Archive for the ‘Friendship Sloop’ Category

New Work on the Friendship Sloop

August 8, 2018

This spring presented some real creative challenges for us, mostly related to our Friendship sloop.

Last fall as we got ready to decommission the boat for the season we found ourselves trying to make a rather tough decision; do we pull the engine and have it reconditioned, or do we replace the it?

On the one hand, our 28-year-old engine always starts. In all the years that we have been living with this boat, it has never failed us. On the other hand, it was developing some problems and the time to intervene was now.

I found that I was going back and forth on what to do. I don’t like working on the diesel, it is about the only thing about working on the boat that I don’t take much satisfaction in, my strengths do not include being a diesel mechanic, so rebuilding, or reconditioning this engine would mean pulling the engine to have a professional do the work. So why is that such a stumbling block? In the first place expense. The cost to have the engine professionally reconditioned is almost half the cost of a new engine. In the second place, where would that get us? We would, in a best-case scenario have an engine that is in better shape, but is still 28-years-old and which has always been underpowered for a boat that displaces almost eleven tons. That second part is key, if you are just going to use the engine to get off the mooring or through a crowded harbor, or when the wind dies, then this is no big deal, but we love to cruise, and have been in many situations where unexpected weather conditions meant that we needed a reliable engine powerful enough to help us get out of harms way. Several close calls in the last few seasons made us realize that our old engine was operating at the very extreme edge of its capabilities. Between us, the woman who will willingly get up in the middle of the night and stand an anchor watch, and I, have more than eighty years sailing experience. You don’t acquire that kind of experience without becoming acutely sensitive to where the edge is, and when you are too close to it, and we were too close to it.

So that would seem to point us in the direction of replacing the engine, except that as I said above, I don’t like working on diesels, and at least I know our old motor, I know what is likely to go wrong and how to fix it. I have spare parts on board and the appropriate tools on board, and there is a lot of comfort in that. A new engine would mean getting to know a new power plant and perhaps having to reconfigure systems around the new engine, what would that involve?

While the choice seemed obvious, the unknown factors were making me very uncomfortable.

Last fall I started to research the answers to as many of those questions as I could. I talked with representatives of just about every manufacturer of marine diesels; I got specs on multiple engines, talked to mechanics, and spent a lot of time in the engine room of the boat measuring. Mostly I asked a lot of questions and listened to the answers.

By midwinter only three things were really clear, one was that we could indeed purchase a new diesel that was physically about the same size as the old, but that had greater horsepower. Second was that if we were going to get the most out of a new motor then a new propeller, matched to the size of the engine, the size and shape of the boat and which would, in turn determine which reduction ratio for the transmission would be needed as well. And third, that I really could not determine how many other things, like the exhaust system, or engine beds, would have to be upgraded until we made the commitment to one particular make of engine.

We began to narrow the field.

As we asked more and more specific questions the answers we got kept bringing us back to Beta Marine. While the package that they suggested was not the least expensive that we looked at, it was the most complete and would require the least number of modifications to the boat as a whole. We would need to replace the waterlock muffler, build and mount a new containment box for the engine start up panel and gauges, and it was clear we would have to move the electrical panel. None of these were, by themselves, that big a job, however, if we were going to go ahead with this then it made no sense to keep the old engine control levers which were completely worn out. With a new engine and new controls it did not make a lot of sense to keep the old control cables, so they would be replaced too. And since we were pulling the old prop and the old coupling, then removing the propeller shaft to change the cutlass bearing also made sense.

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The old engine panel

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Opening up the cockpit to install the new engine panel box and remove a few soft planks at the same time.

 

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New engine box for the new panel.

As is often the case with a project like this, several jobs that I thought were going to be major hassles proved fairly easy; the engine beds for example. I worried about this a lot, but in the end it turned out that modifications were simple and quickly accomplished. The alignment was another thing I was worried about that went easily and with far less complication than I have run into in the past. On the other hand a lot of seemingly little jobs that looked easy turned into major epics. I ended up having to machine connectors for the new control levers and in the process of moving the electrical panel; it became clear that a number of connectors and wires needed replacing. All of this stuff takes time, especially when you realize to move forward you have to stop what you are working on, figure out where you are going to get a part, or parts, then wait for it to arrive. Once back to work, that is when I would discover that there were other parts I should have ordered too.

I won’t go into those epics save to say that it is the details that will kill you.

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Engine beds modified to fit the new engine.

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New Beta Marine 38 in place.

