Sunday, September 26, 2010

I Hate Yamaha

Broken Hold-down Lever
That's a little strong, actually. I hate the PDQ adaptation to lock the motor down and I hate the Yamaha lock-down system. Both are cheesy and inadequate in salt water. I fought them for years, and the engine finally won the battle.

But not the war. It's not hard to hippie-rig a hold down with a couple of reefing ties over the top and a bolt hanger at the back to anchor things. The lock mechanism is completely seized, so I got in the water and removed the entire spring loaded works. It's simple, really:

1. Pull the tilt pin, if it's locked down. This will allow access to the underside of the bracket and front side of the lower unit, where the mechanism is.  The hold down rope can be looped around the skeg to hold the engine tipped, if you are working alone.
2. Remove snap washer from the end of the pin the the lock down jaws rotate on. Drive the pin out (easy).
3. Remove the springs. They come right out when the tension is off.
4. Keep the parts if you want. Or throw them far, if it feels better.

This week I will be fabricating something prettier from some webbing and cam buckles. For what it is worth, the cowling cracks came from accidentally sitting on the lid when a wake hit, not the ropes; a little glass will set that right.

"It just goes to show, it always something."
Rosanne Rossanadanna, SNL

Thursday, September 16, 2010

A Few Projects

My back is recovering nicely, I feel human again, and a day on the boat being productive is good for the sole.

Head Intake Strainer. I've had to take my Jabsco head pump three time, always to remove weeds ingested through the intake line; two in Chincoteauge and the other at Smith Island. I toyed with the idea of a filter, but it seemed like one more failure point and I had yet to survive a winter in the water. Then I read a post on Zero-To-Cruising about just such a strainer addition to a sister boat plugged by the same problem, but in the Great Lakes. Then it plugged again at Chincoteague and I had to fix it with my back in spasm. Enough is enough.
I had a suitable strainer--the sort of free cast-offs engineers hold on to--slightly larger than needed (1-inch for a 3/4-inch hose), made of polypropylene, and is 75 psi rated. Bigger is generally better for strainers, and based upon the stuff I have pulled out of the pump, I would not recommend a smaller size.

A 20-minute project, from searching for tools to tested and cleaned up.

Tender Revamp. She's 8 years old and looking a little tired, so I took her home for a spa treatment.

Paint. She had been slowly loosing air, So I started with a good scrubbing and a soap bubble search. Nothing. She stayed hard as a rock in my front yard for a week. I had purchased paint (MDR) with the thought that perhaps the air was simply leaking through the PVC, but I don't think it was. I painted her anyway; simply done with a trim brush and 4-inch foam roller. It looks fine, but in retrospect I would not recommend it, unless appearance matters to you. A few thoughts:
  • Don't paint on a hot day or even a very dry day. The second day was 78F with a good breeze and unusually low humidity; the paint dried too fast to self-level properly. I would shoot for 65-75F and some humidity. It is a latex paint.
  • I'm a little afraid the dark gray is going to increase sun induced pressure fluctuation. I expected a lighter color. Chose white.
  • Bow handle. The tender had a big molded PVC bow handle that snagged EVERY time we hoisted it out of the water. A hacksaw and disk sander removed it and 3M 5200 smoothed the edges. It has rings for a towing bridle; we leave a light bridle in place, and that works better than the handle anyway.
  • The fabric was thinned a few places. We built it up with 3M 5200.
  • So far the paint is staying on fairly well. The product reviewed well in Practical Sailor. It did stay on and did not stick to itself when I rolled it up, left it in the car for 8 hours, and re-inflated it at the marina after 4 days drying time. Rev. By November it was starting to peal here and there. However, it got no worse in the next year, so perhaps there were spots of wax that the TSp did not remove. Still good sunscreen, but 1/2 thumbs-down on the paint. Rev. By October 2011 the paint has worn a bit more, but not too much. It's still protecting the tender, though a fastidious owner might not like the look.
The floorboards needed paint too, since the bottom of tender is seldom very dry. The builder used common galvanized screws to hold the parts together; I replaced many with stainless deck screws. They may not be 316 stainless, but I have been using them for years without trouble and they are a steal compared to boat store screws (there's familiar ring to that...).

Rod Holders. Yes, they sometimes hold fishing poles, but also umbrellas, tiller extensions, oars, or anything long I'm tired of having underfoot. 2-inch PVC with 1/2-inch holes for the screw driver and 3/16-inch holes for the screws. Free from scrap and very useful. We had trialed the idea for a season with the holders secured with 3M foam tape; they broke off at the end of the season, but their utility was proven.

