Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Unchain My Heart (Or At Least My Centerboard)

To quote Dr. Henry Jones, Sr., "this is intolerable."  With the days getting longer and the weather turning finer, being precluded from sailing by Solitude III's jammed centerboard is becoming increasingly annoying.  Thus, fixing this problem has scaled my priority list with astounding alacrity.

I made my first attempt to fix the centerboard just over a week ago.  My goal was to check for any debris that might be jamming the board.  My original plan had been to careen the boat, and thinking it through all winter, I couldn't come up with a better idea.  But then, just a few days before I was ready to make my attempt, I realized that maybe I could get sufficient access just by heeling the boat over dockside.

Solitude III with all or her ballast and gear removed.
So, I dropped the boat into the water, pulled out the internal ballast, anchor, and other gear, secured a line to the masthead and hauled her over onto her side. I figured that with the 200 lbs of internal ballast removed,  I would be able to get to boat on to her side without any additional tackle.  Well, I was wrong, and that 100lbs of ballast cast into her keel kept her on her feet.  Fortunately, while I was struggling, a nice couple came by and lent a hand.  Soon, we had a 2:1 tackle rigged and between the three of us, got the boat heeled over to where her portlights just kissed the water.  The bottom of the centerboard trunk was still about 2" under water, but it was close enough.

In the end, she was actually heeled over a little more. 
With the boat on here side, I waded into the water and set to work. Between prying with a screwdriver and applying excessive force, I managed to get the board all the way down. The was a little bit of seaweed and the like on the board and in the trunk, but nothing major. I cleaned it as best I could. I then tried running the board back in. Still stuck. In fact, it was a pretty big struggle to get the board all the way back in the trunk.  Well, that was enough for one day.

The sticky centerboard is visible just beneath the water's surface
In my mind, I've eliminated lodged debris as a cause for my centerboard woes. So, it's likely that there was some water intrusion into either the centerboard or the centerboard trunk that caused the wood to swell.  I didn't really investigate it closely enough at the time, so I don't know whether it's on the board side of the hull side, though on reflection, I'm leaning toward the latter. If it was the board, I would have expected that spending a 5 months out of the water would have dried it out a little. On the other hand, the bottom of the centerboard trunk sits in direct contact with the keel trough on the trailer. Despite the cover on the boat, I can easily see the carpeting on the keel trough being continually damp throughout a rainy Pacific Northwest winter, and (assuming the not-unlikely scenario that the epoxy got sanded through somewhere around the centerboard trunk opening) water wicking up and into the sides of the centerboard trunk.

As far as next steps go, I'm planning on trying to get some ventilation going in the centerboard trunk and see if that helps.  I will then dunk the boat again and (unless the problem has magically gone away), do some more careful measuring and diagnosis.   More to come.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Back in the Water

The past few months have been rather soggy around here, but in the last week or so we've started to get a dose of seasonable weather. Thus, it was only a matter of time before Solitude III again took to local waters for an after-work sunset cruise. 

I had planned on working on unjamming my centerboard over the winter, but have not yet actually done so.  I was hoping that maybe something had mysteriously changed, or that with a little persistence I could get the board down, but alas, it wasn't to be.  That slab of plywood, that creator of lateral resistance, that enabler of upwind sailing, exerted all of its stubborn will to remain in the full upright and locked position.

I wasn't going to let this ruin my day, though, no sir!  I have no need to be purely a purist.  A sailor's biases against the dread gasoline beast hindered me not from harnessing its propulsive might to get me away from shore.  Happily did the little noisemaker purr as I left the dock, steadily did it chug as I turned my bow down-river, bucking the 3 knot current created by a monster incoming tide, dutifully did it push, as I entered the golden waters of the Sound and headed into the sun. 

I had no particular destination, but rather a plan to get as far from the shore as possible before my turnaround time.  The seas were calm, the air was warm, and the sky bright and graced with wispy clouds.  Onward I went, no, onward we went, Solitude and I.  But we were not alone for long.  Just as it was time to turn around, I heard a sound, distinct and instantly recognizable...the breathe of a whale.   I spun my head around and caught sight of the great mist of water that had been sent skyward by the whale's exhalation drifting slowly back to the surface.  Then another, and another.  I found myself in the midst of a pod of gray whales, apparently tempted away from feeding around Hat Island by tastier morsels in the vicinity of the mouth of the Snohomish.  For a while, I just took it in, as the whales surfaced and dove around me, each time spouting a column of water skyward as they came to the surface, and occasionally displaying their magnificent flukes as they headed for the depths.

Too soon, I had to leave and return to terra firma.  It was a good start to the season.