Saturday, August 30, 2014


Tying up a halyard so it doesn't slap.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Sail Trim Rant

My blog, my opinions. Some I can support, but I don't need to. I love a good rant.

When I started my career 30 years ago, my supervisor was a hard working man with only a few business classes. He did very well for himself, using hustle and dependable common sense to drive our business to more dependable success than our generally better educated and better financed competitors. After assigning a particularly thankless job to a laborer or contractor, or after watching some failure of common sense, he often proclaimed that he was "glad he paid attention in school." In fact he was very well educated by the school of careful observation. The primary reason I can pass practically every sailboat I meet--there aren't too many racers in the area, but there are certainly many much larger cruising boats--is because I pay attention. To me, that art and science of converting wind into motion is much or what makes sailing worthwhile.

My rules of boat speed.

Sail Trim
  1.  Don't over sheet reaching. The most common fault on a reach, is for everything, more or less, to be sheeted in. Embarrassing proof to everyone that you don't know how to sail.
  2. Don't over sheet to the weather. While a racing monohull with good foils and flat sails--the kind of guy that writes manuals on sail trim--will carry the traveler above the center line and boom on the center line, that doesn't mean the is correct for a cruising boat. You're going to have to experiment, pacing other boats, but cracked-off just a hair is generally faster for boats with more drag and lesser foils. The more you can sheet out, the more drive is forward.
  3. Twist. There is never a reason that main should not twist to match the wind; less hard on the wind, more off the wind. By proper application of traveler and vane, lead and barber hauler, working sails can always be twisted to match. Wind speed, and thus direction, on deck and aloft are different.
  4. Barberhaulers and outside tracks. Add the hardware that is needed, for other wise 1/2 of your sail area is wasted through improper trim. Look at other boats and don't be afraid to drill holes.
  5. Flogging sails. The wind came up a little, so they luff the sails to reduce power. Oh dear. Reef!
  6. One-sail in a blow. This isn't seamanship, this is laziness, and it results in shortened sail life. Often the sail is pressed far beyond its recommended wind range, because the force is not spread across 2 reduced sails. Instead of stowing one sail, reduced both; the result is faster and better balanced. Jib-only can also endanger the rig in some boats (mast support improper), and forestay tension (luff sag) generally suffers (on many boats mainsheet tension is a major contributor to forestay tension).
  7. Do NOT keep the topping lift so tight the sail never takes the load. Leach stretch is NOT reduced by keeping the topping lift on; this is pure urban legend. It can, however, be made worse, since when reaching the load is not carried across a taught sail but just on the leach and battens. Other sailors see the tight lift and snicker. (Very light winds can be an exception, when the lift can support the boom and allow twist, but most cruisers are motoring then).

Clean Bottom
  1. Best paint. Given what you pay for the boat, slippage, and hauling, bargain shopping for paint is pound foolish. For multi-season soft paint, I've tried many and like Micron 66 best; you do need ~ 7500 ppm salinity for it to stay on, making Deale about the northern limit in the BAY. I have no experience with hard paints or single-season paints. If it says West Marine on the label, you've made a mistake.
  2. Don't buy a low VOC paint because you think you have too. If it doesn't last longer and save fuel, it is not environmentally better, not over a full life cycle.
  3. Swim. You are going to have to clean the bottom, at least occasionally. If you aren't comfortable in the water I can't imagine why you took up sailing. I'm sure there are good reasons, I just can't imagine them. If the water is cold, get a wet suit for emergencies (rope around prop, hull damage, MOB, anchor stuck, some groundings). Take it easy on soft paints; frequent sailing is better than cleanings.
  4. Use it up (soft paints). Toward the end of the paint's useful life, give it a scrub or 2. This will minimize the need for sanding and improve bonding. Try to scrub in an area with a good tidal flush and few sensitive receptors; the harbor is not the best place, a river-mouth sand bar is probably better, depending on local geography, of course. If it seems like hard work, think of it as good exercise.
 Loose the Weight

