I guess it is winter finally

Iced over boat launch

I must admit that I have procrastinated a little bit too long with starting some of my winter projects.  And that has resulted in winter winning to a degree.  This winter seemed rather mild until the end of last month, and over the last few weeks we have had more than our fair share of snow.   So, my willingness to go out and work on the boat is pretty much gone for now, especially if it means that I need to go out and lay in the snow.

That being said, earlier I had mentioned that there were a few projects that I wanted to accomplish on Spy Hop this winter.  Modified coamings, a tiller extension, and hiking straps.  All but the the hiking straps were accomplished before the end of last years sailing, so to a degree I am ahead of the game I suppose.  There are a few other projects that I want to complete before next sailing season though.  In addition to the hiking straps for Spy Hop I want to add navigation lights.

While it is legal in Massachusetts to sail Tiger after sunset with out nav lights it isn’t legal for Spy Hop to be out in the dark without lights.  The three additional feet on Spy Hop make the difference in this state.  (Oh, and the motor would requires lights as well.)  Asya and I try to be back at the dock by the time the sun sets we have failed too many times not to consider nav lights.  Ok, nav lights might be overkill for a 17ft boat but I believe that the additional safety will be worth it.  And when paired with good spot light sunset shouldn’t be a hard limiting factor anymore.

However, just because I want an electrical system doesn’t meant that it is an easy thing to achieve.  I have done a little electrical work in the past however not a huge amount and never from scratch.  So while the snow keeps me away from the boat for a while I can plan a way to add lights to Spy Hop and possibly learn a bit along the way.  I suppose that is the benefit of winter, having the time to do the research and plan how to accomplish boat projects.


It may be October, but sailing season isn’t over just yet

With a little preparation October is great month for sailing.  Both the air and the water are starting to cool down, and that’s what makes the preparation necessary.  The good news is that the preparation isn’t all that difficult because neither the water nor the air is dangerously cold yet, assuming you can get out of the water and dry off somewhat quickly.  So far this month (October) both the water and air temperature have been in the low 60 degree range.  That means when you get out into the wind it can be a little bit cold, especially if you aren’t in direct sunlight.  And in regards to the water, I won’t go any further than knee deep without a wet suit this time of year.  But, I may just be a wimp who doesn’t particularly like being cold.

Ok, so the water and air temps are starting to cool off, but what should you do if you want to keep sailing?  Well here is what I do, I start in a wetsuit and add a windbreaker or water proof jacket if I need a little more warmth.  My logic for the wetsuit is that the potential exists for me to end up in the water, all be it involuntarily.  And, if that happens a sweatshirt is going to do more harm then good.  I could just be paranoid but I would much rather be prepared than end up in a dangerous situation.  Some of you are probably pointing out that a wetsuit isn’t a great insulation layer when it isn’t in the water and you’re right.  However, it is much better than nothing, and the windbreaker stops the wind which is where a lot of heat is lost.  I also bring along neoprene booties and neoprene sailing gloves because if the spray starts to pick up your hands will get wet and cold and that isn’t fun at all.  A bit of common sense is also needed, this isn’t the time of year to be pushing your sailing boundaries.

Alright, so now we’re prepared … let’s go sailing!

With winds out of the north and delightfully calm water Asya and I geared up and launched Spy Hop with no particular destination in mind.  We ended up sailing back and forth across Centerville Harbor.  I’ll explain more about where we were sailing later, the take away is that it was fantastic even though it is early October!

Calm Seas on Centerville Harbor
Nice Calm Seas

And with a day this nice no destination was needed.

Sailing Cape Cod
Asya at the helm of Spy Hop

Sailing Cape Cod

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It is possible that this was the last sail of the year, but I sure it hope it wasn’t.  There is still plenty of fall left to enjoy before it would be unwise to be on the water.

More Improvements to Make

Sailing on Waquoit Bay
Sailing on Waquoit Bay

The more we sail Spy Hop the more impressed I become with her.  Also, the more I realize that we need to improve the way we handle her.  The last time that we took her out we realized that there is a lot of potential in the boat that we aren’t tapping into simply by the way we were sailing.  The biggest change that we need to make is the ability to hike out onto the deck to better distribute weight when the wind gets a bit strong.  Spy Hop can be depowered pretty quickly if needed, by easing the main and jib sheets, but it isn’t all that much fun when you end up loosing a good portion of your power potential.

The first time I hiked out on Spy Hop I realized that the Daysailer probably has more in common with dinghys than with yachts.  This whole year I have been trying to sail her as if she were the Catalina 31 that I learned on, but the reality is that she isn’t.  There isn’t a keel keeping the boat upright, instead she has a crew that acts as the ballast to keep her upright.  That is all a long winded way of saying that we have some improvements to make to our little boat.

Three improvements that  immediately come to mind:

1 – The coamings need to be modified so that the crew and skipper can quickly and comfortable get out onto the deck to move weight outwards

2 – A tiller extension needs to be added.  (I have fairly long arms, and from the deck I was using my finger tips to control the tiller)

3 – Hiking straps (like on other small boats, it is helpful being about to be able to loop your feet through something to be counter act most of your weight being over the side of the boat.)

This late in the sailing season I have resigned myself to the fact that most if not all of these projects will end up happening next season rather than this season.  These three improvements will have to get added to the growing list of winter projects to prepare for next year.  But, that does allow for a good amount of time to actually get the work completed.

Mind the weather

sailing centerville harbor on cape cod
I should look happier, I’m on a boat after all.

I am still fascinated by how different the weather can actually be from one place to another.  I don’t mean the weather on different continents, but how different the weather can be in a rather small geographic area.  Specifically over a couple of miles.

