Showing posts from 2010

Book Review - June Cameron: 26 Feet to the Charlottes

26 Feet to the Charlottes by June Cameron

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

June Cameron is writing about an adventure some 40 years in the past, a cruise on a 26 foot wooden sloop to the Queen Charlotte Islands in the waters north of Vancouver Island, British Columbia.  She writes with fond remembrance and respect, both for her own past and the vanishing traces of the first nation residents of the area.  The book was of particular interest to me because I expect to sail these waters, and in a similar sized boat.  Every morsel of experience, even vicarious, is important to a latecomer, and I came away from these pages with a feel for what awaits me.  I wonder if it is still possible to harvest as much from the bounty of the sea as did June and her companion?
There is a measure of melancholy in the tenor of her relationship with her shipmate, who owned the little sloop.  She is vague about the what went wrong: I couldn't decide if it was the conflict of their respective cruising and the raci…

Book Review - Farley Mowat: The Boat Who Wouldn't Float

The Boat Who Wouldn't Float by Farley Mowat

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Farley Mowat writes, always, it seems, with wry wit and love in his heart.  This book was handed down to me (an autographed copy, no less, with dust jacket intact) by my Mother.  Billed as a must-read for any wooden boat owner, the real star of the book is Newfoundland and her people.  The sailing in this area sounds challenging to say the least.  The climate is dominated by fog that can be brutal and deadly, in combination with lee shores that admit few mistakes. 
Exploring the places Mowat writes about on Google Earth gives one a perspective and a hankering to visit, and while it would be a long sail from Seattle, it would not be impossible.  [Interesting to sail to within 150 miles of Columbus, via the St. Lawrence Seaway.]
The characters Mowat invokes are wonderfully independent, living still on the frontier of a continent not so very far from its first colonizers, but still about as remote from the rest of t…

Close Encounter

It is November.  Winter is coming.  But last week included several wonderful days to be on the water,  and I took advantage of them.  Sunny, calm, windless tanning opportunities, perhaps the last of 2010.  Sunday was cool, but with a fresh wind that beckoned, so I headed for the docks after spending time at the park with Buddy. 

As often as not, I won't even raise the sails until I get under the bridges and out onto Lake Washington.  Maneuvering on the north end of Lake Union, and in the Montlake cut, is tight, and the traffic is often heavy enough that it is best to just motor on out.  But the breeze was from the south, and the lake was largely empty but for a few rowing teams and the launches that attend them.

The navigation channel evidenced an earlier regatta, with bright buoys marking the courses, but there didn't seem to be much going on, so I sailed quietly north and turned the corner towards the University Bridge, which was raised to near vertical.  About that time, on…
Sunday morning.  Buddy took me for a walk, first thing.  For an old fart, he can still drag the anchor.  Buddy has far exceeded my expectations and disappointed my fears for the trip... wonderful, really, but he's reached his limit, too.  Much more aggressive about expressing his needs, and even barked a time or two.  He's done yeoman's service, but is clearly ready for a break from the boat.  He didn't get one today.

Gypsy Coffee wasn't open yet when he and I walked, so I had to circle back and get a roma mocha after i took him back to the boat.  This beat up old van serves up great coffee drinks, and social ambiance to match.  I'm a fan.

 I took a final turn around the Hudson Point grounds with my latte, soaking in the richness of this event, and the surroundings, and cultivated a little anxiety for the trip back.  Fresh breeze.  Reefable? A different trip back, than up, to be sure. Before I could lather up much fear, I got a text from Michael Braley, saying …

Getting to know you...

My third day in Port Townsend... the second day of the festival, and I feel as though I've turned some mysterious corner.  I met people, engaged them, welcomed them aboard Ripple, was welcomed elsewhere, and in general came to feel that I belonged here, that I'd earned my keep.  After breakfast, I determined to attend more talks (there is a diverse schedule of topics to choose from), but a disappointing first session, and a surprisingly sunny day deflected my course towards  the docks and entertaining visitors.  I learned less, perhaps, but enjoyed the visits in particular.  Ripple is known to a surprising number of people here, and many others stopped to admire her.  Buddy is no small part of her draw, as well.  He has played well the role of sea dog.

