Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Jewell Island

This weekend we decided to just sail and not worry about projects. Our destination was Jewell Island, I had never been there but I've heard it's great. Great for people, great for sailboats and great to sail to. Saturday morning I listened to the weather to find lots of sun, light and variable winds from the south east, and our course (of course) was south. The only saving grace was the tide. On our way south I let the ocean pull Neptune and tacked only when I wanted some sun or to stay away from water that was anywhere near 10 feet or less. Please see "running aground"! This sail was so easy and flat you wouldn't really know you were on the water, except for the occasional laboring of fishing vessels whose engines detract from the natural beauty only a sailor can feel. I was steering and watching the red nuns gently float by as Sophi was being handy, scraping nasty varnish off our toe rails. Little did she know it, but she was also busy throwing overboard our back up boat hook a.k.a. the boat brush on a stick.

Our approach from the north to Jewell was hampered by a quartering head wind that not only denied an easy approach to the island but also pushed us to the lee Cliff Island. On our second tack I was getting mildly agitated, but after thinking about where I was, who I was with and what I was doing, I decided that I wouldn't mind tacking to this island all day... I did want to beat this monster 3 spreader sailboat who was approaching from aft though. No dice, he passed me like a fat kid to cake, then took the best possible anchoring spot available. When we were getting close enough, I fired up our outboard and got to talking some strategy on what we were about to do. Neither of us had anchored a sailboat by ourselves. It was at this time that I realized we should have been talking about this a long time ago, but oh well. For those who don't know, Jewell is very well protected but also very narrow. We were getting close now and our CQR was at least on deck, but we still hadn't solidified a plan. It was time to wing it, Sophi was at the helm and did a good job maneuvering around a packed harbor finding us a spot. She slowed and stopped which was my cue to drop anchor, and count the feet in tens as they went into the 12 foot deep water. I let out some rode but my chest was full up with heartbeat and heavy breathing, so I forgot how much scope I let out or if I snubbed the line. I'm quite sure I didn't count or snub anything, needless to say after 10 minutes of "seeing what happens" I was uncomfortable with where we were, well actually where the huge boat-crushing rocks were, really. It was at this moment that the stars must have aligned and a leprechaun gave away his treasure and that massive boat who beat us in was leaving his sweet anchorage to raft up with a buddy who was also a millionaire. YES! Sophi and I looked at each other with the same thought. I must be a Negative Norman because I was thinking "Is something wrong with that spot?" Regardless, we were about to find out.

For this try, I was at the helm and I directed our bow to a sweet looking spot in the very middle of the cove. When we got close I realized that I didn't want to let Sophi repeat my mistakes so I explained over the engine noise that I wanted her to count the feet she lets out until the anchor hit bottom, then also count the scope she let out as I backed up. Execution was flawless! When we had about a 5:1 ratio, I asked her to cleat off the line while I continued backing slowly. I didn't feel like we were moving, which was what I was looking for, then since the area was clear we let out scope to be at a sweet ratio of 7:1. I will say again that I have never anchored a boat and all this seemed to happen in the blink of an eye, so I was still on edge but at least we were not staring down some rocks. After 20 minutes of probably-not-dragging anchor I wanted even more piece of mind, so I hooked up our spare anchor to a line and to our anchor rode letting her slide underwater, just out of sight. "I dare you to drift now, smarty-pants!" I proclaimed. Our bow gently moved to the left and the right but our over-sized 30-something pound CQR held her ground perfectly. I looked up anchoring in Chapman's just to ease my mind; in the section on anchoring they mention placing two anchors at 45 degree angles to help reduce bow swing. I didn't think it would be a problem but thanked the book and placed that bit-o-knowledge on the back burner. Now it's time to do some projects. To quote our mast-stepper Carter Becker, "You're a sailboat, you're in no hurry, we go to distant ports to do our maintenance." That's exactly what we are planning to do all summer, thank you Mr. Becker.

