Monday, September 24, 2012

Getting to Know You -- Part III

Since launching, I have taken Solitude III out sailing a couple of times. These voyages have allowed me to slowly become more familiar with the boat: her likes, dislikes, and idiosyncrasies. Every boat is different, each has its good points and its bad. Keeping in mind the bias the undoubtedly results from having invested the last two years building this boat, I’d like to dedicate a few posts to exploring what I’ve learned thus far about this boat that I have built.

In this final entry in the series, I want to share some thoughts about the way the boat is rigged, adventures in dealingwith the trailer, and some of the ergonamics of the boat. 

The PocketShip Instruction manual includes a guide to rigging the boat in the same way the John C. Harris’ own PocketShip is rigged.  It also tries to make it clear that rigging, particularly deck layout, is a matter of personal preference and that the individual builder is free to rig the boat accordingly.

As a starting point, I basically rigged the boat per the manual, with some minor variations.  In the time I’ve spent sailing the boat, there are some things I’ve decided to change, mostly revolving around making things easier to manage from the cockpit.

In initially rigging the boat, I did not lead the line for the jib furler aft to the cockpit, instead just bringing it back to a cleat on the mast.  I don’t know why I thought that was a good idea!   It works, but the manifold benefits of being able to take in the jib from to cockpit, particularly when singlehanding.  So, that’s a change that I’ll make when I get a few minutes to do it. 

Aside from that, the jib furler is awesome.  I love to able to instantly take in the jib, particulary when singlehanding.  This is not to say that roller furling is a mere luxury item.  In a boat this size, I can’t imagine anything bigger or less-dexterous than a lemur crawling out the bowsprit to deal with a hanked-on jib!

As I found out when sailing PocketShip, when the wind gets into the 10-12 knot range, it is time to shorten sail.  As a result of the excitement we had trying to reef PocketShip’s mains’l at the Wooden Boat Festival, I’ve now rigged Solitude for jiffy reefing.  In talking with PocketShip designer John C. Harris after that experience, I also decided to add another 100lbs of ballast to Solitude to keep her on her feet better when the wind kicks up.  I have yet to take her out in a good wind since making these improvements, so I will have to report on their efficacy later. 

 I’m trying to decide whether I like the placement of the cleats for the jib sheets.  Right now, they are forward on the cabin, integral with the jib leads.  I’ve had some trouble when singlehanding getting the cleats to release.  The designer swears that it is dead simple if you flick the sheet just the right way.  I vaguely remember “The Flick” from some of the larger daysailers I sailed back in college, but clearly I’ve lost the touch.  So, I debating whether to lead the sheets to cleats further aft, or just be patient until I rediscover some skills.  I’m leaning toward the latter.

Dealing with the gaff is something new for me. I’m still experimenting with getting the peak and throat halyard set optimally.  I’ve noticed that I seem to tend to have the throat set a little low and the peak set a little high.  I’m also still struggling with neatly furling the mains’l, and dealing with the gaff while tackling that operation.  My friendly neighborhood  kayaker, Ralph, gave me a snap-on strap as a boat warming gift to help with that issue…a few more of those might solve the problem.

On the standing rigging side, I decided to go with turnbuckles on the shrouds, instead of the lashings specified by the designer.  So far I like them, though Dieter, who I sailed PocketShip with and discussed the pros and cons of the rig with at the Wooden Boat Festival, had a distinctly negative opinion of the turnbuckles.  I understand where he’s coming from, and I need to think about his input.

One more struggle has been with the bobstay.  The bobstay attaches to the hull via the boweye.  I have to unhook the bobstay whenever I put the boat on the trailer.  I had purchased the bobstay premade through CLC, so in theory, if my boat had built built per the plans, it should have fit.  But, alas, the plans are a little nonspecific about the location of thebow eye, and as a result, by boweye is a little lower on the hull, and thus the bobstay is a little short.  I can still get it shackled if someone pushes down on the bowsprit whilest I attach the shackle.   The problem is that if I’m singlehanding, I don’t have someone to push down on the bowsprit.  I do not know what my solution to this is going to be, though it will probably involve standing in the hardware section of Fisheries Supply for a very, very, very long time.


One of the big advantages of a boat the size of Solitude III is that it can be loaded on a trailer and towed easily.  The advantages of this are many.  You don’t have to pay moorage.  Anywhere with a road and a boat launch is your cruising ground. 

PocketShips everywhere are riding around on a rogues gallery of new, used, and repurposed trailers.  CLC offers a custom Trailex aluminum trailer; lightweight, but pricy.  PocketShip pathfinder Dave Curtis used an EZ-Loader…one of my top contenders.  Another of the PocketShip fraternity used a re-purposed, used trailer that was a little too small.  He hit a curb and the whole rig toppled over. 

