A windy day

in Trip Reports

First solo sail in a lot of wind. It was also a very sunny day, so the lake and dock were quite crowded. In maneuvering the boat around at the end of the dock trying to figure out how to position everything to sail off the dock without hitting anyone, I managed to fall in off the dock. Pulled myself back up without any difficulty, and was dry almost immediately so it was no big deal, but an embarrassing start nonetheless (though no one seemed to notice).

I finally left the dock looking goofy under 2/3 sail, until I could get far enough out I could turn upwind into irons, and finish raising the sail. I need to learn a better knot that I can untie from the boat as I sail up and over it. I think there’s a way, I just need a pole and some time to figure it out.

It was quite windy out, and I was having a lot of fun playing it very close to the wind and heeling out with all my weight trying to read the gusts coming at me. A lot of fun and a lot of work. My arms were getting tired putting so much effort into holding the tiller and main sheet just so. I turned downwind to give my arms a break.

I realized I was on the wrong tack and headed too close to the pier, though still a good way off. I started to pull in the main sheet to jibe. Unfortunately, I dropped the main sheet I was pulling in, a gust picked, and I jibed before I was ready. Boom goes the boom into the back of my head, off to the leeward side goes all my weight and the sail.

I practiced capsize procedures. Unintentionally.

Going over wasn’t too violent, but my leg was tangled in the lines as the sail lay on the water. I untangled myself, swam around and then remembered the sail. Swam back around, released the main halyard, and then back to the underside once more. Put my weight onto the centerboard and up she came. Only to realize, even with the main halyard released the sail was not dropping at all. Wind caught it and it went down on the other side, with enough force to turtle fairly quickly.

My option as this point was to swim under the boat and try to figure out what the halyard was catching on or otherwise ensure the sail was in the right position before I tried righting the boat again. I carry an IP68 (full submersion) rated flashlight on a daily basis, but my bathing suit has no good location for it, so it wasn’t on me. The prospect of going under the boat in the dark water to try and identify what was stuck was not what I was looking forward to. There was a big air pocket so I would have had air and time but identifying the lines in the dark would have been tricky.

I got the boat on it’s side, but couldn’t get it to stay there as the sail was still below water and wanting to make it turtle again. I couldn’t swim around and address it while keeping my weight on the centerboard.

Thankfully a kayaker and power boat came by about this time. The kayaker was able to jump in the water with me and keep his weight on the centerboard so that the boat was again on its side. At this point, I could swim around and not wanting to risk the halyard getting stuck again, I manually pulled the sail all the way down and free of the mast. Probably should have done this the first time around.

With both of us on the centerboard, the boat came over fairly quickly at that point. At which point I got an email and my phone made noise. “Hey, and your phone still works,” said the kayaker. Yup, my waterproof case that lives in my life jacket had kept the phone just fine as I swam around.

Very gracefully (as graceful as a seal), using the kayaker as balance and trying not to further upset the now water filled and tippy boat I slithered in. I opened the scupper and it started to drain with the little movement we had. Not fast enough, but some work with the milk jug and it was at least better balanced. I was not however about to raise the sail and continue sailing. The wind was continuing to pick up, and going over twice, I was done for the day.

The power boat that came along earlier threw me a ski line and pulled me towards the dock. With just a little momentum the boat drained almost immediately and I closed the scupper. Thankfully, while the kayaker had been helping me the power boat had gone around and grabbed my dry bag, my Nalgene, and a bag of gloves whose 30 year old velcro securing it to the hull had come loose. The docked with me and passed my stuff back to me.

I was quite thankfully for them and the kayaker. I think I could have done it without help, but for a first time capsize in this boat, and 15+ years since my last one, it was nice to have help.

Lessons learned:

  • Stuffing into the forward cavity only works so well. Get some large clips/ropes to hold bags, nalgene, and the like to something in the boat.
  • Need to replace the main halyard. I think the sail got stuck on the swage in the last 6 inches on the halyard. I couldn’t identify the halyard as being stuck anywhere else. It’s also possible the wet rope against the cleat was too much friction. A better rope than the cheap stuff I bought might help.
  • Regardless of if it was the halyard’s fault or just the physics of the righting process, next time bring the sail all the way down manually. This is a time issue as this needs to be done quickly to get back to the underside and get some weight on the centerboard to keep it from turtling completely. I did verify that I have enough weight/strength to roll it over from a turtle myself. It was nice to have help, but I was able to move it myself too.
  • Carry the jib! There is no way to reef the main, and it would have been a long paddle back if I didn’t want to pull it all the way up and didn’t have the power boat there.

