nimble. She had just finished the Newport-Bermuda Race ( ) where she got the first ever combined Marion-Bermuda Newport Bermuda award for her class. Read all about it at the bermudarace link. But of course, she needs to get back, too, for all her summer fun on the Long Island Sound.

Anyway, Laura invited me to crew her back. I've wanted to try offshore sailing for some time, longer than a coastal travel to Norfolk. This seemed like an excellent chance. So I flew Jet Blue's new route to Bermuda for $149.00 one way. It may be more now. But here's the thing: If you're going somewhere and Jet Blue flies there, take them. They are the best. Fast, friendly, efficient, and really comfortable. If you have any doubts any business can be so well run and so customer oriented, let me dispell them right now. They're great!

Copyright © Vibram FivefingersBefore I go on, there's one more plug: Vibramfivefingers. They say it's like walking barefoot. They're correct - they're on the pricey side at $70.00 per pair, but if you need surefooted walking on a boat deck these are the shoes. They're like gloves for your feet. I only have two complaints - they don't breathe very well and they are a little hard to get on right in the dark. But you can literally wear them for days at a time - they dry pretty quickly and they're really comfortable. They're surprisingly protective of toes, too. All the advantages of bare feet with the protection of boat shoes. Highly recommended.

Ok, back to Bermuda. I arrived June 23. Julie, one of our crew, was on the same flight. We checked in to Customs and Immigration together. If you're going to bring a boat back from Bermuda, there's a $21.00 exit fee you must pay when you go through customs. It was a breeze to get through. Four of us shared a really expensive cab trip to Hamilton where the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club is. The club is spectacular and with all the racing boats decked out, it was amazing to look at.

Well, it was party time there. The club is one of the hosts for the Newport-Bermuda race and they put on a bash that is not to be believed. But when Julie and I got to the boat I met John and the captain for the delivery, Trevor, we found the boat in need of some work and wanted some provisions. Trevor, at left, and Julie went to town to gather up some stuff to eat for the trip back. John, who raced Cassie down, went to the party, and I started to put slides back on the old mainsail so we could use it. Laura didn't want us using her new racing sails.

We worked on Cassie getting her ready until about 9 pm and then went to town for a good night dinner. It was nice, but really expensive. Bermuda is sweet, but expensive - everything. The next morning I was going to get a bacon and egg sandwich, but it was like $10.00 - and Bermudian dollars are not significantly different from US dollars. Anyway we decided we needed fishing gear for the trip back so we could get our meals from the sea - and I scoured Hamilton until I found a little store behind City Hall that sold diving and fishing gear.

Well, I'm no fisherman and apparently neither was anyone else on the crew, so you can imagine the proprietor's amusement when I told him I needed some line, hooks, and lure to catch some fish on the way home. He was very helpful in choosing 85lb line, and some #9 hooks, and a couple of lures. I told him what we were going to do he didn't laugh out loud. Very kind. Anyway after acquiring the stuff, it was back to the boat. Cassie was all watered up and Trevor was checking us out of Bermuda Customs and Immigration.

Then it was time to go. First we had to motor over to St. Georges for fuel. It's about an hour's ride and we were checking out Cassie to make sure all the systems were running ok. We took the opportunity to bend on the cruising jib and all get to know each other a little more. Bermuda is beautiful and I really didn't want to leave. You have to see it to believe it. Navigation, however, is very, very important. The charts of the area are pretty good, and you absolutely have to obey them. Unless, of course, you have or want a shallow draft boat. Stay in the marked channels. It's a volcanic island. There's not a hell of a lot of sand outside channels but there's a lot of rock.

St. George is a tiny little harbor on the northeast side of Bermuda with a 150' cut through rock that gets you in there. It's well marked but until you're lined up on the channel, it doesn't look as if there's a place to go. Well worth the visit and it's a great place to get fuel. Sorry I don't have any pictures.

We left St. George under power while we got some navigation done - we wanted to be sure we were clear of the rocks, coral, and what have you before we turned northwest for home. Although the way is well marked, if you don't understand that the marks are spindly little towers, you might not know that's what they were. There were about five or ten boats leaving with us and that night we could see their nav lights while we all sailed for home. We had set the spinnaker in the late afternoon and were cruising along in light swell at 7 to 8 knots.

Julie and Trevor's provisioning was well put to use the first night - Julie, even though feeling a bit under the weather, still managed a great first night's meal with chicken and rice. Trevor had assigned three hour watches for the trip, with me taking 6 - 9, Julie, 9-12, John, 12 - 3, and Trevor from 3 - 6. I happened to like my shift. Not sure about anyone else, though.

