Monday, December 7, 2009

Fall Maintenance - Boat and Skipper

Three weeks of being beached seems an interminable stretch after six months of enjoying Bluesette on a weekly basis. Our sailing hiatus has not been voluntary. The weather did not cooperate at all, nor did my body.

I finally realized the pain I'd been having for a few months wasn't going away and I went to see a doctor. He suspected gallstones and a few days later I went in for an ultrasound scan, which found none. Two days later I had an endoscopy which showed that my esophagus was inflamed (not to be confused with an inflamed Snuffleupogus) and duodenum was getting ready to sprout ulcers. A month of meds along with the changes I had already made in my diet should clear things up.

Meanwhile temperatures of air and water keep dropping and I realize that sailing at this time of year will require a wetsuit. I ordered one recently, but upon trying it on, the fit was not right and I sent it back - my legs are not "Longfellows" and I really need a custom fit.

In addition, for the last few months I've made some key changes to diet and increased my daily exercise to get into better shape. I'm about 1/5 of the way to my goals there and hope to arrive at my targets by April. I have ambitious goals, but in my experience, such are the only ones that I will work for. If one's goals are set too low, it is too easy to put them off. Anyway, I'll wait for the wetsuit until I reach my fitness goals.

One of the ways I have increased my exercise is to get a new ride. It's a Raleigh (Japan) Club Sport bicycle. A practical cross (for me) between a road bike and a city bike, it is fairly light weight and has 21 speeds, but also straight handlebars for a heads up posture in the city, fenders to keep me clean and dry, and a kick stand. I ride it everywhere, including the 12 km each way into town for hardware or groceries, the 45 minutes to the expressway bus depot (to go to Tokyo), and even rode it 30 minutes each way to the hospital for the ultrasound scan. (I haven't driven a car in over five years.)

Speaking of bicycles, my "Hinuma-cycle" - the inexpensive 3 speed I leave at Hinuma train station for commuting to the yacht harbor - had gathered rust over the summer. Himuma station is after all only 3km/1.8miles from the Pacific Ocean. We made a quick trip up there in K's car to retrieve it and brought it home for maintenance. I spent a day on that so it's good to go, but I may just keep it here at home until spring, even though with our five bicycles, parking is an issue.

We made a trip up to northern Ibaraki to enjoy the autumnal tints at a couple of our favorite places for that. I've made business trips to Tokyo and Mito City during this period as well, and K had gone to Hitachi City for workshops on medical interpreting (Japanese to English/English to Japanese) as she volunteers to interpret for English speaking patients. She got to practice during my trips to the hospital. So, a busy time, but I've had sailing on my mind always.

Yesterday, Sunday, December 6th, we went to the lake to work on Bluesette. Only three weeks since we last went, but when we arrived I felt like saying to Bluesette, "shibaraku desu ne!" (Japanese for "it's been a long time.") The weather was spectacular, with clear air at a warm 15° C/59° F, and practically no wind.

Out on the water, eight boats - Sea Hoppers and Lasers - were having a slow motion race while a flock of wintering ducks gathered in the south eastern corner of the lake.

The ideal conditions brought out three ultralight aircraft. They must have had a beautiful view. In Hawaii, I owned a Cessna 172 for about ten years, but I never thought I would ever fly an ultralight. I was far too conservative a pilot for that. Then one day my Austrian friend, Armin Engert, took me up in his tandem "trike" (similar in layout to the one pictured here) over the north shore of Maui. He let me fly it for a few minutes. With no aluminum or plexiglass between us and the elements, I was amazed at the view and the rush of wind on my face. I felt closer to the birds than I ever had before. Flying and sailing each offer similar experiences and the affinity that pilots and sailors have for their respective sports and craft is the same - brothers, or at the very least cousins, of the air.

We had a number of things to get done. One was to try out the new mast float I bought. While the Hobie Cat float worked well when we capsized last month, there were two things that I didn't like about it. First, it adds a bit of weight to the top of the mast which makes raising the mast more of a chore. Secondly, it leaves no room for a wind vane, which I missed. The new float, which I bought from Annapolis Performance Sailing, consists of two inflatable tubes (of aircraft life vest like material) stitched to a center section of sailcloth with loops sewn on both ends for attaching to the main halyard. The sail cloth section goes around the bolt of the luff, and is pulled up by the halyard along with the sail. Together, the tubes displace 8 liters. The Hobie Cat float displaces 14 liters, which for the Lido 14 proved much more than necessary.

