“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain


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3 Weeks

We have 19 more calendar days of work.  That equates to 15 days at the office.  But I am taking a little time to deal with vet appointments and our last appointment at the Travel Clinic, I plan to do some last minute running around on those days and to bring things down to my Dad’s house (diplomas, memento type stuff from our offices, etc.). So that’s two less days and I already woke up and came to work today.  That means I only have 12 more days where I am woken up by the alarm clock at 6 AM to start getting ready for work.  Only 12 more morning commutes.  Only 3 more time sheets to submit. With each day it is getting harder and harder to get up the motivation to come into the office.  Even more of a challenge is to get the motivation to complete the tasks I have before me each day instead of surfing the internet.

We spent most of this weekend on a mooring at World’s End.  This is probably the local cruising destination I will miss the most.  But I am a little ahead of myself.

First thing Saturday morning my Bride had to setup the sewing machine in the cockpit.  She noticed a couple of stitches coming undone on our dodger. She spent a couple of hours going over the dodger and repairing areas where the stitches were deteriorating from UV damage.  She was complete and boat mostly back together by noon.  The tomatoes really started to ripen on our dock plants.  So I grabbed some to eat for the weekend and cut some fresh mint for mojitos.  The peppers are coming but not there yet.

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We cast of the lines and powered for an hour to get over to World’s End where we met up with our friends Pam and Chris on Windchaser. We rafted up with them on a friends mooring.  It was hot; probably around 95 degrees, very sunny and humid.  We got into the water very shortly after getting settled.  The water seemed a little cooler than usual but that was welcome on such a hot day.

Of course I can’t just relax so I started cleaning the hull.  It’s been almost two years since our last bottom job.  This one took a beating from the ice in Charlestown this winter.  The ice scrapped away a lot of the ablative paint so I can see the grey barrier coat in a lot of areas, especially along the waterline.  We are getting a lot of grass type growth on the waterline and some pretty thick growth on the bottom.  I am just trying to get this bottom job to last two-three months more.  We plan to haul somewhere around South Carolina to do the bottom and some other things.  But I loose about a knot of boat speed from the growth after about 3 weeks.  So it will be tough to make it last long enough.

Saturday late afternoon the weather started to change.  There was now a considerable amount of cloud cover and some potential thunder storms were in the mix.  It started to rain around 4-5 PM but that was mostly just sprinkles.  For about an hour we watched a great show while lightening hit all around World’s End but not in our direct area. Bolts were crossing the sky and coming down all around us but at a distance of several miles away.  At about 6 PM we started to get some significant rain.  In fact the skies opened out and large, heavy drops started pelting the boats.  There were 3 boats rafted up on the mooring, Smitty, Windchaser and the owner of the moorings power boat.  We all retreated into our various boats to wait out what we thought was going to be some quick passing rain. A micro burst hit the area and the winds picked up.  The rain was now sideways and visibility was only a few feet. The fetch for this front wasn’t long so the wave height didn’t get big but there were dense streaks of foam from the waves.  The Beaufort wind scale estimate was a force 9-10 easily.

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The stern line on the power boat broke free.  They quickly scrambled and got it back on but that was enough to get us all on deck to recheck all of the lines.  Windchaser was in the middle and on the ball.  We were on her starboard side.  We added a second bow line just to be safe.  We watched other boats loose fenders and inflatable floats while the heavy winds were hitting.

The high winds and driving rain only last about 30 minutes.  After that we were still getting some rain and lightening was all around us but again a couple of miles away.

We were all checking our phones for updates on the weather. Another cell was to the west of us but we couldn’t tell if it was going to hit or move more south.  We watched that cell pass just to the south of us while we only received some rain.  After that there was a lull but another line of potential storms was further west that might impact us in a couple of hours.  We used the delay to cook some food and take Summer for a quick walk. The power boat made a run for home. We then retreated down into Windchaser to hangout out of the rain.  After dinner we were all a little tired so we called it a night.  We did get some more rain around 1AM but nothing like the micro burst.

The next morning we had breakfast in Smitty’s cockpit.  I hung our stern anchor, another project off the it-would-be-nice list.  We went for a long dingy ride and picked up some more ice while drinking Painkillers. When we got back to the boats, some friends joined us for an afternoon of swimming and hanging out.  Around 6:30 we heading back to our dock.  After a brief delay to retrieve our wayward dingy after I failed to tie a good knot holding her to the stern rail, we were treated to a great sunset but no wind as we powered back to our marina.

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I will really miss hanging out at World’s End.  We have had some great raft up parties here in the past and also some great times of solitude.

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Provincetown for the 4th of July

Finally! The third time’s the charm!

Let me explain. We have tried two times in the past to make it to Provincetown on our boat.  The first time was in 2012 and some rolling bands of thunderstorms kept us from going. Last year we had reservations for the 4th of July weekend but Hurricane Arthur decided to go within a few miles of Provincetown on that same weekend so we bailed then too.

Since this is our last year to make this trip happen we were pretty determined to get there.  We were again trying for the 4th of July weekend.  The group for this year was a mix of people we know from Hingham and from our winter marina, Constitution Marina.  From Hingham there were three sailboats, Pam & Chris on Windchaser, Paul and Jane on Provenance and us, and one powerboat, Steve and Sara on Excessive Behavior. From Constitution Marina there were 6-8 boats planning on going.

So as this year’s attempt approach we were all watching the weather with an unhealthy level of obsession.  There were texts going back and forth, sidebar conversations, group texts, emails. The plan was for Windchaser and Smitty to buddy boat down to Scituate on Tuesday night and then cross from Scituate to Provincetown.  This would theoretically allow us to sail to Provincetown.  Otherwise you are going directly into the prevailing winds if you try to go from Hingham to Provincetown.  The other boats were planning to follow on Thursday or Friday. The only blemish in a perfect forecast for the entire trip was Wednesday around mid-day.