People who admired Ripple wanted to stay and chat, and I learned things about the local boat building community, about PT real estate, about Ripple, and about some of the characters in the Port Townsend story.

A Devlin own…

In the presence of greatness

Day 1 of the 34th Port Townsend Wooden Boat Festival is edging toward darkness, but will remain luminous in my memory for two talks in particular that I attended.  The first was an hour of introduction to spar making, by Bruce Tipton, a name previously unknown to me, but who must clearly live in the pantheon of wooden spar construction.  White haired, wizened, and wizzardly, he opened a window onto a lifetime of working with long sticks that gave me a deep appreciation for my own spars (and reminded me how important it is to maintain them).  All of this with quiet humility, wry appreciation for the pitfalls of glueing together narrow, delicate, tapered pieces of wood into masts that stand up to strong blows and long goes.  Bruce has an obvious understanding of the history of spars, combined with  an inquisitive regard for new materials and techniques that honor tradition as well as advance it. I encountered Bruce later in the day and stopped to tell him how his talk inspired me, and i…

On to Port Townsend

I left Kingston Marina at 07:03 Thursday morning under gray skies left over from early morning rain (or is it the other way around?).   The contrast from the previous evening's sunny sail was significant, but the seas were glassy, and that was welcome enough for a first sojourn up the western edges of the Sound.
The pockety thrum of my one cylinder Yanmar diesel lent a comfortable rhythm to the windless morning.
Lena, an open boat with a mast-furled sail, and two rowing positions, left Kingston an hour before I did, and I caught up with the pair of intrepid oarsmen two hours I left the marina.  I offered them a tow the remaining hour or two into PT, and they gratefully accepted.
The trip up took about 4 and a half hours at 5 knots or so -- I picked up a knot or two with the currents, and slipped between Marrowstone Island and the peninsula proper via the Port Townsend canal.  I was pleased to arrive at the Point Hudson Marina at 11:30, but alas, it would be another three hours bef…

A perfect night

I'm curled up in the vberth of Ripple, snug in the tidy Kingston Harbor Marina.  Fees paid, dinner eaten (a surprisingly good burger (gorgonzola and bacon), Buddy walked, and now curled up on his dog bed.

All the imponderables of the day are resolved.  A call from the Wooden Boat Festival suggested it would be good to arrive by noon, which scotched my planned early-morning departure on Thursday.  Instead, I scrambled about through my final provisioning and packing, aiming for a departure that would get me under the Fremont bridge before the 4 PM rush-hour embargo.  I cast off at 2:53, hit Morrison's fuel dock to top of the tank, and the Fremont Bridge was opening up just in time for me to get through.

I was overtaken on the 30 minute run down to the Ballard Locks by one of the big sea-going tugs (something-or-other Titan), which made me wonder... uh oh... The Big Lock!  Sure enough, thats what we did.  So, I followed the behemoth into the lock, and threw myself on the mercy of…

Perfect summer day


Rock and roll marathon

Along Lake Washington

Kirkland Astern

Sailing in Lake Washington on the first tuesday evening of the Summer

Mathias and his Mom


Jenny on the forestay

6.5 knots

Newly leathered oars for Ripple's tender

Spruce sweeps (7 ft) for my new (to me) 9 foot Fatty Knees dinghy

Ripple now has a tender


4.5 knots with only the main and stays'l

Yesterday I sailed Ripple for the first time, really. A perfect day,
in the 60s, cloudless, a fresh breeze out of the north. Three sails
and a tiller are a lot to handle alone, and my inexperience with the
rig is painfully evident in tacking. Managed to sail her wing on wing
for a bit, and late in the trip, jib struck, she still easily managed
4.5 kts, and nearly buried the rail.
Topping off the day, another sailor in Lake Union asked 'say... Is she
an Atkins?'

Weekend Idyls

Spent a good deal of Saturday and Sunday on Lakes Union and Washington.  Too much  wind to sail on Saturday, too little on Sunday, but wonderfully pleasant both days.