With the new float, the top of the mast is free once again for my wind vane.

I don't know if the drag created by the new floats will matter much. We'll see.

I squeezed under the boat and took a look at the centerboard and trunk. I don't like this chore as I invariably hit my knee on the sendai frame while squeezing between it and the hull. As I suspected there was a piece of reed about 16cm long stuck in there. Easily removed. No other problems. Meanwhile, the race drifted on...

Next I installed two new telltales on the shrouds. As we didn't have a wind vane atop the mast when the Hobie Cat float was installed up there, I came to rely on bits of yarn on the shrouds for clues about the wind. These new tell tales are well designed and not prone to tangles or slipping. I'm looking forward to trying them out.

At last, a horn sounded, signaling the end of the race...

With the race over, the boats made their way back to the dock. With so little wind, the sailors stood on the bow of their boats, holding the mast and rocking back and forth to sort of scull their way along. It looked very odd, but was quite effective.

After putting his Sea Hooper away, our friend I-san who pulled me out of the drink last month, came over to say hello before heading to the clubhouse with the others.
It was well after 13:00, so we took a lunch break.

Mama's Kitchen was quiet. We each had the "set" lunch, however, the cook adjusted mine. So, while K had some dishes with pork or duck, I had tofu and fish. On our way out, the cook gave K a couple of freshly baked rolls stuffed with thin slices of ham and covered in cheese.

Then it was back to "work". There was a large-ish area along the starboard side of the hull that I had wet sanded and polished back in September that still didn't look good to me. I applied more rubbing compound and used an orbital polisher on it. After that I changed the cloth and applied wax, then buffed it. I'm much happier with it now.

When not helping me, K was reading the Sherlock Holmes story, "A Study In Scarlet". We enjoy watching the old Sherlock Holmes movies with Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce as well as the newer (1980s) episodes from British television starring Jeremy Brett. Reading them is a challenge for K as the English used is a century old. Also a challenge to me when she asks the meaning of some words which are not at the top of my vocabulary and I struggle to remember their meanings. Then there was the mystery of what Watson meant when he listed among his personal shortcomings - "I keep a bull pup."

We packed up and headed for home by 16:00. As we drove along the east shore of lake Kitaura, the afterglow of the sunset treated us to a show of warm colors. It reminded me of sunsets in the deserts of the American Southwest, with indigo skies above the fiery horizon and swirling red-orange and deep violet waters. Next time I hope I have my larger camera and a tripod with me.

Kitaura bridge after sunset

Working on Bluesette and seeing the sailboats racing on the lake made me realize that I cannot wait until May to sail again. I'll get a dry suit and keep sailing as long as K can manage with her wetsuit and neoprene jacket. There will be months this winter when it will be too cold even for that, but we'll make the most of times when we can sail rather than resign ourselves to missing out altogether.

Until next, sweet sailing.


Don Snabulus said...

I like the new equipment. It is a beautiful sunset shot. Very nice.

Martin J Frid said...

Yes, what an unusually clear day. We are so lucky you like photography too.

Seeing that flying thingy reminded me of reading Richard Bach and his semi-autobiographic novels. I would NEVER have the guts or balls or whatever to fly that though.

Hope the sunny weather continues so we get more posts like this one.

O Docker said...

Hope the bike riding helps. It is very cool that Raleigh Japan is making these retro bikes with lugged steel frames and Brooks saddles (I see they even make one with downtube friction shifters). This from someone with an old Raleigh Pro hanging in the garage.

Pandabonium said...

Don - thanks. The sunset was a nice way to the end the day. Sort of a coverlet for the book that was a beautiful, mellow day.

Martin - I like Richard Bach's writings. The "trike" aircraft doesn't take guts, just a careful decision. For me it was the right day, right pilot, right machine and the knowledge needed to weigh the factors involved. Prior to that flight, had you asked me if I would ever go up in one, I would have said "no way".

O Docker - The retro look was a big hook for me, and happily the components are excellent. I'm also doing some (small) free weights and walking.

Old Raleigh Pro - beautiful. does it have the chrome on the lower fork and stays?