June boat work

Our attention is back on Ravenswing here in June. I still owe you a post on the F36 Hecla delivery trip, but the teaser is that near Cuba we had to turn back due to rudder problems, and Jeff’s boat is in Florida getting some repairs / upgrades. No Belize this time.

Back home we had the start of the inaugural California 500 race to San Diego, with three 70′ tris going at it. Maserati spent her dock time at our Marina Bay Harbor, so we got a look up close on Memorial Day. Very interesting to look at the retrofit foiling gear on this ocean-crossing racer.

That day was a treat because of hosting nephew Westley’s first boat ride. Reefed main, no jib, Autopilot and a light breeze made for the perfect mellow day for granddad/grandkid. The siblings enjoyed catching up too. Some day, Westley, I’m sure you’ll be shaking out the reefs and calling for the big Ravenswing spinnaker!

The boat is getting ready for a run up the Delta this week. It’s hot, so getting the Bimini sorted out was this weekend’s first task. We bought a used one and the blue canvas is being experimentally cut/sewn to find the right pattern for a new one. We’ll sail it this way to see if the boom clearance will work.

Finally got the dedicated running-backstay winches installed today. This already feels like a great addition. The windward side will handle the backstay, and the leeward stands ready for barberhaulers or any sheeting duty. This also got rid of the slightly awkward trade off with the mainsheet tails.

Also notice in a couple of those shots the snazzy grey winch covers. The big sewing machine needed a tune up mid project (back in April) and we celebrated its return finally finishing

the 5+ year old Sailrite kit. Eventually I’ll get all these details done!!!

The long rainy season here had me rethinking how to keep the float hulls dry, and cross ventilation through the watertight interior bulkheads is a challenge. Decided to make breathing ports via 2″ pvc, to be left uncapped during storage, but plugged up underway. It does add a pre-sail item to the boat prep list, but this is an easy one; just hand screw in the plugs.

Another milestone was finally powering up the fridge/freezer cold plate system for the first time since it was installed three years ago. It’s been on a week and the solar panels are easily staying 100% ahead of it (with no other power use sitting at the dock). There’s an ice tray in there this evening and I’m excited to get back to hopefully find cubes ?!

Some visitors to the boat have frowned about the forward beam mounted solar panels. Well I didn’t really like it either, so we compromised some hull deck space and moved them out here (on both sides of the boat). This is way better.

So that means the four 100watt panels are (2) on aft float decks, (1) port float forward deck, and (1) on the hard dodger. We’ll monitor and report on solar generation during the Delta trip.

Sights are now set on the September departure in time for the MultiMarine Summer Splash event to Catalina Island, Sept 13. I’m sure time will fly as we move towards Mexico!

Sistership

wait, those aren’t Ravenswing’s sails?! Right you are, they’re F36/39 Hecla’s, drawing nicely off the southeast Florida coast. A big Thank You to owner Jeff for the opportunity to crew with him in moving the boat from Ft. Lauderdale to Belize. He’s sailed his other Hecla-named boats on many significant offshore singlehanded voyages & races. This week is setting up to be an amazing skills-booster for this aspiring F36 offshore skipper. Better to screw up on his boat and get pleasantly coached back to safety :)

F36 Hecla was first named Screech, a boat you see on Farrier’s website F36 page. It’s the all-white one with a cassette rudder and three aluminum-framed cabin windows.

We had a long week of prep work, unfortunately having much more of a punch list than Jeff expected, due to some pro marine services folks not getting their stuff fully completed. I flew out last Saturday night and dived in to a week of boat-builder mode again. Except boy is that different in hot humid weather. Colin, I was drenched in five minutes!

Hecla had been docked side-tied to the dark-hulled boat in this photo.

That’s the Davey Ave drawbridge on the river in FtL. It was an odd week living under a bridge! Including big iguanas hissing at us when we passed thru the homeowner’s side yard. We finally got to cast off yesterday at 3:30, transiting four drawbridges on a busy Lauderdale Saturday party afternoon. I’ll post some video once back home on WiFi. We got to the Atlantic at 5pm, hoisted the main, jib and screacher for a mellow 9kts cruise down the Miami coast. We’re anchored just off the first FL “Keys”, and I’m writing to you at sunrise. We’ve found a half dozen minor rig tuning tasks for this morning, then we point these bows for Cuba. We won’t be landing, but will pass just north of Cuba then head west towards Cancun, MX. Near there it’s a left turn south towards the divers’ hot spot reefs off Belize. Hopefully we’ll do the 700+ miles in 3.5 days and have time for exploring The Blue Hole. Then it’s on to the airport in Placencia BZ for me, and Jeff will solo his boat on a diving / kayaking / sailing vacation.

So, our good ship is loaded up with voyaging supplies. It does feel different from sailing Ravenswing in her current day-sailor mode. The skipper is a racer and so was a good sport about me trying to give away a bunch of heavy, unnecessary-to-us stuff from the boat’s prior FL coastal cruising life. Hecla and her crew are eager to speed-reach across the Gulf of Mexico this week! The weather forecast has shaped up for steady downwind trades and sunny skies. Break out the sunblock and spinnaker sheets, baby…

So there’s your teaser and now you’ll have to wait until I get back online next week. Jeanne and the boys have satellite phone access to us, but otherwise I’m so happy to unplug and get back to nature.

Signing off from south of Miami.

Find those ships!

We’ve been finishing various fiddly little wiring bits. The outside public address & foghorn speaker is plenty loud to annoy the Marina neighbors. That’s a good safety device. Perhaps even better is getting the ship-identifying AIS data from the VHF radio on to the chart plotter. I know Jim wishes we had this the night Origami sailed from Catalina to Santa Barbara!A week back four of us sailed out the Gate and up to Duxbury Reef in light wind. It was great just to have a mellow, mindless sail. But by 4pm the wind died way down for our slow cruise home. It was the first time docking in the dark, and yea, we didn’t quite catch the dock cleat on the first pass :)

That shot shows how moving the mast rotator arm forward has put the port line right over the shower vent hatch. I think adding a cheek block just inside that hatch to bend the line will be the right solve.

And that shot shows the stern lifelines holding the lifesaver ring and recovery bag. We’re liking the lifeline solution a lot.

Next up is getting our PHRF racing rating from the Bay Area Multihull Assoc. so we can enter Ravenswing in her first event. We’re looking at schedules to see what fits. And sitting here very curious to see how the ratings committee thinks we should compare with other boat models around here…

Pounding on the ocean

Don and I set out across a glassy SF Bay today, looking to learn more about the boat’s new electronics. With only a few knots of breeze we could focus on selecting navigation targets and pointing the autopilot in the right direction, given the strong ebb current and a big ocean swell coming in the Gate. (And yes, the radar works fine after that 90degree rotation last week). But out on the ocean, past the Pt Bonita lighthouse, we found some wind. We headed out to the Lightship buoy, where large ships pick up their bay pilot about ten miles outside the bridge. With apparent wind in the mid teens, a big northwest swell and a short period southerly wave train, a couple of the tacks were launch conditions! Kudos to Don for a) not freaking out when we slammed down off some waves, b) not barfing, and c) learning to drive in waves big enough to affect the wind angles on the sails. I did not test the autopilot in that sea; will need another session for that. Once we turned for home there was just enough wind for a bit of surfing. By the time I got this video rolling we were back across the SF bar and the seas had flattened out.

Jim, it was a really good confidence builder day for what’s ahead this summer. Except it was probably warmer, with a beautiful blue sky.

Got to use a new steering stick today, which worked great.

That’s a carbon 5′ model, but not the $325 one from Nacra. Instead, in cartersboat style, “ah we can make that much cheaper!”

First up, a $14 filament tube from Tap Plasticsthen a 6′ piece of tubular braided carbon from Soller Composites (easy find online) for about $10, and $13 of their tubular shrink wrap. Rough sand and alcohol clean the tube for epoxy grip, then slide on the carbon and zip tie the ends to hold it tightly in place. Make a big mess by hand messaging the epoxy in to the weave. Be very manipulative- remember my rant a few months back about properly saturating carbon cloth.

Slide on the shrink stuff and heat gun it. DON’T make my mistakes (ahem, Waltonsmith) Try with a broken heat gun then revert to a torch which burns holes in the plastic Or order a size too big so it doesn’t actually shrink quite enough. You’re supposed to simply peel away the plastic after the epoxy cures and have a fine finished shaft. Or around here, like everything else, you add an hour of sanding to your life.

The end fitting was repurposed from another stick, so that was ready to go. We then splurged on a sexy SF Giants orange baseball bat grip tape. You’ll just have to see it.

On Monday this week we traded in our too-heavy dinghy outboard for the shop owner’s personal (read really well maintained) 53lb, 9.8hp tohatsu. That’s an amazing power to weight ratio, and this is a game-changer for getting it on and off the boat, and into the car for local rides. Drew will note the very clean spray area (this is after taking out the wedge – mine did better without it but maybe because of no cav plate finds yet?)70lb Lola and I had the Takacat up to 17kts, so this feels plenty fast for Ravenswing’s excursion boat. I told Jeanne we finally had this item on the list properly sorted.

Got to race last Sunday on RickWS’ 44′ tri Round Midnight. The weather was ominous but we stayed mostly dry and kicked some ass. Rafi’s F31OneDesign looks great out there. Our boss in red, and Carlos the XO of the boat. I was very excited to finish a few seconds ahead of the new fully foiling tri. We have two of them here so far and hopefully SFBay becomes a showcase of this new tech. But this race wasn’t enough wind for them to fly away from the rest of us. (Check out the helmets!)We finished the day headed back to Rick’s Oakland dock with a close up of a huge container ship. The tugs are tucking it in between the others under the cranes.

Finally, thx to bro-in-law Joe who was working today on the Santa Cruz 50 but made time to snap Ravenswing just before the wind piped up. First time we’ve seen this perspective and we’ll look forward to action shots this summer!

Almost out of winter

It’s cold and raining again here in NorCal, but we can hear the lure of warm Mexican waters calling Ravenswing soon. Gotta get all these sea-going projects done!

The autopilot got an hour or so under sail on its second day. It was tested a little by the messy chop of a big ebb current and an out-of-balance sail plan with full main and no jib. So far, so good – this thing is making singlehanding the boat reasonable.

Note the nice straight track in the wake.

Sharp eyes will ask why the Raymarine logo on the radar is facing forward. Wouldn’t they want to advertise out to the sides? Seems the boat builder wanted the cord to exit the side of the tower, and the radar is round anyway, right? A month ago Charlie, Anton and Don wondered why the Bonita Channel buoy was on the wrong side of the radar screen. I Finally downloaded the Raymarine manual and the plug is supposed to face aft. Oops. That got rotated, and we installed the public address hailer / foghorn that day.

Today we finished a couple of very satisfying projects. First up is securing the cockpit area with stern lifelines. It’s all synthetics, and the two orange stanchions used to be the original steering connecting rod. That thing was overbuilt, and was the perfect diameter to fit the stanchion bases made years ago.

We needed just one piece of metal to anchor the lifelines at the beam/float hull joint. The stainless steel tabs that were the lower diamond wire connectors on the broken mast got a date with the drill press, cutoff wheel and grinder.

Then it was time for 8 dyneema loop splices done in place, dodging the rain.

Project 2 is a line-handling solution at the very busy cabin top winches stations. Now that the first and second mainsail reefing tacks and clews come back, there are about ten lines of each side sharing a single winch. I pondered a bank of clutches or jammers or cleats, but had fun going old-school instead. Belay-pins, but sitting in a carbon rack!It was supposed to be sexy exposed carbon weave, but the square tube shape was tricky to mold and there were various little wrinkles and gaps, so they needed fairing then paint like everything else. This all got started last June visiting Skateaway when Keith impressed on me the problems with leaving heavily loaded halyards in the teeth of rope clutches during ocean passages. So now the sails will be raised and trimmed with the help of the clutches, but once underway the lines get cleated on these new pins then the clutches eased off.

When the rain is falling we go in the cabin and pick up the electrical tools. Last time you saw the little lithium battery balancing boards. Now we have the CellLog which measures the voltage of each 400amp hour 3.5volt cell grouping.

This monitor is fed by the little red wires (yes Anton I fused each one) strapped along the battery-holder braces.We bought this fancy chartplotter system and I’m old enough to freak out that it didn’t come with a manual. The online version didn’t make it clear that the charts seem to require the microSD card to stay in the unit in order to be used. So again, to those of you who sailed with this thing, I figured out today we DID have the detailed charts in there. Just needed to switch the viewing source. I think we’ll step up to the Navionics charts that we’ve come to really like on the iPad/phone.

So, Mexico is on the mind because Jim is sailing the Banderas Bay Regatta today, and I had a great recon trip last week to visit his Puerto Vallarta house and check out where we intend to sail the boat about 11 months from now. Here’s the view from their front patio. We visited all the primary guest marinas, and I’m leaning towards the vibe at LaCruz / Punta Mita. There’s also a very good free anchorage with easy town access. Ravenswing got ‘cleared’ to enter the MexOrc races next March. Hopefully in a different class from the MOD70 tris!We even made time to visit the embroidery shop, and they did a great job translating the boat’s graphics to crew-wear.

OK, we can see the finish line in Mexico, but we’re going to have a great spring here…

RickH, if you’re home next week let’s get out the Gate late in the week. Anyone else wanting to join, give me a holler.

Pelagic Magic

Yea! Got to drive the boat back in to the harbor by pushbutton today. That means the Pelagic Autopilot is working.

Let’s pick up the bracket build from last week. The triangle gets its center panel. Then it’s down to the boat for a trial fit.

Another couple of days for epoxy curing to bond in the brass carrier bushing and some fairing work, and today it was ready for install.

Yes, those holes in the deck near the bottom of the bracket are from the first bracket attempt. They’ve been epoxy-putty filled but can’t get repainted until the weather warms up.

Today was actually the second try using it; the process lasted just a few minutes the first time when the vertical tube bracket proved unworthy. But on that day the controls seemed really screwed up, and the problems repeated today. The machine seemed to have port and starboard reversed, despite all attempts to run the compass orientation routine. A quick phone/web search got a number and in just a few minutes I luckily caught the inventor who diagnosed the issue as reversed polarity – just switch the power wires to the drive motor. With no traffic and light wind in the Richmond Channel, I hopped to the swimsteps with screwdrivers, and five minutes later fired it back up to perfect functioning. The video clip here is flat water and only a light breeze, so the results were perhaps easy to get. It’ll be great to really go test this thing with full sails and some nasty bay chop.

For the Presidents Day holiday we pumped up the Takacat in Sausalito for some zooming around. Found F27 Papillon on her way back in from the Potato Patch, looking good. Drew had his 10yr old son and an Opti sailing friend driving the FBoat. LOVE to see the magic being passed along to the next gen. :)

A few of you have been to our house in Novato. Who knew we got lake front property? The hi volume rain storms have created this across the street…

It’s flooded Hwy37, closing it westbound for five days now. I write to you tonight listening to the traffic of a four lane highway now diverted right by our bedroom. This sucks. Maybe I should just get up and start building a boat dock by the full moon.

Smash that epoxy in there

We’ll get on the soap box for a moment to fellow carbon fiber amateur builders… if you haven’t heard this already, you may not be getting a proper epoxy wet-out through your carbon fabric. This is really a manual-force thing. But wait, let’s go back a step and tell you that the nice little autopilot bracket didn’t work. The windsurf-mast-origin stick was good but I didn’t think the physics through. Feeling kind of dumb for doing all that fairing and paint on the part before testing functionality – duh! There is a lot more lateral force coming from the tiller through the pilot ram, and immediately upon use the base was deflecting just enough to prove this wasn’t a good idea to use a vertical pole bolted to the swim step box. Plus, at the tiller end, the little steel pin wasn’t fitting into the tiller properly due to the horizontal autopilot vs the angled -up tiller. So we need a new design to handle much stronger forces.

At the tiller, we’re making this very strong but little part to carry the steel pin of the autopilot. That’s a fiberglass tube bedded in to an offcut scrap of an earlier project. In those photos the inside of the tube has no reinforcements yet holding it in place.

Now back to the soap box. This is a tiny little carbon job. We chose three layers of lightweight 6oz uni carbon. Here it is being wet out on the table, just before placement on the part. there’s a temporary piece of plastic above and below this fabric, and I’m literally mashing the resin down into the three layers of fabric. Load up your spatula and gloves, and really press the resin through the carbon. On bigger projects we put it in a bag, place on the ground and walk on it. If you don’t ensure this extreme of resin penetration in your wet layups, you’ll likely find disappointingly dry fibers when you cut in to a sample job. That’s not a strong composite.

Soap box over for today.

After laying down the wet fabric, the peel ply and breather got tightly wrapped to press the fabric in place.

Now for the autopilot base end, the new idea is to transfer the lateral loading directly to the boat hull. This shape, mocked up in cardboard Sunday after a great solo sail, will make a platform for the autopilot ram base. Here we go making the wood form, applying four layers of 16oz uni fabric wrapped all the way around and 2″ overlap tabbed. Took it to the boat this afternoon and it fits well. Tomorrow it’ll get a stiffening panel to fill the interior of the triangle.

Big thanks to Charlie, Anton and Don for following orders of no toilet usage today until we sea-tested the new gravity-drain holding tank. The toilet has passed only sea water through since the reinstall, so there was no law broken by Alcatraz today, up at about 7knots of hull speed, opening the valves. The tank emptied just as planned. Success, finally, on the sewage front! The head was open for business shortly thereafter. We found a little breeze a couple miles out past the Golden Gate, and ignored the clock enough to be putting on sail covers in the dark. Got to show off the deck lights to the boys.

For the folks with boats laid up for the winter, here’s a taste of F- boating on a cool Feb afternoon.

The sea state was mellow today. Two days ago I went out solo for the first time outside the Gate, and without autopilot (see above :). Got my money’s worth that day with ocean chop and apparent wind in to the mid 20s. Ravenswing was charging upwind in seas that used to hobble F27 Origami. The F36 is an order of magnitude bigger, so that in ‘medium’ conditions outside SF the 9k lbs, 40′ boat maintains a steady speed, vs the slowed by waves feel of the 3.5k, 27′ model. It’s almost time for Ravenswing to take a Farrallones trip and really test this out.