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.

Dyneema + Low Friction Thimbles

Since I took up sailboat ownership I discovered the level of innovation with UHMWPE has been remarkable in the sailing world. I did not know that my background in rock and alpine climbing would pave the way into utilizing the same dynamic and static systems used for fall protection. There are four factors that are almost exactly the same between climbing and sailing: weight, friction, force and mechanical advantage.

Antal Low Friction Ring
Antal Low Friction Ring
Samson Amsteel
Samson Amsteel

While mechanical advantage is generally only used in rescue scenarios and big-wall gear hauling, it is still a requirement if you plan to voluntarily or involuntarily explore these scenarios. When hauling gear and climbing ropes instead of rock, you must use a static line. When setting anchors into rock for fall protection, the system is designed to accept a static and directional load. I learned how to safely and quickly install equalized anchors using aluminum carabiners to connect the static anchors to a dynamic rope, thus reducing the shock-load on the anchor and on my fragile body. I also learned about the materials that are commonly used for static loads. The legendary Fred Beckey once shopped around used clothing stores to find silk neck ties, which would be used as the connection between the anchor carabiner and the climbing rope carabiner. They would provide the strength needed, without any sort of factory testing to prevent a fatal fall. Today we still use the same concept of a strong and static loop to connect a dynamic rope to an anchor but now are using sewn dyneema slings. They are highly abrasion resistant and stronger than any necktie ever was. The weight savings for being able to move fast and light over difficult terrain is greater than ever.

Now looking at sailing and the invent of dyneema, I am seeing a very similar change in how we look at our systems. Sailboat racing has provided the innovation, since they would rather have as little weight as possible with the strongest systems available to them within a reasonable cost. So we gain weight, strength, durability and cost advantages by choosing dyneema over 316 marine grade steel. Steel does last longer when exposed to the sun but it weighs considerably more than dyneema when comparing strengths. The verdict is still out on which would actually last longer as a structural component, exposed to the weather. Does ultraviolet radiation cause more damage than corrosion with respect to the strength of the material? The cost for steel is much, much higher than the cost for dyneema when comparing strengths. Now durability plays differently with both materials. Steel is rigid while dyneema is highly flexible. Where one may be an advantage, the other may be a disadvantage. It really depends on the situation.

The first two systems I would like to discuss are the concept of soft shackle and the concept of low-friction blocks. Both are fairly new and have sprung up as a replacement for their steel counterparts. Soft shackles are simply a spliced piece of dyneema which can be opened and closed securely but would serve the same purpose as a steel shackle. The difference is where length comes into play. A soft shackle can be made to various lengths to make the application much more custom to the task, whereas steel is manufactured to fit a single purpose. Granted, steel is made for much more custom situations, like turnbuckles and swivels. Steel can be bolted to provide a structural anchor point, whereas dyneema would not be suited for this application. Low-friction blocks are a much cheaper and modern way of providing a mechanical advantage over blocks with bearing assisted sheaves. The cost is significantly cheaper and the system is much more simple overall. There is a limit to the application, mainly because you are left to manufacture your own block system using only dyneema line and low-friction rings. The most common applications are barber haulers, fairleads and running backstays. I’ve seen some diagrams of how a low-friction ring 8:1 advantage would be setup, but few examples in real world scenarios and the result is more like 3.3:1 from what Allen has tested at L-36. People tend to be slow with trying something new and the cost of failure could be fairly catastrophic since failures are likely to be at a higher load point. A boom vang probably wouldn’t be an issue but a mainsheet block system could be disastrous.

So what does this have to do with Satori? Well, considering the relatively low cost, I will certainly be experimenting with soft shackles and low-friction block systems. I recently purchased a set of  stanchion blocks and fairleads for my spinnaker tack line so I could run it aft and control it in the cockpit. The cost was high as boat parts go and if I would have chosen the Amsteel and Antal route, building each part myself I could have saved a great deal of money. The thimbles range in cost from $12 to $30 with the average use being on the low end of the scale. Learning how to splice and tie fancy knots is nothing new to my arsenal of skills but it will take some time to memorize the steps and learn some of the best practices. Here would be my wish list for using the new system:

  • sheet attachment to stays’l, jib & spinnaker
  • running backstays
  • soft boom vang
  • jib barber hauler
  • stanchion fairleads for spinnaker tack line and furling line
  • lazy jacks
  • lifelines

Some resources: