Archive for April, 2008


More Miles (on a plane)

April 28, 2008   

It is 6am on Monday morning and I am on the airporter headed for SFO and onto LAX for a week on the Saga 409 project then back to Florida for a week. It is a beautiful sunrise as we wind our way up the incline out of Sausalito on 101 we are above the tendril of fog that has extended into Richardson bay. The peak of Angel Island and Belvedere Island peak out from the fog above is a bright blue sky with beautiful orange glow on the con trail from a plane it is straight as an arrow so there is not much wind up high. There are a few cirrus and cirrus stratos clouds. This is why I live here it is such a beautiful place. Less than a mile later we emerge from the tunnel towards the Golden Gate and we are in the fog bank, the sky is gray and you can’t see to the next tower of the bridge. San Francisco really is interesting meteorologically.


I was upset yesterday as I worked hard all week trying to get all my work done so I could spend time with my nephew at the yacht club for Opening Day on the bay. I stayed up late working till midnight and back up at 6am but it didn’t pan out for me. Indicative of my life at the moment – I need to stop working weekends there will be another year but I don’t like missing out on a single moment with Henry. I got to the yacht club as my brother was leaving Henry ran over to me proudly holding a whole cookie of his own in a cute summer outfit with little flip flops on – big hugs for Aunty Ashley. So instead of playing with him on the boats on the beach I was up a rig with a hammer swearing under my breath about shitty Catalina 22’s! He is such a cute little guy with white blond hair – I feel sorry for all hearts he is going to break as he grows up.


My short stay at home wasn’t all about work though. On Friday night I got to go racing on Flashman which was lots of fun we got fouled at the start (port starboard) but our request for them to do their turns was ignored and it’s a beer can so poor form to throw the flag. On Saturday we took the Quest 33 out to Duxbury off Bolinas unfortunately the wind was very light so we didn’t get a good surf back in. We were late to the start as we needed to change out the main and a few other items needed to get done. Slyvainn from UK Halsey Sails was out with us though so with his awesome tactics and trimming we caught up and blew through the fleet ending up finishing ahead of boats up to 10 feet longer than us on the water. We ended up 2nd in class with the Express 37 getting us by less than a minute – would have been first if we had been there on time 🙂 On Friday I rerigged the vang to come back on both sides of the cockpit to a spinlock PXR swivel cleat with enough tail that the main trimmer can blow it during a broach. This made a difference on the spinnaker reach we had allowing everyone to stay back behind the main hatch and keeping the bow out of the water. Next change is to increase the purchase on it.


On Saturday night I went to a beach bonfire at Mile Rock Beach. I had never been down there before it is a short walk from the Legion of Honor in the city. We all marveled at how great San Francisco is that you can be on a beautiful beach literally 5 minutes from the city center. It was a calm evening and we watched the remainder of the Duxship and Singlehanded Farolonnes fleet sail back into the gate. The sunset was very spectacular and the smores we made at the satellite bonfire (a small one further down the beach) were very tasty. I haven’t had smores in years. A women I was talking to who had worked at the Monterey Aquarium had some balls that looked like monkeys fists which she drenched in white spirits and set fire. She spun them round so fast it looked like a circle of flame  – lots of skill involved in that.



Looking forward to being back home in two weeks time.

Left for Dead

April 22, 2008   

I just finished reading Left for Dead by Nick Ward. It is an account of Nick’s experience during the 1979 Fastnet a book that is worth a read. Last week my instructor at IYT constantly made a statement I don’t agree with racing and racers are unsafe. I believe that is a very general statement to make. Yes in racing you take risks that you don’t when going out sailing for pleasure however, if it wasn’t for racing we would not push the envelope and go out in adverse weather conditions and push the boat and people to their limits. Without pushing ourselves to the limits we wouldn’t know what breaks and why. I didn’t learn that much from the book merely it reminded me of reasons the safety rules we comply with are in effect. Without races like the Fastnet and Sydney Hobart that have turned fatal we would not have development in safety standards.

88 boats out of the 303 starters finished that race in 2008 29 years later only 60 out of the 271 starters finished the race. The conditions were not as extreme as the 1979 Fastnet however, people retired. There has been a lot written about RORC’s decision to postpone the race and why so many boats retired. RORC is I believe compiling a report on the reasons for retirement. My take after reading the book, after 5 Fastnets and retiring ourselves in 2008 is not that people are any more or less qualified to do the race nor are their boats less well prepared (in fact with the more stringent rules their boats are better prepared) but that simply RORC’s contentious (brave) decision to postpone was in my mind the correct one. This decision meant that unlike in 1979 the fleet was still in the English Channel and therefore was able to bail out when each boat individually got to its limit of crew and boat capabilities. From reading Nick Ward’s account I believe if they had had the capability of retiring to shore when they saw the barometer dropping they would have but they didn’t have that option as by this time they were well out into the Irish Sea. Yes in terms of wind speeds the threshold of boats in 2008 seems to be low but at the end of the day this is for a majority of people who go out racing a recreational activity. When ever I start the Fastnet race in the back of my mind there is the memory of the 1979 race (even thought I was only one years old) that memory is what most likely helped swayed many skippers in 2008.

Sailing is something to be enjoyed it is not meant to be a mission in survival or a test of search and rescue techniques. It is not meant to be sport that leaves our families in fear of us not returning when we leave the dock nor one where we risk the life of members of the emergency services when they have to come and rescue us. Remembering this and the 15 people who died in the Irish Sea reminds me each year to spend time and money to take safety courses in an attempt to mitigate the risk involved and hopefully allow me to survive if the unforeseen occurs. Take the time this year to do a course that actually requires you to get in the water, set off a flare, right a liferaft and recover a MOB. Have fun on the water wear a lifejacket and clip in.


April 21, 2008   

Recently on SA there have been postings regarding MOB situations. I am by no means and expert on the situation. I have spent considerable amount of money in the last year on safety equipment of my own which I take with me when ever I go offshore. I am not suggesting that everyone should do this it simply the precautions I take as I am in the position of sailing on many different boats and with many different crew. I have also generally been one of the most experienced people on the boat and am therefore someone who rightly or wrongly is asked to take command of a situation. This is worrying as I am as likely if not more likely to be the person who falls off the boat due to the nature of my activity onboard. So although it is bulky I have started to wear a bum bag around my waist when the conditions warrant in this bag is the following:



3)Personal EPIRB

4)Laser Flare

The theory is that if I go over and am conscious I will be able to communicate my position via VHF to the boat and will be able to communicate my distress via EPIRB and show my position using the laser flare. Lets hope I never have to use it

Tests and more tests

April 17, 2008   

We have had a written exam every morning this week. Tomorrow we don’t have one thank goodness. However, Saturday I have one and Sunday two so I have to keep the pressure up with studying tonight. I would really prefer just to veg out however next to the pool….. So far I haven’t dropped below 90% Saturday’s exam I have to get 90% to pass. The class has lost 3 people so far and 50% have to retake the collision regulation exam on saturday. All a little bit hard core.

Running Rigging for Offshore Sailing

April 13, 2008   

Rig prep before a long offshore can make or break your race.

1) Pull the rig and fully check all fittings and also sheaves for sharp edges

2) If you don’t have all line halyards install them – get rid of the wire rope halyards although they are cheaper they are not as light as wire and aren’t as flex resistant. High tech line is the way to go and you can save more weight by tapering them and make sure your rigger put spectra chafe gear where the halyard sits on the sheave.

3) What type of race is this? Upwind add in a spare jib sheet you can also use for change sheet. Downwind have a spare guy and chafe gear where the guy goes through the end of the pole. Carry an extra halyard and make all lines extra long so that in case of bad chafe you can resplice a few times.

MASTHEAD: The 2 most common masthead setups for spin halyards are externally hung blocks off of U-bolts, or a “Tri-sec” type where the halyards exit straight off the sheaves over chafe bars or rollers.

If you have externally hung blocks, make sure the bracket that extends them out from the masthead goes far enough to allow the blocks to swing well clear of the headstay or anything else. Also check the wear at the interface of the U-bolt and the block shackle. These often tend to saw through each other. It is becoming very popular to use spectra webbing or lashing here instead of shackles. Many wraps of spectra can be incredibly strong, light, and can flex forever. Make sure that there are no sharp metal edges touching the line.

For a tri-sec style masthead, if you had wire halyards get rid of them (more on this later). These mastheads are fine as long as the chafe bars or rollers have enough smooth surface area for the rope to bend around and spread the load out. Install new rollers if needed.

Make sure you have 2 spin halyards. It is customary to run at least one spin halyard external for these downwind races. The extra windage won’t hurt off the wind. I prefer not to run more than one external to avoid having too much line flopping around.