We have been using the engine now for almost two months and so far, touch wood, it has worked flawlessly. It is slightly larger physically than the old Westerbeke, which required a new engine cover, which also required some creative re-working of our companionway steps. However, I was able to make the box that covers the engine out of lighter materials and that makes it less of a chore to get to the engine.

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New engine box (minus trim). Note the electrical panel has been moved up and into a box for easy access.

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You can see here the modification we needed to make to the companionway ladder to fit the new engine box. The new engine is slightly longer than the old, and I wanted plenty of ventilation around the motor. You can also get a little closer view of the box for the electrical panel and the piano hinge along the bottom edge.

Also, when we moved the electrical panel we created a box for the panel with a hinged front. In the past if there was a bad connection in the panel, or a wire needed replacing, I had to crawl into the engine room and work directly over the engine where there was little space and it was hard to get at the back side of the panel. The new arrangement allows me to loosen two screws and the front of the panel folds down into the main cabin where there is light and easy access.

The whole project consumed more than five weeks of spare time, but we feel more comfortable on the water when conditions deteriorate (and they have already several time this season). Working with Stan at Beta Marine U.S. was easy and they were very helpful when we had questions. Later in the summer we will work on finding a new home for the old Westerbeke, but for now we are enjoying the improvements to our systems and to the engine operation.

 

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Summer 2017

November 14, 2017

Yes another boating season has come and gone. The spring prep season went by too fast with a lot of painting and varnishing on the Friendship sloop and an new rudder for the sailing-launch, Fee-Fi. We also managed to do some long overdue work on the dinghy, Fo-Fum, including replacing the oak bench that was fast rotting out with a new bench of Spanish cedar (interestingly Spanish cedar is not actually cedar, nor does it come from Spain).

The spring launch went about as smoothly as it ever does with perfect weather and we had two whole weekends to bend on the sails and remember which end of the boat is the front bit before setting sail for our two weeks cruise to MDI (Mount Desert Island). We were supposed to be cruising with a small fleet of Friendships, but since everyone on the other boats is now retired, they no longer look at calendars, and so missed us by a week. We did our best to catch up, putting in 35-mile days despite very unstable winds and weather. We were just entering the Fox Island Thoroughfare when we identified a good friend taking our picture from an immaculate classic powerboat. We waved and continued on, perhaps a mistake (the continuing on part, not the waving) since we got overpowered by strong winds just off Isle Au Haut and had to run for cover in Merchants Row. Once we were safely anchored, the weather lightened up and turned into a perfect Maine evening.

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The photo taken of us by a good friend as we entered the Fox Island passage

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Perfect Maine evening

The next day we got underway and saw our friends in the distance heading for Blue Hill. We were about two hours behind them but we needed to get to Southwest Harbor before the forecast poor weather set in. All went well until we made the turn into Western Way and entered into the “washing machine” that can happen when tide and wind are in opposition, the weather is disintegrating, and very large powerboats decide it would be fun to see how closely they can pass the big Friendship sloop. To make matters worse, with a building following sea, Fee-Fi decided this might be a good time to come aboard for a visit. I spent the next forty minutes trying to discourage her attempts to visit us while the woman who will willingly get up in the middle of the night and stand anchor watch clung to the wheel, white knuckled, dodging wave, rock, and incoming and outgoing traffic.

We picked up a mooring at the harbor entranced and were endlessly rolled by harbor traffic. I called friend who has a brokerage in Southwest and asked for advice about a better mooring. Several phone calls later she had arraigned for boats to be moved so she could put us on her guest mooring, a typically gracious act by a truly gracious lady.

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Our host’s boat in Southwest Harbor, OLD BALDY

We spent the next day ashore catching up with family and friends and then sailed up Somes Sound for Somesville, where we had a spectacular sail and of course the wind suddenly built with us over-canvassed and having to jibe, not the best jibe, but no one was hurt, and we made it into Somesville without further incident. About two hours later the Friendships that we had been trying to catch up to sailed in and moored nearby. That night we were host boat to cocktails and long tales.

Back to Southwest in the rain to pick up another crewmember who had flown in from South America via Boston and then the next day was the Southwest Harbor Friendship Sloop Rendezvous, a scratch race (I use the term “race” loosely) made up of however many Friendship sloops show up. This year there were sixteen sloops and very light air with some overcast for the start and gradual clearing as the “race” progressed. It was such light air that the course was simply a reach out to a single buoy and back—I think we can do this!

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Us getting ready to set the topsails before the “race”. Photo By Paula Dowsland

We made little attempt at getting a good starting position, crossed the line in the middle of the fleet and ended the race in the middle of the fleet and that is the way I like it, too far in front and you have to know where you are going and care about that, too far in the rear and you miss the start of the after-party.