Seat Support and Storage. The seat is really not well supported if the tubes are not rock hard. We needed a place for the horn, ether, critter jars, sunscreen, drinking water, fishing permit, Jessica's operating permit, and so forth. A real milk crate (theft by conversion?) with some netting halfway up the back side and a pair of firing strips on the bottom to span the rubber floor joint strip makes a strong and corrosion-proof support. I considered making something out of fiberglas... and my sketches kept looking like a milk crate to me. we keep the PFDs on one side an a 1-gallon gas can on the other. Though it is not touching the seat in the photograph, it will be when weight is applied. We have 2 seasons on this addition.

Tender Suspension. Supporting a removable floor tender up high on the PDQ davits takes some fiddling; I won't take all of the credit, if any is due, since the PO made some of the modifications. I though to post this after seeing my neighbor's Gemini tender fall in the water in the past week (if you follow this blog you may want to check your boat--I don't have your phone number). All of the weight of his tender was supported by the floorboards, the inflation pressure went down, and the floor pulled out.

The transom is easy; just clip the fitting installed for this purpose. The bow is tricky. The weight must be carried by both the tubes and the floor. The PO installed loops in the tubes for a bridle and I added the loops through the floorboards. At first I had only the center loop but that caused the floor to bow and once, when the tubes were quite flat, pull part-way out; the outside loops solved this. I replaced the chafe pads above the rings--don't forget these or you will wear through the tubes. We leave the bridle attached to the tender most of the time; it is not in the way.

Other Tasks. There is always more....
  • Replace remaining two Hella fans with Boras. Strange wiring was found, again. Odd, since most other PO wiring was impeccable. Must have been hot and in a rush. I can imagine a hellish July install. OR perhaps I am looking at a mix of contractor and PO work.
  • Replaced line guides on a trolling rod
  • Took the Cruise-N-Carry AC home. Sucker is a heavy and a pain to maneuver in the salon on  daily basis (where it must be stored). I love it at night sleeping and hate it the rest of the time. Summer is over so she goes home and won't be missed... until it hits 90F again.
  • Stowed the bike rack under the bunk.
  • Painted numbers on the tender
  • Measured for some future projects
  • Replaced hatch (broken lens) in roof of salon. Since I had a spare (thank you, PO) and it was bedded with butyl tape, it was a 15 minutes job. Since then, I have replaced the broken lens and thus still have a spare. They arn't difficult to re-glaze... at home with a full shop!
  • Lubed the hold down latches on the engines; they're getting stiffer and I am getting concerned.
  • Cleaning. After 3 weeks on the boat, she was due. The last few days were too rough for cleaning and the sailing was too good!
  • Replaced a spent propane cylinder
  • Swapped a few Fall vs. Summer items from the boat
Busy day. All--except the painting--done after work. I got off early, but still...

I followed-up this work with an hour of floating mindlessly in the tender, just outside the break water in a fish-infested cove. I found a gloriously comfortable posture in the bottom, head propped on the bow tube, feet splayed, and arms... heck I forget. I fell asleep. And then some insensitive damn fish woke me. It's enough to make me take the bait off the hooks.

Friday, September 10, 2010

More Climbing Gear for Sailors

rev. 5-30-2011

I've posted information about climbing gear before, as it related to jacklines and safety:

Climbing Gear For Sailors or Jacklines for the Unemployed
Sample Calculations for Jacklines

The funniest comments are those I get about it being "alumiware" and unsuitable for a marine environment. I'm told it won't work or that it will corrode away. While I do give some corrosion and application caveats, I've been sailing saltwater for 25 years, climbing for 30 years, and working as an engineer for 29 years; these aren't theories, suggestions, or ideas that just came to me. These are things I've had in practice for decades and they work exactly as I describe them. Period. Rant complete.

ISO 12401, the governing standard for tethers and harnesses, is published here:
ISO 12401

But there are more uses than that, and much of this gear provides superior value, presumably because of greater sales volume and the more competitive nature of the market. Most climbing gear is rated at 4500-5500 pounds, by international standard (UIAA). This gear is well proven in a tough, safety-critical application.

REI is a good source, as well as many other climbing equipment vendors; perhaps you will find applications I have missed or have taken for granted.

Carabiners. Aluminum wire gate biners hold up very well, weight less (fewer gel coat dings), and are just as strong. Avoid conventional biners; they freeze-up in salt water. MUCH cheaper. Do not use biners as shackle replacements up in the rigging; they can clip onto other lines. Use them only where you would use a stainless carabiner.

