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!

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.

It never gets old

… seeing first timers enjoying a good sail, that is. Say hi to Jen and Tim, business colleagues from Chicago. Jen hadn’t driven a boat before, but something told me she’d be a natural at the tiller.

Her husband got a bit of film for us https://youtu.be/x6LKdtwzrIc

Early November was remarkable weather. Afternoons in the low 70’s with warm gentle breezes. Perfect weather for easing Ravenswing in to the groove with the new rig.

Jeanne, Leslie, Ron and I had an enjoyable Friday. The ladies want more boat speed. We found plenty in the Slot, but it was chilly so we headed back to the north bay.

Then there was a fantastic Sunday outing with Bay Area Multihull legends RickWS, Carlos, Chris, Truls and Rafi. Six skippers , each knowing what’s best… we found ourselves laughing after Carlos had to quip, “I know how to drive the damn boat, guys”. Yes, he does.

GG bridgeRafi Chris x1200Rick Carlos x1200Truls x1200This was only the second time we’ve had the Reacher up (big blue sail), and big thanks to ChrisH for slacking the halyard way off to curl the luff once we turned downwind. This thing makes a great chicken-chute that way! Here you go, framed up with The Rock (Alcatraz prison)I didn’t drive that day, instead I roamed around the boat looking at new-to-me vantages. The best was the aft cabin – Rick is right, that’s going to be a nice spot on passages.

So while we’ve really enjoyed some sailing, fit-out work continues. We found SailTimer.com, a solar powered, wireless wind sensor that functions independently of mast rotation. The idea sounds too good to be true! We installed it before the mast stepping, but it wasn’t spinning freely. We think it got bumped the morning of the mast stepping and I didn’t notice it was tweaked. Carlos volunteered to go get it. Now that’s a dedicated sailor :)The installation instructions did not warn about Bluetooth being dependent on line of sight. I put the unit in the middle of the masthead for strength, etc, but the crane on the aft portion, including a big steel sheave pin, is blocking our signal down in the cockpit area. Argh. So the SailTimer folks just sent us an offset arm so we’ll move the unit in to clear air about a foot aft of the main sail track. More on this topic later.

I didn’t have the heart to tell you guys earlier, but the first time we sailed the new mast, the rotation control arm ripped out of its too-slight mounting setup. We’ve tried to control rotation with various straps; it’s worked somewhat, but also put some nasty rope burns into the nice paint job. Dang. Keith and I have discussed it and decided an interim fix is to drill much deeper in to the mast foot internal G10 web, and this time epoxy the bolts in place. I made a slurry of epoxy thickened with bonding fibers, and syringed it in there. Keith, I kept the black plastic spacers because of how the metal shape fits the mast. Plus I think they help with shock absorption. But I did go another 1/2″ deeper than we talked about.  We’ve sailed it once in light winds, and it worked fine. Time will tell. img_1238

Before putting away the sewing machine, we modified an old sail bag to make a stay-on-deck bag for the rolled up reacher. Got this clever idea from Round Midnight!  Once the roller-furled sail is dropped back down on deck, it gets folded in to this bag and stored right there ready to go again. img_1237We also added this 3′ long leader to the reacher control sheets – this helps pull the sail around the forestay during tacks or jibes. I’ve known about this for spinnakers, but just realized we needed it for this sail too. img_1229And one more shot trying wide-angle to get more sense of the two sails working together…img_1232This one is for John Franta at Colligo, and Keith at Skateaway Design, for showing how well our bowsprit hardware came together and makes this sail easy to manage. img_1241

Also in that photo is the new Rocna Vulcan 15kg (33lb) anchor, attached to 110′ of 5/16″ chain and 200′ of 9/16″ 8-braid rode. The Lewmar ProFish 1000 windlass handles it well, and we’re finally feeling good about our primary anchor setup.

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Charlie and RickH took the boat out the Gate to the LightShip buoy, a few days in to the Paradise fire smoke invasion. Quite eerie to be sailing on SF Bay wearing particulate masks, and upon getting  about five miles out, we could not see ANY of the coast. This fire has been awful to so many thousands of people, and it put a hideous smoke layer across a large part of the state. From our front yard – normally we’re looking at Mt. Tamalpais in southern Marin here. We bugged out, heading for Griffin’s place in Colorado. img_1244

A curiosity stop at the Bonneville Salt Flats along I-80. No race cars, as the BLM shuts it down during winter due to slushy salt, and recreates the 10 mile race track each spring.  img_1246