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Another great photo by Paula Dowsland. That’s us in the middle, all the kites set.

The day was now clearing and for some reason we all still had a little wind, while the big local fleet of more regular racers were becalmed in the distance. So we all kept sailing in company and had a delightful afternoon. The after-party hosted by a generous local sloop owner was a delight with many old friends and several new ones as well.

There is much more that I could write about Southwest, but it all come down to the triad of summer in Maine, fog, lobster, and good company.

We stopped off in Rockland for a night on our way back west, and once again met up with many Friendship sloop owners, before heading out into some disintegrating weather to make our way back to our home mooring. When we got there we were feeling pretty beat up and spent most of August and early September sailing off the mooring and only doing one overnight away. This was partly weather driven since we too often saw winds build rapidly out of nothing and did not want to be caught on an anchor in a less than perfect spot, and partly because our mooring is in a quiet location that is well protected. We sleep better at night knowing that we are on the home mooring and what to expect for protection from the weather. Despite not cruising, we sailed every weekend save one, and on four occasions saw whales along with the usual harbor porpoise. So all in all, some beautiful sailing this summer and much of it in our own back yard so-to-speak.

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The fleet is now put away and ready for winter and work continues on out cottage renovation, a new book is out, (more on that in a future post) and it is time to hunker down for the fall—firewood, winter reading, and planning future sailing adventures.

Marine Paint Part 3

March 7, 2017

The lead is gone….

It is March, and that means that the process of preparing for the next boating season has already begun. It is in February and March that I start ordering materials and looking at the work that needs to be done before the boat(s) go back into the water. I have written about this before, but I wanted to write an update on this subject of yearly maintenance because I got a nice comment from one of the Kirby’s regarding their paint.

I wrote in Marine paint part 1 about why I like Kirby paint, (you can read more here) but I commented that it contains lead. It turns out that Kirby paint has not contained lead for over twenty years. They still put warnings on the cans because sanding old paint that might have lead in it can still present a health hazard.

It is great to know that there is one less toxic hazard to face when preparing for another season.

One of the things that I like about wooden boats is that when they are looked after and well maintained, they can last and incredibly long time. We have several friends who own Friendship sloops that are over one hundred years old, those boats are still sailing and are still in good shape.

The key phrase there is “looked after and well maintained”, maintenance that is messy, 8px910qlhbe7m81y94ijvlkj93ohojkeinvolves dangerous chemicals, or results in cleanup of toxic ingredients are typically the first things to get dropped from a maintenance schedule because they are too much of a pain. And few things are more discouraging than doing all the hard work of sanding, fairing, cleaning and tacking and then applying paint, only to have that paint not hold up to the environment, fade, or peel.

A wooden boat is a living thing, and like all living things they require regular care and when a problem develops that might affect the health of the boat, it needs to be dealt with or the boat will start down the road to the burn pile. But it is getting harder to find good quality wood and good reliable products to care for a wooden boat. Good paint that gives consistent results and that does not change its formula or color chart can be even harder to find, but good quality paint is also critical, it provides an absolutely vital barrier to the elements and contributes to the longevity of a wooden boat.

As I have said before on this blog, I like Kirby’s paint, we have used it on our boat now for sixteen seasons and are pleased with the results, and now that we know that it does not contain lead, we like it even more.

 

New steering for the launch

August 5, 2014

We have been pretty happy with our Iain Oughtred designed launch, but now that we have sailed her for a couple of seasons we are trying to refine the few things we don’t like, or did not get right on the first go-round. One of those things was the tiller.

Initially I opted for a very traditional tiller. I liked the simplicity of the design and the classic look. However, what we found is that the traditional tiller had some traditional limitations due to how we use the boat. One has to do with sailing; if you are sailing the boat you need to push the tiller very far to port or starboard when tacking. This requires that the helmsman move his or her body all over the place just to tack the boat. This becomes even more problematic if you are single-handing because the excessive movement aft lifts the bow out of the water making the boat less able to windward.

The other issue has to do with taking passengers. The boat will comfortably hold five adults, except that anyone sitting aft has to deal with the sweep of the tiller and the dance of the helmsman.

None of this is totally unexpected, but it has become more annoying than we were prepared for.

What we ended up doing was to go back to the design source. 

