Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Non-Sailing Summer Adventures

Since starting this blog, I've been in the habit of sharing a couple of non-PocketShip photos of summertime activities, usually as a way of  explaining why more boat building wasn''t getting done.  Well, Solitude III may be done and on the water, but that doesn't mean that there aren't other fun activities to share.  So, here are some summer highlights:

Deck remodel...had been putting this off to focus on boat building!

The weather un July was outstanding, and the long days allowed fabulous after-work hikes, such as Bandera Mt

And weekends could be filled with longer excursions, like Grand Ridge in the Olympics...

...Blanca Lake in the Cascades....

...and even a fabulous multi-day trip across-the-Olympics hike to Enchanted Valley.

Then there was the epic roadtrip across the middle of the country...

...including St.Louis, MO...

....somewhere in South Dakota...

...somewhere more definite in South Dakota...

....where the buffalo roam (I have deer and antelope pictures too)...

...and Big Sky country.
Montana is pretty.  There are a couple of PocketShips being built in Montana, but I didn't stop to see them.

One more random hiking picture, courtesy of the Walt Bailey Trail.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

A Round of Upgrades

During my first season sailing Solitude III, I made a number of upgrades, though I have to admit I didn't get nearly as far through my to-do list as I had hoped. But, every little bit helps.

Mainsheet cleat
I singlehand Solitude quite a bit.  With one hand on the tiller and one on the mainsheet, there are times that a singlehanded captain can find himself willing to give anything for another set of hands, at temporarily.  Like, for example, when said captain is out on an after-work cruise, and would like to eat the sandwich he brought for dinner!  Of maybe the jib needs tending.  Or a light jacket needs to be retrieved from the hinterlands of the cabin.  The PocketShip manual makes a big fuss about never cleating off the mainsheet in a small boat, though I suspect that this is to prevent a calls from yokels who cleat their mainsheets in a 25kts breeze, go below for a 10 minute nap, capsize, and then promptly call the designer asking why he didn't warn them.  Anyway, knowing that my judgement is a little better than that, I decided to install a cam cleat base for my mainsheet.  Now I can trim the sails.

The tiller clutch
Also on the workload-reduction front, I added a tiller clutch to my tiller.  This also provides a spare hand, especially when under power.  It has proven particularly useful when baiting my fishing hook.  :-) Rule #1 is that this doesn't get used at the same time as the mainsheet cleat.

One other project that has already proven immensely useful, despite being only half-done in the installation of the GPS.  I say half-done because the unit is also a depth sounder...I simply haven't installed the transducer for it yet.  I mounted the GPS to a wooden bracket that slips over the lip of the companionway.  The wire run from under the cabin sole, though they have yet to be neatly routed up to the companionway...like so many others, that is a project for another time.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Rigging a PocketShip

In response to several inquiries, both via email and on pocketship.net, I've put together a short tutorial video on how the quick and easy process of preparing a PocketShip for launch. Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Fishing Rematch!

The heart of salmon fishing season is again upon us.  Last year, Solitude III's first engagement as a fishing boat yielded no results.  So, it was time for a rematch.

There are some pretty choice fishing grounds about 5 miles away from my usual boat ramp.  For a high-powered, fancy pants, aluminum fishing boat cruising at 20 kts, that's about a 15 minute run.  For Solitude III, it takes closer to an hour.  You want to be out early to get the fish, and with the longer passage time, I had to wake up extra, extra early.

To squeak out a few more minutes of sleep, I decided to launch the night before and pay for a night's guest moorage. It was a pleasant evening, and after I had the boat on the water, I scampered around the cockpit, working on a few projects that I had been putting off, including installing a tiller clutch and wiring up my GPS/sounder unit. I still haven't taken the big step of cutting a hole in the bottom of my boat to install the transducer for the sounder yet, but at least I now have GPS capability.
I rolled out of bed a little before 5:00am the next day, and headed down to the boat, and set off. Boy, was it ever foggy. Visibility was in the 1/4 mile to 1/2 mile . I didn't know that it was going to be foggy when I was wiring the GPS the night before, but it was fortuitous that I did, because without it the adventure would have ended before the boat left the dock.
Guided by the dim light of the glowing GPS, I plunged forth into the pre-dawn mist. It was a little eerie out there. I took a course that was well off the straight line to try to put some distance between myself the the steady stream of fast fishing boats racing out (in some cases at faster-than-safe speeds). It was very instructive to try to steer for a while on gut feel and then check my course against the GPS; there is a good reason to rely on your instruments in the fog. Maybe the tensest part of the affair, though, came when I had to cross the ferry lanes at Mukilteo. When under way, the ferries would blow their horns every few minutes, but figuring out exactly where they were in relation to me was impossible. In the end, I simply waited well away from the ferry lanes until I was sure that the boat had passed.
Finally, I arrived at the happy fishing grounds. I dropped my line and settled in. It was quiet, and just a little eerie; the sea was still and dense fog still enveloped the world, creating the illusion of an infinite, featureless world. Occasionally, other fishing boats would flit in and out sight.
I fiddled around with lures, speeds, and snacks (I have found that the key to making fish bite is to snack on the right thing). I wasn't getting any hits, but reassuringly, I'd occasionally see a fish roll or jump near me! The fog lifted at noon. I finally could see the other boats around me, and there were quite a few! And then it happened...wango, wango, wango went my fishing rod...fish on! Unfortunately, in my excitement, I horsed it a little too much and knocked the fish off. I sent my line back down and within three minutes I had another one on. This time, there was no escape, and soon a 4lb pink salmon lay in the cockpit, destined to thrown on the BBQ later in the day with some garlic, lemon and butter. Oh yeah.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Photo Bombed