Screw gate locking carabiners hold up fine on lanyards IF you are diligent in applying waterproof grease as needed (several times per years is enough) to the screw and the hinge, including the spring inside. If you are negligent, they will lock-up in time.We only use them on the jackline end.

Be aware that conventional (non-locking) carabiners should never be used to clip a safety lanyard (tether) to an eye-bolt, u-bolt, or jackline because of the significant risk of self-unclipping. Read the following from ISO 12401:

5.4 Accidental hook opening testing

5.4.1 The tendency of the hook to accidentally become detached from its attachment point shall be tested
using the following three styles of attachment point, made from 8 mm diameter rod:
a) a straight rod;
b) an eye bolt of internal radius 10 mm;
c) U-bolts of internal radius 15 mm and 20 mm.

5.4.2 Move the hook by hand as far as is possible in the following directions with the attachment point

mounted vertically:
a) move forward and backward, right and left without any rotation, movement being in the horizontal plane;
b) rotate in the horizontal plane by up to 360° using the attachment point as the axis, rotating both clockwise
and anticlockwise;
c) rotate in the vertical plane by up to 360° about the axis of the hook, rotating both clockwise and anticlockwise;
d) rotate in the vertical plane by up to 360° about an axis running through the attachment point, rotating both
clockwise and anticlockwise.

The hook fails the test if it releases from the attachment point. If the hook closure mechanism is shown to
open but not release, this will also constitute a failure, as release would probably occur with geometry of
different dimensions.
No hook will fail a test on an attachment point where its use is clearly and permanently warned against in accordance with 6 g).

Conventional carabiners will always fail this test. Locking carabiners are always preferred on safety and jackline systems. The Kong Tango 715 (on right) is popular on high-end tethers, but cheaper if bought from a climbing gear  distributor. Defender Marine sells them separately also.

Slings. Available in Dynex, Spectra, Dyneema, and nylon, and in lengths from 4 to 24 inches, these are $3.50 to $13 vs. $25 to $65 through marine sources. Just nuts. Good for general rigging, safety rigging while up the mast, prussic hitches on anchor rodes and to relieve tension on lines, and as shackle replacements. Warning: Web-O-Letts (longer versions with an eye sewn in each end) make terrible jackline lanyards; with no stretch at all, it's rather like being caught by steel cable.

Bolt Hangers. Often a good substitute for a pad eye. Available in stainless steel.  $3 to $6. Useful to add blocks to bolts, add tie points, and for harness anchor points. Because these rotate to align with the direction of pull and because the hole is matched in size and shape to average carabiners, they are far less prone to self unlocking or placing off-axis strains on carabiners. Some very large carabiners may not fit. Because they do not mate well with webbing they are generally not good jackline anchor points. Because they are designed for a load in shear, a u-bolt will generally make a better cockpit anchor point. They do make handy lashing points for deck cargo and for adding a turning block to a spot where you already have a single bolt.

Rescue and Hauling Pulleys. Rated at from 2,500 to 6,000 pounds, select ones with all plastic pulleys. A great $25 replacement for a $250 snatch block. This one is by Black Diamond and have kept several on my boat for years. Useful for rigging tackles, barber haulers for the jib, and twings for the spinnaker. Also MOB recovery systems.

Climbing Harnesses. It goes without saying that the sailing companies have copied proven climbing harnesses and doubled the prices. Silly. Big-wall harnesses are the most comfortable up the mast.

Ropes. No, not generally a smart move. Climbing ropes are not fabricated with the same sun-resistance and wear resistance in mind; they are highly engineered for a different purpose. They are generally too stretchy, and even the low-stretch climbing ropes have better marine alternatives. Horses for courses. 

Retired ropes are another matter; they're free, and climbers retire ropes very conservatively. They won't generally feed through a windlass and so make poor anchor lines for larger boats, but they can make excellent anchor lines for smaller boats, where easy handling and knotability are benefits. They have far too much stretch for halyards--don't even try--but they can make fine sheets for smaller boats; yes, this goes against the conventional wisdom and they aren't the best choice, but I've used them for this in a pinch (left the genoa sheet at home after sail repairs) and didn't notice too much difference. I've read of famous cruisers using climbing rope on a main traveler, where a little shock absorption must be a good thing--I went to a spectra traveler when given some free line and know that to be a poor choice, since there is zero stretch. Likewise, if the mainsheet stretches in a puff, this might be good, while in a jib sheet stretch is not desirable, the sail becoming more full at the worst time.

