September 27, 2014

How to sail your sailboat: coming to terms with your slowly, sinking ship.


  Here's the bad news. Your bilge is not dry, in fact, it is wet. And not just wet, there are many inches of stagnant water sloshing around your bilge. Now here is the good news. You are not alone. Many Sailors, if not most Sailors, are going about the business of their lives, puttering their vessels in and out of harbors while all the while, their boats are slowly drowning in the Sea.
   Tragedy? Not really. This is common practice. All that's required to deal with this problem is a healthy sense of detachment from the undeniable fact that your beloved sailboat is persistently taking on water.
      You want a dry and crisp, water-tight boat, but, in fact, you own a sinking ship.

bilge always taking on water
My bilge: always damp, and by damp I mean flooding with Sea water.
 
  Don't get me wrong. There are things you should do. And you should do these things. But, you will sleep much better at night once you accept your boat's mortality.

Until that acceptance comes I recommend the following:

1.
Make sure your electric bilge pump is in good working order.
Is the float installed at a height that maximizes the drainage.?
Is the pump mounted at the best possible location in your bilge to maximize outflow.
Is the size/model of the bilge pump (electric rating/water volume outflow) appropriate for the size of both your boat and your battery bank?

2.
Is your battery bank and /or shore power situation in good working order. i.e. If you were to leave your boat alone for many months, do you have confidence that there would be a reliable source of power for the bilge pump (in case, it is being called upon to drain often)?

3.
Is your manual bilge pump in good working order?
Check the gaskets and build up of rust on the inside of this contraption. These are often neglected parts of a sailboat.
And where is that manual pump handle?

4.
Look for leaks in all the likely spots (the seacocks, the propeller shaft, depth-finder .... any place on the bottom of the boat where the hull has been opened up to install some hardware). This part can be done from the inside while the floating.
   However, most fixes will require hauling out the boat to properly reseal these breaches of dryness.


    In closing. Fight like hell to keep your bilge dry and your boat un-sunk. But do not beat yourself up, if despite your best efforts, your bilge remains un-dry and is always taking on a few inches of water.
In general, a few inches every month is fine. Don't panic.
A few inches every day is a crises. Panic.


Please follow the links below for the full 'How to Sail your Sailboat' series:

How to sail your sailboat: putting your boat on the rocks with style.
How to sail your sailboat: owning your cockpit.
How to sail your sailboat: climbing the mast.

September 24, 2014

How to sail your sailboat: mixing a cocktail while underway.


    There are a few, precious moments when a Captain can relinquish command, release the tiller and hand over the helm to a trusted crew member. In this rare moment of reprieve, it is not unheard of for the Captain to mix up a cocktail.
    But, this must be a quick endeavor because a good Captain should never fully trust his crew, especially when they are at the helm. You need to get in and get out of the galley in less than a minute. You like your crew, but you don't love your crew. Back to the cockpit!

The key to the Captain's cocktail is simplicity.

   Here are a few considerations. You may or may not have refrigeration. To be safe, assume not. I rarely do while out sailing. You may have ice at first, but ice melts eventually. Assume you are one week out to Sea and the ice has melted. Concerned? You should be.
   But, you are prepared. You have mixers that don't need refrigeration. Individual cans of mixers. Just pack the boat with these cans. Ginger ale, club soda, lemon soda...
   They never go bad. They are never flat. But they are often room temperature.
   Ginger ale and bourbon will not let you down.
   You have a jar, you add the bourbon, you add the ginger ale.
   No ice! (unless you have ice, then ice!)

         Back to the cockpit!


Please follow the links below for the full 'How to Sail your Sailboat' series:

How to sail your sailboat: putting your boat on the rocks with style.
How to sail your sailboat: owning your cockpit.
How to sail your sailboat: climbing the mast.
How to sail your sailboat: coming to terms with your slowly, sinking ship.


September 23, 2014

How to sail your sailboat: climbing the mast.


     This is no ones favorite aspect of sailing, but it is inevitable. Eventually, you will need to climb up your mast and address some pressing issue.

... a halyard is fouled, the weather vane has snapped, an anchor light has blown a bulb. Whatever the problem may be, there is only one solution. You must defy all logic and climb 40 feet straight up a relatively flimsy piece of aluminum tubing.

climbing the mast
If you fall from the mast, the key is to land in the water.

    You will need to be brave. . . nobody like a cowardly Captain. But at the same time, you need to be cautious. A wounded Captain is a useless Captain.