The water around Bermuda is a deep turquois and around 85 degrees F. For the first night and next day we were just getting acclimated to each other and the boat. Cassie was spectacular - on a broad reach in 15 to 20 knots (true) wind she just flew! Although the auto pilot, 'Ray', handled the steering most of the time, John usually spent his watches hand steering for "something to do".

Well, of course, we couldn't sail the exact rhumb line to Ambrose, so every twelve hours or so we had to jibe. With the cruising spinnaker it was just easier to take the sock down, move the whole mess around the headstay, and reset the thing.

After the second day out (Monday), we took down the spinnaker and reset the jib. The wind was steady at 20 knots and gusting higher, and the seas were building to 8 - 10 feet. Cassie was still plowing along at 7 to 9 knots.

Tuesday we slowed down to 6 to 7 knots - mostly because the wind was a little less, but since the weather fax indicated an area of low pressure to move across our path we decided not to reset the spinnaker. Also, there was significant wear on the spin halyard and we didn't want to risk losing the halyard down the mast. It's a pain to re-reeve.

This seemed like a good time to troll for dinner. So with John's help I attached weights and the lure to a spool of 89 lb test line, and set about 200 yards out. Now, I've never fished. I've always felt that it's easier to hunt at the supermarket than in the great outdoors. So far, I've been pretty successful at that endeavor. The other crew were nearly as clueless. Anyway, having learned that alcohol in the gills will kill fish right away, I had a bottle of rum handy on deck. The line ran through the stern rail over the transom and out.

After about 20 minutes Trevor mentioned very calmly that I have a fish on the line - and sure enough, the line was tight - cool! We wanted to get Julie and John up to see the 'old man of the sea' get his fish. Well, they were totally out to the world - so, no pictures. I was too busy reeling the fish in. It was a wahoo, about 15 to 20 lbs, perhaps 18 - 24" long. I know you're thinking, "Yeah sure - it was thiiiiis big!" Really.

However, there wasn't any plan to get it aboard. We didn't want to club it to death in the cockpit because that's just too messy, and you'll notice that a wahoo is a pretty evil looking fish - it's called an 'ocean barracuda'. To Trevor and I it looked big enough to hurt us. So, dragging this fish along at the transom, it's looking up at me like it's saying, "Ok, you stupid bastard, what now? You caught me. Here I am ready to die for you, and you can't even get me aboard!" and with that leapt of the hook.

Right, well, new plan - Cassiopeia has an opening transom that has a swim platform. Trevor and I decided to use it as a fish well. Open it up partially, drop the fish in, close the thing, wait for the fish to die.

We set the line out again but to no avail - the wind was rising for the evening and we were going too fast for trolling. Since I was on watch at nightfall, I got to see the stars come out - Julie came up a little early for her watch and taught me about Scorpio, and Antares - the heart of Scorpio - also, about the Summer Triangle formed by Vega, Altair, and Deneb. She pointed out how to find Cassiopeia, and the two main stars of Orion, Rigel (lower right) and Betelgeuse (upper left).

The next day we were cruising along at 6 to 7 knots again so out went the line. We were approaching the Gulf Stream and the water was getting warmer. It only took about half an hour this time to hook a fish, and this time the whole crew was awake for the spectacle! John and Julie took up the photo journalist positions while I dragged the fish to the boat - there wasn't much fight until the sucker was right near the boat, and then it was pretty exciting!

Trevor got the transom opened, and I finally dragged the fish into it - then Trevor closed it, and there you have it - one fish captured! We all thought this was some kind of tuna, and weighed approximately 10 -12 lbs. Anyway, John took the time to teach me how to gut a fish using a cutting board on the fully open transom. Then when it was all cleaned, I cut it into 6 big steaks and two pretty big filets. It tasted like tuna, but I can't find any pictures that match it.

That evening, Julie cooked up a spectacular meal of what we'll call fresh tuna and tomatoes and avacado and black beans and salsa with fresh lime. It was amazing. A team effort, and of course, eating the thing you killed yourself is always appealing. Frankly, after all the effort, I still can't see the pleasure in fishing for fun. For food, yes, but just to show you're smarter than the fish?

Anyway, as night fell and the stars came out, the wind and the seas picked up - they were running 8-10 feet, wind gusting over 25 knots. As we were getting closer to the Gulf Stream, the seas continued to pile up. But Cassiopeia was screaming along on a broad reach behaving like a lady!

