Lazy Jacks

I took the new mainsail on a sea trial across to Port Madison. We were hoping to tie up to the tribal dock in Suquamish but we did not have enough room to be on the protected side of the dock. Winds and waves were building and what should have been a pizza and beer moment ended up being a let’s hurry home moment. A gale warning began at 6pm and we had an hour before things became unmanageable. Quickly we untied the lines, secured the sails and pointed it towards Shilshole with the motor pushing us along. The more exposed part of the Puget Sound channel had wind gusts to 35 knots and seas were big enough to warrant a lookout for breaking seas and big waves. Spray was constant and thankfully much of it was coming right on the bow and hitting the dodger but in order to keep us heading eastward we needed to expose ourselves to the wind and waves. I was hit several times with more than just spray. Once we made it to the other side, the winds did not let up so getting into the slip took more than one attempt. Coming from the north I did not want to commit to the turn so I passed the lane, turned around at the fuel dock and then attempted it from downwind. We pulled up to the dock and struggled to tie up the boat. Satori was safe and I rode out the winds from inside of the protected marina. Due to the level of concentration, I did not have a moment to spare to snap photos of the big waves.

New lazy jacks installed
New lazy jacks installed

One important part of upgrading the mainsail is setting a flaking pattern so that the sail retains a memory and is easier to flake on top of the mast every time. The previous mainsail did not really have such a pattern but the sail was also much lighter and quite a bit softer than the new one. When including full battens, it is imperative to align the sail and be able to flake it singlehandedly. Getting a new sail also meant offering a new means to secure the sail to the boom. I personally like sail ties as this keeps it secured but easy to deploy without too much work. I decided to choose lazy jacks to simplify the flaking process and also did some research on the best choice for materials and arrangement for the lines. Most sails employ eye straps that are secured to the boom but the Schattauer way is to add rings on four of the slugs at the foot of the sail instead. So instead of using the eye straps on the boom, I attach directly to the sail. Satori already had tangs up above for lazy jacks so I just needed the lines, some cleats, blocks and some rings. I found a new way that Brion Toss seems to like by using twelve-strand Dyneema; Amsteel since they are very low friction, easy to splice and really strong. I bought two-hundred feet of 1/8″ white Amsteel and two-hundred feet of 3/16″ yacht braid for the lines, two Harken carbon blocks, two Antal low friction rings and four Ronstan Shocks. The Shocks are also low friction rings but they are tiny, really strong and cheap. The whole setup cost about $250 and also leaves me with some extra line to play with. The yacht braid is spliced to the Antal rings, then two of the Shocks are on either end of the first lower Amsteel fork. Amsteel then threads through the two Shocks and then attaches to the slug rings using soft shackles. The system is a hybrid of Brion’s system but uses a slightly different attachment and also employs the low friction rings. The yacht braid is cleated to the belay pin rails with a small friction cleat to keep the lines away from the mast. Personally I think this setup is simple but also very effective. You could probably modify any sail for the attachments. You will also need tangs up above to attach the blocks to. I was fortunate to already have them ready to use.

Lazy jacks mast blocks
Lazy jacks mast blocks

Here is my suggested inventory to install lazy jacks:

  • 8 soft shackles using 1/8″ amsteel, approx 16′ (24″ each shackle)
  • 4 Ronstan Shocks
  • 2 Antal low friction rings, 7mm
  • lashing twine and a large needle
  • lower lines are 1/8″ amsteel, approx 150′
  • upper lines are 3/16″ yacht braid, approx 100′
  • 2 small jam cleats with eye guides

The lashing twine is the splice the yacht braid to the low friction rings. I opted to eye splice the core and then thread the sheath into the other side, then lash them together to hold the ring in place and provide enough tension to ensure the top ring never breaks free. Given the choice, I would rather have used a twelve-strand core double braid to make the splice easier. I did test the strength of the splice and it seems to be more than strong enough. Flaking the sail seems to be much more straightforward. Once the sail is flaked and tied up, the low friction rings are secured to the sail’s halyard grommet. The deploy again, you simply disconnect the rings and pull the lines tight. Once the sail is raised, back off the leeward side to make sure there is no chafe on the sail and again.

Ronstan Shocks and Amsteel for the lower jacks
Ronstan Shocks and Amsteel for the lower jacks
Cleat for the yacht braid on the belay pin rail
Cleat for the yacht braid on the belay pin rail
Soft shackle connection to the sail slug
Soft shackle connection to the sail slug
Sail is flaked and top rings secured, ready for canvas
Sail is flaked and top rings secured, ready for canvas

