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…
Finally a day with sunshine, warmer temperatures and lower winds. Finally it’s winter sail removal time. I’ve been anxious about leaving the sails up while traveling abroad. And now I’ve been home almost a week, but the weather’s been rainy, cold and windy. Not optimal de-rigging conditions…
Time to head off to the Willsboro Bay Marina to remove my sails. I’ll post a progress report soon. I hope… (Sail Removal 2014)
That was just over a week ago. Much has happened since then. Slow progress, but progress nonetheless. Sails. Are. Off.
I should start by admitting that it’s been a steep learning curve. It seems so obvious, right? Remove the sails. Bag up the sails. Store the sails.
I’ve pulled sails off of small sailboats and windsurfers thousands of time. How different can it be on a 31′ sloop?
Removing the mainsail was easy. Pull the battens. Remove the slides from the mast. Remove the halyard, topping lift, Dutchman, etc… Pack it all tidily into the sail bag and celebrate halfway-to-completion!
But my celebration was premature. I’ve never removed a sail from a roller-furler before, so it took some research and reading to figure it out. I’m certain it’ll be simple a year from now, but this first time was all new. And then I discovered damage to the genoa, ripping and binding along the leading edge that fits into the roller-furler. Removing the final couple of feet further damaged the already exhausted fabric. Looks like sails will need to be repaired this winter!
Actually I had planned to have them serviced to ensure that they were not going to fail next season. I figured a more knowledgeable skill set wold be prudent, but now it was apparent that the the project was going to be even more involved than I initially anticipated. So it goes.
I was referred to Vermont Sailing Partners in Winooski, Vermont to inspect and repair the sails. That’s the boss man, Bill Fastiggi, in the photo below, inspecting Errant’s genoa.
Bill agreed with my guess that these are the original sails, but he felt like they’re in good condition and have plenty of sailing left in them. I was reassured but asked him whether it made more sense to replace them given the amount of repair work necessary. He explained that they could make me a new set, but assured me that the repairs indicated were were and inexpensive.
We agreed to repair the genoa, adapt the bottom of the mainsail, and convert from a B to A style Dutchman flaking system.
For the genoa, they will remove and replace the head and tack webbings; repair sail damage; replace Dacron caps at head and tack; repair torn luff tape at tack; and add a cut-back at the tack to prevent future tearing of lower luff tape.
For the mainsail, they will relive the bolt rope tension on the luff which is bunched due to rope shrinkage; remove the foot rope and convert the main to a loose footed sail; and replace the old B style Dutchman flaking system with a simpler A style.
Given that there’s no rush, I encourage them to fit in the work when they could and that I’d retrieve the sails in the spring at launch time. That solves the winter storage problem!
This morning will be my last sail before heading off to the desert southwest for a week. Light but steady winds, bluebird skies and a father willing to join me in exchange for good conditions and a pastrami sandwich. Actually, he probably would have come even without, but the least I can do is dial in the weather and spring for lunch, right?
Note the chilly temperatures. It’s a bundle-up sort of day! Apparently autumn is offering a preview of crisper times to come.
Windy & Wavy
The wind forecast for today was accurate enough in the morning, but windspeed increased steadily all afternoon, blowing consistently in the high teens and low twenties. And with all that wind coming out of the north, the waves were stacking up into fairly significant rollers.
I’ve gotten much more comfortable pushing her forward even when the gusts knock us over a little, and she plows right through those waves.
It was an exciting and slightly anxiety inducing experience, but I learned a lot about how the boat performs. I’ve gotten much more comfortable pushing her forward even when the gusts knock us over a little, and she plows right through those waves. In hindsight, we would have been wise to reef early in the day and to furl some of the genoa, but all told it was an excellent learning experience. The boat handled well and we stayed dry.
End of Season Service
Today marked another first of sorts, docking in Vermont at the Point Bay Marina service dock for diesel and a pump out. I’ll be getting the boat hauled and winterized shortly, so wanted to make sure that she was ready for the trip north with Mark and Jim.
The west side of the service dock was open and I was able to dock pretty smoothly with my bow up into the wind. Not a confident docking job, mind you, but it was adequate. No last minute engine revving, and no abort and try again. I know it’ll take plenty of time getting on and off docks, etc. to feel comfortable with this, but each little victory is a step in the right direction.
Docking at the Point Bay Marina gave me a premature taste of confidence, and unfortunately my return to homeport was considerably less victorious. In fact, it was a bit of a disaster.
The wind was blasting pretty steadily out of the north, and the seas were a sloppy mess. In hindsight I should have opted to take a temporary slip with better protection, etc. Instead I tried to pivot and reverse into my super tight, shared slip with my bow into the wind. Fortunately the marina manager’s instincts were awesome and his response time even more so. He leapt onto the bow of the neighboring sailboat and prevented us from tangling anchors. Two neighboring sailboat owners managed to fend off on our finger and caught/secured lines.
It all happened pretty quickly, and the damage was limited to a new chunk out of the gelcoat on the starboard edge of the transom. There were already several smaller dings, but this afternoon’s scar is the worst.
I was relieved and grateful, thanking everyone for saving the day. But once I was left alone to tidy up and batten everything down, I stalled a moment to study the damage. Minor but disappointing. Hopefully it will serve to remind me that I need plenty of practice before I should attempt anything as risky as backing into a slip with a strong wind.
Time to hunt around for some docking instructional aids…