Webbing. Way strong and much cheaper than marine sources for the same material. 1-inch webbing is good for jackline lanyards and chafe gear on smaller lines (<= 1/2-inch) , while 2-inch webbing fits larger lines (see chafe gear page, above). I actually sell these made-up, so this is a free tip for regular readers! Slightly stronger than 1-inch tubular webbing that climbers use is 1-inch flat rescue rigging webbing rated at 6,000 pounds, sufficient to meet ISAF off-shore requirements for much less.

Clothing. Ice climbing gloves are not cheap, but they are dexterous, durable, and warm; frozen but drippy waterfalls have driven some innovative designers. Ski goggles are better than sunglasses, starting when ever your cheeks and nose start getting cold. Fleece socks are great; far warmer than ordinary socks and fast drying. For more discussion on keeping warm, please read my post on winter sailing.

Yeah, I went climbing this weekend. Gravity reminded me how old I'm getting. But I enjoyed swapping stories of the good ol' days with the lads.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Trip Report - 2010 Delmarva Circumnavigation

After following this route 5 times, my trip report is condensed to just a few impressions; less is new and fewer experiences seem so strong.  Even so there is always something unexpected and new. It was a good trip.

The vital statistics:

Myself, wife (Laura), and daughter (Jessica)

Fish caught trolling with cuban yo-yos:
under sail. 3 bluefish
under power 1 bluefish

Fish caught still fishing: more than I can remember. At least 5 sand sharks, seabass, croaker, sea robin, and toad fish. Plus all of the crabs.

Places moored with 1 anchor: 5
Places moored with 2 anchors 2 (in one case severe thunderstorms, in the other a 4 knot reversing current)

Fires on board: 2

Debilitating injuries: 1

Day 1. Deale to Solomons Island
Our first all day sail in the rain with the PDQ. Still, it was one of the best days.  The temperature remained moderate, the wind gave a steady broad reach, and we never had to touch our rain gear; the rain started after the sails were hoisted, dissipated just before the anchor was dropped, and the hard top with the side extensions kept the cockpit dry.  Perhaps it was a little hard to see where we were going, but the navigation was familiar and the midweek traffic was light.

We caught 2 bluefish trolling a yellow hose eel on a yo-yo rig. Only blues will bite when sailing at  6-7 knots, well above the optimum trolling speed (4.5 to 5 knots would be better for blues and slower for rockfish), but I can't see sailing more slowly for a more few fish. We catch all we want.

We shared our anchorage with a 100-foot megayacht. Tucked up a side creek, it seemed out of place.  These palaces are normally placed strategically and conspicuously to insure the optimal display value.

First fire. The night before departure, Jessica and I slept on the boat. Sparks and fire shot out of the Hella Turbo fan in her cabin. We got a replacement that evening and wired it in. the prior owner had installed it without fusing and by simply tucking the wires inside the slip-on connections of her reading light! This was corrected and heavier wire sliced in as required.

Days 2-3. Solomons Island to Tangier Island
No useful wind.

Tangier has become a traditional stop for us; Jessica loves playing with the cats and exploring the island town on her own. This year we took our bicycles on our transom rack, which in summary was a grand success. At every harbor, we had instant and familiar transportation at our disposal. Not the motor bikes and small cars that some mega yachts carry, to our shame.

 Hunting Cats

We find Tangier relaxing and we found enough to do to justify two nights in Parks Marina:

  • Swimming several times at the Tom's Hook beach. We think it's the nicest swimming beach on the Chesapeake Bay.
  • Peddling here and there.
  • Snowball fight. It was hot the second day and flake ice is only $1 per 5 gallon bucket at CJ Charnock's (the crab packing house next to Parks Marina). I think I won; in spite of Jessica's many hits, I surprised her after she though the engagement had ended with a bucket of slush on the head. It was so hot she had to fake her displeasure.
  • Fishing off the pier.
  • Catching minnows and feeding them to the cats.
  • Renting a golf cart from Roger's Rentals. The steering wheel had 90 degrees of free play, the brakes were weak, and it went forward while in reverse and in reverse while in forward.  What a ride!
  • Netting crabs from the pilings.
Just before dinner on our second day, Jessica netted seven keeper-size crabs within a 30 minute effort.  I've never cooked crabs before, but she wanted to give it a go. I went to the local grocery store to look for some Old Bay seasoning; sure enough, every islander is born knowing how to season crabs from scratch, and thus nobody buys Old Bay seasoning and they don't stock it. Of course, they do stock all of the required components.

