Monday, August 25, 2014

smooth launch

our futures are so bright
Sunday dawned a beautiful and glorious day and we were not going to let anything like home improvements or social interaction get in our way of a good sail.

But first we had to do that thing we'd been procrastinating on: fixing the gooseneck's position on the lower boom. Last time out, the sheet blocks weren't hanging straight down and the mast would groan on tacks. Somewhere along the way, things had shifted.

So, like good pavement sailors, we rigged the boat in the driveway and loosened the goose to let the boom naturally roll into place, and then tightened it.

"Hey, let's just trailer it like this," Mike said as the sail rippled in the breeze.

"You're joking," I said ... hopefully.

"It's only a mile, we'll be fine."

Mike is the master of deadpan. Oh, the laughs we have.

Packed everything up properly and grabbed provisions, and I thought we were ready to go, but Mike, like a true captain, wanted to go over the dock launch contingencies in just about every wind scenario out there. Where would we set up and how would we point the bow if the wind was coming from this direction, that direction, and that other direction? He grabbed the dry erase board off the fridge, drew the docks, and started to chart it all out. I took a piece of scrap wrapper to mimic the sail's actions for the different scenarios.

FINALLY we were ready. A little behind schedule, but schedules are only a suggestion when it comes to sailing.

Off we went to the lake, where we found ourselves in full soccer season and a Huntington's disease walk and breakfast. The wind seemed pretty good - not blustery but enough to keep you moving if you stayed away from the coves.

Windfinder report for Sunday, August 24, 2014. We sailed from 10-noon

We had a new plan for our dock launch, and I think we pulled it off fairly well. The wind was coming from the southeast, but due to some tree lines and hills, it came closer to south-southwest at the dock, which was idea for preferred position on this nearly cleat-less dock.

Instead of grappling with stuff in the water, we half-rigged the boat on the dolly and bungee-corded the sail on the deck, so it wouldn't slip off on the ramp or take a dunk in the water.

This seemed to work out pretty well, although it adds considerable weight to our dolly that needs some repair. It held up, though I held my breath the whole time. Once the boat was in the shallow end of the ramp, Mike grappled with our stubborn rudder. There are no cleats in the shallow end of the dock, just one loner at the very deep. (We plan to sneak some more on ourselves). Then we raised the sail with almost perfection. A bit got snagged on the tiller, so we had to lower, make sure it was all clear, and then we were good to go.

I hopped in the cockpit and Mike walked the boat to the end of our dock, keeping her nose to the wind on our east-west dock. Then as he hopped in and pushed off, I sheeted in, and we were off on a nice reach for about two seconds before we turned downwind and toodled out the open belly of the lake.

Our old, spare camera had a dead battery, so I didn't bring it on board and I didn't want to risk my phone going into the drink, which is too bad. We had just rounded the southeast point when we spotted a swan enjoying his Sunday morning without a care in the world. Since we do not have a motor boat to go out and place sail points for us in the water, we figured a swan would do nicely.

Is it animal cruelty to chase a swan with your sailboat? He can fly away, so isn't it just a form of encouraged exercise?

We were on a close reach, but the bugger kept shifting closer and closer to the wind, but that just made us more determined. It looked like we might catch him too and have to deal with the consequences of an annoyed animal, but he smartly took the air and we let him be. After that, we decided to pick points on shore to aim for and, you know, tack before we rammed the boat on rocks.

<<Looks pointedly at Captain Mike>>

Sometimes the captain should listen to his first mate when she says he's getting too close to the shore and remember when they drained the lake and we saw how many rocks and tree trunks lurked just under the waterline, hmm???
We sailed on, because what else do you do? I forgot to check the hull after we loaded her onto the trailer, so I'll have to check that tonight. Considering we sailed a good hour longer without noticeable differences in the boats performance (fluky cross winds aside), she's probably fine. Or taking on a slow leak, hooray.

