On the Hard Again: Winterization 2016

Winterization 2016: Errant (near right) is on the hard again at Willsboro Bay Marina until next spring.
Winterization 2016: Errant (near right) is on the hard again at Willsboro Bay Marina until next spring.

Last Thursday my bride and I sailed away from Essex for some “together time” to wrap up our boating season on Lake Champlain. Today Errant is on the hard, winterized, and covered for a long North Country fall-winter-spring. What a week!

Winterization 2016: Errant (port side, winter storage cover) is on the hard again at Willsboro Bay Marina until next spring.
Winterization 2016: Errant (port side, winter storage cover) is on the hard again at Willsboro Bay Marina until next spring.

As always, I’m super grateful to Paul, Tami, Andre, Michael, and everyone else that ensures smooth operations at Willsboro Bay Marina. What an incredible team. Always reliable, always friendly, always generous, always over-delivering. Launching and hauling has is such a positive experience each year. Thank you, Team WBM!

Winterization 2016: Errant (stern view, winter storage cover) is on the hard again at Willsboro Bay Marina until next spring.
Winterization 2016: Errant (stern view, winter storage cover) is on the hard again at Willsboro Bay Marina until next spring.

There’s a long-ish laundry list that we need to take care of during winter storage including:

  • finding and fixing a fresh water leak
  • repairing the bimini bracket that ripped its screws out of the deck
  • troubleshoot ceiling light in head (one works; one doesn’t)
  • repair broken ceiling light in salon near clock/barometer
  • fix v-berth latch
  • refinish companionway boards
  • repair main and genoa
  • install smart latch brackets for helm seat
  • source new cockpit cushions and porthole blinds
  • repair/reseal wiring in bilge (especially wind instrument connections)
  • replace all running rigging, dock lines, etc.
  • replace halyard/sheet/line pockets
  • and various other projects…

But for now, it’s time to celebrate a memorable sailing season on Lake Champlain, and to breathe a sigh of relief that hauling and winterization are complete. And — it’s worth noting — de-rigging, winter storage cover, etc. took half the time of last year. Progress!

Last Waltz 2016: Big Wind and Big Seas

The best-laid plans… According to our scheme, we’d follow our leisurely two-night stay in Burlington with an early morning rise on Saturday in order to sail west to Willsboro Bay Marina before the wind and waves had a chance to build.

By 5:00am I was up and showering, fretting over the increasingly rough water and the ever-mounting wind. Meteorologists failed. Again.

Looks calm enough in the photo, right? Well, it wasn’t. With stern into the wind and waves, Errant was see-sawing bow, stern, bow, stern. The docks were moaning and groaning. And I nearly wore out my weather apps trying to get a handle on what to expect.

For context, I take you back a couple of days:

So, one side of me is aching to wrap up the season with a final day of big wind and big seas. But I know for certain that this is not the best way to nurture my bride’s extremely restrained interest in spending more time sailing Errant. (Source: Last Waltz 2016: Preparations | Sailing Errant)

Plan vs. Reality

By 8:00am we’d set sail in gusty winds fluctuating between hight teens and low twenties. Directly out of the south, so looong fetch. Huge rolling seas.

My bride was not pleased.

But with worsening weather and a Monday haul-out date (driven by travel booked shortly thereafter), we knew what we needed to do. Double reefed main and genoa, nose into the surf, and off we went. We soon discovered that we’d be unable to sail directly west to Willsboro Point. This put us broadside to the building waves, and we were taking tons of water over the deck and into the cockpit. Not fun with many miles ahead.

So he headed further north, enduring a rodeo ride between Burlington and Port Kent, New York. Wind quickly starting pushing into the low 30s. Hull speed never dropped below 7.5 knots. Waves were as large as I ever experienced on Lake Champlain. I was wavering between concern for my bride who turned out to be an incredible trooper, helping solve crises as they arose, and keeping us focused on the goal of our crossing.

At one point port side bimini blew free, the stainless steel tubing having pulled the screws free from the deck. No time to round-up, we kept barreling through the waves while lashing the support to the stanchions, a solution that held despite the odds.

When we finally reached the New York shore we began tacking our way south toward Willsboro Point. I’d hoped for a wave and wind shadow behind Schuyler Island. Moderate reduction in wave action, but the winds continued to howl. Endless tacking, but gaining little ground. A dozen tacks. Two dozen. A fouled jib sheet. Bride at the help while I fought my way up to free the sheet. More tacks.