Traveling in one’s “land yacht” can be dangerous. This photo is just a few minutes after a rather harrowing fish-tailing incident eastbound on I-80 just over the continental divide, an hour before Laramie, WY. Ice on the freeway and 40kt wind gusts busted the trailer loose from the road. Huge thanks to Chrysler’s traction control and Jeanne’s purchase of a fancy Blue Ox anti-sway hitch system. That gear kicked in and we managed to NOT leave the road or have the two 50mph semis hit us as we swerved and corrected out. The whipping action deployed the entry steps, and threw groceries, dog food, etc. all around inside the trailer. It took a few hours to calm down from that one. Don’t drive these things on ice, people!!!  And if you do, don’t be the idiot who didn’t have the truck in 4wd and thought he could drive the same speed as the big rigs. NOT. img_1252

Finally tonight, a little preview about an exciting package arrival.

That’s our Pelagic Autopilot. Designed and sold here in the Bay Area by a small company owned by offshore sailors. They do one thing – make robust, simple sailboat steering helpers. We have significant fabrication work ahead in December to make the necessary mounts, so this may take a while. We were tipped off to this by a sistership, as this autopilot worked great for John and Melanie as they sailed their F36 across the to the South Pacific in April.

Happy Thanksgiving to your families. A lot to be thankful for. Peace.

 

Taking flight!

Tonight it’s mostly pictures. Seems they speak for themselves. Big thanks to Rolf and Kris at Bay Marine for expert crane work. Carlos, Jim and I went on deck once they had the mast down on the ball, and we lashed the two cap shrouds and forestay in about 15 mins. Just those three lines, then they removed the crane.

We motored back to our slip where Jim and Carlos busted ass on installing mainsail battens, reefing gaskets and all new sail trim telltales. After all the rigging work, at 2pm Ravenswing could take flight again. Ahhhhhhh…..kudos to Jim for driving the boat today and keeping the mast in the sky. 100% improvement over last time :)

Jib and reacher tomorrow. Stay tuned.

Proper consolation

After Ravenswing’s mast came down, Jim and I sat at the kitchen table that night lamenting that cruising to Mexico was shot for 2017. We’ve said it before, “there’s always next year”, but everyone’s getting older and the time is now. So how about a September trip to Washington’s San Juan Islands, and maybe a bit of British Colombia, aboard F27 Origami?  Jim went back to Oregon and got his boat ready for the road, and we met up again at his place on Sept. 15 to start a 9 day trip north. (Should have borrowed Dad’s new self-driving Acura, last seen on Tiburon Blvd!)

IMG_4843Origami tows well behind Jim’s big pickup, but we did need to replace some rotting trailer tires in Salem, OR. Amazingly we pulled in to a new tire shop that fit us in immediately with all four tires removed, new ones mounted, balanced and installed in 20 minutes. And on we drove to the Washington Park boat ramp in Anacortes, gateway to the San Juans. We were greeted with that northwest liquid sunshine. Once “at sea”, the first stop was Friday Harbor, docking just in time to take cover from a windy rain front.

IMG_4857The only other sailboat to visit that day was another F27! We met Jan from Wyoming who had bought his boat in San Diego three weeks earlier. His hull number was up near 450, one of the very last F27s built. We buddy boated on Monday out to Fishermans Cove on Lopez, then parted ways as Origami anchored in Blind Bay on Shaw Is.

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Don’t the steaks taste better when they’re cooked outside?

IMG_4864Across the channel lies Orcas Island, with a great little grocery store of quality foods. We got distracted and missed the opportunity for good looking deviled eggs (hold that thought).

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Around the corner from the ferry landing, up the West Sound, is the home port for the F36 that kept us alive in our build shop on many long winter nights. On Farrier’s website you’ll see MaxQ built and owned by the Websters. Mr. Webster apparently didn’t use the boat very much (just 150 hours on the engine!!!) and it was finally sold to John on Orcas. He recently married Melanie, and this charming couple was at the very end of refitting the boat for extended world cruising. They welcomed us to their dock for a look around, and John was a great sport about handing over a couple of must-get-done projects to us. There’s something about this very small community of F36/39 builder-owners; complete strangers feel perfectly ok trusting each other with these boats. For me it’s easy – if this other person was nuts enough to spend thousands of hours building it or hundreds of thousands $ choosing/buying it, you know they are “invested” and caring. Thank you John and Melanie for allowing two sailors to descend on your boat moments before your voyage began, and we will see you out there.