  1. Go through the cabinets every spring. Never know what you will find, perhaps something that's gone missing.
  2. Spares. Are you really going to fix that item while on cruise, or would you wait until you are home? Then take it home. To much junk at home already? Pitch some. Stop buying stuff.
  3. Calculate the cost of carrying junk. It will embarrass you.
  4. Think of weight with every new project. Can it be lighter? Is it worth the weight, windage and complication?
 Good Sails. Obviously important going to the weather (doesn't really matter off the wind), but if you can't afford or justify new canvass...
  1. Downhaul hard. This will help move the draft forward by stretching the luff.
  2. Flatten with outhaul. I've met sailors that didn't know it was adjustable. Just pitiful.
  3. Flatten the genoa with an outboard lead (barber hauler or traveler). This will reduce twist a bit, but the reduction in draft is generally worth it up-wind.
  4. Recut. Sometimes tightening just one or two seams will work wonders. Read up on sail making and/or ask a sailmaker. Stiffer battens can help and increasing batten tension supports the luff. Sailmaking is not a black art, and every sailor should understand how design relates to sailing.
  5. Reef earlier. Stretched sails have more draft and thus more power. Reefing also can help flatten sails, but that is variable.
  6. Take your lunch to the office in a bag. Soon you will save enough for new sails.

  1. Pace other boats. There is no substitute for measuring your speed against another boat on the same course; variables of sea state and wind even out.  Is your speed less or about the same? Good. Now start pulling strings--more twist or less, tighter and looser--until you start going faster. It's not a race, just the best way of seeing what is better and what is not. I'd been sailing fast cats for years and I had to adjust my sail trim quite a bit for the PDQ.
  2. Build a speed polar. Perhaps this is overkill for most, but how do you know what is good for the conditions? Write it down, when you think you've got the trim just right. Compare with next time.
  3. Watch course over ground (GPS) more than compass; you may be going more sideways than you think. For areas with strong tides, this is much more complicated. Hope you remember trig and physics.
Engine. No I will NOT suggest power is the best way to windward. A car is much faster.
  1. Use the fuel. You might as well use at least one tank each year. Whether gas or diesel, whether you use a stabilizer or not, it needs changed, just like the oil. Since most engines die from dis-use rather than use, the hours to burn one tank annually is actually a contribution to good maintenance.
  2. When the wind is just a little too noserly to sail with many tacks and you really have somewhere to be, motor straight to windward, then sail when the angle is better or the wind has come up (afternoons are often better). You might just get a little more sailing in that way. Boy will it seem quiet.
  3. Read a book. Makes motoring more fun.
Fear of Spinnakers
  1. If you don't fly the chute, when the conditions are reasonable, you just aren't a sailor. Sorry, it's part of the art. Kind of like skiers that stay on the greens. Why bother.
  2. If the sail is hard to fly, perhaps the rigging is wrong. Spinnakers vary in design and fullness, so what is best for one may be quite wrong for another. Try many wind angles and rigs until you find what she likes.
  3. Learn both inside and outside jibes. Read up.
  4. Don't sail with one sheet (lower to jibe). That's lame.
Boats with better trim go faster with less heel, are lighter on the tiller, track straighter, and handle better and more safely when things kick up. Learning to sail a boat to the limits of its capabilities is key when lee shores and capsize threaten. A faster sailor can be a safer sailor.


I don't always care about speed. Some days I'll just drift around, not much caring. That's good too.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

I Have No Words....

There is a large bay window in the side of the building to facilitate viewing. It's a small town, so perhaps folks "drive through" just to see if it's someone they know.

... but can I get a chocolate shake while I'm in line?

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Nine Days of Family Fun

Deale, MD to Slaughter Creek.

My favorite wetland kayaking destination, this trip the goal was to introduce my wife to the quiet maze that is The Broads of Slaughter Creek. Part of the Taylor's Island Wildlife Refuge, it combines with the Blackwater refuge to form one of the largest natural areas on the east coast, and certainly one of the largest contiguous marshes. I've posted more on the area here.

James Island, leaving Slaughter Creek. Numerous immature eagles roosting.

We used the tender to tow our kayaks deep into the maze. My wife was first to spot the circling bald eagles (3 at one sighting!) and later, a periwinkle fight (sort of like Battleship, waged over the top of a small humacks from kayaks) between me and my daughter. I think the bald eagles were the highlight.

A quiet night on the hook. I've come to like the Mantus chain hook; the new plastic keeper makes it a fast one-hand operation with absolute security. In fact, I'm still using the 3-D printed prototype Mantus sent me for testing.

Slaughter Creek to Smith Island

Fishing. After several hours of unproductive trolling, I caught a nice snapper blue while I was reeling in. A nice surprise. A bit of a jolt when you are sure that you are winding in slack line... but then again, that has happened to me several times; I'm reeling in, done fishing, only to get smacked by a 20-pound rockfish when I least expect it.

