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.

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!

NOT 1,000 square feet

Some of you were pretty surprised we got the shop emptied and turned over that quickly. The bad news is “all that stuff gotta go somewhere!” Ugh, don’t look around our small lot at home for a while please. We still have to finish making boat parts, mostly finish sanding, priming and painting. Here’s the new paint shed (code name for an old bug tent now on the back patio under our messy big trees)

The big work table and the large power tools get half the garage (miraculously the car is in fact parking inside now). That’s half the DeWitt Dinghy in the top of the frame – fun little 8′ solo boat!

And all the supplies and small tools go in the 8×6′ tin shed, which got a massive shelving system added on July 3. Still shoehorning stuff in.  

Back at Charlie’s dock this afternoon we removed the stern tower and fished 8 cables through. Anyone building something like this, please note to lay in messenger lines BEFORE sealing up a clamshell design, and make continuous internal conduits with gentle exit bends. My sporty exterior look required much contortion with wire fish tapes and bent fingers. Jim is down from Oregon right now and brought all his carpentry skills to bear on this one. The wired tower slide home and the guys bolted down the feet from the aft cabin while I stood out on the swim platform relaxing with a cigarette (just kidding Mom) Tomorrow is supply plumbing (drains and tankage are done), and finishing the reefing system before hopefully a full daysail on Sunday.  Perhaps we’ll get most of the tower electronics installed too. 


Enjoy the weekend!

Argh, wordpress “upgrade”

Sorry about recent typos, out of order photos and cut-off posts. This new version of WordPress has some nasty flaws in use-ability. 
Anyway, the steering gear replacement construction is done and now it’s fair & paint. This wide (4″+) turn-table bearing spreads the load out well. Plus we added at 3/4″ bolt underneath to help keep the whole thing in column. 
And now we’re official, courtesy of the USCoastGuard. Ravenswing got her number today so we’ll get busy making an ID plate / board to mount near the chart table. That was quick paperwork turning by the govt!

We’re planning the boat’s first sail for this Saturday in Napa. We have six people saying they want on – can take a few more, so contact me if you want to join the inaugural crew. Can you say EXCITED?

Gone Fishing

Some of you are thinking we’ve gone a bit nuts for not yet sailing Ravenswing. Believe me, it’s not for lack of desire. There’s just a lot to do first. Such as… It wouldn’t be safe on a windy SFBay day to hoist the jib on that skinny bow with no nets or pulpit. This weekend we got the bow nets built and installed. This whole project turned out really well. Starts with dyneema fishing net from net-Sys.com up in the Port Townsend, WA area (also in AK). They sell it by the pound from a ten foot wide roll. Our 30’x10′ order was about $1,900 delivered. An F31 might use about $1,500 worth. That and twenty or so labor hours gets you the same nets as the Oracle Amerca’s Cup boats. (Yep, from the same people). Here’s the stuff:


We found step one is to transfer the measurements to the ground with nails/screws/pegs every foot along the outline. We subtracted two inches from each side to give lacing-to-boat room. 

The netting is cut with a hot knife. Get a good one for this, and heed the 15second current flow warning.   We subtracted the two inches all around but added back one row of squares/diamonds for capturing a bolt rope. Roll over that single row edge, like up the pattern, and weave the bolt through the net. 

(On the bows you don’t subtract that two inches along the diagonal run from main hull to beam). Start by tightening the bow to float cable 

Next we positioned the net with zip ties! (Great idea Dean and Carlos). 

We took two passes of the lashing line through each eye slot on the boat, which helps keep the bolt rope in the net fairly straight. 
The black line is a Samson 5mm utility double braid. We used up a 300′ roll for all four nets. Long continuous runs make each net easily adjustable. Great project for the ambitious DIY-er!
We fitted the boom and sorted out various fittings – gooseneck, outhaul, reefing technique, etc.  

Keith, we respliced the upper back stay terminal to match the end of the lowers – all good now. And here you can see our Leneman “Delta Vee” main sheet. The red is all one line with a cross-over leg (see the middle path of the left hand triple upper block feeding the double on the lower right). Essentially this setup combines the traveler and main sheet into one tool. You can tension either end of the line and pull on the crossover segment to travel the boom windward or leeward. We’ll find out of the traveling is possible by hand or not. 

By Sunday afternoon the rig was ready for sails. We unboxed the main (sat a year in the garage!) Holy Cow is this beautiful, heavy duty work. Huge thanks again to Skateaway Designs for engineering all this.

Charlie and I installed the battens and figured out the sail track. Look at these beefy Schaffer cars. 

