Monday, 31 May 2010

No more single-handed engineless sailing!

First trip of the season... not so good. No crew, but I was keen to try out my new fishing techniques and equipment - if I can come back with some fish, I expect I'll have less trouble finding crew. But a trip like this won't sound attractive to budding crew members... :(

Saturday night, I decided to load the boat and get the ice, sleep on the boat at the mooring and set off for some fishing grounds towards Plymouth that proved productive last year. Not brilliant, but somewhere with fish I can try my techniques. Saturday night isn't a good time to get ice. The ice man bunked off a little early, and I was a little late, so I missed my chance.

Sunday morning, trawlers unloading fish take precedent, and I don't get my ice on board till 10:30. It's blowing force 4-5 in the harbour, but I reckon the wind is gusting round the cliffs and it'll be calmer at sea. It's not easy setting off from a mooring in an engineless catamaran in gusty conditions. I was lucky to get away with it. I'd rigged a rope from the mooring to the port side of the cat, so when I dropped the mooring forward, the boat swung side on to the wind with all sail up. Unfortunately, the flapping jib tangled the sheets together, but the mainsail caught the wind, and we were off, soon picking up speed. With only the mainsail catching the wind, and the jib flapping uselessly, I couldn't help the boat rounding up into the wind and heading straight towards the only thing between me and the sea:

If I tried to tack into the wind, I might fail, and the cat would hit the hulk, or I might succeed, in which case I'd be clear of the hulk, but heading towards the shore and the boats closer in than me, and still with the jib sheets tangled. So I had to try to bear away - which would inevitably accelerate the catamaran. The mainsail alone, unbalanced by the jib was too powerful a force for the rudder. So I let go the tiller, loosened the mainsheets as far as they would go, untangled the jib sheets, and tightened the leeward sheet. All the time we were accelerating towards the hulk, but there was no time to look. With the jib now balancing the main, I was able to dash for the tiller and turn hard to leeward. A motorboat behind me I noticed stop to watch the impending collision. But it didn't happen! The cat shot past the hulk in a tight turn at 7-8 knots, missing by no more than a couple of feet. Once past the hulk, we were in the clear, and I could engage the self-steering and sort out the ropes and fenders as we left Brixham behind at a good pace.

Once around Berry Head, we were hard on the wind, and it was stronger than I'd hoped, so I had to reef the mainsail. We didn't lose any speed, but the boat sailed easier. A quick scan of the horizon:

and it looked safe enough to go below and make some sandwiches. By the time I'd made them and eaten half:

We'd overtaken a 60' schooner under full sail.

Lovely to look at, but they aren't half slow, and they don't seem as able to go as close to the wind as a catamaran. Maybe they didn't have enough crew on board!

In Start Bay, it was wind against spring tides. The tide was in my favour, but against the wind, so the waves were steep and the ride rough. By five o'clock, the tide had turned against me, and the wind began to die a little, as forecast. I was getting tired too, having been up and at it since 5 am that morning. So I decided to have a try at anchoring just outside of Salcombe, which looked nicely sheltered from the west. There was no question of going right into Salcombe across the bar and up the steep-sided river without an engine. But maybe the outside anchoring spot would be shelter enough:

No good! The anchorage near the range was too rough, being affected by swell coming round Bolt Head. And the anchorage in Starehole Bay was too close to the cliff, shadowing the wind, and being hit by gusts from different directions. To risky to try under sail - so I tack back out to sea to try for Plymouth.

No good either! The tide was flowing at 2 knots against me, and the wind was dead against me too, and dying. I tacked back and forth for a little while, but made little progress.

Problem! Very tired, and no prospect of getting into Plymouth till after the tide had turned, and still against the wind, not likely before Monday lunch time. Salcombe anchorage no good. Staying at sea all night alone would  mean setting an alarm to wake my every 15 minutes so I could get up and scan the horizon - there were many ships a few miles south. Even though I was now at the fishing grounds, it seemed I'd be too tired to spend a day fishing and then have the energy to sail back. It was time to turn tail and head back.

I considered anchoring in Start Bay, but the swell was still high, and with the spring tides, I might get 2 knots of current at full flow. I didn't fancy trying to get some sleep anchoring there. And Dartmouth was no good either - too steep sided to allow easy sailing in and out, unless you have a south wind to take you in, and a north wind to bring you out the next day. So it had to be Brixham! And quick, because the dying wind meant I'd be lucky to get there before the tide turned against me again!

By 9 pm, the wind was hardly ruffling the surface of the swells, but my light weight head sail pulled in tight made good use of the NW breeze, managing up to 7 knots with the benefit of the tide.

I got back to Berry Head by 3 am, and used the last of my wakefulness getting to the mooring. Tricky at night, trying to see moorings and boats against the lights on the land behind. I dropped anchor near the mooring, and then used my dinghy to take a line to the mooring, and pulled the catamaran to the mooring. It might have been alright left on the anchor, but it seemed worth the effort to fully secure the boat, so I could be certain of an uninterrupted sleep.

Here's how I pick up a mooring at night in zombie mode, and you can see too the course I took when I left.

It's always best I think, under sail at night single-handed without an engine, to do a little victory loop before finishing the voyage. :)

Next trip, I'll go with crew, or I'll have fitted the little outboard so I can get in and out of harbour.

Friday, 28 May 2010

Ready at last!

The boat's good to go - though I haven't finished with the baitwell, so I'll just have to use lures and whatever bait we can catch as we go along. Sunday/Monday look good weather wise. Not so promising crew-wise, so may have to go single-handed.

