Topsides projects

Much has happened lately and it’s time to fill you into it all. First off, last Sunday I gave my landlord the traditional thirty days of notice to vacate. I have been selling furniture and electronics to clear the house and planning the final move out process. I’ll get a storage unit to help out with getting my stuff out and later whittle that down to the basic necessities: ski equipment I can’t take with me, musical instruments and boxes of random crap. Unfortunately Satori wasn’t quite setup how I wanted her to be before moving in but the money I will save can go right back into her.

I need a new dodger and a bimini for better weather protection and also to hold my new flexible panels. I scratched my original plan of using rigid panels for two reasons: first is that the frame I put together using bimini parts was poorly built and did not work. Even as a proof of concept I could see where the design flaws were at. Second, rigid panels are too cumbersome when compared to flexible panels and the price difference is not that much anymore. I found a Renogy 100 watt panel for $220 on Amazon Prime. I was also lucky that the rigid panels were defective and when I asked Grape Solar about trading in for flexible, they said they would do it for the cost difference. Grape Solar is one of the few remaining companies out there who treats their customers with great service. I cannot express my gratitude enough for being able to use all flexible panels instead and I saved $500 and really lucked out this time. I can now incorporate lightweight panels into the bimini and dodger canvas and even add a tarp here and there while anchored with a panel attached that can collect even more sun energy. Currently my amperage limit is 40 amps which is about 480 watts maximum. That is really only about four 100 watt solar panels because it is possible to draw more than 8 amps per panel on a really hot and sunny day. I risk blowing a fuse if I go any higher and I’ve read that you need some wattage buffer for this very reason.

This weekend I tore out my old dodger and started looking at how to repurpose the frame parts. They match the boom gallows frame width and bend radius so I could hypothetically reuse them as a bimini using the gallows as the base frame and then install panels onto it. I have been learning the trade of canvas work by building covers for the various sun exposed hardware on the boat. I started with my tiller, outboard motor, tiller pilot and winches and have a good understanding of what it will take to make a custom bimini. I have a bunch of bimini parts laying around and can you believe that none of them seem to be the right part for repurposing? That’s right, I have to buy more. Anyways, It’s really not a big deal as the reward will be huge with adding a new cover over the boom gallows. I will have weather protection and a place to put my solar panels.

Satori gets a new tiller cover
Satori gets a new tiller cover
Satori gets winch covers
Satori gets winch covers
Satori gets a custom fit outboard motor cover

I have decided on the make and model of Dodger I plan to go with and will be putting a downpayment to reserve time to build it this week. The Iverson’s iTop seems like the best crafted dodger in the industry and going with the standard of ‘built to last’ strategy I think it’s worth the expense. There are other things that could also use some TLC but nothing says awesome boat like a bunch of new canvas. It will be months before this is completed so I’m going to start squirreling away now.

Another project that is nearing completion is the new traveler system I employed Dean from Northwest Rigging to install for me. He installed the through-bolted track and bail on the boom over the last couple of weeks but the block and cleat system is still being delivered so hopefully by next weekend I’ll be able to take Satori out to see how it works out. With the left over parts I can also reuse them for making up a soft boom vang to get some more shape from my mainsail. Then I can move on to getting the staysail loose footed and then finally a roller reefing/furler system for the new genoa Frank will be making this fall. It’s all coming together and by next year I suspect Satori will be ready for the left turn.

Installing the new traveler track
Installing the new traveler track

Sailing in twenty knot winds on any point of sail is absolutely awesome. Satori can take just a staysail on a reach or run and maintain four to five knots. The tiller is easy to handle and keep her in control for relaxed cruising. Raise the mainsail and she can go up to two knots faster, but on a downwind run the tiller tends to have a very different resistance at different surges of the swell with following seas. Balancing the sails to keep her moving at max speed without accidentally jibing or heading up can be tricky, but with some good seamanship  Satori can hold her course indefinitely. I’ve been conservative about handling weather helm and tend to make more deliberate maneuvers when it all feels right. I might move slower through the water but I am also enjoying fewer epics. I’m learning proper seamanship with a ‘safety first’ approach and working my way up into greater Beaufort scale numbers. I’m comfortable up to Beaufort five and would like to spend  more time sailing at that wind speed before moving up to Beaufort six. It reminds me quite a bit of rock climbing, where the grades are a matter of comfort zone. I was comfortable leading 5.10 in just about any situation, including climbs that had never seen an ascent before. I could even work out a 5.11 with enough dedication spending time on 5.10’s. So if the Salish Sea can deliver more Beaufort fives then I can start working enough courage to attempt a six. I’m guessing skilled sailors can keep their boat under control up to eight and then also be able to simply heave-to when it’s time to stop sailing and just wait for better winds.

The last weekend of March some friends and I sailed Strange Advice and Satori out to Blake Island for an overnighter. I had my friend Stew on board, complete with his own Mustang full-body survival suit. The first part of the sailing trip was great but I was just sailing with the mainsail and stays’l just to see if the winds picked up more than twenty knots. We came across some big waves head-on as we entered the traffic lanes which buried Satori’s entire bow at one point. Later the seas died down and we began sailing but just when I raised the jib to pick up speed the winds died to zero knots. We motored for thirty minutes and we were at our anchorage for the evening. The next day we headed back to Ballard and encountered some steep rolling waves and great winds. Both of us started out with just a front sail and then later I put the mainsail up and she picked up speed and maintained 6.4 knots SOG. The tiller pilot worked well when it was just the staysail but because of the surges it was more difficult keeping her directly downwind wing-on-wing. At one point she accidentally jibed and fortunately I was paying attention to sheet in and let out when it happened. The controlled jibe headed towards Elliot Bay at what felt like mach speed. I brought her back around again and kept on heading south and we were at Shilshole pretty quickly. Getting back into the slip has now become much less of an issue as well. What was once a frightening maneuver is now pretty chill.

Stew and Brent work on rafting Satori and Strange Advice in a squall.
Stew and Brent work on rafting Satori and Strange Advice in a squall.

In the next weeks I will be trying to move into Satori and live the dream. I once thought this life was never going to happen and had a difficult time imagining it but now I’m right here in the midst of going from a big box on land to a much smaller and much more enjoyable float on water. This reality is the beginning of what was once just a dream.

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