A telltale compass is designed to be mounted overhead, and read from underneath. The idea is to mount it over your berth, so that the heading of the boat can be easily checked, whether at anchor or underway. I gazed at one of these, in a catalog, for years. They’re not cheap, and there seems to be no such thing as a lightweight, less fancy plastic version, at least that I could find.
A couple of years ago, in the middle of the winter with my birthday coming up, I was encouraged to go ahead and get that nice brass version, to put in the Chebacco. That encouragement was all it took, and it was my birthday present to myself, for the grand old age of 55. The next summer we mounted it in the boat, and I’ve been blessing it ever since.
At anchor, it’s nice to be able to look up, and see if the boat has swung to a new direction with the change of tide. This lets you know that it’s a good time to sit up and look out the windows, to check that the anchor is indeed holding in the new direction. Having the telltale compass, there is no need to sit up just to find out whether or not the boat has swung, or to go through contortions to read the kayak compass that I used to set on the head cabinet for the same reason.
Underway it’s even better. When the boat is being steered by the autopilot, or by the adjusted sails, it’s easy to keep tabs on how that’s going, moment to moment. When resting, out to sea, the telltale compass is particularly helpful. If the autopilot is struggling, it’s easy to know way before the characteristic sounds of a wandering course become obvious. Steering with the sails, there are even fewer auditory cues before things go completely to bits, with unintended tacks or gybes. Keeping track by just looking up at the compass goes a long way toward preventing all of that, as well as providing assurance that the boat is generally on course, in a safe direction. One of these days I will be sailing with crew again, and it will be nice to be able to check on progress in that situation in the same way.
It’s important to say here that distance single-handed sailing, involving resting without keeping a proper visual watch on deck or out the windows, is not the best of good seamanship. A telltale compass is no substitute for keeping a proper watch, and neither are the electronics mentioned in the previous post. Compromises are made, in the process of resting while sailing single-handed. One does one’s best to minimize the additional risks, but I’m not here to recommend the practice. There are plenty of other people sailing distances alone, and the benefits are compelling, for those who are drawn to it, but there’s no arguing that it’s really a good idea. Still, good equipment helps. This compass has made a real difference, for me, in this process.
The one shown in this link has a beautiful black and white card, but the one I received has a blue card with much plainer white printing. I’m aesthetically disappointed, but it works just fine, and perhaps they did it that way because it is indeed easier to read.
The compass comes with no index mark, I assume to provide flexibility with mounting. I tried using it for a little while just trying to line up the degree markers generally, to the gap between the screws in the mounting ring, but the results felt fuzzy indeed. A little while later I cut a triangular pointer out of a piece of masking tape and stuck it on, aiming for a position parallel to the centerline of the boat. It was quite striking, what a difference it made in being able to identify just the heading that the boat was on. The light color of the masking tape shows up fairly well in the dark, and though I had ideas that it was just temporary, to try out the idea, it’s working just fine and is likely to stay.
The black bracket is actually bronze, which we confirmed when drilling larger holes for 1/4 inch screws for mounting. We through-bolted the bracket, using flathead machine screws through the top of the cabin. The originally provided holes in the bracket allow for fasteners that seem rather small, for something so heavy positioned right over your sleeping self.
That’s about it, for this handy piece of equipment. Somebody looking for a business opportunity could probably make out quite well producing a less fancy version of telltale compass. Sailors (and power boaters for that matter) with any kind of sleeping accommodations could make very good use of it. In the meantime, there’s the beautiful brass version, and I’m ever so happy that it’s now part of this boat.
Lately I’ve become quite fond of “passage making” – going from point A to point B relatively directly, without overnight stops. Just like anything, the more you do it, the more you get adjusted to the process, and the various requirements. Since leaving the Connecticut River this year, I’ve now done this twice (plus a few more passages in previous years), and I’m happy to say that I’m now presently in Penobscot Bay, Maine, after a surprisingly short amount of time.
The first set of overnights in this trip started with a run from the south shore of Cape Cod, where I had been spending some time in Cotuit Bay (hooray for sailing with Amanda and Alaina!)
After that it was off around the outside of the Cape, eventually ending up in Cohasset, which is on the south shore of Boston. Doing this trip around the outside of Cape Cod took three nights and the better part of four days, mostly because I had the idea to start with a north wind. That was ideal for leaving from Cotuit, and for going east, out the channel between Cape Cod and Nantucket, but then there would be a pause, expecting little progress, while waiting for the wind shift. The idea was that the south wind due to arrive on the following day would then be good for the run north. I didn’t count on getting seasick, once outside of Nantucket sound! It was a bit of a strong wind, and there was a bit of a boisterous sea.
A relatively strong wind is a good thing, especially in a tricky passage (“passage” also means a path between assorted obstacles), with shoals nearby. The last thing you want is not enough wind, and a current pushing the boat somewhere it doesn’t belong. As it turned out, given the strong wind and seas, the only viable option on that first night was to go southeast, eventually about 35 miles out. This was away from Nantucket Shoals, but a little far in the wrong direction. Somehow, all that open water, with all those waves, was more disconcerting than usual, and my stomach registered deep protest. Ah well – thank goodness for homeopathic remedies for motion sickness, already on the boat, generally there for crew. And for oyster crackers, which were eventually quite sustaining.
By the next morning the sea had settled down, my stomach was improving, and in that peaceful time between the end of the north wind and the beginning of the one from the south, there were whales, and porpoises, and even a close up visit from two basking sharks! These are enormous, but make their living by eating plankton, swimming slowly with no aggression whatsoever. Still, it does get one’s attention.
There were thoughts of going into Provincetown, but by the time we were around the top enough to turn the corner toward the south, the wind was again rather wild, and tacking against those seas and the tide was yielding no success. Night was coming again, and the alternative, sailing slowly across the 25 miles to Cohasset, would generate plenty of time for rest, with an arrival well after it got light again in the morning. This is indeed what we did, “we” being myself, the boat, and the electronic companions.
Traffic is the biggest worry, when it comes to getting rest as a solo sailor. There is the issue of rocks, and land, but those are fixed, and avoidable, with proper planning and care, and enough distance off. It’s the other boats, that can show up at any moment, that need to be constantly watched for. The electronics now on this boat are great about providing notice well in advance of almost any traffic. Ships and ferries, and high-speed whale watch boats, as well as some commercial fishing boats and some recreational vessels, show up on the AIS (for more on AIS, see this post from last year: http://sailingauklet.com/2014/01/11/ais/ ).
Over this past winter we also installed a Mer Veille radar detector (more in an upcoming post). This gadget uses minimal electricity, and beeps enthusiastically whenever somebody else’s radar signal reaches its antenna. Most any other traffic on the open water, especially at night, or in low-visibility conditions, is running radar, so there is good warning if anybody is out there. Commercial fishing vessels, particularly, are now well-announced.