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Before we departed Orcas, John had us aboard while a professional navigation instruments caretaker inspected the boat’s primary manual compass. Cap’t Keith arrived by ferry, carrying this:

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The compass was spot-on, but did need to go home with the Captain for some physical smoothing of its rotation axis point. Jim and I just stood in amazement at the old-world maritime craftsmanship like this one can find throughout these islands. And as a bonus, John let me pilot his boat a bit to feel the steering and diesel-inboard performance. Interesting to feel the differences from Ravenswing’s smaller outboard and direct-steering tiller. John’s boat will behave much better around the crowded ports.

Just as we grew fairly sick of the rainy weather, the sun appeared at Roche Harbor on San Juan Island. Chris and Dad, I trust these cabins will bring back good memories from 35 years (?) ago!

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We skipped the $58 overnight docking fee and anchored out in the quiet bay instead, but did spend the $1.50 on the nicest “boat showers” possible. Each one is a private suite – such luxury for a marina!

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RickWS insisted we hike to the island benefactor’s mausoleum, which is an outdoor structure in which the man’s immediately family has their ashes interred in the cement seats at their round table. Quite striking.

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We also strolled through the 20 acre sculpture garden, on the hunt for one of Rick’s installed pieces, and were successful in our search. Nice job, sir!

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Thursday morning we got passports ready and (motor)sailed to Canada. Destination was the Sidney North Saanich Yacht Club, for that weekend’s CRASH Regatta. We heard about it from F-boat forum friends, and were enticed by the free entry for American boats. Their club is a pretty old building in a beautiful setting.

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With only a small guest dock, the SNSYC hosts this regatta at the nearby large muni marina of Port Sidney. Origami enjoyed three nights at the docks and a very well run regatta (with excellent food, we might add!). Our first night arrival was just as the office closed, so they let us stay next to the event tent, effectively making us party-crashers for a wedding rehearsal dinner. Once we offered up Origami’s big moveable stereo speakers to their iPods, we found ourselves meeting the bride’s family, telling stories and drinking their margaritas. Not a bad evening. And we re-learned how to tie a halyard hitch from the bartender / boat rigger, as we had done an emergency purchase of Origami’s new main halyard just in time for race weekend.

The best part, though, was being in BC meant we were just close enough to attract brother-in-law Stephane to drive over from Revelstoke for his first sailboat race. He knows Origami from some fantastic 16knot spinnaker sailing on Tahoe, so he was excited…

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Unfortunately that photo smacks of LIGHT wind, and on Saturday we had periods of 0.0 on the knot meter. In our multihull division of four, (2 F27’s, an F24 and an F25) we managed an uninspired last place, which we conveniently attributed to excess cruising cargo weight and our heavy air sails. The spinnaker was back at home, and the other boats had big light kites (and of course excellent light wind boat handling). To Tim, Eric and Greg, nice job guys and we loved hanging out with you at the parties. For the Sunday morning races, we saw more light forecast, so Origami retired as the reality of our long trip back to Anacortes sunk in. It was a fantastic 1.5 days with my favorite bro-in-law, and vows to get together again soon. And maybe next time he won’t have time in a sailboat race to actually fall asleep on the nets. 0.0 knots, geez.

We navigated this trip with a printed guide Jim’s daughter gave him 10+ years ago, and Navionics on the i-pad. It was fun to watch Jim fall-in with the new technology, especially since this will be used on Ravenswing as he co-pilots next year :). The ferries are frequent and fast, our primary watch-out through the islands.

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The final night at sea was spent squeezed onto the float at James Island state park, just across the Rosario Straight from Anacortes. What a great little stop if you’re going up that way. Nice little challenging hiking trails with great views.

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To get to James Island, we passed by Orcas again, which led to another stop at that market. Deviled eggs for pre-dinner that night!

Skipping the Sunday races meant we could afford a Monday evening in Gig Harbor to visit F39 Alice’s Restaurant. Builders Howard and Alice say this was the first F39 launched (story is on Farrier’s site). The boat is great, as is the F9a he built first and now owned by their son. These people are fantastic. Another F39’r welcoming perfect strangers aboard to compare notes. And then we spent a long evening eating their home cooked meal and polishing off way too much good scotch. Howard and Alice, you have impeccable taste!  And great kids. We foolishly declined their gracious offer to stay in the bayside cottage, and instead pushed the lama and goats out of the way to park Origami in their pasture, as a rolling condo.

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This is the view framed by the windows of their waterfront home; the three most recent boats Howard has built. Not bad.

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Alice’s Restaurant is well documented on the Farrier site, so I’ll just add two shots of his great little boarding ladder, so i can remember to build one this winter.

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And for those thinking about electric propulsion for your f-boat, wow does this boat have a prime setup. They’ve had quite the project going for a couple of years. We very much look forward to getting Ravenswing north to buddy-boat with these fine folks. PS – Garrett’s hunter green paint job on the F9 makes that boat look fantastic. I’m sure you PNW sailors see this one flying around.

