Monday, June 29, 2009

Shakedown Cruise

The owner of Hinuma Yacht Harbor, Mr. Hakuta, offered to accompany us on our first sail so that he could give us some advice on sailing in general and on conducting operations at Hinuma Yacht Harbor in particular. He also wanted to make sure I had control of the boat and could bring it into the dock without problems.

Saturday turned out to be a sunny if a bit hazy and humid day. The winds at Hinuma don't pick up until late morning, so we agreed to be ready to launch at 10:30. We arrived about 9:40 so as to have time to prepare Bluesette.

The wind was very light still, but there was enough to get under way. Ideal for the first time out really.

Here is Bluesette on her "sendai" ready for launch. The man on the right is Tadanori Hakuta, who built the yacht harbor 37 years ago. On the left is his son. Mrs. Hakuta runs the office up in the clubhouse.

In the picture above, the rudder is shown on the boat, but we removed it so we wouldn't have to worry about it striking the ground during launch - it easily slid back into its bracket after the boat was on the water. The sails were ready to raise.

Walking Bluesette to the water. The bowline and a line on the sendai are attached to a winch.

She floats! Where's the champagne and brass band? OK, a Yebesu beer and a trombone player?

Bluesette was walked out to a lower portion of the dock where we boarded, attached the rudder and raised the sails.

I don't usually sit this far aft - I was just posing for the camera

K and I spent about an hour sailing with Mr. Hakuta. Soon the wind picked up a bit and gave us some speed. Other sailboats - Sea Hoppers and Lasers - took to the water as well. This was K's first time sailing and she learned to handle the jib. I got good sailing advice from Mr. Hakuta and we practiced docking.

Then K and I dropped Hakuta-san off and went out on our own. Around noon, the wind was up to five or so knots and K was surprised at how fast Bluesette could go. Nice breeze, but not too much for our first day out. It was a good "shakedown" cruise and we learned of a number things we need to do differently and adjustments that are needed on the boat. Several fishing boats were out too and no doubt having a good day as we saw a lot of fish of varying sizes jumping out of the water - bora (striped mullet) and suzuki (a kind of sea bass). Due to the close proximity to the ocean, lake Hinuma has a mix of both freshwater and saltwater fish.

K found out that sailing is fun! - and sometimes wet: in addition to managing the jib, she learned to use the bailing bucket that I made from a laundry detergent bottle and which can be seen in the picture.

We decided to take a lunch break, so returned to the dock. Easier said than done as the wind direction was not as favorable as it had been earlier. Hinuma is a very shallow lake - average depth 2 meters (about 6 1/2 feet) and at the dock only about 1 meter (39 inches). With the centerboard down, Bluesette draws 53 inches (1.35 meters). That means we have to raise the centerboard about half way in order to be sure of clearing the bottom. The problem is that when we do that, the boat tends to drift sideways, making maneuvering to the dock a little tricky. Not impossible, just something to practice. And as Hakuta-san pointed out, the water is only 1 meter deep, so if all else fails, one can lower the sails, jump in the water, and WALK the boat in!

We left Bluesette tied up at the end of the dock and went over to Mama's Kitchen (the restaurant described in the post "Finding A Home"). You may not believe this, but I swear it is the truth: When we walked into Mama's Kitchen there was a nice CD playing featuring a female jazz vocalist...

The song? Bluesette! Coincidence? You decide.

K had a ham sandwich on a bagel, I opted for cold angel hair pasta with basil. We both got to use the salad bar and my lunch came with this dessert, which we shared:

Drinks included as well. The bill only came to ¥1700. I'm afraid it damaged my waistline more than my wallet.

Then it was back to the boat for more sailing. We checked in at office and told them we would be back around 15:00. This would allow them to get the sendai ready when we came back, or come looking for us if we didn't. Actually, one of the great things about the club is that they have a log book for boaters to leave a plan on where they will be going and when they expect to return. Sort of like the flight plans I used to phone into the FAA as a pilot. The club house has an excellent view of the lake, and Hakuta-san has binoculars with which he scans the lake. If he sees someone coming in, he goes down to the ramp, or if he sees someone in trouble, he'll come out on a PWC (jet ski) or another power boat to render assistance.

Our caps say "Santa Barbara Yacht Club" - where I sailed a Lido as a kid. (Thanks to my sisters for those.)

