Almost out of winter

It’s cold and raining again here in NorCal, but we can hear the lure of warm Mexican waters calling Ravenswing soon. Gotta get all these sea-going projects done!

The autopilot got an hour or so under sail on its second day. It was tested a little by the messy chop of a big ebb current and an out-of-balance sail plan with full main and no jib. So far, so good – this thing is making singlehanding the boat reasonable.

Note the nice straight track in the wake.

Sharp eyes will ask why the Raymarine logo on the radar is facing forward. Wouldn’t they want to advertise out to the sides? Seems the boat builder wanted the cord to exit the side of the tower, and the radar is round anyway, right? A month ago Charlie, Anton and Don wondered why the Bonita Channel buoy was on the wrong side of the radar screen. I Finally downloaded the Raymarine manual and the plug is supposed to face aft. Oops. That got rotated, and we installed the public address hailer / foghorn that day.

Today we finished a couple of very satisfying projects. First up is securing the cockpit area with stern lifelines. It’s all synthetics, and the two orange stanchions used to be the original steering connecting rod. That thing was overbuilt, and was the perfect diameter to fit the stanchion bases made years ago.

We needed just one piece of metal to anchor the lifelines at the beam/float hull joint. The stainless steel tabs that were the lower diamond wire connectors on the broken mast got a date with the drill press, cutoff wheel and grinder.

Then it was time for 8 dyneema loop splices done in place, dodging the rain.

Project 2 is a line-handling solution at the very busy cabin top winches stations. Now that the first and second mainsail reefing tacks and clews come back, there are about ten lines of each side sharing a single winch. I pondered a bank of clutches or jammers or cleats, but had fun going old-school instead. Belay-pins, but sitting in a carbon rack!It was supposed to be sexy exposed carbon weave, but the square tube shape was tricky to mold and there were various little wrinkles and gaps, so they needed fairing then paint like everything else. This all got started last June visiting Skateaway when Keith impressed on me the problems with leaving heavily loaded halyards in the teeth of rope clutches during ocean passages. So now the sails will be raised and trimmed with the help of the clutches, but once underway the lines get cleated on these new pins then the clutches eased off.

When the rain is falling we go in the cabin and pick up the electrical tools. Last time you saw the little lithium battery balancing boards. Now we have the CellLog which measures the voltage of each 400amp hour 3.5volt cell grouping.

This monitor is fed by the little red wires (yes Anton I fused each one) strapped along the battery-holder braces.We bought this fancy chartplotter system and I’m old enough to freak out that it didn’t come with a manual. The online version didn’t make it clear that the charts seem to require the microSD card to stay in the unit in order to be used. So again, to those of you who sailed with this thing, I figured out today we DID have the detailed charts in there. Just needed to switch the viewing source. I think we’ll step up to the Navionics charts that we’ve come to really like on the iPad/phone.

So, Mexico is on the mind because Jim is sailing the Banderas Bay Regatta today, and I had a great recon trip last week to visit his Puerto Vallarta house and check out where we intend to sail the boat about 11 months from now. Here’s the view from their front patio. We visited all the primary guest marinas, and I’m leaning towards the vibe at LaCruz / Punta Mita. There’s also a very good free anchorage with easy town access. Ravenswing got ‘cleared’ to enter the MexOrc races next March. Hopefully in a different class from the MOD70 tris!We even made time to visit the embroidery shop, and they did a great job translating the boat’s graphics to crew-wear.

OK, we can see the finish line in Mexico, but we’re going to have a great spring here…

RickH, if you’re home next week let’s get out the Gate late in the week. Anyone else wanting to join, give me a holler.

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.

Locked and Loaded

After a good home cooked dinner (second major spousal gift of the day), it was a couple hours in the garage dressing out the boom for duty tomorrow. The new outboard end sheave box, and the mast-connect toggle system came out great. Reefing the three clews will be much better this time around.

Stepping it back to the morning, Raf the trucker showed up early! Minor snafu about “no honey, when he says cash that doesn’t mean you can write a check”, and who knew you can get 2grand in Benjamins from the ATM now? The mast ended up sharing with three crew coach boats, a jet ski, a new MotoGuzzi and a small Harley. This guy takes great care of the products and his clients. What a huge relief that was.

