Shakedown Cruise - 2020

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Shakedown Cruise - 2020

Postby tomodda » Mon Oct 05, 2020 9:19 am

Well, I FINALLY made it out on the water this year. The East Coast's latest-ever shakedown cruise, Oct 1. Excuses, excuses - in the Spring it was Coronavirus lockdown, in the Summer it was no wind, September it was too much wind and/or too much "actual job" work. At least I got my long-planned rigging refit done, so there's that. And finally, on Thursday, both the wind gods and the work gods smiled at me - steady 9 knot west winds, sunny fall day, and I could take the day off, hooray!

So, off I went to my local lake, 20 minutes away... small, but a good place to work out the kinks both in myself and the boat, old #37. This is hardly a "cruise report" because I was on the water for maybe four hours, and I spent almost as much time rigging and unrigging the boat.... So this is more of a cautionary tale - what I did right, what I did wrong, maybe of use to someone, who knows?

Let's see, what went right? For once, I double-checked my onboard tool kit, my spares, my motor battery, and the all-important drain plug. I have the original drain, in bottom of the boat, right behind the CB, so remembering the plug is "kind of a big deal." What did I do wrong? Everything else! Without getting into the gory details, everything that I thought I had checked was either tangled, unscrewed, rigged backwards (my ratchet blocks), or broken (my tiller, boo-hoo!). Not to mention everything I forgot to do, because - once again - I didn't make a checklist. Boat was still strapped to the trailer as I eased it down the ramp, forgot to rig my bungee autopilot (found out when I tried to raise the main), forgot to re-lubricate the sail slides (ditto), etc., etc. I even managed to rig my barber haulers inboard of the jib blocks, rather than between the blocks and the jib clew, where they're supposed to be. Of course, I didn't find that out till I was trying to claw off the rip-rap covered shore (only one on the lake!) directly downwind of the boatramp.

Anyway, I managed to work through all the problems, although it made my little cruise feel more like "work" than "fun." All told, from arriving at the boat ramp to sails up on the water was a bit over two hours. Last year, first sail of the season, was a bit over 1.5 hours to rig, so I'm regressing. Once I have the "hang of it," though, takes 30 mins. Maybe I should just get a Sunfish? Nah.....

As for the actual sailing, by the time I got going, the wind started dying. Normally, I do very much enjoy "ghosting", so no big deal, but.. the dying wind was very fluky even moreso than usual for a lake. Whitecaps one moment, nothing the next... 90 degree shifts in direction... wind didn't hold for more than a minute. Very strange. But slowly it dawned on me... My lake has a natural "funnel" in the middle, the lake is shaped a bit like an hourglass, with the long axis going east-west into the prevailing wind. Even though it was a very steady breeze on land, upon the lake the wind squeezes through the "waist" and fans out. Hence the changes in direction and hence the "dribs and drabs" of wind as it turbulently flows out from the gap. The annoying part is that I already KNEW this from two years of sailing on the lake. By this time last year, I was happily scooting through all the eddies that come off the gap, the little backdraft that forms near the north shore, the big blast in the middle, etc... how could I have forgotten? Once again I realize that sailing, like baseball, is ninety percent mental. And the other half is physical, of course. Between a year of rust and my haste to get on the water, I didn't have my "head in the game" at all and it cost me. Lessons learned... again!

On the positive side, I learned something new, at least for this old dog. Sailing standing up! Yes, of course that's how I've sailed big "leadminer" keelboats, but never in an unballasted dinghy. Wow, what a difference for light-wind sailing. I stood right behind the CB and my head was at the same level of the foot of the main... I could feel the same wind that the sail was "feeling" and it was indeed different from the wind I felt sitting down... the 3 feet of height made a real difference. I know that light wind is very laminar, I can see it in action on the sails, but amazing to just FEEL it. Even better, I could easily change the angle of heel by shifting my weight from foot to foot. I was happily steering with my weight, and then heeling to windward to cut the hull drag, heeling to lee when the wind was too weak to fill the sails, all the usual light-air tricks, just so much easier when standing. Ok, this may all be obvious to you old-salt DS drivers, but was certainly new to me, I keep being amazed at how stable the DS is considering she has no ballast. And now even more incentive to build a longer hiking-stick, so I can stand further forward. Winter project :)

Well, here's to hoping that we all get in a few more "sessions" before it gets too cold.

