Archive for January, 2010


Thursday, January 28th, 2010

Sailing around Parua Bay:
Sailing around Parua Bay

Ahhhhhhhhhhh……can you feel that? Bodhran is actually a sailboat again. It’d been 14 months since Bodhran had last spread her wings. I wasn’t sure that she still remembered how. Well obviously I didn’t remember how to stow things properly. We didn’t break anything important on our inaugural sail, but the cabin sole looked like a yard sale and I did have a can of Boeshield T-9 explode leaving a nice sheen of oil over everything else that fell.

Bodhran back in her natural environs at Parua Bay:
Bodhran back in her natural environs at Parua Bay

Christian’s friend Michelle drove us out to a great secluded beach near Kauri Mountain:
Christian's friend Michelle drove us out to a great secluded beach near Kauri Mountain

So the original plan was to work on the boat in Whangarei until January 28th and then spend a week out at Great Barrier Island before heading into Auckland on February 5th to meet up with Tiffany’s mom. Well the sun was out and all the current projects were done, so I woke up Monday moring, told the marina office that we were checking out and 4 hours later we were on our way down river to Parua Bay. The wind was out of the Southeast, so sailing was out of the question, and Parua Bay was a bit bumpy, but it was so nice being out of the marina. The new to me Autohelm 6000 did a fine job steering most of the way. It’s ridiculously powerful for my boat, but better that than the alternative. The main reason for heading to Parua Bay was to meet up with Christian on Irie. Christian is another local boy from back in Bellingham, who is now a singlehander. We’re hoping to do some buddy boating together before he has to fly back and replenish his cruising kitty in late March.

Tiffany rounding Bream Head, Tate and I nearly got knocked down here 14 months ago:
Tiffany rounding Bream Head, Tate and I nearly got knocked down here 14 months ago

The mighty Irie sailing along side:
The mighty Irie sailing along side

So we spent two days in Parua Bay being as lazy as humanly possible. There was much cooking, swimming and card playing and we even got a little sail in, but there were just too many shoals around and so we only sailed for about half an hour. Then this morning, Irie and Bodhran pulled up their hooks and motored the last hour and a half down river and got back out to the Pacific Ocean. The wind was still out of the East Southeast, so we turned north and got a proper 20 mile sail in up to Tutukaka. With light wind and sloppy seas, the autopilot still did a fine job steering and Bodhran performed admirably after her year long hiatus. Unfortunately the wind is supposed to blow strong out of the Southeast for the next 3 days, so we’ll probably be here in Tutukaka at least through Sunday. Hopefully we’ll still have time to make it down to Great Barrier by the time the predominant Southwesterlies fill in.

Some projects that have treated me well

Sunday, January 24th, 2010

As I’ve been spending the last 2 months repairing things that broke and improving things that bugged me while crossing the Pacific, I thought that I might reflect a bit on some modifications I made that really worked well. Here’s an incomplete list in no particular order:

  • Pin rails – The pin rails give Bodhran a salty appearance, but have also turned out to be incredibly handy. I originally built them to store the halyards while at the dock so that I wouldn’t have to bungee them away from the mast at night. The pinrails perform this task admirably, but also keep the mast free of clutter while sailing as well. When I installed my removable lazy jacks, I didn’t install cleats on the mast, instead they just get the second forward on each side. My running backstays when not in use attach to the aftermost pin. My foreguy for whisker pole attaches to the foreward most pin both when in use and while stowed. You get the idea.

    The pinrails were fairly easy to build. First I got the bronze belaying pins from the Wooden Boat Foundation Chandlery. Then I took two mahogany 1x3s (teak would have been better) about 6 inches longer than the width of the lower shrouds where I wanted to attach them. I bolted them together and then drilled them out to accept the belaying pins. The I used a table saw to cut a 7/32” grove at an angle to match the shroud in one of the planks. Then just route the edges, slap some varnish on them and bolt them to the lower shrouds. The half without the groove compresses the wire into the grooved side to hold time in place.