I am always on the lookout for ways to get new and different photos to support these blog posts.  Pursuant to that goal, on a recent after-work sail, I set about playing around with a feature on my camera that lets me control the shutter from my phone.

I waited until the sun was going down, set up the camera on a tripod on a deserted section of dock, got the phone and camera talking to each other, hopped in the boat, got the sails up, and set up for a beauty pass. The strength and direction of the wind was perfect for my purposes, filling the sails majestically as I set up on a reach for my run past the camera. My finger was on the trigger as Solitude entered the frame. Just then, out of nowhere, a stupid little plastic motorboat came out of nowhere, pulled up right between Solitude and the camera. Not wanting to ruin my opportunity at the shot, I spilled the wind from my sailed and tried to slow down enough for the stupid little plastic motorboat to get out of the way. But the yokels in the stupid little plastic motorboat decided to slow right down too. They finally drifted past me, just as I was sailing out of the frame. Giving up, I sheeted in the sails, snapped a photo (just because), and bore away to make another pass. Unfortunately, the camera's batteries had started out low, and by the time I got back into position, they were done for. So, that stupid little plastic motorboat had robbed me of my chance of getting the shot that day. Oh well, there's always next time.   
Imagine what this shot could have been with proper composition and no stupid little plastic motorboat.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Love Me Tender, Volume IV

You never know when it's coming, but you know it's coming.  It's the boat building disaster.  Every boat construction project has one: a mistake, slip, error, or accident of such  magnitude that is appears that there is no way to recover, at least not without hours upon hours of rework and substantial expenditure of additional funds.  Coping with this moment is the true test of a boat builder's skill, ingenuity and emotional resiliency.

I managed to finally get up the gumption to get out and do the sanding that I wanted to get done before stitching together the hull of my Eastport Pram.  My motivation level shot up, as I could now enjoy that single most rewarding part of stitch and glue boat building, stitching, where in just a few short hours the hull of a boat emerges from a pile of plywood. 

Indeed, I quickly stitched the first set of planked to the bottom.  It was getting a little late in the evening, but I figured I would spend a few more minutes and get the added boost of getting the second set of planks started.  That's when I noticed it.

The rabbet should have been where my finger is.
But it's not.
John C. Harris, owner of Chesapeake Light Craft, designer of the Eastport Pram, and author of the very fine set of instructions that comes with the boat, issued stern warnings about this, and I sure tried to heed those warnings.  Yet something went wrong.  You see, the Eastport Pram is what Chesapeake Light Craft markets as a "lap stitch" boat, in other words a stitch and glue boat that has the appearance of a lapstrake boat when it is done.  To accomplish this, a rabbet is cut into one edge of each plank.  However, this rabbet has to be along the right edge or the whole thing doesn't work.  And somehow, despite all the warnings in the instructions and in the plans about very carefully marking which edge gets the rabbet, I cut it wrong on the second set of planks.  Don't ask me how.
So, how did I deal with it?  Did I collapse into a piteous pile of despair?  Or, did I rise to the occasion in a solid display of boat building fortitude?

I despaired.