Even before our loud-thunking brush with the rocks, we wondered if the boat was hiding water somewhere (we took a peek through the port hole before setting off and everything seemed dry) because the wind seemed stronger than our last outting, but we rarely could get a mild hike going. But to our eyes she did not seem to be lower in the water or listing, so ... maybe we're just awful at gauging wind speeds? Though last time had lots of lulls between short toodles (and random puffs).

The wind was dying down, the sun getting hot, and our tummies hungry, so we headed for shore, which became quite the task as we had to zig-zag through wind shifts to get there. Of course, true to Murphy's Law, by the time we had the sail rolled up and the boat on the trailer, the wind came back with some gusto. However, looking at the report, the gust didn't last long. Oh well, it was time for some BLTs.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

dunking your guests

Club boat with our new sail

Taking guests out on the boat tends to bring about a comedy of errors. We like taking people out, but it always seems like 5-6 things go wrong before you're even out on the water.

Saturday one of my brothers and his lady friend came down to visit, and Thomas said he definitely wanted to go sailing again. So, we decided to take Woody across the river to the club and also use the club boat, so we could sail in pairs and get in a good, long (but not too long) sail.

We get to the club and pull the trailer over to the side away from the loading ramp. I figured I'd go grab the club fish, drop it in, and then use its dolly for Woody. But then I noticed something rather important was missing on Woody's hull.

Yep, there was a perfectly round, 5-inch diameter hole in our deck. Apparently I had forgotten to screw the lid back in tight after checking for any leaks last time out. Somewhere on the road, a lonely port lid is getting crushed by tires.

Well, dang. I hoped to still salvage this error by taking the club's Sunfish and one of the Lasers out (since we'd sailed the latter once and Mike really wanted to practice more). So, off I wandered to the boat corral to find one Sunfish, a Laser, a Force 5, and a Butterfly waiting patiently for someone to take them out. However, they were all missing a few important things: their rigging and rudders.

With the others watching me wander around the club like a lost chicken, I tried to find the club manager to ask where the heck all the gear was being stored. The only gear I could find was labeled with club members' names, so I wasn't about to pilfer there. Finally, I gave up and decided we'd take turns on the club fish and use our gear. Luckily, the Sunfish had its rudder tucked inside the cubby and cockpit, so we could substitute everything else.

As we set up, the Sea Scouts and day cruisers were coming in, each one letting us know just how gusty it was. It was coming southwest, though sometimes would shift almost dead west.

"You're going to get wet," Mike told our new crew. We borrowed some extra life jackets from the shed and scooted out into the water. Mike and the lady friend went first.

The big puffs would come and go, but we almost always had a strong breeze. Mike tended to dump wind to keep the boat flat for our guest, but it was an easy hike day. At one point, going into a tack, they very nearly tipped over, but some weight shifts at the last moment settled it down.

Thomas and I, on the other hand, went right for it.

Poor new sail. Each time it's been out, we've dunked it. This time, we were stuck in the mud. On the dock, Mike and the day cruiser instructor watched, and the instructor said "it ain't coming out." The wind and current were pushing against the hull, driving the mast deeper into the mud.

Out on the water, I was trying to tell Thomas how to lift the mast out of the water while trying to get up on the daggerboard, but it clearly wasn't going to work. So, we switched places, since it'd make more sense to have his weight on the board. Pretty soon, up popped the boat (including a triangle of black mud at the top). Now Thomas can brag that he can flip boats over, too.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Our first turtle

This 4th of July was marked with many firsts: our first sail on our neighborhood lake, our first successful dock launch, our first outing with our brand new sail ... and our first turtle.


Yep. We flipped the boat right on over. Since we didn't have the camera on us and were a little busy, you'll have to let the Internet illustrate.

Waving for help or having a dance off?

The funny thing about it all, we weren't sailing at high speeds - we were in irons in a wind hole! Yes, we're that awesome. We'd been getting some nice winds, and although we knew we were toodling into a north cove area, the wind was coming from the south and the water was rippling enough ahead we knew we had plenty of room to tack and scoot back out to the main lake.

As we were exploring, we passed some push-pedal kayakers, who took our pictures. After we cleared them, we decided to tack. 