We waved goodbye to our new Gig Harbor friends, and hit I-5 southbound. It was another excellent Fboat adventure, and we offer continued thanks to Mr. Farrier for designing these craft that continue to impact our lives so positively. Makes us even more anxious to get a new mast stepped and point Ravenswing’s bows out the gate soon.

Summer sailing

IMG_4706This is why Mark Twain said the coldest winter he ever spent was a summer in San Francisco. When that central valley convection machine revs up and the fog backfills, we head out in to COLD breeze. Charlie and I saddled up in warm jackets for a mid July afternoon.

IMG_4710IMG_4711IMG_4708Grey whales were in town; every day numerous boats headed for the Golden Gate Bridge area. We had 20+ sightings, some very near the boat over by Baker Beach, and some with big fluke flapping activity. Very humbling to be around the biggest of beasts.

 

A few days later dear sister Allie came to visit. Leslie joined for a warm afternoon sail between Richmond and San Rafael / Tiburon. Jeanne practiced her tiller steering, Leslie focused on sail trim, Allie soaked up the warm sun and soft breeze, and the build-finisher just sat back and reveled in the nice day the ladies were enjoying.

IMG_4719With two great sailing days done, it was back to work on various upgrades.  Thanks again to Darren for calling out the bogus sheave choice (it was a salvaged halyard exit box) that was galling aluminum on steel as the mainsail clew pulled the outhaul side to side. This led to a re-think on the boom-end sheaves and line-guiding. Much cleaner now…IMG_4744At launch time last year, Dean rigged up some long skinny lines to turn the outboard when needed, and everyone who’s sailed the boat has hassled with them. I decided synchronous motor-with-rudder steering isn’t necessary, so we’ve skipped the complex solutions (ahem, Carlos & RickWS :). Kudos to Charlie for this very simple idea – turning blocks mounted inside the motor carrier box, and jam cleats up at deck level. Works perfectly as intended!

IMG_4743IMG_4742Another (potentially dangerous) annoyance has been the lead-angle of the mainsheets into their winches. The lines come in a bit high, and if we’re not careful it has caused override jams. A bit of staring and thinking realized the approach is all wrong, and let’s change the angles both vertically and horizontally. These cheek blocks are now installed, and will be test-sailed tomorrow:IMG_4741

We’ve had some big wind in the marina, making work-on-the-boat afternoons tough. See the blue tape on the hardtop, where the boom hit by accident. That fiberglass repair was done under duress of a stiff 20+ knot wind kicking up whitecaps inside the harbor. I actually got a bit seasick hanging off the back installing those motor steering lines. IMG_4745So with the summer chill in the bay, we said a big YES to Jim’s crew call for the 2017 Southern Cascades Regatta at Howard Prairie Lake above Ashland, OR. Headed up I-5 past Redding, thanking the inventors of automobile air conditioning… (ignore the speedo please)IMG_4764Look what we find on the road in Talent, OR – our never-fell-out-of-love Origami!!!IMG_4758When Jim took her back home to OR from Sausalito three years ago, new sails and a number of cosmetic must-dos were diligently tackled. This F27 is doing great, 26 years after launch, in full fighting form.origami under spinThe race committee put us in the Open Centerboard class, ironically making a well-sailed Lido 14 our primary competition for the weekend. We traded bullets through six races, and the final tally was a single point apart. Before we get to that, remember that mountain lake sailing often means waiting for the wind to fill. Trust me, there was only one boat in the regatta with portable cabin-top speakers blasting Crazy Train and Highway to Hell, trying to get the wind to blow. When that didn’t work, we buzzed the race comm, Ultimate 20 and Laser fleets with Kenny Rodgers karaoke. Apparently The Gambler was the ticket. kenny rodgers karoikeAfter enough screwing around, we focused in on clean racing and managed to bring home a nice first place trophy for the skipper. It’d been a long road of “first to finish, but you lost” handicapping, so this regatta win was sweet.  Thanks Eric and Jason for good times!first place

Back on the bay, Ravenswing sits ready in her slip for a weekend of sailing. It’s time to focus on coastal transit preparations, and submitting that BajaHaHa entry.  If any locals want to join Jim and Charlie for a sail Sunday, give us a shout. We’ll introduce you to our humble mascot – just right with a thrift-store price tag and balsa wood featherlight stance. IMG_4739PS – I can hear you from here, singing “son, if you don’t mind me sayin’, I can see you’re out of aces. For a taste of your whiskey, I’ll give you some advice…”