Wednesday, August 28. 2013
This should be somewhat self explanatory.
Last time I launched my boat my truck spent nearly half an hour with the rear axle getting splashed by salt water, which didn't help my already rusty brake lines one bit. Now that I have a smaller and newer car, I'd like to keep it completely rust free, thus there are two options: extend the hitch or extend the tongue. Extending the hitch can only be a temporary solution due to the immense leverage it places on the hitch, thus I chose option 2.
My trailer uses 3" square tubes with about 1/16" thick steel (really thin). Ideally I'd like to have a tight fitting galvanized tube to go into that, but I couldn't find anything so I wound up buying a 6 foot piece of 2.5 in 11 gauge. I think that's a little overkill.
There are a bunch of holes drilled through the pipe so I can change the length as needed, though I don't expect to ever bother.
Continue reading "Telescopic Trailer Tongue to keep your car out of the ocean"
Saturday, October 6. 2012
As I write this it is 40 degrees outside and I can hardly imagine that only 2 days ago I was out on the water enjoying a warm 70 degrees sunny day. Fall is no longer just an idea but a rather persistent reality, and, as they say in imaginary lands: "winter is coming". But two days ago, when the world was still summery, I drove my catamaran to the Keyport Municipal Boat Ramp, rigged it in record time (it now takes me less than 20 minutes), and went out towards my destination: Verazzano Bridge. Little did I know that this journey would last over 7 hours, and I wouldn't make it home for a full 10. But first things first. Here is what happened, including the bulk of the tragi-comedic adventures:
It's been two days, and my muscles are still quite sore. I feel that the sailing season is over for me this year. Maybe I'll take a class next year.
Here is the wind graph for this day (this is at Sandy Hook, it was probably somewhat stronger in the middle of the Bay):
According to this, if I had stayed out a bit longer I could have sailed back - the wind shifted from West to North.
Sunday, September 16. 2012
One of the things that makes me reluctant to take my boat out is the time it takes to rig it. I am generally sailing alone, and am thus rigging it alone as well. Fully rigging it takes me nearly an hour. I've read a bit about what can be done to make the process quicker, and am now going through the options.
Some changes are obvious winners, and I upgraded some hardware to quick release.
To figure out what's worth doing, I needed to analyse the process to find bottlenecks. To do this, I left a camera running while I rigged my boat alone.
Here is the video:
The breakdown of the major parts is as follows:
This leaves only raising the main sail (which is best done at the water on windy days) and of course getting off the trailer and parking the truck - perhaps another 10 minutes. So I've thus far dropped my 1 hour to less than 40 minutes.
I was expecting the rudders to be the biggest single component, but at 3 minutes, it's probably not worth it to attempt to rig something to permit them to stay on the boat. Raising the Jib took longer because I had to find a substitute zipper runner (my zipper is torn, I lost the runner, and the new runner isn't running as smoothly... I removed 14 minutes of looking for a donor with a suitable zipper). Raising and tensioning the main is therefore probably the largest segment, but it couldn't be captured. Leaving the mainsheet blocks attached at both ends appears to be helpful. The whole boat on trailer backwards business would likely gain me at most 3:30 (Shrouds could stay attached, and mast positioning would be reduced), so probably not worth the trouble.
Some other changes I'm considering:
Sunday, September 16. 2012
Attaching the mast forestay shackles on my Prindle 16 takes me a long time. It is also one of the more troubling steps in rigging this boat - somehow the mast has to stay up while I fumble with the shackle and its pin, holding up the bridles and pulling on the forestay turnbuckle. It's not ideal, and it could be improved.
People generally advise against using any sort of quick-release hardware on the forestay, and with good reason. Should it quick-release on its own, you'll have a 26 foot mast coming down on your head, and at best you'll be stranded. Thus I went through West Marine's entire sailboat hardware list 100 items at a time, until I had a solution. Basically, I need something that's quick to attach, but is relatively strong and secure. I am trying to go from this:
Now, it's quick-release, and it's not as secure as the original shackle, but it is very unlikely to release under tension. As an added safety measure, I use a velcro tie over the pull-pin.
Here is how this setup was made:
Continue reading "Prindle Quick-Release forestay modifications"
Saturday, August 25. 2012
This fine day I found myself back in Keyport, equipped with a brand new power righting setup should I find myself capsized again. The forecast called for relaxed 6mph winds, but it must have been a very fast 6mph - so much so that I had to take down my mainsail to keep the trailer from flipping over in the parking lot. The old man who seems to be a permanent resident of the pier helped me rig and launch, nearly without incident (my mainsheet got tangled on the trailer, and I almost sank the boat when pulling out). The strong wind forced me to launch on jib alone, and I then sailed to a beach where I could raise the main safely (In retrospect, tying off at the pier would have been just as good). Before long, I was sailing faster than ever.