And then the wind died. As we were trying to crank things around and catch any baby puffs to get us out of there, I suddenly became rudder dyslexic. Then a bigger puff came up - we were on the wrong side of the boat, the rudder was cranked wrong, and we rolled right over.

It seemed to happen fast, yet we still had enough time to say, "oh crap, here we go!"

The boat was floating sideways for about two seconds, then rolled right over, daggerboard in the air. By the way, there were probably 30-some people in full view of our sailing prowess. 

Mike climbed up onto the hull to get enough leverage on the daggerboard (we're short), and I swam around to the other side and started lifting up on the mast. We were up in less than two minutes and cackling madly. We climbed back in and realized neither of us had lost our sunglasses. High five! All of our gear was still attached. The only thing missing was a shoe, which I could see floating nearby. So, we sailed right over, scooped it up, and carried on our merry way (laughing, of course).

"I'm so glad we did that," Mike declared as we got back into the groove of long East-West reaches, hiking in 10-15 mph winds (according to the Windfinder report). We haven't tipped on accident; in our first sailing lesson, we did a purposeful capsize and righted the boat from its side, all under supervision and without a full-on turtle. That was three seasons ago. Turns out, it wasn't a big deal. Of course, things can go wrong in any accident, like the boom whacking you hard in the head, getting trapped under the boat, etc. But it's not an "unknown" factor now.

We sailed for awhile longer to let the sail (and ourselves) dry out. The kayakers had caught up to the Stingray family sailing on the west end of the lake and must've told them what happened, because as we passed one another, the dad yelled, "Get a little wet?" 

It was such a lovely sail, all things considered, and we left in high spirits. Which gets to the start and end portion of our sailing: docking (sorry, I went with the climatic moment first).

Once upon a time, we tried to launch from a fishing dock, and there were some issues. Woody remembers it well, so I'm sure he was giving us the hairy eyeball Friday when we rolled him into the water and tied him to the dock (which seems to be lacking in cleats, btw). So, instead of hopping back on the horse, so to speak, we simply stuck to beach launches. Unfortunately, there's nowhere to beach rig our boat on the lake a block from our house, so we had to buck up and get over it. 

When the boat is beached, it doesn't move. You can put the sail up easily. You're also not blocking anyone on the ramp or dock, so you don't feel the pressure and rush and then make lots of mistakes because you're rushing andomgeveryoneswatchingandgettingimpatienteeeek!


To get ourselves in order, we read this step-by-step guide to rigging and launching from the dock. YouTube videos hadn't been helpful, because they'd only show coming from the water, or they'd skip leaving the dock or leave out where we thought a helpful tip should be. I'm sure we were just over thinking it all.
Random shot of the lake from the west bridge.  She's over her banks.
We got the boat in and tied off on the leeward side of the dock. Daggerboard in. Check. Rudder on ... Ha. See, when we sold Blue, we swapped rudders, because Woody's seemed to pop out more than we liked, and Blue's seemed to fit more snugly in the bracket. We made sure Woody's rudder fit fine into Blue without slippage, too. Now we're regretting that decision, because Woody's pin doesn't slip in easily, and the rudder still pops out on occasion, making it really difficult to fix things in the water. :-\ Might call the sellers and see if they want to swap rudders and double check that theirs is working properly. Or we jerry rig a way to keep the bottom part of the rudder bracket in place.

The next snag was the halyard. The better one went with Blue, because it was already on her spars and it seemed unnecessary to swap that out. Woody's is grubby and slightly too thick to smoothly go through the mast cap's hole, a problem exacerbated by the frayed ends. After struggling on the dock, we decided to just go ahead and get a new one. 

The wind was coming up, along with the waves, and the ramp was getting busier, so the boat was swinging out, and half the time we were just trying to keep the sail from taking a bath. So, then I was on the dock holding the boat parallel while Mike got things in order, prepared to gently let the boat swing out and go into irons as the sail came up. We thought we had the halyard cleared and the spars situated correctly, but as we started to raise it, the halyard was caught under something. We swapped places, and I double checked the order of spars, got the halyard cleared, and then swore a bit as I tried to re-thread it. Mike finally got it in, and then we raised our pretty new sail (complete with window!), and I cleated off.