Not a trophy, but in truth, the small ones taste best. Perfect size for the pan.

Eating. The highlight of Smith Island may be the crab cakes at Ruke's. No exaggeration, and without any reservation, they are the finest anywhere, including 5-star restaurants. They simply melt in your mouth, exploding with flavor. Wish I knew the secret, though I suspect minimal filler (they tend to fall apart) and very fresh crabs are key. Worth the trip, just for that.

 Not fancy, and a bit run-down on the outside, but oh my....

Kayaking. You could spend a week exploring the Smith Island complex and never see most of it. We spent 2 nights and enjoyed as what as we could, paddling different areas than those we have explored before. Swan island is nice, just north of the western entrance channel. There is also a dredge spoil island on the south side of the western entrance that is home to thousands of gulls. Goat island --just across the harbor--is filled with feral goats.

Goat Island. There are perhaps 40 on the island, always climbing trees, for instinctual reasons, we suppose.

Can't let a jetty stop you. Up and over.

Impossibly low freeboard on the flats boats. Much of the crabbing and clamming water is very thin.

 They say you should name the boat for your daughter rather than your wife, since the former is a permanent relationship, the later less certain. I'm guessing this was named for the daughter.

Found this on the beach. After a little research we determined it is a Loggerhead sea turtle rib. Though I've never seen a live one in Chesapeake or nearby coastal waters, we've found eggs and carapaces. They are threatened, but not truly rare.

Smith Island to Tangier Island.

Tacks included, perhaps 20 miles of bashing into steep chop and 20 knots winds. Tacking though 100 degrees, boat speed cycled between 8.5 knots on the flat bits and 5 knots when the beam buried in a steep set, sending green water all the way to the cockpit, averaging 6.7 knots dock-to-dock, including time spent untangling a crab pot from the rudder--hard to see those buggers in the conditions.

More fishing. I think the cats got most of the minnows.

One of our favorite places for just doing nothing, we still manage to keep busy.
  • The fishing off the dock is reasonable. A flounder, several sea bass, and some spot.
  • Crabbing. This time we focused on soft shells; harder to find, but more eating per crab. I'm not convinced they are as sweat, though.
  • Swimming. The nicest swimming beach on the Bay is the hook.
  • The Homecoming. Each summer they have a festival where family from all over returns to the island. Only inflatable "rides" (they've got to come by boat) but good music and good food.
  •  Local dining. The Fishermans' Corner is very good, and Four Brothers has a mean crab melt.
The claws aren't much of the threat when they're soft.

The Homecoming Festival sets up on the airport flight line, a short walk from the marina. The whole town is there, often more than 200 golf carts! Sure, as a visitor you are not a part of the family, but that doesn't matter. $5 admission and good music.

Tangier to Solmons Island.

Uneventful light air sailing. Caught 2 more snapper blues on the way, which added to the interest.

The Tiki Bar is the local muscle boat hang-out, worth a few minutes just for the people watching and the music. Anchor further away, though, up mill creek. Be aware of the cable area.

Solomons Island to Deale

More uneventful light air sailing. An hour was spent on the beach at Calvert Cliffs, collecting fossils and enjoying the quiet, before the hikers reach the beach.


Most of the meat in the fridge returned home with us; out catch matched our appetite, and some fish were distributed to my parents. We went out for steak that first night home, having reached our fill of seafood, at least for a time.

Friday, August 1, 2014


(I borrowed some of this from Windborne. It seemed important to share.)

I'm all about eco. I work for one of the largest recyclers, have built multiple re-cycling and recovery plants, and have invented new processes. But I'm not in favor of mis-labling or eco products that don't meet specifications or perform.

This is NOT mineral spirits.

 This is an emulsion blended to comply with west coast VOC rules. What it is good for, I have no idea.

If it were mineral spirits, it would comply with ASTM D235 (the defacto definition of the term), which it does not in many ways. Basically, FALSE LABELING.

Kleen Strip does make mineral spirits. They also make odorless mineral spirits, though plain or rule 66 mineral spirits are better solvents (the KB value of odorless MS, a measure of grease solvency, is only half that of regular and rule 66 solvents, which matches my experience). All of these meet ASTM specifications and can be used to thin paint and clean-up petrol based caulks and paints.
                                   Klean-Strip Mineral Spirits, Gallon

 ASTM D235, Type C, class C
* Petroleum-based.
* Clear, nearly water white (25 units is very nearly perfectly clear).
* Does not contain water (300F initial boiling point).