Thursday, August 15, 2013

Harness Creek

With my daughter heading off to college in a week, a last family outing was required, even though or perhaps because the home scene was getting crazy; it seems we are remodling the kitchen in the midst of extending the transoms, doing other boat maintanance, and of all this other transition. I needed a break from endless painting, sanding, plastering fitting.

Initially I had a cross-the-Bay trip to Cambridge in mind, but 2 days of bashing straight into 20- to 25-knots headwinds didn't feel relaxing. So we adjusted and picked a destination that would give us 2 days of broad reaching in the lee of land with few waves. 8-10 knots of boat speed without even trying. Much nicer.

An uneventful trip, which can be nice. A summary:

The Sailing. A moderate winds, 10-25 knots but protected. not intersting navigation; I've been there before.

The Crew. Our newest member didn't contribute much really, but he did keep folks busy. A 3-week old grey squirl found by a friend who was going in for surgery, we had no alternative but to bring the fella along. He hid away in his shoebox, all except for feeding times--sleeping in a fleece blanket, warmed by a heating pad to a perfect 100F. Feeding is no more than a few ml of special formula every few hours, with a longer break at night--I'll get up in the night for a small human, but a rodent will have to just hang tough a few more hours.
The Equipment. The genoa sheet developed an interesting failure, the Kevlar core failing from fatigue while the sheath
remains intact. The thing of it is, and the reason Kevlar core ropes have fallen out of general use, is that the fibers are prone to cracking when repeatedly flexed, such as the attachment to a genoa clew when it flogs during furling. I've used Kevlar very successfully for halyards, where the turns are gentle and there is little motion, but I would never chose it for a sheet or frequently adjusted tackle.

We got home with the bad spot cut out and bowlines. I expect the rope will last at least a few more years.

For the 3rd time, the Mantus chain hook spontaneously disconnected while lying on the bottom during a period of slack wind and tide. We returned from a dingy exploration to find Shoal Survivor anchored only by the chain, at the odd angle to the wind cats take when anchored to only one bow. When the wind came up in the thunderstorm that night, we would have skated all over the cove, possibly jerking the hook out. While I will continue to use the hook during the day as part of a Practical Sailor trial, it will not be used at night in the future. I will be using a girth hitched sling.

The Exploration. In the morning we anchored in Almshouse Creek, just 2 miles away, in order to make a brief visit to the London Town Historic Area, a nice park and garden area on the South River. Interestingly, the main brick structure in the old town--the only surviving building--was an almshouse (poorhouse) for the local area, after the town and the tavern in the brick house failed. This creek, lined with multi-million dollar houses, is named for the almshouse. Ironic. Bet the the houses wouldn't sell quite so well on Poor House Creek.

We also explored the park, the coves, fed the duck, swam, and enjoyed a picnic dinner on the foredeck on a perfect evening. Easy livin'.

And now I must return to work, to kitchen remodeling, and to packing my daughter for school. Sailing is better.



  1. Hi Drew -

    I have been considering the Mantus hook. Thanks for the info.

    At the moment we have a standard stainless grab hook. I always let out enough chain so that the chain between the windlass and the hook is slack - the weight of the chain between the hook and the bottom keeps the necessary tension on the hook. But because we draw 6 feet, I almost never anchor in less than 8 feet at low tide... And my snubber is about 6 feet long.

    I wonder if the problem you had might be the result of anchoring in the shallow water that cats can use...

    s/v Eolian

  2. I'm certain the problem is relatively shallow water, but I'm not so certain it is a catamaran-only problem.

    Twice it came off in over 10 feet of water. Not so shallow. The other was 7.5 feet.

    As for the length of the snubber, since going to all-chain I have noticed that in a good breeze there is no shock absorption for waves. How could there be, if the wind already has the rode bar tight? The problem, then, is that in relatively shallow water (10 feet, for example) if there are waves, then an all-chain rode requires enough snubber to damp some gust and to damp wave action. Most modeling shows that will require 20-40 feet of nylon, in order to deal with 3- to 5-foot waves. A reasonable compromise, for me, is 25 feet. Any less, the effectiveness of the anchoring system is diminished and the risk of breaking something or breaking out the hook goes up.

    Not as convenient as a short snubber, but the ride is noticeably smoother, at least on a lighter boat. On the Chesapeake sharp afternoon thunderstorms are normal all summer, and hurricane-force winds can come up in a few minutes; every anchorage has to be considered with a change in windspeed of 0 knots increasing to 45 knots withing minutes, and the holding ground is often soft mud that cannot tolerate extra jerking about and increased loads.

  3. Ah - 25 feet of nylon in 10 feet of water. Yup, that would do it all right. The grab hook is definitely not continuously under tension.

    So, as you mentioned, a girth hitch, or better yet a pair of shackles attaching the snubber(s) to the chain would seem to be appropriate...

    We too have all chain rode, but it is 3/8" chain and has never yet gone 'bar tight' on us. Perhaps we have not anchored in wild enough conditions... Our 'snubber' serves primarily to change the attachment point of the rode on the boat so that the rode does not drag back and forth across the bobstay as the boat tacks on the anchor...


  4. Sounds like a great time .. any time with a daughter can't be bad! Beautiful picture of the boat, and what a cute little squirrel! I thought it was a baby seal at first.

  5. Yes, differnt folks use a snubber for different reasons.

    One advantage of the girth histched snubber is that it is easy to attach on the inside of the rail, ease a few feet of chain, and then clip past the roller. Sure, a shackle will pass, but it can be tough on the roller or jam coming up. It is also a challenge to find shackles that fit 1/4-inch G4 cahin and come close to the strength. The sling is easier. When it gets worn, replace. I use $3 climbing slings, wich at 5000 pounds are strong enough for our boat. A larger boat could easily splice something from Amsteel. An over size biner clips the loop.

    Yeah, we're all programed to find babies cute... and at this age they arn't asking for I-phones. The thing I find most fasinating is that he falls asleep in less than a minute after each feeding. I wish I could do that, some nights.