Saturday, December 16, 2017

about that drysuit


Got a call late Thursday afternoon with an invite to visit an aircraft carrier operating off the Virginia capes.  Sounded good to me.  Out at the base yesterday before 6 a.m. to catch a ride to the helicopter squadron hangar.  This time of year the ocean is cold so that means wearing an exposure suit for the flight.  It's been a while since I have made a cold-season flight and back then it meant wearing what was less-than-affectionately known as a gumby suit.  That was a very loose fitting neoprene survival suit that left one looking like, well, Gumby.  This time we were issued what seemed to be brand new drysuit, a military version very similar to the Stohlquist AMP drysuit I've been looking at.  

Not the easiest thing to put on the first time around, I needed help.  Second time around, for the flight home, it went on very easily.  It was comfortable and lightweight.  I was issued a large, the only size they had, though from the Stohlquist size chart I would wear a medium, yet the suit seemed to work just fine.  And the universal-fit booties, something I had concerns about with the AMP, fit very well.  It was a good test drive for a drysuit.  The Stohlquist suit, layered over good thermals, seems like it would be perfect for winter sailing.  I'll try to fit it in next year's budget.


As for the day with the Navy, it was a treat.  That's our crew chief, above, leading the way out to the helicopter.  Nice guy, very professional, very friendly.  Depending on the mission, he told me, he can serve as a crew chief, a door gunner or a rescue swimmer.  Got to feel safe with someone like that leading the way.


We took off and headed out over Willoughby Spit, Ocean View, Cape Henry and then out over the Atlantic.


The destination was the Gerald R. Ford, our newest aircraft carrier, about 80 miles offshore.  She was out for a couple weeks of training and testing, just having been commissioned last July.  It will be about four more years of work before she is ready to deploy.  The amazing thing about aircraft carriers - we're talking floating nuclear reactors that catch fighters jets and catapult them back into the air - is that the crew is made up of men and women with an average age of 21.  A lot of them are kids.  But very well trained kids.  Then were just wonderful people to be around.  


It was just a short visit, then time to put on the drysuit a second time (much, much easier) then the flight back home.  Nice way to spend a day.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

chilly

Advantages of launching when it is 37 degrees:  There is no one else at the ramp, no waiting in line, no looking for a parking spot. 


It was a bit chilly.  The hard part was rigging SPARTINA.  With fittings and knots I could not wear gloves.   Cold fingers are clumsy fingers.  But once the boat was rigged and in the water, with my Ice Breaker thermals, jacket, Helly Hansen pants and gloves I was very comfortable.  The wind was light but steady.  Not a cloud in the sky.  A fine day on the water.

The leak at the cb pin is down to a tiny drop.  I think can eliminate that with some silicon tape wrapped around the pin.


Speaking of the cold, I've started looking at a kayak-style dry suits.  The one that has caught my eye is the Stohlquist AMP drysuit.  They retail for $600 but can easily be found on the web for $450.  Won't fit in my budget for this year, but maybe next fall.  I think a drysuit over good quality thermals would keep me comfortably warm during during winter sailing.  Should I end up in the water a drysuit could well be a life saver.  I kind of like the mango color.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

14 degrees


 Fourteen degrees is the forecast low for this coming Sunday.  Too cold too early.  I have a couple days off and hoped to sail.  Best chance will be Monday when it should get up to 45 degrees with light wind out of the southwest.  We'll see.  The photograph below is for warmer times, a July sail a couple of years ago on the Pasquotank River.


This time of year is always a good time to think about maintenance.  I've got three areas I need to work on: hull, sails and trailer.

The main effort on the hull will be adding bottom paint.  I made some waterline marks on the fall sail plus Kevin B of Slip Jig fame has offered to loan me a laser level to strike the line.  The hull will need touch up paint as always, but the bunk flat and cockpit sole that will require some epoxy work.  Lots of wear and tear on those grey decks the last couple of years.  I won't know until I sail again if I have fixed the leaked at the cb trunk.  I hope I have stopped the trickle, if not I will have to disassemble and repair.

Sails need some cleaning.  I have read that using water, a little vinegar and woolite is one way to go.  I experimented with this with my sailing duffle bag which is made out of sail material and it did clean the duffle but did not remove the tiny specks of mildew, which I see on both the duffle and the sails.  I have come across another way to deal with mildew which I will paste below.  I'm open to advice from anyone who has experience in this area.  There is not much in the way of mildew on the sails, just tiny specks.  But figure I should deal with it now.

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1. Fill a tub or tank with water. It should be large enough that the sail you intend to wash can be fully immersed. 

2. Add Clorox or other chlorine bleach to the water, in a ratio of approximately 30 to one. 'Clorox' is sodium hypochlorite in a 5.25% solution, so the resultant wash solution is slightly weaker than 0.2% (two parts per 1000) of sodium hypochlorite in water. The exact solution does not matter, however. We suspect that one part per 1000 is adequate, and we know that five parts per 1000 (10 to one Clorox in water) will not cause any damage. 