Tuesday afternoon comes, we are provisioned up and waiting for Chris to fight his way through the traffic.  Chris gets there, the motors are running and we getting ready to drop the dock lines.  Nope. Chris calls and he has a technical problem. After starting the engine, Pam noticed a thumping sound coming from the engine area. Their waterlift muffler had come loose and was moving around while the exhaust was being pushed through the muffler.  It took us about 45 minutes and we had it temporarily fixed enough to be able to make the trip.  We left for Scituate around 5 PM. The winds were light and out of the southeast, so no sailing. We motor-sailed with the mainsail up. The seas were a little lumpy but nothing more than 4 footer.  We made it into Scituate Harbor around 8:30 PM.

First order of business once we were secured to the mooring was to check the weather for tomorrow. Actually, Stacey and I started looking at the weather when we were about 45 minutes outside of Scituate Harbor. All of the major weather sources (Weather Underground, Weather.com, NECN Weather, Passage Weather and NOAA Marine Forecast) we use were in agreement: thunderstorms in the Scituate/Hingham/Boston area starting at 10AM but only rain in Provincetown and the Cape starting at 10-11AM. My initial thought was to not go into Scituate, take a left and sail through the night to Provincetown. No one else really wanted to do this but we agreed to cast off by 3:45 AM.  So we ate dinner, walked the dog and got to bed early.

We woke up at 3AM and put on a pot of coffee.  While the water was boiling, we looked at weather again.  The Scituate/Hingham/Boston area thunderstorms had moved up to 9AM but otherwise not major changes.  Night ops on! We lead the way out of the harbor with Windchaser closely behind.  We picked our way through the lobster pot markers using our spotlight. By 5:30 AM we were past the majority of the pots, on our way to Ptown. The winds were a little higher than predicted at 10-15 kts, but they were from the east-southeast to southeast. This means we were directly into them. So again it was a mostly motoring kind of day.  We had a nice sunrise, the seas weren’t too bad, we were making about 5 kts and we should arrive in Provincetown Harbor around 10 AM. Windchaser tried to motor-sail for a little while with their genny out but the wind direction was pulling them too far north and they would have missed Provincetown on their tack. So they furled in their sails and we were both back to motoring.

One of the interesting things about the passage from Scituate to Provincetown is that while you spend most of the 30 nautical mile route kind of heading straight out towards the Atlantic, you never loose sight of land. By the time Scituate starts to fall past the horizon, the Pilgrim Monument in Provincetown is visible. First you just see the tower stretching above the horizon and then the duns of Provincetown start to appear. When you are out in the middle of Cape Cod Bay like this you still have a cell phone signal.  Its not enough to use data to check the weather or post on Facebook, but you could send a small text or make a call. All of these things give you a nice sense of safety are you make this passage.

We had this nice passage going until around 9AM. The Pilgrim Monument and the dunes of Provincetown started fading from sight. This indicated there was a fog bank ahead. The mainland behind us had turned into a solid wall of grey. We still didn’t have enough of a cell signal to check the weather.  We turn our VHF to a weather station and I panned out with the radar to see if I could see any storms approaching. Still nothing to indicate a change in the forecast.

Another 10 minutes passed and we lost sight of Windchaser. We were in the middle of the fog bank and had about quarter to half mile visibility. We called Windchaser on the VHF and slowed down to allow them to catch up. With the fog the safest thing was to buddy boat into the harbor so that we could see if any boats are approaching on our radar. We didn’t see any boats in the immediate area but we did see a squall line. After watching it for a few minutes it was apparent that the squall would pass behind us. But it was time to rock the foul weather gear just in case. The lightening hitting the water around us and the sound of the thunder made it seem a lot closer.

While this squall line was passing a second squall line showed up on our radar. This one was much larger. And heading right for us. I called Windchaser on the VHF and told them to prepare for weather.

When the rain hit the winds kicked up slightly, going from around 15 kts to just under 30 kts. The rain was coming down hard in bands but we were mostly able duck below the dodger and the bimini. The lightening was coming down every few minutes now. We were able to watch many of the bolts hit the water. Not a great feeling when you are on that water with a giant metal pole sticking up from your deck.

Just as we were getting into the second squall line, we were close enough to the cell towers in Provincetown to get a weather update. The first thing we saw was “Tornado Warning In Your Area”. What? Tornado warnings in Provincetown? That’s a far cry from just some rain! We looked at the radar on our weather apps and it didn’t look good.  Yellows, reds and purples all southwest of us making a track right for us. The Tornado warning was in affect until 10:30AM.

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Luckily we never saw much worse conditions.  The max wind gust we had was in the low 40 kts.  Eventually the shoreline of Provincetown came into view and the visibility improved to about a mile. We rounded Long Point and headed for the safety behind the breakwater.  The storm decided to give us one more good down pour just as we were trying up to our moorings at Provincetown Marina.

We waited out the rain and headed for shore when it eventually let up. The first thing on the agenda was a cocktail and some lunch. And after the morning passage we had what better cocktail then a Dark ‘n Stormy! A few rounds of those, some Mermaid Orgasms at the Purple Feather, some espresso martinis and various other cocktails mixed in and we were all ready for an early night.

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The next day our friends Steve and Sara joined us on Steve’s power boat. We spent the next couple of days having some good meals, drinking and eating too much. We spent some time out at Long Point Beach. There were Nature Ops (i.e. chasing seals around in dinghies). We met up with the others who had come to Provincetown for the holiday weekend at various points but the group was too big to do anything all together. We mostly split up into smaller groups. One evening, after far too many Maker’s Mark bourbons straight up, our friends Steve decided to debut the “Clutch Dance”.

This all led to a slow and lazy 4th of July morning. By the time we made it to shore it was almost time for the parade. We walked down the main street where the parade would happen to get an ice coffee from the Wired Puppy.  Ice coffee in hand we found a spot to watch the parade.