Iain Oughtred has another design, the Caledonia Yawl, similar in size to the Penny Fee, with a push-pull tiller arrangement that frankly did not look that great to me on paper. However, I ran into a video of the tiller set up on Off Center Harbor and was totally swayed. I conceded (at least to my self) that it would not look as elegant and simple as the original tiller we had, but to my surprise, I found that the new design, while less classic, has a simple functionality that is also quite elegant.

Another advantage to the new system is that we made the tiller longer than the original so that if you are taking the boat out for a sail by yourself you can sit more forward, almost in the center of the boat which makes the boat balance beter.

It takes some getting used to and the instinct from long time sailors is still to move the tiller from side to side instead of fore and aft, but after taking it for a spin under sail and oar, I find that it is a really neat solution to our previous problems.

We had to come up with a way to lash the tiller when we leave the boat at the float, and that has not been a perfect solution, but we are working on it and that is a small wrinkle to work on.

Now I need to get back to work on the new sail. I am convinced that moving the center of effort aft, even a foot will create less drag in the rudder tacking and may gain us a few more degrees closer to the wind. We shall see.

Where have I been?

July 24, 2014

My loyal readers (both of you) may have been wondering what happened to this blog, since I have not posted much in the last year. The truth is I have been writing a lot, but just not on this site.

A lot of my time during the last two years (perhaps too much of my time) has been devoted to bringing out a new book.

Lasting Friendships, a Century of Friendship Sloops has been in the pipeline since November of 2012. It has been produced and Published by the Friendship Sloop Society, and I have been spearheading the project.

Part of the reason that I agreed to head the group that was putting this book together (aside from a love of Friendship sloops and their history) was an opportunity to work with Ralph W. Stanley.

Ralph has been recognized as a master boatbuilder and is an NEA National Heritage Fellow, but he is also an excellent writer and historian. Without his help the book project would have been much less interesting the finished book much less impressive.

The book also allowed me to meet and briefly work with Maynard Bray, who wrote the introduction for the book. Maynard has a long history with WoodenBoat Magazine and with Mystic Seaport. He is also one of the key figures between Off Center Harbor, a video website and collection of blog posts from some of the more influential sailors, writers, and boatbuilders from this part of the world.

When I took on this project, I did not realize how confused some of our own records at the Friendship Sloop Society were, nor did I fully appreciate how entwined the history of these sloops is with the local history of small towns up and down the Maine coast. We had terrific and generous help from Ben Fuller and Kevin Johnson at the Penobscot Marine Museum. Frankly, without their help I am not sure we would have ever untangled the origins of certain photographs. But we also had help from librarians, town historians, and many members of the Friendship Sloop Society. Without their help this book would not have been possible.

I am very relieved to have this project off my desk and am looking forward to getting some of my life back, and I might even have some time to devote to this blog too.

The book is available in soft cover from Amazon, and in hardcover exclusively from the Friendship Sloop Society.

 

 

Boat Shed Details

January 3, 2014

A reader requested more specific details for the boat shed that we built in 2000. I have three thumbnails below of the original building plans with materials lists and details on them. If you click on each one you should be brought to a larger image. You can either print those, or blow them up on the screen to read the details.
Happy New Year!

Sailing

August 21, 2013

Although it has been a very full summer, we have been getting the occasional quiet moment. Last weekend we got in some wonderful sailing on our Friendship sloop.

A quick look at some light air sailing…the varnish looks very good in these shots.

We were sailing along when a small motor boat came along and started to take some pictures of us. The woman who will willingly get up in the middle of the night and stand anchor watch, flagged them down and got a lift so she could take some pictures of our boat, something we almost never get to do because we are sailing the boat.

I will repeat, very light air sailing, but still a lovely sight with all her kites set.

Summer 2013

August 5, 2013

Where has the time gone?

In the last post, way back in April I was explaining how we had refinished the gaff for our Friendship sloop.

Finished Gaff

Well we got that done, and then went on to do the annual scraping, sanding, and painting and varnishing.

Spring Painting

While this was going on I tracked down and bought a used trailer for the Penny Fee and refurbished that. We had been using the spar trailer to move the Penny Fee, but it is rally too small and was stressing both the trailer and the boat.

Next I installed a pump in the Penny Fee so that when we return to the boat after a week of rain we don’t have to bail.

Finally we got to launch the fleet in mid-June.

We got in two short weekend cruises before things got into full swing. The weather on one of those weekends was simply fog. Although we did get out we ended up sailing the Penny Fee more than the sloop. The other weekend, the one following the 4th of July was ridiculously hot, but it was not without its moments. We did some sailing and some swimming off the boat and while cooling off we watched large power boat run right up on a well charted ledge in broad daylight right in front of the US Coast Guard station. We could not believe our eyes, but at least we were not bored.

