Wednesday, August 19, 2009

What A Difference A Day (or so) Makes

On our way to lake Hinuma Monday morning we were stopped by the latest in Japanese law enforcement. Forget "Robocop". Always at the cutting edge of technology, Japan has a super light weight, quickly deployable alternative that is much cheaper, more mobile, and effective (providing you have a compliant citizenry). It's "Inflate-o-Cop"!

Well, actually there were two of these next to a Mobil gasoline station. I admit they are effective in catching one's attention, if only to elicit a laugh. Obviously, the location has a visibility problem and so has invested in numerous signs, flashing lights, and even "Inflate-o-Cops" to garner what business they can.

A hand held anemometer, similar to mine. It displays temperature and wind data (chose from m/s, ft/s, knots, mph, kph). It will also provide peak gust and average speeds.

The weather was quite a change from last Thursday - scattered cumulus, loads of sun, and According to my anemometer it was blowing about 4 - 4.5 meters per second - 9 to 10 mph. That's about as much wind as we've sailed in before and had it been blowing harder I would have opted to stay ashore. For more experienced Lido 14 sailors, 10 mph is no big deal. For me, it is a learning stage, and frankly, wind speeds much higher than that (say, 15 mph) are not conditions we plan to sail in anyway.

Hobie Cat mast float. Obviously, the logo had to go.

Today, we left off the wind vane at the top of the mast and installed in its place a Hobie Cat mast float. Hobie Cat is a brand of sailing catamaran. Because of the geometry of catamarans, they are very difficult to right if they happen to capsize. The mast float, which they call "Baby Bob", is a teardrop shaped float containing 14.5 liters of air, which sits atop the mast. It displaces 1.45 kg of water - 32 lbs. - when submerged. In the event of a capsize, the float is there to keep the mast from sinking and the boat from turning "turtle" - completely upside down.

Now, in our case, turning turtle is not a possibility. Why? Because the lake is shallow - 2 or 2.5 meters in most areas we sail and the mast is over 5.5 meters tall. But that is not necessarily a good thing, for if we capsize and the boat starts to turn turtle, the mast could dig into the muddy bottom, making righting the boat very difficult and introducing the possibility of bending the mast or doing other expensive damage.

I know of no other Lido 14 with a mast float, but this can be attributed to the fact that most of them sail in places like West Coast harbors or in lakes where there are lots of other boats nearby ready to assist. It also adds a little weight and drag. Also, a well trained crew may be able to right a boat before the mast sinking becomes a problem. However, I know it happens, and for us, the situation would be a serious one. Thus, the mast float.

This sort of planning may seem overly conservative to many sailors, but it comes from my many years as a private pilot flying a single engine airplane over rough ocean channels in the Hawaiian Islands, and having known someone who ended up spending the night bobbing around in his life vest. I don't cut corners or let my ego get in the way when it comes to safety.

Note the new float atop the mast, (looks like a Zeppelin flying over). Oh, and K readying the jib.

On a more calm day, I will wade into the water and pull Bluesette over on her side (with sails raised) to see just how much the buoyancy and protection the float offers. Other people with similar sized boats have reported good results using the Hobie Cat float.

With more wind things happen much more quickly in a sailboat and right off we had a problem with the wind having twisted up the jib sheets at the dock. K had to untangle the mess as I let the main way out to keep us slow and level until she got it straightened out.

We made several close hauled tacks upwind and generally had a good time. K was getting splashed by the spray off the bow with each choppy wave and before long was soaked. We had a few mishaps, as when I slipped while coming about and lost control of the tiller, but had the presence of mind to pop the main sheet from the cleat so we didn't test the mast float quite yet. On that occasion my knee slammed into on our combination grappling hook/whisker pole, putting a dent in the aluminum pole and breaking the head off of it, something I didn't notice at the time.

Another time, I didn't give K enough warning and just called "ready about" and started to turn without waiting for her response. The jib was still cleated and K scrambled to the other side while trying to free it. Again, we recovered, if not so gracefully. My bad.

Wing and wing.

After a time, we turned downwind and set the sails wing and wing - main on one side, jib on the other. I wanted to try out my new, homemade, whisker pole. For non-sailors that is a pole which attaches to the mast and the clue (aft corner) of the jib to hold it straight out so that it catches more wind. It was then I discovered that I had broken it in my earlier fall.

Ah well, the down wind leg would give us a bit of a break, a chance to sip some cold tea, and to make sure everything was ship shape and properly adjusted. Also a good time for the crew to make use of the new bailing bucket to rid us of the 5 cm of water in the cockpit. The old bucket was made from a laundry detergent bottle and was too stiff and too large. The new one is rubber, conforming to the shape of the bottom, and much smaller so easier to use.

We were really flying downwind, keeping up with the waves. A lighter boat, such as a Laser, would be planing. We went quite a ways toward the west end of the lake, but I decided to cut it short as we would spend a lot of time tacking back into the wind to get back to the yacht harbor. A few wind surfers were the only other sails on the lake.

A soaking wet K looks down at our broken whisker pole as a windsurfer zooms by to port. (click to enlarge)

As we approached the dock, a motor boat was in our path and had a group of children nearby playing in the water. I decided to go back across the lake and see if they moved. They did and had tied up at the dock. I briefed K on how we would approach in these winds, so she could be ready to grab the line at the dock. She would need to do that by hand, as I had broken the grappling hook. We would need to parallel the dock going toward shore, then swing around toward it in a 120 degree turn into the wind, luffing the sails. If my timing were off and we didn't make the dock, rather than sailing off and coming in to try it again, I would used the "Hakuta method", which I have seen other sailors do here. That is, jump in the water and walk the boat to the dock!

As it happened, I did come up a half meter short of the dock and we started to drift away toward shore and the docked motor boat. I slipped over the side into the one meter deep water, took the painter from K and walked us to the dock. I should have had K take my picture. (After that, K wasn't the only one who was soaking wet.) It was so easy that I think I'll do that whenever the wind is strong and the water warm.

After a shower and change of clothes, we talked about what we had learned and laughed about some of our mistakes over a pasta lunch at Mama's Kitchen. K had broccoli and thin ham slices and I had tuna and veggies with tomato sauce. Each came with a desert of cheese cake souffle that was nice and light, with pear and orange slices, and Bluesette berries .

On the way home, we stopped at a hardware store and I picked up a new painter's extension pole from which to make a new grappling hook/whisker pole. This one has 3 segments instead of two, so collapses to only 81 cm. It will be much easier to stow and less likely to be broken by a clumsy skipper.

Lots happening this week, so it may be several days before we get on the water again. Meanwhile, we're doing more book study in our effort to keep improving. It's all good.

Until next, sweet sailing.


Don Snabulus said...

Sounds like enough adventure to make it interesting, but not enough to ruin it. Overall, a great learning outing.

I like K's hat.

Pandabonium said...

Don - we each have "Santa Barbara Yacht Club" hats that my sisters got for us.

The good thing about the wind that day was that it was from a constant direction and also not so gusty, so easier to deal with.