  • Chest high lifelines – Here’s an easy one I got from Brion Toss at a rigging workshop I took in Port Townsend. We all know that the knee high lifelines on a boat aren’t worth much unless you’re in really bad weather and are crawling forward, which I’ve certainly done my fair share of. Wouldn’t it be nice to have something there at a height that would actually stop you from falling overboard if you lost your balance instead of just tripping you further and sending you head over heels into the water? Well chest high lifelines are just the thing. Just last a d-ring to your cap shrouds at about shoulder height and then run a line from the bow pulpit, through the d ring and back to the pushpit, or even better the radar arch if you have one. They work even better on ketches, where you can attach a d-ring to the mizzen shrouds and keep the lifeline chest high for most of the boat. My lifelines cut in a bit right at the edge of the cabin top, but I never mind chafing against them at sea when I go forward, to the contrary it’s a nice feeling to be reminded that there’s something out there holding you in.

  • Boom Gallows – Yeah, they’re pretty but they’re functional too. When I bought Bodhran the previous owner threw in a hunk of teak that he’d been meaning for years to turn into a gallows. Well it took me 4 years to get around to building one, but I’m sure glad I did. I picked up the bronze frames and bases from ABI and then used schedule 40 stainless for the uprights. My buddly Lou was kind enough to use his band saw to cut a nice curve into the wood and cut out the notches for the boom. Then I used PVC to mock the whole thing up and find the proper height so that boom would clear the gallows when raised. Then I clamped the rough cut teak in place and scribed the outline of the jaws, cut and fitted the wood, and slapped on some varnish.

    The Gallows is great while motoring in any kind of a seaway. It allows you to get the boom locked down solid and eliminates the creak as the boom sways back and forth. It does the same for those long downwind legs when you’ve just got the jib up or in those really hairy situations when you’ve got the main down and have the trysail up. With the boom sheeted tight against the gallows, the entire boom becomes a great handhold. The uprights also make great handhold when going forward from the cockpit.

  • LED masthead light – Well this one is pretty easy. When I first took off in 2006 it was always really easy to find Bodhran in a crowded anchorage with her distinctive LED anchor light. Now it’s getting hard to find a boat that doesn’t have one. Those old incandescent lights draw almost as much current as my refrigeration and they aren’t as bright as the new LEDs. It amazes me that many people don’t use their nav lights while underway offshore because they draw too much current. I picked up my masthead light from SailorSolutions. They’re kinda pricey, but they only draw .2 amps and are very bright. I couldn’t be happier with this product.

  • Monitor Install – Just like pretty much everyone else who owns a monitor, I’m in love with this thing. It steers a better course than I can in anything above 3 knots of apparent wind. Of course keeping the sails balanced has a lot to do with this, but I also believe that my install works particularly well as it eliminates a couple of extra blocks and keeps the friction in the system to a minimum. What I did was to install the monitor so that the base of the unit was even with the cockpit sole. I then glassed in two 1.5” PVC tubes between the transom and the cockpit. Instead of running the Monitor control lines through the frame of the windvane, I lashed to good roller bearing blocks to the frame. The control lines run from the steering oar, through my blocks, through the transom tubes and then through blocks on the cockpit sole directly below the wheel adapter. So each line only goes through 2 blocks and the control lines are out of the way and don’t pose a tripping hazard. I also got two more cockpit drains out of the measure. Surprisingly I haven’t ever noticed any water come in through these tubes even though I’ve done 1000s of miles downwind with sizable following seas.

  • Mainsheet Traveler – When I bought Bodhran she had the end of boom “A frame” style mainsheet system with no traveler. The system worked. There was lots of mechanical advantage, I didn’t need a winch to sheet the main and having the sheet at the end of the boom is the best possible place for it to keep the boom from breaking if it ever dips in the water. On the other hand, I had miles of line for the main sheet and it would take the head off the helmsman whenever I gybed. It also prevented me from having a bimini over the cockpit, which really is essential in the tropics.

    So I decided on changing to a mid boom setup with a traveler. The Schaefer traveler with risers did a nice job of securing the traveler to the cabin top while clearing the companionway. Having the traveler forward means that you get much more control over the boom than you would if if you had a traveler at the end of the boom. As it turns out, whenever the seas are really running and I’m worried about the prevented boom hitting the water, I’ve got a double reef in and the boom is raised high enough that it hasn’t been an issue… far.

