Mooring Malaise

One month ago today I sailed Errant with my brother and nieces. An unchallenging but thoroughly enjoyable afternoon with moderate wind, plenty of sunshine, and leisurely hours to catch up after too long apart.

An almost perfect day of Lake Champlain sailing. Perfect except for bumping the keel on the bottom. Twice.

Lake Champlain Water Level

A virtually snowless winter, followed by a relatively drive spring and an extremely dry summer has resulted in the following precipitous drop to Lake Champlain water levels.

Lake Champlain Level, August 22, 2016
Lake Champlain Level, August 22, 2016

One month ago (July 21 recorded approximately 94.75 feet) I hit bottom exiting and entering my slip. Despite some recent upticks in water level due to heavy rain over the last week, Lake Champlain water level has nevertheless dropped below 94.5′ So at least a 3″ drop since I rubbed Errant’s keel on the bottom.

In other words, nature hasn’t solved my problem. Far from it!

Mooring Malaise

It’s an odd feeling, eleven thousand pounds (and change, plenty of change) of sailboat stuck in a slip at the marina. Unnerving really.

And my options were few. Haul out. Hang tight and hope for rain. Think about other problems. I’ve tried and applied all three options. Denial worked best. For a while.

A fellow sailor suggested that it’s possible to push Errant sideways away from the dock enough (6 feet? 12 feet?) that she’ll miss the “hump” when I reverse. He knows because he lived through the same problem some years ago when his sailboat was in my slip.

No other good ideas have presented, so the plan is to follow his instructions. I’ll be requisitioning helpful dockhands plus line handlers aboard. But given persistent reverse-steering troubles this summer, I’m not feeling overly optimistic.

And there’s another obvious problem. If/when I manage to liberate Errant from her slip, what then? There aren’t any other deep water slips available…

I’ve come across a hopefully viable solution. I’m replacing one of my existing moorings at Rosslyn with a Hazelett mooring system.

Hazelett Elastic Moorings

Classic Sailing Yachts on Hazelett Elastic Moorings
Classic Sailing Yachts on Hazelett Elastic Moorings

Relatively shallow water depth in front of our beach and boathouse combined with a relatively open moorage (we’re exposed to heavy seas especially during strong north winds) combined with a heavy sailboat with ample windage makes mooring challenging. Our existing 200 lb. mushrooms with conventional chain and buoy moorings are grossly inadequate for mooring Errant. But it turns out that industrial rubber bands offer some interesting advantages over chains and mushrooms.

Hazelett Mooring System
Hazelett Mooring System

Less scope. Less jerking. Less corrosion, wear and tear, ice damage, etc. I’ve spoken to a nearby sailer with similar exposure who’s had great luck with his sailboat on a Hazelett elastic mooring. Todd, the fellow who runs the waterfront at Point Bay Marina (across the lake) has also testified to the performance and reliability of the system. They’ve switched over their entire mooring field. Seems like I should have explore this route long ago.

The first installer recommended by Hazelett never followed up despite a half dozen communications and a couple of weeks, so Todd from Point Bay will be installing our new mooring. It’s a two elastic band model with a massive 4’x4’x2′ ballast. And it will hopefully be installed in the next few days. I’d been hoping for last week, but conditions delayed installation. A delay that ticked by painfully slowly as I monitored lake levels and worried about extracting Errant from her slip. Hopefully I’ll be able to share some good news soon!

One Month Lost

So today I’m checking in, performing some routine maintenance, and quietly consoling Errant. I’m apologizing for neglecting her. I’m promising to resolve her situation ASAP.

I’m admitting regrets, admitting and then letting them go. Moving on. Or planning to move on as soon as I have a mooring!

Tomorrow I’ll follow up with installer, and maybe the next day I’ll try to free Errant from her “landlocked” slip. Sideways. If I can muster an army of assistants. If I can overcome my hesitance to temporarily anchor her in front of our house until the permanent elastic mooring is installed. I have some reservations about that, but that soul-bearing another day.