AFTERGUYS: The afterguys take a lot of wear at the pole tip so one thing to check is the pole ends. For boats over 35’ or so I highly recommend an offshore style pole end with a lot of bearing area for the rope. For the guy itself it is hard to beat single braid spectra for its wear and flex life. Use a heavy “donut” to keep the shackle from messing the pole end or getting stuck. On larger boats you may need an aluminum donut that won’t split under high load. Svendsens makes a high load aluminum donut for boats over 50 feet.

: For both the spin sheet and the guys use large bail shackles. These bear on the donuts better and allow enough room to hook the guy into the sheet shackle bail. Use “internal release” style shackles that can be spiked open under load and also have less of a tendency to “flog off”. Use spectra chafe guard in high chafe areas i.e. where a halyard goes over a sheave or through a jockey or spinnaker pole.

If you have a jib furler, remember to keep the spin halyards out of the way. Flip them behind the shrouds when not in use. One good “halyard wrap” and a halyard can be messed up good.

JIBSHEETS: Go for a line with a high tech core. Dacron is too stretchy for jibsheets unless you want to constantly adjust them for every puff and wave. For Bay racing jibsheet shackles are nice for tacking, but for ocean sailing bowlines are fine.

Line fiber types

SPECTRA: Best flex life. Very slippery so also great for chafe. Very low stretch under oscillating loads. Problem: Under steady high loads, spectra “creeps” or gets slowly longer. Usually not the greatest for main and jib halyards.

TECHNORA: Very strong and low stretch, with little or no creep. Does not have the flex life of spectra and should be protected from the sun. Great for main and jib halyards.

VECTRAN: Also very strong and low stretch, with little or no creep. A little better flex life than technora but not near that of spectra. Great for main, jib and universal (combo jib & spin) halyards. Rather expensive.

Exploding head


The weekend was spent studing for my course next week. I haven’t studied this much for about 9 years. I read over 250 pages and made notes on it all.

I haven’t mentioned my very generous and gracious hosts Roman and Suzie who are putting me up in Fort Lauderdale. If I was in a crew house it wouldn’t be conducive to studying. Roman is from Cuba and is an oncologist both him and his wife Suzie are very interesting people. Suzie has been testing me on everything I need to know using flash cards.

My friend Steffi who I sailed with years ago in Key West and Kenwood Cup introduced me to my hosts who like many sailors will take strangers who are sailors into their houses – it really is an amazing sport that way.

Hope you had a relaxing weekend wher ever you are.

Basic firefighting

April 11, 2008   


The last two days of STCW95 training involved Basic Fire Fighting one day in the classroom which was a struggle and one day in the simulator. Today we were in the simulator and I just got out of a shower where I washed my hair twice as I smelt like I spent the day standing in a BBQ.

We did the following drills or evolutions at the simulator:

  • search and rescue in a pitch black smoke filled room with breathing apparatus you start by feeling for the heat on the outside of the door than standing to the opposite side to the hinges you relieve any pressure, assess the situation inside, go to air, open the door and check that the deck hasn’t burnt away, go inside and drop to the floor on your knees, your partner comes in behind and keep contact with the wall while they hold onto you then you both sweep all the surfaces in the room looking for the lost crew member.
  • demonstration of Co2 fire extinguisher in the engine compartment
  • hot box – this is where you go into a room that gets up to over 300F at the furthest point away from the fire. There is so much heat that the metal walls start making noises as they expand. You knee in the room with your breathing apparatus and full fire fighting gear and watch a fire (made from packing crates) and how it acts with indirect, direct and combination methods of fighting it. You see how it grows, creates smoke which very quickly within 6 minutes blacks out the room so that you can’t even see the roof with the instructors flashlight. The instructor sprays the walls creating a lot of steam and a large increase in the room temperature. Then the smoke is vented from the ceiling to get the fire to do rollovers which means the smoke at ceiling level catches fire and the flames are overhead. I got a chance on the hose to do a direct hit at the fire for a few seconds it was amazing to me how quickly the fire restarted despite the large dose of water.
  • egress – this is where you go into a smoke filled dark room and have to get out through a different door that you came into. They have created a labyrith in there so you are on your hands and knees keeping your hand on the wall feeling your way along. This shows how important it is to know your boat or house so that you can find your way out quickly in the event of a fire.
  • hose handling and putting out a pit fire – two teams of 5 move in unison towards a large fire in a pit on the deck of the simulator. Both teams have a mist spray which protects you from the heat of the fire while you advance towards it. Then one team keeps misting while the other goes to a 45 degree spray and does a direct hit in a sweeping manouvere to put out the fire. Then you back away from the fire. Our instructor said we were the best group he had had!
  • fire extinguisher handling – a galley and generator fire are simulated. You get to use the dry chemical and the Co2 extinguishers to put out each fire.