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After the parade we spent some time checking out the local art galleries.  Provincetown has some of the best local artist we have found anywhere.  We made the trek down to the west side of Provincetown to a restaurant Chris and Pam insisted would be one of our favorites. Victor’s opens for raw bar happy hour from 3-5 PM but you need to line up there by 2:30 PM or you might not get in.  But for those two wonderful hours you can eat all of the raw oysters, little necks and jumbo shrimp cocktail at 99 cents each.  They make some dam good cocktails too.  After an hour here our group had consumed 10 dozen oysters, 2 dozen little necks, 3 dozen jumbo shrimps, 2 hot appetizers and who knows how many cocktails. We were primed to make our way to the Tea Dance Party. The Tea Dance Party happens every day from 4-7 PM at the Boat Slip Club.  There is a pool on a deck over looking the harbor and the place gets packed with people drinking rum punches and dancing.  You need to be open minded to go but it’s a lot of fun.  The most popular outfit of the day seemed to be a very small speedo with a leather harness.  We met up with our friends Dena and Lee there and had some great times dancing and people watching.

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After the Tea Dance we headed back to our boat where we had a prime seat for the fireworks.  We were less than 200 feet from the barge from where they were launching. We drank some more, eventually grilled some food and played Cards Against Humanity until sometime in the early morning of July 5th.

Pam and Chris were up early on July 5th and left by 8 AM to head back to Hingham.  With now wind and a long power in front of us we slept in a little bit.  We didn’t drop our mooring until close to 10:30.  Once we made it around Long Point we set a course for Hingham. There was less than 5 knots of wind, it was sunny and the seas were dead calm.  I set the autopilot and started working on little projects while my Bride alternated between sleeping and reading.  I was able to finish changing out the running rigging with the new line, I changed our flag halyards with some 550 paracord, tried to fix some solar LED lights that I eventually trashed and did some cleaning and organizing.  It was a productive day for me but no sailing to be had.


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Marblehead Revisted…..Maddie’s Sail Loft gets the Best of Me, Again!

This past weekend we were hanging out with some friends at the dock and I was reminded of this post that I never finished.  So it’s a little late but thought it was worth sharing.

For Labor Day weekend of 2014 we headed back to Marblehead with our friends Pam and Chris for Friday Night prior to continuing onto to Gloucester for the 4th year in a row with a large group from our home dock.  Pam and Chris were in their Catalina 30, Windchaser, and we were of course on Smitty.  We had an uneventful trip up to Marblehead with light winds that were mostly on the our noses.  So motor sailing for us.  No biggie.  We made it up to Marblehead by early afternoon.

Our favorite spot in the very large mooring field is the Marblehead Harbormaster moorings right opposite the Landing Restaurant.  We were able to get two of these moorings near each other.  After securing the boats we spent some time walking around Marblehead and checking out some local spots.

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Pam: “The sun is hot!”

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We headed back to the boat prior to having a great meal at the Landing.  After our meal we headed for Maddie’s Sail Loft to meet up with Pam’s sister-in-law.  After my epic hangover from drinking too much at Maddie’s last year, I put myself on a strict two drink limit.  Yeah, that didn’t happen.  I quickly drank my two drinks.  Then two more.  Then some more.  Then we left and went back to the Landing where I decided it was a good idea to switch from vodka and soda water to Scotch.  I also felt the need to declare that “you don’t get hangovers from good Scotch!”  Yeah, that may be true if you only have one or two good glasses of Scotch, it is certainly not the case when you have 3 (or 4 I don’t really remember) after too many tall, stiff vodka and soda waters.

Needless to say I was hungover the next day. I got up and took the dinghy to shore.  I walked a couple of blocks to the nice coffee shop we had seen the previous day and got some coffees and egg sandwiches for the group.  I stumbled my way back to the dinghy and delivered the breakfast to Windchaser just before I passed out in the cockpit of Smitty.  Eventually we got underway but I was in no condition to handle the boat.  Once I got the boat past the mooring field I passed the helm over to my Bride.  She got to watch Pam and Chris have a great, single tack sail all the way into Gloucester Harbor.  I say watch because every time she asked if we should be sailing I said no because I was too hungover to move. (Jesse should have added here that The Bride has banned him from Marblehead trips – no stop over on the way to Gloucester this year!)

We made it into Gloucester where we met up with the rest of our group from our home dock.  This year there were about 18 boats that made the trip.  There are so many of us that now they have taken to rafting us up to make enough space.   After docking, I went up to the pool to have something to eat and a little hair-of-the-dog.  Feeling a little better but really tired I went back to the boat to sleep.  I was woken up around 8PM my our friends Jenn and Jeff (Jenn is from Gloucester and meets up with us whenever we stop here).  Everyone was pretty drunk and the parade of lights was about to start (boats all light up like Christmas Trees going down the canal and out into the harbor) and fireworks were to follow.

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Smitty and Windchaser rafted up at Cape Ann Marina

We love this annual trip to Gloucester.  It is one of our favorite local harbors.  We will typically stay at Cape Ann Marina and enjoy their indoor pool with a bar.  They have a cool Caribbean vibe restaurant that has a $1 raw bar happy hour.  The highlight of the weekend is the dinghy trip up the Annisquam River.  We all hop in our dinghies and head up the Annisquam to Wingaersheek Beach.  Great spot with fine white sands that looks like a Caribbean beach (the water is a little colder but still really warm for Massachusetts). (The photos below are a mix of a couple of years.  I need to start taking more pictures. And not putting my thumb over the lens.)

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On Monday we sailed back south.  We had a nice sail, not too much wind so we ended motor sailing part of the day.  But it was a great way to finish the weekend.

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Don’t know what I am going to do about Summer. She just can’t seem to get comfortable on the boat. 😉

 


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Sailing a Modern Hull

Last weekend we were at a friends yacht club for some nautical bingo.  Fun night and we won an eco air horn and spare dockline.