Friday, 21 May 2010

A baitwell for a sailing boat

While I am waiting for an engineer to finish a little job on the top of the shaft of my new rudder, I've been working on making a baitwell. I want to fish using live bait, and sandeels and small mackerel are the best all round bait available. They're both easy to catch on the Skerries, a sandbank just out of Dartmouth. What I want to do is fish for my bait on the Skerries before sailing to where the bigger fish live.

I built a baitwell, and planned to use a pump that currently powers the shower to pump the seawater into it. Unfortunately, I fell into the trap again of copying methods suitable to boats with engines. Boats with engines are boats with a plentiful electricity supply. They don't need to consider the efficiency of things like water pumps. They can pump water up from sea level up to say two metres, and allow the overflow to drain back into the sea. But when I uninstalled my shower pump, I was disappointed to read on the pump that it typically uses 8 amps at 12v. Which is far more than any other equipment I run. My battery would drain in a few hours. The battery I use to run the fishfinder, laptop, navigation lights and other lights, and the self-steering gear. The only way I could run a pump like that would be to also run a generator. I don't fancy the expense, the work of installing it, or the noise.

But I need a baitwell that I can keep bait in for several days. Sandeels are much easier to catch on the Skerries that out over some deep water wreck. I did some thinking...

I understand that lifting sea water to a height of a couple of metres is going to consume a fair amount of power. But what I really want to do is simply change the water in the baitwell  tank. If I balance the work of lifting the fresh water into the with the work of dropping the water back into the sea, I'll need far less power. I've found a pump designed to run for long periods (unlike my shower pump designed to run for no more than 20 minutes at a time) using low power - around 1 amp. It's a circulating pump, and now I need to make a baitwell that uses the work of the water dropping back to the sea.

To do this, I need a baitwell that I can close off with an air-tight lid, and run the stale water through a pipe down to the sea level. With the lid closed, the pump is just circulating water from the sea through the tank, using very little power. With the lid open, the pump won't have enough power to change the water in the tank. The tank will need to be filled using a bucket, and while I'm fishing for bait, or getting bait out of the tank to use, I'll have to occasionally add a bucket of fresh sea water to the tank. But this is the only way I can see of keeping bait alive for days at a time, using only a small amount of electricity.

So the task for today is to find a suitable container that has an airtight lid. First stop, Newton Abbot dump!

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Boat cleaned and antifouled

Bringing the boat into Brixham harbour where it will dry out at low tide, and I can clean off the algae and barnacles and give it a new coat of antifoul paint. There's no engine on the catamaran, so we are moving it by tying  the dinghy alongside. It's OK when we have a bit of speed on, so that the catamaran's rudder(s) can steer, but it is difficult at low speed, and stopping and starting. At the moment I have just one rudder fitted! Harbour crowded, and a bit of wind....

But we got to the harbour wall without a drama. An anchor out to the side allowed us to dry out a few feet away from the wall, so that I could work on all sides of the boat.

The deck it green with algae. It was like this when I bought the boat. Scrubbing the deck didn't help much, so I left it, thinking sea water would eventually kill the algae and the spray would wash it off. But we've never really had any sea water on the deck, and the algae has thrived!

I hired a powerful jet wash. There wasn't a lot of time  before the water would come back - two hulls to clean off a thick layer of algae and a few colonies of barnacles, and then to paint it all.

Last year I added a couple of laminated oak mini-keels to the hulls, just to allow drying out in places like this. Much cheaper and quicker than getting craned out for this kind of work!

It's not exactly tidy, but it is clean. I had time, just, to get the antifoul on with enough time for the paint to dry before the water came back.

Clean and shiny boat, off back to the mooring, powered by the dinghy strapped to the side.

Thanks Fred! :)

Sunday, 16 May 2010

New rudder finished

How to make a rudder.

First buy some expensive western red cedar, cut into strips a little over half the thickness and twice the length the rudder is going to be, and glue the strips together with epoxy and high density filler. So you end up with a block of wood as thick and wide as the rudder is going to be, and twice the length.

Then you need to choose the right profile. I measured the rudder from the other hull, and figured it was intended to be a NACA 0014 profile, but it wasn't that accurate. To make a more accurate shape I used a spreadsheet here, and made a paper template which was a half profile of the rudder. I then drew round the shape at each end of the block of wood, and planed the length to the shape:

Lots of that expensive wood ends up in shavings on the floor. The black thing on the right is the rudder I'm copying. I've shaped the block, cut it in half, and then cut round the sides. The two halves almost ready to join together. But I needed to make glue the stainless steel rudder stock in first, so I routed and chiseled the other side:

And then glued the rudder stock in with epoxy and high density filler.

The wood was beginning to warp a little - each half began to bend outward a bit. I guess that was due to the way the grain was running, but once the two halves are glued together, that tendency to warp should be balanced out.

Here's the two halves joined together and planed and sanded to the final shape. Did I mention the sanding? No? Well, there was a lot of that, and not with a machine either, but with a long board with sandpaper stapled to it. That way, you don't end up sanding hollows into the wood. Hard work, and the dust being pretty toxic, all done wearing a face mask.

Here's the rudder finished - coated in epoxy and glass cloth. At the aft edge, the layers of glass are brought together and filled with epoxy filler. This is stronger than a wooden edge, as its getting pretty thin back there.

The final coat of epoxy is dry - now it just needs a light sanding, and then painting with a couple of coats of antifoul.

Sunday, 2 May 2010

New season

No fishing yet, though the bass will be arriving in the next week or two, so I need to crack on.

Need to build a new rudder.
Install new autopilot.
Install a seawater pump for the baitwell.
Antifoul the boat.

And then I'll be ready to start.