The wind was still good and there was a race on with several Lasers, practicing for official Laser National races to be held next weekend. (There are 3 types of Laser sailboats actually, and can't tell them apart easily unless they are side by side.)

We had our share of mistakes and minor mishaps, but that's what a shakedown sail is all about.
Mostly, we just had fun.

We docked the boat at 15:00 and got her ready to be pulled out of the water. Hakuta-san put the sendai on the winch while his son went to get Bluesette.

Back on dry land. Good timing. By the time we got her ashore, the wind had died down again.

Do I look happy? We stowed the sails, then gave Bluesette a shower and wiped her down. After putting her back in her parking space, we took the mast down. Then K went for a shower and change while I finished drying the boat, putting everything away, putting on the cover and tying the boat down.

After my shower, we enjoyed a cool drink in the clubhouse - orange juice for K, mugicha for me (barley tea - my favorite) - and chatted with the Hakutas about our day before heading for home.

Until next, sweet sailing.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Moving Day

Well, I know I said the next post would be about the maiden voyage of Bluesette, but before that, a road voyage was necessary.

Friday, I prepared Bluesette for the move to lake Hinuma. To start, I moved it from its space by the garage, across the driveway to a place in the front yard where the truck could easily pick it up. The small swivel wheel on the front of the trailer works fine on concrete, but our yard is gravel and dirt, and it tends to dig in - especially after the rains we have had. (My aching back).

The lettering looks a little dark in the shade, but brightens up like a reflective traffic sign when light strikes it.

Next I took the cover off, removed the back shroud adjusters (the shrouds are steel lines which hold the mast upright), coiled the shrouds and taped them to the boom and mast. This was to prevent them from rattling around in the bottom of the boat during the trip, possibly damaging the gel coat, and to generally keep them out of the way - a good tip from the factory DVD by Tom Schock, the builder of Lido 14s.

"Arrr, mateys - there she be, listing to starboard..." Hey, no pirate talk!

I took out the paddle (my spare "engine" if the wind dies) and all the other loose stuff - tool kit, bailing bucket, etc. - except for the sail bags and a few items made of rubber and put them in K's car. I also attached the launching sling to see if it would work OK with the mast in the stowed position. Normally, the sling, which consists of three lines that attach at points on the hull and meet at a large ring in the center, are used for launching a Lido using a crane. This is done with the mast up. My thought was to use it for transferring the boat - mast down - from the trailer on the truck to a cradle called a "sendai", the Japanese word for "berth", on which Bluessette will be stored at the Yacht Harbor. The sendai has four swiveling wheels which makes it easier than the trailer to move around the boat yard and to launch the boat with.

Momo, seen here in the background, supervised from her bench on the front porch. She isn't sure what to make of Bluesette. A landlubber dog - afraid of the water. That's OK Momo, we'd rather not have to deal with quadruped crew member, especially one with claws. You can also see that our pomegranate bush has lots of blossoms this year - I've been fertilizing it with a liquid compost we make from kitchen food waste.

Normally, to transfer a boat from a trailer to a sendai, they launch the boat and then bring it back out of the water on the sendai. After Bluesette is on the sendai, the trailer will be taken back home where will will store it. My idea was to use the sling to lift the boat off the trailer and lower it onto the sendai, leaving the trailer on the truck. Much less hassle and time, and it avoids a launching fee. Sure enough, when I hooked it up I noted that it would interfere with the mast spreader and stays (wires which stiffen the mast and keep it from bending). Not a problem, as I can put the stays out of the way when the time comes to lift the boat, but good to know ahead of time so we don't damage anything.

Then I put some rubber wedges on either side of the centerboard to keep it from jiggling back and forth during the ride. It's only a one way trip, but I don't want to put any unnecessary wear on the boat. After that, I tied the boat down to the trailer. I have kept it just sitting on the trailer without the tie down rope to avoid putting any stress on the hull while it was in storage. After that, I put the cover back on and secured it. Hopefully, Bluesette was ready to go. The truck was due to arrive at 9:00 the following morning.

The following morning...

It was one busy day. The truck arrived at 8:45 AM. I showed the driver pictures of Bluesette being off-loaded from a similar truck when if first arrived, so he could see where to place the slings of his crane. By 9:30 we were on our way and an hour later we arrived at the Yacht Harbor.

