A bit of video

Dan just reminded me to tell you as we dropped the anchor in Drakes Bay, we must have startled a shark. I was looking down at the anchor from the main bow, with Dan watching over on the starboard float. Suddenly it looked like the anchor was coming back up at my face, but I realized it was a pissed-off leopard shark popping out of the water!  Pretty weird sequence that was…

PS – we didn’t get to test the new anchor bridle as we simply hung from the chain all night in no wind. Good sleeping.

Check out a couple of minutes that Dan put together today. Thanks man!

Brave sailors

We depart the harbor armed with radar, ship identifying AIS and computerized nautical charts that follow the boat’s position. There are a lot of aids available. But 8 of us sat for dinner on Round Midnight after a slow but beautiful sail up the coast 30 miles to Drakes Bay. Carlos talked about how brave those people were, sailing their little ships without engines, charts, lights and so many things we take for granted. I couldn’t believe I’ve sailed around here for 45 years and hadn’t anchored at Drakes before. Go, if you can. But beware of the weather.

Ravenswing shadowed the 30+ boat race fleet (I was too busy to enter and we’re not in the season series anyway) and our performance was fine. She’s not going to light the race course on fire, but we held our own in the 3-5kt wind. At least we didn’t let Round Midnight horizon-job us :). Big thanks to Rick for getting us out there and offering such a nice dinner on his boat. We rafted the Explorer 44, Farrier 36 and Truls’ F27 for 9 hulls. Whales were feeding and a couple of them came very close Saturday, about 80 feet off the boat. Looked like juvenile humpbacks to me. Also with this morning’s flat water the schools of anchovies were amazing to watch as they shimmered the surface. A few miles later at Duxbury Reef there were at least 100 fishing boats out for salmon. Sailing race course and salmon trolling in the same patch of ocean led to some nasty radio chatter. (Ex., “Sailboat, turn NOW!”).

Dan and Chris enjoyed their first Ravenswing overnights and each will be on the boat for trips this fall. We finally got decent wind today in the Bonita Channel and on home to Richmond. It was heavy overcast on the ocean and bright sun over the bay. Summer in SF!

Jeanne finished the rehab on the consignment shop $35 find Forespar man overboard pole. Now we’re proper. Before Drakes run, I tackled the anchor bridle prep. My new eye splice wasn’t perfect but we’ll test that it properly sets/holds.

We’re also finally moving in to the galley, working to keep it light. The fridge is under hereIt got its freezer / cooler separation wall. Freezer side on the left, up against the cold plate. That 1/2″‘foam and 1/4″ ply laminate is overkill, but it was fast and free, being a recycled tabletop from the old travel trailer we sold. Still need some air flow tweaking, but our fridge stuff was nice and the freezer was doing its job this weekend. And speaking of keeping it light, these plastic cups from Target make nice stuff racks.

Plenty more to do this week. Thx again, Rick, Chris and Dan for a great weekend!

Sistership

wait, those aren’t Ravenswing’s sails?! Right you are, they’re F36/39 Hecla’s, drawing nicely off the southeast Florida coast. A big Thank You to owner Jeff for the opportunity to crew with him in moving the boat from Ft. Lauderdale to Belize. He’s sailed his other Hecla-named boats on many significant offshore singlehanded voyages & races. This week is setting up to be an amazing skills-booster for this aspiring F36 offshore skipper. Better to screw up on his boat and get pleasantly coached back to safety :)

F36 Hecla was first named Screech, a boat you see on Farrier’s website F36 page. It’s the all-white one with a cassette rudder and three aluminum-framed cabin windows.

We had a long week of prep work, unfortunately having much more of a punch list than Jeff expected, due to some pro marine services folks not getting their stuff fully completed. I flew out last Saturday night and dived in to a week of boat-builder mode again. Except boy is that different in hot humid weather. Colin, I was drenched in five minutes!

Hecla had been docked side-tied to the dark-hulled boat in this photo.

That’s the Davey Ave drawbridge on the river in FtL. It was an odd week living under a bridge! Including big iguanas hissing at us when we passed thru the homeowner’s side yard. We finally got to cast off yesterday at 3:30, transiting four drawbridges on a busy Lauderdale Saturday party afternoon. I’ll post some video once back home on WiFi. We got to the Atlantic at 5pm, hoisted the main, jib and screacher for a mellow 9kts cruise down the Miami coast. We’re anchored just off the first FL “Keys”, and I’m writing to you at sunrise. We’ve found a half dozen minor rig tuning tasks for this morning, then we point these bows for Cuba. We won’t be landing, but will pass just north of Cuba then head west towards Cancun, MX. Near there it’s a left turn south towards the divers’ hot spot reefs off Belize. Hopefully we’ll do the 700+ miles in 3.5 days and have time for exploring The Blue Hole. Then it’s on to the airport in Placencia BZ for me, and Jeff will solo his boat on a diving / kayaking / sailing vacation.

So, our good ship is loaded up with voyaging supplies. It does feel different from sailing Ravenswing in her current day-sailor mode. The skipper is a racer and so was a good sport about me trying to give away a bunch of heavy, unnecessary-to-us stuff from the boat’s prior FL coastal cruising life. Hecla and her crew are eager to speed-reach across the Gulf of Mexico this week! The weather forecast has shaped up for steady downwind trades and sunny skies. Break out the sunblock and spinnaker sheets, baby…

So there’s your teaser and now you’ll have to wait until I get back online next week. Jeanne and the boys have satellite phone access to us, but otherwise I’m so happy to unplug and get back to nature.

Signing off from south of Miami.

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.