I shopped far and wide, considered new, used, aluminum and galvanized, all sizes.  From a tow vehicle perspective, I couldn’t make a case for an aluminum trailer.     And I didn’t want to deal with the risk of any problems that might come along with a used trailer.  New boat, new trailer.  It’s only fair.

In the end, I selected a new King 15’-17’ galvanized trailer, with a 1750lb capacity.  Though the bare hull weight of the boat is in the neighborhood of 800lbs, with spars, rigging, ballast, and gear, the full up weight is more likely in the 1200-1500lb range, so including some buffer the 1750 lb rating seemed about right.   Another cool feature, the trailer has LED lights. 

My tow vehicle is my trusty 2006 Chrysler 300C, now equipped with a UHAUL-sourced trailer hitch.  Yes, the car has a HEMI.  This car has played a variety of roles in the life of Solitude III.   It has conveyed me to work, so that I might earn a paycheck so that I could afford to lavish Solitude with the good things in life.  It has hauled the countless board feet of lumber required to build Solitude.  It has whisked me to Port Townsend for the Wooden Boat Festival, when I’ve needed the motivation to continue my labors on Solitude.  So, it is only fitting that this trusty stead be pressed into service towing Solitude to the water and new adventures.

From a going-forward point of view, I don’t even notice the boat behind me.  I do see it in the gas mileage though.  The big V8 has cylinder deactivation, so during normal highway cruising, the car will return around 22mpg.  With the additional task of dragging Solitude III, all eight cylinders are making a contribution, as evidenced by the 14-15mpg displayed on the trip computer.

The trailer can be felt over a bumpy road…those springs that yield a 1750lb rating may be a touch still.  The car is also due for new shocks and struts, so that may help damp things out.  The trailer also makes itself known during decelerations.    The trailer has no surge brakes, and that added mass makes itself known through the brake pedal.

Arriving at the boat launch, I cast off the tie-downs, raise the mast, mount the outboard (I keep it in the boot of the car when I’m on the road), and doff my shoes and socks.   The whole procedure is currently taking me about 10 minutes.  Not bad.  Not bad, at all!  A tribute to the thoughtfulness John C. Harris put into the design. 

Next up, it is down the ramp.  With the combination of car (wheels pushed to the corners) and trailer (no drop axle), I have to back down until the car’s rear wheels are just at the water’s edge.  I set the brake, hop out of the car, wade into the water, unclip the winch strap and give a mildly might shove, setting Solitude free.  Hopefully I either have the bow line in my hand, or have a helper on the dock managing the mooring lines.  Park the car, attached the bobstay, and the operation is over.  It really is quick.

After an enjoyable time on the water, retrieval is almost as simple.  The only catch here is making sure that the boat’s keel is properly aligned and sitting in the keel box. In the water, pull out of the water (traction control plus plenty of power helps this!), strap here down and we’re good to go.  Upon arriving home


As I have stated before, this is one comfortable boat.  The cockpit is spacious and well laid out.  So far I have only ever had one passenger aboard while under sail, so I am looking forward to see how it is with three of four souls aboard. 

I love my tiller.  I made mine out of 1” thick ash (ground down to ¾” to fit the rudder), instead of the ¾” dimension specified in the plans.  One thing I really noticed when at the helm of PocketShip, was that the little ¾” tiller made the helm feel a little sloppy and that tiller deformed under load.  The tiller also felt a little too small, too dainty.  Solitude’s has a nice, solid feel, doesn’t noticeably deform under load, and has a more comfortable grip, at least for me.  Not only is it good for handling the boat, but it could easily be unshipped and used as a club to fend off pirates, always an important consideration. 

I went to a talk by John Harris at the Wooden Boat Festival in which he talked about the design of this boat.  One thing that he considered important was that the boat be dry.  Thus far, I’d say he succeeded.  When motoring back to Boat Haven from Port Hudson directly into the chop in ~15kts of wind, there was a small amount of spray that made it to my lips.  This was a pretty extreme case, and either slowing down a touch or coming off the wind two points  alleviated it.  I have yet to take any spray in the cockpit while under sail. 

One thing that I’m less than happy with is probably mine own fault, and that’s the motor controls.  I find it a little tough to get into a position where I can comfortably manage the throttle, fwd/neutral, the motor’s tiller and the boat’s tiller, and my body all at the same time.  In high gain, precision tasks, like docking, something always seems to be in the way.  I think that if I had mounted the outboard on the port side instead of the starboard side it would have been better.

In Conclusion

So, these are the things that I have learnt about my little boat so far.  I’m sure that the more I sail her, the more I will learn.  It is a pleasure to learnmore about this thing that I have built, though maybe a little surreal.  It still hard to believe that my little boat, this project I’ve been working on in the garage, is a really a working, seaworthy, sailing vessel.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Getting to Know You -- Part II

Since launching, I have taken Solitude III out sailing a couple of times. These voyages have allowed me to slowly become more familiar with the boat: her likes, dislikes, and idiosyncrasies. Every boat is different, each has its good points and its bad. Keeping in mind the bias the undoubtedly results from having invested the last two years building this boat, I’d like to dedicate a few posts to exploring what I’ve learned thus far about this boat that I have built.

