It was blowing up to thirty-five knots this morning. I had great intentions to head up to Port Townsend but it’s cold, rainy, stormy and windy as hell. Yesterday I was finally able to assemble the parts needed to build new lifelines using Amsteel dyneema line. I did some research on how others have accomplished this and for the most part I followed a similar approach with splicing double brummel eyes over a stainless steel thimble, but chose to use turnbuckles to adjust the tension and snap hooks to secure them to the stanchion eyes. I had already installed the cockpit and gates using stainless steel cable so it was just the forward lines that needed replacing.
My first attempt at splicing was a bit of a problem. I didn’t think about it enough before digging into the first splice and then quickly realized the issue and started all over again. Fortunately I had just enough to do four more without having to go and buy more Amsteel. The first problem was that I measured incorrectly and came up about four inches too short. The next issue was choosing to use a technique to do a brummel without feeding the other end of the line through. It turned out ugly and tangled at first. Then I realized that I could simply do the first splice and then remove the thimble, take it outside to measure the needed length for the other end and then cut it and feed the spliced end into the end I needed to splice so both ends could have a double brummel and buried tail. To feed the line through the stanchion eyes I just removed the thimble and pushed it through while it was attached to the stanchion at the other end. Some additional stretching of the splice enabled me to get the exact length I needed to attach both threaded ends to the turnbuckle. After tightening I had an extra couple of inches on the turnbuckle in case the lifeline stretched even more. Also the gate side has an additional half inch that it can pull when the gate is closed to tighten it even more.
Total time to assemble the lifelines was about two hours, once I worked past my logistical issues. Some people have asked questions about my choice of hardware. Why didn’t I lash instead of using turnbuckles? Lashing requires you to untie everything if you want to tighten the lifeline, which seems like a lot of work compared to just unlocking the nuts and making some turns on the turnbuckle. Others have questioned the use of snap hooks but under tension they are sized small enough to not open accidentally but big enough to not be the weakest link in the system. I suggest using key gated versions and if possible use a closed thimble on the end that is attached to the turnbuckle. I considered a quick link but they do not have the same profile as a snap hook and the snap hook profile works perfectly to join a turnbuckle jaw to a line thimble. Under tension the gate of the snap link will not open due to the key locking it closed.
Fortunately with this setup it will be very easy to remove the lines and add netting later on this spring. Anyways, hopefully the wind will die down so I can go sailing this afternoon…
I have another blog post about my electrical overhaul in draft but I decided not to post it until I am finished with installing the house bank, which has not been delivered yet. Likely they will not arrive for another week or two. At least, that is what I was told. What have I been up to since the last blog post? Well things have not slowed down much. Every few days I tick away at an endless list of things to do on the boat. I’ve managed to sell the old set of tanbark sails on eBay. Some wires are still in limbo, tied up temporarily and patiently waiting for the new house bank. In the interim there has been some progress in other areas and I am starting to see the light at the end of this dreary winter. Flowers are blooming already, birds are chirping and the days are getting longer.
I managed to replace all of the lighting on the mast with new bulbs. I did not go with LED this time around because sometime this summer I plan to replace all of the lighting fixtures with LED and rewire it, adding conduit to eliminate the internal noise that happens now from wires just dangling inside. The only light that does not work is a green navigation light on the mast. I tried to replace the bulbs but the lenses are welded to the mast from indifferent metal galvanic corrosion. These navigation lights are a backup to the side lights on the pulpit so they are not entirely necessary. They will be repaired when I take the mast down this summer.
At some point a couple of weeks ago I stripped the hot water mixer on the galley faucet. This was something that could not wait since the issue is that the mixer would not keep water from flowing out under pressure. I took it apart, found the problem and realized that I could fix it if I could find the right part. But these parts are not common unless you know the model of faucet. I couldn’t find a label from the manufacturer and I could not wait until I found the part because I couldn’t use the water until the faucet was repaired. Fortunately I was able to find a replacement and get it installed in just a few hours. The new faucet has been awesome, and no longer leaks or drips. Why didn’t I replace this sooner? The replacement required a slightly larger hole, and I was able to dig around the spare parts bins and find a plug for the second hole. It also seems to keep the overspray down and it’s much easier to conserve water.