My idea of using the launching sling to off load the boat sans trailer directly onto the sendai worked like a charm. After relaxing in the clubhouse over some excellent iced coffee from Hitachi City courtesy of the Yacht Harbor owners, we agreed with the driver to meet him back at our house to unload the trailer at 1:00 PM. K gave the driver some money for lunch.

Bluesette on her "sendai".

Along the way, we grabbed some bento lunches from a nice, new Seimiya supermarket in northern Hokota City, and took them home. The trailer showed up right on time and after we stowed it (we were surprised at how heavy the trailer still was, even without the boat on it), it was back to lake Hinuma. We spent the next couple of hours going over the perks and rules of club membership. My mind and gaze kept wandering to some Yamaha Sea Hoppers out sailing on the lake. Can't we cover the dry details later and just get on with sailing? No. Of course we can't. "Patience Pandabonium", I tell myself.

Finally, time growing short - the harbor closes down at five and it was almost four already - we put things in order on Bluesette (undoing all those measures I had taken to prepare for the road trip), raised the mast and got the sails attached and ready to raise. Several sailors gathered near the boat, full of curiosity, to watch in hopes of seeing us on the water. This was the first time K and I had done this together step by step. (It went remarkably smoothly, I must say, except for my attaching the bottom of the mainsail to the halyard instead of the TOP. OOPS. Blush.)

We got to the point where we were ready to launch. It was too late in the day, however, to actually go sailing, but the point of this exercise was really to practice together as a team and learn how to do things. There are many details to cover in addition to the logistics of what can be left in the boat or needs to be taken back home or stored in a locker. Then we did the whole drill in reverse, covered and tied down Bluesette and headed for home. At the end of the day, K was really bushed from the long day that included three and a half hours of driving, interpreting the yacht harbor rules and contract matters for me, and listening to Capt. Panda's orders for rigging the boat.

Bluesette ready to launch - Oh, and K of course.

Our first sail may come as soon as Thursday. The weather looks like rain until then. The first time out will be with the harbor owner along as an instructor to allow him to see how much I know, how much I don't know (which is no short supply), and to fill me in on how operations are handled there.

Meanwhile, it is a big relief to have Bluesette safely ensconced at her new home, ready to go whenever we are and weather permits. We can also work on getting the trailer inspected and licensed at our leisure against some day when we decide to venture beyond Lake Hinuma. That could be some time off.

Yokoso, Bluesette. (Welcome).

Next post - maiden voyage. I promise!

Friday, June 12, 2009

While You're Waiting....

Here's a cool video/picture compilation of the Lido 14 Championships sailed in Newport Beach, CA. - August 2007 (50th Anniversary) with M People's "Color My Life" as background music. Some really nice shots here. The yellow Lido #6240 really stands out. After our first Lido #443, I had a Snipe sailboat (also built by W D Schock Corp) that was that color with a white deck.

Watch for the pair of pelicans. I also like the tug boat in one of the later pictures.

Very nice work. Enjoy.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Finding A Home

During the last two months, our friends have been asking what has become of Bluesette and when she will have her maiden voyage. Good questions!

Our answer has been to please be patient. We needed to have the trailer inspected and licensed, but before that we needed a trailer hitch receiver for the car. Ah, but we were waiting for a new car before ordering the hitch receiver (so as not to pay for two - one for the old car and one for the new). In the mean time, we were looking into clubs in the area. You see, in Ibaraki, there are no public launching ramps on the lakes that can accommodate a boat of this size, so one must join a club (or in some cases pay a visitor fee) to have access.

A Yamaha "Sea Hopper" on Lake Hinuma

There are four prospects in our area, two on Kasumigaura lake, one on Kitaura and one on Hinuma. We visited each and checked into costs, access to them, the launching facilities, the kinds of boating going on at each place, club amenities, and so on.

No two clubs are the same. Distances vary from twenty minutes to an hour or more by car. Costs vary considerably as well as the facilities offered. Another important factor is the scenery. After all, we want to enjoy the view.

After weighing all the factors, we chose Hinuma Yacht Harbor on the south shore of lake Hinuma.

Lake Hinuma

Hinuma is a small lake to our north, just south of Mito City, and I have often admired it from the train on the way to and from Mito City. The lake has several tributaries and empties into the ocean near Oarai to the northeast. Very much smaller than Kasumigaura or even Kitaura at about 9 km long and 2 km wide, it is still plenty big for dingy sailing and actually offers somewhat better views along its shores and of some mountains about 20 km to the West.

