07 November 2009

Hauling Out and Winterizing the Sailboat

Pulling the Unsinkable 2 from the lake at season end requires a great deal of self control. A significant part of me thinks I should keep her in the water up to the point that we have to use an axe to break the ice. And the other part of me - the part that I married - reminds me that the boat really should come out on the last warm weekend of October. Sure, we can get one or two more sailing trips in during November, but reality is that its very cold, the ice starts forming, and the boat ramps get rather hazardous.

So on a sunny but brisk fall day, we go to pull her out of the water for the last time. It's very sad, kinda like putting Ol' Yeller down. I start at the dock (picture above - the boat in the center defiantly flying her pirate flag.) It takes about an hour to stow everything and lower the mast. Ron Funk, a good friend and sailor in training showed up at the marina to help me lower the mast and put her on the trailer.

Back on the ramp, we prep the trailer for strap retrieval. At season's end the lake level is so low we can't get the trailer in deep enough for the boat while it is hitched to the vehicle. So we back the trailer to water's edge and block all the wheels.

Then we connect a heavy duty tow strap between the tow vehicle and trailer, and lower the trailer down into the water deep enough that the boat can float onto the rollers.

Once the trailer is in the water, we motor the sailboat into position and then swing over the bow pulpit to secure the boat to the trailer. In my early launches and retrievals, I frequently ended up soaking wet during this procedure. Now, in my old age, I have learned a few things and can generally perform the task without getting wet. Much to the chagrin of on-lookers.

Back on the hard, we ready the boat for towing. Everything is secured for storage down below, rigging is secured, fenders stowed, electrical connections hooked up to the trailer, etc.

We've learned the best time to remove algae growth from the hull is immediately after haulout. So we head to the nearest carwash and get to work. A lot of algae grows during the fall because the boat is not being sailed enough. This year we used a putty knife to quickly remove the algae, and then followed up with about $15 worth of pressure washer time.

I generally consider my wife to be a mature person. But something happens when she gets the pressure washer wand in her hands. It changes her. And it always seems to happen only when I've climbed under the trailer in some impossible-to-escape position near the keel with a putty knife in my hand. It's then that my dear wife decides I need a good hose down. It doesn't seem to matter whether the hose is currently dispensing soap or hot wax, she is able to completely disregard these things. Each time she aims the wand at me and pulls the trigger, she acts surprised and promptly apologizes. But somewhere after the 5th blasting I begin thinking she might not really be that surprised. Actually, I have come to suspect she might be doing it on purpose.

28 May 2009

Blast That Jib Halyard

So the other night we're heading back to the marina and the seas are a little rough. I'm forward on the bow trying to stow the jib temporarily with one hand while hanging on for dear life with the other. Waves are crashing up onto the bow as we plunge over one big wave and down into the next.

Finally the sail is secured, and I make my way back to the mast where I stop to tie off the jib's halyard.

I'm not entirely sure what happened next, but I am quite sure about what happened after that. Suddenly I am holding a lot of slack jib halyard in my right hand, and can't help noticing that my left had is completely empty. The other end of the halyard had zipped out of my hand and on up the mast, where it sat, perfectly perched, taunting me 30' below.

I had no idea how to get it down without dropping the mast. So in desperation and newfound humility, I posted a question about it on the Catalina Owner's Association website. What followed was very reassuring. Seems like this has happened to everyone. They had dozens of great tricks for getting that halyard down.

I decided to try a modification of their suggestions, duct-taping a piece of bailing wire to the main halyard, and then raising it up to try and snag the loose halyard's shackle. I expected it to take half an hour, so boy was I surprised when I got it on my second try! The first picture above shows a closeup of the hook duct-taped to the wire halyard. The second picture shows the successful retrieval.

That meant I had the whole evening free to sail! So I called my brother and we set out for a great sail. The winds were 14 knots gusting to 18. The waves hadn't built up too high, so we were able to make great time, heeled over at 25 degrees and crashing through the building waves.