Fair winds,

Tom
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Re: Shakedown Cruise - 2020

Postby bilbo » Mon Oct 05, 2020 11:36 am

Sounds like a ride! I was able to go out yesterday for a couple of hours. On a positive note, it's the first time (of three) that I've launched without running into a nearby dock. Negative, it was my first experience with a busy boat ramp and I was a bit harsh on my 10 year old 'first mate' when I got nervous. In all honesty, he was an incredible help and we handled the boat together as a team. The wind was about 12kt with some gusts to 17, so definitely no ghosting for us! I borrowed a handheld anemometer from work to verify this time. Once underway it was good and we scooted along nicely. Coming back into the dock was ok too, but had to approach it from downwind due to the constant motorboat traffic on the leeward site. Those guys do not wait for anyone. There are two ramps with a dock in between, and they seemed extremely reluctant to load/unload on the windward side of the dock, even with plenty of ramp room and plenty of people. I ended up just using the windward side and it was fine for me.

I too am hoping for a few more outings, but unfortunately this time of year usually mild weather means very high winds in this region. Sunday morning it was 22F, but had warmed to 52 by the time we set out around 1PM and was actually quite pleasant.
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Re: Shakedown Cruise - 2020

Postby tomodda » Mon Oct 05, 2020 1:51 pm

Glad you got out too! Just remember, ruining your 10-yr old's appreciation for boating is not worth saving your boat from a few scrapes. Just word to the wise, and I'm sure you made up for it with plenty of positive re-enforcement afterwards (ice cream always helps!).

As for motorboaters and ramps... yeah, always a challenge. I'm fortunate that my local lake has a 4-lane ramp and most of the boaters are there for fishing, not zooming around (water-skiers and wakeboarders, grrrrr!). So, they're a calmer crowd. I also tend to sail up the dock - VERY SLOWLY, especially on a no-wind evening like I had last week. The powerboaters tend to zoom up to the dock, drop off someone to go grab the track/trailer, and then back off the dock to leave it clear for the next boat drop-off. So, I simply say "Hi! How were the fish behaving today?" as I ghost by. I'm going slow enough to have a little chat, let them know that'll I'll be going in next, I'm gonna tie off to the very end of the dock and go get my trailer, will they be OK going around me to get up on their trailer? etc, etc. A little communication goes a LONG way! For what it's worth, even on higher-wind days, I drop my jib right outside the no wake zone, then luff my main like crazy, keep it slow. Backwinded main is GREAT for stopping the boat. Of course, none of this works for a boat ramp up a channel... then it's every man for himself! You better believe I use my right of way :). And pontoon boats are the very worst, I just assume they are going to run me over and act accordingly.
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Re: Shakedown Cruise - 2020

Postby bilbo » Mon Oct 05, 2020 2:25 pm

You're absolutely right, not worth ruining anything over scrapes. I was more scared at times than anything, of hitting someone else's boat or dealing with the potent wind. Most potent I've been out in anyway. I did give plenty of positives after, and apologized profusely for my actions. And yes, there was definitely Dairy Queen involved. Someday, I hope to have my poop in a group enough to have a conversation with someone as I slowly approach the dock like you said. That sounds awesome. I always feel I'm a moment away from losing control of the boat, something I hope will improve with time and experience. I'm still getting used to how my boat handles and responds to inputs. I like the idea of luffing the main while sailing toward the dock, and backwinding to slow if needed. I will have to try that next time.

I was happy that the boat did nothing unexpected when I launched. I paddled out from shore while Sam steered away from the dock that we would otherwise drift into. I put the jib up first and gained enough speed to turn and heave to, then up went the main. Learning that procedure has been the best thing I've done so far. It works so well for adjusting things, feasting, getting a drink, etc. even in the high winds. We even made a bathroom stop that way! Sam's still young enough that peeing outside is incredible fun. In the middle of a lake off a boat was mind-blowing!

