Sailing Bliss…or is it…

We both love to sail.  Well, maybe what I SHOULD say is that we both love being on the water.

What we don’t love is:

  • Not sailing cuz there’s no wind
  • Sailing when its blasting 25 knots
  • Not enough hands to help with the work (or not having a boat with the best equipment)
  • Engine is placed on the wrong side of the rudder
  • Me, being a scaredy-cat

No wind means either you sit floating waiting for the wind to show up (becalmed) or you start the motor.  OK, starting the motor means you give up.  So let’s wait a little bit longer for the wind, LOOK, that boat over there is starting to move, so we will, too, yes, we will, too…just waiting for the wind, just waiting…damn, just start the stupid engine.

Blasting 25 knots?  You need to reef the sails (shorten them, making less surface for the wind to catch) or you take them down completely.  There’s also the ‘me being a scaredy-cat’ inserted here.

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Its nasty waves, bashing against the boat – it’s a good little boat, though.  Too much wind on the sails and it naturally turns into the wind a little bit, like a safety feature!  The problem is more than you really have to pay attention to what you’re doing, either steering or manning the lines, and it gets hard on the feet and knees to be balancing while heeling all the time.

When only 2 of us are handling the boat, it can be really tiring.  The lines have to be pulled in and let out and tightened and let out and pulled in and tightened and the main has to be pulled in and let out and tightened and the traveler has all those things to be done to it, too.  I couldn’t find my sailing gloves so I was using my motorcycle gloves.  Can’t possibly pull on those lines all the time with my bare hands, I felt like the skin was being ripped off.  Plus, here’s another little complaint, while pulling on those lines I have to brace myself on my knees, the nerves of which were damaged in a car accident (not our fault) so that was painful, really painful if I didn’t do it right.

Then there’s the time I destroyed the steering, cuz I’m a dope.

We were sailing with Rick’s parents, his brother and sister-in-law, Ron and Ingrid and nephew James.  I can’t remember what we were trying to do, oh yes, it had gotten very windy so Rick and his bro (who is good on a sailboat) were on the deck of the boat (and I had my heart in my throat because of the wind chop), trying to take down the sails so we could stop in at Angel Island for lunch.

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Info re Angel Island here

Its a great place to visit!

Anyway…I’m at the helm, idiot that I am, I forget to give the boat a little more throttle so to keep it headed into the wind so they can get the sails down.  I’m struggling with the wheel and feel it ‘pop’ and lo, and behold, no steering!  Oh, yay.  Again, no steering.

I had pushed it too far and the blankety-blank cable had popped off the sprocket again!  Criminy.

Now we are in a little harbor at Angel Island with no steering.  But this time, we had the emergency rudder right at hand!!!  See, we DO learn from our (I mean my) mistakes!  My hubby slaps it on and we wander over to the 10 minute dock at the marina and decide we don’t care, we are having lunch and we’ll deal with it all afterwards.

Now, lunch is over and we are trying to figure out what to do, we are a couple hours out from our home marina and the wind is crazyCRAZY and we have to use the emergency tiller.

Rick decides it would be better to motor home than to try to sail using the emergency tiller.

The chop is so bad we are very glad we aren’t sailing.  Yet it’s not so bad that some racing kayakers aren’t out in it.  I can’t believe they are so far from shore in this weather.   They’re pretty spread out but, naturally, it seems we are on a course to hit one.  Weird how that works, all this space and we have to avoid the kayaks.

Fortunately, the way into the marina is via a long, very sheltered estuary and we have all recovered enough from our ordeal to set our sights on dinner at a restaurant in the Jack London Square on the Oakland waterfront.  A lovely end to our adventure.  Jack London Square info

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By the way, we figured out how to fix the blankety-blank problem with the steering cable.

Picture a bicycle gear and chain.  The bicycle chain looks the same along its entirety.

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Pretty cool, actually, turned into a chandelier, right?

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Anyway, the steering chain is similar except it ISN’T the same along its entirety.  So, if you turn the wheel far enough the chain becomes a plain cable which no longer meshes with the sprocket and it slips off.  Stupid design.