I tackled our registration numbers i.e. put them on... hey, its only been a month. Sophi got a notion to paint on our ship's name, she did an excellent job painting while dodging wakes. When she was done it was starting to get late so I was thinking of how we would be seen late in the night. We had zero outside lights, and I wanted at least one. I figured my best chance was to try to repair our spreader light, at least it had a bulb, a socket, and wires leading to it. As apposed to our tri-color light, which looked like someone had hit it with a baseball bat. I went below deck and threw the breaker on in hopes that I would be able to use my voltmeter to find which wires were hot. I for some reason couldn't find any voltage on any of the broken wires above deck, "Interesting" I thought. My next step was to bring battery voltage by way of a jumper cable to the wires on the mast. Once I had that rigged up I would look up to hopefully see the light. Little did I know the light was already on, magical! That light had not worked last time we checked it, is it possible that all the saltwater is fixing things? If so, I want our tricolor light to be next.

The day was getting on and we wanted to explore a little of the island. Back in WWII Jewell was used by the military to help triangulate enemy subs and I wanted to see the view from the lookout tower. At the top you can see for miles in three directions and rumor has it that a real life German submarine was wrecked somewhere offshore. We spent a few minutes at the summit and met a couple who had sailed from Saco on Last Mango, the man seemed really knowledgeable so I explained how we anchored. He was confident we wouldn't move an inch. We swapped sailing stories then went on our way to the punchbowl, a shallow area where the ocean gets stuck leaving nice warm, calm water, great for swimming in. The punchbowl also had lots of driftwood, driftwood is free and makes a perfect boat hook for a boat that looses one on every voyage. I found a suitable specimen and brought it back to Neptune as it was starting to rain.

Sunday, we needed to venture back to Freeport. Only problem was the rain and lack of wind. "Light and variable from the south with light rain expected all day," said the radio. Have you ever noticed how the weather women says clouuuuds in her almost machine-like voice? She makes me laugh every time. We were in for a slow, long, wet day... sweet! We left at the onset of high tide, hoping to be pushed like driftwood all the way home. A little breeze carried us to Eagle Island where I turned due north all the way to the Harrasseket. I was able to stay on one tack the entire way just missing Whaleboat Island and a few others. Along the way Sophi made it a point to stay below deck "cooking." It was really an excuse to stay dry, but I enjoyed the food so I forgive her. When we were just about abeam of Mosher Island I was sick of going no where slowly, and being wet, so I pulled the cord on the outboard and Neptune lunged ahead at 5+ knots. Even after a wet slow sail it was still hard to leave, but leave we did to do it all again next week.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

buying a sailboat

I have personally always wanted to own a sailboat but was not actively pursuing one, other than looking on craigslist everyday and thinking "these are all soo expensive." Then one day in the midst of winter I found a posting on craigslist for a sailboat dealer in Freeport who looked for sailboats that people were neglecting. He would take them off their hands, sometimes for only the price of hauling these unused gems away. He would then store them on his land while trying to sell them to people who, like me, can't afford a boat but would really love to have one.

I have personally always wanted to own a sailboat but was not actively pursuing one, other than looking on craigslist everyday and thinking "these are all soo expensive." Then one day in the midst of winter I found a posting on craigslist for a sailboat dealer in Freeport who looked for sailboats that people were neglecting. He would take them off their hands, sometimes for only the price of hauling these unused gems away. He would then store them on his land while trying to sell them to people who, like me, can't afford a boat but would really love to have one.

I set out to a dentist appointment one cold snowy morning, and after, I sprung the idea of looking at a sailboat on Sophi. She was all about it and off we went to find Spinnaker Lane. It wasn't hard to miss due to the large amount of boats in the yard. We pulled in and were greeted by a sweetheart of a dog, Remy. He was bounding out to say hi followed shortly by his owner. As Michael was approaching I was thinking "none of these boats look like anything I want," as they all seemed quite small, even out of the water. But then in the way far corner of the lot was a massive hulk of a boat, Jonie, a Catalina 27 that needed paint top and bottom. She was a sight alright. It didn't help that her deck was covered in snow. "Lets have a look inside," I said, mostly asking. Inside was a little nice and a lot snowy but as we sat in the galley trading stories and thinking of places to go, the snow melted and it wasn't really cold anymore. OK it was still really cold but it was truly love at first sight. With Sophi by my side I was encouraged to ask how much he was asking for this monster in the yard. When I heard the price tag I was thinking right away, "I could buy this boat." She came with almost everything you would need to sail off into the sunset. All the cushions where in good shape... that was about all I knew of the subject, luckily for me Sophi seemed to know what to ask and with each question Jonie performed admirably. She was a must have. It was getting cold and I didn't want to seem desperate, so we called it a day and drove home dreaming of warm ports and happy seas.