Between the two of these pieces of equipment, I’ve become much more comfortable with taking naps at sea. Even better, when the weather is rather lousy there’s hardly anybody out there anyway. Going across the north edge of Cape Cod Bay, the ferry to Provincetown appeared a couple of times on the AIS, passing at about 6 miles away, and that was it for the entire night. I’m sure this was aided by the forecast of 4 to 7 foot seas, which was in fact happening for the first part of the night. But the boat did well, oriented at about 50° to the wind, as if hove-to but set up to sail forward at about one knot, going gradually west. I got some rest, and then in the morning, after a somewhat false start trying to get into Scituate, ran downwind to Cohasset. The only complication was my pants trying to fall off, coming into the harbor, because I hadn’t realized just how much weight I had lost in the last few days, and neglected to do something about a belt!
During those days at sea I thought, oh now I’ve probably had about enough of this passage thing. From here on, it’s harbors at night. But of course by a few days after that, and some nice rest, and reflecting on the whales and pelagic seabirds (nevermind the sharks), it all didn’t seem so bad. I started to think that if I would just choose my weather a little more conservatively, I might just like to do it again. From Cohasset it was a day’s ride across Massachusetts Bay to the islands southwest of Gloucester, and crossing Massachusetts Bay I found myself with that itch to just go out to sea. The weather wasn’t right for it, at the time, and I was due for some more rest, but it was interesting to see that that was how it felt. In the meantime, it was nice to be in the islands.
A couple of days later there was another long sailing day around the outside of Cape Ann and up to Portsmouth, New Hampshire, where I met Suzanne for supplies, had some more rest, and waited on the weather.
The approaching wind wasn’t as strong as that last rather wild run (no 25’s in the steady-wind forecast!), and it all seemed like a rather nice idea to head straight for the middle of the Maine coast. First thing Monday morning, off we went.
The only downside of avoiding the strong wind is that sometimes, instead, you get no wind at all. The second day out from Portsmouth, about 15 miles south of Damariscove Island, we spent pretty much the whole day floating around in the fog, in roughly the same spot.
The Coast Guard even came to visit, having seen us out there for so long, to check that everything was okay. They were happy to know that things were fine, asked if I had a float plan, and somebody on shore keeping track of whether I was arriving as expected, and sounded relieved when I said that yes I did, and that I had a satellite phone, and reported in morning and evening. Off they went, and a couple of hours later, just before dark, the breeze started to come up. The fog disappeared, the boat started moving, and the horizon took on that gorgeous sharp edge that comes with newly clear air and the sun getting low.
We sailed through the night, and just before dawn were off of Monhegan Island. There was some more fog, but between the GPS, the compass, and the sounds of the buoys, we found our way, comforted to see the lights on the buoys appear where they were expected, even though the fog hid them until we were pretty close. As the dawn started to barely come up, the wind shifted northwest, and with our goal of Tenants Harbor it was a bit of a slog against the last of the outgoing tide, but very beautiful as the fog again cleared away. There had been quite a bit of rain, in those previous days, and in the dark you could smell the islands, wet evergreens, coming across on the breeze. What a sweet way to arrive home.
Now, here I am, moving to Maine – and landed. There’s still a trip from this harbor here in Penobscot Bay over to Gouldsboro, on the far side of Acadia National Park. With some consistent wind this could be done in about three days, with overnight stops in lovely places. Or one could go straight through, perhaps arriving in about 24 hours, if the wind blew just so. For now it’s resting, and visiting, and waiting for the next bit of weather to go by. It’s been a tremendous trip so far, including all those nights at sea, and I’m enormously pleased, by all of it.
Those favorite creeks, that I like so much, are a little tricky for anchoring. It’s been a progression, developing a routine that works in a way that feels satisfying and reliable. There are narrow shores to contend with, a deeper middle, current reversing with the tide, and overhanging trees. All keep things interesting. A lot of different strategies have been tried, over the course of my many creek visits, and nowadays there’s a routine that has been working quite well.
First, what didn’t work:
1 – anchoring with a single anchor in the middle of the creek. 15 feet deep in the middle, enough anchor line to hold the boat also lets the boat swing into the bank. This is not a problem until the boat is visiting the shore when the tide starts to go out… This is still not a problem during the day, when it’s handy to just push off from the shore. Sleeping through that, however, would not work out so well.
2 – anchoring with a bow anchor and a stern anchor. It has to be said that I tried this with a lousy stern anchor (too small, too light, bad shape) that had no chain. Of course it pulled out of the soft mud, leading to problems mentioned above. Wind and current catching the boat crossways because of the bow and stern anchoring arrangement did not help, and even with an improved stern anchor, I’ve been uninclined to try things that way again.
3 – two anchors from the bow, with substantial slack in the downstream anchor line (with or without slack, this is technically called anchoring Bahamian style). The anchors are set by letting down the first one, sailing extra far downstream and setting the second one, and then pulling in the line on the first anchor until the boat is somewhere in the middle. This keeps the boat from going where it doesn’t belong, but the slack in the lines leads to complications, including the slack line sometimes hanging up in the rudder, and the boat turning repeatedly with the tide, twisting one anchor line around the other one with each reverse of current (naturally the boat turns in complete circles, rather than twisting and untwisting itself first one way and then the other). The completely twisted lines hold the boat in place just fine, but are a fair amount of work to untangle when it’s time to get the anchors back. Snagging of the slack line between the rudder and the hull – or anywhere else – is a problem one would rather not have, that leads to both stress and aggravation. This is not the point of anchoring in the creek!
Finally, the prize-winning combination:
Two anchors from the bow, set as described above in number three, with two modifications. First, there is not a lot of slack in the anchor lines, once the boat has been pulled back to the middle between the anchors. If you set the anchors at some distance from where the boat eventually rests, so that the anchor line scope (ratio of depth to line length) is quite generous, there is no problem with steady pressure on the two anchors. In addition, I’ve started using a kellet on the primary anchor line.
A kellet, also called an anchor sentinel, is a moderate weight – about 5 pounds in this case – attached to the anchor line with a big carabiner (or some other slidy thing), and to the boat with a string/light line that controls how far the kellet can slide down the anchor line. This weight pulls the anchor line farther under the water, and adds tension but allows the line to stretch out if there’s a big bunch of wind. Conveniently, it keeps that primary anchor line out of the way of passing motorboats, which is also relaxing. Ordinarily a kellet is used to make an anchor more secure on less anchor line, though that wasn’t my primary purpose in this situation. I wanted it for tensioning of the two-anchor system, while still allowing for movement in a pinch, as well as for sinking the nice new primary anchor line out of range of passing boat propellers.
On this boat, which has a long shallow keel, and the rudder attached at the back edge of the keel, this whole arrangement of moderately taut anchor lines means that when the boat changes direction with the tide or the wind, the keel and the downstream anchor line lie alongside one another, preventing the boat from turning beyond the anchor line. There is not enough slack for the line to catch above the rudder and make problems, and even more beautifully, the boat cannot turn in a circle! When it’s time to leave, there is no unscrambling of the two anchor lines at the bow. I was a very, very happy camper, when I discovered this.
I left the most recent creek sooner than I was expecting to, running to the coast to avoid extremely warm temperatures, so I did not get photos of this arrangement in action. They might have been very boring photos anyway. The significant bit is that each line was in a bow chock, leading toward the anchor on its respective side. Something about how the boat landed, during anchoring, meant that it made sense to move the starboard, primary anchor line to the port side, and the port secondary anchor line over to starboard, to prevent crossing. This had to do with the wind direction across the creek, and letting the boat go crossways between the anchors in the direction that it wanted to. Making that adjustment helped everything to settle in well.
