Look Ma, no hands!

As kids in Sonoma, we’d try riding bikes with no hands on the bars all the way down Denmark street. It helped if the tires were pumped up firm and your core was tuned up (from pulling weeds). Fast forward a few decades, and Charlie’s demonstrating what we finally got right with the rudder balancing! We’ll do some by-millimeters shim adjustments on the water this weekend to bring back just a touch of weather helm, then take the cassette home one more time for bonding in the new part. Phew.

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Also in that photo note the radar is missing. The stern tower is working out great, but the radar was too low. Joe the electronics guy immediately scoffed, noting the radar beams that would hit us in the cockpit. So it’s getting a 4′ extension pole made from VA Bob’s windsurfer mast offcut he kindly sent over. img_3870

That’s the top plate, sitting on the table a few evenings back. Tonight we bonded on the lower disk that will bolt on the tower where the radar used to mount. The top plate has an extra lip on the front to mount a couple of LED deck lights.

The jib deck bag got it’s final sewing job; recall that it didn’t quite button up around the forestay because someone (the builder) didn’t allow for enough sail bulk up there. So it got these earflap looking things:

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and now it’s fine. We’re happy with the open mesh bottom, especially now that it’s been raining and this is free to drain.

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Electricity supply in the boat is still the tiny lawnmower battery, but we’ve finally called-the-ball to begin the Lithium Iron Phosphate battery pack build. The order went to EVtv.com, an electric-car conversion company in MO. This topic is extensive, and a lot of people are interested in just this, so we’ll do some dedicated posts coming up on the battery system install. For now, it’s the physical challenge of mounting the 16 cells in a spot that was originally built for just a couple of car batteries. This tray mold was done based on dimensions provided by the battery dealer, before the crate arrived.

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And yesterday just before closing time, UPS Freight called to say our crate had arrived at their dock. Y’all can guess what Greg got for Christmas this year!

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Took two of these blue cells and the tray to the boat last night, and it’s not going to fit standing up as planned – just not enough clearance on top for the wiring. But it’ll work with the tray tilted back about 40 degrees, with the battery back edges resting against the curve of the hull. So tonight was also some surgery to trim away the front of the tray and add height to the back side for this new mounting configuration. That’s enough to whet your appetite on LiFePo4…

Now, back to that sail the other day with Charlie smiling. After five months in the water, I FINALLY got an actual performance sail-tuning, get to know the rig day! Carlos was aboard, and it was a joy to get F27 Papillon captain Drew Scott out for the first time. Drew is a talented racing sailor with an intense eye for sail trim, and I really needed to get him aboard to help assess this new boat, new mast, new sails combo. we’re all in love with this big, powerful, easily adjusted main (and so far the Leneman Vee mainsheet / no traveler hardware ROCKS!)  The Hydranet fabric (spectra & dacron weave) is holding shape like a fixed wing.

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The jib had been sailed reefed through the summer and fall because of high winds and the mast & steering issues we were sorting out. So here was it’s first real use day. We’ll start with Inspector Scott checking things out.

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The sail appears to be cut to allow for a big full belly in light winds.

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I’m concerned the transverse mounted cars aren’t far enough aft for this size sail. Here are the light wind shots (around 5 kts as we were leaving the Richmond breakwater area)

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In the third photo, as we start to point higher, the sail is rubbing on the upper diamond wire. A half hour later we’re out in the main bay, with wind up in the 10-12kt range.

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The headstay tension is light and it’s bending off to leeward, which helped keep the sail off the diamond wire, but that’s not a real solution. The second shot shows the effect of the jib car placement – the sail is not balanced top to bottom in terms of airflow. So we tried various temporary sheeting angles to get the sail drawing equally at each set of telltales. img_3866img_3867 In retrospect, I’ve realized there’s more overlap of the mast with this sail than I had wanted, and we have to solve for the diamond wire interference. Hopefully we’ll be able to solve this with local support, rather than the jib having to travel cross country again. Stay tuned.