It was less then a week later when we told North East Sailboat Rescue we wanted to own that Cat 27. Two weeks later I paid Michael and the waiting began. We had to wait five long months before May 8th finally came... the day we could finally put our hands on her... I spent a lot of time hoping that I made a good buy and wondering how I was going to be able to afford to maintain her. It is only now, after a month of happy sailing, that I can look back and tell myself, "you did a good job, mister." I would also like to thank all those who helped me by steering me in the right direction and getting things that a boat really needs. Once she was delivered we had a job on our hands, we had to clean all the mold, leaves and pine cones out of all the creases. We had to paint the hull and on top of that, every time I touched something, it broke. At times during the first week I almost felt like hyperventilating, but realistically, things were going great. It only took two weekends of work to get her sail-able.

If anyone is thinking of buying a sailboat in the less-than-30-foot range in the Southern Maine area, I suggest talking to Michael at Northeast Sailboat Rescue. He will treat you well and truly is passionate about sailboats.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Running Aground!

A wise man once told me if you haven't run aground you either haven't sailed, or you're a liar. Well, I guess you can call me a sailor. Sophi and I planed on sailing to Portland in much the same manor that we sailed to Peaks, in fact the only real difference is that we would sail a little bit to the Southwest, as Peaks Island is about 3 miles East of Portland. In case you have a nautical chart in front of you, we motored out of the Harrasseeket River then raised the sails into some rolling seas. It was here where I learned why they call a dodger a dodger... when some spray comes flying at your face you can choose to dodge behind it and stay dry. Although it isn't in the best shape it still managed to stop the spray. When we crested Mosher Island and aimed our bow toward the southwest, it was then that the sea calmed down. The plan was to try to stay on one tack for almost the entire trip just scraping by Little John Island and straight into Portland's east end. Our only tricky spot would be where Little John Island and Chebeague Island almost meet. It is here that you have to keep a red buoy to your port as Chebeague Island has large and nasty rocks protruding out all evil-like.

Little John is close to your starboard, and as we found out, has a muddy area at the water's thinnest point. The channel is tight, the tide was about to be low and the wind was from the south. The trifecta effectively pushed Neptune toward Little John's mud. Sophi was captain at the time and asked me if I would start the outboard, little did I know but it was already too late. After a few pulls I had gotten our motor running. I remember looking at the tiller, which was pointing into Little John Island... but so were we. Somehow we had gotten into enough mud to stop our momentum. The area we ran aground on is pictured below. After a little spat we decided to take down the sails then put the motor into reverse. What was it Chapman's says about this? I know I read it but didn't want to waste time reading when I could be getting my boat out of the mud. (Note to self... read Chapman's.) If I had read it, it would tell me that a 4-horse-power motor is in no way strong enough to help in this situation, but at least we felt like we were doing all we could, kind of. After a few frivolous twists of the throttle, I thought why not try setting the anchor so we could at least stop getting pushed further toward land and heck, maybe we could even heave our way out of this mess. I had the anchor in the dingy when a small fishing boat with really large twin outboards came by. I used the VHF to ask for help and the reply made me happy, "do you have any rope?" came across the radio. We did, and after a few attempts each of us had an end of the same rope. For those who don't know, you have to coil the rope just right. Please hold the end you plan on keeping in your left hand while adding loops from right to left. Throw the rope with your right hand and DO NOT let go with the left, you will know if you have coiled correctly as soon as you throw it. If you didn't do it right, you will tie a knot in ten feet or less. If you did it correctly, your rope will unwind while traveling really far. The very nice man whose name I never got held up his arms as if to say the field goal was good, giving me as large a target as he could. I hit him right in the head. He cleated his end as I did to mine and started driving off... nothing happened. Sophi and I got into the dingy to lighten Neptune, and again nothing happened. "You might be here a while!" came from the fishing boat. In my head I was was thinking "NOOOOOOO." This brings me to the last ditch effort... the all-out, balls-to-the-wall, do-or-die effort. This try MUST free us from mud-hell. If not, we were digging for clams. "The Fisherman" suggested hanging off the main sheet to try to heel the boat over while they pulled. I grabbed a glove and hung off the main sheet. It wasn't really working so I started jumping off to get that extra leverage, after about three jumps I hear Sophi yell, "we're moving!" It was true, we had control of our destiny again, free to do as we please, free to not watch the tide around us. In case you ever read this, thank you soo much "fisherman" on Why Knot for dragging us out of the mud. You really took care of us, you even asked if Neptune was our dad's boat. Good thing for us she isn't, because it would be hard to tell him about it, especially if I was 17 haha.