During the evening I got to talking to a prospective member of the club.  He has been sailing a Catalina 30 out of a nearby marina for 8 -10 years and was trying to become a member of the club and purchase a bigger boat.  He was looking at boats similar to the Catalina 36.  After talking to him about what he was looking for in a bigger boat (i.e. larger master berth, more room for short term guests, bigger cockpit, bigger head, etc.) I suggested he should look at the Catalina 350 as many of the layout aspects may be better for his intended use.  He responded that he had ruled out the C350 because he heard it didn’t point or track well.  Ugh!

This is one of those things that you hear and that is perpetuated by the internet that drives me crazy.  How you sail a boat has a lot to do with the hull shape, the rig and the conditions.  You just simply can’t sail a Catalina 310 the same way you would sail a 1970s Cape Dory or a Lyle Hess Bristol Channel Cutter. Understanding the hull’s stability curve is paramount to sailing the boat efficiently.  This requires having some basic knowledge about form stability vs. overall stability vs. dynamic stability.  In this day and age of computer designed boats and boat designers willing to help the public learn it’s never been easier to get this general understanding.  Here are some of my favorites:

Bray Yacht Design, Stability – What Is It and How Does it Work?:

Stability is the ability of a vessel to return to a previous position. Positive stability would then be to return to upright and negative stability would be to overturn. Stability in it’s most basic form is the relationship between the center of all floatation in your hull (center of buoyancy, or CB) and the center of all weight (vertical center of gravity, or VCG). In other words, the downward pull of Gravity and the uplifting force of Buoyancy. These are the primary characters in this scene and all others play minor roles. Once you understand how their relationship works, understanding stability becomes a simple matter.

M.B. Marsh Marine Design, Understanding Monohull Sailboat Stability Curves:

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Righting moment with KG's scaled for hull loading

Righting moment with KG’s scaled for hull loading

  • Hull A, the narrow one, will have a hard time flying much sail. She’ll heel way over in a breeze. But she can’t get stuck upside down.

  • Hull B, a moderately slender cruising shape, also can’t get stuck upside down- her AVS is 170 degrees. Her extra beam causes the centre of buoyancy to move farther to leeward when she heels, so she has more initial / form stability than hull A and can carry more sail.

  • Hull C, which is typical of modern cruising yachts, has over twice the sail-carrying power of the slender hull A. She’ll heel less, and since her midship section is much larger, she’ll have more space for accommodations. The penalty is an AVS of 130 degrees. That’s high enough that she can’t be knocked down by wind alone, but wind plus a breaking wave- such as in a broach situation– could leave the boat upside down until a sufficiently large wave comes along.

  • Hull D, the broad-beamed flyer, can hoist more than three times the sail of hull A at the same angle of heel. She’ll be quite a sight on the race course with all that canvas flying. Her maximum righting moment, though, is only 37% more than hull A’s, which leaves less of a margin for error- hull D is more likely to get caught with too much sail up, and will reach zero stability at a lower angle of heel. If she does go over, she has considerable negative stability, making it unlikely that she’ll get back upright.

Wavetrain blog, Modern Sailboat Design: Form Stability:

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Stiff boats with good form stability in one sense are more comfortable, especially for novice sailors, than boats that heel easily. In another sense, however, they can be very uncomfortable. Though they are rolled to less severe angles, they snap back from those lesser angles more quickly and abruptly than boats with less form stability that are rolled to greater angles. The resulting motion can seem jerky and violent, and this is reflected in a boat’s motion-comfort ratio. This quick motion, combined with the tendency of a flat-bottomed boat to pound in a steep head sea, may lead some to conclude that there can be such a thing as too much form stability.

The most important thing to remember about form stability is that it does not translate into ultimate stability. A sailboat’s hull form can help it resist heeling up to a point, but past that point all bets are off. A boat that depends too much on form stability to stay upright will be capable of supporting an enormous sail plan in moderate conditions, but when caught in a sudden squall with all its sail up, it can be laid over and capsized very quickly.

Ted Brewer Presents a Primer on Yacht Design:

The terms and ratios that follow are used by all yacht designers so it’s a good idea to have an understanding of them if you are considering buying a boat, or having a custom design created (of a classical style, of course!).

You may need to work out some of the ratios for the boats you are considering for purchase from the available information but the formulas are simple and can be handled by an inexpensive scientific calculator. The one I use in my design business is a Sharp EL-520, almost old enough to vote, and cost less than $25 new, too many years ago.

Robert Perry (my personal favorite designer), Keel Design According to Perry on the Sail Far Live Free blog:

I have designed a series of full keel boats (Baba 30, Baba 35, Baba 40, Tashiba 31, Tashiba 36) and all of these boats sail quite well. But I have pulled the leading edge of the “full” keel aft and tried to give it a reasonable leading edge in terms of shape. Some people call these designs “modified full keels”. That’s OK but those labels can be pretty nebulous. Probably my biggest complaint with full keel designs is that they seldom if ever back up well under power. They also add a lot of wetted surface and that can kill light air performance. Plus, they are so long in chord that if you give them a good efficient foil say with a thickness ratio of 10% (width of the keel compared to the chord length) you will end up with a fat keel that adds too much displacement to the boat. And the funny thing is, and it’s not intuitive, all that keel volume is on the wrong side of the righting arm when the boat heels over. So technically a big full keel can reduce your righting moment.  Go ahead and love your crab crusher full keel boat but don’t try to justify the design on technical terms. Some traditional full keel designs have a lot of subjective, aesthetic appeal. That’s good enough reason to love your boat.

We don’t have to guess anymore about keels and draft. I use a Velocity Prediction Program (VPP) to analyze my hulls and keels. I can try various keels and drafts and pick the one that gives me the best combination of performance results. We reduced the draft on CATTARI 6” after doing a series of VPP runs.