I could've asked what the ingredients were.  It would have been embarrassing.  We had everything we needed anyway, as I use similar spices and seasonings fish, and so Jessica and I went down in the galley and started shaking some of this and some of that into a measuring cup, tasting it, and suggesting improvements. We didn't have a steamer but we have a large pot. Our recipe went like this:

  • Seven fresh crabs (males, hard shell, 5 1/4 inches or greater; females must be softshell  3 1/2 inches or greater--we had both)
  • 8 quart pot with 1/2" of water, boiling hard.
  • 1/2 tsp curry powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper
  • 1 sliced onion
I expected the buggers to scream or at least attempt furiously to crawl out of the pot, but all was quiet within 2 seconds. After 20 seconds I added the seasoning and onions and then steamed them for another 15 minutes. I don't think this is the standard seasoning mix or time, but the result was spot on. Best crabs I've ever had, only out of the water 30 minutes.
    Day 4. Tangier to Cape Charles.
    Pitiful wind, but we sailed for a few hours. Caught one bluefish under sail and one under power. Watched a Navy chopper that was clearly looking for a lost person and then heard the report on the VHF. We kept our eyes open.

    Slick calm and haze in the morning

    Cape Charles is rather dead. Milton Parks of the Parks Marina in Tangier says if you're good to go to heaven and if you're bad you to go to Cape Charles. He spent many winters dredging for crabs near the mouth of the Bay sailing out of Cape Charles.  Still, we rode our bikes, went to the beach (not very good - too shallow and too many snails on the bottom), hunted for giant hermit crabs (the boat ramp area harborss particularly large ones, for some unknown reason), and fished after dark. Jessica caught a black sea bass and sea robin.

    Sea robins are bizarre little inedible fish, scurrying aacross the bottom on specialized fins that serve as feet. They also have wing-like pectoral fins and serve a function I'm not certain of.

    After several stays, I have determined that the harbor master and his assistant have absolutely no personality.They are efficient. Perhaps the heat, the summer, and Cape Charles have worn them down.

    Note: Kelly's Gingernut Pub on the main street is still good eats.

    Day 5. Cape Charles to Wachapreague.
    We got a bit of a late start; powerful group of thunderstorms was rapidly working its way up the coast from the northern outer banks and I waited until it was near Virginia Beach to head out.  By the time we reached the Chesapeake Bridge Tunnel, the storms were pulling away. As it was, we caught some light rain and wind on the trailing edge, which was just enough to get us down the Bay around the corner.  Unfortunately, the wind went with the storms, leaving us with nothing.

     Parramore Beach Life Saving Station

    There was a bit of a southeast swell from a passing hurricane, but not enough to cause discomfort or to make any of the inlets dangerous. Wachapreague has a fairly reliable 7- to 9-foot entrance bar, but unless you catch it on a low ebbing tide with a big easterly swell it is a straightforward entrance. A swell does not generally effect the entrance if it is from the north or south, as there are bars on both sides of the channel and the shallow part in some distance in.  Be warned, the tide easily reaches 4 knots near the inner end of the channel; we hit 11 knots motoring in, with this boost.

    On past trips we have proceeded into the town of Wachapreague. I can't say there was a lot to recommend a visit and the passage is shallow at low tide. There is fuel and gas and a restaurant and some supplies are available. The inlet is as far as I wanted to go, this trip.

    Double-fisted fishing: inside Wachapreague inlet in Horseshoe Lead.

    The holding ground is variable. The best anchorage near the inlet is in the cove behind the old Parramore Beach Life Saving Service Station. The holding is tricky at first, as the bottom is littered with oyster shells, but once you work around that, the clay under it is medium hard and very sticky. Getting your hook back in the morning, after a blow, can be a battle... which is a good thing, really. Do not approach the station from the center of the channel (Horseshoe Lead) but hug the eastern shore (there is a 4- to 5-foot shoal between the center of the lead and the island, but there is a 15-foot channel connecting to the inlet lying close to the island.

    The first time we visited Wachapreague, just my daughter and I and our Stiletto catamaran, we stretched out on the on the trampoline and watched the stars late into a perfect night. This time, as soon as we began to slow to drop anchor, a horde of green head flies descended upon us; never have we installed all our screens to swiftly and smoothly. And just as swiftly, that horde moved on, leaving us in peace. We did a little shoreline exploration by tender; however, Parramore Island is owned by the Nature Conservancy and is not open for public visitation, so we justed waded along the beaches.