That Allen wrench in the first photo is batten tension adjustment. Happy it’s at the mast easy to get to (our past sails have always been out on the leech). We were ready to hoist just as the afternoon land breeze kicked in. After a brief moment of “we can do this” reality of this 47′ tall sail set in and we wisely postponed til the next windless early morning I can get back to the boat. 

Another big item pre-sail is a steering gear change. Bottom line is I ‘over designed’ the tiller to steering arm connection and it resulted in some play in the steering. I could sense it slightlyin the shop but once underway (by engine last week) we knew this wasn’t good enough. After sleeping on it a brainstorm hit – the design could eliminate a junction by hard-fixing the tiller stub to the steering arm and turning the bearing surface horizontal (using a wide turntable style bearing instead of a boat rudder bearing). We need to make some new parts in the shop but the base on the boat stays the same. Did a dry-fit Sunday eve and this looks to be a big improvement. 

So, we didn’t hit the goal of sailing this weekend, but wth a good push in the evenings this week things should be good for sailing and moving the boat to a new end-tie slip in Richmond, CA for July 4 fireworks. As soon as she’s docked all attention turns to emptying and cleaning the shop for the July 7 handover to the landlord. That will be a huge relief but bittersweet loss of such a handy place to work. 

Sailin an enjoying soon. Right now it’s still a long punch list of small jobs to finish. 

Working the punch list

So it wasn’t great planning, but the boat builder took off for the mountains a week before launching, leaving his dear wife and friend to tackle 100’s of fit&finish details. THANK YOU, ladies :)  Griffin and Greg supported the racers of the Lost & Found Gravel Grinder, including driving the 100 mile sweep land cruiser to pick up stragglers, fix bikes, etc. Great event from an outstanding organization – Sierra Buttes Trails Stewardship.

Last week’s boat work highlights:

The pulpit got it’s feet cut from a multi-layer laminate of 1708DB cloth, then bonded on to the tubes:

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The bolt holes in the hull were finished, so we can launch without the pulpit and take time to finish and paint it later, then it will simply bolt on at the marina. Done for now!

Leslie got to build her first vacuum bag composite parts. We tackled the companionway hatch boards.

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that’s medium density (5lb) foam, with high density foam inserts for the lock areas (yellow foam). Inside face of these boards is some extra heavyweight carbon uni plus a glass surface layers. Outside is kevlar cloth with a glass wear cloth outermost.

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These probably won’t get done this week either, so we’ll whack something temporary out of plywood, and get back to these post-launch (see the pattern here?)

The mast base came back from welding working out exactly as planned. I was worried about aligning the holes for the big pins to hold the halyard turning sheaves, because of that 7 degree rise we talked about earlier. But once back on the bench it was obvious that the holes were in 90 degree alignment. So a few hours of careful drilling various needs and Griffin’s excellent wire brushing, and this was handed in for anodizing. The daggerboard is done too, so this will all get trial fit Wednesday.

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Ever since Jim Antrim designed the rudder’s self-steering trim tab, we’ve avoided the problem of how to affix the tab to it’s steerer tube. No metal-to-composites solution seemed to make sense. One day recently Charlie and Geoff visited, and we brainstormed up a fiberglass pin solution. So the other day, facing one of those, “well, just gotta go for it” moments I started drilling holes in a rudder that would cost at least three grand to get replaced by a pro.

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There you see the tab separate from the rudder body. One carbon tube was built in to both the tab and the rudder (above). Now a second tube slides in but has to get affixed to the tab and stay loose-fit in the rudder body to rotate. The red rod is fiberglass that we cut to make 3 cross-pins thru both tubes in the tab area.

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these plugs got little carbon ‘butterfly strips’ glued over the top to keep them from sliding out, then they were faired in. (note to self – next post record the exact placement inches, and remember the tiny divots that mark the pin centers in case they ever have to come out).

Griffin shared the load on doing the bottom paint. I was so “over it” from all the fairing and primer work, so it was great to have a partner to crawl under the boat and paint about 2″ from one’s face. It all looks good, so of course now I want to make a bit more time to burnish it in to a fast racing bottom this week!

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(there just might be a bit more orange showing up soon…)

This road has been long enough for each of the Carters to pass four birthdays during the build. No more teenagers to launch this boat!

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Three more days in the shop to finish up steering, motor controls, daggerboard install, and paint for rudder, stern tower, beams undersides and companionway details. All that and a lot of little finish things (like 1/2 the plumbing!) make it a crazy home stretch. Charlie has the game plan for logistics in Napa, so now we hit the gas for a Saturday boat assembly.

PS – no shop time was sacrificed in the making of this post (typed as a passenger riding back from Sierras :)

State champs!