Sailing from the dock was smooth as could be, because once we pushed off from the (east-west) dock, we were in a perfect reach across south winds for several yards and then turned north for a run to get out into the wide part of the lake. Coming in was a little tricky, however, because the winds were southeast, so it took some strategic tacking, but we made it in with little fanfare.

Which means ... BEST HOUSE PURCHASE EVER!!! Yes, we don't have our third car garage or the huge yard, but Mike's going to build a garage hoist and mowing is a breeze. We're a mile's drive from the dock, which will make weeknight sailing so much easier than driving all the way across the city to the sail club. We'll still sail there, of course (they have other boats we can play with, too), but this proximity will just encourage us more.

Flooded underpass on west side of lake

Monday, June 23, 2014

Good-bye, Blue!


That went fast.

We put Old Blue up for sail on Saturday night, and by Sunday afternoon, she was sold. A lovely couple and their two excited kids came to see her and bought on the spot. Tonight they came back with the truck to take her to her new home.

It felt so weird.


Ack! So, I called the new owner up, and luckily he hadn't gotten too far away. A good 10-15 minutes, so I brought the gear out to him. Whew!

I joked that I was having problems letting go. Also took a moment to make sure everything was secure and snug, and it looked like everything was going well. So, I patted the old girl and told her to be good, then let The Dad take her home to his anxiously awaiting crew.

Gaaaaaaah. Let's have a pretty parting pic:

Old Blue after we first sailed her.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

cutting the lines: the two boats debate

Several weeks ago, Mike and I had a good laugh over some friends who adopted a second puppy on a road trip. We had seen it coming and so got more amusement out of it than is probably warranted. Now they are having the “are two dogs too much?” debate. Mike and I are having a similar dilemma over our two “children”, who are much less furry but do require lots of space and maintenance.

Hanging out in the basement at our previous house. Miss having a walkout

Do we really need two boats?

Remember back in 2012, when we met a fellow sailor on the Sunfish forums who could solve some of our boat barriers? We were looking for a Sunfish and trailer, but because of our two-car garage, we were hoping to find a trailer that could serve many purposes, not just housing and hauling a little boat. At the time, we also had big dreams of owning two Sunfish so we could race, go on camping and sailing adventures, and basically have our own boat each. We’re competitive and a little territorial. Our forum friend had a boat he was selling and a shop class that could convert a foldable Harbor Freight trailer into a double-decker.

Before we could make the roadtrip to pick up the trailer, a boat and trailer popped up on Craigslist, and we jumped. The AMFlite 14 wooed us with its wooden splash guard, though its sail was ready to be retired. What to do with the trailer? Oh, we’d sell it, making this boat even cheaper. So, we bought it, and a couple weeks later hit the Interstate to grab the other boat and trailer.

Of course, what goes on in dreamland and what happens in real life rarely match up perfectly.

We stored the extra trailer at Mike’s parents’ cabin under the earnest belief we would sell it soon. As we were headed into winter, we decided to wait until spring to get a little more money. Then life happened. That spring, we put the house on the market and the last thing we wanted to juggle was Craigslist.

And then it was winter.

Now it’s prime time to sell the trailer and we have pictures taken, but we’ve been hesitating. While Woody and Blue wintered in the patio, they were fine and out of mind. But now that Woody’s on the trailer and Blue is kissing the garage wall, we have to ask ourselves: Should we sell a boat and trailer together? Do we really need two boats?

We’ve never sailed the boats together. We’ve sailed both, but on separate occasions. Usually whatever boat is on the trailer comes with us to the club, and then we use a club boat as well, if we want to sail alone. Or we just sail together on one boat. Despite our independent streaks, we get along on that little boat. We’ve only used the second trailer deck for when we moved and stored over winter. Mike also got a taste of Lasers at the end of last season and wants to use the club’s Laser more (and perhaps upgrade in the future).

