Archive for the ‘Sailing’ Category

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-part 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.

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Summer 2016

November 16, 2016

Well Labor Day has come and gone and so has Halloween, we pulled the fleet out of the water and started winter layup in September,  a little early this year so we could continue renovations on the cottage that the two tortoiseshell cats own.

First a word about sailing this summer; wind.

The summer of 2015 was a light air summer, as a result we got very good at setting and striking topsails. By contrast, this year we only set topsails twice all summer. We joined four other Friendships, a Marconi sloop and a lobster yacht for a two week cruise in July and never needed diesel, and never even topped up the main tank from our reserve tanks. It was a fantastic cruise with good company, good cheer, and great sailing.

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Sailing in the company of Friendships.

Not only was there wind but also we were incredibly lucky in that we had predominantly fair winds. We had one rough day of high winds and big seas getting into Southwest Harbor on MDI. And there were two days on our cruise when the winds blew 25-30 kts, and not from a favorable direction, but we spent those two days tucked up snugly in a hurricane hole, hiking, reading, and relaxing, and those days proved to be among the most relaxing of the trip.

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Moonrise in a hurricane hole.

We spent the last few days of our cruise in Rockland at the annual Friendship Sloop Homecoming and gathering.

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Friendship sloops in Rockland 2016

We had a great time gathering with other Friendship sloop owners and fans in Rockland.

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At the dock in Rockland, I don’t know why John is staying on the dock…

While we were in Rockland we also had a chance to take some of our extended family sailing. There were so many of them they had to come sailing in shifts.

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Sailing with family…do I look worried?

After returning from our cruise we had another six weeks of weekend cruises, some of them extended weekend cruises, and great sailing.

The winds were so consistent and fair, that we did not get out to sail our tender, Fee-Fi nearly as often as last year since we never wanted to miss a chance to take out the Friendship.But even there, when the time came to pull Fee-Fi out of the water, we managed to sail to the take-out ramp in two long tacks, which was a delight since it is usually an hour of hard rowing.

Our lives have been so very full this last year or so that at times we wonder if it makes sense for us to dedicate so much of our time and energy to our wooden classic, but we saw so many beautiful boats, and old and new friends on the water and our summer was so rich an fulfilling that we mostly feel fortunate and grateful for what we have and what we are able to share.

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.

 

 

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.

New Boat Part 22

August 13, 2012

Observations:

Before I continue with the building of mast and sail for our new Penny Fee, now called Fee-Fie, (the dinghy has become Foe-Fum), I wanted to record some observations on the performance of the boat thus far. We have had the boat in the water and have been using her for about three weeks. We have used the boat to ferry loads to and from the Friendship sloop, and have towed it to Rockland from Boothbay and back, and have basically rowed it around a bit. As of this weekend we have been sailing it too, but I will save my observations on sailing qualities for the end of this post.

Penny Fee: Fee-Fie

Towing:

The first surprise was how easily she tows behind the Friendship Sloop. She is heavier than our dingy, but she also has a much longer waterline and appears to sit high in the water when unloaded. She also tracks well, partly due to the longer waterline and partly due to the lap-strake construction.  The result is a longer heavier boat that does not squat down in the water behind our sloop but that slips along with less resistance than I would have imagined. Part of our trip back from Rockland was in 5 to 8 foot seas with 15-25 knot winds. We found that in every condition except heavy following seas; this is a very well behaved boat. In following seas she tends to surf and surge and a long towline and a watchful crewmember to tend the towline is advisable.

Rowing:

We have noticed that when under oar power it is more comfortable to sit on a seat cushion that raises up the rower about 2 ½”. I don’t think that this is the result of the benches being placed low, either by the designer or in our construction, but rather that we deliberately raised the height of the oarlocks so that the oars would be less prone to rub on the fender of the boat. She does take more back power and a longer stroke than the dingy to propel, but she carries her way beautifully and once moving is easy to keep moving. The other aspect that will take some getting used to is that she rows a little easier with a load rather than without. This is both the opposite of our dinghy and is also a bit counter-intuitive.

Stability:

Another impressive feature is the stability of the boat, it has greater secondary stability than I would have imagined and, in some ways this drove us to make the sail because we wanted to see how she handled the pressure of the sail and how that effected the stability. We have experimented by having a helmsman stand in the back of the boat and steer with the rudder while the rower provides the power from the front bench. Our experience is that she provides a stable platform for the helmsman, to say nothing of the fact that it is just plain fun to stand in the back of the launch and con the boat.

