Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Basement filled with old sails? Try this:

Like many of us, I have a basement filled with old sails in old sail bags and am often asked, “Why?” Finally, an answer that goes beyond, “You never know.”

I’ve been thinking about sewing up a riding sail for some time, not because LIQUIDITY uncomfortably dances around an anchor or mooring, but because, well, because you never know. A riding sail is small, light, stows easily and so there’s little downside to having one on board. Crafting one also seemed a small, manageable project and as I said above, I had no shortage of available material.

Here’s the step-by-step process that turned a swatch of LIQUIDITY’s original 1977 main sail into a riding sail:

Materials used:
Sail cloth, relatively light weight, preferably recycled.
            Recycled 3/8” (or whatever) line, sewn on as a bolt rope.
            Whipping twine.
            Sail needle and palm.
            Home sewing machine.

Step 1 – Measure six times, cut three times:

Measure first with some light line and a tape measure. Create a triangle: tack at the base of the backstay, head at what looks about the right height from the tack and clew led forward until it looks about right. Write down the measurements and take them home.

Stretch a section of sail cloth out flat and recreate the measured triangle on your living room floor. Add a generous margin to the triangle and cut a swatch of sail cloth. (I added a foot or more in every direction before making the first cut.)

Back on the boat, use some light line to bend the newly cut, over-sized triangle to the back stay and lead the clew forward. A marking pen will help you define the proper angles and slowly reduce the size of the swatch, in a series of cuts. Keep going until the proportions looked about right, then make the final, cut leaving about an extra 1” margin all around.

Step 2 – Hem the sail

The home sewing machine will do just fine going through two layers of relatively light sail cloth. No magic in sewing the hem; just folded the edge over and feed it through the machine. Three sides will take just a few minutes.

Step 3 – Sew in the bolt rope.

Using sail needle and palm, sew the hemmed sail to the bolt rope.  http://navyadministration.tpub.com/14067/css/14067_73.htm

Seized an eye at each corner. 

With a little planning and a lot of luck, I was able to capture the Cape Dory 28 logo.

Figure about two hours to decide on the dimensions if you experiment the way I did. Cutting, sewing, seizing and the like probably took three hours in total.

Riding sails are cut flat; pretty much any suitable swatch of old sail cloth will do. Since it's not a performance sail, pretty much any reasonable size/shape should work for you.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Winter is a good time for...

Winter is, among other things, a time to be an idler, not a lazy good for nothing in the common use of the word, but rather a non watch stander in the traditional, nautical sense. Idlers included the ship's carpenter and sail maker, among others and I trust that they managed to keep quite busy.

Among my idle activities, working (i.e., "playing") with rope may well top the list. Actually, working with rope involves its own list as there are lots of ways for me to play (i.e., "work"). Okay, here are just a few:

Traditional whipping: Yes, you can buy the dippy gooey stuff at West Marine. You can wrap with electrical tape. You can melt the strands of synthetics (is there any other kind?). But none of that goes well with single malt Scotch and a warm fire.

Line hangers: Yes, you can buy line hangers as West Marine. (There seems to be a theme here.) But with some 1/4" three strand you can hang your lines for free. The right length of line, a small eye splice in one end, a stopper knot in the other (that just fits through the eye), attach to a lifeline with a larks head and you're ready to go.

Fender hangers: Yes, they sell these at the marine stores (I'm not just picking on WM). They do everything a hitch will do and less. Just be sure your fenders have whips that are long enough to work with.

Fender whips: Speaking of fender whips, you can buy them but why would you? These are easily made from otherwise frayed and worn out dock lines and the like.

Dock lines: The best (i.e., free) dock lines are made by recycling discarded very long dock lines and reworking them into somewhat less very long dock lines. Sometimes you need to cut off and then replace an eye but often you just cut off a frayed end and add a whipping. (See "traditional whipping," above)

There's more but you get the idea. The above requires only modest skill, perhaps a bit of dumpster diving and (except for the single malt, some whipping twine and a sail needle) it's all free.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Eldridge - don't leave port without it

Yes, I know. It's all in my iPhone. Tides, currents, diagrams and more. That's not the point.