    Make sure you are well-fed and well-hydrated before going up top. Think through the project at hand. Do you have all the necessary tools attached to your bosun's chair? Bringing me to the next point. Get a great bosun's chair.
   
bosun chair for climbing mast
When you're up top, a stout and well-built bosun's chair will calm your nerves.
    Climb in and strap down. Attach the bosun's chair to a halyard and have a friend hoist you up as if you were a sail being raised.
    I heavily recommend you find a trusted friend to winch you up and tie off a good cleat once you're in place. This person needs to be someone who can tie a good cleat and knows how to take up tension on a winch. But he also needs to be the kind of guy who has a free 30 minutes. These two qualities do not always overlap.

Good luck and enjoy the view!

Please follow the links below for the full 'How to Sail your Sailboat' series:

How to sail your sailboat: putting your boat on the rocks with style.
How to sail your sailboat: owning your cockpit.
How to sail your sailboat: mixing a cocktail while underway. 
How to sail your sailboat: coming to terms with your slowly, sinking ship.

September 22, 2014

How to sail your sailboat: owning your cockpit.


       To feel confident while sailing, you really need to own your cockpit. Your cockpit is the control center of your pleasure craft. It's where all the action happens. The tiller is in the middle, the sail sheets are drawn back to the cockpit, the navigation instruments are all there. It's all happening in the cockpit.
   A good skipper will enter their cockpit like a rock star walking on a stage. You got to own it!
                  This is especially important when your confidence is shattered.
         
owning your cockpit
a big part of owning your cockpit is confident posture

    Sometimes, the highest expression of owning your cockpit is not being in your cockpit. You are standing on the bow looking back at the cockpit. The tiller is lashed down and the sails are full.
     You are alone at Sea. You have stepped out of your own skin, you're hovering just above your body. You feel good.
     This moment will last exactly ten seconds. Okay, another boat is approaching and its on a collision course. Hurry back to the cockpit! Don't drop your camera!

solo sailing to catalina
once you master owning the cockpit, you then step away from the cockpit

Please follow the links below for the full 'How to Sail your Sailboat' series:

How to sail your sailboat: putting your boat on the rocks with style.
How to sail your sailboat: climbing the mast.
How to sail your sailboat: mixing a cocktail while underway.  
How to sail your sailboat: coming to terms with your slowly, sinking ship.

September 21, 2014

How to sail your sailboat: putting your boat on the rocks with style.

 
    Sailing will set you free, it may change your life. But it's not all high highs. There are also the low lows. You are going to have to deal with the mishaps without losing your cool.

sailboat beached at low tide
Captain Curran trying to play it cool with a coffee mug.

     When choosing a place to anchor a boat. You are going to want to consult the tide table. And also consider how much anchor chain you have let out. As your swinging radius increases, the chances that you may swing over a shallow shelf at a low tide moment also increases. That's what happened to us here in the middle of nowhere in British Columbia.

sailboat lays on its side
The main cabin begins to lay on its side.

     At 4 am, we woke to the sound of the keel settling into the rocky Sea floor. As the tide dropped for the next 3 hours, the boat began its journey towards 'on its side.'

    So.. what does that mean to you, the Captain of the vessel. What’s the preparation for a boat that is going sideways. Shut off any plumbing that could introduce water into the boat: close the sea-cocks, secure the hatches, put your companionway door in place. This is key. If the boat takes on water when its laid on its side, then it may not right itself when the tide comes back in. The waters may rise but the boat will not, in which case you’ve lost your pleasure craft. 

     Throughout this process, there will be no comfort to be found inside the boat. One of the walls is about to become the floor and the other wall is about to become the ceiling. This means, things will start falling off the walls and breaking. Take anything off of a shelf that will shift during this transition.

    And then, make a big thermos of coffee – grab some food and walk off the boat. If you screw up bad enough, this should be done easily enough. Simply jump off the side of your boat into the dry mud. And then enjoy this moment that sailing has provided, this moment of reflection, of quiet. Of waiting for the next high tide.

sailboat beached in Canada
Strangers will gather around you as you wait for the tide to shift

     Be prepared for great interest from strangers as you stand beside your compromised vessel. They will want to be a part of the excitement. They will also want to get a read on you. 'Who would do something like this? Is he crazy? We should talk to him, he's probably embarrassed....'

Let them gather. You have made their morning interesting. Be proud of that!




 As the tide clambers back in, your boat will rise. This is a great thing to repeat in your head as the tide begins to shift. Sort of a mantra to encourage said action. 'As the tide come in, my boat will rise.'

And then just like that, the rising tide will lift your boat. And you will raise the sails and say goodbye to this particular bay. And you will never return to this particular bay. Ever.