In this post, I want to make a few comments about the little noisemaker hanging off Solitude's otherwise pretty transom.

Under Power
There has been an ongoing discussion raging, seemingly forever, on the PocketShip forum as to what the right motor is for this boat. One group of partisans feels pretty strongly that 2hp is all you’ll ever need for a boat this size. Then, there’s the “I’d like to have just a little more, just in case” camp, which tends to lean towards the 3.5hp class motors. And then there is the “slippery slope” crowd. They usually start out a 2 hp, decided that want some buffer, so they step up to 3.5hp, but then for the same weight they could have a 5hp, and then they need a big external gas tank and reverse, and before long they’re at 6hp. I went down the slippery slope many a time in debating which outboard to get for Solitude. Fortunately, in the end, I managed to claw back up to the top of the slope and selected a 2.5hp Suzuki outboard.

I have used the motor in a variety of conditions, in winds from 0-20 kts, in calm seas and 2-3 foot chop, and with and against a reasonable current. In all cases I found the motor to be adequate. In calm seas, I hit 4.5 kts at about ½ throttle. Against the wind in a chop, I wasn’t quite so fast, but was still clearing a good 3 kts at ½ throttle. I tried punching it up to full throttle to see what more I could get out of it, but really only got more noise with no major increase in speed for my efforts.

A bigger issue is at the slow end. Even at idle, I feel like the motor is pushing me a little too fast. When navigating through the slalom course of tightly packed yachts on the way to my slip at the Wooden Boat Festival, I was constantly rocking in and out of gear to keep my speed down.

The motor has a number of pluses. It is very lightweight, coming in at under 30lbs. It seems to be reliable and easy to start so far. It has a real, shiftable neutral, instead of the stupid centrifugal clutch that some other small motors (the 2 hp Honda) have. It is water cooled, so it is relatively quiet. Of course, it is water cooled, so I have to flush it out any time I use it in saltwater.

The 2.5hp Suzuki has an integral 1 liter gas tank, and no provision for connecting an external tank. The motor is quite economical, and I haven’t run out of gas on the water yet, but I will admit to a degree of range anxiety nevertheless.

Another thing I’m not totally sold on is the 360 deg steering. Maybe I’m too set in my ways or too used to having a reverse. While there is certainly some advantage in being able to point the thrust vector whichever direction, I’m still having a tough time intuiting which direction to point it to achieve a desired, at least in the “reverse” direction. I don’t have that trouble with a motor that is in reverse. I wonder if it is psychological.
There is another problem with the 360 deg steering. It is very easy to turn the prop so it faces the rudder. The slipstream of the prop impinges on the motor, wrenching the helm hard a-starboard. Not pleasant.
So, there are pluses and minuses to the motor. I guess the bottom line is that I’m satisfied with the little noisemaker, find it to be a good match for the boat, and probably would select it again over its competitors.
As a footnote, I should also say that there is still a part of me that loathes having a motor on a sailboat. I consider it a necessary evil, though, from both a safety and convenience point of view. I wouldn’t want to venture out into Puget Sound without it. But I’ve brought Solitude up to the dock twice now, once singlehanded, under sail alone, and find that a far more satisfying act of seamanship than running the noisemaker.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Getting to Know You -- Part I

Since launch, I have taken Solitude III out sailing a couple of times.  These voyages have allowed me to slowly become more familiar with the boat: her likes, dislikes, and idiosyncrasies.  Every boat is different, each has its good points and its bad.  Keeping in mind the bias the undoubtedly results from having invested the last two years building this boat, I’d like to dedicate a few posts to exploring what I’ve learned thus far about this boat that I have built.

In this post, I'll tackle the meat and potatoes of the matter, Solitude III's handling under sail.  Future posts will examine my thoughts on her rigging, how she handles under power and other practical matters.
Sailing Qualities
This is, of course, all first impressions and may change as I spend more time under sail.  But, man, what a first impression.  This boat likes to sail!

Upwind, the boat is surprisingly close-winded for a gaff rigged vessel.  I’d estimate that she can get to within 45-50 degrees of the wind, close hauled.   My going in expectation was more like 55 deg.  The boat will heel over delightfully, popping quite readily up onto her chine and then becoming quite stiff.  As I experienced when sailing PocketShip, in big puffs, she’ll heel over a little more, letting the rubrail kiss the water.  Though at this point the crew took action to depower the sails a bit, she didn’t feel like she really wanted to go any farther.

