Friday, January 30, 2015

no crime here

I have been told that I need to worry about gear being stolen from Spartina when she is tied to a dock, advice that I have never taken too seriously.  Bands of roving thieves on Tangier Island - I don't think so.  Pickpockets prowling the pier at Big Trout Marina in Engelhard - never seen 'em.  Light fingered hooligans in New Bern - not in my experience.

I do try to use some common sense, tucking away the handheld vhf and gps in the day storage box, or maybe just putting the binoculars up under the side deck where they can't be seen from the dock.  But theft, in my experience, is not a huge concern in the little waterfront towns of Chesapeake Bay and the Carolina Sounds.  In fact one time in Beaufort I inadvertently left my new $600 digital camera sitting out in the open as I went off for about 30 minutes to run some errands.  I came back to find the camera exactly where I had left it.  But I also found that there had been a furtive visit to Spartina while I was gone, someone had tucked an invitation to a social gathering in the dock lines.

For some odd reason, maybe a story I had heard in the past, I have always thought that if anything would disappear from Spartina it would be the winch handle.  Odd, I know, but I've worried about it walking away.  So today I purchased a 10" molded nylon Titan winch handle from Lewmar.  I like the bright color for its visibility and it will become the primary winch handle.  The original handle, grey, metal and now corroded, will be tucked away on board for that day when the winch handle thief arrives.

The new copy of the GMCO Waterproof Chartbook of North Carolina arrived a couple of days ago from Amazon.  I am glad to have it, though not sure when I will use it.  

And I successfully sliced the thimble into the centerboard pennant.  It is nice to get these little jobs taken care of now.  I'm hoping I can take on more substantial work in about a month.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

new hardware

Metal, plastic and porcelain, 
though I would prefer to spend my
money on silicon bronze.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

a simple splice

 Eighteen feet of 1/4" Samson Amsteel Blue (though it is really grey) arrived this afternoon.  The shackle which held the line in place as the centerboard pendant will be replaced with a larger and stronger one, the thimble will be reused.

I spent some time trying to recall both the name and the technique for the very simple splice I had used to put the thimble in the line.  As with all things these days, the answer was found with a google search.  The name remains elusive, but the splice can be seen here (though I did it with a screw driver and a straw).  Very simple, and in fact the only splice that I can successfully make.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

drained, a better memory, lost in the dialog

It is surprising how long it can take to drain a battery.  When I'm taking photographs of something that interests me the batteries seem to drain in no time at all.  But in the dead of winter, when I want to drain and recharge batteries to keep them fresh, it takes forever.

Between twice daily therapy workouts I've got the fuji x-20 shooting video continuously, running down the four or five batteries I have for that camera.  And the GoPro is shooting two frames a second, with the wifi feature turned on, draining battery power as fast as it can.  I will recharge all of the batteries using the Sherpa 50 battery and Nomad 13 solar panel from Goal Zero.  Goal Zero does recommend fully draining and recharging the battery a few times a year.  Other manufacturers claim their batteries do not have memories, but my memory is better than that.

I have also ordered a new copy of GMCO's Waterproof Chartbook of North Carolina.  Cruising the waters of NC has taken its toll.  The back cover, which is the map index, has torn off.  Pages are sticking together and the spiral binding wire is spreading rust all across the pages.  I tried to order a copy from the manufacturer, but it was complicated and with tax and shipping it would have cost almost $60.  Amazon is sending a copy for about $45.

A friend texted me late last night saying he and his wife were watching the film All is Lost.  He said the sailing reminded him of me, and wanted to know if I had seen the movie.  I told him I had watched some of it but had gotten lost in all the dialog.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

a day in a life: Core Sound

rain on the face and up to early at the Beaufort docks...changing into dry clothes and foul weather gear in the shower room...walking the streets waiting for the tide to turn...

walking Spartina over to the neighboring pier to have her bow pointing out...still waiting on the tide...then not waiting and casting off on a dark morning...

orange and pink behind the clouds east of town...the tide running out...full sails rounding the shoal into the channel...

cutting close to the shallows on the west end of Shackleford Banks...seagulls feeding on the baitfish in the tide line...lighter clouds and dark...patches of rain to the south...

sailing southeast with a northeast wind...layerings of clouds...shadows over the water and blue skies to the north...

a steady pace in a comfortable wind...tracing the line a sand a couple of hundred yards to port and not needing a compass...

part of the ocean but it is, with a northeast wind, a protected feels good to look out at the open water...

dark clouds cover the horizon ahead...sun breaking through with a little seems like a long time since casting off...not yet midmorning...

a larger sailboat comes out of the bight...waves from the crew...a smaller boat seems to draw attention...

into the bight and then quickly out again...heading north into the current through Barden Inlet...finally, wild horses on the beach...past the small sandy islands, rookeries for the ibis...missing a marker, maybe misread charts or maybe the channel moved...cb touching the sand bottom...finding the channel again...clearing skies and it is a beautiful day...