Other tidbits are that it’s helpful to notice a mark on shore when you drop the first anchor, and then again when you drop the second one. If the boat drifts a bit during anchoring, it can be hard to keep track just by checking the amount of anchor line that is out. It’s also a good idea to look at overhanging trees, while deciding where to start putting down anchors. Masts and trees do not go well together! Ideally, there would be enough space so that if an anchor did drag, none of those trees would be a problem. I wasn’t so good at this last, in this recent creek visit. Happily, the anchors stayed put, but if the more northerly one hadn’t, things might have gotten interesting. I’ll know for next time.
When it’s time to leave, the process goes in reverse, letting one anchor line go loose while retrieving the second anchor, then pulling all that extra line back in. It can take some time. Working with the tide, rather than against it, can help…
The funniest part of this recent experience is that when it was time to leave there was some funny oil on the surface of the creek, broken up in small but numerous patches. It didn’t go by in a few minutes, so I decided to go ahead with the anchor retrieval process, having a tide to catch. This moved anchor line and chain through those bits of oil, and as it came up I checked my hands – fish! Somebody up the creek must have been cleaning a substantial amount of their catch, or maybe an osprey was tearing apart a particularly large and oily meal. The next time I anchored, there it was again on my hands, eau de fish, and I noticed that the inside of the boat had a faint tinge, when first coming back in from outside. The tub for the primary anchor line is in the enclosed locker under the starboard cockpit seat, and there is a mostly covered opening from that locker through into the cabin. Now a week later, it seems gone, or maybe I’m just completely used to it. Visitors will have to tell!
In the process of retrieving those anchors, a good 200 feet of the primary anchor line got that special fish oil treatment. But it was still worth it, to be so nicely snug for days, with the boat held just so between the narrow banks of that quiet creek.
Here’s how we did the scarfs for the bend (I would recommend using epoxy rather than TB III for this joint, now. It has worked, with the seizing, but another high-strain place where we used TB III has since failed – it’s really not meant for that.):
It has taken much too long to get these drawings posted here – but finally! If what we have done is useful to people for building or designing their own yuloh, that’s great, and these plans are freely offered for that purpose. If somebody were to choose to publish these drawings, or to print anything that is for sale that uses them, then an appropriate agreement would need to be worked out so that Theo, who drew them, would be compensated for those efforts. If you have something like that in mind, please contact myself and Theo through this website…
All that out of the way, it’s a pleasure to share what we did. In the interest of lightest yuloh weight possible, the loom (long skinny part of the yuloh, between the blade and the handle) is thinner than what appears in most yuloh plans. This works fine for me, in propelling AUKLET, which weighs about 2 1/2 tons on the truck scale, loaded… If somebody wants to really put their weight into their yuloh operation, thicker would likely be better.
If I were to build another yuloh and pin/socket arrangement, I would make one change. Rather than the angled bicycle tow hitch described in the previous AUKLET yuloh article (http://sailingauklet.com/2013/10/13/the-yuloh/) I would use a rounded vertical rod at the top of the post on the transom. The wood piece for the socket, added to a spot left flat on the yuloh loom, has worked out well; using a vertical rounded rod on the transom post would mean that the socket in that wood piece would be drilled at a 45° angle. I would also slope the sides of that socket at something like 30° to 45°, port and starboard, to help prevent the yuloh from jumping off the pin. This is much like the description for Easy Go (http://www.junkrigassociation.org/Resources/Documents/Easy%20Go%20Yuloh.pdf by Bob Groves). After significant use of the bicycle hitch version, I think that the Easy Go version might very well be better on the jumping issue. I’m looking forward to trying it one of these days. Of course, now that I’m used to what I have, it’s working pretty well, so that could be a while…
We made three sockets, since it was easy and allowed for using different positions to see which one would work best. I’m glad for that – the one nearest the handle works well, while the other two jump off the pin badly. All are 5/8 inch deep, and are a rounded 1/2 inch across at the inside end of the socket, flared toward the outer edges to 3/4 inch. The socket that works the best has worn away with use, on the port and starboard sides, to produce a little more slope; this has seemed helpful. Because of the sloping pedestal on the trailer hitch ball (see photo below), when the yuloh rocks far to one side or the other, it is levered off the ball. This is not good! I expect that a machinist (or maybe just somebody with a file) could alter that sloping pedestal on the trailer hitch, but it seems like just rounding off a 1/2 inch bronze rod would be simpler, if it doesn’t cause the same problem.
The removable part that we call the “yuloh post,” which brings the pin to the correct height on the transom, puts the top of the pin at 33 inches above the waterline at the stern of AUKLET. It is my feeling that getting the correct pin height above the waterline is an important part of making a yuloh design work properly, so that it requires the least effort in use; guidelines for determining pin height are included in the above articles.
I think that’s everything that wasn’t covered in the previous post. I remain enormously happy with the yuloh. Since I have spent a lot of time in the guilty activity of sculling with the rudder (which can be quite hard on the equipment), there’s a pretty good base for comparison as far as efficiency. The same amount of effort applied to the yuloh makes the boat move along very well, while the rudder version, though it also works, requires a lot more effort to cover the same distance.
Yuloh operation takes a little getting used to. After initial frustrations while actually underway, I practiced a lot at anchor, which helped, and it is now a smooth process that makes a real difference when the wind quits. An extra half-mile in or out of harbor is quite doable, and with average strength, as other people have demonstrated, it’s possible to really cover some distance in a cruising sailboat, with quite a bit of ease.
Blog programs provide statistics to do with readership, and the yuloh material on this blog receives by far the most attention of any individual post here. It’s fantastic to see so much interest in this elegant, traditional way of moving one’s boat. It would be great fun to see yulohs become commonplace here in the west!
[As always, I am not receiving anything for links or equipment mentions in this or any other post on this blog.]
Update, March 2016
Since this writing, we did indeed modify the socket on the yuloh that receives the bicycle hitch pin. We modified the middle socket, seen in the following photo, sloping the edges of the port and starboard sides. The yuloh responded very well to that, doing a much better job of staying on its pin.
There are also two more videos:
Carol Hasse, sailboat propelled by yuloh
Carol Hasse, tour of her folkboat. Some ways into this video there is a detailed, close-up, view of her yuloh and its mounting hardware. Extremely well done.
Just now it’s January, 2015. It’s supposed to be 0° tonight, which has happened more than once already in the last couple weeks. The boat project has been on hiatus, while the main focus is going to packing. This is the first time that the boat project has had a significant pause in so long that it’s hard to remember – three years maybe? I look forward to coming back refreshed, when the weather starts showing signs of eventual warmth.
In the meantime, it has seemed a good moment for reflecting on the projects that went on last year. During the winter, and while the boat was here in the driveway through the summer, a lot of work happened. All thanks go to Suzanne and Theo, with some extra help from Stephen, and from Henri and his machine shop! Here’s what kept us busy for so long (this is the actual working list, with items moved from the “to-do” section, in categories, to the “completed” section, when they were checked off):
Winter Projects 2013/2014
(———— = Theo)
Build junk rig
Rigging for junk rig
install small cleat on starboard cabin top rail?
additional cleats for mainsail?