After getting out of mud-hell we decided to motor until we could catch our breath. I went to the Bow to tidy up the main sheet when I heard Sophi ask where the dingy was. The mere fact that she had to ask meant it wasn't where it was supposed to be and was probbly trying to find rocks somewhere. A quick look back confirmed that Triton was not attached to any of the stern cleats and was in fact bobbing happily a hundred yards behind us. It was clear, the time for a U-turn was upon us. Sophi's first attempt at collecting our dingy ended when she smacked into it, I tried to hook the seat but it just came off under the stress. I let go of the hook, allowing the seat to return unsecured to the dingy. It is apparent that we have bad luck with boat hooks. On her second attempt Sophi kept the dingy just off to starboard and I used our deck brush, aka backup boat hook, to get a hand on the dingy painter. Mission complete! Gosh, we need practice.

After about 6 miles of great sailing we were between Mackworth and Great Diamond Island and things were going great, the sun was out, the wind was good and wait... what the heck... some wahoo in a power boat was flying around us like a maniac. It was our chauffeur, aka Sophi's dad. We had called him earlier and realized that he wanted dinner. I was going to make him work for it. I called him up alongside of us to give him a camera, the pictures he took are what you have been looking at. Off to our port was a vintage sailing vessel Bagheera, she is a wooden sloop and she is big! We tacked all around each other for about an hour, it was really incredible just to be in her company. Sophi's dad found us the scummiest mooring pennant, in hopes that its user would not be around. It was here that we spent the night.

On Sunday, we listened to some great local music at Portland's Old Port Fest (thank you Pete Kilpatrick!) When he was done, we thought we should be going back to Freeport. We were able to sail off our mooring taking advantage of the tide and running downwind toward Freeport. Running has to be the hardest way to sail because you are in the wind so you don't actually feel like any wind is present. All you can do is keep the sails full and think, "I will get there soon." I had Sophi take us home while I wired our brand new fresh-water pump for our galley. When I was done, I tried fishing. I had a feathery-looking lure that I'm told stripers just cant get enough of. I would cast in front of the boat and reel in the line to keep the lure in about the same place, instead of letting it skip across the surface. Still no fish, but before the summer is over, I vow to catch one. We sailed almost right up to the entrance of the Harrasseeket before the rain started to drop and the outboard was kicked over. We motored over to Brewer's dock to unload some gear and take showers. We also decided to test our new water pump by filling the holding tank and after a few minutes worth of filling, we could pump water into our sink! Cross it off the list.

When the summer is over, I bet I will be amazed to look at where we started: a couple of kids in love with each other, sailing and with a boat that needs a lot of love. To where the summer ends... with who knows` how many experiences. Some may be good some may be bad, but all will be remembered fondly.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Climbing Your Mast

This weekend was a project weekend on Neptune, and I made it my personal mission to get our VHF radio working.


We arrived Friday evening, and I got to use our "new"dingy. Consequently this was my first experience rowing a boat... don't laugh, I have actually never done this and let me tell you, its was hard. It didn't help that I was carrying a weekend full of dead weight in a large rubber made container, I repeatedly punched that thing almost every time I returned my paddles to the front of the boat. If your wondering, no I didn't throw it overboard, but I did decide to let it ride behind me in the future. This is only half the trouble tho. After I would smack my knuckles off the box, one of two things would happen. I would go to dig into the water a little with the paddles only to whiff completely nearly splashing my passenger and throwing the oar. Or two, I would dig into the water fine but the oars would fly out of the oarlocks. First one side, then the other, then sometime on very special occasions both would fly out at the same time. Yes! Lucky for me Sophi was able to catch them a few times, I must have looked really funny out there oaring in a zig zag pattern. Don't worry, I got better after about 4 trips and now I can row all over the place, mostly in the right direction.


