Friday, March 29, 2013

Spring Break 2013

Long planned, long anticipated by my now-a-senior daughter, it was to be a glorious thing in dazzling spring weather. Nature disagreed, dishing out one of the coldest springs on record. We got 3 inches of heavy snow (March 25) the day before we left.

However, with a forecast for 3 days of sun and determined teenagers, we cast off. We have a heater.

Day 0ne. Deale to Slaughter Creek.

A pleasant down-wind run in a 10 knot breeze with he spinnaker up; cool (we had to shovel snow) but nice. Slaughter creek is well protected from the predicted west and northwest wind, particularly up near the bridge, and the holding ground is positive.

The main attraction of Slaughter Creek, to my tastes, is the access to the Taylor Island Wildlife Refuge. Certainly in the top 3 places in the Chesapeake to explore by kayak or dingy and my personal favorite. The marsh extends for miles and miles, and the guts and ponds sprinkled through the marsh make it possible to get quite lost. Simply wonderful.

The kids--my daughter and 2 friends--took off in the dingy while I warmed in the cabin for a few minutes, and then I followed in the kayak. Jessica's parting words had simply been "we'll be back for dinner," and by the time I hit the water they had disappeared into the marsh without a trace. I paddled for about an hour, following trackless paths wherever they led, enjoying the flow of the tide and the few fish that were darting about. Northern water foul have not yet left for the summer. Eventually I found my self wondering how far my girl might have gone; though she operates the dingy well, no outboard is completely reliable and you can't walk home from too deep in the marsh. They did have extra gas and paddles and paddles, though inflatables are pigs to paddle. I stopped and listened in the absolute silence. A salt marsh soaks up noise, like new fallen snow. I couldn't hear the engine, but I could hear intermittent voices, just bits of teenage boy carried on the wind, seemingly from miles away. And then they came around the corner. We had probably been separated by no more than 100 yards for the last hour, but with the tall grass I had no idea of it at all, no sense of near company. It always amazes me how a salt marsh envelopes a kayaker, severing all outside sensory input, leaving only what is immediate.

It was blowing a sustained 15 knots... but not deep in the marsh.

The evening consisted of a hot dinner, a movie, and kids stargazing under a pile of blankets on the trampoline.

Day Two. Slaughter Creek to St. Micheales via San Domingo Creek.

A more vigorous sail, for certain. A sustained 15 knots growing to 20 knots, some on the nose and later on the beam. Typical nasty Chesapeake chop, with the wind opposed to tide. As we entered the Chotank river the waves dropped, and as we entered Broad Creek we again had the close company of many small boats hand-tonging and dragging for oysters. While sailors we are accustomed to right of way, boat engaged in fishing change that norm. However, the draggers are generally working small mounds of oyster, driving in crazy circles and not crossing channels.

The town itself hold little for teenage boys, but the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum was a hit and we enjoyed some soup in a harbor restaurant. We got double appetizers, since it was claimed by our server that the cook confused oysters with clams. Odd.

No matter what the guides say, San Domingo Creek has terrible holding (or at least extremely variable)  in any kind of breeze. We've been there many times; once we sat out a squall and the anchor dug deep, other times, it just dragged and dragged, in spite of feeling well set. Thus, you've been warned. This time we returned after some hours ashore to find our boat had moved about 30 feet (20 knots sustained); this with a 35 pound Manson Supreme, good scope and power set. It was simply dragging through the mud at about 10 feet per hour. We tried another spot. Worse. We packed up an moved to Baby Owl Cove and were greeted by flat water and a firm bottom, perfect for a good nights sleep, to say nothing of the pleasure of being out of the cold wind. After all, there was bound to be more stargazing on the tramp, under a pile of blankets.

Day Three. Baby Owl Cove to Deale.

Wind. Starting at 15 knots building to 25 knots with gusts to 30 knots, and of course, right on the nose. This is when you feel good about having spent enough on the boat and worked enough on maintenance. Glad that you bought a boat that was built for a pounding and not just appearance at the dock. Some smaller catamarans that I won't name will creak and groan and the pounding under the bridge deck can make them terrible up wind in a blow. They place winches where they can't be reached, not with the 2-handed body core effort required to grind a genoa flat in a fresh breeze.