Project Season

There are so many projects on the eternal to-do list that only budget or weather determines the priorities for Satori. It’s time to settle into the fall-winter-spring seasons where storms roll through to cool and dampen the air. I’m not struggling to keep the boat’s interior dry. The forced air heater blows the forward berth dry while the small oil heater in the settee keeps the main cabin dry. Together they work to eliminate mildew and damp air. Combined with the hot water tank, they are also the largest consumers of electricity from the 110 volt shore power circuit. Last year I prioritized the hot water system and it has proven invaluable now but I decided to leave out a major advantage to a marine hot water tank. I discovered that the hot water tank contained a heating element which is designed to be connected to the engine’s cooling system, using the coolant tank for the air expansion system. I thought about the idea of plumbing the engine to the tank but I couldn’t imagine running the engine often enough to warrant the extra project. When I started using the Dickinson diesel stove I realized that a pipe was installed inside of the stove and at some point the hot water tank had been heated using the stove. The only issue was the coil had been broken in half and no longer functioned. Since the connection was made I have been planning on installing the water heating system but it involved a fairly involved and risky installation but I finally figured out how to do it correctly.  It only involves fixing the stove and reconnecting the copper lines to the stove and water heater, plus installing an expansion tank, and a few nice components to ensure a comfortable water temperature. I can run propylene glycol through the system and effectively heat the water heater and reduce the amount of 110 volt electricity I am using.

A couple of interesting books shroud the new expansion tank
A couple of interesting books shroud the new expansion tank

I stopped in at the sail loft to see how the mainsail is coming along. Frank mentioned last week that the sail will likely be completed by this week and although I did not have any expectations, the sail was freshly completed just minutes before I arrived. The unveiling of the first sail in the series is one of the most exciting moments in this refitting project. A new set of sails and a new sail plan improves Satori’s sailing performance considerably. For each new sail also comes new lines and systems to trim, haul and reef. The mainsheet has been repositioned and works great. The halyard will be replaced and I will add lazy jacks to enable the mainsail to be dropped and flaked without the sail falling off the boom. The reefing lines, topping lift and outhaul will be replaced with dyneema and chafe protection used where needed. Frank needs to add the rings in the foot slides so I can rig the lazy jacks before I take it out for a test drive. He seems to be concerned about the battens being a little to flimsy so they may be replaced but otherwise she’s ready to fly.

Mainsail bag
Mainsail bag

battens

Frank unveiling the new mainsail
Frank unveiling the new mainsail
Mainsail tack
Mainsail tack
Mainsail head
Mainsail head

Another interest that has been on my mind since July is the engine cooling system. Since the oil pipe burst and leaked all of the engine oil into the bilge, I thought for a while about the importance of the engine as an important and necessary part of the dependable systems. Although an engine tends to be mainly for getting in and out of a marina but there are exceptions. When the seas are fighting with your sanity, such as when there are no winds. When you need to rescue someone who fell overboard and you know the time limit to a successful rescue. When the batteries need to be charged because the renewable energy is unavailable. Finally when you are fighting a lee shore and loosing, it’s nice to kick the motor on and head into the opposite direction. These seem to be the very things that make an engine safe to have aboard and logically mandatory that it will keep running under any circumstance. A large part of the issues I’m dealing with are mainly the amount of corrosion that the engine will accept before it fails and needs to be replaced. I have a choice to pay an insane amount of money to get a new engine or fix mine to a high level of confidence that it will keep running for another five years. Five years is enough time to discover some interesting places and slow down the amount of money it takes to keep cruising in remote parts of the globe. With all of the upgrades I have completed and the ones yet to come in the next six months, I am looking at a break from spending. The list is still quite long for the important offshore components so the first trips may be without some of the more common offshore components but the engine will be good enough to work well, without as much corrosion. I will begin replacing the cooling system next month which will leave Satori inoperable until the project is complete. I need to replace the water pump and then rebuild the existing one as a backup.

After 50,000 Miles shows Hal collecting rain water from his Schattauer mainsail
After 50,000 Miles shows Hal Roth collecting rain water from his Schattauer mainsail

Once I have upgraded the engine, I should also have some new sails to try out. Unfortunately the jib might have to wait until I can afford the furling system. The staysail will need two new winches and two new tracks along the cabin top. There is a cowl and mushroom vent on either side that could cause an issue with certain sheeting angles but I will fix the issue so I can still sheet the staysail without interference. The new furling system and jib, a new loose-footed staysail, and the new fully-battened mainsail, along with a more dependable engine will be the foundation to a successful sailing adventure. In case you’re wondering about the life of a sail, the legendary Hal Roth once sailed his boat 50,000 miles and wrote about his experiences in a book labeled “After 50,000 miles”. His sails were made by Franz Schattauer and propelled his boat the entire distance. Now it’s my turn. These are my current projects and perhaps the most important part of preparing Satori for offshore sailing.

Outside Jibe

You wouldn’t imagine the importance of sending your spinnaker around the forestay from the comforts of the cockpit. The suggested method that has been the standard for a Westsail is tedious to say the least. My previous post outlines  the steps required to fly the asymmetrical spinnaker the old fashioned way. I really wanted to make it simple and also make the rigging more modular, instead of fixing all of the hardware and leaving everything sitting out in the weather. The basic principal is just to make the tack-line blocks, shackles, etc. easy to rig and take down. The spinnaker is pulled through the forward hatch from below to ready it for deployment. The sheets are a spliced loop, both attached with the same soft shackle. The tack-line is attached to the tack with a spliced loop and soft shackle. The tack-line is held fast using a simple fiddle block, which is looped around the forward end of the boomkin using a soft shackle. The sheet blocks are also attached using soft shackles. It’s all completely removable, aside from the spinnaker halyard and everything can be stowed down below. It takes just a few minutes to pull everything out of the bag and rig it for flying the kite.