My goal for the trip was to experience fast sailing alone, and to start pushing the catamaran a bit. The wind was strong enough to easily flip me, so the weather complied. After about an hour I gained enough confidence to intentionally fly a hull - a balancing act that's equal parts fun and scary. It didn't take long to get fairly comfortable to keep a hull a foot or two in the air (as a kid I used to ride a wheelchair on two wheels just for fun, and that tipping point experience is handy). The only problem was that my arms were getting abused - my main cam cleat stopped working and I had to hold the mainsail at all times.... this was also a good thing, since it made it much easier to react to wind gusts.
This day I came prepared, complete with sandwiches, but as it turns out, it is impossible to have lunch on a catamaran in high winds - you need your hands at all times. Fortunately, the Prindle 16 is a "beach cat", so I beached it. Even so I had to keep a watchful eye on it as the waves kept turning the boat against the wind.
After lunch, I resumed my journey and my heeling experiements, but this time I shifted my weight forward somewhat to level out the boat. Little did I know that in high winds this is not a great idea. As I approached ludicrous speed on the port hull, I pitchpoled unexpectedly... although I suppose that it's always unexpected. The port hull caught a wave, and suddenly the boat was going end-over, but since it was already angled, it also began to cartwheel - first bows down, then onto starboard hull, and then, to my amazement, onto the stern and back onto the port hull! This was nearly a complete revolution about the mast axis, and I still cannot quite tell how I stayed on the boat and what I was holding onto.
Here is a video that approximates what I experienced (it's the closest thing I found):
Continue reading "Holy Cartwheels"
Saturday, August 18. 2012
The very first time I got my Prindle on into the Raritan Bay I managed to hit 16.7 mph (14.5 knots). The water was warm and it was all fun and games... well, mostly - as long as you keep your head away from the boom. I met Bill who lives right by the boat ramp and he took me for a ride on his Hobie 16.
I learned that launching is best done with the bows away from shore, and that it's not so easy to come about without a steering oar.
The following week I found myself in the same location, but with significantly less wind. There was only a single gust of wind while I was out, and that one happened when the main was cleated and I wasn't paying attention... and me and my sister suddenly found ourselves being slowly dumped into the water. Capsizing wasn't the problem, as we soon discovered - it's getting it back up that's tricky. I brought a righting line complete with knots, and the boat didn't even turtle, yet our combined weight did not contribute significantly to changing the boat's orientation. The tip of the mast never lifted from its position about 20 inches under water.
Fortunately we were shortly rescued by a pair of wave-runner operators. The men had not planned for a high seas rescue, instead they came by to figure out what the odd shape sticking out of the water was all about. One of them simply grabbed the righting line and put his craft in gear - our boat came right up. Here we learned another important lesson: do not position yourself where the boat will land on you. In fact, it's probably best to hold on to the boat and go down with it.
I plan on adding a power righting pole since I'd like to sail alone.
Monday, August 13. 2012
After my gradual disappointment with inflatable sailing, I started to monitor craigslist for catamarans. Hobie 16's were at the top of the list but I eventually expanded my search to include Nacra 5.2 and Prindle 16. After some research I decided that a Prindle would actually be better as it is more novice friendly, and after some failed transactions (people who didn't have valid titles) I suddenly found myself parking a Prindle 16 on my driveway.
The boat sat unused for something close to 10 years, changing owners but never seeing much use. The trailer and hulls were sound (although dirty), but the wear items were trash - trampoline, lines, rigging were not in great shape. Before long my $600 investment turned in $2000.... some of the expense could probably have been avoided, but I wanted new parts on a boat I wasn't very familiar with.
Trampoline came from Slo Sail and Canvas (made to order), Lines and rigging from Salty Dog Marine, Sail repair from SailRite, and a bunch of little things from Murrays. On top of that, I wound up buying LED lights and new wheels for the trailer, regalvanizing the frame and rewiring the whole thing (it didn't even come with wiring).
Continue reading "The perfect catamaran - Prindle 16"
Friday, July 20. 2012
I've now owned a sailboat for about 2 months. In this time I learned some sailing terms, some sailing maneuvers, and a lot of sailing frustration.
My first boat is a Kaboat 14 with a removable sailkit from SailBoatsToGo.com. It's the deluxe version, bigger sail, bigger leeboards. I have to be honest - this thing does sail. And it does pack into bags, which is the main reason I bought it - so I can tow my RV and bring a boat. It takes about 30 minutes to put together, which I find to be fairly reasonable.