I agree pontoons are the worst. That's what snatched my leeward spot yesterday. He powered on the trailer and was crooked, way off the bunks. I waited for them for a while, and asked if they needed any help but he said no. I'm guessing he was flustered. That's when I went and grabbed my trailer, and backed it into the windward side. I was in and out before he was done. So far all of my boating has been late season, so not many wakeboats as it's been so cold.
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Re: Shakedown Cruise - 2020

Postby tomodda » Mon Oct 05, 2020 2:37 pm

Well, practice makes perfect! One good "game" to play and learn with is simply throwing something floatable in the water then sailing up to grab it again (nautical fetch). Teaches you to control the boat in close maneuvering, sail slowly, come at it from all angles, upwind/downwind, etc.... but no harm done if you miss. Also gives your ten year old something fun to do, grab the floater! Old hat, old fender, or old ball usually works well, and its' always good to practice MOB procedures too.

As for nautical pee-breaks, it's always great fun to whizz while hanging off the backstay at speed, preferably to leeward, much to the envy and amazement of any ladies onboard. Of course, since our DS's don't have backstays (and usually no ladies), you can either risk your neck hanging off the side-stays, or use a bucket. My handy, blue bailing bucket.... Dip it over the side afterwards, now it's both emptied out and clean! Another untold advantage of sailing standing up is discreetly holding the bucket in front of the plumbing, still sailing. From 100yards away it just looks weird rather than scandalous... Anyway, TMI, but you brought it up! :mrgreen:
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Re: Shakedown Cruise - 2020

Postby GreenLake » Mon Oct 05, 2020 4:52 pm

Fall sailing is great.

I was out in a bit of low-lying cloud/not quite fog over the weekend. We had everything just shy of ghosting to perfect wind (guessing somewhere around 8, but hard to tell as we were going downwind).

Had somebody join me who is relatively new to the boat, which meant that I spent more than my share rigging / derigging. Spending two hours for a first sail is not totally out of the ordinary, in my experience. I usually take everything off the boat when it's in storage, so getting all that back and untangled takes time. Fastest I've ever derigged is still north of 30min, with a crew of two expert sailors familiar with my boat and the way I do things.

So, Tom, if you can do it in 30, hat's off.

We went to a beach to launch, and the weather was uninviting enough that nobody wanted to launch a fishing boat. So we had the access all to ourselves, but I managed to run the trailer off the concrete pad on one side and the car off on the other, and was busily digging deep holes. Then I remembered the button labeled 4x4 on the dashboard - nothing doing. Then I remembered that years ago, the front hubs where replaced by manual locking ones, because the mechanic told me that the automatic ones had a tendency to fail when needed. After that, pulling everything straight was easy. (Memory is a tricky beast; older memories can block newer ones - seems they don't "update" correctly, or the newer one is "forgotten" first. Much comes back with a little context).

The launch area is sheltered but whatever wind there is, is usually on the beam. Launching nose in, it's almost impossible to get away with sails up - with the swept-back spreaders, the shrouds don't allow the boom to go back even 90 degrees. We took off twice that day, as we came in for a quick pit stop. First time, in light-ish winds, backed away with a shove from the paddle with jib raised. Was able to raise the main, even though were sailing downwind. Second time, with a bit more wind, needed some pushing and paddling to get into deeper water and turn the boat. We had left the sails up during our stop. May try to raise the main on the beach, then, in future, if it's not blowing too much.

Sailing in low clouds/high fog is interesting. There was enough visibility to see the wind on the water and to see all the landmarks close in, but the distant ones disappeared into wall of white. We finally picked something drifting in the water as a "destination"; after rounding it, the wind picked up, and my crew had their first experience with an extended spinnaker run (with enough wind to make the sail set well and responsive). I ended up steering the boat standing up during that part. I simply poked the end of the tiller into my life vest and leaned back. Only recommended when there are no other boats out - the sails do block all view.

I also find it helps talking to people. If I'm coming in a bit faster at a launch with a dock, I may tell the motorboat crowd that I have no reverse, if that's the case (reach or run when coming in). Mostly, I make sure they know my plans and that I know theirs. The dock is long enough that multiples boats can tie on, so we negotiate who goes at the end or closer in. The area between dock and street is limited, so there may be negotiation on where to place my trailer for rigging/derigging. I usually don't consider myself in the "queue" until my mast is up and I'm ready to take the trailer straps off.

As Tom writes, much of sailing is mental. Years ago I learned that in traffic, you can mentally "create time" such that even complex and time-critical maneuvers like getting to an exit if you are more than one lane over can be accomplished without feeling rushed. The same technique applies to boat handling. The DS does really well in close quarters maneuvering, as long as you make sure you don't stall your rudder and centerboard. It really turns on a dime (spinning around the CB as if that's a pivot).