I included this last bit from Robert Perry to highlight a point I often make.  Too often we fall in love with a look of a boat or how salty we think it makes us to have certain aspects of a design.  But seldom do most people actually understand what that feature actually does for performance.  Also, I often get chastised from old, salty types for bringing up that boats designed by computers have advantages over older designs done by hand.

Several weeks ago I came across this blog post: How to Sail a Morgan Out Island 416.  Many of the characteristics described in this post are similar for modern cruising boats like the Catalina 310 and Catalina 350.

All yachts are a compromise. As such, each design has its strengths and weaknesses; the Out Island 41 is no exception. She is very beamy to allow for more living space below and more room to enjoy the pleasures of being on deck. In addition, her draft was kept relatively shallow so as to allow her owners to enjoy many anchorages and gunk holes. These can be enjoyed only by dinghy when sailing deeper draft yachts. As a beamy, shallow draft yacht, she must be handled on some points of sail in a slightly different way than a deeper draft yacht with less beam. The most prominent distinction exists on the wind and close reaching. Sail trim on both these points of sail is critical for optimum performance.

This post goes on to describe some specific techniques for different points of sail and conditions.  Almost all of these tips hold true for our Catalina 310 and some other modern designs like Jeanneaus that we have sailed.

The way I often describe it to people is you have to sail a modern cruising boat almost like a catamaran.  My Catalina wants to sail flat footed.  We typically stay between 10-15 degrees of heel.  If we are heeling over 20 degrees we can see a noticeable reduction in our speed.  Compare that to a Pacific Seacraft 36 that feels like it will heel to 25 degrees with the slightest breeze but can’t get pushed over 40 degrees in gale force winds. This gets back to the form stability vs. overall stability discussed above; it’s like comparing Hull A (Pacific Seacraft) and Hull C (Catalina) in the article from  M.B. Marsh Marine Design.

If you sail a beamy, modern hull over heeled it will not point well. The keel is designed to stay deep in the water and not be up closer to the surface.  With the keel up high, you will have sideslip and your will not point well.

So REEF!  Reefing is not a sign of defeat or the sign of a beginning sailor.  On most points of sail we need to reef at around 18 knots or we lose significant speed.  The good thing is that Catalina designed our boat to make this easy.  We have factory installed, single line, slab reefing.  This means all you need to do to reef the main is ease off the sheet until luffing, release the main halyard and ease it down while taking up the reef line, once the reef point is down to the boom lock it in and retention the main halyard.  All of this can be accomplished from the cockpit in under a minute if you are well practiced.

There are many other small pointers such as sail trim, lead positions, etc. but the article on sailing a Morgan Out Island already does a great job of listing these so I won’t repeat them here.

In my opinion there are very few bad boats.  Boats are designed for a purpose and a price point.  Add to that some aesthetic characteristics.  To balance all of these you need to make compromises.  I always say that a boat is a series of compromises and it’s finding the balance of these that best fit your wants and needs that will make for a good match between the boat and owner.


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Moved To Our Winter Home

This last week we moved to our winter marina.  Our marina for the last 9 years has been the Hingham Shipyard Marina.  It’s a great location and our dock, formally Land Fall Marina, has decent rates for the area.  I won’t go into some of the problems with this marina but I will give it a huge plus for location and amenities.  We can walk to 6 restaurants, 3 grocery stores, 2 marine supply shops and a big box home store.  The biggest plus for us is that there are 2 off-leash dog parks that we can walk or dinghy to for Summer.

Last April when we began full-time liveaboards, the yard manager and dock manager said they would be open to us being winter liveaboards.  But after asking them about what their plan would be for water and waste, they basically didn’t have one and we would be left lugging jugs of water and our only option for waste would be to illegally discharge.  We didn’t like those options.  Plus, just like during the summer season, we would be the only liveaboards in the whole marina.

We know that Captain’s Cove has winter liveaboards since our friends on Sunshine stayed there a couple of years ago.  From their experience we know that the water and waste options would be similar to Hingham Shipyard Marina.  They even shut down and winterize their shore facilities so we would have to go to a local gym or the YMCA to shower.  But atleast we would be around some other liveaboards.

We did a little research and came up with three option.  The most appealing was Constitution Marina in Charlestown, the Boston neighborhood that was the setting of Boston native Ben Affleck’s flick The Town.  This marina has a plan:

  • Sink water lines about 6 feet below the water so it doesn’t freeze.  Just pull up a line, fill your tank and sink the main line again;
  • They sell adapters for your deck pump out to bring it outside of the shrink wrap so your boat can be pumped out easily.   They come around once a week and pump you out;
  • They offer both white and clear shrink wrap.  The clear shrink wrap acts like a greenhouse during the day and helps reduce the heating costs and the feeling of claustrophobia.  Our regular marina doesn’t even know about the clear option, and;
  • They have a small pool that they enclose in a tent and heat to a little over 100 degrees so they can have Friday night pool parties all winter long.

In August we cruised over for a test stay to see if we would like it.  The facilities were great.  One of the owners is among the 100 full-time liveaboards.  We met some of the people that live here and they seemed like great people.  They even have a Yahoo group for the liveaboards to communicate and share info on heaters, shrink wrap, parties, etc.

The downsides are limited parking, a longer commute for me and more expensive grocery stores.  But you do get one parking space as a winter liveaboard and we only have one car.  Also, I can work remotely and reduce the number of days I have to commute the further distance.

We pulled the trigger and submitted our dock license and deposit to stay there for the winter.

Our original plan was to make the move on Saturday, November 1st.  But as we watched the weather, it didn’t look favorable for the move.  The forecast was for 40 degrees, possible high winds and some snow.  However, Wednesday, October 29th looked great with temps in the 70s.  So we took some time off of work and made the move on Wednesday.

The weather was good but the wind was light, around 6-8 knots.  We were able to sail for a little bit but mostly motor sailed until we turned into Boston Harbor when the wind was dead on our nose.  It was still a nice fall trip with some good foliage.

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Passing Peddocks Island

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Boston dead ahead!