Compared to the dinghies that I’ve spent most of my sailing time in, Solitude feels like she takes a long time getting though a tack, and takes a little time accelerating again on the other tack.  Despite this, Solitude holds her way well through a tack, and feels like you’d really have to make a hash of it to get caught in irons.  About halfway through the tack, the helm will suddenly get really light, and you lose a good sense of where the tiller is.  Several times now I’ve found myself inadvertently easing the helm as a result.  I can see this leading to me getting caught in irons if I don’t watch it, though I haven’t yet.  So, I need to be extra vigilant in keeping the helm a-lee when I’m coming about!

One of the idiosyncrasies of the design is that in tacking, it is important to avoid sheeting in the jib all the way until the boat gathers some way.  Sheeting in too soon leads to the boat continuing to fall off until she gets moving again.  I had expected this, based on both reports of the designer and reading about this “feature” on other traditionally rigged boats.  Still, knowledge is no replacement for experience, and I’ve already racked up several falling-off-due-to-oversheeting-the-jib incidents.   My current procedure when tacking is to let the jib fly, tack, build some way, and then sheet in the jib.  I don’t find this procedure aesthetically pleasing, though, since the jib spends a lot of time flopping about.  In future outings, I will be trying lightly sheeting the jib right after the tack, and then setting it properly when the boat is ready for it.  More experiments to come.

Her best point of sail seems to be a good beam reach.  Coming off the wind from close hauled, there is a point where the boat will give you a swift kick in the pants and leap up in speed.  Find that sweet spot, and the boat will yield a sailing experience second-to none. 

Things tame down going downwind.  That big mainsail will still push the boat pretty good, but everything feels relaxed.  The main tends to blank the jib quite a bit going with the wind.  Furling the jib would probably be just as well in these cases, but I’ve found I can bear off until I’m on a dead run and get the boat going wing-on-wing with relative ease.  On a run, the sails are very communicative, and they’ll let you know when they want to gybe.  The jib seems to always want to gybe first, which is a feature I like.  Sailing Lasers, I developed a dislike of gybing…the sail would sometimes just go, the mainsheet would hang up on the transom, and I’d be capsized before I could do anything about it.  Gybing Solitude provides good therapy for that trauma.

The PocketShip design is a touch overpowered.  I forget what her sail area-to-displacement is, but it is a big number.  This has some pluses, of course.  That big mains’l really makes the boat sporty in good winds, and gives her the ability to make good even in the lightest of airs.  On Solitude’s maiden voyage, we were pulling a solid 4.5-5 kts on a reach in about 7 kts of wind.  Sailing PocketShip, in conditions where we admittedly should have had a reef in, we were pushing 7 kts at times.  Maybe someone sitting in a 32 footer wouldn't bat an eyelash at these speeds, but this is all on a boat with a 13’8” waterline.  Hull speed is theoretically just shy of 5 kts.  The big sail, combined with a hull featuring a nice sharp entry and a nice, clean, racing-dinghy-like run aft really can combine for some outsized performance!  At the opposite end of the spectrum, last Thursday, I had Solitude out in winds of up to 2-3kts.  The boat cleared 2kts easily close hauled.  On a run, there wasn’t even enough wind to keep the jib filled, and Solitude was still good for 1.5 kts.

In terms of sail trim, I’ve found the jib is pretty sensitive on the wind.  The main, being the big, low-aspect ratio wing that it is, is much less sensitive, at least from a performance perspective.  That being said, the trim of the main does seem to play a pretty big role in balance of the boat.  When taking up a new point of sail, I’ll trim out the jib to just where it wants to be (and it always wants to be just where it wants to be), and then trim main in such a way as to dial in a fairly neutral helm. 
When hearing I've finally launched the mystery boat that's been in my garage, folks invariably ask how she sails.  I answer, "oh-so-sweetly."  She really is a sweetheart under sail, meeting or exceeding all of my expectations.  And if there is an area in which a sailboat should excel, it is sailing! 

Thursday, September 13, 2012

What's in a Name?

Eagle-eyed readers may have noticed that as the boat has been nearing completion over the two months or so, I've been referring to it less and less as PocketShip and referring to it more as the boat or my boat.  And then, suddenly, the boat was on the water and I suddenly started referring to her as Solitude III.

The gradual phasing out of using the name of the design to identify my boat in this blog was deliberate and planned.  I knew the identity of the boat would be changing, and that I couldn't go on calling it PocketShip forever...after all, PocketShip is already named PocketShip!  Interestingly, it took conscious effort when writing to accomplish the transition.  For so long I had thought of that object in my garage as a PocketShip, for so long had I referred to it in the blog as PocketShip, that formulating sentences without the word "PocketShip" did not come naturally.  On the other hand, the second that Solitude hit the water, she became she instead of it...just naturally, no effort required.

Why Solitude III?  My folks' boat is Solitude II, and my great-grandparents' was Solitude.  No mystery there.

The graphic
Name on the transom!
When I took the boat to Port Townsend, she did not bear her name on her transom, though it did appear in the Festival's information.  I had designed the graphic for the name much earlier, but hadn't acted on getting it printed.  Finally, a few days before the show, I sent it off to a local signmaker to get it printed onto vinyl.  I finally applied it to the boat a few days after returning from the Festival.