LIQUIDITY was built in 1977, before there was an internet, before there were cell phones, before there was GPS. Navigation was a matter of paper charts, paper tide and current tables, pencils, rulers and a lot of looking around.

Tradition, more than need, is why I buy Eldridge and why I just bought the 2014 edition.

Oh, and also the part where there are no batteries required. (Remember to recycle the 2013 edition.)

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Let the Repower Begin!

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. Happy Hanukkah, too.

As the Thanksgiving weekend ends, Liquidity is safely under her winter cover at Marina Bay. Tucked under the bow in its own shrink wrap, is the MD7A that's provided backup to me and the three previous caretakers since 1977. It seems smaller and perhaps less important now that it's out of the boat. But it has a big heard. The little Volvo did its job and did it well.

The MD7A still runs, of course, and its last big test was a long, hard, into the wind, into the seas slog from Provincetown to Scituate, last September. It never missed a beat and if I keep this up, I'll second guess why I'm repowering!

Actually, my little Volvo that could is showing signs of age. Nothing that's not correctable, of course, but issues with the cooling system, some water leaks and some oil leaks that require removal from the boat. If I could do the work myself, I would, but to pay for removal and reinstallation, plus the rehab, doesn't seem worth it to me. I'd be happy enough if the MD7A simply found a new home.

My next task is to actually order the Beta. I've got it all scoped out and am just one email away. I'm thinking delivery right around the first of March, tuck the Beta in the back of the Jeep and take it to the yard at Marina Bay. (The good news is the Beta weighs in at about 200 lbs.; about half the weight of the Volvo.) Then off comes the cover and away we go. I'll do the outside while Kevin does the inside. That should keep my on track for a launch the first week in April!

(Who do you know who could use a sweet, reliable Volvo MD7A for Christmas? It's quite small and would look great under your tree and in your boat.)

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

It was a happy Halloween

I was lucky enough to spend the last week of October sailing in New York with the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater. It was my fifth volunteer week but the first time I sailed the last week of the season, which ends on Halloween.

I wasn't told in advance there'd be costumes for the last day's sail. Wasn't told about the crew's Halloween party, either. Okay, no problem there... one bandanna, a piece of rag and some seine twine and I was all set.

Clearwater's in Kingston, NY, being down rigged and getting ready for winter. I was luck enough to be near there last weekend and stopped by (more than once) to say hello to the crew. They're special and I thank them for letting me join them.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Let the planning begin!

It was a pretty good sailing season for me. L and I managed a 15 day vacation (as noted in an earlier post), I was back through the Canal several weeks after that for a Cape Dory Sailboat Owners Association rendezvous, I managed a mid-September trip to Provincetown and ended the season with a trophy-winning* Boston Harbor Island Regatta sail. How I'm ready to haul, with just a carload or two of stuff left on board.

(* For the record, I was awarded the Master's Trophy in division 2, non-spinnaker, as the one and only senior to show up and race.)

As the title to this post suggests, it's not planning time for the 2014 season.

Most significant is my decision to re-power LIQUIDITY. The original Volvo MD7A still runs well, as it has since 1977. But, it leaks some water, leaks some oil, has some cooling system clogs and the like. All can be fixed, I would think, if I yank the motor out of the boat. Since I'd need to outsource all the work, if I'm taking the old Volvo out, I'm not putting it back in. I've settled on a new Beta as a replacement. The Volvo will come out now; the Beta will be installed in the Spring. (Let me know if you have any interest in the MD7A, in whole or in part.)

Honestly, beyond the Beta, I have no plans for 2014 and beyond. Unless you can tell me which way the wind will be blowing on any particular day, I'll make those decisions later.

