09 September 2008

9' of snow = crushed hull


I saw the saddest thing this August. We were on a canoeing vacation on Idaho's Warm Lake, and I saw an immaculately maintained West Wight Potter on a trailer. I couldn't understand why she wasn't in the water, tied up to one of the many private docks around the lake.

Warm Lake is a beautiful lake for day sailing. The water is naturally heated by underground volcanic activity, and it is so clear you can see forever. I walked around this boat, admiring how well-equipped she was, and secretly hoping we'd find her skipper amenable to taking us out on the lake.

And then I saw it. It was truly horrible. The entire portd side had been crushed lengthwise just below the waterline. Asking around, I met the owner. He said he'd pulled the boat out for the winter and spent the entire time in his cabin nearby. The boat was stored mast up, tarped, and with a boom tent rigged to shed the snow. It was a particularly snowy winter, with as much as 9 feet of snow on the ground. It never occurred to him that he ought to go down and shovel off the boat.

In spring when he walked down to the lake to put the boat in, he found the crushed hull. The poor guy was really choked up.

He said he was going to part her out, but this was August - summer was almost gone - and he had not been able to bring himself to do it yet. Although I really coveted some of her hardware, I could not bring myself to make him an offer. It felt like too much like asking someone for a loved one's organs - someone who wasn't ready to accept what had happened yet.

So the morale of the story is, shovel your boat.

06 September 2008

Klemheist Mast Climbing System

My brother Dan and I decided to get up early and get a couple hours of sailing in before things got too busy. We arrived at the marina around 7am (ok, not too early after all.)

We had a great light air sail using the main, genoa, and whisker pole. It was one of those sails where you just sit back and relax, talking about pointless, useless, interesting things. (Our discussion centered around how we could design a time capsule that could be buried in the lake, and then found and retrieved years later - yeah, it was that relaxing.)

On the way back to the marina we encountered a problem. The foresail halyard managed to get wedged into the top of the rear shroud's cotter pin. No matter what we tried, it would not come free. I was not anxious to lower the mast, so we applied some climbing and caving skills we had to develop a simple mast climbing system.

In caving, there is frequently a need to ascend ropes, and there are fairly elaborate harness systems which make that possible. The challenge in this case was that we needed some way to grip the mast for climbing.

I suggested the Prusik know (named for its inventor, Karl Prusik, an early 1900's Austrian Alpinist.) But my brother knew a knot called the Klemheist, which is better suited to gripping large irregular shapes like a mast because you can use webbing, which is wider and provides more surface area friction than cord.

The picture at right shows two Klemheist knots, attached to the mast. The tail of one knot is tied in a loop for the climber's foot, and the other tail is connected simply to a regular rock climbing harness - or any seat harness.

The climber ascends the mast in a sit-climb method as follows: Stand in the foot stirrup, releasing the weight from the second Klemheist knot so it can be slid higher up the mast. Then sit in the seat harness, while sliding the first Klemheist knot higher. When a brief rest is needed, simply sit in the seat harness for a moment before continuing. Coming down is done the same way.

The Klemheist knot is not as easy to move as the Prusik because there is more knot to manipulate, but it accomplishes the task just the same. It took me a few feet to start getting into the 'groove' of using these knots, but I only had to go to the spreaders, so it didn't take too long.

Once at the spreaders, the halyard was easily freed, and I repositioned the cotter pin so it would not catch again. I have decided to keep a climbing harness, caribiner, and a couple of 20' lengths of webbing on the boat in case I need to climb the mast again some day. I realize there are more elaborate mast climbing systems out there, but none can beat this one for price. If I ever needed to go abover the spreaders, I think I would just add a third piece of webbing to use in crossing the spreaders and steaming light. (Tie a third klemheist above the mast light to sit in while I moved the lower klemheist foot stirrup up above.)

05 September 2008

New Outboard

No, our outboard's engine oil is not supposed to be a milky, frothy white. But this is what the dipstick looked like when the engine wouldn't stay running 2 weeks ago. So we pulled the engine off the boat and brought her home.

I flushed the engine oil and ran it for a few minutes in a large bucket on the driveway, and sure enough, it turned white again. That means there is water getting into the oil somewhere. Probably a blown head gasket.

But it's already September, and I don't have time to rebuild the engine. In reviewing the summer, we lost about 5 weeks of sailing due to this outboard, and had a few other stressful trips when it took a long time to get started. So we decided to buy a new one, and save the overhaul job for sometime this winter. After some research on the Catalina Owners' site I decided to get a Tohatsu 9.8 from OnlineOutboards. Lots of guys have had great experiences with the Tohatsu outboards and in dealing with the guys at OnlineOutboards.

One week later I was sitting in an all day work meeting, when my wife sent me this picture on her cell phone. Now how am I supposed to concentrate at work when such a large box is beckoning on the driveway at home?!

It was like Christmas morning except it was September, hot outside, no snow, and no wrapping paper. I spent about half an hour reading through the manual so I fully understood the break-in procedure for the new motor, then we headed to the marina. My #2 son and I put the motor on, filled it with oil, and got it running. Tohatsu make a great engine. It was whisper-quiet, and idled at rpm's so low that the old outboard would have coughed, wheezed, and gagged at.

I am not sure who was happier, the skipper or the admiral. There was no way she could have started the old outboard! But this Tohatsu is electric start, and very simple to use. The admiral took us in and out of the marina that night, and was quite comfortable knowing that a new outboard wouldn't cut out on us as we neared the rocky shores. In the picture on the left you can see the Tohatsu quietly doing it's job in the background.

Someone had posted in a discussion group that having a reliable outboard took half the stress out of their sailing trips. We wholeheartedly endorse that claim!

Winds were about 10 knots all evening, and we really enjoyed the sailing. There were 5 or 6 other boats out on that area of the lake, racing back and forth in the wind and plowing through the small waves. A beautiful night! The kids enjoyed relaxing down below. We decided to just fly the storm jib that night, because we had never flown it before. Although it was far too little sail for the conditions, it was good to know it was in good shape, and get a feel for how it handled.

The water level are dropping now, and we don't lower the keel until we're almost all the way out of the harbor. Todd Frye, a fellow Catalina 25 swing keel owner, dock neighbor, and sailing instructor, gave me a valuable tip - the keel only needs to be raised 25 turns in order to clear everything getting in and out of the harbor. This made our #3 happy, because her job is now easier!

With school starting, the kids are all back into reading. It seems like every one of them is hauling a book of some kind out on each sailing trip. I need to build a library of good nautical novels for them to read out there. I'm not sure if I'm thinking of the kids, or myself, because with that new Tohatsu, I might even get a chance to crash with a good book once in a while!

The mosquitoes were out in force when we got back to the marina, so everyone made a mad dash for the suburban while #3 and I tied up the boat, stowed the jib and closed up the boat.

The sunset was fantastic. It just kept getting prettier and prettier. If it wasn't for the fact that the mosquitoes were so thick that you could chew them, we would have lingered longer on the docks!