Outside Jibe

You wouldn’t imagine the importance of sending your spinnaker around the forestay from the comforts of the cockpit. The suggested method that has been the standard for a Westsail is tedious to say the least. My previous post outlines  the steps required to fly the asymmetrical spinnaker the old fashioned way. I really wanted to make it simple and also make the rigging more modular, instead of fixing all of the hardware and leaving everything sitting out in the weather. The basic principal is just to make the tack-line blocks, shackles, etc. easy to rig and take down. The spinnaker is pulled through the forward hatch from below to ready it for deployment. The sheets are a spliced loop, both attached with the same soft shackle. The tack-line is attached to the tack with a spliced loop and soft shackle. The tack-line is held fast using a simple fiddle block, which is looped around the forward end of the boomkin using a soft shackle. The sheet blocks are also attached using soft shackles. It’s all completely removable, aside from the spinnaker halyard and everything can be stowed down below. It takes just a few minutes to pull everything out of the bag and rig it for flying the kite.

Satori anchored in Port Ludlow
Satori anchored in Port Ludlow

I took a trip to Port Ludlow this weekend, since crabbing opened back up and I have always wanted to check out the bay. Anchorage is soft sand with little winds and currents. The winds did not cooperate much so we motored the entire way until we were near Mutiny Bay on Whidbey Island and then started sailing. Winds were variable, never reaching more than ten knots. We did some sailing until we were near Colvos Rocks and managed to sail most of the way to Ludlow. Once the winds died we motored to our anchorage close to the south side of the marina. Port Ludlow is really just a resort and a marina on the water with lots of condos, lots of private land and not much to do. We decided to have dinner at the resort but I was blown away at the $35 cost of a hamburger, chowder and a beer. My fault for not stocking the fridge before departing Seattle. We caught one rock crab and I boiled it on the boat after dinner, then froze the legs and ate the rest, disposing of the shell right where it was caught. Lots of little ones falling from the pots.

Spinnaker sheet block with soft shackles
Spinnaker sheet block with soft shackles

The next morning I took Sasha to the shore next to the marina to do her normal morning routine of potty and stick play. On the way back to the dinghy I discovered some Pacific oysters in the sand at low tide. Since it’s really difficult to determine the legality of oysters outside of the general rules posted on the WDFW website, I used my best judgement and harvested just enough for breakfast. We were anchored on the beach that we harvested from so we were able to return the shells as required by law. As far as that land being private, open for harvest or closed…I haven’t the foggiest. Even after returning home and doing extensive internet research I was still unable to come up with the definitive answer. The best I could find was some interactive map about biotoxins that indicated that the beach was closed to pollution. The interesting thing about this map is that it also shows the entire coastline from Marysville to South Seattle closed. Harvesting shellfish used to be so simple.

Pacific Oyster from Port Ludlow
Pacific Oyster from Port Ludlow

We departed Port Ludlow, motoring pretty much the entire way to Edmonds because of the lack of winds. Once they picked up, it was all of the sudden a perfect sail downwind with the spinnaker. She sailed beautifully on a 120 to 150 degree run. We did a couple of outside jibes that were successful and one that was a disaster. Nothing was damaged but I will remind everyone that a knot in the sheet that is supposed to be released can cause a lot of tension before getting it all squared away. I ended up heading up with spinnaker flogging to get it taken care of. Next time that happens I know to simply ease both sheets and snuff it until everything is back in order or just head back to the opposing tack to take in the line. I’m new to the art of the outside jibe and eventually I hope to make a perfect jibe, sheets positioned exactly where they should to prevent the sail from deflating. Just turn, pass around and then all at once the sail is set.

Spinnaker tack with spliced line and soft shackle
Spinnaker tack with spliced line and soft shackle

For October it was a nice weekend. The weather held and it was almost back to summer again. The new rigging was a success aside from a few small tweaks. I’m much more comfortable flying a kite when on a downwind run. Another exciting moment this past week was the deposit I paid out for the new mainsail. We had already picked out the fabric and preordered it for the construction of the mainsail. When it was presented to me, it reminded me of when I once worked for Feathered Friends between 2001 and 2005. The owner, Peter Hickner took textiles very seriously and it was really the basis for any product. No matter how well the product is constructed, it is the materials in the construction that will enable a manufacturer to make the final product superior. Frank seemed very satisfied with his choice of sailcloth and from that point on I knew it was a serious endeavor to produce the best mainsail he could with his brother Axel. So the discussion led to some basic ideas on performance through full battens and the leech shape. The decision to place the reef points at specific heights was fore-thinking for when the trysail would be deployed instead of making it without that consideration. I opted for full battens, a handmade boltrope, two reef points and requested that he consider the Westsail’s weather helm tendencies, for lack of a better term.

There are still plenty of projects on the list. More canvas, rigging, rebuilds, cleaning, etc. Until I have a new set of sails, I cannot think too far ahead and I need to be careful about taking on too many projects. The budget for the next three months is set and expensive. Aside from the new sails I also have new rigging to install for both the jib and staysail. There is a lot to consider before making a decision. By January I hope to have it all figured out, even if I have not completed the tasks. What furling system do I buy? Should I add another winch for the staysail sheet and furling line? Should I do a traveler for the staysail? Should that be sheeted with a winch, block on the clew or both? Where do I mount the new winch and run the lines to? Too many questions… I still have plenty of time to decide, and plenty of wisdom at my disposal to make a good decision. Until then I can focus on simple canvas projects, repairing what I can and sailing.

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