The trick seems to be to give decisive rudder action, but limit the tiller angle initially. Once the boat starts turning, you can then increase the tiller angle - with the stern moving sideways, the direction the rudder is pulled through the water changes, and a larger deflection no longer stalls the rudder. Likewise, if you make sure you maintain just a bit of speed, you can tack in pretty narrow channels. I like to make really shallow turns; while that uses up some momentum, you gain quite a bit of distance upwind, as long as you are able to regain it before the next tack.

With crew, it really helps if you can anticipate the required maneuvers and talk them through, well in advance of the action.
~ green ~ lake ~ ~
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Re: Shakedown Cruise - 2020

Postby tomodda » Mon Oct 05, 2020 5:57 pm

GreenLake wrote:
So, Tom, if you can do it in 30, hat's off.



Well, 30 minutes is with an entire season's practice! Preparation and snap-shackles are the keys to doing it. All my lines are laid out and tangle-free because I stretch them to various attachment points - halyard ends to the spinnaker-ring, vang assembly to the cuddy-top cleats, etc and all rigged taut... ready to go! Likewise wherever I can use snap-shackles, I do. Mainsail stays on the boom, fully rigged, with the whole assembly pushed forward into the cuddy. A screw-stop on the sail track to hold up the boom end before I raise the sail. Topping lift that goes from the mast head to an open cheek block at boom end to a clear on the boom (instead of other way around, down the mast). All time-savers. But the biggest trick is raising the mast... what used to be a very fraught exercise is now easy - because I use the jib halyard! With a tabernacle-mount, it's relatively easy to lift the mast up the first 45-degrees, and if you're strong enough you can push it all the way up to vertical and hold it there. I wasn't strong enough two years ago, after my heart attack, which made me really think and rethink on how to put up the mast easily. I used to put a block and tackle at the bow eye and run a line to the spinnaker ring to pull it up the last 45 degrees, and then I'd tie the end of that line down while I ran forward to attach the forestay. (Yes, of course the side-stays remain attached at all times, or else disaster!) Lots of time to rig and unrig the tackle... But now, I simply take the jib halyard and clip it to my bow-eye. I can push the mast up to vertical by hand, but even when I can't, pulling DOWN on the jib halyard (same as raising the jib) causes the mast to go up. As soon as it's vertical, I tension the jib halyard as much as possible, sweating it onto the fixed cleat. Tie it down and then it's simple - walk forward, clip on my forestay (with enough halyard tension, the forestay will be loose). Then I slack the halyard a bit and hank on my jib, etc, etc.. Nothing to it, and takes about 2-3 minutes. Yes, I know that i went from a 3-1 tackle to a rig withno mechanical advantage, but I've also learned to properly raise the mast using my legs, then bring it to my shoulder then bull it forward..... and now that I have my arm-strength back, I can do it one-armed, no weightlifter techniques needed! The hardest part really is passing the mast from trailering position (up on the cradle) to lifting position - aft and attached to the tabernacle. Preparation, preparation - all lines ready to run snag-free, a mast support aft at JUST the right height (so the mast is at a right angle to the bottom part.. I use a stack of 4 boat-cushions), all needed tools and spares at hand (I'm always losing split rings). One of these days, I should photo-document the whole procedure, but it works for me!

GreenLake wrote:Mostly, I make sure they know my plans and that I know theirs.


Yes, communication is key, in all things. With other boaters, with your crew, even with yourself. The other little tidbit I learned last week is that my wife is SOOO much happier when I text her every two hours or so to say I'm OK, and that I texted her when I landed the boat and again when I finally started driving home. Poor thing, she worries about me sailing single-handed. Morbid side-note, I'd very much rather die on the water than in a hospital bed. I've come very close to doing both in my life, and I'll take the water any day! On a more positive note, refitting the DS, sailing her, gave me some concrete goals and rebuilt my strength during a long slow recovery to health, so I'm very happy.

GreenLake wrote:The trick seems to be to give decisive rudder action, but limit the tiller angle initially.


Agreed, the DS really likes to be "finessed". Balance is key - sails, bodyweight, and tiller. You should have seen how many times I put her in irons year 1! Better now, though :)
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