The Bay Marine project manager forklifted us off that trailer on to mast carts and we were sent to fetch Ravenswing while they worked another rig and the dock cleared. It was about 11:30 when we actually started unpacking, cleaning and dressing out the bare mast. Jeanne brought the parts I had left on the kitchen floor, then continued on to Alameda where the Harken mast head sheaves were being erroneously delivered to the Bay Marine (Svendsens) headquarters instead of their Richmond boat yard. Thank goodness they were found same-day, and we got those three halyards in. Jim, Carlos and I finished at 4:30. And that includes numerous employees coming over to talk about what a ‘bad ass mast this is’.

For Keith and RickW, here’s the red loctite on the huge Wichard standing rigging shackle. Then lashing with 1/8″ amsteel dyneema. Look how nice the hound turned out; after I left CompEng the owner Ted made a perfect press-fit steel bushing to exact fit the shackle pin. Another element of how everything on this mast is top shelf.

Now a product plug for SailTimer. This 100% solar powered and Bluetooth wireless anemometer (wind station) creates an always-on NMEA1803 signal every second, including its own internal gps. This means the unit doesn’t care at all about mast rotation! The workmanship is fantastic – the cups look very strong, the balance is extraordinary and sensitive. I hope it works as well as it looks on the ground. For $350 it does not come with a display, but you use your phone/tablet/e-reader/chart plotter with the app of your choice. Skipping that whole rotating mast compensation issue is totally worth it.

Ok- mast and boom are ready for the 8am crane appointment. Figuring a few hours to get the main and jib back in place, we hope to sail Ravenswing tomorrow afternoon. If any locals want a maiden voyage reprisal, plan on getting to our normal Marina Bay dock by noon, and call me in advance. Otherwise, let me know when you want to go out; we’ve got a lot of pent up sailing to do before the winter rains come.

I-80 westbound

Yea, the mast is spending the night in Nevada and we’re on track for a 10am delivery in Richmond on Tuesday. The weather has been perfect for mellow fall sailing, and we just hope it stays for another couple weeks.

At the boat, the solar system charging the lithium battery bank got up to a full 14.2volts charge today, once we dialed in details like the Peukert curve, absorption voltage, and efficiency rating. The Victron BMV712 is run via a Bluetooth app, making the custom configuration very easy. The hard part is deciphering and deciding what you want with your LiFePO4 batteries. Now with full charge we’ll start using the chart plotter and radar for the first time, and if that goes well, get into testing the fridge. All of these things were installed two years ago and have sat unused!

More delay-busting: Jeanne and Leslie made octopus curtains back in the Santa Rosa shop. I finally rigged up the hold-em-up lines. that’s got to be the lightest curtain rod possible!

And even though I’ve had a year to modify the boom, of course it’s getting its final paint just a day or so before installation. Monday eve will be final details fitting, like finding a new outhaul anchor point and adjuster.

We did succeed in cross drilling the 1/2″ sheave pin and 5/8″ gooseneck-toggle pin for 1/8″ cotter pins. Various old drill bits, and a new titanium one, failed and had us worried about this tiny task. But these $3 cobalt tip ones, and the drill press set down to 250rpm, made it easy. Also helps to have finally bought real cutting oil.

Tomorrow will be a big job of organizing and orchestrating the mast stepping and re-rigging. I want a smooth Tuesday/Weds, and we’re REALLY HOPING the Harken people sent those 3 masthead sheaves out late last week via a priority service. It would suck to sit at the boat yard with the mast but not be able to step it!!! We’ll know with some Monday morning phone calls.

Whip it good

“Crack that whip. Step on a crack- break your …”. Yea, you’d get Devo stuck in your head too if you did 20 or so of these tonight.

All the halyards, new lazy jacks and reefing lines got various splices and end treatments, and are now ready for the mast next week.

The truck was loaded in Massachusetts on Monday. Things got a bit behind so our delivery has moved to next Tuesday.

Stepping the mast might also be contingent upon a couple of hardware items that haven’t shown up yet. Always something!

We accomplished all the solar wiring and the MPPT controller is in “bulk charge” mode working to bring the lithium battery bank up from its 8+ year hibernation since the cells were manufactured. As the sun was setting today, with one full day on the four 100 watt panels, the system was up from 13.15 volts to 13.40. A long way to go, but we don’t have a proper 110v charger yet so I’m thinking the solar approach is ok. these two were no help that day, except for occasional scaring away of seagulls

We’re marching through smaller jobs, getting it all ready for next Tuesday.

And if you need a friend, this guy is waiting at the candy store in Old Town Sacramento…