I made the run down to Seward Cove on Sunday, only a couple boats there, and I had a glass of wine on the hook, and enjoyed the quiet.  On the way down, a couple were rowing a skiff out with an as-yet-unfurled gaff-like rig.  We noticed one another's boats immediately, and exchanged compliments. The skiff was clearly nicely cared for...skookum.  The skipper hailed with 'that's an Atkin design, isn't it?'  It is such a pleasure to be caretaker of a boat as recognizably special as Ripple.  Each short passage deepens the patina of our connection.

And who ever imagined one could fall in love with a diesel engine, besides?

Ripple and the Port Townsend Wooden Boat Festival

Ripple has been accepted into the 34th Port Townsend Wooden Boat Festival, September 10-12, 2010.
Motivation to get the brightwork into shape!  She was in the festival at least once before ('07).

Sunday Gunkholing

I spent the day on Ripple on Sunday... first outing in some weeks, as travel schedules consipired to keep me busy elsewhere.  Ripple had no water in the bilges at all, and this after several weeks of disuse.  She's tight and dry.

The day was beautiful, a slight overburden of thin clouds mitigated glare and kept the sun manageable, and the mid-sixties temperatures made for a  pleasant time on the water.
After gunkholing about Lake Union, I headed for Lake Washington, and motored down to Seward Park, south of the I-90 bridge.  There were no breezes to speak of, but the Yanmar cranked right up and ran like a top the day long.

A Perfect February Sunday

I took Ripple out for a sail last Sunday... A perfect February day... Cloudless, 60 degrees.  Mostly motoring, the reassuring pockety-pockety-pockety of the engine taking me up along the eastern shore of Lake Washington to my neighborhood.

I called Joe Kerchen along the way, and he came down and took some pictures from the dock of my landlady's lake cottage, under renovation.

I arrived back at Ripple's berth on Lake Union with a touch of sunburn and the satisfaction of bringing her home solo without a hitch.  This is getting easy.

February Idylls

Michael Braly, freshly returned from China with the latest member of the Braly clan, joined me on Ripple for a February sail today.  Quite a lovely day, though not much (any) wind to speak of. We did set the mains'l and the stays'l, but it was eyewash.   The only moving air was in the exhaust of my one-lung Yanmar.
We ventured into Lake Washington to collect sunshine and listen to the thruming of traffic on the 520 bridge, and Michael regaled me with stories of their life-changing 3 week sojourn in China.
Coming back, I asked Michael to spot me on our return to the dock.  I applied the trick that Lynn Reister told me about bringing a boat into the dock single-handed: tie the ends of the bow line and stern line together in a large loop bow to stern, and hop out at the appropriate time and you've got each under control.  I managed to foul the joined lines with the spring line and the lifelines, but it proved only a small problem.  Basically, It worked like a charm, and I was…

Of Wooden Boats and Worms

Over the six months I spent looking for boats, 98% of what I looked at were fiberglass pocket cruisers... a lot of 25 to 31 foot sloops, 25 to 40 years old, $5,000 to $20,000, seemingly impervious to time... at least their hulls.  Sort of.  I was attracted to, but afraid of, wooden boats, and heaven knows there's reason.  Joe Kerchen prodded and poked me on this, and shamed me into a broader perspective.  Randy, my elder brother and professional boat maintainer, snarled something to the effect that a boat unsullied with character is scarcely worth owning (let alone, sailing).

A sail plan that inspires is more important than cabin headroom (let alone, a head room).  Lines trump lounging space.  And to lay out on a berth within the planked carcass of a well-built wooden boat is to understand that most everything surrounding you had another life, and has been assembled into a complex and dynamic construct that feels living, even if good sense says otherwise.

What I've learned in …

It was Not Awful!


The Martin Luther King holiday was beautiful in Seattle.  A lot of sun, a breeze, and temperatures in the mid 50s made an afternoon on Ripple inevitable.  I wasn't sure whether Marguerite would join me, though, so I went with maintenance puttering in mind.   I called her from the dock when she returned from her shopping and she came down with lunch munchies.  I had the boat ready to go, and I coached her on what we would need to do coming back in, and we rehearsed it, and then set out on our circumnavigation of Lake Union.