It was a fun day nevertheless. But my shoulder has an enormous welt running down my back and my head still has a large sore bump. And all my muscles everywhere are sore.

New Season & Rudder Work

in Trip Reports, Work & Improvements

Last weekend it was both a nice temperature outside as well as supposed to have reasonable wind out on the lake. I went through the boat, made sure I had everything, and headed out. Got my season pass for lake access, and then pulled in to the parking lot as it started to rain. Got quite wet just setting up the boat. Good news is one of my warmer jackets that wasn’t quite a raincoat, did quite well at shedding water. I could have done with a hood or a hat though. At least I remember to pack a towel.

Got the boat all setup, without any hitches. Glad I had the checklist to go through it though. As I finished setup, the rain stopped and the sun came out. Turned out to be a beautiful sail. Not too windy, but enough to do a little heeling. A little more variable than I’d like, but it’s a lake. I’m learning to read the water again, and to make a guess at how the land is adjusting the wind pattern creating calm spots.

Wonderful first sail of the season. Hopefully, there will be many more, enough for me to really start to learn my local waters and the boat. Maybe even venture to other spots.

I did realize the boat was quite filthy while I was out there. The water in the bilge was very black by the end. I got to test out the new hose bibb connected to our rainwater irrigation setup upon my return though. Did a quick scrub down of the boat. Much whiter now.

The rudder head unit (top part that doesn’t flip up and down) continue to split. My quick fix repair from last year failed. The wind is supposed to be nice tomorrow though, so I stripped the whole unit down tonight and tried a more thorough repair. I’m hoping I can make it last long enough that I can get my router table up and running and make a new piece to replace the dying one. For now I’m just trying to re-glue the two split pieces back together. Both sides of the split are bolted on, so further deterioration is not going to lead to catastrophic loss of steering while out, but it probably makes it a bit worse overall.

Hopefully, I can get out of work early enough to re-assemble the rudder and head out tomorrow.

First Solo Sail

in Trip Reports

Today I took the boat out by myself for the first time. I have practiced most of the on-shore setup/tear down by myself as I was figuring it out, so that was all doable. Launching the boat is a chaotic experience single-handed. I need to tie off to the dock, but also in a way I can release it to get out. Then try to raise the main, hold myself to the dock and then steer away once I couldn’t hold the dock anymore, made for interesting times.

It also resulted in the main not getting all the way up. I kept trying to bring the boat into the wind to try and yank on the halyard and get the main up the rest of the way, before I had gained enough speed to actually turn into the wind. I had the main halyard fed back through what is usually the jib halyard spot so that I could reach the it from the skippers spot to aid in coming in to the dock. However, this just had a pinch cleat, which would hold for a while, but slip a little and lower the main when I got a heavy gust. I eventually brought it back to the normal cleat to prevent that.

Going through the pinch cleat meant I was slightly more in control when coming in to the dock. However, that pinch cleat does not let it flow smoothly when dropping the sail. So I needed one hand on the tiller, one hand feeding the pinch cleat and one hand pulling the sail down. I found myself short a hand and in typical fashion, I found the dock with a thud.

Speaking of which, there were a bunch of folks out today with no dock etiquette. Boats were tied up all down the south side of the south dock, which is prime sailboat launching spots, given the prevailing wind from the north. Tied up when I left and still there when I returned over an hour later. Dock signage requests no more then 15 min. tie up. I also returned to jet skis lining the north side of the north dock that I typically use in returning. I came in to the north side of the south dock, to then have a motor boat pull in front of me, and tie up right at the water end of the dock, meaning I had to tack off at the last moment as I no longer had 2/3 of the dock to use as a target. I nearly ran over a canoe in that crazy last minute maneuver. I shouted an apology and sailed back across the lake to get a breather and give the motorboat a chance to give me back a docking spot.

Sailing itself went reasonably well. There was one gybe that involved the main sheet tangling on itself and me almost going for a swim. A few times I tried to play the role of two people on the boat and nearly entangled myself. There were several times I had as much weight as I could manage hiked out on the rail, with the other rail in the water, and a few times I took on several gallons as I buried the entire rail. Fun, lots of fun really, but, I ended with an enormous knot in my stomach.

I also got my first boat injury from this one. Sliced me knee on something as I headed out, and bled on the hiking straps in several spots before I realized I had been cut.