———–Rudder/tiller repair – DONE!!!
Indoor Paint Shop
install new trailer jack –Richard?
install wiring and switch for cockpit compass light
——–drill holes for plant rack locking pins
spare sunbrella –edges
The “it would be nice” list
starboard berth seatbelt
mud boards for beaching legs– holes in middle, epoxy and paint – done
repair anchor light–done!
drain water tank–done
make up lines for beaching legs – done
smooth and epoxy hole edges at base of rudder tube/well – done
design junk rig – indoor project – done
make junk rig sails– Stuart! – done
install copper flashing inside lower rudder tube/well–done
address old caulk and soft wood underneath rudder pintle–done
motor mount touchup–done
make junk rig main and mizzen yards – done
make beaching legs – done
make cargo boom jaws – done
seal for lower edge of stove drop board – done
rudder/stock – antifouling below; house paint above – done
tiller strap wood spacers – done
tiller/rudder stock “clamp” – done
tiller – done
make batten wooden end plugs??–done!
epoxy exposed wood on keel (scrapes from 2013)–done
seizing on new dock lines – indoor project–done
Finish shaping batten ends–done
mizzen mast – wedges for belaying pin rail–done
Belaying pins and rail for mizzen–done
seizing –leather!– on tiller –done
install swivel on secondary anchor/chain–done
make organizer for navigation tools–done
seizing on anchor line–done
reseat rudder pintle/reinstall rudder –done
battens – cut aluminum tubing to length, smooth ends, install wooden end plugs–done
splice primary anchor line/chain, load into starboard locker – needs seizing; needs markers–done
yuloh paint –done
push pole paint – done
round off lower ends of partners expansion–done
re-drill water tank overflow–done
make bow compartment watertight cover–done
drogue attachment plates – drill for bolts, lay out backing plates, get them drilled, install attachment plates–done
install bow compartment watertight cover–done
Smooth off new aluminum mainmast–done
cut new aluminum mainmast to length –done
make and install rubbing strakes on eyebrow (for fender lines) – made, waiting for installation after paint–done
plug forward limber hole – done
vinyl flap on motor mount – done
re-bed stem band – done
new boot stripe above existing bottom paint (?) – Done!!!
make and install exterior overflow for freshwater tank–done
Reinstall trailer bow roller–done
main boom core–done
design and build euphroes–done
clean and test bench rope cutter–done
sew hatch cover edges – done
epoxy and reinforce cabin-top rails where splitting/delaminating–done!
sunbrella inner closure for companionway – done!
install main boom ends – done
tiller/rudder stock connection – final installation done!
new rudder stop – needs wedge – done, in paint shop
make Shemaya safety harness–bought–adjust? – done
install drogue access deck plate–done
deal with masthead fittings – done
sunbrella flap for Torqeedo control panel – indoor project–done
adjust trailer bunks–done
take trailer off blocks–done
assemble Purcell Prusik safety tether, test for length–done
install telltale compass inside cabin–done
make four euphroes – in paint shop–done
head cover velcro tiedown–done
adjust mainmast tabernacle and step for forward rake – done
mount tricolor, antenna bracket – done
install rudder stop wedge – done
run electrical and antenna cable–done
sunbrella over cockpit outlets–done
install battens, yards, in sails– done
work out and install batten parrels and quick-release rings/quick links – done
work out and tie on sheetlets – done
connect tricolor wires–done
rig mizzen mast–done
vinyl chain guard permanent installation–done
Rig new mainmast–done
adjust for new mainmast retaining pin position–done!
install mizzen sheet cleats near companionway –stbd done–done
forward cabin hatch – screw down or add hatch dogs –done
attach primary anchor–done
clean inside stovepipe (scrape with bamboo)–done
replace electric brakes emergency battery unit–done!
drill and epoxy for eyestrap for anchorchain–done
install eyestrap for anchorchain–done
mainsail bundle roadcover–done
**autopilot wiring**– done
toe rail, eyebrow paint–done
bowsprit touchup – done
tabernacle parts epoxy and paint –done
mainmast tabernacle, when adjustment is complete–done
cabin top rail splits, after epoxy – done
rudder stop wedge–done
Theo tasks – indoor
yuloh–widen middle socket
seizing on tethers
Theo – outdoor
/////////test windows to confirm lexan
mast fitting –done
make rudder stop wedge, drill for fasteners – done
rudder/tiller connection – install clamp, tiller straps – done
make tiller stop, to prevent falling down–done
make wood spacer for mainmast tabernacle – done
install mainmast band – done
install rudder stop wedge (Suzanne) – done
install tricolor bracket – done(Suzanne)
install antenna bracket – done(Suzanne)
drill wire holes – top of mast and at tabernacle – done(Suzanne)
install wood spacer to mainmast tabernacle – done(Suzanne)
adjust trailer bunks – done (Stephen)
take trailer off blocks – done (Stephen)
rudder stop, to prevent jamming sideways – done
install telltale compass inside cabin – done(Suzanne!)
open fairleads–made new–done
sort out mast raising derrick–done
extend underneath cleat at back of forward locker cover–done
sort out mainmast retaining pin –done
forward cabin hatch – screw down or add hatch dogs –done
no or not now
stove bracket on footwell hatch?–no
storm boards for windows–no
Oar locks on bulwarks
removable oar blade to fit on push pole
make electrical locker easier to close
Smooth off old aluminum mainmast – paint?–no
Figure out fisherman anchor stowage – not now
install eye straps for main sheet blocks – no
add flotation fastened inside berth lockers – fenders?–not now
check beaching legs as starboard berth leeboards–later
test windows to confirm lexan–not now
make up lines for mud pads for beaching legs–later
… There was another list, that started in August, but this seems like quite enough!
The universe has done me a great favor in the last couple weeks, having more or less pulled the plug on the electric motor. The motor now declines to receive any more charging, so for the last week and a half I have had the pleasure of sailing around with no motor use at all, at the same time as having the comfort of knowing that I do have a certain amount of charge left in the battery – 79% at last check, though it does tend to go down a little when it sits, so it may be lower now. This is enough to take the boat over from Warren’s dock to the boat ramp, including if there are complications that require more power – a windy day, for example. It’s also enough for a real emergency, though the whole point of motorless sailing is to use both forethought and judgment effectively enough to avoid those kind of problems. It’s nice to have a bit of training-wheels left, and at the same time to be practicing for the real thing, without a too-easy option for ducking out.
The charging issue developed after I was already across to the far side of Long Island sound, and moving around the various harbors of Shelter Island. In hindsight, the most recent successful recharge took a lot longer than it should have. After that night run into Coecles Harbor, the next attempted recharging yielded an intermittent flashing light – which is supposed to flash evenly while charging is happening, and then ordinarily goes steady when charging is complete. Even with those intermittent signs of life, the charge level in the battery declined to go up, and that was that. The troubleshooting guide for the motor says that if this happens one should contact the service center – no easy fix here, of resetting some bit of electronics. If it wasn’t both toxic pollution, and ridiculously expensive, I might have put it over the side – that would be so satisfying! Rather like the guy in the book Riddle of the Sands, who so merrily throws this that and everything over the side, enjoying the splash.
