A heavy year

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It’s been fashionable lately to bash 2016, and I think all those satirists have it right. Charlie the standard poodle. Dan Corchero. Alzhiemers. David Bowie (yea, up yours, cancer!). Cracked spreader on Ravenswing’s first windy day. Americans disgracing ourselves in Presidential politics. To cap it off, in the wee hours of Dec15 our beautiful 100+ yr old back yard Valley Oak with no warning fell on the house. We THANK GOD that its trajectory hit the back wall of the master bedroom where Jeanne slept, and not the sidewall that faced the tree. Eight feet to the left and it could have been lethal. I was asleep at Dad’s house, and Jeanne’s phone call at 2am was so painful. 90+mph up the 101, to find SRFire in our driveway. Daylight revealed five big holes in the roof and most of the rear wall damaged. Subsequent inspection found 12 roof trusses will have to be replaced, plus removal of subfloor in the kitchen to fix broken floor joists.

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By 8am a heavy rainstorm moved in, making the tree removal and tarping work dangerous. And those holes let a LOT of water get in to the interior walls and flooring.
Anthony from Bartlett Tree Service is fearless. This shot is him roped to our “other oak”, hanging over the edge of the damaged second story roof, nailing the tarp in place.

img_3914The insurance company initially tried to cut Bartlett’s bill in half, but it all got properly compensated. All four bedrooms, one bathroom and the family room / kitchen have drywall and flooring damage, plus those 12 trusses mean over half the roof is coming off this winter. Yuck.img_3927
The small shed housing all the boat build tools and supplies was caved in. Amusingly we had built total overkill shelving in there this fall, from the deconstructed hull trollies. The massive shelving protected everything while the shed roof and walls failed. One big boat part – the boarding ladder / staircase was on a table outside the shed, awaiting final paint. The tree directly crushed that table so we assumed the boat stairs were now smashed below grade. A few days after the storm we set out to pick through the rubble.
Amazing – only a minor dent on one tread, and that’ll stay as a momento.

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We have to empty and vacate the house for 4-6months. So the holidays were all about cleaning, sorting, donating and packing. Thankfully there have been a couple of nice sailing afternoons worked in. Colin’s first time aboard was a cold, crisp day with enough breeze to get Ravenswing moving nicely. We very much look forward to warm days sailing as a family in 2017.

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Recall from last month the issues Drew found with our big jib. A good phone call with Keith pointed out the importance of tacking the sail way down at the deck, and using the full width of our jib car tracks. Making all of these tweaks significantly fixed the problems and we’re confident proceeding as-made with the sail. Basically, when it gets bad enough to be an interference issue up at the top diamonds, it’s probably time to reef that sail anyway. (Keith – I owe you a call back; your message was right after the tree fell!)  This works much better…img_3880img_3948

 

All the house drama trumped any holiday break progress on the boat’s electrical supply and dodger systems. They’ll be Jan/Feb work now. Stay tuned.
A few days after Colin and Griffin’s sail, Vanessa, Joe, RickH and I took Dad for his first cruise. I have a photo of him from 60 years ago where his parents launched their SoCal built John Alden sloop Vela. Six decades later it was great to hand him the tiller to the second ‘cartersboat’. He was thrilled at how light and responsive the boat steers. (Dad, now I’m glad I didn’t have you aboard in the summer when the helm was scary heavy to operate!)

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Colin is on the plane back to Virginia now; Griffin has two more weeks of college break time, and we’re all so thankful to be healthy and safe with 2016 closed out. Come sail with us in ’17 – just holler.

And because after all, this is the internet, we’ll end with a gratuitous kitty shot. The very best cat in the world, Miss Frida, is angling to be the boat mascot. With whiskers like these, who can resist?

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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!

A man’s first sail

That’s Larry on the right. He and the missus just retired from Florida careers and they’re touring North America by motor home. They have no schedule, they can go where they please. This month they’re visiting Charlie’s house, which means they’ve watched the Boat People traipsing up and down the dock out back as we continue to fit out Ravenswing for sail. At midnight on Saturday the depth finder came to life as the last real must-have to navigate out the long river and through San Pablo Bay. Larry was happy to join F27 skippers Jim, Charlie and me for the F36’s first sail. A nice summer day outing and Jeanne would pick us up at the marina in Richmond. Larry’s never been on a sailboat before, but hey, what could go wrong? :)Woke up to a super minus tide. Boat lying in the weeds…

Once floating (and breakfasted) and bottom semi-scrubbed from the kayak, we pulled out at 9. The motor mount fix made a major (good) difference. We still need to try the higher pitched prop and get that aspect dialed in. Well, in all the excitement some unnamed boat builder forgot to check the two 3 gallon gas tanks. About an hour motoring down river tank 1 ran out, and guess what, tank 2 had less than a gallon. And the Vallejo gas dock is closed Sundays. 