So, MacGyver, I mean Rick, put a clamp at each end of the chain where it attached to the cable so it can’t be pulled past the clamp and pop off the sprocket.  Genius, I say, genius!  In the Zombie Apocalypse, this guy is one you want to have around!

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Get your ZA Survival Kits here

Now, I was much more comfortable on the boat, one less stupid mistake for me to make!

Why is the engine in the wrong place and what does that mean?  Ours used to have an inboard but it disappeared long before we bought it.  We could add an inboard for a huge amount of money or add an outboard off the stern of the boat for a lot less money.   Here’s the post on the outboard engine

When the propeller is in front of the rudder, you can steer more easily cuz the water is being pushed into the rudder, then the rudder gives it direction.  When the propeller is behind the rudder, you get less effective steerage.  You are aiming the rudder and then pushing the water with the propeller.  The rudder doesn’t have a lot to work with.  Rick got used to it but it meant getting into our dock slip was a bit more of a challenge.

Why am I such a scaredy-cat?  Well, you can easily die within 15 minutes if you go overboard into the San Francisco Bay.  It’s that cold!  June temp is an average of 52.8 degrees F (11.5 degrees C) .  I don’t want anyone up on the deck for any reason and on a sailboat, that’s an impossible thing to ask.

Even Rick, the most sensible, calm person, who knew how to handle himself with ease, would go up to the front to raise the jib or the main and I’d be a nervous-nellie – dumb, I know.  I tried not to show it but he figured it out :-\

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Maybe I’m such a baby about it because there is no easy way to retrieve a person who’s fallen in.  Especially when you’re with people who are newbies.  YOU! Throw out the cushion!  YOU, don’t take your eyes off the person, and YOU take the lines!  While I’m going to a beam reach and counting to eight and flipping a U-y and coming back around, aiming for upwind of the person, releasing all the lines and letting the boat drift into them >whew< I don’t mean to insult anyone reading this (particularly those we took out with us) but it’s a big responsibility and I felt that burden – needlessly, it seems, since no one fell in.  I used to rehearse it in my head all the time.

Maybe it would be better if I was sailing in a warm place; you fall in and you love it! file000825896197.jpg Leave me here…come back for me on the return trip 😉

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The America’s Cup

When Rick heard that the America’s Cup would be held in the San Francisco Bay he decided he would see it from the water.

When we purchased the sailboat Rick had given himself a deadline that we’d have enough done to be able to be out on the water for the America’s Cup.  At the time, the race was a year and a half away, plenty of time!  But we barely made it.

Being fed up with the old motor (purchased second hand anyway, screw being frugal) Rick went to the Oakland outboard shop and purchased a branch new 15 horse Mercury kicker motor – called a kicker because it is specifically designed with high torque pushing a heavy boat using a small engine.  Hmmm, maybe it should be called a ‘pusher’ instead?

We installed it using all the same hookups as the old Merc had but now it was New and Dependable!

Rick and I took it out sailing a few times to get a feel for the boat, how it handled in chop and how it floundered around when there’s no breeze (give up and motor, already!)

America’s Cup was in September so Rick invited some family members, including his parents to come along with us.  Rick’s mom loves sailing and insisted on dragging Dad with her.  We headed out.  We motored around to the City side of Treasure Island and decided that now was not a good time to try to sail.  The crush of boats was incredible.  We all had the same idea.  Even ski boats were out there trying to catch some of the race.  We motored over to the Turn 2 buoy (southeast of Alcatraz Island) … where we puttered around very slowly like every other boat in the crowd, trying to avoid each other while staying in position.  Well, most of us tried to avoid the rest of us.

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Our best example of a close call was when a 50’ plus sailboat under full sail, UNDER FULL SAIL!, going about 10 knots sailed through the spectator fleet expecting everyone to get out of his way because we are “under power” and he is “sailing”.  He missed other boats by maybe 5’ with all the other captains screaming and honking at him as he went by – and he barely looked in our direction!  (This happened again when we went out to see the Blue Angels – tons of boats, all motoring at the slowest speed possible, basically staying in one spot’ish and some jerk sails through us.  Keep in mind we were hunkered out of the way as close to the sea walls as we could be and he has to be sailing right there…where we are…jerk…)

 

This is how qualified that guy was to hold a steering wheel in his hand!