3. Place the sail in the bath for at least 48 hours (and cover the tank since the chlorine likes to evaporate). Longer is probably better, for stubborn and very serious cases. Make sure the sail is fully submerged. Stack rocks or bricks on it if necessary, to keep it from floating. Force out as many air pockets as possible and make sure the sail is fully wet out. You might want to stir it every now and then, or shift it around. 

4. Take the sail out of the sodium hypochlorite solution and check it. If it is not sufficiently clean, put it back in the bath for another day. When done, rinse it thoroughly with fresh water. Hang it to dry. 

At the end of this, the sail should be almost completely clean and any remaining mildew will be absolutely dead, so lingering stains should fade fairly quickly when the sail is used. Exceptions will likely be under corner patches, under insignia cloth, and maybe inside a seam, though these spots should be greatly improved. More time in the solution will improve them. 
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The broken axle was a wake-up call to keep up with trailer maintenance.  I've got some U-bolts that need to be replace, plus a couple of brackets.  My friends Michael and Sheila from Kantala showed me how to use lanolin on the threats of all bolts exposed to salt water, which I will do with all replacement pieces.  Plus I have begun using a gel WD-40 to minimize future corrosion.  

The maintenance won't be too difficult to accomplish.  I will try to spread it out over the late winter early spring months with some sailing mixed in between.  Wouldn't it be nice to have it all done before the spring sail in May?


Sunday, December 3, 2017

a good day's sail lost

There wasn't enough oil in the outboard, fuel was seeping into the cockpit and water was dripping in through the centerboard trunk.  Maybe today wasn't the day for a sail after all.


After sailing a couple of days last week I had noticed there was some water, maybe a cup or so, under the bunk flat on the port side of the center board trunk.  Only two places it could have come from - 1) maybe one of the gallon water bottles stored there had leaked or 2) it was seeping in through the centerboard pin.  So when I backed SPARTINA down into the water this morning I opened the deck plate and saw the water dripping down from the cb pin.  When I first launched SPARTINA about 10 years ago I had a drip there, quickly fixed by tightening the bolt.  The following year there was a drip on the first launch of the season, again quickly fixed.  And for the next eight years no leaks at all - until this week.  I took out the tool kit, tightened the bolt about 3/4 turn.

Motoring away from the dock I thought to check the oil level.  I had just changed it the day before, measuring the oil to the milliliter.  I looked at the inspection port to see it was very low - though I still can't imagine why.  Still with a nice day ahead of me I tied SPARTINA to the dock, drove home and returned with the oil and a funnel.  Trying to put oil into the engine while it was mounted in the inboard well was difficult if not impossible.  So I pulled the outboard and put in on its side in the cockpit.  Starting to add the oil I noticed some water in the cockpit, or at least I thought it is water until I smelled fuel, realizing I had forgotten to close the gas cap vent on the outboard.  I cleaned up the fuel, maybe half a cup or so, and decided to check the cb pin to see how it is doing.  A tiny drop was coming down from the pin.  So I didn't have enough oil where I needed it, and I had fuel and water where it was not supposed to be.  D'oh!  I realized it was not a day for sailing.  

Home now.  I think I've got the cb leak fixed but won't know until my next sail.  Oil is up to the correct level.  Fuel cleaned up.  What's the forecast for next weekend??

Thursday, November 30, 2017

blue


Just another wonderful day on the water, this time the Elizabeth River.  Maybe 10 mph wind in the morning, warm and comfortable.  Afternoon the wind dropped down below 10, and at the end to say it was 5 mph would be generous.  But a warm and sunny afternoon, blue skies - I'll take it.  


The usual traffic, a couple of tugs with barges, snowbirds like the fine ketch SURPISE, above, and of course sleek black hull of the schooner VIRGINIA, below.  Winter sailing is just around the corner.


Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Monday, November 27, 2017

winter harbor


Some really fine words and photographs from Barry, just a wonderful story about crossing over, leaving every day life behind and just getting away.  An island with vague directions, a harbor and an old farm house.  Sailing in a soft breeze as the evening approaches.  A painter's supplies, fresh baked apple pie.


Perfect reading for a fall evening.  I've enjoyed the first piece and will look forward to more.  Thanks, Barry.  I'm very envious.


time to use those year-end comp days


The wind forecast is not great, but sunny and warm so
I told the boss I needed to take those last couple of comp 
days I had coming.  Maybe Betsy Town, maybe here in
town, maybe both.  We'll see.



Thursday, November 23, 2017

Spartina deconstructed

A few times over the years people have mentioned that Spartina appears to be well organized.  I think it is, I could not imagine sailing - whether it is day sailing or a week-long cruise - any other way.  Below are three photographs from day nine of the fall sail where I have labelled the gear where it typically resides on the boat.  
A lot of the gear in the third photograph is stored under the thwart and bunk flat.  Some moisture always works its way in there past the "water tight" hatches.  I cleaned it out on Queenstown Creek to air out the storage areas.