Here's something: You have not seen stars like a night at sea with no moon. You may think you have. You may have even seen the sky from Montana, the Big Sky State. But it's nothing compared to this. On a clear night like ours were the Milky Way is so bright it looks like a cloud that spans the sky - there are so many stars! We just don't get to see them like that anywhere near the coast of any country. The light pollution just overwhelms most of the stars. Even after my watch I had to stay up and just gaze at them. Julie is a fount of knowledge about these things - so I got to learn alot, too. But just staring at them. If it wasn't for the fact that I was really really tired I'd have gotten the binocs and gotten comfortable on deck and just looked around.

There were some rain showers during the night - or so I hear. But the next morning we were into the gale - the seas had grown to 15 feet or so and the wind had been over 35 knots for more than a few minutes. But it soon settled down to 25 to 30 and once again, Cassie was a lady - we were hitting 10 and 11 knots regularly, with speed normally 8 or 9 knots. John saw the record for the trip - 12.6 knots. I only got to 12.4. Oh, well.

Now there's a big difference between a gale in sunny weather and a gale in crappy weather, at least psychologically. In the sun, it's an exciting sail. In crappy weather, it's frightening. Same wind, same sea state. Also, we were so very glad we weren't headed towards Bermuda - that would have sucked bigtime!

I was told the Gulf Stream would be noticible - Except for wave trains in two different directions, I couldn't see it. The water was much warmer than outside it, but it didn't smell different, or look different. It might just have been this time. Who knows?

Here's a tidbit of knowledge - Big ships are required to monitor channel 16 on the VHF. This is a good thing, and you should, if you're offshore, keep your VHF on 16 as well. Here's why: In the middle of the worst of the blow, we noticed a large tanker in what could very well have been a collision course with us about a mile or two away. Well, naturally we're supposed to give way but that would have meant heading up into the big waves or jibeing in really rough seas.

So, Trevor told me to contact the ship - I hailed it with "Red tanker near latitude xx yy.zzz north, longitude xxx yy.zzz west, this is the sailing vessel Cassiopeia" and repeated it two more times. Suddenly a voice responded, "This is the big red tanker near you Cassiopeia." So on it went - we talked and I asked if they could see us. They indicated they hadn't but now that we pointed it out, sure. I asked if they thought they were on an intercept course, and they allowed they might be. I asked if they could alter course a few degrees until we passed. They asked me to wait a bit. About three or four minutes later they indicated they'd change course and pass astern of us.

How cool is that?

Here's another thing: In fog, this also works. If you don't have radar and you're in a channel or approaching one, it doesn't hurt to broadcast a 'securite' on channel 16 giving your position, speed and course every few minutes. This gives big ships an indication of who and where you are. Powerboats are another story as they probably don't listen.

For the first three days it was brutally sunny - Trevor said after the first day the he wasn't sitting in the sun all day and promptly rigged up his sleeping bag as a sunshade. This resulted at first in great hilarity, and later watch standing in the shade. Every day we had to ask Trevor for his sleeping bag to rig. This worked perfectly! The sun was always from the appropriate direction because of our direction of travel.

When we left Bermuda, we noticed the radar reflector on the mast was, um, cockeyed. Really, it looked like it took a pretty hard knock, but it seemed ok. Sometime during the second night which was a little rough, one of the sides of the mounting broke and when I got on my watch I noticed that the thing was flopping around. So in this accompanying picture there is some discussion going on about what to do about the whole thing.

Sometimes, it's really good to be the heaviest person onboard. It means you're the last candidate to go up the mast. Conversely, it's not so good to be the lightest. Well John volunteered to go up and take the thing down before we lost it. Mission accomplished. Saved the reflector for the fog coming into New York harbor.

Well, when I went to sleep the fourth night out fog had started to come up - we had come through the Gulf Stream, and the water temperature had gone down into the 70's and it was becoming pretty cool. Since it was the last night, Trevor had us on doubled up watches to pay attention to the traffic coming in towards Ambrose light. Because of the now very dense fog, three were on watch - one to monitor the radar and two topsides to watch and listen for boats.

Remember what I said about channel 16? Well that's what we used all night - we had radar and helped other sailboats without it know where they were and what was around them. It was tense but not scary. I mean, it was pretty much flat calm.

The wind had died mostly, so we took the sails down and motored the last 50 or miles to the Verazzano Bridge. As we came up to the narrows, the fog lifted and the sun came out. We motored by the Statue of Liberty and took a group photo which I'll post soon.

We caught the East River at the right time, and zoomed up to Stamford and to Cassie's home berth. The whole trip was about 5 days and one hour. And a lifetime of fun!

There's nothing like a great sail for a long time with good people and a good boat.

I'll be seeing you on the water, but maybe offshore water!