Feeling a combination of boring and responsible, instead the motor has been riding around, still being a little bit of a security blanket, and helping thoughts about what it would be like to leave it at the dock. I’ve located the service center, but wasn’t in a hurry, so of course now it’s the holiday weekend. We’ll see what they say next week.
Meantime, there’s been some tremendous sailing! From Coecles Harbor around the corner to that nice spot from the last post, across from Sag Harbor, and three days later around the next corner to West Neck Harbor (that’s the one in the picture at the top of this entry). From there, I did get my tour of the full circumference of Shelter Island. I got to see Orient Harbor, twice, and was passed by the entire fleet of the Around Shelter Island sailboat race. Who knew – when I left West Neck Harbor, and started around the backside of Shelter Island, some boats were coming up from behind. The first two passed close by and we had a quick hello. I asked about if they were all part of an event – and they said yes, there were 112 more boats on their way to circling the island! So much for minimal traffic with October sailing…
We did fairly well, not being passed instantaneously, which was particularly notable because we were after all cruising, not racing, and had sensible reefs for the 15+ knot winds. Almost all the other boats had full sails, and sometimes struggled in the gusts, in spite of being a good bit bigger than AUKLET. The junk rig, famous for easy reefing, did just that, and we had a nice time poking along comfortably, sailing upwind, but with the current. Somebody in a bigger boat actually said, “you look under control” – between gusts when his boat was heeling to the rail. I said something about reefing, but he was long gone by the time I figured out a more gracious response, which would have gone something like: “That’s because I’m a wuss, and I reef way more than, and before, everybody else!”
Of course they do all pass me by. I’ve always wondered about that line in sailing texts, that your boat will actually go faster if you reef appropriately – I note that the racers seem to go with the fullest sails they can before actual breakage. This makes me feel better about never having actually had the experience of reefing and then going faster… Reefing is good for many reasons, but I think that the line about it being good for speed is something that somebody made up, in hopes of encouraging people to reef sensibly for basic safety. (This is my humble opinion – I expect that somebody else has better information on the subject!)
That day with all the racers, I was hoping to go back through Plum Gut with the tide, and then across Long Island sound back to Connecticut, with that nice, sturdy southeast wind. Alas, between my developing knowledge of upwind work with the new rig, and the tide turning inbound before I made it around the crucial corner on the way to the passage, this isn’t what happened.
The inbound tide is perfect for going north through Plum Gut, but not for the stretch along the south side of Orient Point. The theory was that I was catching the outbound tide as far as possible, and then the inbound for the ride through The Gut, as they call it around here. But there’s a little jog in that long south side of Orient Point, and try as I might, there was no getting around it. Finally, with the afternoon advancing, I said the heck with it, turned back, and in no time had covered the 3 miles back to Orient Harbor. Once there it was just another little bit back to the more protected Dering Harbor, and that was that. But it was a great ride, in the big wind – 18-20 knots steady on my handheld wind meter, still inside the rather open Orient Harbor – and I was reminded of how well this boat handles seas. It was a lot of fun.
The next day the storm was gone, with a stiff west wind in its place. Trying the same trick with the tides, we were there early, even after heaving-to for an hour, having a nice drift along that stretch of Orient Point that had been so difficult the day before. Upwind through The Gut against the last of the falling tide was a bust, and involved sailing back clear of the far shore, to try again, but tacking back to the best starting point used enough time for the current to have changed by the time we were in position to go at it for the second time. I love that about the tide: give it the right amount of time, and all is resolved. The second try worked, and once through, we were off to Connecticut, about 6 miles across Long Island sound.
The light at the east end of Orient Point – the distant shore is Connecticut.
Saybrook Light, at the entrance to the Connecticut River
All of this went on with no motor, and has continued with the trip up the Connecticut River, and various meanders since then. Studies continue, but I’m another step closer to feeling comfortable with the idea of leaving the motor at the dock. And it’s been a great trip, seeing parts of Long Island that have been on my mind for a long time. Hooray, on all counts!
This last round of sea trials has actually been on the sea. The other day the boat and I took off from our little spot behind Goose Island, early to catch the tide, with the idea of going into North Cove in Old Saybrook. This was about 4 miles further down the river, quite near to where the river opens onto Long Island sound. North Cove is a good place to stay, sheltered from the river and boat wakes, but on the ocean side of the sometimes difficult drawbridge, and a great jumping off place for trips into the sound.
As it turned out, even with some ignominious stops on the sandbars south of Goose Island, we were at the entrance to North Cove by about a quarter to eight in the morning. It was a beautiful day, and the breeze was much too nice an opportunity to decline. I had a theory that it might make sense to follow the tide out into the sound, sail around for a while, and then when the tide was going back in, to return to North Cove for the night. That definitely would have been the sensible option.
Another possibility, once I was a couple miles out from the river entrance and the tide had turned westbound into the sound, was to sail west. That really would have made sense. There is a perfectly good anchorage at Duck Island, about 5 miles west of the Connecticut River. With the tide running and the breeze, we would have been there in no time, having had a nice sail.
I really considered that option, measuring against the desire to go east… Of course one can see where this is headed. East was a bust, against the current, even with a favorable wind. But angling across, and taking a good long time about it, meant arriving at Plum Gut with the current going the right way. That’s important, for that passage – without a massive motor, there is no going through Plum Gut against the tide. Even traveling with the tide it can get interesting, as the contents of the wide part of Long Island sound rush in and out through a few narrow passages. The “boils,” or upwellings of current, are particularly impressive.
The wind does tricks in here too. It’s quite common for the wind direction in Long Island sound and that in Gardiner’s Bay, on the other side of Plum Gut, to be opposing. This leaves a big calm spot right where you would most want your best wind. No wind, and an impressive, wide, jouncy tide rip. If you line up for it properly this is not a huge problem, as the current will carry you right on through, but it’s important to be on the correct track to miss various rocks. We came in a bit low – in hindsight, it would have been better to change plans and continue down the north side of Plum Island. Instead, hoping to go into Orient Harbor for the night, with some chagrin I turned on the motor, in order to go across the current enough to maintain a comfortable margin around the bit of rocks near our path. This worked out fine, and once safely clear, off went the motor, with the boat now in the middle of the various waves, boils, and practically no wind.
The boat, already problematic about holding direction with the new rig in very light wind, thought that the concept of direction in this situation was utterly ridiculous. Knowing we were perfectly safe, I was just left with the task of relaxing about looking ridiculous to any outside observers. We traveled backwards, sideways, and did a couple of full circles. Now and then we would actually be going the right way, but then, just like in a rushing river, we would hit another swirl, and be turned wherever it took us. For a couple of minutes I ran the motor again, which sorted out the steering, but it didn’t seem worth using up so much battery reserve for something that wasn’t really a problem, so I turned it off.
By ten minutes later we were out the other side, with a light breeze from the new direction. Orient Harbor didn’t turn out to be reachable, given the wind and ebbing tide. Even getting inside Gardiner’s Island, with various possible anchorages, didn’t work out. On the bright side, what we did have was wide open water. Montauk Point was about 10 miles away in the direction we traveled easily, and if the wind quit it would be easy enough to just stay out, with no worries about things to run into in the night.