Please follow the links below for the full 'How to Sail your Sailboat' series:
How to sail your sailboat: owning your cockpit.
How to sail your sailboat: climbing the mast
How to sail your sailboat: mixing a cocktail while underway. 
How to sail your sailboat: coming to terms with your slowly, sinking ship.

September 18, 2014

Sailing from Seattle to Puget Sound harbors: distance and time for common sailboat trips (Blake Island, Kingston, Edmonds, Bremerton, Port Townsend, Gig Harbor, Tacoma, Everett, Oak Harbor, Victoria, Friday Harbor)

     Are you considering sailing your sailboat from Seattle into Puget Sound? This post provides the distance (nautical miles) and travel times for the most common harbors. 

plotting distance with nautical chart
plotting out distance with my Puget Sound nautical chart

    I learned to sail in the waters around Puget Sound. And in my opinion, of all the cities on the West Coast of the United States of America, Seattle has - far and away - the best cruising grounds for Sailors. There may not be many t-shirt and barefoot sail days. But - throw on a wool sweater and a windbreaker and you are in for a vast inland Sea full of beautiful anchorages and secluded bays.
Someday I will return to Puget Sound...

     I figured it would be handy to have the distances and travel times between Seattle and all the classic destinations - displayed in one place. I know Seattle sailors like to get out on the weekends, so I hope this is of use.

Distance in nautical miles:               (1 nm = 1.15 land miles)

Seattle to Eagle Harbor                                  5.5
Seattle to Elliot Bay (downtown harbor)       7 
Seattle to Kingston                                         7.5
Seattle to Edmonds                                         8.5
Seattle to Blake Island                                    9.5
Seattle to Bremerton                                      15.5
Seattle to Port Ludlow                                   23
Seattle to Gig Harbor                                     24.5
Seattle to Tacoma                                           26.5
Seattle to Quartermaster Harbor                    28.5
Seattle to Everett                                            29
Seattle to Port Townsend                                33
Seattle to Oak Harbor                                     41
Seattle to Friday Harbor (San Juan Island)     61 (via Admiralty Inlet)
Seattle to Victoria (Vancouver Island)            65 (via Admiralty Inlet)
     
    I plotted out these distances based on a direct route, and took an approximate start point for each distance at the outside of each harbor. For the Seattle waypoint, I used the navigation markers just outside the Ballard locks, near the southern end of Shilshole Marina. This is where my boat was docked, so I am partial to Shilshole as a starting point. If you're starting from Elliot Bay, you can add or subtract 5 miles, depending on whether you're heading north or south.

      Each mariner will experience a slightly different distance, depending on their mooring location and line of sail, but consider these good approximations.

Alize' moored right next to the Parliamentary buildings in Victoria - very regal!
     I have made these routes in my 30 foot sailboat (a 1976 Newport), and I am calling my average speed at about 4.7 knots. This average speed accounts for some sailing in good to moderate winds and then the engine turned on at moderately high RPM when the wind goes light. For most folks with a sailboat near 30 feet, just under 5 knots is probably about the right average speed for mixed conditions. It must be mentioned that tides and currents play a large role in the navigation of these waters. The prudent mariner would be wise to consult the tide table and plan out each voyage so that the current is working in their favor as they traverse any narrow channel.

At that speed, the approximate time it would take to get from A to B is:

Time needed for each leg (if averaging 4.7 knots)
                                                
                                                           Hours (in decimal)

Seattle to Eagle Harbor                                   1.2
Seattle to Elliot Bay (downtown harbor)        1.5
Seattle to Kingston                                          1.6
Seattle to Edmonds                                          1.8
Seattle to Blake Island                                     2  
Seattle to Bremerton                                        3.3
Seattle to Port Ludlow                                     4.9
Seattle to Gig Harbor                                       5.2
Seattle to Tacoma                                             5.6
Seattle to Quartermaster Harbor                      6.1
Seattle to Everett                                              6.2
Seattle to Port Townsend                                 7
Seattle to Oak Harbor                                      8.7
Seattle to Friday Harbor (San Juan Island)     13
Seattle to Victoria (Vancouver Island)            13.8

          Of course, sailors rarely use a completely direct path from one point to another (either due to some tacking or to unintentional meanderings) and so, it would be wise to plan 1 or 2 hours on top of these estimates.

Sail on Sailor!

- pulled these Dungeness out of Blind Bay on Shaw Island

 - crossing Puget Sound in a rare Seattle snow flurry

To access similar nautical information for other sailing regions, follow links below:

Sailing from Los Angeles to Catalina Island: distance and time for a sailboat trip (Avalon, Two Harbors, Dana Point, Newport Beach, Huntington Harbor, Los Angeles Harbor, Marina del Rey).

September 17, 2014

Electric problems while out at Sea.