  1. Spare life jacket
  2. Oar.  Standing in the cockpit facing forward with the tiller between my legs I can paddle at the speed of one knot.  
  3. The lanyard is for the gps which I keep tucked under the coaming hidden from the sun.  Every gps I have had has at some point gotten a little moisture inside and sitting out in the sun the window fogs over.  Keeping them in the shade seems to make them last longer.
  4. ACR personal locator beacon in a pouch on my pfd belt.  I just re-registered it with NOAA, something that is done every two years, with my information, emergency contact numbers and a description of the boat.
  5. Inflatable pfd with harness, set to manual inflation (pull a cord to inflate).  I wear it most of the time when cruising, though if the breeze is light and water calm I'll take it off.
  6. ACR C strobe attached to pfd.
  7. You can barely see the am/fm radio mounted up against the transom.  I enjoy sports radio when out sailing.  There is a watch attached to it, it's easy to lose track of time on the water.
  8. One-inch polypropylene tether clipped to my pfd/harness.
  9. Pelican watertight box with solar panel, storage battery and battery chargers.  Everything inside is kept in a watertight freezer bag.  This last trip I finished with 60% + power in the storage battery.
  10. Chart book.  That one is for Chesapeake Bay and is about nine years old.  It has a couple of years left in it.  The North Carolina chart books are made of lighter page material and do not last as long - maybe five or six years before they start to fall apart.
  11. Throw line, never used but glad to have it on board.
  12. Soft-sided insulated lunch box, with all the food and snacks for the day.  The insulation makes sure my food doesn't "bake" inside the box on hot sunny days.
  13. A container of Wet Ones hand wipes.  There is alcohol in the wipes and on hot days it is nice to wipe down my face with the towelettes, the evaporating alcohol acting as a cooling agent.
  14. Two fishing poles, one for trolling and one for casting.  This last trip was one of my more successful trips with several stripers caught and, for the most part, released.
  15. SPOT locator beacon, their original model and probably nine years old.  Keeps on ticking.
  16. Tether to pfd/harness.
  17. Rubbermaid Roughneck storage box.  Two on board, the one to port has notebooks, books, flashlights, bug spray and a few other odds and ends.  The one to starboard that can't be seen has the cook kit with jet boil, MSR pots, utensils, olive oil and spices.  I drilled two small holes in the handles and use a bit of nylon line and bronze clips to fasten them in place on the bunk flat.  I also run bungee cords over the top to keep the lids in place, and if you look close you will see the bungee cords also hold water bottles in place.  The boxes are not watertight, yet have never had a drop of water get inside of them.  Books, etc are all stored in waterproof freezer bags.  
  18. Dock line.  I carry about six different lines for docking, a couple tied in places where you can't see them and a couple that are generally tucked near the storage boxes.
  19. Boom tent in a storage bag.  Love that boom tent.
  20. Five pound mushroom anchor that is clipped to the top of the anchor chain as a sentinel.  Tied to the mast when not in use so it doesn't slide around.
  21. Two-gallon gas can, tied to the mast so it doesn't slide around.
  22. Main anchor and anchor line in a bucket, tied to the mast  when not in use so it doesn't slide around.
  23. Thirty five liter dry bag with clothes and shave kit
  24. Twenty liter dry bag containing freeze dried meals.  
  25. ACR C strobe on pfd
  26. Pfd/harness 
  27. SPOT locator beacon
  28. Freezer bags, each containing one day's meal except for freeze-dried dinner.  A bag typically contained breakfast bar, three individual cups of fruit, canned Italian tuna (Tom Head of the Pathfinder First Light introduced me to Italian tuna.  Try it, you'll like it. ), box of raisins, bag of dried fruit (mango strips, pineapple, kiwi fruit, strawberry), bag of homemade nut mixture, maybe some beef jerky and a couple of other treats tossed in.  The bag that contains one day's food becomes the trash bag for the next day.
  29. Foul weather gear held in place by bungees behind the coaming
  30. Spare book, double bagged
  31. Boat US membership card, there are three or four on board in different storage area.   I've never used Boat US while sailing, but with the broken axle on the way home the free tow to the marina in Easton made the membership fee seem like a great deal.
  32. Boom tent in storage bag
  33. Twenty liter dry bag with hypothermia/survival kit
  34. Gallon bottles of water.  There's room for eight gallons under the bunk flat.  I plan on one gallon of water per day, refilling the bottles whenever, wherever I get the chance.
  35. Rubbermaid storage tub containing notebooks, books, flashlight, etc, with two water bottles on top.
  36. Boat sponge.  I carry two and they stay up forward under the foredeck or, if it is raining, in the cockpit footwell where I use them to sponge out the water.
  37. Safety tether.


Looking back over this list it seems like a lot of gear, but it is really not.  All tucked away I hardly notice it.  And I am glad to know where to find something when I need it.


Wednesday, November 15, 2017

a walk in the park


It wasn't until a friend commented about the photograph in the most recent post, the bicyclist riding by the Norwegian tall ship on a rainy morning, that I realized how many of my favorite photographs I have taken at or near Town Point Park in Norfolk.  I go their often.  It could be morning, noon or night.  It is near my office.  Sometimes I go to walk.  Sometimes I go to have a glass of iced tea (early in the morning the second floor balcony at Waterside is delightfully empty).  Sometimes I take a camera.  Here are a few photographs taken along about 1,000 feet of the waterfront.