Gratuitous cross promotion here as we can’t help but shout about niece Molly Carter’s high school varsity lacrosse team winning Northern California state tournament this week. The final game saw frequent scoring, lead changes, many minutes tied, capped with Novato breaking the 9-9 tie literally as time ran out to win the title. Fans rushing the field, dogpile of players, people crying – the whole enchilada. Molly played a lot of minutes as a freshman, so it’s big shoes to fill in the coming years :)
Here with her brother Mack and the champs medal.

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Back at the shop we had a big weekend of putting stuff together. There are 7 thruhulls; 3 below the waterline and 4 drains for sinks and pumps. First some BoatLife bedding caulk…

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Press them in, deal with the backing plates and nuts inside, and wipe away the excess goo. Came out fine.

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The only regret is buying the mushroom head fittings instead of the flush heads. That call was made over a year ago because I was insecure about cutting the 45 degree chamfers. In retrospect it would have been pretty easy. So here’s a tiny bit of robbed speed we’ll suffer.

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We’re also tackling any last fabrication parts, including this plate inside the cabin that holds the daggerboard down-force turning block inside the dagger trunk. This will get carefully sealed and primed to avoid electrolysis as much as possible.

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Luis in Lisbon asked about the opening ports. These are Lewmar Flush Mitre #3s:

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20160523-184549.jpg they don’t really match with the wood trim inside, but we’ll love the ventilation and they look good blending in with the smoked Lexan from the outside. Also, these windows get more obscured by nice fabrics coming. Way to go Jeanne and Leslie for a whole Saturday of magic with foam blocking.

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Patterns are being made for these pretties…

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Now that the labor for hardware is done, we’re happy to have invested extra time in making backing plates, cutting individual bolts to fit in to acorn nuts, etc. The trim is looking pretty good according to recent visitors.

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I’ve only ignored Keith’s excellent advice once, which was him saying it’s not worth building a pulpit. I haven’t had good luck with schedules, costs, etc with welders, and since the mast base is out for ransom right now we decided to utilize on hand materials and knock this off the list with labor. It also means we can feel ok about it as an experiment, and modify/change sans-guilt later.
Grabbed some thin-wall (schedule 200) 1″ PVC plus 90degree PVC conduit bends and epoxy putty / light glassed them together. Decided to use the heavy carbon uni we had purchased to make a bow sprit long ago. And the leftover 5oz uni 2″wide roll for spiral hooping around the uni. Then cover it with a light fiberglass sleeve and this nifty shrink-wrap tubing from Soller Composites in New Hampshire (ok, we did spend about $30 on new materials for this project)

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Here it is part way thru the heat gun process. The film shrinks 2:1, spurring away bubbles and leaving a nice surface.

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Because these are working from a 45 degree bend, it was pretty easy to line up the foot cut and site these on the deck.

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There is also a cross bar intersecting the forward slope tubes, ahead of the forestay. Along with structure strength, it will catch the lowered furled up reacher.
Tonight we’ll make a sheet of three layer 1708DB that can then be cut in to four of these ‘feet’

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We’ll show you in a few days how the feet become bolting flanges on to the tubes.
Meanwhile, the daggerboard is getting a bit more shaping love. After applying Coz’s clever guide tool, we realized that the port size was a little flat compared to starboard. Now THAT would have slowed things down. So we’re being careful with this shaping job (that should have been done last year!)

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If you’re following this story and want to be around at the beginning of the boat’s water life, come on out. The basics are:
Fri June 10: morning: drive beams trailer to Napa then set floats on ground at Napa Sea Ranch (launch site). Deliver mast to Napa Valley Marina (a few hundred yards away). Evening: take empty boat trailer to Santa Rosa and transfer main hull from shop dolly to boat trailer.
Sat June 11: drive main hull to SeaRanch. Lift and bolt beams to hull, on trailer. Lift floats up to waiting beams. Install engine and nets. Expect at least all day.
Sun June 12: finish boat assembly items. Go to marina and dress the mast (halyards, diamonds, shrouds, etc)
Launch the boat!
Monday June 13: motor to Napa Marina for mast stepping.
Go sailing, God willing.

Let us know if you want to details/directions/a role in the process.

The new boat will first dock at Charlie’s house on the Napa River, and within a few days make its way into the bay for a summer dock. Probably in Richmond but we’re still poking around. There will be MANY “sea trials” sailing days and you’re all welcome to come along. We’ll be posting times via this blog, so sign in for updates if you haven’t already.

18 days to go. And the list is still long. I have an evening of tanks and hoses to go join together!