It’s dark out there!

Captain Rick Holway is making sure the Carters have enough sailing miles before launching the new boat. He’s a veteran of the singlehanded sailing society’s solo Long Pacific races, so I pay close attention to his coaching. We picked a no-moon phase for an overnight sail in the gulf of the Farrallones last night.

Outbound at dusk we were among 50+ salmon boats – the prospect of navigating thru that fleet then the northbound shipping lane in pitch black was daunting. So we headed east amongst the unmarked but rather boat-crushing rocks of the middle and north Farrallons.

Zoom in to the next photo and see the separate rocks in the distance – the chain extends for many miles north, with gaps plenty wide enough to pass between.

Throw in an inbound marine layer and by midnight the lack of stars and moon made the sea and sky one black blob. Made me think hard (between 1-4am) about being visually impaired and relying on autopilot vs windvane self steering and how they are mounted.
Ian Jones wrote in suggesting a wider stern tower for solar panels too.

Good idea but it’s getting crowded up there and I don’t want the windage of panels that high – we’ll put those on top of the dodger and out on the beams. I need to widen the tower a bit and figure out how exactly to connect a tiller pilot that can control the new rudder’s trim tab, overriding the vane when the tiller pilot is connected. That’ll be for motoring and when steering to the compass heading is critical (as opposed to optimizing for wind angle with the vane system). And this 24 hour sail came just in time before building the tower legs Tuesday to make it taller and get that radar up well above the boom.

After going about 40 miles out, we got back to SE Farrallon in the early morning for Rick to spot four Albatross. Kind of a rare sighting there, and a nice little Puffin touched down near us to cap the day.



Is it an arch or a tower?

Looks like we have a basic shape in mind for the structure over the stern of the boat, even if we don’t know exactly what to call it. The tasks for this tower are 1. Place the wind vane self steering gear well up in to the airflow behind the mainsail, 2. Mount the radar dome, 3.mount the GPS antenna, 4. Provide the rearmost anchor point for the cockpit shade Bimini, 5. Hold a backup VHF antenna in a pinch. It has to be wide enough for the tiller to swing a proper arc, but can also be a limiter for keeping the rudder from slamming broadside out of control. We also want it to be a sturdy handhold for climbing those steps to/from the stern.

So this is a cardboard mockup with legs of about four feet tall, raked back for looks but also to center the top platform where it best suits the wind vane. The width has been determined by the (arbitrary) placement of the previously made stairs, and the general idea for this thing has been in mind since first watching the Volvo Ocean Race boats a few years ago, with the little towers on their sterns to mount all the comms gear.



And no, the real tiller won’t look anything like this ugly grey PVC pipe – that just did the tiller angle measuring role.
One wrinkle in the construction is that this tower will have to be remove able for the road trucking. So I think we’ll build 18-24 inch permanent stubs up from the deck, then sleeve the rest of the legs down over the stubs, with threaded rod inside to bolt the tower in from the aft cabin. Also need to figure out an internal conduit to easily hide all the wires from tower-mounted gear.

If anyone has any warnings, words of advice on stern towers, or info on the minimum suitable height above deck we can run the radar dome, please comment.

Engine bracket, part 2

We advanced this project through the structural laminations and it came out nice and strong. The engine mounted up just fine, and titled up to the sailing position very well.




Once the motor was in place, Dad and I built a triangular wave-piercing shield for the motor leg, with the idea of protecting the vulnerable looking exposed transmission linkage (that you see 2/3 down the leg of almost all Japanese small & mid size outboards).

The diagonally cut slot lines up with the pull starter cord of the engine. I suppose it could actually be done from a launched dinghy but not very realistic to pull start this thing from on deck. We’ll stick a rubber plug in there until it ever/never is needed.
The final step was rigging the engine controls and a conduit tube from the cockpit through a corner of the aft cabin, the ceiling of the engine(less) room, through the emergency gear locker and out through the hull, forward of the beam far enough to make a gradual right hand turn to meet the motor. I like the controls here, in between the feet of the driver and not asking passengers to move their legs…

Now follow the conduit tube, made of Semi-flexible 1.5″ PVC “spa pipe”, from that corner by the Suzuki control box:




The black ‘Y’ inside the emergency gear locker will allow for a split in the rigging tunnel, with the gas line and battery wires heading forward in to the engine/equipment room and the shifter/throttle cables plus key start/electronics wires passing through to the cockpit. Outside the hull, there’s just enough flex in the white pipe to allow for the swinging of the whole engine bracket.
While that big white pipe is kind of ugly, it’ll be somewhat out of sight under the net and beam. Plus it will be a useful grab bar when approaching the grocery-loading chores thru the escape hatch from the dinghy.
Overall we’re very satisfied with how this all came out, especially since it’s a custom job taking inputs from various minds and boats. Thanks again Keith!


And today we got our heads around how to build the 8′ long bow sprit in carbon, instead of the sticker shock of “a grand” just to buy the carbon tube premade. Turns out it all starts with the concept of forming the new tube inside a mold pipe that has been split lengthwise, and blowing up a balloon bag from the inside once the materials are laid up in there and the pipe halves strapped together with clamps. This should be another interesting caper! Stay tuned for that one and meanwhile we’ll get back to the windshield tomorrow, making patterns for the acrylic window panels.

The shop closed at 3 today, just in time to get to the docks at Vallejo to crew for Charlie aboard F27 Tri Chi. It was like homecoming, as the boat was built just 2 months before Origami. We pounded thru BIG chop in San Pablo Bay, sailing fast to a nice 2nd place finish. Next time the chute goes up and the boat can win Vallejo beer cans! Nice driving Charlie :)

Engine mounting bracket underway

The wood mockup for sizing and positioning the engine has been measured and translated to structural parts. Everything is very light, except the solid hardwood actual “transom” piece cut from an old butcher block table. Sturdy and zero dollars – nice.

Here you can see the basic shape; the bracket makes an inset box shape to keep the motor as far forward as possible under the beam.

Getting the hinges on top securely attached seems a pretty big deal – do this wrong and the motor could fall in to the sea. So we’re doing lots of reinforcements underneath the foam triangle shaped cap.


This whole box shape is the structural part holding the motor. After it’s trial mounted later this week, we’ll add a wave-piercer / motor leg protector based on ideas from Keith Burrage’s lovely Skateaway tri back east. We all need to get a ride on that ship – the photos look fantastic!

The windshield frames are finally done and will get measured for the window inserts tomorrow. And the lazarette opening with a drip rail system went in today. More photos coming as those misc projects get finished. I was working on that main cabin skylight hatch base this afternoon when the Robin Williams news came over the radio. Seems like just a bit ago that Drew and I waved hello to him over burritos in Sausalito – so sad his torments ended a talented life at 63. Perhaps more sailing could have been a therapy :(