Saturday 24 August 2013

Stunningly, I Continue To Remain… an Idiot.

               "...over and over and over, again..."
                                           -The Spinners
    Notice to Mariners, Eastern Lake Erie, Long Point Bay:
    Buoy ED2's current physical location does not match chart location.

    Yeah, I hit it.


     (Y'know, if I am gonna keep baring my soul like this, hanging my dirty laundry on this worldwide clothesline, I really need to find some way for it to pay off.  Schadenfreude should equal shekels, I'm thinking.  Alas, it does not; while I continue to swing for the fences, I have yet to get called to The Show.  Really, I'm pretty okay with that.  I have thousands hundreds a handful of loyal readers that I am happy to call friends, who are happy to call me on my shit. And I apparently keep giving them lots of shit to call me on.  Like this.)


     It was a beautiful night for a twilight sail.

    No traffic, we've pretty much got the bay to ourselves, there's just a breath more than a wheeze of wind, pretty much just enough to keep the sails full and Whiskeyjack chuckling along at 3-4 knots on a reach.

    Not a great sailing night, but a great night for a sail.  SWMBO and I had been working long hours, and had seen little of each other over the past week.  We were like ships passing in the night, to borrow a worm-eaten but accurate cliche.        
   So, to be able to grab a few hours together? At the same time?  On the same boat?
   That's a perfect night, limp wind be damned.

    We light up the trusty Yanmar one-lunger (running much happier since a fuel filter change, oil change, valve adjustment, head re-torque, and fuel line bleeding)  and putt out of the Marina.  We soon turn to port, bearing south around ED6,  and roll out our genoa, raise the main and  cut the power, SWMBO and I smiling as we soak in the sudden silence.

    With the wind coming out of the west, our deck-sweeping genny was effectively blindfolding me, the usually situationally aware skipper, to anything off our port bow.  In fact, pretty much anything from 8-12 on the clock was obstructed from view.  Luckily, I had a second pair of eyes aboard.

... And I had a chartplotter.

... which, for those of you who are not up to speed on cutting edge high-falutin' modern boat electronics, means that I had, on a 5" screen, a full colour  graphic representation of the lates edition of the most current official and accurate marine charts, outlining depth and distance and dastardly damned destructive distractions that a prudent sailor would be well-advised to avoid.

    Including buoys.

   The red buoys marking the  approach to Port Dover, ED2, ED4, and ED 6 are known informally as the Three Sisters, and common lore is that ED2 is the sister you can dance with, ED4 is the sister who won't let you get too close, and ED6 is just plain ugly when you get within arm's reach.

   Having messed with the rocky shoals to the east of ED6, once, I tend to give her a wide berth as  we depart the marina.

  ED4 and ED2 are in deeper, less treacherous water.

   Thus, once past ED6, sometimes situational awareness becomes... less than fully aware.

   With sails full(ish) and our stalwart galleon ambling along,   SWMBOclimbs  forward onto the house to enjoy the sunset.  She looks forward and informs me that ED2 is off our port bow...

     :...but,"  she continues, "If we hold this course, we'll miss it."

    Note the use of the plural subjective pronoun above.

    Not being able to actually see aforementioned navigational buoy, thanks to the large dirty and frayed obstruction that is our 160% genoa,  I glance at the chartplotter and see that, according to the theoretical, perfect, completely imaginary world of  electronic charts, ED2 was hundreds of yards off our port bow, currently at about 10:30 on the clock.
  (okay, imagine that there is a clock face on the table/desk/couch/bed/lap/floor  in front of you.  imagine 12 o'clock is directly in front.  Imagine where the big hand would be if the time was 10:30. now point your hand there.  THAT is where ED2 is supposed to be, at that moment in time.)
   (I can't believe you actually pointed.  By the way, did you know that it is impossible to lick the outside of your elbow.?)
   (Oh,come on...  you didn't.  Did you?)
    (Yeah, I knew you did.)

   Okay, so back to the story:  sailing along, nice night, all is good, no boats around, yadda yadda. SWMBO and I sit down to relax in the cockpit with a glass of wi


"Oh My God,"  SWMBO replies, "YOU hit a buoy!!!"
(Note the pronoun change, from plural to singular.  Yep, this one is alllllll mine.)

   A big-ass orange shape pops into view  as it passes the leech of the genoa, and continues to bump down our port side:

Folks, allow me to introduce you to my now-close friend, ED2.