The wind was snappy, and temperatures brisk, but it was a pleasant trip ogling boats and houseboats, and seeing the city from the water.  Rounding Gas Works Park, we set the fenders, and lined up on the marina, and brought Ripple down to dead slow, what breeze there was, dead on the nose.   I slipped her nose in toward the dock as we pulled past Nancy's houseboat, and eased her in to the dock.  M was in her position, holding fast to the forestay, …

Sunday Sail, the First


Joe and I went out today... my first sail since taking possession of Ripple.  Flew both the jib and the stays'l, as well as the main.  Getting to know the drill... lots of things to keep track of, including raising the gaff spar on the correct side of the topping lift.  I didn't, and had to lower the rig and reset it.  Good thing there wasn't much wind, because we weren't exactly snappy about setting sails.

We ended up in the starting line jockeying of a modest lake union race, that had everything from tiny day-sailers to 40 foot blue water racers.  Weird menagerie.  We weren't a threat.  As a full-keel boat, Ripple isn't exactly a speedster, but there wasn't a prettier boat on the water, and her record at drawing appreciative compliments on outings remains at 100%.

Returning to the dock, still the most stressful part of a sail, is starting to feel a bit more routine.

We tested the Force 10 cabin heater for the first time since Randy and I reinst…

Cleanliness (continued)


I finished up the fuel-filter relocation today; installing the new bracket went smoothly, and I started the engine and ran it for 15 minutes or so, checking for leaks and any signs of rough running.  Started up easily and ran like a top.   The exhaust was without appreciable smoke and only a trace of oil or carbon on the water when it started.  The only remaining engine system to check at this point is the raw water filter.  I will need to fabricate a tool to help me get the cap off the filter reservoir (visible in the photo, to the left).

Next is the electrical system, which I know to have some issues in need of attention.  The ammeter that was in the boat was fried, from some combination of too low capacity (it was a 50 amp meter with a 70+ amp aftermarket (Balmer) alternator), and loose connections (both at the shunt and at the battery charger as well).  I have a new meter to install, and will re-locate it in the process, installing it on the panel where the alternator s…

Cleanliness is next to startingness


According to Nigel Calder, dirty fuel is at the center of the vast majority of diesel engine problems.  Be meticulous about fuel handling, tank cleaning, fuel antibiotics, condensation, and fuel filters, and your diesel engine will run like a top.  My Yanmar 1GM10 has two fuel filters, an aftermarket primary fuel filter (Racor 120R), and a secondary fuel filter on the engine.   The position of the primary makes it very difficult to eyeball the fuel bowl and even harder to change the filter, and hence the primary line of defense against engine failure is substantially compromised.  Changing the location of the filter by raising it a few inches should significantly ameliorate the problem.

Getting at the support bracket for the filter required removing the raw water pump (bracket is visible at far left of the photo), which necessitated disconnecting the wet exhaust reservoir (bottom of photo).  Then, the 11 mm socket I have was too large in diameter to get into the countersunk…

Systems Analyst

s/v Ripple is a small boat; her moorage length is 30 feet, but that's because she has a 4 foot bowsprit, and owing to William Atkin's philosophy of design, her cabin is sized with careful attention to her overall proportions, not to the proportions of an RV.  

Managing the systems on this cozy cruiser requires understanding and study rather than passion.  Never mind the black arts of painting, varnishing, marlinspike seamanship, navigation, and (oh, yeah... ) sailing.  Mastering Ripple will require the skills and intuitions of a diesel mechanic and marine electrician.

Lacking the intuitions, I'll settle for knowledge and try to work my way into mere competence.  My primary ally in this quest has become Nigel Calder.  My brother recommended his book on marine diesels, and subsequently I found his books on boat systems and reading charts.  His writing is clear and his coverage of the topics is, to my unschooled eye, thorough. Throw in a Chapman's and you have an excelle…