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In mid-July we headed out to spend some serious time on the water. First we drove to Southwest Harbor, Maine to crew in the Friendship sloop rendezvous there.

Start of the Southwest Harbor race

Great time, lots of fun people and beautiful boats.

Friendship Sloops in Southwest Harbor

Southwest Harbor Race

More from Southwest Harbor

 

Eden at Southwest Harbor

Next, on to Boothbay to pick up our boat and head to Rockland for the annual Friendship sloop gathering there. We had some fantastic sailing getting there, but once there it was just too hot.

Us running downwind to Rockland. At this point the camera broke and we were only able to take pictures without a viewfinder or screen.

Then off to spend a night in Rockport, Maine, followed by a lovely sail down East Penobscot Bay surrounded by ten schooners and a ketch, followed by several days on the Eggemoggin Reach before heading west again.

Hegira in Pulpit Harbor

All in all a fun cruise but exhausting, and now we are back to our jobs and trying to catch up.

The Main Gaff

April 26, 2013

The spar that is.

After twelve seasons of using, living with, and working on our Friendship sloop, we started off this year with only one spar that we had never refurbished, and that is the gaff for the main sail. I had slapped a little varnish on it once, but basically it has been without maintenance since we became the caretakers for this vessel in 2000. It was time to pay attention to this important spar.  On surveying the spar, we found that although the condition of the wood was generally good, the finish had disintegrated, and the service on the slings and horse were overdue for attention.

Gaff before work started

If you look at these pictures you will see that the wood is just starting to degrade where the finish is gone and that the service is worn and in need of repair and that the blacking is essentially gone.

Wear on the gaff

Service in need of attention

 

We have been working for the last month to make-and-mend the needs of the gaff.

We removed the slings and the hardware from the gall and then stripped the finish to bare wood.

Gaff stripped of varnish

Next we faired the spar and gave it an even closer examination. All of the questionable areas disappeared with the removal of what finish was left and with the fairing process.

Thus we started the two pronged process of re-finishing the gaff itself and repairing and refurbishing the service on slings and horse.

Starting to re-varnish the gaff

Refinished service

The same section of the gaff shown above after we started the refinishing process

 

One of the things that I noticed when I first surveyed the spar was that the service on the slings was wearing into the finish and resulting in damage to the surface wood where the weight of the spar was carried by the slings. We decided that the best way to protect both service and gaff was to leather the service where it makes contact with the spar.

Leathering is sometimes dismissed as overly “yachty”, but where bights of standing rigging make contact with any spar, I have found that leathering extends the life of the finish on the spar and on the service significantly. It is also an easy, clean and meditative chore that I don’t mind at all.

Leathering

Finished sling

 

We are working on the last coats of varnish now (ten in all) and then we will reassemble the hardware and walk the gaff back out to the boatshed from the shop. By then it should be warm enough to start on the rest of the painting and varnishing for this season.

The Fleet Is In

September 28, 2012

After what seems like the busiest summer yet, our fleet is home again and we are starting the chores to get all of our boats ready for winter. This includes fresh bottom paint, winterizing the diesel on the Friendship Sloop, cleaning and stowing sails, cushions, pillows, and mattresses, packing up the galley, and most importantly making lists of repairs that need to be done over the winter.

Typically, once the boats are bedded down for winter, they are allowed to rest for at least a couple of months while we focus on the autumn chores  at the cottage,  and then the winter holidays. Come January and February, though, I know I will start thinking about winter boat projects that need to be done before spring-cleaning and painting begins in earnest. Having made a list in the fall saves time and helps push the process along.

When we built the shed it seemed huge—much larger than it needed to be—and I remember wondering if we had not gotten a bit carried away. Now, twelve years later, part of the autumnal ritual of putting the boats to bed is the process of figuring out how to get everything into the building and still leave enough room to move around.

I know I will enjoy puttering on projects in the boat shed over the next six months, almost as much as I enjoy being on the water. And there is something very satisfying about putting all the bits and pieces away, making sure everything is tagged or labeled, sometimes adding a shelf or box somewhere in the shed so that another piece of gear can have a better place to winter over. Like stacking firewood, the process of putting things away, brings a sense of order to what is usually a frantic end-of-season rush, and a knowledge that I will benefit later from the work I do now.

For the moment though I am taking a deep breath and savoring the fact that the boats ate all back safe and sound in the boat shed.

The leaves have begun to change colors, the equinox has come and gone, the boats are in the shed: autumn is here.