Thursday, August 14, 2014

In the Groove

The Center Harbor approach keeps
me on my toes.
We have been out a bunch of times since I last posted and I've been pleasantly surprised at how few issues have come up.  I got the fuel leak straightened out easily enough and it's literally been smooth sailing ever since.  The biggest challenge has been getting used to handling a 35 foot boat again after so many years, but every day I start to feel more comfortable with how the boat handles (especially with a tiller now).

Another challenge that I never even considered was the fact that Lake Winnipesaukee can be a challenge to navigate.  There are literally hundreds of islands big and small and many ledges and reefs that you really have to pay attention to.  I still don't care for the 'inland navigation' system of black and red 'sticks' that mark rocks and channels.  I find them hard to spot and they seem to be everywhere and not always accurate.  I've been keeping the chart very close by and I just downloaded a Navionics charting app for the tablet that should help out.  At least there are no foul currents to deal with.

One of the double edge swords of sailing here is that the fresh water is crystal clear.  On one hand it's really nice because the swimming is terrific, but it has scared the crap out of me on a number of occasions because even though the depth may be 20 or more feet, it looks like we are about to hit bottom and slam into rocks because the water is so clear.

Aside from those minor challenges, things are good.  We've had a bunch of sails so far that have been really relaxing and everyone is starting to feel comfortable aboard after such a long absence.  It's nice to see the kids kick back and just enjoy being out on the water and have fun on the boat.

Of course the list of things to do will never be complete, but most of the sailing 'to do' items have been crossed off, although a few things came to light that I hadn't fully considered.  The first is a bonehead move on my part.  When I decided to convert back to hank on headsails earlier this year, I bought a used 135% hank on genoa and sold my 135% furling sail.  One of the main reasons I went back to hank on was that the furling 135% genoa was good for most conditions, but if the air was too light or too heavy, it was a headache.  Partially rolling it up when too windy never worked out well because it pretty much killed the shape of the sail and I couldn't sail well to windward.  In super light air it just didn't have enough area to get me moving well.  I figured going back to a hank on system would allow me to change headsails as conditions dictated.

When I originally bought the boat, the previous owner had given me a pile of older headsails in various condition and size.  They had been in storage forever, so when I pulled them out this spring I was happy to find a decent 90% working jib for the heavy stuff and a 160% genoa for the light air.  I cleaned them up and tucked them away for launch day.  The 160% had a furling luff and no hanks, but I must have forgotten about needing to have hanks sewn on because the other day we were in some really light stuff and I had my son rig it (14 year old who are willing to do so are like breathing roller furlers, just hungrier).  He got it up on deck and said "Um, dad, I can't find the hanks".  It's a big sail, so I just thought he was being a space cadet, but as I went forward it dawned on me that I never had it converted.  There was a bit of eye rolling when I told him "Ooops, lets go with the 135 instead".  Anyway, I'll probably wait until the off-season to get that done.

Yes, I see the scallops in the headsail. I'll
blame it on my son :)
The second issue that came up happened late Tuesday afternoon when we went out for our first really windy sail.  The wind was steady at 21 knots and really more than I wanted to sail in this early, but I figured it would be a good shake down.  We went with the 90% jib and full main (I probably should have thrown in a reef in the main), but found that the genoa tracks were mounted too far aft and outboard to effectively pull the leech of the sail down.  The result was too much twist in the sail and a really loose leach that flapped pretty constantly when we were tight on the wind.  It was still better than partially rolling the furling sail because we easily got up over 7 knots when slightly off the wind, but I need to figure out a mounting point further forward for the sheets.  I have some decent Merriman snatch blocks that will do nicely, but I have to find the best spot.  I think I will go with a fixed point mount to simplify things a bit, but in the meantime I may just experiment and run them off one of the chainplates for now.