I’m adding new tracks, winches, line clutches, cheek blocks, lead cars and new sheets for the staysail as my next project. This step will put the staysail back into commission and allow for sheeting on both tacks without needing the self-tending boom. The old club setup never really worked well and I’ve heard more than one person say it wasn’t really designed to tend the staysail properly. It cluttered the foredeck, it kites and pumps dangerously in high winds, and interfered with the windlass when was time to raise or lower the anchor. The new staysail is ready but the hardware needs to be mounted. On top of this, I cannot simply drill holes into the cabin top and through-bolt the tracks and winches. I need to drill the holes oversized, then fill the holes with epoxy, tap threads into the holes and then I can use close-threaded bolts to mount the hardware. It will take some time and in order to do this I also need to get the deck hardware so I know what holes to drill. I have fiberglass experts coming next week to give me an estimate, tracks are in possession, and I’m nailing down the rest of the hardware with Bud Taplin. Bud is the living encyclopedia of Westsails and is still helping the owners with their repairs and replacements. I’ve seen several other Westsails with the same arrangement so I am confident that this will add quite a bit of versatility to the different sailing conditions.
The yankee jib was also completed this week. I was unsure of the size and a bit worried that it might be too small but after unfolding it at the loft and then later raising it on the new roller furler, it turned out to be a perfect size. It’s a full-hoist jib, meaning the head of the sail goes almost entirely to the top of the mast. There is some room for halyard and shackles but it is really a perfect fit. The protective canvas along the luff is also the same burgundy that is used on the rest of the boat so it looks great. The furling line is a little challenging to pull in because of the diameter of the line and the existing friction in the fairleads, but I will probably change the fairleads to something that will cause less friction to fix the problem. I also need a dedicated cleat to free up the jib sheet cleat but these issues will be much easier to work out than the staysail. Fortunately I can take Satori out sailing, hoist just the mainsail, and unfurl the jib now, and no longer need to wait to go sailing. My time will be limited to day trips since my only battery is currently the starting battery but there isn’t anything else stopping me from sailing.
Prior to 2015 and one of two reasons why I have not been sailing much is because my headstay was converted to a roller reefing, or furling jib. There were plusses and minuses with the old hanked-on jib. The size was quite small, at likely 70 percent from full. Adding a furler enables me to manage a larger sail but the added benefit of shortening it to a better balance of the helm. I did my homework and with the help of Northwest Rigging, installed it in a matter of a couple of hours. I hoisted the Mast-Mate to the top of the mast but Dean insisted on climbing the spreaders. I am grateful for having Andy and Dean from Northwest Rigging in Anacortes come out, put it together and help me with the install. I still have the spinnaker halyard to deal with, since it’s only rigged temporarily, but it can wait until I take the mast down. I love working at height but I think most of the remaining mast projects are better suited for while its laying horizontal on a half a dozen saw horses.
I have also managed to finish the weather cloths. They are a simple design and add both privacy and weather protection when the winds are on the beam. The design is actually very simple. Just fold some canvas in half, sew the piping around the edge and attach snaps and grommets to secure to the lifelines. I use zip ties to secure the bottom so they can rip out if I ever get a boarding sea. I still have a few more canvas projects to complete but I’m in no hurry. The mainsail and staysail can use the old canvas for a few more months. There is one more project I would like to complete but it isn’t just a matter of sewing. The sliding hatch could use additional protection from water coming over the cabin top and into the cabin, through the front. A flap was added to help keep the wind and water out but unfortunately it isn’t exactly water tight. I will need to add a steel tube frame similar to the dodger and then make sure the canvas extends up to the dodger, maybe even attaching to it. I could fix the hatch as a turtle and then add another sliding board underneath as some have done, but I think my idea might be a better solution. Plus I can take it off in nice weather and allow the wind to enter through the opening.
In another few weeks I expect to have all of the sails ready for sea trials, a brand new battery bank, and the final cleanup of the boat wiring. Once these two milestones are completed, I can simply kick back and wait for the warm weather to come with the perfect 15 knot winds that the Salish Sea is legendary for. There are plenty of other projects to do however. I was fortunate to pick up the stern pulpit from Westsail Harbinger in Olympia. I budgeted for a custom pulpit to support a wind turbine and higher stern light but my estimate was for a brand new pulpit. The Abrains gave me a killer deal on their old one, which I can pay to have modified. I have running backstays and lifelines to rig using Amsteel and creative splicing. I am also going to learn how to properly sail with the Aries wind vane. It may require days where the winds are no less than 15 knots but I am willing to dedicate some time to make sure I have it figured out well enough to embrace it when I know it can be used instead of the tiller pilot. The engine is still in need of some additional work to help reduce the amount of corrosion that is on the engine block and even rusting the parts I installed last summer. This will be the biggest priority and I’m hoping that I can finish it before the weather warms up and everyone is anxious to go outside. Much progress was made this winter so now it’s time to learn how to sail effectively with the new rigging and sails.
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.
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.
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.