For the past week, I’ve sold Old Blue in my head. She’s a good boat, but we tend to gravitate toward Woody (I think it’s the wood accent) and sail that one more. There’s a sense of relief of being down to one boat right now, even as Mike is planning out a hoist system in the garage. Plus, when we have kiddos, we might upgrade to a slightly bigger boat.

I worried I’d feel like we’re giving up, but it doesn’t feel that way. Just that we’re unburdening ourselves for the time being. We’ll never be able to add on storage at our new house and things will only get more complicated once there’s a little one to bring along on sailing adventures. At first, we’ll only be able to sail one person and one boat at a time while someone builds sand castles and feeds ducks on shore.

The advantage of owning two boats, of course, would be those times we want to sail on our neighborhood lake and race, but I just don’t see that happening much. Since we use the trailer so much for other things, double-decking just adds to the hassle. The other plus? If one breaks, sinks, or needs repair, there’s another in the wings. Is that potential worth the hassle?

We have someone interested in the boat but nothing firm. Tomorrow we'll grab the trailer while down at the cabin and then post on Craigslist and see what happens. There's not really much out on our local market right now, so it could be a fast sale or take awhile. We'll just be parking in the drive for awhile! Our garage is quickly becoming a workshop.

With the potential of selling, it was finally time to get the new sail out (that we got two Christmases ago, can you believe it?). Yeah, we've been lazy. It's just so much easier to take the already rigged white sail out and use that. Woody came with two sets of spars (I think it was Woody, anyway, it gets foggy), so we actually have 3 but have only used one these past two years, and someone had found a bag of sail rings at a garage sale, so we had everything we needed.

Almost. Couldn't find an S-hook to save my life, so Mike went out to find some at Lowe's. What he brought back were Serious S-Hooks that required quite a bit of force to get 1) opened up enough to slip through the grommet and 2) closed again so the sail stays attached.

We aren't positive the sail grommet is secured enough, so we might run a line through, so if it does slip, we can limp back to shore. I'm also a little iffy on whether I have the tension correct with the outhaul lines. The rigging manual didn't really specify if the sail needs to be tight, snug but not pulling, or with some give. I went the snug route and hope I'm not stretching the sail out. 

I also loosened the gooseneck and shifted it, because it was lined up exactly with a grommet. It wasn't until too late that I realized I moved it too far back (and tightened it), so that'll need adjustment before we take it out. To make sure everything is in order, we'll raise the sail in the driveway in light wind and make sure things seem to be sitting right. Also, I'll need a loose sail tie for one grommet, because it's right along the mainsheet cleat, which we didn't have on the other spars.

I also need to find the mast cap we bought ages ago to replace the busted one. It wanders around the house and turns up in the weirdest places. Obviously we have more gear and boat than we need!

Monday, June 2, 2014

first sail of 2014

The first sail of the 2014 season was a success! But first we had to get the boats out of the back patio (their new winter storage) and at least one onto the trailer. This became a little more complicated than anticipated, because I’ve apparently let myself go in the arm strength department.

But first, let’s set the scene.

Over the winter, we moved into our new house and neighborhood. Our wishlist included either a three-car garage, walkout basement, or a big shed to store the boats. The garage being our ideal situation. None of these things happened. Instead, we have a two-car garage (with a small bump out in the back for some storage), a fully submerged basement, and no hopes for a large shed. We did, however, get a covered back patio. The boats seemed happy enough there for the winter.

(Why did we even buy this house you wonder? 1) We fell in love with it, and 2) It’s a block from a lake that we hope to sail on soon. More on that later.)

Our new lake, view from the dike. It was once a field.

But now it’s summer and time to sail and we want to use that patio for fun things that do not involve tripping over boats.

We first tried to tip a boat on its side and carry it out the door. I can lift my end, but the moment we move forward, I lose control of all that weight. Dang. And we couldn’t use my DIY dolly, because it’ll be too wide to get through the door, once you’ve got a boat sitting on it. So, I went out and go one of those little square furniture dollies from the hardware store and we tipped the boat on that and wheeled it out of the patio. Then we transferred it to the other dolly, which gave us better control and with little threat of the boat tipping off onto the concrete.

