The First Year

Crew on the bowsprit
Crew on the bowsprit

Next week marks the one year anniversary for taking Satori home to Seattle. When I look back, I  can’t help but think about how my life has turned into a sailing life. Captain seems to be my preferred name around the office and even some friends are beginning to use it over my name. During the week I enjoy occasional two-hour sailing adventures just to get the motor tuned on and to stretch the sails, like a bird spreading her wings after days of nesting. Friends enjoy the trips and potlucks that ensue after watching the sunset right before heading into the marina. Paddle-boarding on warm days has become a regular pastime. This is a sailing life.

My old sails are still doing great after taking them out of retirement and I love the tanbark color that contrasts against the blue sky and while hull. The burgundy canvas also provides a coordination that is certainly eye catching. Unfortunately this will be the last season I will be using them. The good news is that Frank Schattauer has me on his schedule for a new set beginning in October. He came out and measured the boat to ensure proper lengths for all three sails. I have opted for a yankee roller furling headsail over the hanked-on working jib. This should make my life much easier when the winds pick up and enable me to run full yankee to increase her cruising speed.  I’m very excited for them to begin work on these sails as this is really one of the last major investments until it’s time to start cruising.

Schattauer Sails - sketch of the new sail plan with yankee
Schattauer Sails – sketch of the new sail plan with yankee

The only other project before the fall sets in is getting my diesel stove’s deck plate re-bedded and the stove’s water heating coil replaced. Once it’s raining, I’m stuck on interior only enhancements aside from some additional canvas. Speaking of canvas, I did order more for the weather cloths as well as new lifelines for the stern portion of the boat. Since the weather cloths need a tight wire to sit properly I’ve decided to get this completed so sailing in the rain isn’t too miserable. I’ve also discovered that the dodger is still a little challenging to see through while navigating in close quarters inside of the marina so I bought a universal joint for making a tiller extension so I can stand above the dodger and steer the boat for docking. After reaching out the the Westsail community for a wooden tiller extension, I was given the plans for something I think would look and perform well with the existing arrangement, yet keep with the classic teak motif. All of these projects are great additions for making life easier and more comfortable while sailing and living aboard. As I complete each project I will be sure to post photos of the completed work for others who might be inspired to make these kinds of enhancements for your own vessel.

Tiller Extension plans by Bruce Bingham from The Sailors Sketchbook
Tiller Extension plans by Bruce Bingham from The Sailors Sketchbook

One thing that I find difficult about living aboard is trying to avoid adding too many things to an already packed boat. There is still plenty of room but I find myself moving things around more often when I need to make space for guests and their own possessions. I also find that living in a house it’s easy to keep working on a project without putting anything away. I am sure many people can relate to the ‘project home’ where some things inside of a house are never completed because they are out of the way of your living space. On a sailboat living and project space are the same so if I need to work on something I must put it all away after I’m finished. Keeping the boat uncluttered is getting easier as I learn the best place to keep everything. There isn’t much on the outside of the boat and I like to keep Satori ready for sailing as much as possible. The only items that are really in the way are the guitar and the paddle board. I imagine during the fall and winter I will pack the paddle board away and put it in storage along with some of the other summertime recreational equipment.

One thing worth exploring is the capabilities of the galley since the fair weather brings a fair amount of crew. I’ve been hosting groups of people on sailing trips, followed by an evening dinner with barbecued meats and vegetables. For summertime this works excellent. We park the boat and secure the dock lines. Then we clear the cabin settee so there is enough room for the group and finally we swing the table leaf up so we’re able to load it with all of the food and beverages for the meal. I have enough dishes, glasses and silverware to effectively serve up to six people. There are seven life jackets on board so we’re also legal for USCG regulations. The only thing different about these kinds of sailing trips is how Satori is treated under sail. Because of the amount of lines in the cockpit and on deck, sometimes it’s better to just put up a little bit of foresail and move slowly under way. Perhaps a couple of knots maximum is all that is needed to keep her momentum and provide a pleasurable cruise. Since we have no real objective in mind other than being on the water, staying clear of the race course and commercial traffic provides the best perspective we need to feel like we’re sailing. It’s safer than putting all sails up because booms are not swinging through a tack and the crew can sit back and enjoy a safe ride. On the way back I recruit them to put the sails away and slip the canvas on her sails so the deck is cleared for docking. When coming up to the dock, I have them all on the port side to fend off the dock and other boat in case I make a mistake and it also gives me room to jump off on the starboard side and secure the dock lines once we’re stopped.

Handmade boat hook finished with Cetol
Handmade boat hook finished with Cetol

Indeed it’s summer and in just another month and we’ll start feeling the cool winds of fall. Gales will kick up and I will be back at foul weather tactics under shortened sail. Even without much time for projects, I’m still able to pull some time aside to keep working towards a better boat. I’m enjoying this lifestyle and so is my pup and many of my friends. It’s not uncommon for someone to stop by just to hang out on the water and maybe take the paddle board out for a bit. Life is good here. I just wish I had figured this out sooner but at least I have discovered it now. Time to make a fruit smoothie.