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Castle Island in South Boston

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Approaching Constitution Marina

We were welcomed into the marina by some friends we have made online but have never met in person.  They are also liveaboards.  Including Andrew, a guy who has lived on his Catalina 310 for 13 years.  I can’t wait to pick his brain about how he sets his boat up for the winter and any upgrades he has made.  It’s really nice to be among other liveaboards.  We have found it very easy to quickly bond with people who share this life.

Living in Boston for our last year in the winter will be really nice.  We have never lived in the City  before.  We can walk to the North End in about 15-20 minutes which will make it difficult to resist but we need to focus on building the kitty.  The condos close to here are some of the most expensive in the City.  It’s really tough to beat this view….

IMG_2468That’s Boston Garden and the Lenny Zakim Bridge in the background.  You can see Smitty’s bow in the middle of the photo.  And yes, that is snow.  Lovely Sunday morning storm we are having.


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Coping with Sailing on a Schedule

The most dangerous pieces of equipment on a sailboat is a calendar.

This is one of those sayings that circulates around sailing blogs, internet forums, message boards and through dock-talk.  Essentially when you let a schedule dictate if you should leave a safe port and head for the next rather than the weather window, sea state and your crew and boat being ready for the passage you can get yourself in trouble.

This is great advice and very understandable when your full-time cruising.  Why not wait another day on the hook for a better weather window?  Doesn’t cost you much if anything.  If you’re doing it right then you are in a beautiful place.  But when you are still working and your cruising consists of a nine day window, a weeks vacation plus the two weekends, this advice becomes much harder to follow.

For our 2014 Summer Cruise we had tried to stretch this window as much as possible by adding a holiday and another vacation day.  It took a lot of convincing with bosses and a lot of long days to get the work done but we had gotten our window to 11 days from July 3rd to July 13th.  Our schedule was originally to leave Hingham on July 2nd after we got out of work and head to Scituate.  That would leave us in a great jump off point for an 8-10 sail to Provincetown.  We had planned to spend a couple of nights there with about 15 other boats.  Then we would head south to the Cape Cod Canal and spend the rest of our cruise kicking around the Cape and Martha’s Vineyard.  Not as long as we would like but a nice break from work.

Enter Hurricane Arthur

For the most part, New England was only going to get some heavy rain from the this storm.  Except for this little part of Massachusetts known as Cape Cod and the Islands.

Thus began my obsession with weather (in truth whenever we are in cruising mode I am checking weather like I have ADD).  What did the spaghetti models say, what did the wind models for the Cape look like, what was going to happen with this slow moving low that was over New England? [I use Passage Weather, Weather Underground, NOAA Marine Forecast and Accuweather as my prime resources and will sometimes also go to the Weather Chanel and Weather Bug. Always looking for new weather sources so let me know if you have any suggestions.]

The 15 boats going quickly became five; two sailboats and three power boats.  This is where the difference in travel time really began to play a role.  Based on the timing of the storm we could all make it over to P-town with little problems.  On Thursday, July 3rd the sailboats had planned on leaving from Scituate.  With an estimated travel time of 8-10 hours we would be safely secured to our moorings by late afternoon on the 3rd and would not be traveling on the 4th when the storm was predicted to hit.  The power boats only had a 2 hour travel time so they could leave the morning of the 4th and still be secured to a slip or a mooring by the time Arthur hit at around 9PM but most planned on leaving early on the 3rd so they could have the day to spend in P-town.  Coming back the sailboats would have to leave early on Sunday, July 6th and have another 8-10 travel day to get back.  Typically this means a 6-8AM departure and arriving back at the dock around 4 PM.  The power boaters could leave P-town at 4 PM and make it back by 6PM.  This gave them another day in P-town to enjoy the area.  So the power boaters would end up with essential four days to enjoy the area, July 3rd through the 6th, and the sailboaters would end up with two, July 4th and 5th.

I’m not complaining about the slower speed of travel on a sailboat.  I would rather spend 8 hours sailing then 2 hours powering.  I am just pointing out how this became a factor.

So now we, the sailboaters, began watching the weather forecasts for the 4th and 5th.  Both days were going to be mostly rainy.  The 4th was predicted to be a total washout and the 5th we might get a decent after noon out of it.  Not great when those are your only two days to enjoy the area.

Now the storm path.  Just how bad was it going to get in P-town? The early models were predicting that P-town would receive 25-30 knot winds from the north to northwest.  Nothing bad and from the direction that P-town harbor was best protected.  Remember that slow moving low I mentioned.  Well it started to slow down some more.  This was causing the path to be pulled further west, closer to P-town.  Now the predicted winds were in the 40-50 knot range with gusts to 70 knots.  Also, there was less confidence in the models due to the affects of this low.  Some forecasters were even making comparisons to the Perfect Storm.

Another power boat dropped out.  The group was down to four.  By the way, this was the largest boat in the group and the one that could best handle large seas.

With this change of path we now started being more concerned with the sea conditions in Cape Cod Bay.  This closer path would stir up the seas and make it a washing machine on Cape Cod Bay.  Saturday would be bad and Sunday may still be pretty snotty.

So now it’s Wednesday morning.  We are supposed to leave for the first leg that afternoon when we get out of work.  Instead of working we are spending time looking at all the weather models.  In the end, we returned to the quote at the top of this post.  We were letting our schedule influence our decision.  If we were full-time cruising we would never consider leaving a very safe harbor that will only see minor impacts from a hurricane to head closer to the eye of the storm.  That’s just a bad decision.  And now its not just our boat but our house we are putting at risk.  We dropped out of the P-town part of the trip.  The other sailboat followed shortly after.

Thursday morning came and it was really nice.  The two power boats left.  The other sailboat left and went to Gloucester (further away from the eye of the storm).  We did some work to better ready us for the rest of our summer cruise (post coming soon).  Friday came and we saw some winds around 20 knots and a lot of rain.  Good day to go to the movies and do some stuff on the inside of the boat.