The weird thing about sea spray on a fresh water lake is that you expect it to taste salty. And it doesn't. And it leaves you feeling like something is not quite right.

Anyway, we sailed around for an hour or so, first beating upwind toward Bird Island, then a long wing and wing run, and then a broad reach back to the Provo Marina.

My brother headed home and I took my time securing the boat for the night. My wife was out of town with the kids visiting friends for the night, so I wasn't in any rush to get home to an empty house. I read a couple chapters in my sail trim book - a book that makes you realize how much less you know than you thought you did every time you read it. I took this last picture just after the sun set. The powerboats had all gone home, there was only one other sailboat out on the lake still, and the marina was calm and quiet.

P.S. Those are my actual feet, not my stunt double's.

22 April 2009

Bareboat Charter in San Diego

I had a fantastic bareboat charter experience in San Diego. I was speaking at an industry conference at the Hyatt, and decided to call a few charter companies about the cost of chartering a sailboat for a few hours one evening while attending the conference.

San Diego Bareboat Charter Companies To my surprise, I found that I could do a 5 day bareboat charter for less than the cost of the hotel over the same period. I talked to several of the charter companies, and finally settled on Seaforth. Seaforth does a lot of hourly rentals for all kinds of watercraft, but they also have bigger sailboats, up to 42' in length (Catalina, Jeanneau, Bavaria, and Hunter) If you are going to charter with them, be sure to check their "overnight rates" for multi day charter rates.

San Diego Harbor Marinas The location couldn't have been better. I chartered from the Seaforth location in the Marriott Hotel Marina downtown, which gave me direct access to the Marriott's pool, showers, and hot tubs. The location is also adjacent to Seaport Village and the Gas Lamp District, so there were hundreds of restaurants and places to walk each evening. As long as I'm travel-logging this location, I should point out that it's also just a short $12 cab ride from the airport. You can literally leave the airport and be raising sail within half an hour. I snapped this picture from the plane as it landed to show how close the airport is to the harbor.

Even in the harbor, late on a Saturday afternoon with lots of boat traffic, the water was really clear. Look at the picture on the left and note how much you can see in the water. (These pictures were taken with my cell phone, so the detail is not very good.) The water was even clearer in the mornings.

Charter Company Staff The Seaforth staff were fantastic to work with. They were very accommodating, full of great information about sailing in the area, and very knowledgeable about their boats. (Ask for Shawn in working out your reservation, and look for Robbie and Adam when you're down there.)

Traveling alone and needing to keep the cost less than the hotel's cost, I opted for a Catalina 270. Although I'd like to go back with my wife some time and charter the Catalina 350, a beautiful boat that would make a great mini vacation. The boat I stayed in (Levanto) is in the foreground of this picture. It was so close to the Hyatt and Marriott hotels that it was easy to run down to the boat between conference sessions if I ever needed to.

The boat's interior layout was ample for one person (or two) staying overnight for a few days. The aft cabin had a fairly low ceiling (being only a 27 footer), but I slept well and had plenty of room. I like the open layout in the newer Catalinas.

The temperature jumped up to 90 while I was there, but the boat was still comfortable. The open hatches let plenty of breeze through, and at night the temperature dropped to a comfortably cool 65. With shore power I was able to charge my laptop and cell phone, although there was no wireless internet within reach of the boat. After surviving 5 days without my laptop, I have decided not to bring it on future trips. I can check email from my cell phone, and if I really get in a bind I can use the remote desktop feature in windows 6 to remote into a server and take care of any urgent tasks. (Am I really saying this - no laptop on business trips?!) All hail the smart phone...

Sailing out of Seaforth's downtown location was like a dream. It only took a minute to get out of the marina and into the harbor. The winds picked up faithfully around 11am every day, and blew steadily into the evening. Most of the time they were running about 10-15 knots, although one afternoon they pushed into the upper teens for a while and I was almost able to put a rail under.
Being unfamiliar with the harbor and the boat, I didn't dare take her out alone. So I recruited crew from the conference to come sail. My boss was along on the trip and we managed to get out and do some sailing between conference events.