Having established that no significant harm was done to our vessel (turns out that ED2 is basically a tower attached to a big fiberglass donut, and having ascertained that 3 out of 4 chambers of my heart are pumping furiously while one seems to be pretty much catatonic, I glanced at the chartplotter:

Then,  while SWMBO gazed aft at ED2 bobbing in our wake, in incredulous disbelief, I darted below and grabbed the camera....

(Yes, the helm was unattended.  For a brief moment.  It wasn't like there was anything to hit, I'd bloody well ALREADY HIT IT, hadn't I?)

...  and snapped a shot of the chartplotter screen:

Which was horribly out of focus, so I snapped another one shortly thereafter, as the wind died and we bobbed.

  Call it, oh...almost a QUARTER MILE out of position.

  Upon our return to the Dock, we inspected our trusty vessel for any signs of damage.  Aside from a small scrape aft of the registration number on the port side, there was no evidence that we had bounced off a big-ass buoy.

    Whiskeyjack  is the Keith Richards of small cruisers-  Not real attractive, but enduring and hard to kill.

   Until now.

  So, what did we learn from my fail?

   Reagan was right:  Trust, but verify.

   Waters you have sailed hundreds of times are always new- nothing ever stays static when affected by wind and waves,

    Chartplotters are a nice tool, but nothing beats the Human Eyeball, Mk I, for  accurate real time situation reports.

    And, it is always the fault of the person holding the wheel.  There may be no "I" in "Team" but there is always one U in "It's Your Problem."

  "Talk the Dock!"


Wednesday 14 August 2013

OPB, Faster Edition: Fat Boy Goes Racing

    "They deftly maneuver and muscle for rank..."

      I am no athlete.
      Short, wide, built for comfort, not speed, I am comfortable, not competitive.

      Which also describes my boat.

       Racing hasn't really been on my radar since Sailing School, over three decades of summers ago.

       Until recently.

       Andy stupidly graciously allowed me to crew aboard Cyclone this season.  I  had often heard that racing is the best way to improve your sailing skills, and I wanted to see if it was, indeed, true.


        "So," the Astute Reader asks, "if you suddenly have the desire to race, why not run Whiskeyjack on Wednesday nights?"

        Great question.

        To answer requires some uncomfortable soul-baring honesty:

        I'm not a race skipper.  I don't have the depth of acquaintance to be able to build a team, since anyone I know who is interested in racing is already racing on somebody else's boat.  I can run a business, and hire and fire and train employees but I don't have the cat-herding patience to ensure that unpaid volunteer crew shows up for practices and races, and I am extremely ungood (as my family will testify) at diplomacy and massaging egos.

       And I yell from time to time.

       From an equipment standpoint, our faithful doughty galleon Whiskeyjack has a layout that is entirely unsuited for racing.  A racing crew requires grinders on the foresail winches, a mainsail handler, a mastperson to handle sail changes and reefing, and a bowman.  With winches behind the helm and mainsheet right in front, and ruler-narrow side decks and high cockpit coamings, she is a great boat for single handing, but the real estate is just too small and too awkward to race.  I would never force any grinder to work through an entire race with my not- insubstantial (yet attractive) ass in their face.

       Further, racing is hard on a boat- stuff breaks.  Racing also leads one to continue to improve the boat's speed, which means buying new and better and fancier sails and new and better and fancier gear in addition to fixing the stuff that breaks and that would put a dent in the rum and red wine budget.
       So, I figured I'd break stuff on someone else's boat.  I'm selfless like that.

         I am also a lazy sailor- pounding through chop in big wind- that's work.  I like to shirk work.

       THAT is one of the big reasons why I want to race on Other People's Boats- it forces me to work, to head out into conditions, on purpose, that would normally keep me on the dock, and find the fun in big weather, big heel, wet sailing.

       The crew on Cyclone is... varied.  Ranging from teens to retirees, from novices to old salts, dinghy sailors to boatless, avid racers to dabblers, it is a collision of attitudes and experience that shouldn't work.

        But does.

        Most races.

        Largely thanks to the man at the helm.

       The skipper doesn't just run the boat, he sets the tone for the boat.  Andy has demonstrated a deft touch, commanding without screaming, getting the best out of everyone on the boat, celebrating the smooth tacks and taking responsibility for tactical errors.


   We don't have matching shirts and logo'd foulies...

       And sometimes, it can be cold and miserable...


   But it's fun.

      I am picking up new skills, and have a better knowledge of tweaking sail trim, sheeting angle, outhaul adjustment and a myriad of other sailing arcana.  It has also reinforced that stuff that I believe I am already doing right, I really am doing right.

     It has also given me the opportunity to see, up close, how different types of boats and hull forms perform.