       They say you should never head out to Sea 'half-boiled'. They say you should never head out to Sea without a bulletproof electric system. Well, I did both of those things on a recent trip from San Diego to the Northern Channel Islands.
      My boat is 38 years old and so many of the electrical contacts are also 38 years old. And when you mix in violent swells that shake the boat for many days...well, important shit starts falling apart...


I spend many days stranded in Oxnard, going through all my wire circuits trying to find the problem.


Then I found the cause of 1 of my 3 problems. The hot line leading to this AC plug outlet had shaken free of its contact. In doing so, the AC 120V shore power cord was not able to deliver its charge into the battery bank.


The other problems, as I would find out later, were: a dead alternator and fried batteries.

When it rains, it pours....


The Walker 10 dinghy: not the best, but probably the most reliable and cheapest tender.

      I am hard on things in general. An inflatable dinghy has never worked for me. I pop dirigibles often. I like to drag things up on the rocks and leave them there. I don't like to maintain everything I own. Somethings I want things to not require maintenance. The Walker 10 can be treated like a dog, like a dog you are not worried about, a wild dog.

used walker 10 dinghy
My heavily abused 'Walker 10' dragged up on the rocks at Toyon Bay, Catalina Island.
And like a dog, this dingy will be there for you in your darkest moments. Its never sprung a leak, there's no engine to worry about. The stout oars are there for you. You need to enjoy rowing, but, how else are you going to get a work out when you're floating around at Sea? Real sailors row!


Walker 10, roomy with 2 people, less so with 3-4 folks.
I wouldn't mess with the Walker 8 (8 foot), its just too small.

How to keep beer cold on a week long sail trip.

keep beer cold while sailing
The chilling effect of dry ice on beer

The answer to this question is simple: dry ice.

      In San Diego, there is a store called 'Smart and Final' near the Sports Arena. They have a dry ice container. You can buy a thin slab for 15 bucks. Throw that in the bottom of your cooler or ice chest with a bag of party ice (or better, block ice), and you can expect extremely cold beers for many days.

September 15, 2014

Sailing from Los Angeles to Catalina Island: distance and time for a sailboat trip (Avalon, Two Harbors, Dana Point, Newport Beach, Huntington Harbor, Los Angeles Harbor, Marina del Rey)

        Are you considering sailing your sailboat from LA to Catalina Island? This post provides the distance (nautical miles) and travel times for the most common harbors.

sail time from Los angeles to Catalina island
sailing routes to and from Los Angeles to Catalina Island

     In my opinion, a compelling reason to live in Los Angeles instead of San Diego, is the closer proximity of Catalina Island. In San Diego, we can drive to Mexico in 30 minutes. This is nice. However, in LA, you can sail a boat to the island, leaving midday on a Friday and arriving sometime Friday evening. That is very nice.

I thought it would be a good online resource to have these distances and travel times. There are lots of folks sailing between LA and Catalina Island, so hopefully this will be of use.

Distance in nautical miles:               (1 nm = 1.15 land miles)
Dana Point to Avalon:                          33
Dana Point to Two Harbors:                 38
Newport Beach to Avalon:                   26               
Newport Beach to Two Harbors:          32
Huntington Harbor to Avalon:               25
Huntington Harbor to Two Harbors:     27                   
LA Harbor to Avalon:                          25
LA Harbor to Two Harbors:                 22
Marina del Rey to Avalon:                   38            
Marina del Rey to Two Harbors:         31

I plotted out these distances based on my route (direct), and took an approximate start point for each distance at the outside of each harbor. Each mariner may experience a slightly different distance, depending on their mooring location and line of sail, but consider these good approximations.

chart plotting the waters of Southern California

 I have made these routes in a 30 foot sailboat (1976 Newport), and considering the range of conditions I experienced (current, swells, headwind), let's say - my average speed for these trips was 4.7 knots. This average speed accounts for some sailing in good to moderate winds and then the engine turned on at moderately high RPM when the wind goes light. For most folks with a sailboat near 30 feet, just under 5 knots is probably about the right average speed for mixed conditions.

At that average speed, the approximate time it would take to get from A to B is:

Time needed for each leg (if averaging 4.7 knots)
                                                
                                                           Hours (in decimal)
Dana Point to Avalon:                             7
Dana Point to Two Harbors:                    8
Newport Beach to Avalon:                     5.5               
Newport Beach to Two Harbors:            6.8
Huntington Harbor to Avalon:                5.3
Huntington Harbor to Two Harbors:      5.7                 
LA Harbor to Avalon:                            5.3
LA Harbor to Two Harbors:                   4.6
Marina del Rey to Avalon:                     8.0            
Marina del Rey to Two Harbors:            6.6

Of course, sailors rarely use a completely direct path from one point to another (either due to some tacking or to unintentional meanderings) and so, it would be wise to plan an hour on top of these estimates.