    NEVER use a grill while up wind of bug-infested marshes. Eat a cold dinner in such locations, or at lease one that creates a minimal plume. Normally, so long as you anchor at least 200 feet from the marsh, the bugs will leave you alone; they do not hunt over water. I knew this, but forgot. As soon as the smoke from our sizzling hamburgers reached the marsh, you would've thought I'd rung a dinner bell. So many mosquitoes arrived, that our boat turned gray with mosquitoes, roused into a feeding frenzy. They tested every crack in our bug screens and through the smallest hole of holes, dozens found their way in.  (Note from the wife - Dozens?  HA!  Hundreds.  Jessica and I bear the scars!)

    There was a scallop boat on the beach 1/2 mile north of the inlet, but I was told that was the result of  sleeping with the autopilot on and not weather or shoals.

    Days 6-9. Wachapreague to Chincoteague
    Leaving in the morning, the tide was flooding at every bit of 4 knots. The wind was light and from the north, but I set sails anyway, even if the speed and direction were not efficient; it was a nice day, few waves, with only a pleasant swell from the north east. Chincoteague was not far and we'd made an early start.

    Disaster. After 20 minutes of pleasant sailing I got the bright idea that I could re-set the salon table, which had been used for sleeping the night before (the salon is cooler than the cabins), by myself, without help. I've done it many times. Of course, those times I was probably less tired and those times I cleared everything off the table and out of the way first.  This time I didn't, I assumed a contorted body position, the table jammed part way up, and a powerful muscle spasm knocked me to the floor.  I should've known better. This happens to me every few years, sometimes from doing something stupid and sometimes as a result of sleeping on too many poor hotel mattresses and sleeping into too many airline seats.

    I called out and roused my daughter; she was awake anyway, reading in her cabin. I explained the situation - she's seen me lay low for a week at a time with muscle spasms before - and we discussed the plan of attack. I gradually worked my way up from the floor to the cockpit and worked with Jessica to lower sails and start the engines.  I showed her on the charts of the plotter where we were, and where we were heading.  She's been to Chincoteague before and had actually piloted the inlet the last time, as I manned the binoculars picking out navigation aids at twilight.  And so, Jessica made a perfectly calm and routine passage from Wachapreague to Chincoteague with very little input from her father. I was proud.  And thankful.

    Of course, by the time we got to Chincoteague and had to dock (in a 3-knot tide - I managed the maneuvering, as I wouldn't wish it on a beginner), the muscles begun to stiffen up again.  However, Jessica knows the tie-up and fender drill fairly well and did a great job with minimal guidance.  As lines and fenders needed adjusted through the change of tide, she hopped to it without any urging. She did great.

    We stayed in Chincoteague for 2 rest days, as I was up to very little. I never walked more than 100 yards from the boat and spent most of my time reading and adjusting my heating pad. I didn't even go to the 2nd floor of the library; there were stairs.

    Day 10. Chincoteague to Cape May.
    While it is certainly feasible to stop in Ocean City, as a family we don't like the place much, and so we made the passage from Chincoteague without stopping. There was little wind until we reached the Delaware Bay, and so we motored endlessly.  It was just as well; Jessica might be over her head handling sails and navigation in a breeze and I was not up to much. A nice beam wind arrived on the Delaware; simply unfurling the genoa was enough and easily done.

    Second fire. About and hour out of Chincoteague, the smell of smoke filled the salon; every sailors nightmare, as there is nowhere to go. Immediately, all hands were search and sniffing, tearing the cabin apart and checking every hold. The culprit? Another Hella Turbo. We clipped the wires and sailed on (the fan was replaced in Cape May). For a few minutes, my back was ignored; adrenalin is like that.

    We could have anchored out, but all things considered a marina seemed a good choice.  South Jersey Marina is expensive, but they do make everything easy and I needed easy. Dock hands to tie you up. Showers and laundry on the second floor. Fresh fruit and a news paper on your step every morning. Fueling at your tie-up. Several restaurants within 100 yards. Big bill.

    Days 11-17. Cape May
    Family vacation. The first few days we only had one hotel room reserved, so we stayed on the boat. It was smoking hot, but we do have AC and so that was cozy. By this time I could walk a little bit and riding a bicycle was becoming reasonable.

    Or course, we were sharing the dock with a 145-foot motor yacht, so we represented the slums of this marina. Across from him was a smaller megayacht, still so large that his tender (22-foot center console fishing boat) was large enough to rate a separate slip!

