Busy Days

Not everything that we do is related to fixing up the boat. Sometimes the vast majority of the work is not boat related. This has been the case since our last blog post.

Racing is, generally speaking, not a one-person sport. It’s a team competition in which the individual skills come together to make something better than each individual. However, these individuals must work and live together in a confined, uncomfortable, potentially rolling and pitching, potentially hazardous, environment. It’s important to get the right people.

Crew selection has been occupying my time – recruiting, interviewing, and vetting crew. Yes, there are people that, based on a simple interview, I’ve had to decide were not right for the crew. It might be some lack of skill, though those can often be corrected. More importantly is that they have to be the right kind of person.

What is the right kind of person?

They have to have primary qualities, the loss of either of which is an immediate disqualification. The first of these qualities is a respect and willingness to work with others. A racing boat is no place for someone who will be derogatory or negative about a team member. There is simply no way to get away from such a person other than to have left them on the shore. The second is a willingness to commit to the team — to work hard to improve themselves and the team. Racing is hard work. It alternates boredom, excitement, terror. Somewhere in there we also find it fun. Ok, I suppose that implies there’s a streak of masochism in us somewhere. I’ll leave that to the shrinks to figure out.

Since this is a multi-year campaign, we know at the outset that there will be people that will drop out of the team. Life circumstances change, interests change, we discover that what we thought we wanted to do isn’t what we actually want, we find that there’s something about the team that isn’t right for us. All of these are reasons to leave, and that’s OK. What it means, though, is that we have to start with a roster that’s bigger than what we expect to end up with. Partly this will cover the inevitable drop outs and partly this will cover the people who can’t make a particular race for one reason or another. For example, the Van Isle 360 and the Vic Maui races are long races, taking weeks to complete. People might not be able to take that amount of time off of work. It’s tough to tell your boss you need a month off to go sail racing. Not many bosses or customers are that understanding.

We now have a final list and I’d like to welcome the following people.

Alexis Baker, Alex Brydon, Kevin Diakiw, Wayne Foulds, Lee-Ann Hollander, Gunnar Jonsson, Kevin-Neil Klop, Cliff Lieuwen, Fraser Mah, Bruce McGarvie, John Mitchell, Nigel Phillips, Aren Tulchinsky, Ada Yim, Boris Zanic

In the days to come, I hope to be adding a bit of a biography of them to the website for them to shine!

A Tale of Two Cities

First, apologies for the delay in posting this. The internet has gotten a bit sketchy lately on Opus.

As with many buyers, before our purchase we saw a number of boats. Much like the three bears, some were too big, some were too small Some were too fat, some were too thin. etc. We did make an offer on two boats, only to have them rejected, so those were too expensive.

One of the boats we saw was a steel-hulled expedition-class sailboat, built to go through the northwest passage (thought it never did). At the time it was still “winterized” with tarps over the deck that we had to crawl through. Other people were interested in it as well and we were informed as we boarded for our inspection that a couple from Texas were very very interested in it and were going to be making an offer. After going through it, we decided that, though it was interesting and checked a large number of boxes, it wasn’t the right ship for us.

As I’ve been on Opus, I’ve been using the shore facilities such as bathrooms. As such, I walk the length of the dock several times per day. Lately there’s been a boat that’s caught my eye. A pretty boat, blue hull, ketch rigged (two masts instead of the more common single-mast sloop rig). Saturday night there were, for the first time, some people on it and, even more importantly, dogs. So I went to say hello to the dog… um… people.

We got to talking a bit and I found that they were new owners as well. Since I’m a new owner on my boat, there was a bit of instant cameraderie and we got to telling each other the story about how we had come to own the boats that we did.

They had bought Alioth unseen — which is a very brave thing to do, especially as they don’t have any sailing experience. That’s a lot of trust in the broker, so I was naturally curious about who their broker is. They mentioned a name and I was surprised and pleased – they used the same broker I had.

Meanwhile something began jangling in the back of my head.

They described how they had pretty much settled on Alioth and were paniced when the broker informed them that another couple was coming out to see the boat and might be offering on it. They had a heart to heart discussion amongst themselves and made an offer that night.

You probably have guessed by now. Alioth is the steel-hulled, expedition-class sailboat that I had gone to inspect, and these were the couple that were “highly interested” in it. Now, here they were, docked 5 slips down from where I am.

It can sometimes be an amazingly small world. So tomorrow (the 7th) we’re going to take Alioth out and do some exercises to start teaching them how to work Alioth.

In other news, I finally got my COVID test and will be able to cross the border and go home on Wednesday!

Windy night

Last night was a bit windy. There have been other windy nights, but last night was different.

Every boat “talks” to you. It has its own vocabulary of squeaks, grunts, bangs, creaks and ticks that she uses to tell you what’s going on. Unfortunately, each boat’s vocabulary is quite different than another’s, and it takes a while to get to know how your, particular, boat talks. Last night was a long, dreary, lesson in that vocabulary.

It started out with the “bang! bang! bang!” that is also known as halyard slap. That one is pretty common on sailboats and is caused by the wind making a halyard flap in the wind, kind of like a finger across a guitar string. Since halyards lie against the mast, for the most part, they bang the mast as they flap. The cure to that is either to take the end of the halyard and fasten it well away from the mast or, if that’s not possible, to use a bungee cord around the halyard and one of the side stays, thereby pulling the center of the halyard away from the mast.