CALL FOR CREW = local folks, would you like to sail Ravenswing this Sunday?  Weather forecast is down to 20% chance of rain, and 10kts of wind from the west. We’ll aim for a late morning start. Please call, text or reply back here if interested. 707.486.3954

You wanna be like this guy. He knows the drill :)

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Different paths to death

A month or so back we had the great fortune of meeting Chinese pro sailor Guo Chuan as he scrambled to prepare the massive ocean race tri QingdaoChina for a solo record attempt SF to China. The big orange boat was guest docked at our marina, so Vanessa, Joe and I got to step aboard and look about. Guo and crew needed some the next day with sail handling help, so Drew and his son were able to spend part of the day getting to know this brave, bold and humble man and the amazing boat he pilots.

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The weather window opened, he left the Golden Gate with a head of steam, passed Hawaii on a better pace than the fully crewed Volvo 70 Maserati, and then went silent. You can read the full story online, but it seems there was trouble with a huge headsail and he was thrown from the boat. They found the severed end of his lifejacket tether attached to the boat. A tragic death and our hearts ache for his lovely wife we met briefly on the dock. Guo was the same age as me, and dies a hero and inspiration for achieving his dreams.

Or, you live your life to its full chronological measure. This is Jeanne’s pop, Dan, during his brief tenure in his new home (moved in to our house) this month:img_3778

Dan is the most stoic and strong-willed man in my life. As his eyesight diminished, he reluctantly moved from his San Jose house of 40+ years to a retirement center apartment near us. He kept up the morning hour long walks, with a white tip cane, to the amazement of the staff. We brought him over the boat shop a few times, and the scope of that ‘big whale in the room’ entertained him. We regret he wasn’t quite well enough for a boat ride after the launch, and now it will be left undone. 89 years of Bay Area living, military tours in the Pacific and Europe, 36 years at PG&E, one of 8 siblings in a strong family of Spanish immigrants (three OLDER siblings live on!), husband to Mary for 50+ years, and most thankfully father to two amazing kids. Dan died here at home last Sunday, and our hearts are broken. A tribute to his stubbornness – Jeanne, Leslie, Griffin and I took Ravenswing out Wednesday afternoon for a head-clearing short sail. Bah-humbug, as we cleared the breakwater the wind shut down and we drifted around in the sunshine. At least the boat proved to move very well in the tiniest of breeze – that was a nice first proof point. Had to laugh; it wasn’t time yet in Dan’s eyes for an enjoyable sail. But it was just right anyway. We miss you Pop!!!

Bottom line, these gentlemen remind me we should all live the lives we aspire to. Let’s not waste our moments together, nor squander our intriguing solo pursuits. There are infinite “ways to go”, but let’s depart at peace with what we’ve accomplished or experienced.

Doing hospice nursing work at home was challenging. For mental relief during those two weeks I would step out to the attached garage (often with the baby-monitor to Dan’s room) and tackle making the sail covers. The main’s is 17′ long, and we quickly learned why sail and canvas makers have huge clean floors or massive worktables. The project became a dance of rolling trailing edges of patterns and fabric. We bought the instruction book from Sailrite, and it proved a very good step-by-step. We were quoted about a thousand bucks for the main cover and a 12′ deck-bag for the jib. Spent about $200 instead on the book, fabric, thread and fasteners. We won’t write out the details here, just some photos. But email or comment if you have questions.

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The mainsail cover fit as-advertised. Although Keith with appreciate that this still-new Hydranet sail is so stiff that it’s rather unforgiving for being folded down tight under the cover. Time should make that easier.  img_3817

(yea, we still haven’t bonded the dodger windows in… too much else going on!)

The jib bag is a trial-and-error job. It proved difficult as a beginner to measure the unwieldy lump gathered at the forestay, and of course it was raining when Charlie and I did the trial fit. img_3811Got the overall length right, but the girth around the first yard is tricky. Let’s just say there will be another extension panel added this weekend. Notice the netting along the bottom. We closed the underside 10″ width of the bag with leftovers from the main nets; the idea is to let the sail breathe while in the bag. Also, we’ll use the halyard to keep it up off the deck. img_3813

With the sewing machine set up, we’re hitting the odds and ends too. Thanks to RickWS for this idea – the boom and main are so much bigger on these boats, and we can’t get arms around them. So your sail ties need weight on the end to throw them over and catch underneath. Sewed some rings on, just like what I saw on Rick’s Round Midnight. Works great!img_3814

OK, I said there wasn’t wind to test the new rudder angle, but we did experience how light and responsive the direct-tiller approach is. At first it was startling how easily the rudder turns, but I think it’s all in keeping with the “it sails like a big dinghy” sport-boat thing. The tiller ended up at 8′ long, and although the sweep for tight turns goes across the whole aft cabin, it’s quite manageable and feels just like the aggressive tiller throw needed to tack the F27. Here’s the finish of the Frankenstein ‘grafting’ of old to new:img_3801img_3802img_3816The tabs sticking up are a catchment for the Forespar steering extension handle that Jim gifted to the boat. It swings around and stows very securely back here. The tiller shape and length turned out just right, but it had a bit too much vertical flex. So today it’s getting a bit of reinforcement, especially where it makes the turn down from the cassette angle. img_3818

Good rainy day work.

Next up you’ll be reading about electricity storage. We’ve chosen the source for the Lithium Iron Phosphate cells, tested a cardboard shape mockup to make sure the 16 cells will fit as intended, and we’re reaching for the credit card…  stay tuned.

Steering redo

Last time we saw the wooden tiller mockup strapped to the boat. This weekend was time to make the tiller stub attachment for the rudder cassette. It’s 2.5″ thick, so first up was five layers of 1/2″ foam. 

It’s all carbon; an inner wrap of 12oz double bias, then four layers of 15oz unit on the sides, and last a other wrap of the db. The skinny end gets a 3rd db wrap – that’s where the actually tiller bears on it. Anton and Charlie saw how the previous one cracked on the little “strap” at the bottom end, so for this we added a U of 30ozs uni 1.5″ wide where the tiller will apply its downforce if someone falls on it (or just presses down too damn hard)



Quick side note – we bought some of the red strip Dacron peel ply that I see other builders using. It held up much better than the Econoply J nylon; took a lot more pulling to get it off but it didn’t tear apart into aggravating little pieces. Should have tried this stuff four years ago!

Next was making a paper pattern around the cassette for the big scoop cut, then trimming for the tiller and removing the foam core where the tiller bolts in. 


That hole in the top becomes obvious on the next photos 


On Sunday afternoon the cassette went back on the boat and a proper wood mockup was made up. Tonight in between Trick-or-Treaters we transferred that wood plan to foam core, and tomorrow night we’ll vac bag a layer of leftover 12ozDB from the tiller stub. 

Since the original tiller got a bunch of work to get the hand-feel  just right, and the extension stick mounted, we chopped off the good 18″ end to graft that to the new tiller. The shapes are different but a little creative glue gunning and foam shaping should make for a decent looking transition. 

So far, so good on this project. Should be done and ready for sailing this weekend. 

It took 25 men…

Thanks for your patience everyone while things went quiet over here. Ravenswing has made various short daysails but we’ve had a lot of business and family commitments this fall. In mid September we convinced Charlie to tow his F27 TriChi to theSummer Splash multihull gathering in Southern Cal. After racing to Catalina, the skipper gets to anchor in a whole fleet of fast-movers.

It was a great weekend – thanks again Charlie and Jim. It was bittersweet to NOT have that be Ravenswing’s first coastal trip, but the boat was not at all ready for ocean work. In Marina Del Rey, walking thru the trailer yard Jim said, “hey, there’s a little MacGregor powersailer like yours in the ’90s”. I got a few steps closer, and dang if it wasn’t our own time capsule! Kind of sad that it’s sitting there neglected, but also a trip to see it exactly as we sold it 20 years ago. Weird. 