We sailed up and down San Diego Harbor several times. One day the tall ship America was out sailing, so we raced her (and lost, but I suspect she was running her engines...) There were lots of boats on the water, and most of the skippers observed rights of way (even the powerboaters). But occasionally there were a few who didn't know what they were doing. Fortunately they were fairly easy to spot - fenders hanging over the sides, heavy algae growth along the waterline, and creatively untrimmed sails.

(The only time things got tight was once when a large container ship sailed past, leaving me, a 50' Tayana, and a 22 footer all tacking in close quarters alongside the ship channel till she passed.) Other than that, there was plenty of room to relax and enjoy sailing up and down the harbor. There's something that ties you to your ancestral roots about sailing past the USS Midway aircraft carrier and then up around the Star of India (the oldest active tall ship in the world), the HMS Surprise (from the movie Master and Commander), and a retired Russion Nuclear Submarine.

Then, after sailing around these great ships, I docked back at the marina and walked along the harbor up to tour them in person.

That was a fantastic charter. And I definitely recommend Seaforth charters and rentals. They're great to work with, very accomodating, and their location make an unforgettable San Diego vacation experience. Those 5 days went too quickly!

Incidentally, Seaforth also offers sailing instruction. I met a couple from Florida there who came early for a conference and were taking an ASA Bareboat course. They said they really liked the instructor and had learned a lot.

06 April 2009

Splash 2009

I had a long list of things to do on the boat before we put it in the water for the season. Very few of them got done. I mistakenly assumed that winter would end, and somehow there would be spring weather conducive to boat prep work and at the same time "inconducive" to sailing. But the truth is, the only weather inconducive to sailing is a frozen-over lake. As soon as it thawed, we were ready to put in.

We purchased a new pirate flag this year. A big one. We got it from a county fair on our sailing trip to Warm Lake in Idaho last summer. "Pirates for Hire - Specializing in Mayhem and Madness" seems to sum up the crew's attitudes and unique skills.

Launch day is great fun. The older kids climb aboard and help step the mast, tune the rigging, mount the rudder, and ready the rest of the ship. The younger kids run along the shore, skipping rocks and exploring, waiting to set sail. This year we included a picnic dinner which we ate dockside after splash.

This year my #3 decided she was old enough to join the mast stepping festivities up on the boat. It was great to have another hand up there. On the Catalina 25, we can easily raise the mast manually. (Although I did it once by myself, it is MUCH easier with a few extra hands.) I have looked at building a mast raising system, but with 2 people to lift the mast off the mast crutch, one to quickly untangle any snagged shrouds, and another to pull the headstay, a mast raising system would probably just get in the way.

This was our best launch yet. We've learned a lot about trailer-launching the boat with a tow strap. The big secret is to give the boat a little more speed down the ramp so the trailer goes deep enough without having to muscle the boat off the trailer. The Admiral shot this video of the launch. (Pardon the shakiness, it was a small digital camera with no time for rehearsal...)The other secret we learned was to keep a line on the boat to pull it over to the dock after launch. In the past we've put in, and then started the motor, but after sitting all winter, the motor takes a little work to get going again. Much less stressful to do that while tied up to the courtesy dock.

We keep thinking we'd like a bigger boat than our Catalina 25. But the swing keel is really hard to beat for trailer launching, and none of Utah Lake's marinas have hoists, so we need a shallow-drafted boat that is still retrievable when the marina's water levels drop at end of summer. Every once in a while I do find myself looking longingly at the shoal-drafted Catalina 30's available down in Florida...

So, we're ready for another year of sailing. We were the 6th boat in this year. Most of the boats are various flavors of Catalina, although there is a gorgeous new Seaward 26 a few slips up from us.