    The second morning I felt well enough to take my bicycle out and make a few stops. The Sea Gear store across the street and east a few blocks caters to commercial fishermen and stocks interesting  foul weather gear and gloves. My favorite winter sailing gloves came from there; a heavily insulated variation on the Atlas Fit gloves. I stopped at Utches Marina to look at the boats and to look across the harbor; I reasoned Zero-to-Cruising might be anchored out there. They too own a PDQ 32, but have cruising plans far greater than ours - they are headed south from Canada to destinations unknown for an open-ended period.  I knew they had left New York City within the past week. To my surprise, while walking out the transient dock, I ran into Rebecca, a sailor I knew only from her blog (  She was clearly more surprised than I was; she was focused on hauling laundry to the nearest laundromat while I half expected to see her, or rather her boat. I spent the next hour visiting with Mike an Rebeca on their boat, cruisers I knew only through the Internet, but who had become friends through the frequent exchange of ideas and tips. My daughter joined us a while later - she'd been wandering the town on her own and chased me down. It was nice morning.

    The balance of the time passed quickly enough. Catching up with friends and enjoying standard beach stuff. I spent too much of it on my back, resting strained muscles.

    Like every late summer Delmarva trip, at some point a hurricane becomes part of the plan. Earl was forecast to become a Cat 4 hurricane and pass near the mid-Atlantic coast. Because of this, we left Cape May a day earlier than we had hoped. But our planning anticipates such events.

    Day 18. Cape May to Chesapeake City
    Again, no wind, except for a few hours of 5- to 6-knot spinnaker reaching near the head of the bay.We motored sort of a crooked path up the lower Delaware, stopping to photograph lighthouses and visiting with pods of dolphins. Later, I met up with a sailor who wondered if I was the one he saw sailing an erratic course up the Delaware; he wondered why. I explained that I maintain a guide to the Delmarva and that I often sail a strange path, when there are specific sites or chart markings that raise my curiosity; I don't like to write about things of which I am not completely sure. He explained that he had made friends with another couple with a similar boat in the New York Canal system (Zero-to-Cruising, of course, on their way south from Canada and the Lakes). It seems there are never more than a few degrees of separation between sailors; everyone passes the same ways, eventually.

    14-Foot Bank Light, Lower Delaware Bay

    The Canal Creamery, located in a small hut near the Chesapeake City town dock, is a highlight, mostly because they have limited hours and I am always craving ice cream after a run up the Delaware. This day they were open, Jessica selected several scoops of something very rich and I enjoyed a root beer float.

    Be warned; Friday and Saturday are loud at the Chesapeake Inn and you will not sleep early. Wednesdays they also have live bands, but they have to quit by 10:00 pm. It's quieter then and a fun scene, if you like the sound.

    Day 19. Chesapeake City to Bodkin Creek
    The wind was a steady 15 knots out of the south, which is not exactly which are looking forward to heading south.  Although we were originally headed for Rock Hall, we got pushed to the west by a wind shift and were tired of sailing after we crossed Patapsco. Bodkin Creek made a very nice stopping point, only a few minutes off the main course of the Bay and thus a good stopping point for any cruiser trying to make time down the Bay. We anchored on the north side tucked into a wooded cove just as the creek split in 2. Nice.

    It was a wonderful, cool evening, my daughter and I lay on trampoline for some time, staring at the stars. Those rare perfect hours can make a lot of challenging times worthwhile. I think the other thing that made the evening special to me, was that it was the first time in 10 days that my back had not limited my activities; oh, to be human again.

    A third Hella Turbo failed, the bearings starting to squeak and the low speed not functioning properly. Another potential fire source? I laid the wires off.

    Day 20. Bodkin Creek to Deale
    The best pure sailing day of the trip. After a brief period of 10 to 15 knot winds in the morning, the breeze filled into a steady 20 knots in the direction we were headed. In fact, it was the first time I'ld ever run wing and wing for more than a few minutes. Performance catamarans, like the Stiletto and Prindle I had owned before, are so much faster on a broad reach than running that I had always jibed my way down wind. However, in lining up to go under the route 50 bridge I forced to go straight down wind... and I liked it. My back liked the motion--smooth as glass. I moved the jib lead forward to an appropriate spot and rigged preventer on the boom using a turning block and the spinnaker sheet. We ran that way, straight down the Bay for over four hours, at a steady 8 to 10 knots. That held us at just about wave speed and produced a ride so smooth a full glass of water on the deck would not have spilled a drop. The down side? In a lesser wind I would have been bored and it was perhaps a bit slower. On a hot day the absence of apparent wind would have been painful, and the sails might not have stayed so full. Still, another arrow in the quiver is a good thing.