The Hinuma Yacht Harbor is behind this beautiful farm house.

The first time we visited to check it out, K had an Ibaraki International Association lecture to attend in Mito City in the morning, so I stayed home to do some chores, then rode my bike a few kilometers to Koyadai station and took the Kashima Rinkai Oarai line to Hinuma station. It is just 1.8 km from there to the yacht club. I will leave a bicycle at Hinuma station so that I can get there easily on my own if K is busy elsewhere. There are trains each way about every 40 minutes. The area is quite nice with lots of rice fields, picturesque houses, resorts and camping parks fronting the lake. I had a chance to walk around the club and check things out a bit before K arrived.

We liked it. Built in 1972, Hinuma Yacht Harbor has a mix of fishing boats and sail boats, mostly the latter and most of those Yamaha Sea Hoppers, Lasers, and the like. Other types are in the size range of Bluesette and larger. They operate a sailing school during the summer and hold races on Sundays.

The club is open every day except Tuesday and if that falls on a national holiday, they are open and will close the day after. They have two launching ramps, one for the hand launching of smaller boats, and another for larger boats which uses a cable and winch system to lower the carrier or trailer down the ramp to launch the boat and retrieve it. This is also faster as it does away with a long queue of vehicles waiting to use the ramp. Bluesette would use the winch system as she weighs about 140 kg plus the trailer.

Winds on the lake come off the nearby ocean from the northeast and are typically 4 to 8 knots, sometimes higher. That's about perfect for us.

The launch system means a lot for us, as our trailer is actually a bit of a problem. You see, a trailer made in California does not meet specifications for use in Japan. The requirements are based on what the trailer is rated to carry as well as its legnth - not on how much you are actually carrying. Having a nice, somewhat "overbuilt" trailer like ours results in more requirements than a light weight Lido 14 trailer rated for a lighter load and being a bit shorter would be subject to. Sigh. I would need to rewire ours with additional amber turn signal lights, white back up lights and possibly even have to add brakes to it.

Also, the car would need an expensive custom hitch receiver, the trailer would need bi-annual inspections, annual license fees, insurance and so on. Hinuma club obviates those problems because we can leave the boat at the club and not worry about any of the trailer's legal issues and on-going costs. We will hire someone just to deliver the boat to the club and be done with it. Besides all that, the hitch receiver would add about 12 kg (26 lbs) to the weight of K's car - which is not an insignificant amount to be lugging around all the time for no reason while trying to hyper-mile her Insight. This also means K doesn't need to learn to maneuver a car and trailer. (For new readers' information, by choice I don't drive - my "car" is a bicycle and public transportation, and K drives a new Honda Insight hybrid.) All of these things were anticipated, of course, but finding a way around them by storing the boat at the lake is a big relief.

The Kashima Rinkai Oarai train

Hinuma is about about 45 to 55 minutes by car. If I go by bike and train, it's a total of about a 65 minutes.

This Saturday past (June 6) we again went to Hinuma - this time together in K's car - and joined the club. We spent about two hours there discussing the details and getting a tour of all the facilities. In addition to the boat storage, ramps, and club house, they have a nautical supply store, lockers and shower rooms.

We tried out different routes with the car (first my choice and then K's) and found that K's route takes a little longer but has wider, smoother roads with fewer stops, so is easier on both car and driver and offers the best fuel efficiency - she got over 27.5 kpl (65 mpg) on that route vs 26.5 on mine.

Next week, we'll arrange to have Bluesette moved to the lake by truck and, weather permitting, have her maiden voyage.

Bluesette has a home port!

Mama's Kitchen

On both trips we stopped at a restaurant near the club on the way home and enjoyed a wonderful lunch. It is called "Mama's Kitchen", and is run by two women (mother/daughter?) - one of whom waits the tables while the other cooks. Very tasty food. The first time K had a big plate of beef (she doesn't get to eat meat at home) and I had angel hair pasta with broccoli and other veggies. We each had pasta the second time; K's was Carbonada, and mine was with squid and asparagus. Only ¥1000 each (about 10 bucks US) including a nice salad bar, a desert of either ice cream or cheesecake with chiffon cake and fruit, and beverage. If you're ever in the area (perhaps sailing with us on Bluesette?) be sure to stop in at Mama's Kitchen.

Next post - maiden voyage!