From LA it was ‘more west’ … at the Hong Kong Maritime Museum I was reading about the first Chinese junk that sailed to England in the 1840’s. 

And we thought Ravenswing has some heavy helm issues – imagine their nights at sea:

We don’t know how far sailing will take us, but the Hong Kong Yacht Club would not be a terrible stopover. 

Finally after 12 days in Asia humbled by the scope of port automation projects like this in Quingdao

attention came back to the boat. Thinking more about the heavy-effort steering, we realized that in building the rudder cassette we didn’t compare the F39 plans’ for gudgeon height above the water to our custom F36 stretched stern. The result is not enough forward rake ahead of the pivot point, so all the water force is transmitted through the tiller. See the red line drawn on the rudder here – that’s how much surface area in the water should be ahead of the pivot.

Here the straightedge shows how much we actually created (the left edge)

So now we will make a permanent shim inside the cassette that tilts the rudder to achieve this

Good news for the folks who’ve helped on this – there’s enough room in the cassette to make the needed insert, and hopefully not cut in to the amazingly strong and complex carbon work. 

The other major change is to walk away from the linkage & pivot steering system. We reported 2+ years ago about not believing a simple straight tiller to the rudder would work.  But we haven’t been totally happy with the gear, and decided to mock up a simple tiller approach:

Charlie and I strapped this junk in place and pulled off the dock to find out if the tiller can swing far enough side to side between the tower legs. Yea! The boat can still spin in its length and is sufficiently agile at various engine / hulll speeds. The existing gear actually lets the rudder turn too far, causing stalls or being a brake. We’ll set up the new tiller for soft landings on the tower legs to safely limit the rudder travel. That’s the new theory anyway. 

A question for the engineers / experienced out there- what shape will make the strongest tiller that is narrow side to side ?  We want the maximum distance throw up against the tower, so a skinny tiller is important. Charlie’s suggested some type of carbon I-beam configuration. Square tube? Round tube? What do you think?

Out the Gate

Payday. Sunday. The countless hours just got cashed in; Ravenswing stuck her nose out the Golden Gate today, got a breath of ocean air, and headed for the Pacific.img_1383Jim is here from Oregon, getting some days really sailing the boat. We keep this guy bundled up ’cause he drives better warm and toasty.

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That’s the Point Bonita lighthouse over Jim’s head, meaning Ravenswing had exited San Francisco Bay and headed up the Pacific coast to Duxbury Reef (where we found many salmon fishing boats today).img_3473

img_1394West Virginia Bob is all smiles being back on the Pacific after a many year hiatus. We are so proud of what Bob has accomplished with his Sewell Mountain Sailing program, introducing rural folks in the mountain east to sailing. Check out their GREAT work at http://www.smsawv.org

Before we left the dock in Richmond today, the windshield frame got installed. I didn’t want to miss out on sailing by actually installing the windows, so we were the nitwits with “windows so clean they look invisible”.  Thank you Charlie for the glamour shots!

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Here’s the Golden Gate Bridge from the ocean – we hope to give more of you out there a ride to see this vantage point.

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Yesterday we re-installed the steering gear with a better turntable bearing, 18″ chopped off the tiller for cockpit clearance, and most importantly Jim’s gift of a fantastic Forespar steering stick (tiller extension) – you can make it out as the white rod with black handle here:img_1388

We’re going to caulk the windshield frame (removable) to the permanent base, and do that hopefully tomorrow before setting the acrylic windows. The access, particularly around the inside, is great before the windows go in. You can also see in these shots that the VHF antenna got mounted next to the anchor and steaming lights pole.

Yesterday gave Jim, Bob and Anton a taste of how the big Fboat can throw plenty of water at the crew just like her 24/25/27/31 foot sister designs. We went blast reaching in the central bay with reefed main and jib hitting 16 knots. Despite one attempt at canting the rudder more forward the helm is still too heavy, so throttling back seems like the wise way to play it right now. The shims needed inside the rudder cassette are a little more involved than we first hoped; it seems something didn’t translate right applying the F39 gudgeons / cassette angle plans to the 39′ stretched F36 hull, so experimentation is needed now to get the helm balance right.