In the end, the wind kept up for long enough to eventually get to the entrance to the harbor at Montauk. It took until about nine o’clock that night, and I had some concern about going into the harbor in the dark – I’d only been there once, about 12 years ago. But it’s pretty basic, and well lit. The motor came on again, at the outer breakwater when the wind went still. By 20 minutes later we were anchored inside Lake Montauk.
“Motorless in training” has taken a bit of a hit this week – but I’m learning from every round. The boat is doing well, though it’s involving some getting used to, adjusting to the new rig. Learning the sail controls is one aspect of that, but the more noticeable change is that the boat handles differently. It’s a little frustrating, to feel so awkward at maneuvers that had become quite fluid. I used to know what the boat could do, and how to get it to do that, fairly reliably. My latest guess is that the large mainsail area forward of the mast is a big part of this different feel, and handling. The new easy reefing is worth a lot, and gosh it’s fun when the boat drives along in a good wind – I’m looking forward to becoming more adept.
It turns out that Lake Montauk is a party scene. Blasting dance music comes from clubs on the shore, and row after row of marina docks are filled with varying sizes of recreational fishing boats, and go-fast noise machines called “cigarette boats.” There’s also a substantial commercial fishing fleet, though that was pretty quiet on the weekend.
My nighttime arrival was on a Saturday, during an unusually warm weekend of beautiful weather. On the plus side, it was sweet, approaching the harbor to the smells of seafood and hot summer town. Once anchored, the music started, and then stopped, and then started again. Knockout tired, I was asleep soon regardless. There were a few wake-ups to more music, well after midnight, but eventually it was quiet. Then in the morning the engines began – for some reason that I don’t understand, cigarette boats seem to have a need to run in place for a long time at the dock before they get around to leaving. With the cost of fuel these days, I wonder at this, but maybe they want to make sure that those racecar style engines are warmed up enough to not stall when the driver hits the gas. Whatever the motivation, it was a rude awakening in the morning, that went on and on.
My original plan had been to stay at Lake Montauk for at least a couple of days, resting, and waiting for the northeast wind that was going to be coming along. By noon of that day, however, there was a sweet southwest breeze, and all I could think was how easy it would be to sail out of the narrow harbor entrance, without the motor, on that wind. And the blessed quiet that I had experienced all the previous day, out to sea.
Off we went, once again with Orient Harbor in mind. Fishers Island was a consideration, but the tide was backwards for getting through that pesky outlet from Long Island sound. The wind blew pretty well for a while, and by late in the day we had gotten almost around Gardiner’s Island, before it slacked off. The forecast was for the wind to pick up from the southwest in the evening, which was part of why I thought it was an okay idea to try for such a long trip in the first place. Later on, the breeze started, developing an interesting chop, which we were trying to sail into.
It took all night. Tacking into the chop, sometimes driving well, sometimes not so well, trying to judge the speed of the water past the boat in the dark, and the best heading, with the autopilot sometimes content and on track, and sometimes wandering widely. On the plus side, it was an absolutely beautiful, warm, perfect night. The crescent moon set fairly early, and there were lovely stars. There was no traffic, and I thought many times about how extraordinary it was to be out there having that entire huge bay all to myself. The ferries came around Orient Point in the distance, lit up like cruise ships, moving predictably and well out of the way. Gradually we advanced on the various lighted markers.
In the dark, progress was measurable both by plotting on the chart, using GPS latitude and longitude, and also by leaving lights gradually off the beam and then behind us. (Taking bearings on lights would have worked also – feeling tired, I opted for saving my strength and using the GPS.) But looking at the lights ahead was another matter, as far as judging distance by eye. They seemed so close, and at the same time so unattainable. I haven’t done that much night sailing close in to shore, and it’s an interesting process, learning to interpret what you’re seeing in the dark. After finally reaching two or three of these lighted buoys, I noticed the way they brighten when you get close, and you can see the light reflected in the water, as well as the height of the buoy extending above the skyline, to let you know that you are indeed within something like 100 yards. A chartplotter (electronic gizmo that shows both the chart and your position on it on a screen) is starting to look a little more appealing, though for now I’m still a holdout. Manual plotting of position feels both satisfying, and helpful, but I’m still working on relating that calculated position to my intuitive grasp of the situation in the face of confusing visual cues.
As if that wasn’t enough of a challenge, a couple of times my eyes played tricks – maybe from being overtired, as well as from the unfamiliar darkness. Lights on shore appeared to be close, as if they were nearby in the water. I was startled to think, at one point, that I was approaching my initial buoy goal but that it now appeared to have two smaller lights nearby, on the kind of thin stick buoys set out privately in harbors, although these did not show on the chart. I was jumpy with thoughts of hidden obstacles like fish weirs, to avoid running into. Then shining the spotlight on them, there was nothing there, and suddenly it all came into focus. My initial buoy was still there, though at a substantial distance, too far for the spotlight to pick it up, and the other two stick buoys were actually distant house lights on the shore. Jeez.
This happened again later, approaching my harbor entrance, where there was an oddly lit flag on a pole, that looked for all the world like a triangular apparition hovering about 50 feet away from the boat. Again with the spotlight there was nothing there, and two blinks later the flagpole and it’s strange lighting came into clear resolution on the shore. I keep thinking about all-night drivers talking about seeing giant bunnies the size of cars, hopping across the road – hallucinating from exhaustion. I’ve never experienced that, in spite of many all-night drives, but I wonder at the source of these strange perceptions, losing any sense of depth and distance awareness, and if it has anything to do with that sort of process.
Eventually there was a choice – slog on for another 2 miles close to the now minimal wind, to one harbor entrance, or crank up the motor and go 1 mile to the nearer harbor entrance, directly into the fading breeze. Thinking all the while about how I wasn’t exactly succeeding at motorless in training, I opted for resting sooner, blessing the fact that I had the choice. Still, on slow speed because that preserves battery energy, it took about an hour to get to the harbor entrance. But the slow speed was worth it, because when we got there the tide was rushing out the narrow entrance, and the battery still had plenty of reserve to crank up and push the boat through. The dawn started to come up as we were anchoring.
There are several things I might have done differently in that night, but staying in Montauk harbor probably wasn’t one of them. Sailing out to sea might have been nice, and would certainly have been more restful than sailing close in. You can take naps when it’s just open water. But you never know how things might go – getting back to land might have been more of a chore. As it is, there have been more boat studies, tinkering with euphroes, and learning more about how to make realistic judgments about possible forward progress against wind, current, and chop. I’ve been learning this new area, of Shelter Island and Gardiner’s Bay, and having a lovely time being back on the open water. It’s all good.