[youtube XjXRkMP9hZc]

  • laying down of foam out of a fire hose – this didn’t work that well as there was something wrong with the mixing mechanism however, there was some foam.

All in all it was a really fun day I particularly liked how you took 30 minutes break after 15 minutes of working!

First Aid

April 9, 2008   

I don’t think I have enjoyed a first aid course and learn as much as I did today. We had three instructors who are fireman in Southern Florida Rex, Steve and Daron. They were incredibly funny and made the day go fast all the courses I have done before have dragged along.

Sea Survival

April 8, 2008   

Today’s class was a continuation of yesterday afternoon on Personal Survival and this evening from 7-9pm we were at the Hall of Fame outdoor swimming pool for abadon ship drill including:

  • treading water for 15 minutes
  • swimming with immersion suits
  • inflating a liferaft
  • righting an upturned liferaft
  • the huddle and HELP positions
  • jumping from a 15 foot platform into the water with a Type 1 PFD

It wasn’t as difficult as the class I took 10 years ago when I did it in full foul weather gear. We were allowed to wear shorts and tshirts so there wasn’t as much drag as last time I did the course. It was however, very useful as a refresher was needed! It was also good fun.

Below is a video I took of Anne a member of my class righting the liferaft. You can see she had a little difficulty with balance as the Co2 cartridge is slippy. You can imagine at sea it would be pretty hard.

[youtube vE6rPyITlaQ]

Another long day

April 6, 2008   

I am at Chicago aiport having caught a 6am flight on my way to Lauderdale yesterday was a long day and I am tired having only 2.5 hours sleep last night. Starting at 7am at San Francisco Boat Works with a propane torch and an impact driver and ending up at 8:30pm at the same boat yard trying to get a cable through a conduit with little sucess. In between was a normal Perrin day of trying to fit 10lbs of shit into a 1lbs bag!

As with all cruising boat rigs they come down very rarely (every 20 years!) so everything on the masthead had to be removed with an impact driver and heat as the stainless and aluminum had seized. I don’t think any lancote or tefgel was used to put the rig together in the first place. I didn’t have time but would have liked to do ever single screw on the rig so that if we have to replace any part in the next few years I am not up the rig with an impact driver swearing! Everything was replaced with new items – windex, vhf antennae, a new mount for the new wind instrument. All screws were well covered in tefgel and electrical tape was used to create some isolation between the stainless brackets and the aluminum rig. Another way of doing it would have been to paint on duralac and let it dry however, you can’t get that product in the US.

Then off to Marin to drop off the truck at the service center then to the new boat I am managing a Quest 33 . We went out for the Richmond YC pursuit race. Varying conditions from 0-21 knots and large wind shifts. We had 4 crew on the boat which myself and Rene had not been on the boat before and the owner is getting back into racing after a few years off. The boat performed beautifully (we definantly needed the bigger jib when there was no wind) we topped out at 15.8knots in a 20 knot gust. We ran out of track and couldn’t get the necessary height in the wind to get up around Treasure so had to do an early drop. A little crew work mistake led to a broach but the recovery was impressive – an advantage to having a furling jib was that we were able to unfurl it sheet it to weather and that brought the bow down and we got back on our feet before dousing the kite. Letterbox douses are the way to go on this boat as the bow buries easily in the bay chop so you don’t want weight on the bow or water coming down the main hatch. The disadvantage is there isn’t much room in the cockpit for everything that needs to be happening at the same time! Despite trying our hardest including 3 spinnaker hoists for only 500 yards of spinnaker work and blasting along at up to 15.8 knots the J35 got away from us in the light air upwind in a different windline. We ended up in 4th or 5th place out of about 35 or so boats.

Unfortunately the minute we hit the dock I had to rush to the service center before it closed to get my truck back and then pick up a dock box and some more materials before rushing back to the city to finish the rig job. Then my good friend Gus fed me at his house before I met with the ishares team at 10pm at StFYC to lend them my truck for the next few days. Adam from the team gave me a lift home and I packed, cleaned up my house (as my mom is staying next week) and got an off watch worth of sleep.