Monday, August 26, 2013

My Summer Vacation

We took the first two weeks of August, with no particular plan other than to transit the Cape Cod Canal and see where wind and weather took us from there. Here's the rough log of our latest adventure:

Day 1 - A light air sail to Scituate. As is our practice, we got a mooring from the Satuit Boat Club. Oh, and in anticipation, we remembered to shower while showers were available.

Day 2 - The long trip in light air to the Cape Cod Canal. It was a low visibility, patchy fog sort of day... but the air cleared and we had a nice breeze from the North for the last leg, sailing much of it wing on wing. The North wind made for an easy canal transit and easy passage into Buzzards Bay. We grabbed a mooring at Point Independence Yacht Club in Onset and were pleasantly surprised to see some Cape Dory friends there. We caught up over drinks and munchies, then walked into town for pizza and Greek salad, taken out and eaten in the park.

Day 3 - A short sail from Onset to Red Brook Harbor, anchoring at Bassets Island. We did a swim in lieu of a shower.

Day 4 - An easy sail from Red Brook Harbor to Woods Hole, transited to Vineyard Sound and sailed to Lake Tashmoo, anchoring there. It's an easy row to the dinghy dock, easy walk to Vineyard Haven and it's dark and quiet at night!

Day 5 - Lying in Lake Tashmoo as before. We walked into Vineyard Haven, then took the bus to Edgartown and visited friends on Chappy. Nice to see them and also nice to use their most wonderful outside shower! Early evening we were back at the dinghy dock, finding our ride back to Liquidity deflated at the dock. Thanks to a good Samaritan who ferried me to retrieve an air pump... problem solved. (No problem with the dinghy other than the valve cover was unscrewed, something that hasn't happened EVER! Sabotage is the only explanation.)

Day 6 - Called the Menemsha Harbormaster at exactly 0700 and reserved a mooring in the basin. With the current in our favor we sailed a long tack close hauled which took us to the edge of the Bight, then with one short tack we were at the channel entrance. Menemsha is always a delight!

Day 7 - Lying in Menemsha as before. I stopped into the Chilmark Chandlery and had a nice, long chat with Everett Poole. My purchases for the day were one slightly used 1/2" thimble and two postcards, for a total of $2.00 plus tax. That lead to several hours of eye splicing in my very stiff anchor rode to replace a rusty thimble. Late afternoon we rode the current into Menemsha Pond, hung at the beach for a bit, then rode the current back to the basin. Great timing for a great afternoon and we returned with just about the largest horseshoe crab shell I've ever seen.

Day 8 - Underway in the morning, through Quicks Hole and on to Cuttyhunk, mooring in the pond. We kept busy in Cuttyhunk by doing nothing, which is what Cuttyhunk is all about.

Day 9 - Lying in Cuttyhunk as before, doing nothing as before.

Day 10 - Back through Quicks Hole and East to Tarpaulin Cove, anchoring for the night. This was the first test of Everett Poole's 1/2" thimble and my eye splice and all worked well. We had an easy night, with light wind from the South.

Day 11 - East to Woods Hole, sailing through, then sailing on to Red Brook Harbor. We stopped for fuel and water at Parkers Boat Yard, then again anchored at Bassets Island.

Day 12 - With the long-range forecast questionable, we decided to head to Scituate and be closer to home as our cruise was coming to an end. We left early, had an easy passage through the canal and a great sail... wind from the South, 15 gusting to 20 and we flew on a broad reach for about 40 miles.

Day 13 - Lying in Scituate as before. We were right... big wind and heavy rain... and we had a nice, easy day in the cabin.

Day 14 - Back to Boston... an easy sail in moderate air... and a great end to a great two weeks!