So what happened in P-town?  The whole time our friends were texting or putting posts on Facebook that it was fine in P-town and we were wimps for not going.  But something started to seem funny about these texts and posts.  It was 9PM and all of the photos were in daylight.  Hmmm.  It turns out they made them leave the docks (no boats on slips, everyone had to go to a mooring).  They were all hanging out on one of the power boats, eight people and a small dog.  At around 10PM some of them went to leave to take the dinghy back to the other boat.  They went to the rear cockpit of the boat and quickly realized it was too rough to dinghy back to the other boat.  All eight of them slept on the one boat.  A boat that only had one full berth and a dinning table that could be converted into another berth.  No boats were damaged.  The conditions calmed down in the late morning on the 5th.

I feel we made the right decision.  The whole experience also makes me want to get out there even more so that don’t have the time constraints we now have and we can enjoy cruising more without having to worry about the calendar.

 


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Wind & Weather (or Lack Thereof): Our trip to Maine

(Finally got around to finishing this post I had as draft for a long time.)

Each summer we try to take a week or more off to do some local cruising.  In 2011, the first season we had Smitty, that meant the relocation sail from Warwick, Rhode Island to Hingham, Massachusetts.  That was only about 200 nautical miles but fog, thunder storms and rough seas conspired to make that trip take 8 days.  That included three days fogged in at the mouth of the Cape Cod Canal.

Last year, 2012, we went south to Buzzards Bay.  We had great weather for the most part and were able to causally sail to Plymouth, Falmouth, Menemsha on Martha’s Vineyard, Cutty Hunk and back again.  The only real challenging days where when we crossed Vineyard Sound.  The first day, going to Menemsha, was just some high winds that peaked at close to 35 kts before we made the harbor.  The next day when we sailed from Menemsha to Cutty Hunk we again had 25 to 35 kts winds with 8-12 foot breaking seas on our beam.  That was a great test for Smitty and her crew.  We definitely built up some confidence in our boat that day.

This year we headed north.  Our plan was to cruise the southern coast of Maine as far north as the Portland area.  We knew this would miss some of the best cruising grounds Maine has to offer but for our first trip we thought it would be a good start.

The trip began with a buddy boat sail to Gloucester on the 4th of July.  I shouldn’t say sail because there was no wind, less the 5 kts, and we motored the entire way.  Our friends Pam and Chris joined us on their Catalina 30, Wind Chaser.  Tom and Nance on Sunshine also joined us but they got a late start after they left their cat at the dock and had to turn around to go get her.  It was an easy passage and we stayed at Cape Ann Marina for two nights to enjoy the area.

Cape Ann Marina has a good restaurant on the premises, an indoor pool with a bar and a island theme bar that has live reggae on Friday nights.  We’ve been here before and now do an annual trip with a bunch of other boats (that’s coming up Labor Day Weekend).  A short dingy or cab ride away is downtown Gloucester that has more great restaurants and bars.

We did some dingy exploring and found the Madfish Grille in the Rocky Neck.  We were looking for a place to dock when we were almost hit by a fish carcass thrown from the window of Madfish by the sushi chef.  We tied up to their dock.  Very cool open air vide with reggae playing, very reminiscent of a Caribbean bar.  Some of the best rum punches we’ve had since our trip to the BVIs.  After a couple of rum punches we went exploring the local artist galleries.  We came across  the Imagine Gallery.  The coolest thing about this gallery is that they operate on the honor system and there is no one manning a register.  You right down your purchase in a note book and leave cash, check or an IOU.  There is cash in there to make change if needed.

imagine rocky neck

After thoroughly annoying Chris with “artist crap” we returned to the Madfish for some snacks.  My Bride and I split some sushi that was some of the best we ever had.  It was a maki roll called The Glosta that had tuna and avocado covered with spicy broiled scallops, fresh crab, tempura flakes and  scallions.

After our snack, we did some more dingy exploring.  We checked out Ten Pound Island and the stand for the Gleasy Pole.

That night we enjoyed the live reggae at the Bridge Deck bar at the marina. Great band and lots of fun with friends.

The next morning we took Smitty up the Annisquam River with a couple of inflatables in tow.  We spent a great day at the beach.  Beautiful white sands and warm water.  We do love this spot.  Our friends Jenn and Jeff joined us.  It was a great day.

The sunsets on the Annisquam are a great sight.  It’s one of the few spots in Massachusetts where you can see the sun set on the water.

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The next morning we left the Annisquam heading north.  We had planned on sailing but the wind didn’t want us to.  So we powered for about 6 hours past the Isle of Shoals and made our way into Wentworth Marina.  It’s a great high end marina in Portsmouth, NH.  Not that close to down town Portsmouth but they have loaner cars or you can take a taxi for $15.  (By the way, this is where the photos of our trip will end because I dropped my iPhone in the ocean when we got back before I had a chance to download the photos.  Part of the reason it took me so long to finish this post.)

We went to down town Portsmouth and did a tour of the Portsmouth Brewery.  A very cool local spot that brews their own beer and was where the idea for Smutty Nose Beer was born.  If you are in the area, do the tour.  They don’t get a lot of people who do it but its really cool to see how they set up their systems and you get some free tasting samples at the end.  There is also a great local coffee shop called Common Ground just up the road.  They use the beans from Common Ground to make the mocha stout.

Our friends Tom and Nancy on Sunshine joined up with us again in Portsmouth.  They found a nice mooring just outside of the Wentworth Marina that is part of a federal program that makes it free to transients if not in use by the person who leases it.  Good to know.  The next day we took the loaner car for a spin to do a little more provisioning.  Of course we had to make another stop at the Portsmouth Brewery.  Need to get a couple beers to take with us for the rest of the trip.