We do not have pictures of this comical process, because we were busy wrestling with two boats. Maybe one of our new neighbors snapped a photo or three to show their friends what the new yahoos are up to.

Then we put the bunks up on Frankentrailer, who has had quite the workout with several moves (ours and friends), hauling furniture finds back and forth, and making friends with a much bigger trailer.

Match made in heaven?

We trailered Woody and then decided to put Old Blue on the side of the garage for now. This is a temporary solution until Cap’n Mike builds a hoist in the garage. This has been on our to-do for awhile, but we didn’t want to invest the time and money in the previous house, and then it’s just been cold and busy at the new one. But we have attic access above the garage that should make installing the system relatively straight forward. Relatively.

Hopefully this set up doesn’t wick too much moisture into the boat (or garage siding). Guess we can’t dither around on this project.

But back to sailing! It was weekend forecasted with storms, so we decided to play things by ear and be ready to move. Sunday morning dawned gorgeous with a steady breeze, so we got up, had some coffee, and threw the straps on the boat and headed out. We had the foresight to pack some pita bread, hummus, and ginger beer in a cooler, too.

We did not, however, head to the ramps at “our” lake but went to our old stomping grounds. We very much intend to sail on our lake, but as we do not seem to have an easy beach launch area, we’ll need to practice docking. However, when I took a walk around on Saturday to survey things, I think we’ll be okay. The water levels are up on the ramp, and it’s positioned in what felt like a steady wind area, so we shouldn’t have issues getting in and out. We’ll just have to be careful where we sail, since this used to be a farm and trees still lurk under the surface.

When we got to the club, we were amazed that no one else was taking advantage of the wind (12-15 mph), especially with the forecast calling for increasing gusts in the afternoon and storms in the evening.

In the past, we’ve encountered various fails and goofs with getting out on the water, especially at the start of the season. This didn’t happen. Our only “hitch” came to the cleat hitch for the halyard, which we always brain fart on and have to attempt a couple times.

The wind was coming strong from the south and we launch from a north beach, in between two docks, and we’ve had troubles in this exact situation. Usually our old school rudder likes to pop out and we get pushed back to shore. This didn’t happen. Despite the bobbing as I tried to keep Woody from taking off, Mike got the rudder secured, I pulled the mainsheet in as I hopped in, and we took off, tacked before sweeping into the next dock, and headed out into choppy waters full of motorboats.

It was wonderful! Everything came back after such a long winter, and although the wind did do some big shifts, overall it was very steady and predictable for lake wind. We’d lose some power passing through the neck (around the point between the east and west parts), but we were always moving. Only once did we go into irons, and it was a very brief moment.

It was snack time, so we headed in at a brisk run. We could see other sailors gathering around the pavilion and someone had brought their hobie out to the beach. In our distraction, we must’ve missed the cues that the wind was going to shift right as we adjusted our line toward the dock. The boom came swinging and the boat heeled hard, but somehow we managed to not tip in the unexpected jibe. Humbled and a little frazzled, we stopped watchng the activities on shore and concentrated on getting ourselves back on course.

We had to dump some wind coming into the beach, as things were getting mighty gusty. More people were wandering around the club, though no one seemed to be hauling out any boats. A handful were hanging out on the “race officials” pontoon. We snacked on some hummus and pita and guzzled some ginger beer, then went to see what all the fuss was about.

Two Snipe teams were going to race, but there was a debate over the wind. Mike and I hoped to go out again, but it wasn’t looking promising and the motor traffic was getting heavier, too. But the breeze felt good, so we hung around, just enjoying the complete lack of winter. Finally the Snipes called it, and one of the crew rolled out a keg leftover from a wedding shower. We declined and decided to head home.

We’d left the house at 10 a.m. and were home by 2 p.m. and felt pretty satisfied. Plus, it was really nice having day left to accomplish other things.Not that we did. But we could have done. Weather permitting, I think we’ll become morning sailors on the weekends, and use our smaller neighborhood lake for weeknight sails (and figure our first couple of tries with dock rigging will be comic relief).