Enter another Ravenswing hero, Goose. He had planned to intercept us as the photo chase boat once we hoisted sail in the Mare Island Straight. Good thing his West Wight Potter 19 can plane with it’s 50horse motor!

Thank you sir, for running a couple gallons upriver!!!  (And yeah, his coach roof is the entire sliding hatch section of a Catalina 30; wow can this guy mod a boat with gusto and results!)

Back underway, Ravenswing’s final obstacle to sailing was the Mare Island bridge. The flood was ripping, the wind on the nose, and our 60 ‘ bridge raise request held up cars for ten mins as we struggled for decent headway. 

After the bridge, 21 years of anticipation became the moment to set sail. But our fantastic looking lazyjack system completely fouled the main hoist on any point of luffing towards windward. What a mess, with Goose’s camera clicking away. More humble pie. 

We cut the lazyjacks free and in the building breeze set the main at the first reef. In the flat Straits water the boat took off like a scaled cat. A sailboat at last, hallelujah. 

Exiting the Vallejo reach at the Carquinez bridge with no jib yet, we just wanted a feel for the helm and boat responsiveness. In a few minutes the apparent wind was above 20kts and the helm too weather heavy. Hmmm, rudder angle or too much mast rake? But we’re moving too fast and we need to tack away from those oil wharves now. We’ll take a leg to weather and gather our wits for the jib hoist. Another minute or so to clear the wharf and we hit the infamous San Pablo Bay chop. Charlie and I (and a number of you) have raced the f-boats here and been pounded silly by that short steep chop water. The F36 is much bigger and she slammed through instead of lurching skyward. That’s fun. But somewhere in those opening minutes a wave came through that completely firehosed the full crew. Welcome to summer sailing in San Francisco, Larry, the place where we soaked your Levi’s and shoes with icy cold water to start a 30 mile sail. Bad manners from the boat host. And so glad Jeanne is not seeing her new boat this way!

We beat up to Marin without the jib. The boat was very unbalanced, the helm a struggle to keep from rounding up, and without any good plans to hoist and reef the new slab jib. Let’s just muddle through and not break stuff. (The open bottom boom needs more cross bracing where the reefing straps sit under the reefed clews). Near Point Pinole the water flattened out a bit and with reefed main only we were hitting 12kts upwind. This rig pulls like a freight train. 

Got the jib up, full hoist, at the Marin Islands. Took a bit to find a groove, but for a while just south of the Richmond Bridge, Ravenswing hit her stride for the first time. Complete magic as she rose up on plane and accelerated like crazy. This is one powerful cruiser/ocean voyager and I want to dial it in and see what’s possible!!!  There are race courses in her future :)

After a few minutes of fun we hung a left in to the Richmond channel. Jim steered around big tugs with, as Charlie said, the ugliest possible vessel (Asian car transporter), handed over the reins and we tucked in to Marina Bay’s office dock to begin a two month cruise-outfitting and shakedown period.

Today saw hours of 25+ apparent, and it’s the same story you’ve heard here. We’re having a very windy summer, and we’re being reminded to respect the weather as we bring this sailboat to life. But if the dodger had been finished today could have avoided a full frontal soaking.

Thank you Jeanne for handling the bad traffic and picking up the tired crew. Nothing broken, nobody hurt, and Larry a bit wide-eyed. So of course as my lovely wife walks up the dock to our first ‘grownup’ boat slip ever, her eye goes right to the rig and she says, 

Honey, why’s the topping lift way up in the rigging like that? Did somebody let go of it?”  Well, um, that would be me and it’s a long story back near Vallejo. Let’s go get a beer and burrito at LaCasa in Sonoma on the way home and I’ll tell you all about it…

Humbled by the wind

For twenty one years this boat build has been sustained in part by daydreams of sailing anywhere the dreamer wants, confident in a strong, capable vessel. So of course on the day of the maiden sail when things should be tested in light zephyrs, we pull off the dock into 20+ knots on the nose and a big flood tide coming up the river we need to charge down many miles past Vallejo and in to the Bay. Damn, this is not going to be an easy day…