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Side note:  Look how cool the Blue Angels look against the Golden Gate Bridge!

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All in all it was great fun to watch those big America’s Cup boats come flying around the Number 2 buoy, staying up on their hydrofoils around the turn going as fast as an offshore power boat.  You can see the guys on board leaning into the turn like they’re in a sports car.  Wow.

It was one of those once in a lifetime events that we were glad to be able to see in person.

Rick can check off another item on his Bucket List 😉

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Napa to Alameda and Murphy’s Law

I wave goodbye to Rick and he’s off!  Motoring from the marina in Napa, where the boat had been dry docked, to Fortman Marina in the Alameda Island Estuary where our little boat will have its forever home, as they say.  It’s about an hour from our office/apartment.

The trip was going to take most of the day, so I drove back home to await Rick’s call when he got close to the Estuary.  At that point, I’d drive to the Alameda marina and we’d drive back home.

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So here is Rick’s story: (I’ve added little notes here and there)

Took a day off work and we headed up to Napa.  Holly dropped me off at the marina in the morning so I’d have all day to get the boat to its new home in Alameda.

Although my son, Austin, had joined me for the trip up the river, he was now out of town and I’d have to go down the river to Alameda on my own.

Our little outboard was running good, had plenty of fuel in the tank and the plan was to motor all the way to the new marina. (Note: in the interest of being frugal, we purchased a second-hand outboard)

The weather forecast was that it would be overcast in the afternoon with winds expected to pick up to about 15 mph.

To be on the safe side, I brought my toolbox and sails on board.  (Note: this guy always has his toolbox with him, good thing, too, as you will soon see)  I installed the mainsail back on the boom but didn’t hank on the jib as I didn’t have a containment bag for it on deck.

Engine fired up nicely and I headed down the river.  I had my Humminbird 5” chart plotter on the steering pedestal working great.  I knew I needed the depth sounder as there are lots of shallow spots coming down the Napa River and the channel gets fairly narrow in places.

I used my cell phone to call the Mare Island Causeway bridge operator.  He was very polite and opened it for me and another boat.

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(Note: This isn’t a photo of the front of our sailboat…I’d kill for roller furling!)

Then I headed down to the Carquinez Straight and took a right turn into San Pablo Bay.

As I motored along at about 5 knots I noticed a sailboat behind me about .5 mile going in the same direction.  (Note: I’m not sure why Rick mentions this since the other boat doesn’t figure into the story at all, but whatever, it’s his story) When I was about 4 or 5 miles down the bay, about 1 mile off shore, my little engine began to sputter badly and then just gave up completely.  The wind had built and there was now an 18” chop that I had been bouncing through nicely.  But what it did was stir up garbage in the old fuel tank.  Even though I had a spiffy new spin-on fuel filter, it had clogged the filter enough to starve the engine for fuel. (Note: Rick didn’t say ‘spiffy’ he said ‘nice’ but he’d said ‘nice’ previously so I wanted to use a different word)

I had a spare filter on board so I went down to spin the clogged one off and it would not budge, I pushed, pulled, cajoled but it wouldn’t budge.  I went looking for my filter wrench but I realized it was not on board.

I wasn’t interested in hammering a big screwdriver through the filter to use it as a handle to rotate it off (even though this is a trick for oil filters) because I didn’t want gasoline leaking out all over the bilge of the boat!

Realizing this engine wasn’t going to start, I was glad I brought along a sail, after all it is a sailboat.  So, as I bounced around in San Pablo Bay, I started bringing up the mainsail.  As most sailors know, a sailboat bobbing around like a cork in water always turns beam to the wind.  In this position, it’s rather difficult to raise a mainsail.  (Note: The pressure from the wind on the sail makes it hard going to crank it up. PLUS Rick is standing on the deck by the mast while the boat is bouncing up and down in the chop.)