Now on to the last pieces of construction:

The Mast:

I bought two pieces of 2”x 8” spruce stock that were not flawless but that had long, relatively clear sections in each. I got them at the local home center, total cost was about $20. I then ripped out the two best sections and using a dato-blade on the table saw cut a ¾” channel in each that started a bout a foot below the truck of the mast and ended about a foot above where deck level would be. Then the two halves were glued together giving me essentially a mast blank with a hollow core.

The two mast halves with dato ripped

The two mast halves glued together

When the glue was dry I cut a taper using the table saw so that I had a long, tapered, spar that was square in cross section. Next step, cut off the corners of the square so that the spar becomes eight sided, and then move to hand planes to make the mast round in section.

Mast with taper cut and corners cut off to make a long octagonal spar

Spars varnished and ready for hardware

The sprit is made of solid spruce about 1 ½” in diameter, shaped in the same way that the mast was shaped.

The mast has four, unfinished teak cleats; one each for halyard, brail, snotter, and downhaul. There are two heavy cleats set inside the gunwale, port and starboard aft, for the mainsheet. These too are made from unfinished teak. My experience has been that cleats do not hold finish, due to lines running around them, they are also a pain to keep finished. Raw teak weathers well and always looks pretty good without much care.

Cleats on the mast

Building the sail:

We used as a reference the excellent Sailmaker’s Apprentice, although sailmaking is not new for either me, or the woman who will willingly get up in the middle of the night and stand an anchor watch. It is also worth noting that first, the sprit sail is one of the easier and more forgiving sails to make, and second that we are using canvas that we were given free, so, in many ways this is a prototype sail and we might make a more durable version once we have learned all we can from the performance of this canvas model. On the other hand if this sail works, why fix it?

The sail is made of four panels and will take its shape partly from the cut of these panels (particularly the two closest to the mast) and partly to a slight curve built into the luff of the sail. A bolt-rope is hand stitched along the head, luff and foot of the sail to help minimize the stretch in these sections of the sail. We used 3/8” brass grommets for the reef points and the robands on the luff of the sail, and the brail-line grommet in the leach of the sail. The rest of the sail hardware is sewn in by hand. The thimbles and metal rings are all solid brass.

The building process:

One thing we did that made the whole sailmaking process much easier was to recycle the boatbuilding table and use it as a sailmaking table. All we did was cut the table in half into two eight-foot sections. This allowed us to either push the sections together and make one long table to lay out panels and pin seams and that kind of thing, or we could pull the two apart and put the sewing machine in between them and pass the sail from one surface to the other over the sewing machine table. If we were making a larger sail I would have raise the levels of the tales to the same level as the sewing machine table, but with a sail that is only 85 square feet it seemed unnecessary.

Work table with sewing machine in the middle, sail in the foreground

The sail took about two weeks to build working in the evenings and in what free time we have, but I would not want to be misleading about this. As I said before both the woman who will willingly get up in the middle of the night and stand an anchor watch, and I have sailmaking experience, added to which I have a fairly comprehensive collection of sailmaking tools and supplies on hand. It would be a different story if we were having to figure out each step from scratch and then purchase the appropriate tools, materials and hardware. As it was there where plenty of choices to make regarding where to put in grommets, cringles, and thimbles.

Details of the sail showing the hand-sewn hardware at the clew and head

Anyway the finished sail looked great, the question was how would it perform in collaboration with the Penny Fee? The short answer is: far better than I expected.

Penny Fee under sail

This shot shows the boat well

Sailing in light air

There is a tendency to make leeway with very light air, but that disappears when there is any real wind. The boat points higher than I thought it would and virtually flies downwind. Beam reaching it is remarkably stable. The other factor that I love about this rig is how easy it is to haul on the brailing line and collapse the sail and sprit against the mast. It was really fun to sail right up alongside the Friendship sloop, touch the side, and collapse the rig by pulling on one line.

Sail brailed up against the mast

The two aspects of the rig that I question at this point have to do with the mast and the foot of the sail. I went to great effort (explained above) to make the mast hollow and light, it now appears that that was not necessary and that it may in fact be a weakness, because the mast does flex alarmingly in strong gusts. However, if the mast breaks it will be easy and inexpensive to replace. My concern about the foot of the sail is simply that now that we have seen the sail and how it takes shape in the wind, I think we could have easily added twelve to fourteen inches of length to the foot of the sail and gotten her to round up a little faster when tacking.

In both these cases, however, I am splitting hairs and speculating. The factual evidence that we have so far is that this is an easy rig to sail, to break down and set up. It brails quickly so that if the wind dies you can row without taking down the rig, and you can dowse the sail quickly when coming alongside. In short, it is everything we had hoped for and we had a fantastic fun day testing it out.

Really fun to sail

If you would like to read all the posts related to this project together, go to the category at the right called “Penny Fee” and click on it. It will pull all the posts on the penny fee onto one page for you.

