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 Binnacle.com 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!