I do like my new life jacket. The chest pocket is particularly useful. It fits my phone inside its waterproof case such that I don’t have to bury it in the dry bag. I need to get one of those flat orange whistles. The one I have that came from my father’s kayak bag, is enormous and my life jacket has no place to clip anything.

All in all a good trip, and not overly harrowing, but obvious room for improvement to make things more manageable by one person. I’m sore and exhausted, but smiling.

Three in the boat

in Trip Reports
Emily & Whtiney

Went out sailing with Emily and Whitney today. Emily’s first time in a sailboat. Overall it went well. No major mishaps and we managed to tack gracefully a couple times. Three people was awkward during tacking, but made the load balancing a little easier overall. I spent less time crouched in the middle.

Still don’t have docking down gracefully. The mainsail did not get pulled down fast enough and there was a motor boat taking over part of the dock, such that I either had to commit or try to go around. Found the dock with a bit more vigor than intended. But smoother than last time.

My new tiller length worked out well. Much more comfortable to sail. However, the tiller extension needs shortening or it gets stuck on the traveller when deploying. Hopefully it will still be long enough when hiked out. There was probably about 10kts of wind today, not enough to need two people out on the rail. Also, upon unloading the boat I noticed a crack developing along the rudder. I need to look at it in more depth to see if it’s actually an issue or just cosmetic.

The scupper was sealing much better, but not draining at all even when underway at a good speed. I think I may look into patching it entirely, and either installing a true/proper setup rather than what looks like a custom hack job, or just install a drain port. I’m sure this port as is will work for draining a capsized boat, but it will not help to keep the cockpit free of water.

Bits of Repair

in Work & Improvements
Shortened Tiller

Well, over the last week I have made several modifications to this boat. I shortened the tiller by 10″ or so. Hopefully, this allows the skipper to sit further back and so I may be more comfortable. I also installed a pin to keep the trigger in the down position. The new and old tillers are pictured above.

I was able to replace the #2 batten that travelled out of the sail. I bought the boat with a spare, which happened to be just the right size.

To fix the stern line tangling while docking, there were two sets of holes on either side of the stern, so I was able to install a loop bracket onto either one.

The riskiest change was in scrapping off and placed a new seal on the cockpit self-bailer. Hopefully, it will hold water a little better. But it may actually be worse.

I also fixed the trailer light bit that I snapped off. Must remember to get the boat centered on the trailer before trying to hook up the lights.

I still haven’t edited the instructional document however. Must get around to doing that before using it again.

I went sailing!

in Trip Reports

We took the boat out on the water today.  Not a whole lot of wind when we got there, good for a first outing, but it was picking up as we left around 16h00.  Looking at the weather this weekend it seems like wind is generally calm in the mornings and gets better mid-afternoon into the evening.  Which is perfect for when I’m likely to be sailing.

Made a few notes on the setup document.  There were a few key steps that were missing. I’ll be amending that soon, as well as adding a takedown document.  For the most part working through it went well.  I do want to get quarter turn clips in a few spots that have screw rings. Dropped one screw bit during setup and that’s just obnoxious.  It took about 30 min. to get the boat ready to go, and about the same to return it to a hauling state.  Not bad for a first time out.  Should get shorter, there was a lot of looking around going, “I clip the what to where?”

Impressions of the boat

  • She’s fast.  Even in little wind, it was easy to pick up speed and get going, even without the jib up.  Once I learn proper sail trimming, and get some real wind, it will be fun.
  • She’s tight and tippy.  I was spending a lot of the time balanced over the centerboard with the tiller pressed into my back.  I couldn’t move further back due to the tiller length, and couldn’t move outboard to windward with Whitney already out there.  Steering from leeward just seems wrong.  In more wind I’m sure it will be possible to get two people on one side, hiked way out even.
  • She’s leaky.  Not truly leaky, but the self-bailing bit in the cockpit could do with having its seal replaced.  On to the list it goes.  It did drain well once moving, but we were doing a lot of standing still and luffing as we figured things out.

Notes for Fixes/Improvements

The tiller length is too long, it needs to be shorted.  The fold up tiller extension means it can be made really really long, but there is very little room as is, for two people in low wind.  I took one of the older spare tillers and shortened it tonight.  Need some hardware to attach it, but I bought myself close to a foot.  Basically as much room as I could without also needing to shorten the extension.  Since it’s the scrap one, I can make a real mess and switch back without trouble.

