Thursday, September 21, 2017

New Adventures - 2016

What a relief to finally be able to use Solitude III again for the purpose she was built.  As early as March I was out sailing locally, lingering on the water until late to make it a sunset cruise.  After a winter on the trailer, under a new cover, the new centerboard was still working perfectly.

At anchor in Langley

Everett, WA, a lovely place to go sailing
Another highlight was a day trip across Possession Sound for lunch at Langley on Whidbey Island.  Langley is a beautiful little town, with a nice marina and plentiful shops and restaurants.  Little did I know, however, that crabbing season was on, and the harbormaster would refuse to grant me even an hour of transient moorage.  Instead, he suggested that I anchor out. 

I bought an anchor when I was first fitting out Solitude, but had never had cause to use it – time to see if everything I had read about using the anchor would work in practice.  I eased Solitude in to the anchorage and dropped the hook.  I backed it in and satisfied myself that it was holding.  It seemed so…I guess I got it right the first time.

She looks good on the hook

Now for the next bit of unused kit.  Some time ago, I had picked up a little two-man rubber raft on sale.  It sat since then, wedged in a little space in the cabin underneath the foo
twell.  I crawled unded, retrieved the unopened box, and hauled it on deck.  Within a few minutes, a little dingy was floating aside the mothership.  I cautiously lowered myself over Solitude’s side, and rowed ashore.

After lunch, I returned to the boat, stowed the raft, pulled up the anchor and took off.  I set full sail immediately on leaving Langley and took off into the gentle wind.  On the way, the wind started picking up and I the sailing was actually quite spirited off the north end of Hat Island…what a wonderful little trip!

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Cruise to Port Townsend - Sept. 12, 2015

I finally had a working boat again.  It was time for an adventure! 

The Wooden Boat Festival in Port Townsend was going on this weekend, and I hatched a plan.  I could tow the boat up to the little boat ramp at Keystone harbor, 4 miles due east of Port Townsend and sail across.  I couldn’t dock at Port Hudson, where the festival is, but reckoned I could get transient moorage at Port Townsend’s other marina, Boat Haven.  Failing in that, I could always anchor just off downtown.  Fellow PocketShipper Jer McManus had brought his boat from Montana, and I was hoping that I could drop by and see his boat, and perhaps lure him out for a fleet sail. 

It took longer than I expected to get packed up and going, and then longer than I expected to get to Keystone, arriving in the late afternoon.  I promptly got the boat in the water, and set sail for port Townsend. 

Beautiful Port Townsend
The waters here are interesting.  Being at the intersection of Puget Sound and the Strait of Juan de Fuca, the bulk of the water going into or out of Puget Sound has to make a sharp turn here, creating unusual currents.  On the chart, there is something marked “swirls.”  What exactly are “swirls?”  I found out quickly.  Just outside the harbor there where large circles of smooth-looking water.  Entering one, I quickly had to fight hard to maintain heading.  I got the heck out of that as quickly as possible, and avoided future swirls. 

The wind died off as I approached the edge of the Puget Sound shipping lanes, so I fired up the noisemaker and jetted across.  The wind picked up again as I entered Port Townsend Bay, and I approached the waters off Point Hudson under full sail.  It felt great to be moved by the wind again!

It was too late to execute my original plan of stopping by, and so I settled for a sail-by.  Chesapeake Light Craft’s booth was set up right on the tip of Point Hudson, and so I reached up and down the shore in front of them a few times.  I thought about shouting out “Send out Jer!!!”

The hour was getting late, so I decided to head back.  About a mile from Port Townsend, I hear a “pppppffffffft,” and caught sight of a minke whale that had just surfaced next to me.  I grabbed my camera and waited for it to come up again. He must have been going somewhere fast, because I didn’t see him again.   The wind again died as I approached the shipping channel, so I dropped sail and steamed the rest of the way back. 

I arrived in time for the schooner races
Another interesting feature just off Keystone that noted on the charts are rips.  Well, sure enough there was one right in my way as I approached shore.  It looked compact and I decided to plunge through it rather than go around.  The cop quickly became steep, and I had to slow down substantially to keep things under control.  The boat did fine, but I was nervous as all get out getting through that.  Just as the sun was setting, I exited the rip and moments later entered Keystone Harbour, completing an excellent “return to the sea” mini-cruise.

A good cruise

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Fixing the Centerboard

After quite a long writing break, I thought it would be good to catch up on the blog a little.  The biggest bit of news is that I finally resolved Solitude III's stuck centerboard.  

A centerboard that goes down is a sight for sore eyes!
It was an issue that plagued me for well over a year and a half.  It started after a weekend cruise, when I noticed that the centerboard seemed to drop a little less freely than before.  Things slowly worsened, and soon I was needing to open the inspection ports and push the board down using the hand of a pair of channel locks.  It kept taking more and more force until, on day, it would not go down.

My first suspicion was that there was some flotsam jamming the board, but on inspection, I could find none. One day I dropped the boat into the water, pulled out all the ballast, secured a line to the masthead and hauled her over onto her side. I then 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 very, very jammed. 

After eliminating lodged debris as a cause for my centerboard woes, I determined that there had to be  some water intrusion that was causing swelling.   The question was whether it was on the centerboard side or the trunk side.  It was getting toward the end season, so I parked the boat jacked it up slightly off the trailer and let it spend the next five months out of the water, airing out. 

After quite some time, I launched the boat and tried it again.  Still stuck.  From there, between the discouragement of having a stuck centerboard and having a total lack of time to actually make progress, things bogged down.

Finally, I got serious.  I built a new centerboard, and re-careened the boat.  Out came the old board, in went the new.  Except it didn't.  Stuck.  This time I came armed with diagnostic tools, namely a few sticks of varying thickness from less that 3/4 inch (the thickness of the centerboard) up to 1 inch (the original width of the trunk).  I probed carefully and determined that the wood at the bottom of the centerboard trunk had swollen.

The root cause of the problem was that, in my rush to finish the boat, I sanded through the epoxy/fiberglass in the neighborhood of the centerboard slot and didn't reseal it. The breach in the epoxy was just at the bottom of the keel, so water was getting lapped up via the "endgrain" edge of the plywood. The one "for sure" spot that I found was about `at the midpoint of the centerboard slot lengthwise, and actually on the outboard edge of the keel. I have been known to be a flagrant violator of maxims such as "always keep your sander flat against the surface" and "don't use a power sander on edges," and in this case, I was roundly punished for my transgressions.

After consultation with John Harris, I decided to strip the paint in the area, apply liberal doses of epoxy to seal it, repaint, and replace the centerboard with a 1/2" one covered with two layers of 'glass.  In addition to patching and resealing the one clearly obvious spot, I also overreacted and hit everything within 2" of the centerboard slot (around the keel, and yes, up into the slot) with several coats of epoxy.

You don't want to do this to your boat if you can avoid it.
For the resealing of the slot, I was able to jack the boat up off the trailer far enough to gain access. I used the careen-at-the-dock procedure to get access to the board for installation and removal.

After I got her back together, re-rigged, and in the water last night, I raised and lowered the board.  Smooth as could be.  I took her out for a brief test cruise, but the wind forgot to show up. It wasn't until a week later that I had another chance to go sailing.  The trip took me across from Coupeville to Port Townsend to sail by the Wooden Boat Festival (which I had not registered for, since I did not know I'd have an operational boat in time), but that's a story for another time.

Under Sail Again!