The 20hp motor and 10″ propeller are relatively small for the windage size of the boat. The motor is in the break-in first ten hours where you can’t run it beyond 2/3 speed. The apparent wind was up over 25, plus that north bay chop was starting. The builder who thought himself so clever with a motor mount ‘sled’ made that motor leg protection shield extend about 3″ below the water surface now paid the price of diverting water flow around the propeller area oddly enough to create major cavitation problems. So after a half hour of degrading conditions (that afternoon wind was building), motoring upwind, we had to admit this was a bad way to test new sailing systems. That was an ego blow, but some great learnings. The first: wow does Ravenswing sail well under ‘bare poles’. This shot is a few miles later, back in protected waters, but still sailing over 5kts with the head sail strapped to the deck and the main down at the boom. After a night of reflection, it’s pretty funny that her first sail didn’t involve sails. We learned to use the rotating semi-wing mast as a tall skinny sail, and actually tacked the boat with just the mast rotation when motoring back to the dock hours later. 

For those who visited the assembly / launch site, you can picture Charlie, Dean, Anton and I sailing back and forth doing two mile upwind/downwind legs in front of the people fishing from that dock. The main was double-reefed and we never did hoist the jib in that very narrow waterway. You sailors will be disgusted re: sail shape / trim, here with the main tortured up against a lazyjack I didn’t quite finish in time to make it easily adjustable. 

Yes, these photos make it all look mellow and the author here suspect :)


We sailed and motor-sailed enough to get a feel for key things. The revamped steering is much better. The daggerboard is humming once up near 10kts, which I think can be fixed by shimming the head tighter in the trunk. The clew-end reefing with the clutches and winch on the mast-end of the boom work well. The Vee Mainsheet worked just as advertised, including the ability to easily travel the boom upwind and down by yanking on the crossover line. (Still anxious to confirm that under full sail). The mast base and rotation setup work very well. We learned where on deck to place line holding cleats for sailing activities like holding the leeward (unused) back stay out of the way. Etc etc.

The jib is hanked on, waiting for another day. 

Anton saw the boat and said that’s a lot of string in the sky


And I had a few moments of reflection to really enjoy the fruits of years in the shop. Ravenswing is actually sailing, phew!


The boat has another new punch list of work needed, but for the next few days it’s all about the shop – finishing projects, moving tools and raw materials home, and nasty cleaning. 

Jeanne instigated a push to build all the cabinet doors before losing the shop. Inch and a half wide mahogany frames, 1/4″ foam core panels, and some cherry vaneer will get vac bagged today. 

More interior comforts finished; this is a great seat for surveying the scene 

And don’t do this: I used locktite to keep these VHF radio side mounts tight. Within two days it ate the plastic away. 

Standard Horizon replaced these at no charge, so another item on the list. 

Enjoy the 4th! We won’t be sailing :)

Five Sons

The assembly team had a good laugh last night after day five of putting this big boat together. The building manual suggests allowing six hours for final assembly at the water. We took six days. This amazing crew headed home last night and I got some quiet time on the brand new nets, same ones on the Americas Cup boats.

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Falling asleep was easy, but by 4am the anticipation of launching overpowered sleep. The mast base got assembled at dawn.

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Pretty happy with that piece, especially considering it was hunks of chop and table saw aluminum stock a few weeks back. Definitely all measure thrice, cut once, stuff.
The ‘core team’ started arriving by 8 and we were targeting the launch at 11 on the rising, near-high tide. The morning was consumed with numerous final clean up jobs and considerable angst about the building wind on the Napa River (actually more of a tidal slough at this location). This boat is SO much bigger than the F27 and we already know what a handful that is docking/trailering in higher winds.
The plan was solid, the dock lines stout, and the big crew well instructed. Carlos backed the pickup down with the beams and floats hanging free in the air, Griffin was on the ramp / in the water directing, and Mr/Mrs Carter were alone on deck (thank you, friends for giving us that moment together) to feel F36 hull #5 float for the first time. Pure magic.
Charlie skillfully commanded the line handlers to move us from the ramp to the primary side-tie dock. The wind kept building but the boat was tethered to pilings from trailer to dock and we were basically flying a big kite.
Once the dock lines were secured we could stand back and see what exactly just came to be:

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Those pictures are the product of 21 years, two families with five sons admonished by their fathers to “come over to the shop and help me lift the (insert heavy things here ) for too many years. It shouldn’t take that long to build a boat, but it has to be a balance with the life going on around you. So while this was a long build requiring patience from everyone involved, we now have an adventure platform we hope you all will come help enjoy. Yes, Phillip, we have lots more to post here as the work and sailing continues.

F36 #5 plans were delivered to California in 1995. And on June 15, 2016, Ravenswing became the Carters’ sailboat. Come on out to sail this summer. Just drop us a line.

I can’t wait for stepping the mast on Monday!!!