I think I am also going to look into pinning the rudder in the downward position.  It was a pain to get down, and seemed to want to come back up, which hinders steering drastically.  A good pin should be able to hold it down.  It’s still a pain to put down while underway, so a note needs to be added to not forget to do that at the dock.  Also a note to put the centerboard down.  As I said, it’s good the wind was light on a first outing.

Finally, with regards to the tiller, it needs to be installed correctly. It was tangled in the traveller when we set out and needed to be uninstalled and reinstalled while underway. A very bad idea if there had been any sort of wind, but I did it without mishap. Twice actually, as I didn’t get it fully cleared the first time.

The #2 batten got lost.  It was starting to come out at one point when we were out on the water, and was not there when we made it back to shore.  Turns out however, that the spare batten that came with the boat is just the right size.  But I will make a note on the setup instructions to ensure they are properly seated before hoisting the sail.

The new jib halyard is a tad short.  The jib can’t quite be lowered all the way to the deck.  I think I want to make it long enough the jib can be stuffed in to the spinnaker chute.  The jib did fine before it was raised, but afterwards, when we dropped it in preparation for returning to the dock, it kept wanting to end up in the water.  But, I have plenty of line, so this shouldn’t be a big deal.

One of the trailer light sticks needs repairing or replacing.  The boat wasn’t quite centered on the trailer when I tried to put it on and I split it.  I’m trying to repair it, but I may just need to replace it.  Must remember to put a note about ensuring the boat is centered in the take down instructions.

The stern line clipped to the lower center of the transom is a bad idea.  When we returned to the dock, I went to grab it to be ready to leap on to the dock, found it all tangled and we ended up hitting the dock with more force than intended as I tried to get it free. Ooops.

The outhaul and the spinnaker halyards both need better tie off points.  They were flopping around and in the way.  This made the crew’s job trickier though an already line heavy area.  I think I can clip the outhaul back on to the boom easily enough.  And the halyard can just stay tied to the mast until we are actually using the spinnaker.

A lot of notes about improvements and minor corrections to the setup documents. But I had fun. Next up, doing some improvements for better long term performance.


in Thoughts
Trailering the boat home

Yesterday I tried to buy a boat. I cam home with it in exchange for money. The “tried” is because titling it may be tricky. The boat is a C-Lark 14, built in the late 60s or 70s. I’m guessing 70s, given that there is a 863 number in the fiberglass on the transom, and only 1400 or so were built. The previous owner passed away, and I purchased it from his heirs. Oregon registration is such that the hand written bill of sale is not sufficient and I need to source proof of death, and notarized survivorship ownership release before getting that squared away. Thankfully, the previous owners (over Craigslist) are cooperating so far. It may take some time though.

I looked over the boat as best I could at the time of purchase. Not being a marine surveyor though, it was my best guess as educated by the Internet. It’s been a few years since I sailed, and a decade since I had enough time doing it to really know anything. So it’s going to be a learning experience. There’s one damaged section of fiberglass in the forward seat. The benches are pliant, but not really squishy, as is the foredeck. The hull however, seems to be in excellent condition, so I have little doubt as to the sea worthiness of the craft, I just might need to do some minor repair work here and there on other bits. The boat has been garaged it’s entire life, and last used probably 20 years ago, so is in remarkable good shape for being 40 years old.

I spent most of the evening yesterday running through the rigging. Familiarizing myself as well as determining what needs replacing. Sails seem to be in excellent shape, even if the spinnaker is a bit musty. Some of the lines are rotted however. The elastic ones are failing quickly. I broke the main halyard trying to raise the sail all the way. And the bowline gives off fibers just looking at it. Many of the lines seemed in quite reasonable shape though.

I removed a lot of excess bits of attachment for devices long since removed. Little bits of rope tied here and there. I was able to identify most of the primary working lines for the main, jib, and spinnaker. I was not able to make sense of the cunnigham or the boom vang. And my understanding of the outhaul seems screwy.

I should point out that my small boat experience prior to this, has all been on very simple dinghies. They did not have any of the racing bits that this boat does. I’ve never flown under a spinnaker before, and the amount of adjustability in this boat is a lot. My goal is to get enough of the theory of all of the adjustment to know where they can be set for the heaviest wind conditions. i.e. Figure out the safe position, and then take my time learning how to tune each of them to meet the weather conditions presented.

After some more reading online today I realized that I missed the top lift entirely. I will have to figure that out tonight. I imagine I will be rigging and de-rigging this boat several times in the driveway until I’m comfortable.

Today I ordered life jackets, and a couple dry-bags. Safety first and all that. I didn’t quite get far enough yesterday to measure and size needed replacement lines.