Our fleet is varied, from semi-hardcore racing boats like Mylar sail'd J boats to run-what-you-brung cruisers

    A Nonsuch can be far more competitve than she looks.  Here's Shaibu running the pack:

     A Goman Express 30 is deceptive racer-cruiser, quickish and high-pointing:

      A Cal 31, still competitive:

And juts a pretty, pretty boat:

  A Tanzer 22:  Maybe the best value in a racing boat today.  Under $5K will get you a great little boat with an active fleet that is quick and safe and a weekender to boot.

  It's a colourful fleet...

  Note that the colourful boats have matching shirts.  I'm not sure what that means, but it might mean something.

    So, how is Cyclone standing, more than halfway through the season?

    Errr... we are improving every race.

     And we're having fun.

"Talk the Dock!"

Sunday 11 August 2013

Low-Buck Project: Rig Tuning

   "Welcome to a new kind of tension..."
                             -Green Day

         A Friend of the Dock, Rod (Henceforth known as FOD Rod), is one of those boaters that we all know.
     Or wish we knew.
     Or hope to know.
      He's owned sailboats and powerboats and been comfortable on each, has run big boats and small boats, been a yacht club member and a dock rat, and has not developed, (or maybe lost) any prejudices regarding size, mode of propulsion or affiliation.  Over more than three decades, he's been there, done that... quietly.  He doesn't steer a barstool and try to command a room, he'd rather be polishing, or fixing or sailing his Catalina or piloting his Limestone.

      Along the way he's amassed some of the gear that we all wish we had, have thought about buying, or didn't even realize existed.

      Like Loos Gauges.

      One of the endlessly interesting (or numblingly, observing-paint-dryingly boring, depending) aspects of sailing is the myriad  infinite adjustments that can be made to a sailboat's rig, and the effect that the rig tension has on performance.  Some sailors like a loose rig, believing that it relieves strain on the mast step and compression post, others prefer a rig that is tight as a drum port-starboard, but with a lot of fore-aft adjustability, others like tight stays with loose shrouds, etc.,

     Me?  I've always tuned my rig by eye and by ear.  Tighten up the backstay until the forestay is tight and the mast has a nice rake, then tighten the lower shrouds until they all give me the same note when twanged, then do the same thing with the upper shrouds.

     (I like the upper shrouds to sound a half tone to a tone lower than the lower shrouds, but then, I like a lot of bass.)

      It always seemed okay to me, but I wondered- am I, maybe,  overtightening or undertightening my rig?  should I be concerned about a catastrohic failure, or could I maybe find another 1/10th of a knot and less weather helm if I cranked the turnbuckles another turn or two?

    FOD Rod mentioned that he, of course, had the tools for this, and kindly loaned me his Loos gauges.

       The process is simple, and takes little time.  The tools required are just as simple:

                   The gauge, and the tools you use to adjust your turnbuckles.

                   Testing tension is just plain stupid simple.  Clip the gauge to the stay or shroud....

      Pull the lanyard until the pointer reaches the black line....

  ... and note the number at the middle of the stay/shroud .

   Included with the Loos Gauge is an instruction leaflet, which includes a conversion chart for optimum tension, based on the diameter of the wire.  Compare your reading to the chart, then tighten or loosen the turnbuckles accordingly, rechecking until the tension is within spec.  Easy peasy.

    Turns out my tuning-by-twang was pretty close.  The uppers benefitted from another couple of turns on the turnbuckle, the backstay took three, the lower shrouds were spot on.

    I don't know whether it has made our galleon of a pocket cruiser any faster, but it's kinda cool to know that she is as optimized rig-wise, as she can get.

     Give it a try.

   "Talk The Dock!"

Friday 9 August 2013

Dock Wildlife Update

       "I am king of all I see..."

      Meet the newest Dock denizen-  the swan.


     Yeah, I didn't know we had wild swans here on the south coast of Ontario, either.

     Turns out, we're not supposed to.

    But here he is anyway.

    And he is pissed.

      Your humble scribbler, admittedly not a swan expert, did some research, and the swan in question is a Mute Swan.