She battled through without complaint, though a few of the crew felt the motion. We forgot to tell them that hiding below is not the best plan. Jessica and I are--so far--immune to mal de mare, and so easily forget what others may expereince.And when we give advice, the victim is often disbelieving of simple cures to their life-threatening condition.

It has been calculated by the PDQ factory that capsize will occur at about 35 knots on the beam with everything in tight. I believe this is true. We sailed with a full genoa and 2 reefs in the main and certainly she got a little light in a few > 30-knot puffs, but still well within control.Like any multihull, she she point highest when pressed hard, tacking though 90 degrees at 8-9 knots.

And that is the story. Nothing broken, no one lost or injured, no one mad or made miserable. Perhaps a slight overdose of fresh air.

Dig the deck shoes, from  left to right: Borrowed from his dad, boots, and none.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Shifting: A New Morse MT-3 and New Cables

The sour note of our last sailing trip is that the starboard side of the MT-3 engine control and the port shift cable both packed-in on the way back. This left us trying to back into the slip with one person shifting manually and the other driving. Because we were far to timid with the throttle with this handicap we failed and pulled the boat in with lines instead, which is really quite easy, just not our normal way. But really neither failure was a surprise. The shifter had been gimpy fo ra year and I noticed a crimp in the port cable when I swapped the engines, but I was too tired to muck with it then.

I shopped around for pricing but found nothing much better than West Marine (I had a discount card handy) and I wanted to do the swap on the weekend anyhow; Jessica has an over night next week with some friends. Spring Break and all that.

The simplest way to run the cables is simply to couple the new to the old with a coupling nut--$0.57 each plus shipping from McMaster/Carr. Unfortunately, UPS didn't make it in time, so I had to go into the shop, play machinist, and make my own. Not difficult, with a bit of 1/2-inch brass rod, drill press and table vise, drill bit and #10-32 tap. Brass is a pleasure to machine, so only about 10 minutes. Thinner stock would have been better, but it is what I had.

The tools and parts:
  • MT-3 controller. The starboard side unit had some problems, but the port side is still fine. Lots of good parts. Upon closer examination, the PO had changed the starboard cables and I think the controller damage was done during that effort. I believe they did not remove the fiberglass mount and that this caused them to force the connection (not enough room to work).
  • 2 x 8-foot Teleflex Ultra 10-30 universal type 3300 cables. One was failed (cover split and rusting at the engine end), the other makes a good spare.
  • 2 x 11-foot Teleflex Ultra 10-30 universal type 3300 cables. One was failed (swivle broken loose at the engine end and buckling), the other makes a good spare.
  • Coupling nut. Possible without, but perhaps more difficult. 
  • Waterproof grease. Never hurts.
  • A few screwdrivers, scraper, needle nose pliers (for cotter pins and c-clips) and Vise-Grip needle nose grip pliers (for engine spring clips). Not very tool-intensive.
I'm thinking the increased flexibility of these upgrade cables may reduce the stresses placed on the cables when the engines are raised; time will tell.

    The procedure:

    • Release the cables from the engine connections (pull spring clips), remove the plastic end fittings and lock nuts, and pull out of the engines.
    • Unbolt the MT-3 control from the fiberglass mount, cut the caulking loose and break it free, but do not it pull out.
    • Remove the screws that hold the fiberglass mount to the bulkhead, cut the caulking and break loose.
    • Thread 5 feet of rope through the fiberglass mount and suspend it up about 1/2 way. Easier to work with at this height and less cable friction when pulling. Place a towel behind the mount as you slide it down to prevent scratching the bulkhead.
    •  Pull the MT-3 control up and remove the 2 screws that hold the halves together (just below the mounting flange, fore and aft). Separate.
    • Remove and tag the neutral switch wires.
    • Remove the end fittings from the control end of the cables.
    • Pull the old MT-3 control out, one half at a time.
    • Thread the new cables to the old cables using the coupling nut and pull. work slowly, pushing and wiggling and NEVER forcing. For starboard, stay well to starboard  when going up the bulkhead; the gap is wider and the run easy. For port it helps to reach in front of the battery box and help the cable make the turn. Also, push the cable across under the door more than pulling, keeping it LOW down near where the wires run; if you let it pull up high it will jam. Once across to starboard and visible in the engine well, pull up while feeding across.
    • Set the new MT-3 to either pull-throttle or push-throttle, whichever you have. Look at the old control and consult the MT-3 manual. Easy.
    • Connect the neutral switch wires.
    • Connect the control cable ends. Connect the engine ends, and adjust. This is simple if the handles are in neutral and the throttle at idle. Get everything tight, as vibration will work them loose (when the PO replaced the cables he did not get one hard-to-reach screw tight and it came loose).
    I suspect this could be done without removing the fiberglass control mount; the cables would pull fairly far under the battery shelf but you should be able to reach them. I did it this way because I had read a post that showed it this way. I think this way is probably easier.