Strictly speaking, despite having been on the water a couple of times and having a name applied, the boat has not been christened yet, something that surely violates nautical good taste.  It was such a rush to get her on the water, that it just got missed.  And since a name was required in registering for the Wooden Boat Festival...well, the cart just got in front of the horse on that one.  A proper christening will have to be done.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

My Life as a Liveaboard

My home for a few days.
While at the Wooden Boat Festival, I stayed aboard Solitude III.  It was a great opportunity to spend time on the boat, and while not exactly being a true liveaboard, I at least tasted what it'd be like to spend an extended period of time aboard my little boat.

The boat wasn't exactly move-in ready when I arrived at Port Townsend.  For one thing, the electrical system, particularly the cabin lights, were mostly in a box that I brought with me.  So, task #1 was to go gangbusters on the wiring.  Fortunately, I had packed a small headlamp, because the sun had definitely set by the time my warm-white LED lights first flicked on, bathing the cabin in a bright, cozy glow.

The lights were pretty much the only improvement I made to the cabin during my stay.  I was missing a magic cable for the radio, so no tunes, and the hinges I bought for the cover over the electronics panel turned out not to work the way I'd hoped.  I also have a big roll of padded hull liner to install, but needless to say this didn't happen while the boat was in Port Townsend.  Facilities were readily available ashore, so I did not pack the port-a-potty.

Enjoying an evening inside the cabin.
The boat's cabin is remarkably comfortable.  Sitting on the cabin sole, a person could lounge about below all day.  Temperatures below were kept mild during the day by leaving the hatch, dorade vents, and portholes open.  Of course, since the weather was fantastic and there were Festival-goers to greet, my days were spent lounging in Solitude III's comfortable cockpit, instead of her comfortable cabin.  John C. Harris, PocketShip's designer, claims that he's counted 14 different comfortable places to sit aboard.  Having spent almost four days aboard, I believe it!

For bedding, I brought a 1.5" thick twin bed-sized piece of memory foam for a mattress and my trusty goosedown backpacking sleeping bag.   When below, I would spread this out and use it to sit on, making a comfortable place even better.   I had originally thought to cut the foam to roughly fit the curve of the cabin sole, but found that it fit pretty well, and that it was even desirable (i.e. made things even more comfortable) to let in run up the cabin side the little bit that it did.

My bed for three nights.
I'd spend my evenings reading, writing in Solitude's log book, or fiddling with with computer (the marina had Wi-Fi).  When it came time, I'd crawl into my sleeping bag, flick the lights off and drift off to sleep.  The foam pad made a pretty good mattress, a little stiff but not at all uncomfortable.  At some point in the future I may pick up a slightly thicker piece of foam, but it is by no means urgent.  I slept well all three nights.   Between the dorade vents being open and the very rough dropboards that I had whipped out just in time for the Festival, it was a little drafty inside the cabin at night.  By and large, the cabin stayed dry during the night.  I found a little condensation on the portlights the first two mornings, and the air inside was a little more humid that ambient, but there was no condensation on the hull sides or overhead, nor where my sleeping bag or gear at all damp.

I packed a small cooler containing some sandwich makings, yogurt, water, and apple juice.  I have a little camp stove, but didn't bring it this time, opting instead indulge in the luxury of marina living of procuring hot coffee and occasional warm meals ashore.  The cooler was just a little too tall to fit in the area under the cockpit, so it sat in the main cabin, conveniently creating a small table.

Of course, the best part was being aboard the boat!  I could look out the hatch in the evening and see the other festival boats, watch the sunset, hear the water gently lapping the hull, and be lulled be the boat's gentle reacting motion as I rolled over at night.  Comfortable?  Relaxing?  Enjoyable?  Ohhhhh, yeah.

"Do, do, do, lookin' out my backdoor"

Monday, September 10, 2012

To Port Townsend


Boat on a boat.  Solitude III on the ferry.  Taking a
boat on a ferry is expensive and will hopefully
be avoided in the future.

Two years in the making and after several weeks of hard work trying to get the boat ready to go to the Wooden Boat Festival, the big day(s) finally arrived.  Thursday rolled around and I hitched up the boat.  I had considered sailing across from Keystone on Whidbey Island.  The sail over would have been perfect, but the marine forecast was calling for some pretty heavy airs for my return trip on Sunday, and since I'd be single-handing in a boat that is still largely unfamiliar to me, I decided to trailer the boat all the way.   So, leaving from work a little early, I headed down to the Edmonds-Kingston ferry and thence to Port Townsend. 