  • Reefing Winch/Lazy Jacks – Being able to reef in a hurry is a the top of my priority list for offshore sailing. It’s right up there with self steering in order of importance. I’ve elected to keep my cockpit and decks as clean as possible and don’t run any of my lines aft. I use slab reefing with the aft lines for both the 1st and 2nd reef points run through individual turning blocks on the boom and lead forward to a double rope clutch and cheap nylon winch at the forward end of the boom. For the luff reef cringles, I use a 1/4” boom vang assembly attached to the base of the mast with a hook on the reefing hook on the end to place in the appropriate reef cringle. When it’s time to reef, everything is in one place. I ease the mainsheet, lower the mainhalyard to the appropriate point, winch in the after reefing line, put the hook in the luff reef point, pull tight on the 4-1 vang style setup, go aft and reset the mainsheet and I’m done. The whole thing normally takes less than a minute. My ease of reefing is greatly enhanced by my battenless mainsail and my retractable lazy jacks that keep the furled sail neatly on the boom. The battenless main allows me to reef on any point of sail without having to round up into the wind.

  • Bow Roller – The stock bow roller on the Down East 32 is woefully inadequate. It just won’t accept large enough tackle for the boat. I picked up a 20KG Bruce, which has been a great anchor for Bodhran and used it as the start point for a new roller system. I decided to leave the original roller in place and still use it very effectively for my snubber line. I decided to instead cutout the aft section of the bow pulpit and install a double roller in it’s place comprised of a u shaped stainless plate over the bowsprit and two l shaped plates on the pulpit on either side. A hole was drilled through all 3 with a 20-something inch long bolt stretching from one side of the pulpit to the other for the new rollers to mount on. The system brings the weight of the anchor aft a bit, which I’m sure is good for the bowsprit, though the main pull is still on the snubber line and the original roller. It gets a little cramped getting my 35lb CQR secondary and my 44lb Bruce on there at the same time, but they do fit. The only real problem with this arrangement is that I periodically ding the gelcoat under the bowsprit when retrieving an anchor. A well placed metal plate on the bow would take care of this if I ever got around to it.

Maintenance Limbo

Tuesday, January 19th, 2010

Drilling through my quadrant to hook up the new autopilot

Wow, first blog post in the new year. I sure took my own sweet as time about it (sweet as being a pun on ubiquitous Kiwi slang and not a typo.) For the most part I’ve been delinquent on my blog posting because I’ve been spending most of my time as portrayed in the above photo. If I had a soundtrack along with this blog, there would probably be many muffled expletives wafting out of the dark hole under my stairs. So that’s been one major project. I tore out my companionway when I pulled my engine back in November. Hopefully the new companionway is a much more intelligent design. If you’ll notice, the engine panel is now on the inside along with the start and kill switches both of which froze up due to salt exposure last year. I’m currently in seal the boat and move anything sensitive inside mode. I’m moving the depth sounder and gps inside as well, both of which had badly corroded wiring even though I left my binnacle cover on all Summer while I was gone. The only thing that will be at the binnacle now is the compass and the autopilot control head. Speaking of which, I picked up a 20 year old Autohelm 6000 with a type II electric linear drive. That’s actually what I’m doing in the above pic, I’m drilling a hole through my bronze quadrant to connect the linear drive to. So my Simrad WP30 wheel pilot only lasted about a year. I nursed it along for another year in Mexico and then the last year I pretty much swore at it continuously as it failed to steer and often prevented me from turning the wheel at the most inopportune moments. All the plastic parts inside had stripped out and the thing was complete garbage by the time I got to New Zealand. To buy a new wheel pilot, it would cost about $1100 and it would probably only last for a couple of years. So I had decided to pick up a good below deck pilot. Only problem is that a cheap one goes for around $3000. So I’d been holding off until I saw a used one posted at the marina office for 500US$. Of course I jumped at the opportunity. The autopilot is 20+ years old and designed for much larger boats, but it seems to work and is half the price of a wheelpilot, so if it only lasts a few years it’s still a deal.

So the project list is too long to list. We went to Mag’s, the bartender from the pub where I spend every Tuesday night, wedding the other day and got to the beach a few days ago, but there’s just so much delayed maintenance from crossing the Pacific that I had to take care of. Right now the goal is to take off on the 27th/28th and head out to Great Barrier Island for a week before Tiffany’s mom gets here on February 6th. Marina Inertia is strong though, hopefully we’ll make it out and not be stuck forever 12 miles up river from the nearest sailing.

Frank and Mags cutting their homemade wedding cake.
Frank and Mags cutting their homemade wedding cake

Pickin a tune or two with the Tuesday night crew at the reception:
Pickin a tune or two with the Tuesday night crew at the reception