Satori anchored in Port Ludlow
Satori anchored in Port Ludlow

I took a trip to Port Ludlow this weekend, since crabbing opened back up and I have always wanted to check out the bay. Anchorage is soft sand with little winds and currents. The winds did not cooperate much so we motored the entire way until we were near Mutiny Bay on Whidbey Island and then started sailing. Winds were variable, never reaching more than ten knots. We did some sailing until we were near Colvos Rocks and managed to sail most of the way to Ludlow. Once the winds died we motored to our anchorage close to the south side of the marina. Port Ludlow is really just a resort and a marina on the water with lots of condos, lots of private land and not much to do. We decided to have dinner at the resort but I was blown away at the $35 cost of a hamburger, chowder and a beer. My fault for not stocking the fridge before departing Seattle. We caught one rock crab and I boiled it on the boat after dinner, then froze the legs and ate the rest, disposing of the shell right where it was caught. Lots of little ones falling from the pots.

Spinnaker sheet block with soft shackles
Spinnaker sheet block with soft shackles

The next morning I took Sasha to the shore next to the marina to do her normal morning routine of potty and stick play. On the way back to the dinghy I discovered some Pacific oysters in the sand at low tide. Since it’s really difficult to determine the legality of oysters outside of the general rules posted on the WDFW website, I used my best judgement and harvested just enough for breakfast. We were anchored on the beach that we harvested from so we were able to return the shells as required by law. As far as that land being private, open for harvest or closed…I haven’t the foggiest. Even after returning home and doing extensive internet research I was still unable to come up with the definitive answer. The best I could find was some interactive map about biotoxins that indicated that the beach was closed to pollution. The interesting thing about this map is that it also shows the entire coastline from Marysville to South Seattle closed. Harvesting shellfish used to be so simple.

Pacific Oyster from Port Ludlow
Pacific Oyster from Port Ludlow

We departed Port Ludlow, motoring pretty much the entire way to Edmonds because of the lack of winds. Once they picked up, it was all of the sudden a perfect sail downwind with the spinnaker. She sailed beautifully on a 120 to 150 degree run. We did a couple of outside jibes that were successful and one that was a disaster. Nothing was damaged but I will remind everyone that a knot in the sheet that is supposed to be released can cause a lot of tension before getting it all squared away. I ended up heading up with spinnaker flogging to get it taken care of. Next time that happens I know to simply ease both sheets and snuff it until everything is back in order or just head back to the opposing tack to take in the line. I’m new to the art of the outside jibe and eventually I hope to make a perfect jibe, sheets positioned exactly where they should to prevent the sail from deflating. Just turn, pass around and then all at once the sail is set.

Spinnaker tack with spliced line and soft shackle
Spinnaker tack with spliced line and soft shackle

For October it was a nice weekend. The weather held and it was almost back to summer again. The new rigging was a success aside from a few small tweaks. I’m much more comfortable flying a kite when on a downwind run. Another exciting moment this past week was the deposit I paid out for the new mainsail. We had already picked out the fabric and preordered it for the construction of the mainsail. When it was presented to me, it reminded me of when I once worked for Feathered Friends between 2001 and 2005. The owner, Peter Hickner took textiles very seriously and it was really the basis for any product. No matter how well the product is constructed, it is the materials in the construction that will enable a manufacturer to make the final product superior. Frank seemed very satisfied with his choice of sailcloth and from that point on I knew it was a serious endeavor to produce the best mainsail he could with his brother Axel. So the discussion led to some basic ideas on performance through full battens and the leech shape. The decision to place the reef points at specific heights was fore-thinking for when the trysail would be deployed instead of making it without that consideration. I opted for full battens, a handmade boltrope, two reef points and requested that he consider the Westsail’s weather helm tendencies, for lack of a better term.

There are still plenty of projects on the list. More canvas, rigging, rebuilds, cleaning, etc. Until I have a new set of sails, I cannot think too far ahead and I need to be careful about taking on too many projects. The budget for the next three months is set and expensive. Aside from the new sails I also have new rigging to install for both the jib and staysail. There is a lot to consider before making a decision. By January I hope to have it all figured out, even if I have not completed the tasks. What furling system do I buy? Should I add another winch for the staysail sheet and furling line? Should I do a traveler for the staysail? Should that be sheeted with a winch, block on the clew or both? Where do I mount the new winch and run the lines to? Too many questions… I still have plenty of time to decide, and plenty of wisdom at my disposal to make a good decision. Until then I can focus on simple canvas projects, repairing what I can and sailing.