the guarantee of a strong north-northeast wind all day...heading up Core Sound which heads north-northeast...narrow channels that zigzag up between the mainland and Core Banks....zigzagging within the zigzags...full sail and heeled...tacking and more tacking...lunch out of a can, handfuls of dried fruit...Bells Point, the church spire at Davis...Piney Point and Mill Point...the wild dunes of Drum Inlet...another church spire, Atlantic...long tacks past the fish traps at Hall Point...finally falling off into Thorofare Bay...

tired...sunburned...hungry...glad to have kept going...the gps track showing forty or more tacks...

anchored in a notch in the shoreline of Thorofare Bay...a dolphin rolling in the shallows as we sailed in...

enough daylight to heat water for a welcome dinner....sleeping gear, still damp from the morning's rain...hung out to dry on the furled main...

a setting sun...satisfaction...the thought of a downwind sail the next morning, into the canal and the protected water behind Cedar thoughts of going any further...barely remembering the rainy streets of Beaufort

Thursday, January 22, 2015

first work

I am now cane free.  My physical therapist, who visits my house three times a week, tells me I have three more visits and then I will be done with therapy.  Time to get to work.  (I did not realize until I saw the photograph that I was wearing my favorite tee shirt.)

The hardest part of the job is getting in the boat.  I need to build up strength and lateral mobility in my left leg, something that will take several more weeks.  So it was into Spartina gingerly.  I think I may add getting into and out of the boat to my daily physical therapy workout.

And then the work for the morning: measuring the centerboard pendant, which will be replaced.  I put in an order for 16' feet of Amsteel-Blue, which is fact grey, from Defender, along with a pack of 10 4" foam rollers for painting once the weather warms up.  Not a bad first day of work.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

with this ring

This 1.5 inch inner diameter ring arrived via ups this afternoon.  With the eye strap it will be mounted on the side of the centerboard trunk to make sure that the winch handle for the centerboard pendant stays close to the cb trunk.  (a quick note - most Pathfinders do not have or need a cb pendant, but Spartina's 100 lb steel cb makes it necessary)


A nice feature of the Pathfinder design are flat decks in the cockpit, giving  quick access forward to handle the lines.  I have always worried about tripping over the cb handle, with no one to blame for myself if I have left it sticking out 90 degrees from the cb trunk.  

In the past I have used a little piece of nylon line on a ss eye strap, marked by the arrow in the photo above, to keep the winch handle in place.  The bronze ring should look a little nicer.  And I can't wait to get it splashed with salt spray, earning a nice little patina from time on the water.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015


A nice photo from Rik showing his Pathfinder Vanessa off the rocky shore of Aruba in the Nethland Antilles.  She appears to be reefed or double reefed, not surprising considering all the wind that they have down here.  For more on the sail look here.

Monday, January 19, 2015

the lover's knot, or not

Paul, former Navigator sailor and now a Pathfinder sailor, and I have been talking about the rigging of Pathfinder sails.  The most recent question was about how to tie the mainsail to the mast.  I use a what I think of as a slight variation of the lover's knot (which I have also heard called a fisherman's knot).

The true lover's knot is basically two interwoven overhand knots.  I refer to the knot I use as a variation because the overhand knots are not interwoven, but really back to back as you will see in the photographs below.

(Disclaimer:  I am not a knot guy.  I know just two or three knots and probably do not tie those the correct way, but they work for me. )

The sail ties, short bits of line, stay in the mainsail's grommets, a loose overhand knot on one end and I-don't-know-what on the other end (right side in the photo above), just a quick turn of the line to give it some bulk to it doesn't slide throughout the grommet and fall out.

With the boom and gaff mounted on the mast, I use one hand I undo the I-don't-know-what and pass the line through the center of the existing overhand knot.

And then tie the second overhand knot.  Simple enough, right?  Yes, it is simple but I've seen several people struggle with this knot, the direction of the second knot being the problem.  Practice a few times and it becomes obvious.  

The two overhand knots, in my version, should rest neatly back to back.  I can tie it in about two seconds without looking.  

For me, it is a good general purpose knot.  The main is held on the mast with this knot, the mizzen is on the mizzen mast with this knot, the head of the main is tied to the gaff with this knot and the gaff jaws are tied to the mast with this knot.  

And just as easy as it is to tie the knot, it is easy to untie.

Maybe not the best knot or the "traditional" knot, but it works for me.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

the last full day

With plans no more certain than the wind we slip out of Cod Harbor.  Maybe tie up in Tangier for a walk in the village, or head southwest across the sound to Onancock to visit some friends.  We turn southwest, but the incoming tide makes for slow going on an overcast morning.

Surrendering to the wind and tide we turn north as the overcast breaks up and the morning light reaches over the starboard side to catch the sails.

Moving north in Tangier Sound the skies are blue and the sun becomes hot.  Deadrises cross cross the water loaded with stacks of crab pots.

A day that begun as uncertain is now perfect.  Steady wind, open water.  Tangier Island on the horizon to stern, the buildings of Crisfield in the distance off the bow.

The wind falters and dies near marker 6 just along the Maryland/Virgina State line.  The cormorants stare as we drift past.