"Inlaying" wood in the bad rabbet.
All fixed up!
Then, I pulled myself together, and contemplated the various possible courses of action.  The first natural instinct of any boat builder is find recourse in epoxy, and indeed the very first thing that came to mind was to somehow fill the old rabbet with thickened epoxy and cut a new one.  This idea was quickly discarded however, as the practical question arose of how that much thickened epoxy would take to later being bent into a boat-like shape.  I also though about just cutting the new rabbet at leave then old one, though this got thrown out on both its aesthetic and structural implications.  Next idea...more plywood, cut new ones, increase total cost of materials some 20%.  OK, how about this one...find some 1/8" thick (the depth of the rabbet) color-contrasting wood, cut it to the right shape and inlay it in the old rabbet.  With any luck, it might even look intentional.  We have a winner.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

A Little Matter of 20 Cents

I received an letter in the mail the other day from the Port of Edmonds.  Though I had stayed at the Edmonds marina on my first cruise, I couldn't imagine any reason that they'd want to send me a letter.  Did they lose my payment?  Were they angry with me about my liberal interpretation of the "Reserved" signs on the guest dock?  Were they thanking me for all the fame and fortune that my visit brought them?  I hurriedly opened the letter and found this:

Two dimes taped to an invoice.  When I registered at the Edmonds Marina, the moorage fee for Solitude III came out to $19.80.  As I had arrived after the port office closed, I enclosed a $20 bill with my registration card into the after-hours drop box.  I can't say I really cared about the 20 cents that I overpaid, nor was I expecting to get change! 

What I find particularly interesting is not that they returned my 20 cents, but that they spent 46 cents for postage to send it to me!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

What's Cuter Than a Pinniped?

A baby pinniped, of course!

A mother harbor seal will often seek out a nice, safe spot for their pup to haul out while she goes off in search of food.  This little pup's mother has apparently come to the conclusion that a busy boat ramp is the perfect "safe place."

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Bowsprit Cam

From the same people who brought you "Gaff Cam,"  here's a new view.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Small World

The Pacific Northwest has been suffering a heat wave recently.  Hoping to beat the heat, a friend and I went out sailing the other day.  A wise choice as it was cool enough on the water to actually enjoy a magnificent day!

I had forgotten to top up the fuel in the outboard's massive 1/4 gallon tank before leaving the dock, and we were just exiting the Snohomish River when fuel starvation struck.  As I bound towards the motor, jerry can in hand, I looked up and, much to my surprise, saw a Devlin Winter Wren bearing down on me.  I recognized her instantly, Nil Desperandum, with Captain Larry Cheek aboard.  Larry wrote about his experiences building Nil Desperandum, and reading his blog provided both motivation and a voice of sanity when I was building Solitude.   I've met Larry and his wife briefly in person and been aboard Nil Desperandum twice at the Wooden Boat Festival.  And now, here he was, circling his boat around me, asking if I needed help!   What a small world!  Thanks for standing by to render aid, Larry!

Fortunately, I was quickly able to splash of gas into the tank and  get the noisemaker up and running again.  Shortly thereafter, the engine was silenced again, this time deliberately, and my friend and I were enjoying a great day sailing!

Nil Desperandum, under sail.  Larry is modest about her, but she sure is a fine looking boat.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Weather or Not

The National Weather Service generates marine weather forecasts, including wind and wave conditions.  And this data is available everywhere.  On the weather radio, on the Internet, even on smartphone apps.  Before heading out sailing, I always check the marine forecast.  But I have no idea why.

The marine weather forecast actually "predicts" several days out, but these predictions, like most weather forecasts in the Pacific Northwest are so notoriously inaccurate that I am going to skip over complaining about these.   No, it the the "day of" predictions that I take issue with.  To start to understand the issue, let's take a look at an example of what the forecast actually looks like:


You may think that the question here is one of accuracy, and indeed, I have been out on "WIND 5 TO 15 KT" days, and has it be dead calm.   Yet, this isn't the real issue.  The real issue is, even if this is accurate, how does it help me? 

You don't have to have spent much time sailing to know that there is a huge difference between a 5 knot wind and a 15 knot wind.  In fact, it is worse than it looks, because the force the wind exerts on the sails isn't proportional to the wind speed, but rather the wind speed squared.  So, at 15 kts, the wind is exerting 9 times the force on the sails that it was at 5 kts!   As a side note, the force on the sail is directly proportional to sail area.  So, to maintain the same force on the sails, if the wind speed triples, you'd have to reduce sail area to 1/9th of what it was.

For Solitude III, 5 knots of wind means trimming out the sails, leaning back, lounging in the cockpit, sipping iced coffee, as the boat calmly glides over the water.  On the other hand, 15 kts means you'd better have a reef in, crew aboard, and desire to thrash about in exciting conditions.   I'll go sailing in 5 kts of wind all day, any day.  But, honestly, though sailing Solitude in 15kts of wind is a lot of fun, seldom do I want to go out in those conditions singlehanded! So, how does telling me that the wind will be 5 to 15 kts help me?