What's next?  More sailing, Winnipesaukee is stunningly beautiful with the islands and mountains all around.  I'm not thinking about anything else until I pull the boat in the fall.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

First Sail

I went to work really early on Friday so I could get everything I needed done before taking off at 2 PM.  I drove straight up to the yard and found that Nick had done a great job sorting out the shift linkage and now it is shifting perfectly into forward and reverse.  I had made the assumption that the position of the throw lever on the gearbox mirrored the direction.  In other words, I assumed that when you pushed the gearbox lever forward, it meant you would go forward.  Not so. Fortunately, Nick was able to easily swap the cable from the bottom of the control to the top to reverse the throw.  Now it does the right thing and slips into forward, neutral, and reverse without any hesitation.  Perfect.

I ran the engine for about an hour and the temperature maxed out at about 175, which is about what it used to do, so no overheating issues. With the engine running nicely, it was time to shove off.  I was a bit apprehensive because I had driven the boat in many years and the last time I did, it was wheel steered, now it's a tiller.  Most importantly, the space I had to maneuver out of was very tight, and I didn't want to start playing bumper boats quite so soon. Luckily, there was no wind so it was just a matter of taking it slow.  I motored through the docks and picked up the mooring on the first shot even though I misjudged the momentum a bit and had to manhandle the pendant onto the cleat.  I closed things up and took the launch back in and called it a day.  

This morning I got the family going as early as I could and we drove up to the boat with the plan of sailing over to Center Harbor where our mooring is located.  It's only about a 15 mile trip, but I had never been there before by water and there are several tight channels to navigate through.  

We started out by hanking on the main, but when I hooked on the halyard I realized that it was on the forward side of the spreader.  I grabbed a big wrench and attached it to the shackle thinking that I would raise the halyard up to the spreader and then the weight of the wrench would be sufficient to allow the halyard to lower on it's own on the aft side of the spreader.  My son told me it wasn't enough weight, but I didn't listen. Sure enough when I got the halyard above the spreader and tried to lower it, the weight of the wrench wasn't enough and it just stayed there, swinging around. My son gave me the 'I told you so' look that only a 14 year old teenager can deliver and I decided that now was a good time to eat crow.  

Once he was satisfied, I volunteered to send him up the mast to retrieve the halyard.  He was only too happy to go aloft since he is always climbing trees and scaring his mom and I with his fearless antics in high places.  I hoisted him up and he quickly retrieved the halyard and put it on the correct side of the spreader.  

With that done, we hoisted the main, fired up the engine and dropped the mooring pendant.  We motor sailed out of the harbor as there wasn't much wind, but a light breeze filled in once out in the open lake.  We raised the 135% genoa and shut the engine down and ghosted along in the light breeze for the first time in a long, long while.  Everything was going fine; we had some leftover pizza for lunch and I finally started to relax knowing that it had finally all come together.  

The wind died out after we rounded a point out into the main lake and I decided to fire up the engine.  It started right up and we chugged along for a few minutes before I started to smell diesel. I looked into the engine compartment and saw that the secondary fuel filter was leaking fuel all over the place.  Crap...  I shut the engine down and unscrewed the filter bowl to see what the problem was.  I finally figured out that the fuel filter retaining ring was cross threaded onto the filter.  I couldn't get it to re-thread properly and I think that the retaining ring might be screwed up.  I am going to order a new ring first thing Monday morning.  

I decided that it would be best to turn back to Fay's just in case I needed a mechanic.  I spread a bunch of gasket sealer on the threads of the fuel filter in the hope that it would stop most of the leak when we needed to fire up the engine where the channel to get into Fay's narrows to about 100 feet and the wind is usually zero.  

We turned around and slowly sailed back to the harbor and made it almost all of the way through the narrow channel before the wind got too squirrely to continue without the engine.  The kids did a great job working the foredeck and making sure the genoa didn't hang up in the light air and when it came time to dump it, they worked as a team and got it down without dropping it in the water. I fired it up and eased it into gear to give us some headway while Steph held a cup underneath the filter bowl to keep the mess to a minimum.  Apparently the gasket sealer worked, because no fuel leaked for the few minutes we had the engine running before picking up the mooring again.  

So we didn't make our final destination today, but it was great to get back out sailing again and other than the fuel leak, we had a great time.  I knew there would be 'bugs' once I got back on the water, and today's trials reassured me that keeping the boat close this first year back in the water was the right decision.