That was day before yesterday, going into Coecles Harbor (pronounced “cockles”). Then there was a lot of sleeping…
Yesterday, feeling somewhat refreshed, the promised northeast wind was getting into gear. My anchoring spot was okay, but not ideal, with the strong wind coming across a narrow spit. On top of that, in this beautiful, still harbor, the folks with the fancy estates are utterly determined, in their yard maintenance. Trucks come and go on the tiny road, and out come giant yard machines, and a seemingly constant supply of weed whackers, running pretty much nonstop throughout the day. My search for the perfect harbor is ongoing…
Just around the corner, 2 miles down, is the entrance to the next series of harbors that circle Shelter Island. This was the destination that had seemed too far the other night. The wind was now blowing about 12 to 14 knots, and made for a lovely sail out the mouth of Coecles Harbor, just, and then around the next point going east. There was some rain to begin with, but by the time we arrived inside Northwest Harbor, near the town of Sag Harbor, New York, everything was drying out.
In the search for the combination of protection from northeast wind, and a little more quiet, we anchored further up the bay, away from houses and in the lee of a great bluff with a nice stand of mature trees on top. It’s not perfectly snug – the bay is broad, with gentle but constant rolling from the wake of a continuous back and forth tiny ferry, that is distant but seems to send waves ricocheting constantly throughout the area – but it’s safe, and it’s not pounded by that big wind, that you can see shaking the trees up on the bluff. And it’s quiet. There’s just the sound of the waves breaking on the far side of the point. Quiet and out of the wind – worth a little rolling!
Tomorrow the weather is supposed to clear up, and I’m thinking about continuing around Shelter Island, to see the sights. If this works out, the waterway will eventually open again into Gardiner’s Bay by passing through Orient Harbor. Maybe I’ll finally get to see it, the long way around!
After a little over a week at the dock, taking care of everything from remaining rigging to another tidbit of wiring, a couple of days ago we got to see the sails actually move the boat. Systems were tested, challenges found, and after that little sail the night was spent anchored in back of Eustasia Island, about a half a mile down the river from Warren’s dock. The following morning, early to catch the last of the outgoing tide and the morning north wind, we had rig test number two. And, most importantly, a beautiful sail in the morning mist.
For those in suspense about the minimal camber in these sails, I’m happy to say that the boat does indeed sail upwind, rather nicely, so far. Better than I was doing with the Paradox mainsail, at least it seems that way at this point. I’m going to have to try more upwind work with no current, to be more sure about it.
Surprises on that first day, in the very light wind and bit of current, were issues with steering. The shifting tiny wind on the now much larger sails was often not enough to move the boat fast enough for the rudder to work well on the water, but it was enough to shift the orientation of the boat dramatically. I was glad there was no traffic. I had the pleasant company of Warren and Margo, and they were very good-natured about our various pirouettes, gradually riding the current north, and then after the tide changed, back toward the dock in Deep River.
Funnily enough, Warren and I met originally because of another steering problem after the very first launch of the boat in 2012. Like in this new test, my understanding of how the sails were working together was a work in progress, and the small trolling motor that I had at that time was not enough to overpower the tight mizzen sail, which should have been released at the first sign of steering distress. As it was, in that first launch 2 1/2 years ago the boat wanted to go only in a straight line, perpendicular to the opposing wind and current, and only good luck with quick anchoring prevented sailing broadside directly into Warren’s docked boat. (His boat is an enormous steel sailboat, so is fortunately well defended.) After that experience we got the Torqeedo, and I started to understand how to manage a yawl rig.
The other day, with Warren here in this very same boat, and the new junk rig, we once again had issues with ineffective steering. This was true while sailing in very light wind, turning unintentional circles, and then again having dropped the sails and having direction-holding complications while motoring to the dock, after the wind had picked up a little. Like two and a half years ago, it was again wind against tide, this time with the complication of all the new windage from the furled mainsail in the bow. On the bright side, I could be looking at this situation as an opportunity to embrace motorless sailing, including for docking in complicated situations. At least if the sails are up, once you understand their mechanics you know what they are up to, and with any breeze at all you have considerably more power than comes from a very lightweight motor. Another alternative would be a motor with more torque, and effective reverse – perhaps the next size up of Torqeedo, the 2.0.
The Torqeedo I have now (the 1003) has an extremely stiff locking tab to hold the motor down – it’s virtually impossible to lock and unlock, so I leave it in its unlocked position. This is fine for gentle reversing out of a slip, but with that lock unsecured, doing any kind of heavy reversing causes the motor to tip up, creating all sorts of havoc as well as not doing the job at hand. My present understanding of the docking issue, with all the windage and resulting steering problems, is that one would need to come in with more speed so the boat had better steering, and then be able to use reverse to slow the boat in a short distance. Of course, if I was a truly elegant boat handler, the thing to do would be to understand all the forces, working with what the boat wanted to do, and place it in such a way that all that windage would be used to advantage, moving the boat into its desired location. I’m studying on that.
Further thought on the unintentional pirouettes while sailing has led me to the hypothesis that this is the result of my tinkering with the sail area. This makes boat designers crazy – people start messing with designs and then are unhappy when there are completely unexpected results. My present guess is that putting so much sail area on this hull – a good bit more than the original design, and a lot more than I had with the Paradox rig – does not work well together with the designed keel and rudder. The boat becomes like a dry leaf falling from a tree through swirling winds, going this way and that with not enough shape under the water to provide direction against that large spread of “leaf.” I think that in a consistent tiny breath of air there would probably be no problem. This issue is not the boat’s fault – after all, I’m the one who went and put on all that extra sail area. Counterintuitively, the solution is probably reefing for tiny, shifting light wind, particularly in combination with complicated current.
In that first test the other day, the tiny air movement was shifting direction, and on top of that the current was doing different things in different places, as the river came back together after flowing past an island. Having no effective steering was an odd sensation – this was not my experience with this boat in extremely light winds, once I had come to understand the yawl rig and how to manage it. In fact, this boat did a very nice job of holding its direction in tiny wind. Thinking on the leaf example, my new plan is that I will indeed try reefing the sails in those conditions of minimal and changing wind, especially when combined with shifting subtle current. The large sail area may very well come into its own on the open water in very light wind, where the air movement holds its direction. It’ll be interesting to see.
The next day…
On the second morning, there was no problem steering. The mainsail had only four panels up, instead of six, and the mizzen sail had five panels instead of six. The breeze was very light, but enough to riffle the surface of the water (unlike the previous tiny wind test, when the water was mostly glassy). Again we were traveling with the current, and there were occasional swirls. It was both peaceful, and satisfying. A rainstorm with northeast wind was predicted for the next day after that, so my destination was a side creek off of the river about 5 miles south from where I had just spent the night. This creek is particularly well sheltered from the northeast, and is quite pretty, with some very interesting bird activity. I was pretty set on getting there.
Leaving first thing in the morning from the back of Eustasia Island meant that there would be favorable current for a couple of hours. If the northerly wind picked up, it would then be possible to sail against the beginning of the flood tide. As it turned out, it was a very pretty sail, but that increase in wind didn’t happen. A little over a mile short of my destination the current started to get going in the other direction, and with progress diminishing, I turned into another side creek that I had always wanted to explore. It was perfect as a place to wait for the next ebb tide, though unfortunately likely to go to mud flat when that tide went out, or I would have stayed; with so much already happening, testing the new beaching legs was more than I wanted to take on. One day in the future I’d like to go in there with the right timing for low tide to investigate if there’s a little deep spot somewhere – because there’s so little water, there is no activity in there, and it’s quite peaceful. This is in back of Nott Island, across from Essex, Connecticut.