      Turns out that, like much of the other flora and fauna and flotsam and jetsam around the Dock, the Mute Swan is an invasive species.  According to wikipedia :

        "The Mute Swan was introduced to North America in the late 19th century. Recently, it has been widely viewed as an invasive species because of its rapidly increasing numbers and adverse effects on other waterfowl and native ecosystems. For example, a study of population sizes in the lower Great Lakes from 1971 to 2000 found that Mute Swan numbers were increasing at an average rate of at least 10% per year, doubling the population every seven to eight years.  Several studies have concluded that Mute Swans severely reduce densities of submerged vegetation where they occur.
In 2003, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed to "minimize environmental damages attributed to mute swans" by reducing their numbers in the Atlantic Flyway to pre-1986 levels, a 67% reduction at the time. According to a report published in the Federal Register of 2003 the proposal was supported by all thirteen state wildlife agencies which submitted comments, as well as by 43 bird conservation, wildlife conservation and wildlife management organisations. Ten animal rights organisations and the vast majority of comments from individuals were opposed. At this time Mute Swans were protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act due to a court order, but in 2005 the United States Department of the Interior officially declared them a non-native, unprotected species.  Mute Swans are protected in some areas of the U.S. by local laws, as for example in Connecticut."

     Okay, so Mr. Swan used to be protected, now he's viewed as a pest.  Yeah, I 'd be pissed, too.

    More downy ducks debut:


     On the other end of the Squeee! Cute Index:   Turkey Vultures lurk on the breakwall:

  They showed up when I launched leaky ProjectBoat.  An omen?

  What the...

... A Beaver??!!?

  Meanwhile, the dawgs are enjoying Dock life, and Ellie has apparently learned to levitate.

.... While Bello is learning how to sail:

     Of course, there is the usual assortment of those fecal- firing fowl, gulls and geese.
      No pictures.
     You know what they look like.
      No heron sightings yet this season.  Hopefully I can snap a pic before they head south.

       As always, we'll keep you posted.

"Talk The Dock!"

Sunday 4 August 2013

Two Burner Tastiness: Tossed Greens and Tenderloin

    "I can't stop pushing it..."
           -General Public


       As it so often does in life, once again, size matters.

       An unavoidable limitation of cooking in a small space is the very fact that one is cooking in a small space.  Everything, by necessity, is smaller- smaller burners mean smaller pots and pans,  which can, and does limit one’s ability to cook beef.

  A 16 oz ribeye steak for example, would overwhelm our hand-span – wide “big” skillet.

      Thus, when the crew of Whiskeyjack has a  hankering for bovine protein that doesn't come wrapped in a bun, we turn to tenderloin.

       Tenderloin is a small oblong roast, ideal for two-burner cooking.

        Here's our recipe for Tenderloin in a Red Wine Reduction

        1 2 lb-ish beef tenerloin, cut in half to fit pan.
        1 shallot diced
        1 clove garlic peeled and minced
        1 vidalia onion, peeled and diced
        1 carrot, sliced
        1 stalk of celery, sliced
         Handfull of sliced mushrooms (optional)
         1 zucchini, sliced into 1/4" thick slices.
        1 tsp olive oil or 1 dollop of butter
         2 tsp worcestershire sauce
         1 dash balsamic vinegar
         1 bottle of red wine
          Spices- I like rosemary, tarragon a little salt and pepper.

          Pour a glass of wine.
          Cut tenderloin to fit skillet.
           Put tenderloin on plate, pat on some spices and a little worcestershire sauce.
         Warm up your skillet-  you want your pan to be HOT before introducing the beef.
          Add dollop of butter or olive oil  to pan.  (Because of the lack of temperature control on our crude stove, I prefer to use olive oil when searing.)
          When pan is hot, add tenderloin.
           When tenderloin is seared on once side, (about a minute) turn and add veggies (except 'shrooms) to pan.
            About a minute later, turn tenderloin to side number 3, and add a glug or three of wine to the pan.
             Another minute or two later, turn the tenderloin one last time, then reduce heat to medium-ish, and cover.

      We uses another pot as a lid.

     Over on burner #2,  add a dollop of olive oil to skillet #2, and set to medium heat.
      When internal temp of tenderloin indicates that it is done to your taste, set tenderloin on cutting board to rest, under pot lid or tinfoil tent.  
      Add another glug of red wine to pan, a quick dash of balsamic vinegar, and increase heat slightly.  Stir and taste frequently.  Did you opt for 'shrooms?  Now is the time to toss them in.

        How's your wine?  Now is a good time to refresh your glass.
       While reduction is reducing, after tenderloin has rested at least 9 minutes, turn to skillet #2 and start to sear zucchini slices with a dash of spices, salt and pepper, and arrange on plates.  

        Don't forget to occasionally stir and taste skillet #1.

        Now the tenderloin has rested about 12-15 minutes- uncover, slice and arrange on zucchini.

        Spoon reduction onto tenderloin, or onto plate, or into small inidvidual dipping bowls so guests can serve themselves
        Serve with simple salad.  We opted for spring greens and spinach with semi-pickled cucumbers.

     Easy, tasty, and less grease than burgers.

     "Talk the Dock!"