Sasha diving for the ball from the paddle board
Sasha diving for the ball from the paddle board

Almost summer

If you’re not from Seattle then you would probably feel a bit ripped off by the weather gods by now. The skies are cloudy, sun is lost somewhere up there and some rain is in the forecast. I’m running the Dickinson stove during the day, on a June afternoon. The pup is sleeping instead of bothering me to take her fetching. This morning I also had my forward berth measured for making a brand new foam mattress with new canvas and a breathable bottom barrier. I will take  some time after work and start cleaning the mildew stains and also do some painting to prepare the new mattress for installation. Fortunately I can still sleep comfortably in the settee while this is all happening. The lockers underneath will also be cleaned out and painted. I might have a chance to install some LED lighting to add some cool factor.

Forward Berth mildew
Forward Berth mildew

As you can see from the photo above, the forward berth has been long neglected and has an issue with moisture. I plan on making some modifications to allow for better air circulation and prevent mildew from coming back. Adding some fans will help out with both moisture and keeping the cabin cool.

Another project I have been wanting to complete is another canvas piece. The hatches are made entirely of teak with a thick piece of plexiglass to allow light into the cabin. There are two hatches on a Westsail 32, one forward and another right over the settee. The amount of light that enters the cabin from the top is great and when the hatches and companionway are open there is a lot of air circulation. The issue is when the sun is out and directly overhead with no wind. The cabin warms up considerably so I decided to make a hatch cover with a canvas insert to block sunlight to keep the cabin cool. Also, in the forward berth it’s nice to have less light so I can sleep in as needed.

Hatch Cover with Canvas insert
Hatch Cover with Canvas insert
Hatch Cover with vinyl
Hatch Cover with vinyl

I’m not entirely sure if the snaps will be all that is needed to prevent the insert from flying off but the snaps are pull-the-dot style which takes quite a bit of work to disconnect. I added a strap on the back side to snug the cover over the hatch. I may also add some way of connecting the cover to the hatch for high winds. Either way, it’s a nice improvement and addition to keeping things dark and cool down below.

Last Thursday I took Satori out on a sunset tour. The weather was great, with winds up to 15 knots and Satori was in great shape. As usual I had issues with getting her out of the marina. This time I tried walking her back but the bow line was too short so I had less control of her bow. Eventually she came around and we motored forward but another lesson learned and another collision with parked vessels avoided. Since my crew consisted of a vey pregnant woman and two disabled parents I treated this trip as a single handing cruise. Getting the sails up was a snap as was navigating through the shipping lanes. Later Strange Advice came out to join us on our crossing. We took lots of photos of each other and another J105 was also out and as we passed them from the west they also took some photos and later one of the crew members stopped at the boat to say hi and exchange info.

Satori shrouded by the sunset. Photo by Tom Muir of Seattle Sailing Club
Satori shrouded by the sunset. Photo by Tom Muir of Seattle Sailing Club
Strange Advice passing by
Strange Advice passing by
Satori in front of the sun. Photo by Stew Sowers
Satori in front of the sun. Photo by Stew Sowers

 

Summer projects & MNBB

Satori stays'l powered
Satori stays’l powered

The photo above was taken by my friend Colin while we were out sailing in March. The winds were peaking between twenty and twenty-five knots that day. Brent kept pushing me to put up more sail. Eventually I did but as they passed me, I thought about my capabilities to push Satori to her limits. I have a long ways to go…. It’s the weekend and I’m not out sailing. Satori is in need of a summer grooming. There is green algae growing on the teak exterior in places, the lockers were never cleaned very well and the forward berth is getting  a new mattress in a couple of weeks but has some mildew stains. It’s a nice window to get some long needed cleaning finished. The list of projects is still a mile long. When summer finally arrives, I will need to have enough canvas, electric fans and ventilation to keep the cabin cool. My pup Sasha stays on the boat while I’m sometimes away at work during the day and it’s a good enough reason to keep working on getting Satori ready for hot weather. While I was at Neah Bay last week there were some thoughts about comfort and living on a boat while anchored or under way. I did my best to make Satori as comfortable as possible but I also realized that there will be more work to do to get her comfortable while in the cockpit. She needs weather cloth and better cushions. I love her teak decks at the moment. There are no signs of rotting or leaking though the cabin-top so the wood will stay until it is no longer maintenance free. However, sitting on the teak isn’t comfortable for longer then a few minutes at a time. I have some ideas on vinyl exterior cushions and padded weather cloths so I will start the construction project soon. I may hire someone to build the cushions but I will take care of the canvas parts. As part of the energy saving effort and to ensure less maintenance, I also did an upgrade on all of my cabin light bulbs to LED. I still have four fluorescent tube style bulbs that I will be upgrading but it’s nice to see only .2 amps instead of 1.5 amps per light fixture after upgrading. Aside from the refrigerator, the lights are the biggest consumer of power so I will make sure they are reduced to draw the minimum possible. Of course, adding another 100 watt solar panel when the dodger is completed will help out as well. Later installing a wind generator will complete the off-grid efforts that will make Satori capable of going indefinitely without the need for supplemental energy from either the Yamaha generator or the motor. I hate the idea of consuming gasoline and will avoid it at all cost.