Summer Reading

July 5, 2012

If you are looking for a good read this summer, I can recommend an excellent memoir:  the RIME of the ANCIENT UNDERWITER (Hobblebush Books, 2012) is sailor Jim Salmon’s account of his 19 month circumnavigation aboard the barque Picton Castle.

Jim Salmon worked as an insurance underwriter for years before a family crisis created an opportunity for him to retire early and go to sea and fulfill a dream to to sail around the world. I have read more of my share of “how-I-sailed-the-world” tales, and was not prepared for such a refreshingly balanced take on an old theme. Jim does not waste much of the reader’s time with describing personality squabbles and the “he-said-she-said” nonsense that has become all too typical of books about expeditions. Instead Jim paints his shipmates from a respectful distance, adding color to the tale but allowing the reader to focus on the places visited and life aboard the ship. In fact, in many ways the barque Picton Castle is the real main character of the book.

The RIME of the ANCIENT UNDERWRITER  is a delightful combination of travel-log, memoir, and description of life aboard a traditional  square-rigged ship. If you are looking for a great summer read, look no further.

Happy 4th!

July 3, 2012

New Boat Part 18

April 16, 2012

Lots of painting…and putting the interior back together.

With centerboard trunk installed and the benches cut and fitted, it was time to take the benches back out of the boat and begin the laborious process of prepping the interior of the Penny Fee for paint. This is another one of those jobs totally lacking in any form of glamor. For example one job consisted of mixing thickened epoxy and pouring it into the low points of the laps where they intersect with the floor timbers. The purpose of this is that water coming into the boat, when it rains for example, will drain to the bilge so that it can be pumped out more easily and will not pool in a dozen places. It sounds easy enough, but the boat needs to be even on her waterline and the exact right amount of epoxy needs to be mixed and poured in each space or there are overflow problems. The long and short of this is that it takes a lot of time.

With the low spots filled and the benches removed the interior sanding could be started. Basically the less said about this job the better, except to say that it needs to be done before the primer can be applied. Equally important and uninteresting is the cleaning and vacuuming of the interior. Anyway with all this prep work done it was time to start the priming of the interior.

Priming the interior

The good and bad of the priming is that now you can really see how good (or bad) a job you did with the prep work. As I applied the primer, I became less and less resentful of all that prep-work. While not perfect, the end result was smooth and easy on the eye, and will make the application of topcoats of paint easier.

While the primer was drying we started on the base coats of varnish on the interior of the transom (the only part of the boat that is varnished). And we started in on the sheer strake. The sheer strake is a bottle green. The paint scheme is designed to match that of our Friendship sloop, which has bottle green bulwarks.

Sheer strake painted

Once the primer had cured we started on the top-coats of paint on the interior sections of the boat that would be easier to paint with the benches removed.  This is particularly true for the interior of the fwd and aft storage compartments.

Finish coats applied to the bilges and storage compartment interiors

Now that we have two coats of primer and three coats of paint on the bilges, the interior storage compartments and the underside of the benches, it is time to glue the benches into their final positions.

Dryfitting the benches before gluing

The actual gluing is not that big a deal, but we had needed to make up the hanging knees for the benches as well. I had already ripped white oak strips and steamed them to the correct curves. We glued these up and had our hanging knees ready to go.  You can see the steam bent curves of white oak here.

After laminating, we will cut two hanging knees out of each of the curves of wood.

We got so involved with the gluing in of the benches and the hanging knees, that I never got any pictures of us installing them. Perhaps just as well not to get the camera coated with epoxy. Anyway you can see one of the knees glued into place here.

With benches and the hanging knees glued into the boat, we changed gears a bit. We still need to install the foredeck, but have put that off in order to continue on with the painting. The only reason that we have done this is that I am getting antsy about wanting to get to work on the annual chores on the Friendship sloop, if we can get enough painting done this week, I can turn my back on the Penny Fee for a bit, work on the Friendship, and know that the worst of the painting on the Penny Fee is over with.  I emphasize the “worst” of the painting because I have been dreading the painting of the gunwales with the spaces between the inner and outer wales and the attendant difficulties of painting them without creating many many drips and runs in the paint.

We got the two coats of primer on the rest of the boat (including the gunwales), and will try to get to at least one finish coat before we break from this project. On the whole, we have made a lot of progress in the last six weeks, and I am now much more confident that we will be able to launch and get some use out of this lovely boat this summer. Whew…

Interior primed and ready for finish coats

If you would like to read all the posts related to this project together, go to the category at the right called “Penny Fee” and click on it. It will pull all the posts on the penny fee onto one page for you.