Fair winds!

Sailing the Alize' into the welcoming glow of Avalon harbor.
To access similar nautical information for other sailing regions, follow links below:

Sailing from San Diego to Los Angeles: nautical miles and time required for a sailboat trip (Mission Bay, Dana Point, Newport Beach, Huntington Harbor, Los Angeles Harbor, Marina del Rey).

Sailing from Seattle to Puget Sound harbors: distance and time for common sailboat trips (Blake Island, Kingston, Edmonds, Bremerton, Port Townsend, Gig Harbor, Tacoma, Everett, Oak Harbor, Victoria, Friday Harbor).

Sailing distance (nautical miles) and time for a sailboat trip from San Diego to Santa Cruz Island (Mission Bay, Smuggler's Cove, Avalon, Two Harbors).




Sailing from San Diego to Los Angeles: nautical miles and time required for a sailboat trip (Mission Bay, Dana Point, Newport Beach, Huntington Harbor, Los Angeles Harbor, Marina del Rey)

    Are you considering sailing your sailboat from Los Angeles (LA) to San Diego? This post provides the distance and travel times for the most common harbors.

sailing from LA to San Diego
Sailing from San Diego to LA harbors

      I just sailed south from Channel Islands Marina (near Oxnard) back down to San Diego - stopping at these marinas along the way. I thought it would be a good online resource to have these distances and travel times. There are lots of folks sailing between LA and San Diego, so hopefully this will be of use.

For the San Diego waypoint, I started the distance at the mouth of Mission Bay jetty (because that's where my boat is docked). If you are starting your journey from San Diego Bay instead of Mission Bay, then add 7 nautical miles onto each distance or for calculating time required for each journey, add 1.5 hours.

Distance in nautical miles:               (1 nm = 1.15 land miles)

Mission Bay to Dana Point:                   50
Mission Bay to Newport Beach:            62
Mission Bay to Huntington Harbor:      73
Mission Bay to LA harbor:                    80
Mission Bay to Marina del Rey:            99


I plotted out these distances based on my route (direct), and took an approximate start point for each distance at the outside of each harbor. Each mariner may experience a slightly different distance, depending on their mooring location and line of sail, but consider these good approximations.

chart plotting with a good set of dividers

We made this journey in a 30 foot sailboat (1976 Newport), and considering the range of conditions we experienced (current, swells, headwind), let's say - our average speed for this trip was 4.7 knots. This average speed accounts for some sailing in good to moderate winds and then the engine turned on at moderately high RPM when the wind goes light. For most folks with a sailboat near 30 feet, just under 5 knots is probably about the right average speed for mixed conditions.

At that average speed, the approximate time it would take to get from A to B is:

Time needed for each leg (if averaging 4.7 knots)
                                                
                                                           Hours (in decimal)

Mission Bay to Dana Point:                10.6              
Mission Bay to Newport Beach:         13.1 
Mission Bay to Huntington Harbor:   15.5  
Mission Bay to LA harbor:                 17
Mission Bay to Marina del Rey:         21  

Of course, sailors rarely use a completely direct path from one point to another (either due to some tacking or due to unintentional meanderings) and so, it would be wise to plan for 1-2 hours on top of these estimates.

Fair winds!


Sailing south around Point Vicente, a prominent point on the LA headlands.


To access similar nautical information for other sailing regions, follow links below:

Sailing from Los Angeles to Catalina Island: distance and time for a sailboat trip (Avalon, Two Harbors, Dana Point, Newport Beach, Huntington Harbor, Los Angeles Harbor, Marina del Rey).

Sailing from Seattle to Puget Sound harbors: distance and time for common sailboat trips (Blake Island, Kingston, Edmonds, Bremerton, Port Townsend, Gig Harbor, Tacoma, Everett, Oak Harbor, Victoria, Friday Harbor).

Sailing distance (nautical miles) and time for a sailboat trip from San Diego to Santa Cruz Island (Mission Bay, Smuggler's Cove, Avalon, Two Harbors).




Diving the western side of Catalina Island

just after a great dive at Iron Bound Cove
We got incredible diving conditions on the western, windward side of Catalina Island. I didn't get any underwater shots, but you can tell by the deep blue water color that the visibility was nice. It was easily 50-60 feet for both of our dives.

We dove at China Point on the Southwest corner and then at Iron Bound Cove, which is just Northwest of Catalina Harbor. We saw loads of Manta Rays and abalone.