The bad news boils down to these:
In short, it's not ideal. The last time I was out on Lake Hopatcong I was making my slow and wakeful way back to port, surrounded by heeling HobieCat's. The catamarans were flying around me in circles, seemingly unaware that the winds were mild and suboptimal. It took about 2 weeks for me to start considering an upgrade seriously... and the search for the perfect catamaran began.
Sunday, June 24. 2012
I planned this well in advance, at least 2 months. The park seemed perfect for what I had in mind: quiet, not popular with kids, waterfront, water. Besides, I figured that it would be a welcome reprieve from the hot summer weather in new jersey. The waterfront campsites have no hookups at all, so I got ready to "rough it" by buying a cheap Harbor Freight generator to supplement my solar array on cloudy days. Even with this much of an advance notice my site options were limited at best. Of course I wanted waterfront... But I managed to reserve site number 47 which looked good on paper and on google maps satellite.
Things have not quite worked out as I expected. Sites 30-50 are classified as prime waterfront, while other sites are either just prime, or I suppose, subprime. Our site turned out to indeed be waterfront, but I'm not sure if I would qualify it as prime. While it fit the 20 foot trailer (barely), and it is right by the water, you don't actually see this water unless you can get around the hedges that line most of the water edge. I guess this is really a subprime waterfront site.
Frankly, many of the other prime waterfront sites are not much better, and most offer the same limited view. There are a few perfect looking sites here, specifically 42 through 30. If I were to come back here, that is where I'd stay - except that most of these have significant tree cover and would render my solar panels useless. Even in our site we only got sun until about 3pm - and the nearby sites are worse. None of the waterfront sites have electric hookups, so any RVs that stay there run generators (except ours).
The good news is that you really are about 20 feet from the water and it is possible to launch small watercraft directly from the site, which is exactly what I would have been doing upon arrival if it were not raining and cold! I certainly did not expect mid 60's for the high in late June. Launching is somewhat challenging because of the rocks, so foot protection is highly recommended.
Fortunately, the next day was slightly warmer and was occasionally rain-free, so I seized the opportunity to take out the sail boat - something I continued to do every day until we left. The weather gradually got warmer and warmer, and it didn't rain again.
Continue reading "Lake Ontario - Long Point State Park"
Wednesday, June 13. 2012
My first brilliant solution to the boat numbering problem was of course using the self-stick numbers from Home Depot. These did stick to the inflatable PVC hull, but inspired no confidence as the corners peeled off immediately.
After some research, I figured that I need to paint the numbers on. I ordered stencils, made a template with stencils, tape and old newspapers, and sprayed white Krylon Fusion onto the boat. This is a surprisingly time-consuming process - making the template to look straight in the first place can take a while, then masking and taping, and more masking.... and in the end, you still wind up with overspray everywhere because the letters weren't absolutely flush with the boat. Now you need to use acetone to clean up the cloudy edges, which also takes forever and goes through paper towels very quickly.
The real surprise comes in a few days - when you realize that the paint isn't drying. It's still sticky - scotch tape sticky. So I called Krylon, and they confirmed that the paint will only work on rigid PVC. Thanks, Krylon, all of my spray paint works on rigid PVC.
At this point there is nothing else left to try but that which you should have spent your money on in the first place - boatnumberplate.com .... live and learn.
Continue reading "The challenges of numbering an inflatable boat"
Sunday, June 10. 2012
The logic for taking this course flows somewhat like this:
Boat over 12' long? Then register it and take the course. Plan to put a motor on it? Then register it and take the course.
I found a locally taught $75 course from Boat Safe US, and it turned out not to be a complete waste of time (other than saving me $500 in fines should I ever get checked). While I already knew or inferred a great deal of the material, the unambiguous driving rules and various other bits of info were helpful. Our instructor was coaching us for the entire 8 hours to pass the test - he basically gave away all the exam questions, so it was hardly a surprise that most people got a perfect score.
Now I can legally drive just about anything that isn't commercially registered - a 60' yacht if I wanted to. But that isn't what I'm driving. I'm driving an inflatable raft. Fortunately, that's also legal.
Monday, June 4. 2012
After our Sinking in the Navesink adventure which is covered in an earlier entry, me and my passenger reached a spontaneous and hesitation-free decision. Something about rowing a sagging craft a midst a cloud of gnats makes one wish for a backup plan, and this plan involves powered propulsion, and by powered I don't mean human-powered. It took some pondering to decide whether I wanted electricity or gasoline as my main power source, but ultimately gas won due to the particular appeal of exhaust fumes, noise, and the inability to use it in restricted waters. Or was it the range? I suppose it must have been the range. Doubling your range with electric means another 50lb+ battery which costs another $170+, and will probably last a few years before it wears out. Doubling the range with gas means a couple of pounds of gasoline in a little red plastic container.