Thursday, May 30, 2013

A week on Mystic Whaler

Several weeks ago, I gave Hudson River Sloop Clearwater my 4th volunteer week (over three years). With Clearwater upriver completing some Winter repairs, I was on board the schooner Mystic Whaler for the first time. (For 18 years, Mystic Whaler has teamed up with Clearwater during the busy, Spring season.) The program is the same... two sails a day, about 40 New York school kids in the morning and the same in the afternoon, then do it again tomorrow. All ships (and all captains) are different though and Mystic Whaler was a new experience for me.

It took me a day or two to settle in to a different ship, captain and routine. No pre-breakfast morning deck wash on Mystic Whaler. A private cabin. Candle light dinners. No evening deck wash, either. An easier rig, schooner vs. sloop, with lighter loads, makes sail handling lots easier for our 4th grade guests. I never minded the work and accommodations on Clearwater but neither did I miss them on Mystic Whaler.

I was on board for eight days. We taught 400 kids details about water quality, the Hudson River watershed, life in the river and more. The big picture though is that keeping the river clean is important. The bigger picture is that the river is just a metaphor for rivers everywhere, watersheds everywhere and our planet as a whole.

Why isn't there an equivalent program in Boston?

Dinghy war update!

So far, so good and the dinghy is pretty much holding air. If I check for a leak, there's just the smallest hint of a bubble... next slow day at the marina, I'll add another patch but I seem to be safe without it.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

I might be winning the dinghy war!

For more than a year, I've been fighting this pesky little air leak in the starboard tube of my inflatable. The leak is on a seam and at the after end of the tube, where the rubber bumper is, all of this making getting a good seal with a patch rather difficult.

I pretty much used up the circles that came with the patch kit, building up the area around the seam and the bumper in an effort to get a better seal. What I needed was a larger patch.

Wandering the yard, I came across what looked like an abandoned dinghy. I'll emphasize "looked like," as pretty much any dinghy left deflated on the ground through the winter would look the same. Still, it was worth investigating.

What I discovered was that some other scavenger had already removed about a square foot of dinghy. This one was indeed dead! So I sliced a square foot or so for myself, without question or ethical quandry.

So far, so good... patch in place, dinghy inflated to full pressure... 24 hours later, still fully inflated and no sign of any leak around the patch. But I'll be heading back to the yard to salvage a bit more material, just in case.

Stay tuned.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

LIQUIDITY is Afloat!

Seacocks serviced? Check!
Topsides waxed? Check!
Bottom painted? Check!
Launch form completed? Check!

Bottom painting was finished on Monday morning and the launch form was dropped at the Marina Bay office on Monday afternoon. The call that LIQUIDITY was launched came before 10 am on Tuesday! Thanks to Matt for his prompt attention to getting me in the water.

We're almost ready to go, with LIQUIDITY's gear mostly back on board, the main bent on and the Genoa on board and waiting.

Life is good.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

At least it's not snowing

It is, on the other hand, completely freezing out. Still, I managed to get the winter cover off last weekend and greased the seacocks. I'd like to see some warm days for hull waxing and bottom painting. Is that too much to ask for?

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Is it Spring yet?

We're now post-St. Patrick's Day and from my point of view, it's not supposed to be snowing.

Mid-March is usually a great time to head to the marina yard and remove LIQUIDITY's winter cover. All it takes is a mild, sunny and relatively windless day. Cut off the cover, climb aboard, have lunch (either in the cockpit or the cabin, depending on the weather) and go home. Other than cutting the cover off, it's not intended to be a working day.

Maybe this weekend.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

What I learned in Japan

L and I are just back from a two week vacation in Japan and I've been thinking about what I may have learned there that will make me a better sailor. It's not that we sailed in Japan. Rather, we did the usual tourist thing, visiting historic sites, eating, more sites, more eating. So what did I learn?

Well, it seems the Japanese people are expert at doing more with less. They live in small homes, with little in the way of furnishings. They eat simply. Life for them just takes up less space. There's a lesson there. It's not in the specifics, it's in the philosophy.

Perhaps their lifestyle is lesson enough.