    Eventually, we had to jibe the genoa across and come onto a broad reach to go home. Shoal Survivor became a wild thing, flying down the Bay 12 to 14 knots and requiring an aggressive hand on the wheel. She reminded me of my Stiletto and almost of beach cat, full of the feel that is absent in mild conditions. We just blew buy a pair of 50-foot monohulls, a cat doing what it does best, reaching without the limitation of hull speed. Even so, within 20 minutes we elected to roll in a bit of the jib, to match the reefed mainsail. She was tamed, still reaching at over 10 knots, no longer smashing through waves but rather matching their pace down the Bay.

    We had nearly exausted the bateries after two nights at anchor, and in spite of extreme power conservation measures during the day--no autopilot, hand-steering and enjoying it--there was not enough electricity to start the engines.  Fortunately, the outboard engines that power PDQ catamarans are easily pull-started using an emergency starting cable (tip: tilt the engines up enough to pull a straight and give the carburetor intake a puff of starting fluid so that it is inclined to catch on the first pull).

    And so we reached Deale and spent the afternoon unpacking, cleaning, and looking forward to sleeping in a big house with big beds and big AC; not that our house is big, rather cruising boats on my budget certainly are not.

    The 2 remaining Hella fans will be replaced as soon as they come in. They are currently removed from service.

    A Simple Jib Lead Adjustment for Cruising Down Wind

    The PDQ 32 sails at its best in light to moderately strong winds with the 130 percent genoa; the self tacking jib has serious limitations:

    • Balance. The PDQ already suffers from keels that are too far forward. Unless the main is also reefed, the PDQ likes more sail forward for balance, upwind and even more so down-wind.
    • Twist. The self tacking jib only likes one sheet setting: moderately tight. Ease it at all, and it twists of uncontrollably. For similar reasons, the self tacking jib is only furlable, not reafable.
    • Power. The boat is conservatively rigged. Until the wind hits 15 knots, more power is better, even if you're not in a hurry.

    Off the wind, unless the leads are moved well forward, to about the mid-ships cleat, the head of the genoa twists off miserably; in light to moderate winds this is slow and looks unsailorly. In stronger winds, the sail flogs and will stretch, and can be unstable if wing-and-wing.

    I have been testing a simple set-up for a year now, and this last cruise gave us time for a good trial.

    The parts:
    • 18-inch nylon climbing runner
    • Wire gate carabiner
    • Climbing rescue pulley. Functions like a snatch block when used with a carabiner. (CMI)
    (Note: Since 2013 I have changed to using a 20-foot length of 3/8-inch line with a carabiner on the end. The same block is used and the line is tucked under the same cleat. The only difference is that I can lead the tail back to a winch and is thus, adjustable, though that is not really a big deal. It is  little easier to rig.  I can use this same line to rig a boom preventer, so it is dual purpose.)
    I used climbing stuff because I had it and it worked well. The runner is simply fed through and around the cleat, as a mooring line would be. The length of the runner is a compromise: too short and it will pull the sheet too close to the boat, too long and there is less adjustablity before the tack hits the block, and further forward the loads increase. It is not difficult to attach or remove in winds up to 25 knots; I've not experienced more, but in an emergency a knife would free it in seconds. The length of the runner and placement of the cleat seem perfect, since when it is time to roll up some sail, the tack rises and the lead adjustment is not needed.

    The first picture was taken broad reaching in 10- knot winds.Twist was well controlled and the sail was more stable.

    The second picture was taken going down the Chesapeake in sustained 20-knot winds with gusts to 30 knots, and is just as stable. Although we might technically go a bit faster on a broad reach, the speeds get crazy and ride wild; we did that for a time, maintaining 12-14 knots for significant periods, but it was tiring and not much faster in terms of VMG down wind; we could maintain 8-9 knots with a ride so smooth a glass of water wouldn't spill a drop. The forward placement of the jib lead kept the genoa rock-solid with minimal twist and no oscillation. We used the spinnaker sheet, routed through a matching turning block on the other side, to rig an adjustable boom preventer. We used this rig, without touching a line, for 40 miles.

    Surely, this could be a tricked out, with a turning block, a jammer, and a line led to the cockpit; I like it fine as it is. Even if the system is made more permanent, the snatch block must still be removed when not in use or it will pound on the side of the hull or deck when the sheet is slack and they can snag on the lifelines when the sheet is loaded up-wind. My parts either go below or are clipped to the lower lifeline, if they will be used again soon.