I got more practice rowing when Sophi and I went into Portland so she could spend some time with her parents, which meant I got to go to Hamilton's. I did well tho only spending two hundred dollars on two 35 foot jib sheets, anchor rode with chain and fishing pole holder. I was all by myself with a lot of good project ideas so I made RF connectors, then got busy fishing, after about 20 minuets of not catching anything I decided that I had better get busy or face the wrath. On our shake down cruse last weekend we discovered something that we are calling a boom
vang holder thingy, yes, that is it's name, even in the ships log. this holder thingy attaches to the same rail as the jib sheet pulley so I took everything off each rail so I could put them on in the right order. This D ring will hold the bottom boom vang pulley on either side of the boat... this will help her when we race?? more importantly, when we are running with the wind it will prevent the boom from swinging aka an accidental jibe. I took what we had been using as our temporary main sheet and simply moved it to the boom vang position, check that off! I also created a main sheet from what we were using as our jib sheet. To "make" the main sheet i had to sew the sheet through two pulley blocks that each had 2 pulleys in the block. I'm a novice at sewing anything let alone a main sheet, so I found the tasks time consuming. I was copying the boom vang pulley threading pattern but found that as soon as I had stitched two of the pulleys the entire mess would twist. GRRR! I spent a good part of the day twisting and untwisting a good length of rope. does anyone have experience with this... suggestions? I completed the job and was really ready for something easy. I rounded off the day scraping the registration letters off the hull and oiled some interior teak. Now off like a rocket in my me powered row boat to pick up Sophi.


Sunday we were hard at work just after a light breakfast and lots of coffee. I was all ready to get up that mast to strap that antenna on. I put my harness on that I stole I mean borrowed from work and was ready for Sophi to send me up... Minor glitch... Sophi didn't think she would be able to handle my massive load with the limited amount of pulleys and the winch we had. That's ok I said sadly, I really did want to get up there and look around. After we switched gear I was ready to send little Sophi skyward. I attached the main halyard to her, then that went around a pulley ending in a winch. I gave the halyard a few wraps around the wench and up she went. It only took a few minutes to get her aloft, when she was there I cleated her off and let her work, when she was done I used a wattmeter that I also "borrowed" from work and was please to see the radio put out 50 watts forward power with only about 1 watt reflected. Sophi did a great job adding a safety feature to our future sailing adventures. Now we can monitor and transmit using our VHF radio.

Now that the radio was working we listened to the weather report and confirmed what we already knew, it was going to rain. So many things can be done in a sail boat under any conditions but when it rains, we sleep. Sleep we did... not really tho, Sophi was tired and needed rest, I however, only wanted a cat nap so I listened to the Red Sox's on the Big Jab and lay with my girl. We had a very rest full nap, but when the game was over I was feeling lazy so I decided to tackle our head. A marine bathroom is a total mystery to me, in fact I'm not real sure I'm 100% with a house bathroom. Other then a few clogged toilets my experience is mostly in the plunging area. this miniature looking toilet fits perfectly in the miniature room it's in. From there a large flexible pipe that looks really nasty moves the stuff you flush under the starboard settee where it Y valves to either a seacock or a holding tank. A smaller seacock also goes to a Y valve to pump fresh water into the toilet to rinse the bowl.. there so now you have an understanding of the system. before we commissioned Neptune we tried to flush water onto the ground with no success, but there was one Y valve in a hard to reach position that we didn't want to break by forcing it to move, today we had fresh eyes.. and a hammer. I was ready to break everything if it didn't work, however, in no way was I going to be able to get my hand around the handle as it was up against the settee and I mean hard... it was hammer time! I used the claw end of the hammer to get the Y valve motivated and to a point where I could use my actual hands. Once it was moved, Sophi broke up celery into tiny pieces, effectually taking a celery poop then flushed. It must have looked odd from shore to see both of us run out to the stern pulpit and hang out selves over the rail, eyes beaming into the water, we just really really wanted to see celery poo... and we did. After all the poo and rain we were ready to head for home.

I have been contemplating living aboard this fall as to avoid paying rent. Before I make the move, I was wondering if there is actually a way to make the rain stay outside? Also I want to kill all the mold in those hard to reach areas and possibly paint the fiberglass with an anti fungal paint... does that even exist? If anyone knows of anything like that let me know, also let me know if that is a ridiculous idea. Up in the air is a storage idea too, I have a lot of space under the cockpit where the inboard would go if Neptune had one. So I'm looking for ideas for "dry" storage.

