Enter Fall

During the summer friends and family usually get their chance to go for a sunset sail in the calm weather aboard Satori. There are six lifejackets on board and there has been up to seven people crowding the deck. This is when the water is almost flat and the winds are somewhere between five and ten knots. We may even heave-to and dive in to cool off for a bit. It’s summer and we love it, but for Satori it’s not quite right. Her sails are not full and she isn’t really going anywhere. She only gets a moment to spread her wings but not enough to really stretch out.

Low light sunset
Low light sunset

Enter fall. This is when storms brew and the low pressure brings stronger winds from the south. Sometimes we can get a fresh breeze from the north, which can be consistent and requires  a little more effort to keep the helm balanced. Too much mainsail and the tiller starts to load, not enough and she will not close-haul into the wind effectively. The ideal points of sail is thirty degrees to wind from port, all the way around to thirty degrees to wind from starboard. That is three-hundred degrees of range. Satori has more like 240 degrees of range because I do not have a symmetrical spinnaker and pole on board. If the winds range from fifteen to twenty knots, the sail plan can be confusing. Shall I reef or keep her full? Can I fly the spinnaker or should I just use the jib? Not reefing and getting hit by a twenty-five knot gust can shake me a little when being close-hauled. Flying the spinnaker risks causing the boat to head up, the sail to deflate and then shock loading the sheet blocks when it catches wind again. Temperatures can also be challenging. If the sun is out but the winds are blowing, one moment you’re freezing and another you’re over heating. Do I put on my foulies or what?

The best part of fall is having solitude on the water. No one is interested in sailing because it’s likely to be cold, rainy or both. The days are shorter so we may sail in the dark. There is probably some chop, bigger swell and more uncomfortable at certain points of sail. Although my friends and family may not like it, both Satori and I define sailing by these measures. I’m learning, pushing the boat, keeping her in control, and likely the only sailing boat out there. Yesterday I took her out for a cruise with a seaworthy friend and it was much better sailing than all of summer. Not only did we hit twenty knots of wind but I actually had to reef in the main so we could sail to weather without the rudder having so much force. In retrospect, I think only one reef would have sufficed but I also wanted to see what two reefs felt like. I’ve never needed that much reduction and I learned that the main needs to be balanced properly to sail to weather. Otherwise I cannot reach high enough to make headway against the wind. Double reef without enough wind and Satori cannot stay as close hauled as a single reef or a full mainsail.

I also wanted to do a sea trial on the new spinnaker arrangement yesterday. The tack is now run to the cockpit through stanchion blocks and fairleads. The sheets are smaller diameter dyneema core and long enough to do an outside jibe. I have a new halyard block in front of the forestay, which is also mounted on a dyneema pennant. Testing the new arrangement just meant having enough wind to comfortably jibe without causing any issues. The new sheet blocks were lashed to the hawse pipes temporarily. It worked well but I did not like the way the blocks were rigged. I decided this morning to finally make my first dyneema soft shackle to arrange the sheet blocks to attach to the hawse pipes using a loop that is held in place using the stanchion from the boom gallows. The primary reason for all of this is to be able to setup the entire spinnaker tackle but also take it all down when it’s not in use, aside from the fairleads. The position for the new loops are perfect and I will just use another small set of soft shackles to connect the blocks to the loops. Aside from thru-bolting another anchor to the rail, this is the best system I could come up with to setup a spinnaker sheeting system that holds the sheets further back than the jib sheet blocks. I could probably pick up the boat with these loops.

Amsteel soft shackle loop

Amsteel soft shackle loop
Amsteel soft shackle loop

Our first outside jibe was a little bit scary. I should have been more specific to my friend about the sheeting position once we came about. The winds were about ten to fifteen knots and gusting. The spinnaker was filling and deflating, which caused some shock load on the sheet block. Finally I commanded to sheet in until the spinnaker no longer deflated, which solved the issue. It’s nice to know now that I can run the spinnaker from the cockpit, adjusting both the tack and clew without having to go forward. I just need lighter winds to practice the jibe and hit the correct sheeting angle to catch the spinnaker without having the issue of it deflating and catching. If the winds picked up and I was not sheeted properly, that could cause enough shock load to shatter the sheet block.

Head to wind, first fall sailing
Head to wind, first fall sailing

Fall began on September, 23rd and everything around feels like fall. The rains began and fell hard last week. I am arranging my cold and wet weather cycling clothing so I can ride to work in the soup. I even bought a new heater to take the chill off the morning and evenings and keep the boat dry. I do not like the sound of fans running so I bought an oil heater, which has been nice so far. With the combination of the Dickinson stove I think Satori will be fine to live on for the winter. I still have a couple of additions to assist with keeping the draft out and that will come soon enough, when there is a demand for it. I am also going to fix the Dickinson stove and try to get the water coil running into the hot water tank so I am not using as much electricity to heat the water. Finally, I am adding a variable speed resistor so I can lower the fan speed while the flame is at it’s lowest setting. I need a little draft to keep the smoke from getting pushed back down in windy weather but not too much where the stove is too hot. While I’m working on the stove, I have this little helper keeping the us warm.

New compact oil heater
New compact oil heater

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