The boat launch is at Boat Haven, a marina about a mile from Port Hudson Marina, where the show is held.  Launching the boat singlehanded was surprisingly, and thankfully, uneventful.  I fired up the motor and headed out of the harbor.  The information I received was a little ambiguous about arrival time, and I was a little nervous about getting there "on time."  So, because of that, and since the distance was so short, I decided to steam up instead of sail. 

Upon arriving outside the harbor, festival participants were required to call in to the Harbormaster to get directions to the assigned berth.  We were then promised that we'd be met by one of the fleet of dinghies with "expert mariners" aboard, who would lend a skilled hand guiding the boat through the hazardous slalom of festival boats into her slip, where trained dockhands would get her secured.   I was a little nervous about handling my still-unfamiliar boat in such tight quarters, so the promise of expert assistance  helped take away some of the stress.

As it turned out, the promise of a relaxed, highly greased operation was really geared towards the big boats.  I when I called in to the Harbormaster, I was told, "boat of that size, go ahead and motor in."  "OK, where am I going?"  "Halfway into the harbor, turn right." escort.  

I poked into the harbor.  An inflatable was on its way outbound, and shouted, "do you know where you are going?" 
Uh, no...  "I was told to turn right halfway in." 
I had to squeak through these monsters.
"OK, yeah, turn right," he said, pointing at a narrow space, between two giant yachts, "there." 
You gotta be kidding me.  "Here?"
His boat was just out the mouth of the harbor.  He turned his head and yelled back, "yeah, there," as he gunned his motor to go out and help the next "big guy" in.

Map of the Festival Boats assigned slips.
Solitude is sitting under Shamrock's nose

Navigating through "The Cut," I had about a foot clearance on either side.  I don't know how, but I made it through unscathed.  On the downside, the narrow passage terminated at a T, with rocky shore dead ahead and 20' wide waterways running to port and starboard.  And, of course, I hadn't been instructed which way to go. 

This is where things took a short turn for the worse.  There were dockhands standing by, but when they asked me where I was going, I could only say that this is where my directions expired.  "OK, let me look it up."  You want to look it up?  In case you haven't noticed, I'm headed straight for the rocks and I need to know which way to turn.  I really needed to be able to slow down, but my engine already running at idle, and my fumbling hand was not finding the forward/neutral lever.  Need directions NOW!!!  The dockhand was still studiously flipping through pages on a clipboard.  OK...decision time.  Helm hard to port! 

Wrong guess.  "Just time up back there," the dockhand chirped, pointing cheerfully in the direction that was now decidedly astern of me.  At this point my memory seems to have gone blank.  I must have had enough sense to take advantage of the darn 360 deg steering on the outboard, and I vaguely remember passing a line to someone on the dock, but I can't give you any details.  I just found a photo on Chesapeake Light Craft's Facebook page showing me just as I was backing up to the dock.  I look bizarrely calm in it, and there is very clearly a dockhand looking interested by decidedly hands-off.  At any rate, I soon found myself neatly tied up to the dock, getting things tidied up for the show. 

Solitude III arrives at the Wooden Boat Festival

Official display sign.

A daintily lit cabin.
After getting settled in, it was time to get to work.  I hadn't had any time to get any wiring done, and since I' be staying aboard during the Festival, I really wanted to get the cabin lights working.  So, I spent the better part of the evening hanging out in the cabin, fiddling with wires.  Just after dark, I powered up the boat for the first time and flicked on the light switch, creating a bright and cozy night environment inside the cabin.  I then laid out my bedding and cozied in for my first night aboard!


The next morning I was up early to prowl the other Festival boats.  About 50 yards down the dock, I found PocketShip #1 hanging out, awaiting a long day of demonstrations.

The weather on Friday was beautiful and the conditions were just calling for being out on the water, so at about noon on Friday, I had the temerity to sally forth.  Once again, I had to navigate that insanely small passage, without hitting the venerable schooner to port or the multi-million dollar luxo-cruiser to starboard.  How I accomplished that I can't recall, I was too terror stricken.  But it must have looked like an impressive display of boathandling skill to the casual observers watching me, rather than the simple miracle it was. 

There was a fresh breeze blowing, maybe 7-10 kts.  I found out quickly that the wind tends to follow the gently arcing shoreline, so I found myself on several points of sail trying to hold the same course.  The sailing was exhilarating.  I was making a clean 5 kts while reaching.  Not bad for a boat with a 13'8" waterline. 

Chesapeake Light Craft's booth was at the very tip of Point Hudson, and I made a point of buzzing them repeatedly.  I also spent some time getting to know my boat better, taking her through several tacks and gybes, playing with sail trim, ballasting, etc.  One thing I found, this boat loves to sail. 

After the joy of sailing, I again underwent the terror of "The Cut." This time there were no dockhands.  Once again, I have no idea how I managed to get in without bouncing off boats, rocks, docks, or harbor seals.

Friday afternoon, they dropped a section of dock into "The Cut", so that folks could walk the length of the docks without going ashore.  It also had the effect of trapping me until late Sunday, enforce my solemn vow not to never again take my boat through that narrow chasm.