Likewise, what does WIND WAVES 2FT OR LESS mean?  Wind waves of 2 ft make for a pretty bumpy ride on a boat like Solitude.  But, according to the forecast, the wave may be less that 2 ft...they may be 1 ft waves, or the sea may be glassy calm.  Aside from assuring me that (assuming an accurate forecast) conditions won't be so rough that  I'll be risking life and limb if I go out, I again must ask, how does this help me? 

I could continue.  What exactly do you mean by "AFTERNOON" or "TONIGHT?"  "A CHANCE OF SHOWERS."   How big of a chance?  Give me something, anything. 

Friday, June 21, 2013

Love Me Tender, Volume III

Every time I have built a boat, there has come a point where progress ground to a halt for weeks or longer.  Every time.   Looking back on this, there are a couple of key factors that lead to crossing the event horizon into the boat building black hole.  First, usually there's some sanding that needs to be done on the project.   Also, the weather usually is improving and other activities start competing for my time...hiking, kayaking, house 'n garden maintenance, maybe even getting out sailing in my newly completed PocketShip, Solitude III.   In any event, my desire  to spend time in the garage working is severely diminished.  And knowing that all I have to look forward to is sanding....

This is currently the case with the Eastport Pram project.  I have several epoxy-covered planks sitting there waiting to be sanded.   After about an hour of sanding, I would be able to start stitching the hull togother and have the enormous boost of seeing the boat quickly come together.  Indeed, in the interest of making progress, and getting that big morale boost, I've even been tempted to skip sanding all together...just get the hull together now and sand later.  But sealing and sanding the interior of the planks, while the are still flat, accessible, and easy to sand is the entire reason that I could decide to seal them in epoxy before stitching!  I don't want to have to sand the inside of the boat once it is stitched.  No way.

Elliot Creek Falls
So, for now, the project is sitting there, waiting for me.  Now, if you'll excuse me, it is time to go hiking...

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Have You Seen the Light?

The have been several times, particularly earlier in the year when the daylight hours were less plentiful, that I had to cut a fun day sailing off because of failing sunlight.  And each time, I thought, "gee, if only I had the nav lights working, I could stretch this out another hour."  Well, now I can!  I finally broke out the wiring kit and now, the lights are working!

Starboard nav light.

I put the stern light up in the boom gallows.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

First Cruise

I have been able to get Solitude out on the water a healthy number of times since launching her last September.  But they had all been daysailing expeditions, and not fulfilling the boat's true purpose in life: to go cruising.  Taking advantage of a confluence of available time and unusuallylovely spring weather, I decided to remedy that with an overnight trip down to Edmonds.
I ducked out of work a little early on a Friday afternoon to get the adventure under way.   I had loaded most of my gear the night before, so it was just a matter of throwing the last few items in the boat, hitched up, and headed for the water. 

No sooner had Solitude hit the water than I was approached by the Coast Guard.  Boating season just started, so the guys were out doing safety boardings.  Solitude passed with flying colours, which is no surprise since, being rather conservative on matters of safety, I've made sure Solitude is well outfitted.

The Coast Guard is always welcome aboard Solitude III.
A few more thoughts the Coast Guard.  These guys are amazing.  Their mission is broad, encompassing maritime safety, security, and stewardship.  Most boaters encounter the Coasties acting in their role as protector of lives at sea.   They have great appreciation for the Coast Guard as they are being saved from a sinking boat during a storm, or airlifted to a hospital in a medical emergency.  And yet, when it comes to prevention, a lot of people see a Coast Guard boarding as a hassle.  I don't get it.  Prevention is the first, best step towards safety.  Though the "glamour" of the Coast Guard may be in the high-profile rescues from dangerous conditions, more lives are saved by these guys taking on the sometimes thankless task of safety inspections.  So, if you are boarded, be nice, be cooperative, and say thanks!

The cruise started, as, usual, by motoring down the Snohomish River and out into the salt water, where I got under sail.  Winds were from the NW, and would range from calm to about 4 kts.  Wanting to get in to port before dark, I took a motor-sailing approach.  I sailed when the winds suited me, motored when they didn't. 

Solitude slipped smoothly over small, gentle wind waves on her course south.  The weather had been outstanding for the past two weeks, but this day some high filtered clouds had worked their way in, heralding a coming change.  Making good time, I rounded Point Elliot and crossed the ferry lanes at Mukilteo.  I found out later that I missed seeing a visiting humpback whale in that vicinity by just a few hours.