Before going sailing I always check the weather conditions, current conditions and forecasts as well as past conditions to get an idea of the weather trends.  Since I work in aviation I look at the current weather reports at the local airports, giving preference to the one that is closest to where we will be going sailing.  Last week before a sunset sail the wind at a local airport was reported as being 10kts gusting to 18kts.  The direction was from the south east which is largely unrestricted blowing into the Centerville Harbor.  10tks gusting to 18kts isn’t a huge amount of wind but depending on the gusts it can end up being a handful.  While motoring out Asya and I decided not to actually raise sails given the limited time we had before sunset and we weren’t entirely sure of what the conditions would end up being.

The conditions were delightful!  The wind gusts weren’t as bad as the weather report (~two miles away) would have lead me to believe.  There was a minor swell, somewhat noticeable in the picture above, but again not as bad as I would have assumed from the reported wind direction and wind speed.  My takeaway from this is that weather conditions change, both for the better and for the worse.  As much as I like knowing when I pull out of the driveway that I am going sailing, there is still the variable of weather that can and sometimes should change the decision to go sailing.

Just a Thursday

It is said that the two happiest days of a boat owners life are the day that they buy the boat and the day that they sell the boat.

I disagree, and I only have one reason. . . Thursday!  If we didn’t own Spy Hop or Tiger I don’t believe that as many sunset sails would have happened.  And, to be honest sunset sails are one of the best parts of owning a boat.

Thursday sailing

This week on a whim we took Spy Hop out to a new sailing location on Lewis Bay on the south side of Cape Cod.  We launched in the late afternoon and only had sunlight for about 90 minutes on the water.  But those 90 minutes were the highlight of the week and definitely made owning the boat worth it, not to mention the other many adventures that we have had on Spy Hop this summer.

Sunset sailing
Sailing on Lewis Bay

There are many more adventures to be had, but I am very glad that on this day we decided to go sailing rather than stay in the harbor.  Sunset is often a magical time, and I am very happy that on this day we got to view it from this location.

Sunset sailing
Lowering the sails as the sun dips behind the horizon. Perfect timing.

More Trailer Work

All evidence suggests that I enjoy working on the boat trailers.  On my days off I keep finding myself crawling around under the trailers tinkering or fixing something.  Well, since the boats live on their trailers and the trailers deliver the boat to the water it is probably a worth while time investment to keep them in decent condition.
When we took ownership of Spy Hop her trailer was in good shape (compared to Tiger’s trailer) but still required a bit of work.  The only major problem was that the tongue was bent about 15 degrees to the left.  I wasn’t prepared to replace the tongue in the previous owners drive way so I towed it home with the bent tongue.  Being a true procrastinator I proceeded to ignore the issue for three months.  It wasn’t until a friend saw the trailer and was shocked that I towed it in that condition that I took seriously the need to replace the bent tongue.  Some people had suggested having the tongue straightened by heating it and bending it back.  I didn’t like that idea because I’ve seen what happens when a paper clip is bent one too many times, so I decided to simply replace the bent tongue.
Bent trailer tongue
Side by side with old and new trailer tongue
Ordering the required part from a Load Rite dealer was easier than I had anticipated and the best part was that it came pre-drilled to be installed onto the trailer!  I wasn’t looking forward to drilling several holes into the steel.  The replacement itself took a bit longer than I expected and was a little more involved than I thought.  The wiring harness runs through the tongue and then into the other frame members and dealing with those wires was a challenge I hadn’t really expected.  But, when all was said and done it went smoothly and the Load Rite design allowed for good access to all fasteners and for the frame members to come apart simply and go back together just as simply.
Replacing trailer tongue
Replacing bent trailer tongue
So whats the verdict?  The straight tongue is much better than the bent one.  I’m not surprised that the straight tongue is less squirrelly and easier to control but I am still glad that it is.  Oh, and it is nice not having the boat canted off to the side while towing.

Little Improvements

There hasn’t been a whole lot of sailing recently due to travel and work schedules, but that doesn’t mean there hasn’t been progress on boat projects. I figure that if I can’t be on a boat I can at least be tinkering with one, or at the very least hangout at a harbor.  For example last weekend Asya and I were in my sailing home of Santa Cruz California.  We didn’t get to do any sailing but we were at least in the proximity of some very cool yachts which is at the very least somewhat comforting.

Santa Cruz Harbor
Nice summer morning at the Santa Cruz Harbor

Back on the east coast a few boat projects have been under way and finally completed today. I had previously made a boom crutch to aid in setting up Spy Hop, and to keep the boom under control and out of the way when the sails aren’t raised.  What I absolutely didn’t expect was that having the boom elevated and supported means that everyone will want to lean on it.  The original boom crutch broke quickly because I built it hold the boom and sail … not humans.  Oh well, I built another one that I think is much stronger so hopefully this one will last more than a day. But even though the original was short lived it was still very handy during set up.  I may even consider adding a boom topping lift if we ever get a mooring for the boat, but for now that would be just one more line that needs to be run during boat set up.

sailing wind indicator for O'day Daysailer
New wind indicator
Something that I have wanted for a while I finally got . . . a real wind indicator.  I learned to sail looking at the top of the mast to tell me which way the wind was coming from.  On Tiger we added pieces of yarn on each shroud to indicate the wind but it isn’t the same thing.  Spy Hop came to us with no wind indicators at all so she is the recipient of the new mast top wind indicator.  I picked up a cheap model from a local marine supply store so it isn’t the highest quality, but I still think it is cool being able to look up and see what the wind is doing rather than have to interpret a piece of string.