      All of this took about 1 1/2 hours including a lunch break, with the help of my lovely daughter. A one person job? Sure, it could be. In fact the easy button was working quite well and the job was not nearly the epic I feared. However, it's certainly worth replacing the lot all at once, though, onafter the controller is out.

      Silky smooth, and very shiny!

      Monday, March 11, 2013

      A Perfect Early Spring Day

      One would supose on the first decent weekend day since New Years that the water would be teaming with early season sailors. High of 58F, 10 knots, only a few high whisps of cloud. But most area boats are still deep in slumber.

      Jessica "IT"

      We didn't do anything special, just sat on the bow while the autopilot steered. Not much to hit, no gusts to be concerned over. Jessica took a knit hat an used it as a mono-sock, since she neglected to bring socks. We walked on a nearby beach, found half a kayak, and Jessica discovered just how cold the water was (44F).

      Bare feet. Teenager in March.

      Only one other recreational boat was spotted during the 6 hours we were out. The wind wasn't cold--not after winter--and the the propane heater kept the cabin toasty, almost too warm. Actually, it was a pretty special day, just as relaxing as imaginable.

      Saturday, March 9, 2013

      Carrying Stuff

      Spring showed up today, with highs near 60F. It's not that I don't get outside all year, but experiencing the outdoors with fewer layers is a welcome change.

      In the summer the cyclist carries all he needs in Jersey pockets: a spare tube and a few tools, a few snack bars, and a cell pone. Dual water bottle cages carry water or sports beverage, and a micro pump is either mounted on the frame or tucked in a jersey pocket. Seatpost mounted carrying bags annoy me with visual clutter and poor functionality; the jersey pockets are easy to handle, present no drag and add no weight, are conveniently out of the way of peddle on your back, and the contents go with you when you change after a ride.

      The winter presents different problems. No jersey pockets. Jackets have pockets in the front, in the way. Seat mounted bags are popular, but I always found them annoying to access. A stuck zipper and Velcro to fight with to just retrieve my cell phone.

      Enter the water bottle carry-all. I actually looked for something of this sort in the bike shops and catalogs. IT seemed obvious. Nothing.
      • I don't need 2 bottles in the winter, so the cage is available.
      • Easy to grab off the bike after a ride. 
      • Holds all I need it to: a spare tube and tools, snack, and cell phone (the cell phone actually tucks well in--I left it up for scale in the photo).
      • Nothing has fallen out in the 2 winters I've used it.
       Simple. Just a give-away bottle I didn't like with the top cut off (leaving just enough lip to restrain the stuff). I spent all of a 1 minute selecting a bottle and hacking; It was just to be an experiment, but it became permanent.

      Other permanent experiments? Two years ago I stopped to rest on a trail-side bench and decided I was wearing one layer too many. I spotted a girls "scrunchy" hair tie laying int he mud and used that to bundle my wind breaker to the top of the aerobars. A perfect lashing for a fraction of an ounce.Very secure and very little drag as it is behind the hands and between the forearms.

      Why the Gatorade bottle? Mostly I drink water, of course. I find that empty Gatorade bottles are lighter than conventional water bottles, retain less taste, and are free since I do drink the stuff when it gets hot. It's a reasonable balance of energy and electrolytes that I can tolerate well when very hot and possible dehydrated. Often I start out with 2, refill the first with water several times, then drink the second and refill it too. Sometimes they get pitched in the recycle bin before the last push for home, saving some bit of windage and weight. Something like that.