The shipwreck.
Following the shoreline, I continued to work farther and farther south, passing "The Shipwreck" and the park at Picnic Point.  Although it is called "The Shipwreck,"  it wasn't a wreck at all, but an old cargo vessel that a man bought years and years ago, beached her, and proceeded to disassemble and scrap her.  Obviously, it was a much bigger project than he could have imagined, and as a result the hulk is still there, years and years later.  I seem to recall that about a year ago the property was subdivided and sold off, presumably by this chap's heirs.

Soon, I was pushing getting past Possession Point at the south end of Whidbey Island.  The waters began to get rougher as I pushed into "bigger water."  Some of this as due to the wind picking up some and the fetch getting greater after losing the protection of Whidbey Island.  A bigger factor, I think, was the complexity of the currents resulting from the changing tide and complex geography...water coming north from Puget Sound and coming south out of Possession Sound all getting mashed together and sucked up and out Admiralty Inlet...a recipe for confusion if ever there was one. 

Things had become quite bumpy as the ferry docks at Edmonds came into view.  It had been roughly four hours since leaving home, and I had covered around 20 miles.  It was past dinner time and I was getting hungry, tired, and really looking forward to getting into port.  I was so happy to finally steam around the jetty into marina and up to the guest dock!  And I was so sad to see that the whole of the guest moorage had been reserved!  Now, what's a little strange is that Port of Edmonds only takes reservations for one dock; everything else is supposedly first come, first served.  Yet, here were "Reserved for Dagmar's Yacht Club" signs everywhere.  Well, seeing as the hour was getting late, I found a spot on the guest dock where, if looked at from just the right angle didn't appear reserved, and decided to dock there, "reservations" be darned.  It looked like most of the yacht club boats were already in port, so I figured (correctly as it turned out) that I'd be OK.

Edmonds is a gorgeous locale.  A relaxing, well kept waterfront, complete with restaurants, a long fishing pier, ferry dock, and a couple of pocket beaches fill out the waterfront.  The Olympics as the ferries crisscross the Sound, illuminated by beautiful sunsets.  Just up from the ferry terminal is "Old Town,"  a cozy, bustling, very walkable little downtown.    

It was a gorgeous evening, as I got things squared away aboard Solitude for the evening.  I walked up to Anthony's for an al fresco dinner. 
Anthony's is positioned right above the guest dock, and I could watch as people walked by and looked at Solitude, as she bobbed daintily amongst the large power yachts at the guest dock.  Some people took pictures.  I'm still not used to the attention the boat gets.  John Harris sure designed a pretty little eyecatcher. 

After dinner, I headed down to the fishing pier and watched the sunset.  I then retired to the comfort of Solitude's cabin, were I settled in for a good night's sleep.  Methinks I never sleep so well as when I sleep aboard.

Morning came, and a beautiful morning it was.  Breakfast was at the Waterfront Coffee Company.  Once, while waiting for a ferry, I had the best Mocha I think I had ever had here.  This time, it wasn't nearly as good. Oh well, it did the job. 

A front was predicted to move in by the evening, but it was still a warm morning and what gray there was in the skies promised to burn off.  I pulled Solitude out of the marina in into somewhat agitated water.  The winds were from the South at 4-7 kts  and were running somewhat counter to the currents, again.  I pointed Solitude northward, straight at a distance Point Elliot, and caught the following sea, sometimes surfing, sometimes pitching.  It wasn't particularly rough out, but the motion was a just little uncomfortable.  Indeed my stomach was starting to feel just a touch queasy about the time I was closing in on Possession Point.  Fortunately, things started smoothing out the deeper I got into Possession Sound, and by the time I rounded Point Elliot, the seas reverted to a glassy calm. 

Just north of Mukilteo, a harbor seal popped its head up less than five feet abeam of me.  Just that quick, he was gone, only to reappear seconds later right astern.  I watched, transfixed, as the seal repeated dove and swam right beneath the boat!  (Fortunately, I finally had the presence of mind to grab my camera.) 

The dark spot is the seal diving under Solitude


Back in calm waters
This was not the last wildlife I spotted, though.  I spotted a sea lion at one of their favorite hangouts,   one of the channel markers leading into Everett.  I also spotted the usual collection of blue heron, osprey and eagles on the trip up the river.  And then back at the boat ramp, there was a duck with a bunch of ducklings! 

In all, it was a great trip.  This is a great little boat for exploring the Sound...and I can't wait until I get another opportunity to take Solitude out for a cruise...maybe even a longer one next time! 

There's almost always a sea lion hanging out on the channel markers outside Everett.
Is there anything cuter than duckings?