Because of how the sail cover is done, refastening the halyard was not going to be feasible in the dark. It would involve taking two covers off, moving a halyard, and then putting the two covers back on, requiring two precarious partial climbs of the mast (because the covers extend higher than I can reach from the deck). So I went with the bungee – which only required one precarious partial climb of the mast so I could place the bungee higher than the sail cover.

I suppose I could have waited for the morning, but there is no sleeping through halyard slap.

I had just dropped off to sleep when I was woken by a “creak.. ick ick ick creeeeeeeaaaak ick.” sound, which is new to me. I got up and moved to the center of the cabin to try to isolate the sound. It sounded like it was coming from forward, so I took a step that way. Now it was sounding like it was coming from the stern, so I took a bunch of steps that way. Further towards the stern.. another step. Towards the bow… move that way… this chase of the sound went on for about two hours until I figured out that it was the boom that was moving side to side in the wind. This, in turn, was pulling on the main sheet, which is fastened to a metal beam running across the boat midships. So why wasn’t the sound coming from there?

Because in making the beam vibrate, it was making the whole cabin roof into one sounding board, so the sound was coming from everywhere.

The solution was to go outside and lash the very end of the boom to the far sides of the boat, like making a triangle. That stopped the wiggling of the boom back and forth, and back to sleep.

To be woken up by more sounds, which get located and silenced, and back to sleep. To be woken up again by sounds, which get located and silenced, and back to sleep.

You get the idea.

So today was a really lazy day as I was groggy from sleeping in 2 hour increments. Tonight should be better so that’s where I’m going – to allow myself to be rocked to sleep tonight and hope that Opus is done talking in her sleep too, at least for tonight.

Oh, and remember my previous post regarding eagles? Well, found some more pieces of the wind instrument on my deck. I’m going to have to replace those instruments, but first I need to figure out a better way to keep the eagles from breaking them before I spend a thousand dollars on replacements.

Addendum, June 2

Eagles, as a symbol of the United States, are majestic, awe inspiring, birds.

Real life, though, not so much.

Although my wind instruments weren’t actually sending information to my chart plotter and other displays, there was always the windex up there – the simple windvane-like device that told you the apparent wind direction. I could rely on that at the very least.

Until today, when an eagle broke it off and then, as if to add a final “F_ you”, dropped it onto the deck right next to the helm.

Gee, thanks, eagle.

The faster I go, the behinder I get!

Took Opus out yesterday for a bit of a shakedown. I even single handed getting the sails up and taking them down again – and did some sailing. It was a bit of a circus act, jumping around from place to place to get stuff done but, at least in a light wind, I managed to do it – without the use of an autopilot to hold things steady. How was this done?

First note that Opus has a rolling furler on the foresail, which makes the foresail relatively easy to furl. Secondly note that a sailboat with the mainsail tightly sheeted displays “weather helm” meaning it wants to point its bow towards the wind.

So here was the process after removing all applicable sail ties and covers:

  1. Turn Opus into the wind and cut the motor into neutral.
  2. Run up to the mast and start raising the main sail.
  3. Run back to the helm and turn Opus back into the wind
  4. Run back to the mast and raise the sail a little further.
  5. Run back to the helm and turn Opus back into the wind.
  6. Stay at the helm and untangle the running backstays from the leech of the mainsail
  7. Turn Opus back into the wind
  8. Run back to the mast and raise the mainsail some more, untangling it from the lazy jacks where it caught.
  9. Finally the mainsail is raised enough to weathervane the boat into the wind and things get a bit easier.
  10. Finish raising the sail and go back to the cockpit.
  11. Let out the foresail and trim that approximately while still holding a reasonable course.
  12. trim the main sail approximately, while still holding a reasonable course.
  13. Trim the foresail closer to properly, while manually holding a course.
  14. Trim the mainsail closer to properly while manually holding a course.
  15. Say “Good enough”

Did I mention that I still have my bicycle, granny bars, and dinghy on the foredeck, all of which make great things for foresail sheets to get caught on?

However, the important thing is that I proved I can do it, at least in light winds.

Due to the lazy jacks and roller furling, dousing the sails was a bit easier, though still not easy. However, I deem it a success as I did manage to do some sailing and nothing went wrong.

After returning to the dock, I went to make myself some dinner – spaghetti – and tried to fill the pot with water. Doing this involves going to the navigation station and turning on the fresh water pump. The moment I did, I heard a strange noise and no water came from the faucet. Then I realized I was hearing a hissing – almost like something shorting, plus the sound of running water from somewhere. Immediately shutting off the power to the pump, I went to investigate. At the same time I noticed what seemed like smoke in the cabin.

After a bit of investigation, I found that a PVC conduit had slipped off a fitting even though it was fastned there with a hose clamp. Another important piece of data is that running the engine also gives us (some) hot water. In this case the pipe that had slipped off was the one carrying (very) hot water. Anyway, a few minutes with a screwdriver and the pipe was back in place, tightened down, and all things working.

Of course I did say a few choice words, and I could imagine the boat craning its (imaginary) head around to look at me with a bland and innocent expression as if to say, “What did you expect? I’m a boat.” with the unstated, “Of course something was going to go wrong.”