The day wrapped up with a chance encounter with F31R Ma’s Rover by the SF Ferry Building, as owner Mark sailed home solo after dropping race crew in the city. Farrier’s website says an F36 should keep pace with an F31 in normal sailing, and go faster in rougher weather/seas (more mass?). But our reefed F36 with 5 cautious crew is no match for a Race2Alaska hardened skipper on his very fast 31R!  It was an interesting run back across the Alacatraz – to – Angel Islands slot where Ravenswing set a new ‘personal best’ at 16kts, with more in the tank and not feeling over pressed. Watching Mark’s boat accelerate when he wanted too has me eager to keep stretching this boat.

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She likes her boat 

That’s the co-owner in the purple hat, enjoying her first sail on her new ship. And how nice to share the day with her pal Leslie!

As a student sailor, Jeanne asked for a job aboard but I countered with asking her to get a feel for the boat on all points of sail without worrying about techniques or traffic. Charlie came to sail (already the Ravenswing veteran co-driver) and RickW sailed aboard for his first time. 

The Marin waters provided ideal sailing today – flat seas, lots of boats to catch, breeze to charge upwind at 9kts, and full sunshine. With lots of hands aboard, the owners got to relax and check out various places to sit. Jeanne is the first to sail from the aft swim steps, and it’s a great little spot. With the jib reefed, the clew is up high yielding lots of comfortable foredeck. Compare last week’s photo with this and see we got the excess sail properly tied and zipped in to its cover. 

Full main and reefed jib is very comfortable with apparent wind in the teens. So much to learn about trimming this mainsail; here it’s getting better but you’ll see we couldn’t get halyard tension:

If you can zoom in to the top you’ll see SOMEone attached the 2:1 block for the halyard to the wrong spot on the fancy Skateaway Design headboard, so we lost 5″ of upward travel. Fixed that back at the dock afterwards – the day was too nice to stop, douse the sail and redo it underway :)

As we headed for Sausalito I wrestled my tiller away from the guys and spiced things up with a full charge up the channel, way above the motoring speed limit, dodging all forms of watercraft. The crew anxiously called out every boat and paddle board as if I was a blind man, but we kept on to go get a view of Tom Siebel’s Mod70 tri Orion, Sig45 open deck luxury racing cat, and huge Protector with four 300hp outboards. Wow does that guy put millions in to the sailing habit. 

So while the super rich have staff to keep their boats expertly tuned, the mere mortals have to solve their own heavy weather helm. This morning we installed the shims on the daggerboard head. Definitely tightened the board in the case, but it didn’t help the rounding up. So now it’s on to making rudder changes. Rick is concerned the trim tab may be to blame, and we’ll get the original rudder painted this week to try on Labor Day. We’ll make a new spacer to push the top of the rudder aft and the bottom forward; the axis point may be wrong. Still a worry to solve this nagging issue. 

To cap the day we headed north towards San Quentin in a breeze that did some gusting off the Marin shore. Rick was driving, with his handheld GPS as a speedometer. It’s like a drug, you just want more knots… The water was fairly flat so we cracked off to a reach and hit the gas pedal a bit. 14kts was pretty easy. That’s her new ‘personal best’, and only a reefed jib and baggy main luff

But the best part of the speed run was Jeanne in the cabin enjoying the excitement from a comfortable window-side couch; we’ve come a long way from scary wet rides on the F27. 

Tinkerers, let’s hear your thoughts on the noisy dagger. It’s shimmed and it got that slanted trailing edge a few weeks ago. At 14kts it makes a bloody racket. How are we going to quiet this down (without hiring MOD70 Orion’s shore team)?

A sailboat on a day like this in a place like this is hard to beat.  Leslie’s getting a big view of the Oakland / SF bridge; it’s your turn readers, just drop us a line. 