We were drenched, but finally we reached the mouth of Willsboro Bay. I’d resisted shifting over to engine power since Errant handles so much better (stronger, steadier, and more predictable) under sail power, but by the time we entered the bay we decided to switch over to diesel. It took the ages to fight south despite having the throttle wide open. We continue to take waves over the bow, continued to get slammed with water. But slowly we inched toward Willsboro Bay Marina where our slip awaited us.

No sooner had we tied up than the sun came out and the wind began to fall. We changed into dry cloths, and enjoyed the lunch we hadn’t been able to eat during our 5+ hour adventure. It tasted sublime!

What an end to the season. I’m incredibly proud of my bride for rising to the occasion. I’d marry her all over again! And I’m proud of Errant. What a wonderful ship. I’m never once questioned my good fortune in finding and purchasing this reliable vessel, and it’s been three years.

Last Waltz 2016: Burlington, Vermont

Welcome to the second installment of our Last Waltz 2016. We’re off to a splendid start (despite setting sail four hours late…), crossing Lake Champlain from Essex, New York to Burlington, Vermont.

Sailing Errant to Burlington, Vermont (Source: Geo Davis)
Sailing Errant to Burlington, Vermont (Source: Geo Davis)

Lovely, lovely conditions. Winds in the low to mid teens, cool but sunny weather, a tasty lunch, and hours alone with my bride for the first time in far too long.

My bride genuinely enjoyed the passage, and we both agreed that it was the most relaxing days we’ve enjoyed together in weeks. Months?

We settled into an outer slip on the southern end of Burlington Boathouse’s marina—lots of air and unobstructed view—and then met up with friends for drinks at Juniper followed by dinner at Bleu. The perfect start to a mini-vacation!

We continued to follow the weather, and by Friday morning we had decided that heading north to Valcour would set us up for a risky sail south on Saturday. Thunderstorm threats had been pushed back, but major wind (out of the south) promised a wetter, colder, and generally less optimal sail than I wanted for my bride. (Remember, the goal was to make her feel more comfortable sailing, not less comfortably cruising!)

Instead we opted to spend the day and a second night in Burlington. Fortunately the friends with whom we’d planned to rendezvous at Valcour agreed to meet us in Burlington for cocktails on the boat and dinner at Splash. Perfect. But first a lazy day playing “tourist” in a town where we’re normally hustling to cross items off our punch lists. I’ll chronicle the rest of our Burlington stay in Twitter posts…

And no sooner did the sun set but we were graced with a spectacular  Harvest Moon. Truly spectacular.

Let’s wrap up with a snapshot of my bride with our guests backlit with sunsetting into the Adirondacks. Good night, Burlington.

Bride with Team Gieblielmo at Splash
Bride with Team Gieblielmo at Splash

Last Waltz 2016: Preparations

All season I have been anticipating a multi-day sailing excursion on Lake Champlain with my bride. Tomorrow, at last, we set sail.

Errant waiting patiently
Errant waiting patiently

Our first leg, Essex to Burlington, promises a “perfect” weather forecast: bluebird skies, warm-but-not-hot temperatures, and moderately light winds. The moderate winds are especially important because my bride—who’ll happily, eagerly hurl herself into the roughest conditions on the windsurfer—remains uncomfortable on a larger sailboat when it heels in heavy wind.

Errant, eager to wander
Errant, eager to wander

Friday’s forecast looks similarly perfect. We have planned to sail from Burlington to Valcour where we will meet up with friends and sleep on the hook. So far so good.

Saturday’s weather forecast has been a bit less ideal. Initially it looked like day three of the same perfect conditions. Then meteorologists switched things up. Rain. Thunderstorms. High wind. Not exactly what we’re hoping for. So I waited, refreshed the weather forecast way too often, and waited some more…

The good news is that rain has been pushed back. Maybe Saturday evening, but probably not before. But the wind speed is increasing daily. Yesterday the forecast lifted from low teens to high teens. By this morning it is 20+. Keep in mind that these are land forecasts, and in my experience actual wind velocity is usually about 50% higher than the land forecast.

So, one side of me is aching to wrap up the season with a final day of big wind and big seas. But I know for certain that this is not the best way to nurture my bride’s extremely restrained interest in spending more time sailing Errant. I know that a wet sail south from Valcour to Willsboro Bay Marina will most likely backfire. So, I’m simultaneously willing a shift in the weather and weighing the possibility of abridging our plans: Friday lunch at Valcour and then sail south to Willsboro by day’s end.

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.

Upside

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!

Downside

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.

Launch

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.

Shakedown

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.

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