Crossing Cedar Straits in the lightest of breezes, dry and hot out of the southwest, we find water shallower than expected.  The bottom is a fine silt, and a layer of silt coats both the eel grass and the blue crabs that hide within.

We enter Broad Creek, one of my favorite waterways, with a puff of the breeze.  Carried by an incoming tide we follow the winding path through the marsh.

Halfway down the creek we pass a small house surrounded by trees on a high spot in the marsh.  Trees growing together on a high spot I've now learned is called a tump.  When the high ground is in a marsh the locals call it a marshtump.  Hence the name of a mythical restaurant I tried to find on an earlier cruise - The Marshtump Cafe.

Evening in a deep pool of water inside of Great Point.  Calm and peaceful, we enjoy the breeze until the sun does down.

Just remembering the last full day on the water.....

Saturday, January 17, 2015

doctor's orders

I've been doing my therapy twice a day.

I can make three laps of the living room without a cane.

I've reduced my medication by more than half.

I can raise my left foot without pain.

I put on my shoes and tied them without help.

I've been eating lots of protein, but only
because the doctor ordered.

I still have a ways to go.

rigging and rub rails

A couple of email questions were waiting for me this morning, questions I'm glad to answer as it reminds me of being on the water.  Keep in mind these are my solutions.  They may not be the "right" way or the "best" way, but simply what works for me.

Paul of Perth Australia, who is switching from a gunter rigged Navigator to a gaff-rigged Pathfinder, asked about Spartina's rigging.  Paul's Pathfinder came with sprit boom, which is drawn on the Pathfinder's sail plan, and I take it from his email he is considering switching to a conventional boom.  

I chose not to use the sprit rig as drawn for two reasons.  One, I was unfamiliar with the sprit rig and was not sure how to use it. And secondly, the early photographs of the first couple of Pathfinders showed the boats on the beach with a sprit boom and a pile of mainsail lying in the cockpit.  At anchor or on the beach I wanted a clean, empty cockpit.  

Spartina's rigging plan is taken from my last boat, a modified gaff-rigged Sam Devlin Nancy's China. I stole that rigging plan from a November 1986 Small Boat Journal article (which I still have) about  "Dynamite" Payson's Bobcat, above.  There's a topping lift to keep the boom raised and out of the cockpit, lazy jacks to cradle the mainsail and gaff when the sail is lowered, and both throat and peak halyard to raise the main.  You can see in the photo at the top (one of Roger's nice photos from Downrigging Weekend), which shows me at the tiller, Dave (Baydog) at left and Dave's brother Huck, center, that I also use lazy jacks on the mizzen.  (This was in the brief moment that Dave let me handle the tiller on the Chester River.  He soon looked at me and said "I'm taking the tiller," not "could I take the tiller?" "mind if I take the tiller?" or "at some point, could I handle the tiller?"  No, it was "I'm taking the tiller." )  That may seem like a lot of lines, but it is not.  When rigging, two bronze clips connect the boom portion of the lazy jacks to the mast portion, one each bronze clip for the peak and throat halyards, and the topping lift is always connected. 

I have been told that with a conventional boom I would also need a boom vang.  I have experimented with a boom vang over the years, never with success.  I no longer use one.

The purchase points for the main sheet have also changed over the years.  Now the main sheet, and I think this is for the best and most likely the way the main sheet will remain, is a 4:1 purchase that runs from a block on the centerboard trunk to a block on the boom near the clew of the main.  I'm very happy with that set up.  Simple, clean and with the 4:1 purchase there is no problem managing the main in any kind of wind.

Above is the cockpit at anchor on Jones Bay, anchored the night before heading back into Hobucken on a cruise.  Mainsail, gaff and boom are all nestled in the lazy jacks, plenty of room in the cockpit for me and the cruising gear.

Paul, let me know if you have any more questions.

Seth, who is building a Pathfinder up in the mountains of Virginia, had noticed the layers of wood on Spartina's rub rails and asked about the reasons for this.  I would like to say this is a well thought out design innovation, but really it is the result of my poor choice in building materials.

While building Spartina I had become enamored with quarter sawn douglas fir.  This worked wonderfully on the masts and spars, the quarter sawn wood exposing more grain and adding to the texture and richness of the wood.  Liking that look so much, I used quarter sawn douglas fir for the rub rails.  Big mistake.  It took no time at all to realize that while the exposed grain looked good, it was very vulnerable to impact.  Bumping up against pilings and piers quickly took a toll on the rails.  

My solution was to layer over about a four foot section of the rub rail with mahogany, a much harder and durable wood.  This was on the midship section of the rub rails, the area that gets the most impact.  On top of that I put a piece of silicon bronze half oval, which protects the mahogany, which protects the douglas fir, which protects the boat.  All in all, a pretty solid rub rail.

If I were to do it again I would start with a harder type of wood, one that could take the wear and tear, steam bend it to fit, and then put that half over on top to it.  That half oval, which is moderately priced and is easy to work with (drilling pilot holes, rounding ends, etc) absorbs 90% of the beating that rub rails can take.  

I hope that helps, Seth.