PocketShip designer John Harris stops by Solitude III.
This photo was actually taken Sunday, as I didn't even think of
getting a photo on Friday.
I hung out on Solitude more or less the rest of the day, chatting with people about her.  One wit pointed out that the name Solitude III was a bit of a contradiction.  Among the visitors were the fellas I'd talked to back in Everett when launching Solitude the first time!  Ralph, the guy from the kayak even gave me a boat warming present, a tie down for my mains'l, something I'd already identified as lacking in my outfitting of the boat.  A while later, I was on my way back to the boat from a trip to the head, I saw a dubious looking character poking curiously, but critically at my boat.  John Harris, PocketShip's designer, had seen the boat coming into the harbor (hence, the picture on CLC's Facebook page) and had managed to break away from manning the CLC booth to come see the boat.  He said that he was "startled to see a bright red PocketShip ease into Port Townsend.."  We chatted for a bit, and then he had to get back to work.


Festival boats in the harbor. 
After another very restful night, it was time for another exciting day.  I spent most of the day aboard, talking to folks.  The weather was great and lots of people were at the Festival.  My folks even came up for the day.  The only downside was being locked in and unable to go sailing! 
I was amazed at how many people came through, and how many recognized the PocketShip design.  The bulk of people's comments into three categories:
  •  "Is that a PocketShip?" - These folks knew alot about the boat, maybe had even ordered the instruction manual, and had been dreaming about building one.  I was surprised at how many people fell into that category.  The design seems to be something of a minor celebrity.
  • "The guy at the other PocketShip sent me down here." - There was something of a PocketShip pilgrim route.  People would start at the CLC booth, become interested in PocketShip, get sent down to PocketShip #1 to really see the boat, and then get sent down to my boat for the straight dope on building the boat.
  • "Cute boat." - Usually, these ones kept walking.
  • "WHOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAA!" - These comments were generally directed at the giant Trumpys moored across the dock from me.

What a beautiful setting!

I walked down the dock to PocketShip #1 and met Dieter, who had volunteered to demo PocketShip for CLC.  We chatted a bit about the design, my experience builder it, and his thoughts about potential rigging improvements.  He said he was taking Ol' #1 out sailing that evening and invited me along.  How could I refuse?

The wind was definitely up when we got out on the water.  We scooted back and  5 kts?  No, we definitely were at 5 kts any more.  7 kts?  Probably closer.  Dieter expertly handled the sheets while I sat at the helm.   The boat heeled, rollicked, and zoomed gleefully. We made several close passes of Pt. Hudson to give the CLC guys a chance to get some photos.  It became pretty clear, pretty fast, however, that we really wanted a reef in the main.  PocketShip doesn't have jiffy reefing, so to reef you have to drop the sail, loose and re-reeve the outhaul, and unpin and repin the tack.  So, we filed off to a an open-ish, protected-ish part of the bay, turned into the wind and dropped the mains'l.

This is were things got interesting.  I stayed at the helm, fighting to keep her into the wind, while Dieter worked like a electrocuted squirrel trying to keep the main under control while getting the outhaul re-rove through the upper grommet on the luff.  The main was quickly devolving into a flapping mess, and I was fighting hard at the helm as the boat kept falling off, filling the jib, picking up speed and then coming back into the wind.  Amazingly, Dieter managed to get that nearly squared away, and set to work on the tack. This is when things really got bad.  The gaff was swinging in a mildly wild manor and refused to come down when the halyards were eased.  Dieter became increasingly agitated as he pulled, yanked, and heaved. 

We finally decided to abandon the pursuit of reefing, get the main back up and the boat back under control.  While Dieter flung himself at this task with analogy-free gusto, I noticed that we had a new challenge...we'd been out this for a while, drifting off to leeward, and were know coming down on an sloop anchored out in the bay.  This was clearly bad.  I began yanking at the rudder, trying to simultaneously keep us pointed and get enough way to cross the bows of the ever-nearing sloop.  It was an understatement to say that Dieter was occupied at the moment, and I don't think he ever saw the impending doom.  I considered throwing the helm over and running down the side of the sloop, but that would have also had the undesirable side effect of throwing Dieter over.  Not good.  At that point, it probably would have been a good time to warn my shipmate of what was going on, but I just didn't have the neurons to spare.  I was making progress in my fight but it was no sure thing.  The tip of PocketShip #1's bowsprit was just crossing the sloop's bow when I felt a puff of wind hit us.  Like it had so many times in the past few minutes, I knew this puff of wind would swing her bows off, and I wouldn't be able to keep her up until the jib filled and I got some way again.  We were still drifting past the sloop.  Just as I felt control slipping away, the boat's midpoint passed the sloop bow.  I eased the tiller and permitted PocketShip to slowly swing around.  I was able to keep her under enough control to just follow the curve of the sloop's hull as the boat fell off.  Dieter noticed the hull of the sloop passing by in his peripheral vision.  Coincidentally, he had just finished getting the main up, so he hopped down, sheeted in and we again took off towards new adventures. 