Here is where our Maine cruise fell apart.  We had planned to go up to Kennebunkport next.  About a 8-10 hours sail.  But thunderstorms came rolling in.  They were pretty severe too.  They kept us in Portsmouth for an extra day.  Not a big deal.  We cooked some dinner and had Tom and Nancy over to watch Riding Giants (life changing movie for Tom and I see why).

Then the next day thunderstorms were predicted for the afternoon again.  We didn’t have a long enough window to make it to Kennebunkport.  So we decided to make a shorter jump of about 2-3 hours to York Harbor, Maine.  This would have been a simple trip except the wind was dead on our nose and we only had about a 4-5 hour window before the storms came in.  So it was more motoring then sailing.

York Harbor is a great spot (good thing when you hear the amount of time we spent in the harbor).  Its a harbor in a river with a good 4-6 kts current.  The guide books and a short conversation with the harbor master told us to hit this area at slack tide or with the tide just turning against you.  If you try to go with the tide you might end up moving too fast to have good steerage.  This was good advice as there are a lot of rocks and shoals and the channel is rather narrow.

Once inside it was a great little harbor.  The harbor master maintains a couple of moorings, maybe 10.  The downside of being in a river is you often end up bumping against the mooring ball in the middle of the night waking you up and sending you out on deck to makes sure everything is ok.  You have one restaurant on the harbor and a couple others you can walk to once you dingy ashore.  There is a local yacht/sailing club for kids.  They have a dock that they let us use to land and it was fun to watch the kids go out for a sail in the afternoon breeze.  The prime spot we liked was the Ship Cellar Pub in the basement of the York Harbor Inn.

The whole inside of the pub is made to look like you are inside an old sailing ship.  They make really good rum swizzles and had a happy hour buffet that was actual meal worthy food, not just snacks.

We also took the dinks for rides up and down the river.  Went to the Wiggly Bridge for a walk with Summer.  But by far the highlight of the trip was buying lobsters directly from a lobsterman.  We saw a couple of lobster boats moored about 100 feet away so when I saw them come back in the afternoon I took the dingy over there and asked to buy a few lobsters.  We knew that lobsters were going for about $9.99 a pound back in Mass but didn’t know what to expect to pay from the lobsterman.  We agreed we wouldn’t pay more then $30 for 3 lobsters.  So I ask the guy for 3 lobsters around 1.5 pounds each.  He hands me 2 about 1.5 pound lobsters and 1 about 2.5 pound lobster.  I ask him how much and he tells me $10.  I was thinking $10 a piece and hand him $30.  He laughs and hands me back a twenty.  Nope, he meant $10 for all 3!  I went back to the boat and the Bride and I steamed them up in the galley in some of the beer from the Portsmouth Brewery.  Added some drawn butter and summer slaw from the refer.  We had ourselves a nice lobster dinner in the cockpit for less than $15 total.

Now here is where our cruising Maine story get’s typical.  We never left York Harbor!  Next morning, fog followed by thunderstorms.  Next morning extremely thick fog.  We ran into the lobsterman who sold us the lobsters two days before and he said he wouldn’t go out in the fog.  (He did offer us the use of his truck if we needed to go to the store.  People aren’t that nice in Mass.) Next morning fog again.  We decided to make a try for it.  We have radar after all.  We got outside the harbor and we couldn’t even see the bow of our boat.  Fog was just too thick. You can’t avoid lobster pots when you can’t see them and the area is just loaded with them. So we turned around and went back.  Tom and Nancy were still having their coffee in the cockpit (they didn’t have jobs to get back to so they were going north, further into Maine when the fog cleared).

Finally, the fog was light enough for us to make our escape from York Harbor.  But it was Friday and we had to be to work for Monday.  We headed south on an early departure.  We started the day with good conditions and we were finally able to sail. We had about 20 knots of wind on a beam reach.  For the most part we had following to quartering seas at about 2-4 feet.  That made for a nice comfortable ride under head sail only all the way down to Isle of Shoals making about 5-6 knots.  As we rounded Isle of Shoals the wind and the current slightly shifted with us keeping us on largely the same tack.

However, as we got out of the lee of Isle of Shoals the waves and wind started to build.  By the time we were about halfway between the Isle of Shoals and the mouth of the Annisquam River the waves were closer to 6-8 footers with the occasional 10 footer mixed in.  The wind has also increased to about 30 knots.  We furled in some head sail and were still making good speed, about 4-5 knots VMG with playing the waves.  But the quartering seas were starting to wear us down.  They are not very comfortable with our fat ass (the wide stern of Smitty).  Each wave picks us up and surfs us down the face of the wave.  Sometimes pushing us as fast as 9 knots while going down the wave.  The winds were starting to shift on us too making it more of a beat into the wind.  So we adjusted our course for comfort.  This took us a little farther out on Cape Ann.  Eventually we reach the point were we needed to turn and run dead with the waves into the mouth of the Annisquam.  We furled the sail and turned on the engine for that part.  That was again a little white knuckle but once we got inside the mouth of the river the sea state calmed to almost nothing.  The wind was still blowing at around 35 knots now.  We decided the best thing to do was to get into the lee of Cape Ann.  So we proceeded down the river and got a mooring in Gloucester Harbor for the night.

The mooring was nice and close to our favorite sushi joint, the Madfish Grille. We took the opportunity to get some sushi from there for the second time on this trip.  We decided to get some take out and eat in the cockpit since it was a nice warm night in the lee of Cape Ann.  Jumped in the dinghy and my Bride took Summer for a walk while I got our food.  While in the bar waiting for that delicious sushi, I noticed a couple of guys change their seats at the bar.  It wasn’t until later that I realized they moved because I smelled.  A week on the boat and I hadn’t had a shower.  It was really too cold for the cockpit shower, even with hot water.  Oops.  Oh well,  we still enjoyed the sushi.

The next morning the wind was gone again and we had an uneventful trip back to Hingham.

I liked Maine and would like to see more of it but it just isn’t practical to do for a one week vacation.  There is still so much more to see up there.  I hope we will head back at some point.