When the sail was halfway up I heard a loud bang and realized that I had forgotten to lock the steering well at the pedestal and the boat ‘backed down’, which slammed the rudder all the way to one side and popped the chain off the steering sprocket. (Note: Blankety-blank steering sprocket was installed upside down by previous owner and it’s a blankety-blank to rectify that)

 

I finished getting the mainsail up and secured it with the main sheet which brought the boat nose to the wind at which point I had no steering whatsoever.

I don’t care how many years you’ve been sailing, you can still be stuck in really stupid situations.

So, the first thing I did was go below to get my emergency tiller.

Guess, what?  I forgot to bring the emergency tiller on board. (Note: it’s in our office basement, lovingly given about a hunnerd coats of finish to make it glossy and shiny)

Now what, I’m scratching my head to find something I can use as an emergency tiller.

Looking through my toolbox, the biggest thing I had in there was an 18” crowbar, one of the reasons the darn toolbox is so heavy. (Note: I love a good crowbar, don’t you?)

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I was able to hook the edge of the crowbar sort-of into the edge of the emergency rudder post and managed to get some steering. (Note: Think about it…most sailboats have large steering wheels or a 3 foot long tiller.  Rick was using an 18” crowbar, so his leverage was minimal and he had to hold on tight and manhandle it.)

One of the things about sailing in the bay area, no matter where you are, north bay, south bay, east bay, the wind is always coming from the Golden Gate, which means I was nose to the wind to slog my way south to Alameda. (Note: Rick used a different word than ‘slog’ but ‘slog’ is so descriptive, don’t you think?)

Sailing a 30’ boat upwind means it won’t point very high. It also means it’s going to take a looong time to go the several miles I needed to go to civilization. (Note: Why didn’t he call the tow company?  He doesn’t really know, he just thought he could do it himself)

The nearest port of call to my position was Richmond and the nearest marina was the Richmond Yacht Club.  It took all afternoon for me to make it to the yacht club and I got in just before sunset. (Note: I don’t want to contemplate how hard this would have been to do in the dark.  In fact, I don’t want to contemplate much of this episode, I can’t imagine being out there like that.  I’ve married MacGyver!)

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I sailed in past the breakwater past the boat docks to the guest dock at the yacht club where there was a bit more maneuvering space. (Note: not all marinas have this kind of space to maneuver!)  When the people on the dock, who were tending to small dinghies saw me coming in they let me know this was a private yacht club.  I waved at them with my emergency tiller – a crowbar – and yelled, “I got no steering, guys!”

My first pass, I missed the dock, so I did a 360 in the turning area and came in again letting the mainsail go in time to drift into the dock.  Everyone grabbed the boat since I had no fenders or lines out and I jumped up across the cockpit to let the main-sheet go in order to depower the boat.

Ah, safe at last.  I picked up my cell phone to have the wife come and rescue me.  (Note: I got there way after dark since the car’s nav system didn’t realize the fastest way to the marina was via a tunnel that was closed.  Rick immediately fell asleep in the car, he was exhausted)

I realized the boat would have to be there overnight, to which the yacht club was amenable.  (Note: In fact, the next day he was a minor celebrity coming into the harbor ‘hot’ like that and not crashing into anything!)

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Even though I was able to replace the fuel filter, the motor still refused to start.  Evidently the bad fuel had gotten all the way into the engine and clogged things up.  I took a look at the steering and realized fixing it would be a chore because I had to release tension in the cable in one of the pulleys to get enough slack to get the chain up and over the sprocket.  (Note: this stupid steering issue was a continual problem until we, I mean Rick, figured out how to fix it)

The next morning, after being sufficiently frustrated that I wouldn’t be able to fix it in a couple hours, I called BoatUS and got towed all the way to our Alameda Estuary berth.  Evidently an ego adjustment was necessary. (Note: Honestly, this guy has no ego about anything, he’s so laid back about everything!  I, on the other hand, tend to get nervous easily, which I hate!  And try to fight since I, as you can tell, married MacGyver! If you have to be in an emergency situation, Rick is the guy to be with.)

My triumphant entry into Fortman Marina was at the end of a tow line and I could see my wife standing on the shore taking pictures and having a good laugh. (Note: I wasn’t really laughing that hard, more of a snicker and even then just a little one.  If boats are for fun, we’re having some fun now 😉

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