When I research my options I try to break them down into categories, and thus I searched far, then wide, then both, until I narrowed my choices to the following three:
My wife took care of blacklisting the no-name category altogether, based on some interesting past experiences. I don't have a problem with off-brands, but try as I might I couldn't find a source of replacement parts for any brands I considered, so to her surprise I came to agree with her opinion. Most forum discussions seem to agree here as well (often for unscientific reasons like "Buy American"), and while I often get a bit concerned when too many people agree with me, I felt that the decision was justified regardless of motives.
The choice between the remaining categories was simple. I felt that spending $1400 on a new motor was a bit excessive, seeing as how the whole boat thus far has cost about that much. As for used, June is not the ideal time for shopping - supply is running out, demand is high, and unsurprisingly the prices go up. Fortunately outboards hold their value remarkably well and thus I can probably get my money back. After some craigslist hunting I found the perfect motor: A Mariner 4M 2 stroke. The boat can take a 10 hp 2 stroke but I don't want to carry anywhere near that much weight. The little Mariners seem to be very well liked, and after a bit of failed negotiating I had it for a spring-time price of $375. It ran great but showed signs of poor cooling flow, and so of course I wound up pulling it apart.
The Mariner 4M on the stand
Continue reading "Outboard Motor"
Saturday, June 2. 2012
Seeing as how my understanding of our legal system boils down to "Claiming that I didn't know won't get me off the hook", I decided to read up on boating regulations "just in case". My boating equipment consists of an inflatable raft and a clip-on sail kit, but something told me that putting one red pool float into the water may not be entirely without cost. As it turned out, I was right. The New Jersey Boating Safety Manual attempts to decipher the complex set of laws surrounding boat approval using a full-page dummy-compatible flowchart. According to this diagram I must register and title my boat for two reasons: It is over 12 feet long, and I plan to put a motor on it. (It also tells me that I must enroll in an 8 hour safety course, which I hope to take next weekend).
Regardless of how funny I may find the idea of going to the DMV to register a pool toy, I'd rather keep my dreams free of the haunting face of the Angry and Disapproving Boat Police man. I've never actually met a Boat Police man, but something tells me that his gaze will be both Angry and Disapproving, while the stares of the passing vessel operators are likely to be Curious and Condescending, as they on-look from the regal safety of their properly registered non-pool-floats. Thus I gathered my documents and my pride, and went out to the place they call the Department of Moro... (I try to forget how that acronym goes).
Continue reading "A registered rubber ducky"
Monday, May 28. 2012
The clouds were rolling in steadily, and their distorted reflections now danced inquisitively in the dark stillness of the water. I continued to row, moving my eyes periodically from the luffing sail above my head to the shriveled and distorted shape of the boat hull, as it gave way to the force I applied to the oarlocks and then returned to its proper form, as if I were pumping some huge red bellows for some distant furnace. My destination, formerly my point of origin, continued to loom in the distance behind me, reminding me each time I turned my head of just how fast 2 miles per hour really is. Looking aft I would encounter the compassionate stare of my wife, helpless in her desire to assist me in some way, but finding no help from either the entirely absent wind or the partially broken rear oar locks.
I was grateful, for the moment, for the sudden disappearance of trumpeting power boats passing us on either side. Each pass of these vessels added insult to helplessness in the form of a limp sail flapping back and forth as we bobbed in their powerful wake. Now even these sources of noise and unrest were gone and all that disturbed our slow progress back to shore were the gnats, silently landing on us in small but appreciable quantities. Every few oar strokes I would break my rhythm to inform the gnats of how I truly feel about them.
But all of this happened 4 hours later.... here is how it began:
Continue reading "Sailing Adventure #5: Sinking in the Navesink"
Sunday, May 20. 2012
The wind forecast claimed that the wind would pick up in the afternoon so we went out late (2pm). My plan was to sail from a water access area in South Amboy, so we drove to this spot. It turned out to be not quite as pictured - either it was low tide or something else, but there was no way to get from the boat ramp to the water. So we moved one block over to the East, at the end of Raritan Reach Rd. There is a small parking lot with a 200' walk to the beach. We lugged the already-assembled boat to the ocean, and I should have aborted the trip right there - the waves were large for our boat (2' at times), and the wind quite strong, blowing straight towards shore. I tried to rig the sail so that it was up until I rowed out and would drop later - but our attempts resulted in a completely different outcome:
Continue reading "Sailing Adventure #4: Ocean and Navesink River"