As it was, by early afternoon when the tide was running out the wind had picked up from the southeast. This means a lot of tacking to go south in this part of the river, but with the current helping it’s not so bad, and interesting to weave in and out of the huge mooring field at Essex, with a number of elegant traditional sailboats to see along the way. The wind came up some more, which was particularly good from a sea trial perspective. I’m happy to say that the boat sails quite nicely in those conditions with the new rig. Particularly noticeable is that it tacks comfortably, settling in on the new heading without a lot of falling off, which has often been an issue. Perhaps this good behavior had to do with the current, but I’ll be especially pleased if it continues generally.
During the interlude at Nott Island I had the opportunity to make adjustments to the mast lift and lazy jacks. They had been set quite low in order to allow for full raising of the mainsail, but I had neglected to take into account just how fully that low boom and overall sail would block visibility from the cockpit. Coming down the river in the morning, with the sail out wide to starboard, a lot of contortions were required in order to see forward off the starboard bow. Tweaking those lines was a big improvement, though it came at the cost of not being able to fully raise the last panel of the sail.
Really, the new mast could’ve been another foot taller. Or the new sail could have been made with boom and battens at 12 feet instead of 13 (boom/batten length determines the rest of the dimensions in the Reddish junk sail design process). Given the steering experience discussed above, the slightly smaller sail dimensions would probably be ideal, but I’m still pondering on this. As it is, with one or two panels reefed the boat still has a lot of sail area, carried lower… maybe that’s okay too, nicely filling the space above the cabin. Conventional wisdom says that it’s better to have a certain amount of height, rather than a very broad shorter sail, to most effectively drive the boat, so we’ll see how it goes.
While we were sailing south, a big Nonesuch catboat was tacking down the river, coming out of Essex with us having a good head start. They of course eventually passed us by, but I was impressed that it did take some time, and a number of tacks for both boats, before that happened. And that boat was under full sail. The wind was something like 12 knots – easy for a larger boat, but time for reefing in my world, though with some sacrifice in speed. Anyway, with that other boat for a measure, the new rig came out looking quite respectable. And that’s with AUKLET heavily loaded for cruising!
By the end of the day I was snug in my creek, in back of Goose Island. Further rigging adjustments are in progress, based on all the new information, and it’s perfectly beautiful watching the water, and the gentle rain, and the trees on the hillside just starting to turn toward their fall colors. I couldn’t be more pleased.
Deep River, Connecticut. On Sunday, September 14, the boat showed once again that it is perfectly capable of floating. I always wonder, in those intervening months…
From the ramp, we went around the couple hundred yards to my friend Warren’s dock. The same afternoon, the mizzen sail went on…
Still to go, a little more interior wiring that wasn’t quite done, and rigging the mainsail, after which the boat should be ready for action. Steering was nice, on the way over here, so that felt good. Sea trials in the river, hopefully soon…
So let’s get real, on the subject of fear. Now and then people say to me, or they say to my friends, something about me being brave, with all this boat stuff. And I have to say, it’s not exactly bravery. There’s something to do with psychic muscle – so many plans made, so many people helping, so much generosity received. Such an opportunity, not to be left to pass by, floating away down the stream. So you say yes, and get in the boat. But it gets harder to leave, every time.
Suzanne and I have bought a house – by the water, on the coast, in Maine. Gradually, through some combination of miracles that I cannot properly see ahead, I believe that we will actually move. But it makes departure from home – this home, of these last many years – that much more difficult, even just for a sail. The summer is so sweet: ignoring the city sounds, hearing crickets and katydids, and the soft summer smells, Massachusetts hardwood forest, and a yard full of plants, August-green. Never mind the traffic, and the music from the cars and the bar down the street. Katydids, and crickets. Daytime birds, and the night, late, when the street finally goes quiet.
How to leave? Knowing that I will probably not live again in this house, in August, with the summer smells, and night sounds of the raucous insects. I grew up in Massachusetts, and then went so far away, for so long. Utah, Arizona, California, and years in southern New Hampshire, not the same. Lived in the pine forest, in another corner of Massachusetts – beautiful, but no summer meadow. Arrival to the warmth of new friends is beautiful, and sweet. It’s the departures that I can’t stand.
There was a date set: August 18, 2014. A Monday, with fine weather, and early in the week to avoid the heavy summer boat traffic on the river, and their big wakes at the ramp and adjacent dock. Melissa and Richard were set to bring their truck to Holyoke (from Maine – kind souls) to haul the boat and pop it in the water. Friends in Deep River were welcoming, with a spot at their dock all ready to go. And still, I was conflicted. For all the above reasons, as well as practicalities to do with the unfinished tasks. More rigging, especially – so much easier at home. Still, it could have been done.
On the Thursday before, as every day since we set this date three weeks earlier, Suzanne and I went off for projects – this particular morning, more work on the wiring in the mainmast. We completed the connections at the top of the mast, and with a small 12 V battery clipped to the lower end of the wires, confirmed, with satisfaction, that the Bebi-adapted tricolor and the anchor light both worked. Next it was on to the lower end of the wires.
There are so many opportunities for mistakes in a complex, long project such as this, and they are inevitable. In the normal, unhurried course of things this is not a terribly big problem – annoying at the time, and/or embarrassing, but over the long stretch of months or years, not particularly significant. For example, cutting a wire too short. Sadly, or perhaps for the best, I did that with one of our mast wires. There are reasons that this happened, clear in retrospect, but that did nothing for the 12 V wire that was now going to need more heat shrinks, and fuss, and complications with needing an extra person to help turn the mast in the garage so doing all that would be possible. All this on Thursday, when Friday morning was our chance to go forward with planned help for the items assigned to that day – NOT putting scant time into resolving this admittedly small complication.
In a fit of frustration, I blurted out “I don’t even want to GO on this trip!” That has been so hard to prepare for, working these last weeks, Suzanne at least as tired as I, and equally frazzled. The ache of leaving, again. The boat not really ready, and myself either.
In the end, thanks to that pesky wire, and the two of us out there crying in the driveway, together we pulled the metaphorical plug on this launch plan. It’s the best decision I’ve made in ages. I miss the sailing, and seeing everybody, and the quiet water. But I don’t miss the strain of departure, and the difficulties of sorting out the boat necessities so far from our handy shop. Tables for stretching out the mainsail with all its long battens, in comfortable positions for attaching the rest of the zillion lines and fussy ties. Sawhorses for masts, in easy locations in the shade, happy in the yard, tying on halyards and everything else. And I don’t miss the fear.
A few days ago, Monday the 18th arrived, and passed, here at home. All day long I felt extra happy to be here. Now there’s a sign of a right decision! Work on the boat has continued, with comfort, and relaxed joy. Not without complication – it turns out that it’s really good that we didn’t leave, because drilling for the mainmast retaining pin has not been simple. And neither has raising and lowering that mast. There will be more to say about this, over time. But presently, the bottom line is that perhaps the boat will go in the water this fall, or perhaps not. It’s only August, and there are still September and October after all. Having missed the last two years of summer and early fall here at home, it might be just perfect to stay, and savor. The water is not going anywhere, and spring will come soon.