As a note, Solitude III is going to be rigged with jiffy reefing very, very soon.

Armed kayak
We eventually managed to get back into the dock, where John Harris was waiting.  Fortunately for us, he chose non-violence, and soon we, along with the rest of the CLC crew were out on Pt. Hudson enjoying a mild libation.  Entertainment was provided by Joey, who put out into the bay with cannon strapped to a Wood Duck kayak.  Fortunately, there was surprisingly little death, destruction, or dismemberment when the cannon was discharged.   Enjoying the company, I stuck with that crowd for dinner too.


Sunday was a much quieter day, crowdwise.  I hung out on the boat most of the day, greeting the festival goers.  Weatherwise, however, things were more interesting.  The wind had really kicked up and it was choppy on the bay.  PocketShip #1 went out for the Festival Sailby, complete with a put-in-at-the-dock reef in the mains'l and a crew of about 20.  The section of dock that had been denying me access to the harbor had been removed, and I had put a preparatory reef in the main.  But on seeing how Old #1 handled out there, I decided that trying to do the same singlehanded would be a bad idea at best.  So, at about 4:30, I sauntered up to the CLC booth, said goodbye to John and the guys, fired up the outboard, and steamed out into the wind and chop headed back to Boat Haven.  The journey went well, and the boat handled the conditions like a champ.  Loading her onto the trailer singlehanded was surprisingly easy too!  Soon it was back to the ferry and then home again!

Tucked back in at home

Friday, September 7, 2012

Maiden Voyage

From the Log of the Solitude III

4 September, 2012

Arriving at the boat launch.
The past few weeks have been a whirlwind of boatbuilding activity. Painting, varnishing, drilling holes and installing hardware. My dad came up for Labor Day weekend, and together we made the big push to get the boat ready to sail. We were really close on Monday to finishing it up, so we both decided to take Tuesday off to get her done.

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Finally, in the early afternoon, we got the last bolt...the upper starboard bolt on the motor mount...installed. We put oil and fuel into the outboard, hitched up the trailer, and headed down to the 10th Street Boat Launch.  While we were casting off the tie-downs and raising the mast, a chap walked over asking, "is that a PocketShip?"

In she goes.
We got the boat ready to go, and I backed the boat down the ramp.  I had to back father than I though to get the boat to float off.  The rear wheels of the car were just entering the water before we finally slid the boat back and Dad tended the boat whilst I parked the car.  When I got back to the boat, I found that a kayaker had paddled up to ask, "is that a PocketShip?"  The boat is a minor celebrity.

Almost there...

Afloat at last!
Powered tests
First on the agenda was to start the break-in procedure on the motor.  we sat at the dock for about 5 minutes while the motor warmed up, then it was off for a 15 minute cruise at idle speed.  I dropped Dad off on the dock at Jetty Island to take a couple of photos of the boat during this very slow cruise.  Finally, we got to open her up to 1/2 throttle for the trip out the Snohomish River into Puget Sound.  After a bit of boorishness at idle, she perked right up when I opened it up a bit and hit about 5 kts at 1/2 throttle. 

Puttering about.

Rudder tiller...motor tiller...rudder tiller...motor tiller...
Up go the sails.
Saw a sea lion on a yellow can.
After a quick trip downriver, we hit the Sound, turned into the wind and raised the sails.  The winds were westerly at about  10 kts and I had tentatively put in a reef in the mains'l back before we launched.  On hoisting the sail, though, it was clear that it wasn't required, and we promptly shook it out.  The jib came out and the sails filled as the motor shut down and we bore off onto a beam reach.  Solitude III jumped up to speed more like a racing dinghy than a cruiser. We sailed south towards Mukilteo, easily maintaining 4.5-5 kts.  This is a fast boat for its length!    Just off Mukilteo, we came about, heading NW close hauled.  Solitude heeled delightfully as she clawed windward. 

My dad taking a picture on a beautiful day!

One happy boatbuilder turned sailor.
The weather was perfect.  The wind was steady, the sky was blue, the air warm. Sitting in the cockpit, alternating between methodically experimenting with different sail trim and marvelling in shocked wonder at actually being in this boat that I have built, the evening was relaxing and peaceful.  There were really no major issues to note...everything worked well.  The boat sailed oh-so-sweetly.  She was responsive at the helm.  With the sails trimmed just right, she'd take off like a rocket.  Stable, fast, and able, this boat is a delight to sail.

The wind was fair for sailing back up the Snohomish.   I sailed up to the dock at Jetty Island again, and again let Dad off for an under-sail photo op.  Then the sails came down and it was quick motor back to the boat launch, just as the sun set. 

It was the perfect maiden voyage!

Unfurling the jib.