Bottoming Out… Twice!

This afternoon offered a mixed bag of sailing pleasures and pains.

Tiptop on the pleasure side of the equation was being joined by my brother and nieces. Beautiful conditions – sunny and dry, breezy and gusting 9 to 19 knots – offered the perfect bonus.

But, on the painful (or at least, not-so-pleasurable) side of the equation was “kissing” sunken debris with the keel. Yes, you heard that right. Big frown. Bottoming out is never, ever pleasurable.


Downtime with my brother, a globetrotting diplomat, is a rare luxury. Doing so while sailing was the highlight of a roughly weeklong visit by my brother’s family.

This is the third summer that my nieces have been enjoying sailing adventures aboard Errant, but it’s the first time that we have forgotten to bring their comfy life preservers. Both nieces were less than thrilled to wear the onboard emergency jackets, but they were good sports nonetheless. In fact, it turns out that the oversized orange PDFs make pretty good pillows!


Unfortunately the day’s painful element was bumping the keel on the bottom. Twice. Lake Champlain water levels continue to drop, drop, drop. I still have enough water in my slip, but there’s a hump (debris?) in the bottom that I bumped on the way in and out of my slip. Not hard enough to cause significant damage, but concerning nonetheless.

A fellow boater who used to keep a sailboat in the same slip some years before suggested that I try what he had done: have several people on the dock push the boat out sideways to clear the hump before reversing. Sounds doable but dodgy, especially given the steering problem I’ve been experiencing. So, what next? I still don’t know. Stay tuned…

Daysails with Friends

“Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing—absolute nothing—half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.” ~ Rat (Source: The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame)

Sailing Errant with Elena and Ian May 28, 2016
Sailing Errant with Elena and Ian May 28, 2016

I wholeheartedly (and sometimes as distractedly agree) with Rat. And, I might add, that there is absolutely nothing so worth doing as messing about in boats with friends.

Sailing Errant with Miriam and John on June 3, 2016
Sailing Errant with Miriam and John on June 3, 2016

And so it is that I share images from three recent sailabouts, two with friends and one with my father.

Sailing Errant with Gordon on June 4, 2016
Sailing Errant with Gordon on June 4, 2016

Happy Hour Sail

Happy hour sail aboard Errant on May 23, 2016
Happy hour sail aboard Errant on May 23, 2016

Some Mondays explode out of the starting gate, one blurring bolt of giddy-up-get-it-done. I love those Monday mornings!

Today was not one of those Monday morning. Not at all.

Happy hour sail aboard Errant on May 23, 2016
Happy hour sail aboard Errant on May 23, 2016

Fortunately, five o’clock found me swapping desk for dock and laptop for helm. Happy hour. Happy hours. Two and a half hours of perfect breeze, easy seas, seventy plus degrees, and a breathtaking sunset. The perfect wind down to a not-so-perfect day.

Now I’m ready for Tuesday…

Happy hour sail aboard Errant on May 23, 2016
Happy hour sail aboard Errant on May 23, 2016


Shakedown Sail 2016

John Davis sailing Errant on May 22, 2016.
John Davis sailing Errant on May 22, 2016.

It was a pleasure and a privilege to be joined by my friend and Essex, New York neighbor, John Davis, for Errant’s 2016 launch and shakedown sail. In addition to legendary wildlife/lands advocate, author, activist, and adventurer, John’s a very capable sailor.


We arrived at Willsboro Bay Marina around 7:45 AM, and Errant was hanging in the travel lift by about 8:15. I touched up the cradle pad marks with bottom paint, and we splashed her.


All day the conditions were overcast and cool-ish. Morning was windless with satin smooth waters, but conditions  improved as we made it out to the road lake. Gradually freshening as we approached The Four Brothers (islands), winds mostly ranged 6-12 knots.

