Casa de Barco

I’m writing this entry from work today. Normally I would wait until I get home but I’m currently without wifi. You see, I finally moved to Satori and moved out of the house. Last Monday was the last day I had wifi access and it’s been a busy week since. Thursday and Friday I worked from home and was tethering internet from my iPhone because I had paid for seven gigabytes of hotspot data but I ran it out within two days. I guess you can consider me a high-bandwidth user, mainly due to the amount of internet is used for work. I even went through the effort of picking up a ubiquity bullet and antennae so I could boost signals coming from the businesses and other boats but surprisingly here in Seattle, there is nothing I can use sufficiently to surf the web. I guess the booster will get some use somewhere that actually provides free wifi. Ah Seattle, you amaze me with your tight-wad and paranoid ways. Fortunately Comcast provides internet to the marina. I absolutely despise Comcast with a vengeance but there is nothing else I can do. Pay the bastards and get back my badly needed internet or never work from boat again. Not an option.

Another great thing that has happened over the last week is some progress has been made on getting a new mainsheet installed. Satori can finally get back to sailing! I picked up a 4:1/8:1 block and cleat system for the traveler and XLS 3/8″ polyester double braid for the sheet. To measure the length needed for the mainsheet, you push the boom all the way out until it hits the spreaders and then multiply by eight (for the 8:1 system) and add twenty percent for extra line to work with. I may shorten it a bit when I do the end-to-end splice after taking it out for a test drive. It seems much longer than I need and can’t figure out why I needed to add twenty percent. Anyways, I’m happy with the setup and also the placement of the boom in the gallows cradle. Since I’m not going to use the center cradle anymore I can make my bimini arch higher which will shed water properly. So far I like the way it is installed with the exception of the snaps I installed. They keep coming unsnapped because of the amount of pressure on them so I think I will replace them with common sense fasteners so it’s drum tight and secured. I can’t wait to make up the next part this week.

Bimini with solar panel attached.
Bimini with solar panel attached.
New mainsheet set out of the way while parked.
New mainsheet set out of the way while parked.

On the list of projects is also some lee cloths for places where I can keep gear safe while underway. I made the first one which contains books, my violin and camera gear in the settee. I bought some really nice netting and 1″ polyester webbing and some nice stainless eye straps and clips. This will not prevent small items from escaping through the sides but will keep most things from falling out when the pitch is steep enough. Mainly just peace of mind for when the boat is underway and so I can keep things there without having to stow them.

Settee lee cloth
Settee lee cloth

Last Thursday I took the day off from moving as I’ve been going hard every day for the last month. A little rest and relaxation on an eighty degree day and I also climbed the mast to check out the masthead and spreaders. Everything checked out just fine. I also noticed that my slip neighbor has her boat turned away a little bit and Satori was sticking out quite a bit on her stern so I made some adjustments to pull her in a little more with a similar angle as the other vessel.

Satori parked at Shilshole Bay Marina
Satori parked at Shilshole Bay Marina
Shilshole Bay Marina panorama
Shilshole Bay Marina panorama

So far the live aboard life has been great. I took a shower for the first time since I installed the new shower drain and it worked great. The shower curtain is a quick drying hydrophobic fabric used on tents and sleeping bags and when I shook the water off it dried within an hour. The bathroom is all varnish and it also dried quickly so I am glad that it all worked out as planned. I don’t planning on showering on board very often but it’s nice to know I can and that the whole system works much better. There are some kinks to work out, like refinishing the shower pan board. It still smells like the old septic that was leaching into the wood back before I remodeled the bathroom but in time that one will also be ticked off.

I’m also back to commuting to work by bike. I did my first ride since last summer and it took only forty-five minutes. Another co-worker is commuting from Ballard and we’re planning on coming up with the best route to avoid the gridlock that occurs downtown around Union. Going from Shilshole to Denny is simple; take Dexter from Fremont. Getting through downtown is a different story. With proper planning I’d bet I can cut the commute down to thirty minutes. It’s not a matter of how fast I ride as there are still a number of stop lights to sit through.

Anyways, that’s all I have for now. Thanks for stopping by. Ask me anything that’s on your mind.

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.

The Craft

Canvas Making book and tools

I never thought I would be diving head first into making canvas and learning about making sails. I finished reading The Sailmakers Apprentice this week and I am blown away by the amount of information I picked up for that book. If you want to learn about making sails and canvas the right way, I suggest you pick up this book and read it from cover to appendix. I say the right way because much of the author’s ideas on how to make something that will last a long time holds true. He references the Schattauer loft here in Seattle as one of the few who follow the tradition and the sails that I fly right now are a testament to this kind of craftsmanship. Still flying 35 years later and still pushing the boat to theoretical hull speed as well. I picked up some additional materials for making some new canvas bags, covers, interior canvas and netting, etc. and am ready to buckle down and get some new canvas made for Satori. Last week I also was granted live aboard status at Shilshole Marina so I’m giving myself until June to get moved out of the house and fully into the boat. Like anyone else who has been through this process, I need to downsize considerably. I am confident that I picked the right boat and am able to scale it back to just what I need to live aboard comfortably.

Last Sunday my friend Matt came out and did a quick sailing trip out into the shipping lanes on a nice cool day with good winds. I had some trouble getting Satori’s bow pointed down the lane to get out of the marina this time. Thankfully my neighbor Mary was kind enough to offer to push her around after a futile attempt. I have some ideas on how to do it alone and I’m heading out tomorrow for another trip around Blake Island. Winds look good and I also want to see how the batteries fare with some solar powered assistance. I’m going to come up with a method to singlehandedly push that bow up and eliminate this problem.

Anyways, here are some photos Matt took while we were out. At first I just pulled the main and stays’l up just to get going and then convinced Matt that it would be more fun with the jib up and heeled a little. He agreed so I pulled it up and Satori took off holding six to six-point-two knots. I saw a ship hauling ass down the shipping lanes at twenty knots so we tacked and then turned back once we were in the clear. I’m grateful for AIS and being able to track other vessels for this very reason. It’s really easy to communicate with my heading exactly what I’m doing and using a tiller pilot also helps keep on a straight course so other boats can tell where I’m going and when I’m really changing course.

Holding at six-point-two knots
Holding at six-point-two knots
I'm not steering here. The tiller pilot is actually engaged.
I’m not steering here. The tiller pilot is actually engaged.
What am I pointing at?
What am I pointing at?

Well, off to the boat so I can get her ready for another trip into the Salish Sea. Good night all.