LED bulb
LED bulb

Another interest of mine, coming purely from the engineering and technical interest of marine navigation is being able to take advantage of what is available to us from an innovation perspective. People commonly ask if I can receive internet while on the sailboat. The answer is mostly yes, we can have varying degrees of connection at any given time. Currently while moored at the marina, I have access to Comcast high-speed internet at the usual cost for homes in the area. It provides excellent download and upload speeds and I have not experienced any outages while connected. While under way there are other options as well. If I am anchored near a shoreline that might be broadcasting wifi, it is possible to boost the signal and use it. I have something called a bullet and high-gain antennae that would hypothetically provide access. I have just recently installed it and very recently powered the system with the 12 volt house system. I did test the configuration but I wasn’t able to pick up anything that provided internet. I did pick up the entire marina’s individual wifi networks though. I could see signals from both the north end and south end and they were strong enough to pick up. I believe they are all closed networks however. Since I have my own wifi network, I will go ahead and use it to pass though the antennae. A more long-term project is to make my boat network much more usable. Currently I have four separate wireless networks; the Garmin chartplotter, the Vesper XB NMEA 0183 streaming network, the Comcast internet and finally the Ubiquity antennae piped into a D-Link network hub. The issue with this configuration is having to disconnect and reconnect each individual network to switch between different types of networks. I would like everything to be proxied  through one network. The next project under way is something I’m going to call MNBB for now until something else strikes me. The acronym stands for Mariners NMEA Black Box. The idea is to take a simple and easily configurable computer and stream NMEA data to it. The computer will listen to a network port and if it is streaming NMEA data, it will store it for analyzing. In case you’re unfamiliar with NMEA I will break it down simply for you. It is a standard or protocol that your boat instruments use to communicate with one another. A chartplotter uses NMEA for it’s GPS coordinates and possibly to pick up AIS targets, not to mention weather, water heading and anything else that would be part of your marine instrument collection. Most of the marine products you would carry on your vessel are for displaying current information, like the current water temperature or your current heading. Navigation software can track your position and heading over a period of time and display your track and course through a virtual line on a virtual chart. It’s handy for looking at later to make better decisions about future trips in the same area but is quite limited for showing you what else that might have been part of your trip. For example, what was the wind direction and what direction were the currents going? How about the wind speed or barometric pressure? Generally you don’t have the privilege to see this because your software is probably limited. We are low level consumers of marine electronics and software and at the mercy of how they want you to use it. From a software engineering and project perspective, it would be fairly easy to make such an idea both cheap and dependable through the innovative and collaborative efforts of other engineers who might want to contribute to an open source project with a mission to circumvent the consumer electronics industry.

Rasberry Pi
Rasberry Pi

The idea came from a computer called a Rasberry Pi. It’s a simple and very compact computer that can handle something as simple as this. There are two components to the project: first is saving the data in a way that makes it easy to consume from a simple and customizable user interface. Since the data is easy to parse and store, there isn’t a lot of processing power needed. Since the Rasberry Pi computer can enact as a web server, we can easily use the same kind of user interface that you would be accustomed to in your every day life. No need to install any software, just connect to your boat network and request the url that hosts all of the different tools you can interact with. Anyone who has web skills and a little bit of database knowledge can write their own modules that would do whatever they wanted. For sailboat racers one could really have fun with the performance of their boat and compare the given information to make better decisions in the future based on the conditions for any previous race. Cruisers can take a look at information regarding weather that might teach them better decision making in the future. All of the data could even be shared between one another to create a crowd sources infrastructure of boating conditions. The greatest part of this project could be the cost to consumers who are not technically savvy to use it. Buy a Rasberry Pi, install a disk image and configure it to connect to the boat’s internet to get the NMEA data and then connect to the same network on any device that can connect to a wifi network and they simply type in a web address like, http://svSatori/ and there is your application. Obviously it would work as a website and the user does not need to understand anything about computers. Perhaps someone could charge a service to install these units for anyone who doesn’t know even the basics of modern computer technology. It’s an idea for now. The Rasberry Pi computer is $60 with a wifi dongle and case so there is very little investment to get the project started. Everything else is written in open source and readily available through the software community. I’ll post my progress on here once things get going. Finally, I wanted to mention the addition of some recreation gear. A play toy really. I live right next to the second most popular beach in Seattle and right now the weather is awesome. It doesn’t quite feel like Hawaii but I did paddle out along the beach on my new inflatable stand-up paddle board or iSup for short 🙂 It’s a fun way to get out of the marina and mess around in the water when there isn’t much wind but a lot of sun. I picked up the NRS Earl 4″ x 10’6″ model. This is versatile enough to take out on on actual surf but stable enough for flat water as well. A three-piece paddle is a nice addition for storability. The entire setup packs down into a small mesh backpack that can be stowed on Satori easily. There is a little concern about puncturing it, since I have already patched it once due to barnacles on the side of the dock but with more care I hope to avoid patching often. Either way, it’s a great addition to this live aboard lifestyle.

NRS Earl inflatable SUP
NRS Earl inflatable SUP
Werner Fiji paddle
Werner Fiji paddle