John Davis raising the main on Errant on May 22, 2016.
John Davis raising the main on Errant on May 22, 2016.

We crisscrossed Lake Champlain between Willsboro and Shelburne until we reached Whallons Bay, then tacked back upwind to Charlotte before heading west to Errant’s berth at the Essex Shipyard.

Both Essex marinas appeared to be empty as we approached, however a single blue powerboat graced the otherwise dramatically illuminated but eerily uninhabited scene.

Sails On: Spring Rigging 2016

Sails On: Spring Rigging 2016
Sails On: Spring Rigging 2016

The final mission critical item on my to do list before Saturday’s launch was to rig the sails. I had hoped to order and receive three new halyards for running up the sails, but my timing was off. The new halyards will arrive midweek.

So today I headed down to Willsboro Bay Marina and   Installed the canvas. Now I’m ready for a to launch Errant on Saturday morning for the summer 2016 shakedown sail to Essex Shipyard.

Bimini Blues + Pressure Washer Bliss

Once the winter cover was removed and stowed I turned my attention to the bimini. I remove all the exterior canvas in the autumn before installing the winter cover, so in the springtime I need to reverse the process.

The first step is to remove the two foremost stainless steel bimini supports, reposition then ahead of the backstays, and then reconnect them. This permits them to fan forward and support the canvas.

Securing the canvas to the stainless ribs is as simple as fastening eight snaps and zipping a half dozen zippers. And yet for the second year in a row I false started, half-attaching the cover backward before realizing my mistake. In the photo above Errant’s bimini is secured, taught, and ready for sailing.

Next up? Time for a scrub-down.

Pressure Washer

I loaded up the pressure washer before heading down to the marina, planning primarily to simplify hull cleaning (in anticipation of bottom painting). The chore was moderately successful, but the worst soiling turned out to be a dock-rub that remained unchanged no matter how much I abused it with my jet of high pressure water. Looks like some heavy duty compounding will be necessary.

But there’s a silver lining.

Errant’s topsides were overdue for a eep cleaning, and the pressure washer proved its mettle removing stains and last season’s grime from the nonskid. I cranked the pressure and made pass after pass, waving the wand back and forth and watching the gelcoat emerge [almost] like new.

Not bad, right? No soap. No significant elbow grease. Just water, pressure, clean…

About the Bimini…

I noticed while installing the bimini that it’s beginning to fail. Too much weather. Pinholes are beginning to appear. The vinyl window is foggy, scratched, yellowing. It’s time to consider a replacement (and possibly a couple of modifications). Here’s the outfit that fabricated the bimini. I’m curious if they’re still around. Time to find out…

De-Mothballing Sailboat for Spring Launch

Spring at last! Errant will be launched on May 15. I will be traveling much of the time between now and then, so lots of pre-launch preparation and dewinterization needs to happen quickly, quickly. Today I got a good jumpstart.

The morning started with removing the winter cover. Temperatures were cool, but skies were clear and the winds were light. Pretty optimal conditions. Step one was to loose all of the teathers that secure the winter cover to the boat and cradle.

Once all of the winter cover tie-downs were untethered, the lacing at the bow needed to be removed.

Mission [almost] accomplished… unfortunately the lacing finishes way out of reach — even using the step ladder — so I had to climb up inside to work from the bow deck. Here’s a glimpse of the cockpit looking aft from the companionway.

And here’s a view forward once I finished unlacing and unzipping the winter cover from the bow.

The next step was to disconnect the bow section from the stern section by unzipping a series of connections roughly perpendicular to the mast. I folded the bow section on itself in 2–3 foot rolls, and then we folded the long roll of surprisingly heavy waterproof fabric until the bundle is compact enough to fit in a stuff sack for storage.

Then I continued the process with the winter cover’s stern section, starting at the mast and folding my way aft.