Monday, May 25, 2009

shakedown cruise!!

Rigging a Jib...

I think I had heard the phrase "shakedown cruise" once but never payed any attention to it until this weekend. It was my first time as captain and a ride I will never forget. First, though, our mission was to run our jib up the roller furling; it has a track for a halyard and one for a bolt-rope-looking edge on the jib-- it's probably called something special but I have no idea what it's called. All you have to do is pull the halyard while feeding the jib into the track. One hitch is that the track is split into four pieces that can, and do, rotate out of alignment if nothing is in the track. Our track being all screwy, we decided to look for a dock that was tall enough to reach high up on the track to give it a twist. Lucky for us, the Freeport town pier was just right. Before we could reach anything we needed to dock.


as we are starting a new relationship with Neptune, I wanted to try using the outboard to stop her while in a safe, large area. I imagined Neptune as an out of control locomotive steaming toward a populated area with people running for their lives, so after the mooring ball was unhooked I did a few starts and stops and was confident that I wouldn't destroy the pier or have a salty fellow tell me that I had no place in the water, and believe me quit a few salty people were at the pier due to the great weather we were having.

the path to the dock was almost exactly straight in except for the last bit where I had to jog to the left, it was no problem because I am an expert boat handler... right... we docked and tied Neptune up. Next I roped a stanchion to pull the boat over toward us so Sophi could reach the track to twist it in place, once this calamity was complete, we grinned. we raised the sail and grinned. we loaded up our gear for a sail to Peaks Island and grinned even more.

Under Sail

Sailing to Peaks, I felt like I was in a marathon but not the kind you run, this marathon involved steering, figuring out which island is which, not running into a mud flat, avoiding other boats trying to figure out a course... did I mention steering the boat? lucky for me, my girlfriend Sophi was there to take some of the load, also thank goodness for motors. I ran the outboard for a good 20 minuets before the coast was clear enough to try sailing. The main sail was already up so when the time came I gave the word and Sophi started unrolling the jib we were trying to be on a starboard tack but weren't quite doing it yet. It was at this time when a funny thing happened. I gave the sheet a wrap around the winch and started to pull in the sheet. when I pulled, the line kept crossing over itself and would pop right off the winch... "hmm," I thought, "that's interesting." actually I was swearing profanities, the details of which are between the wind and I. it was after ten good attempts that I decided something other than me was not working right and swearing was not about to solve it. "Oh, an idea, we need a pulley!" After I turned into the wind, Sophi found a pulley that was not being used and attached it to the deck on a track, this would have been completely obvious to any other sailor but we're new. We ran the sheet through the pulley, which changed the angle the sheet was entering the winch, allowing me to pull in the line: bliss.

F***ing Current

Things went really smooth while sailing, one tack basically did it all. we traveled from buoy to buoy and finally had the destination in sight but weren't going to quite make it without tacking... what the heck, lets do this "prepare to tack" I yell, followed by "hard a lee." now we are strafing our prey waiting for our moment to pounce. Once we were getting too close for comfort to a large body of nasty messy land, I changed direction and aimed just windward of the channel I was hunting for. The only problem was that the closer we got to the channel and the sweet sweet victorious warmth of not sailing at 8p in May, the further to the lee side of the channel I was pushed.... wtf? I've been told that on a sailboat all you can do is go with it, so we went with it and tacked again. still we are directed to the lee side and again and again. Wow, am I getting frustrated. The wind and I had a few more words that I will keep in my tool box of bad things to say. "dude I'm snappin on the freakin motor!"I holler, I was super cold and ready for it to be over... personal note to self, next time I want some warmer clothes. Neptune's little 5 HP outboard makes quick work of the space between me and my new favorite dock. I was motoring along in the channel almost idling when the bow turns to port, towards an angry looking coastline. naturally I turn the tiller to compensate, I say naturally because I am in fact a master boat handler. No response... what!?! how dare she? I was not having any of this so I got out the baby powder and used my strong hand. Meaning that I gave the motor a quick shot of power, effectively bring me back on course. It was over, I made it, we made it, nothing was destroyed and I was still dating that special red-head.