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

10-12-2014 5

 

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.

Brightwork Part II – Some new thoughts

Update: Do not use this method of wood sealing.  The epoxy will seal the wood however doing it as I have described will lead to an unappealing visual result.  Please do not use this method until I update this page and remove this message.

After a bit of time to experience and live with the epoxy sealed thwarts I have some new opinions.  The easiest way to say it is that I am a little disappointed in the results.  I knew that the epoxy would react to UV rays, but I didn’t realize that it would apparently happen very quickly.  The deterioration hasn’t been structural or decreased the protection of the thwarts in any way, but it doesn’t look great,  and that is still a bit disappointing.

Daysailer coming
The varnished coaming wood kept out of sunlight still looks nice, however the UV exposed part looks less so.

While working on the coamings I have developed some thoughts about improving the way I go about sealing the wood.  First I’ll do thinner coats of epoxy.  On the thwarts I went the route of applying thicker coats but less total coats, next time I’ll do more coats but make them thinner.  Heavier coats of epoxy became difficult to control and led to unnecessary run off.  Also, the complex curves of the coaming meant that achieving an even coat was difficult while going heavy on the epoxy.

A heavy coat of epoxy also meant that sanding would likely be required to even out the coat.  My experience is that sanding ended poorly.  The epoxy would sand but would also become cloudy from I assume the dust getting I to the small scratches left by the sand paper. A less course sand paper would probably mitigate that some what but my resolution became to sand as little as possible. I have yet to find a good way to remove the cloudiness once it is produced.

Daysailer comings
Coamings before and after being covered in epoxy

Varnish on top of the epoxy does do a little bit to bring back the visual appeal of the coated wood but it doesn’t fully eliminate the cloudiness created by the sanding process. A couple coats of varnish does add a luster to the wood that epoxy doesn’t which adds a nice level of finish to the final product.

So yeah, I might be a little bit disappointed by the results of this first experience with sealing bright work but I have learned some things in the process as well.  The tiller is the next wooden piece that needs some improvements,  I plan on applying some of these lessons  on that when the time comes to brighten it up.

Guests on Spy Hop

I tend to treasure my time alone and enjoy sailing solo from time to time.  But, of all the things that I prefer to do alone, sailing isn’t one of them.  On our last sailing excursion Asya and I had the pleasure of hosting some of our sailing friends Jen and Cory.  This was a first for us as we finally have a boat that is large enough to accommodate more than two people.  And it was an absolute blast!  We went out to our usual sailing haunt, Mashpee Pond and prepared for a day on the water.

Guests on Spy Hop

Anchoring is a maneuver Asya and I have done only once before under the close eye of a sailing instructor in Santa Cruz, and it had been a while since we had done that.  Jen on the other hand had experience and was willing to lead us through the process, so the decision was quickly made to anchor at one of the islands that are scattered across the lake.  That would allow for some swimming, a drink, and a snack.  Yes, it was all good fun.

Spy Hop anchored mashpee pond

We even made some new friends.  These little guys were fun to watch as they paddled and dove around.

Ducks on the Pond

And we lazed around and enjoyed the day on the water.

Laying on Spy Hop
She’s hold a camera, not a phone!

I think that we are going to need to do this again soon.  Having extra hands aboard allowed for plenty of enjoyment since sailing tasks could be spread between four people, plus the company was fantastic.  We will need to take more guests out soon.

Brightwork Part I

Update: Do not use this method of wood sealing.  The epoxy will seal the wood however doing it as I have described will lead to an unappealing visual result.  Please do not use this method until I update this page and remove this message.

O'Day Daysailer thwart
Unfinished thwart

To thwart or not to thwart, that was the question.  My lack luster knowledge or Shakespere aside I did need to decided what to do with the thwarts in Spy Hop.  They were both unsealed wood and each was falling apart where they attached to the seats. From my perspective I had two options, refinish the existing thwarts and repair the damage that had occurred, or build new ones.  Well, the wood that made up the thwarts was still in somewhat good condition so I decided to refinish and repair rather than start over.

O'Day Daysailer thwart
Damage that developed over time that prevented the thwarts from attaching to the seats securely.

I trimmed out the portion of the thwart that had broken out and made a plug to fit each of the notches to recreate a solid piece of wood.  I didn’t have any old and faded mahogany laying around the shop (yes, I should be ashamed of myself) so I ended up using some meranti mahogany left over from a different project.  The colors don’t perfectly match but the patches are small and I doubt anyone will notice if I don’t point it out.  After some final shaping and sanding it was time to consider finishing the wood.

O'Day daysailer thwart image
Thwart coated in West System epoxy. Reflections are making the surface look somewhat milky.

Varnish has been the go to finish for many many years.  I tend not to have varnish on hand let alone spar varnish since I prefer to finish wood with my own concoction of oil and beeswax.  Sadly that concoction doesn’t lend itself to water and UV protection, both of which will be needed.  Conveniently, I do often have epoxy on hand and when epoxy is coated with varnish the combination becomes more protective then either of the parts alone.  Or so the West System literature tells me.  I do like the West System and like the idea of not needing to put on twelve coats of varnish every few years.  So I went ahead and coated the thwarts in a couple coats of slightly thickened epoxy resin (with the 206 hardener of course, resin alone just makes a mess.)  Once the epoxy cured the result was rather striking, a remarkable amount of life was brought back into the somewhat old and tired thwarts.  Honestly I haven’t applied varnish yet but I am already rather impressed.  I do intend to add varnish in the future, however I got side tracked by actually sailing Spy Hop.  Well who could blame me, I had to see how she handled with the newly repaired and sealed thwarts.

Opps, we bought a new boat

Ok, so it wasn’t really an accident. In fact there have been plans for a second boat for a while.  We took our time deciding on what kind of boat to get and weighed our options ranging from a Hobie 16 up to a Catalina 22.  For the time being we are limited to trailer sailing, and that alone became a key part in the boat we could get.  After weighing our options we decided on an O’Day Daysailer, a 17 footer with a centerboard and a cuddy cabin.  A large part of our decision to go with the Daysailer is its popularity and the fact that it is still being produced here in Massachusetts.  Our particular DS I has been christened Spy Hop.

 

O'day Daysailer, trailer sailor, sailing, sailboat, sailing cape cod
Setting up for the first sail of the year. Photo by Asya.

The version we have is an older DS I built by O’Day before they went out of business.  Today the Daysailer is built by Cape Cod Shipbuilding, not by O’Day.  Despite her age Spy Hop seems to be well cared for and is in rather good condition for an older boat. Though having said that I am sure I will have my fair share of problems with this new boat, like with any boat.

Future problems aside, l’m having a lot of fun with the new boat.  The Daysailer is different enough from other boats I’ve sailed that it is a nice challenge to figure out the rigging.  But, a big thrill at this point is the sound of raising the main sail.  Spy Hop has the same type of clatter when raising the sails as the Catalina that I learned to sail on.  Hearing that sound took me back to the summers in middle school when my Grandpa taught me how to sail.  That alone is pretty special to me, and something of a dream come true.