Once entire cover is removed, folded, and stuffed into the storage bags it’s time to remove the support substructure that supports the campus. I tend to go a little overboard installing styrofoam insulation on all obvious stress/abrasion points to reduce the chance of damage from wind and snow and ice during the winter. Before dismantling all of the supports, it’s necessary to clip the wire ties that hold the stars one place and then gather all of the styrofoam insulation for reuse in the autumn.

Mission accomplished! The winter cover is off.

Wire tie detritus. 

With the winter cover removed and stored, it’s time to install the bimini. Stay tuned. 

Bottom Paint: Interlux VC 17m Extra

It’s time for fresh bottom paint, so I checked in with Errant’s previous owner to see what he had used. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it! He’s always been a huge help, and my bottom paint question is no exception. Here’s a screenshot from our exchange.

VC17 Bottom Paint?
VC17 Bottom Paint?

Some day he’ll probably ask me to leave him alone, to stop bugging him with maintenance questions, etc. But until then, he’s proven an amazing resource.

So, let’s take a look at the product I’ll be using to refresh the antifouling paint on Errant’s bottom.

Interlux VC 17m Extra

VC 17m Extra with Biolux® is a thin film antifouling paint for racing sailboats and powerboats that is formulated with Fluoro microadditive to reduce friction and drag. When applied the VC®17m Extra will immediately give a hard, super smooth, racing finish that would normally take days of tiresome sanding. VC®17m Extra incorporates the Biolux® technology along with the metallic copper to achieve complete protection in freshwater or low fouling saltwater. VC®17m Extra is great for use on inflatables.

  • Thin film antifouling for racing sailboats and powerboats.
  • With Fluoro microadditive for a low friction surface.
  • Hard, smooth surface for use in fresh and low fouling salt water.
  • Great for use on Inflatables.
  • Quick drying for fast re-launch.

(Source: VC 17m Extra with Biolux Antifouling Boat Paint | Interlux)

Here’s a video from one of the biggest purveyors of Interlux VC 17m Extra. (Helpful video, but I was pleased to discover that Willsboro Bay Marina sells Interlux VC 17m Extra in their ship’s store, so I’ll happily keep my business local. Thanks, Tami!)

How to Remove the Wheel from Your Catalina 310

How to remove wheel from Catalina 310
To remove wheel from Catalina 310 you will first need to remove the nut.

So I mentioned in my last post (Late Winter Check-up) that I need to remove the wheel from Errant. I’ve decided to forego replacing the stock Edson wheel with a Lewmar folding wheel. I still love so much about it, but

  • it adds one more thing to break and maintain,
  • it’s a slightly spendier gadget than I should justify now,
  • and I’d rather “test drive” one before committing.

But I’m ready to swap out the hot-or-cold-or-clammy feel of a stainless steel wheel, and adding a suede/leather cover seems like a smart upgrade. But first I needed to remove the wheel to take it home. (More on the new wheel cover soon.)

How to Remove the Wheel

I should start by acknowledging that I got lucky. Removing Errant’s wheel was quick and easy. Apparently that’s not always the case, but I’ll leave instructions for trickier removal to my unlucky counterpart wrestling the wheel free.

In my case, the task was completed in three simple steps:

  1. To remove the wheel from Catalina 310 you will first need to remove the nut.
  2. Once you have removed the nut you can slide the wheel off.  (Note: You may need a gear puller to loosen the wheel.)
  3. Once you remove the wheel from your Catalina 310 be careful not to misplace the key.

Here’s what it should look like.

What About the Autopilot?

Good question. I did skip explaining how to remove the autopilot prior to removing the wheel. Hope that doesn’t confuse anybody!

I have some autopilot maintenance (or replacement?) that I need to undertake and that I’ll report in a separate post. I’m still figuring out the best path forward. But, for the sake of clarity, if you have an autopilot that attaches to / syncs with your wheel you’ll obviously need to remove that before you remove the wheel.

How to sail a Catalina 310 in search of adventure + bliss!