Reaching for home

We’ve been asked why no posts lately; it’s just a busy August so far with some out of town volunteer work, college back to school, and numerous nights aboard the boat from whence WordPress won’t publish photos (anyone know WordPress well enough?)  The boat has sailed twice since the mast spreaders fix – two nice daysails. We’ll start you with a little Saturday late afternoon reach to Richmond – 

A big rigging question was peoples’ skepticism on our Vee mainsheet setup. See the red mainsheet behind DonK driving the boat yesterday. 

That’s one line, and each bitter end leads to a winch. Note how the final leg of the left-hand block set feeds the line over to the right-hand side. We’re learning how and when to pull that crossover line to travel the boom windward/leeward. You can do it by hand under lighter sheet loads. But 3 of the 4 sailing days so far have been 20+ knots breeze; for that trimming the windward winch is traveling the boom across the boat and sheeting the leeward winch pulls the boom down (mainsheet tension). The big Andersen ribbed winches hold the mainsheet very well, so if we’re wanting to sail on the edge and have a safety fast “blow the main!” I think two people could each hold an end with four winch wraps and no self-tailer grab. So far I’m really happy with this no-traveler deck arrangement. 

Next we want to figure out the reefing full batten jib. Here it is with the reef put in, but all the excess sail not gathered. It’s very high-clewed, forming a steep diagonal line foot of the sail. 

While it looks easy in the photo to just roll that stuff up, it’s very large and the spectra sailcloth is very stiff (a good thing!). Doing this at sea in deteriorating weather will be a nasty job to be avoided – take the reef way before things get sloppy out there. The horizontal zipper in the photo accepts a cover for the rolled/ folded excess sail when reefed. We’re very much inviting curious, patient sailors out over the next month to trial all these sailing control tweaks. 

Finish work continues. Companionway doors finally replaced the plywood version. 

Coco models the aft cabin entry while Lola’s snout points out the engine controls. 

Note the aft cabin hatch had no exterior hardware – we’re securing it from the inside instead with two barrel bolts

Last week we got our only mellow sail so far. Charlie, Leslie, Griffin and I headed up Racoon Straits for Sausalito. The boat glides upwind in the flatter water and we picked off every 40′ boat we could find. So fun to crawl up to their tails and wave. There was wind out past the Marin shore, but the skipper gybed the boat for home instead – just really wanted ONE zero stress casual sail after five years of F36 angst. I want more days like this. 

Yesterday was Ravenswing’s first “cruise”. Destination McCovey Cove, crew was the business owners from the shops surrounding our build shed of 2012-2016. 
Six aboard, BBQ rocked the 3-day marinade, Marcus’ air chair was a hit, we saw Denard Span’s home run actually splash (might go the rest of life and not be able to see that again – pretty great for lifelong Giants fans on deck). The best was flying the actual World Series 2014 Championship flag that was previously at city hall. Look at the size of our orange flag compared to the boats – it got the attention of the cameras, and thus a screen-shot of the tv broadcast

(Yea, the guy on the GrandBanks anchored way too close which was a problem when we swung in the wind). This gear worked well, and what a joy to push a button!

What we won’t show you was the steep learning curve, including anchor chain-to-rope-rode shackle that can’t go thru windlass (duh!), big billows of excess mainsail when reefing because someone hasn’t installed reefing gather lines, dragging anchor because we didn’t back down on it the first time, jammed up mainsail douse because we weren’t head to wind, and no dishwashing water because the same person who didn’t check the gas tank when we left Napa didn’t check the water tanks Saturday morn. All humble pie, and nothing damaging. 

Finally tonight a nod to Mrs. Carter’s vintage eye. Driving to the ballgame on a cold summer morning sporting a 30+ year old, like new Norwegian float coat in just the right colors. Where does she find this stuff? And at my kind of prices no less. Love ya

Nearby readers, let’s go sailing next weekend. Let me know which day works for you!