Showing posts with label sailing Boston. Show all posts
Showing posts with label sailing Boston. Show all posts

02 October 2016

Argon Vlog: Episode 1 The Journey Begins

At the suggestion of one of our former sailing instructors (credit to Brenton Lockridge of Blackrock Sailing School), Bob and I have decided to produce a sailing video blog series entitled we AReGONe!

Captain Linda Perry Riera

The purpose of the video blog is to share:

  • our love of sailing
  • mishaps and learnings
  • preparations for extended cruising
  • our journey

Check Out Our First Video

We hope you enjoy and please share your feedback:

The Making Of...

Bob brings a wealth of technical and musical expertise to this effort. His astuteness for and years of professional music production is fascinating for me to watch, but I am a bystander for these aspects. Bob's prowess with video editing and willingness to teach allowed me to explore new territory and immerse myself for hours as we built the story line and overlaid different visuals with audio and applied effects. The writing, tone and cadence was where I took the lead.

Bob in the zone in the sound studio laying down guitar tracks.

Bob in the video editing suite. Notice the product placement.

Mixture of high and low tech sound stage.

A recent run of bad weather including being stranded on the boat helped us focus to get the first video done over a few days (three loooong days until wee hours of the night!). Anyone who has done a bit of video editing has an idea of the amount of time that goes in to even just a short piece such as this. It is safe to say that our video blog episodes will not be nearly as regular as our blog posts and I have a long way to go to improve the speed and scope of my editing skills! We both promise to improve our on screen presence and Bob will take his Ritalin before the video takes next time.

Linda in the voice-over studio.

We are not yet sure of how many video episodes will be produced or the frequency. It is likely that the next episode will outline preparing to venture off shore to Bermuda. Stay tuned!

Until next time.... we AReGONe!!

10 September 2016

Sailboat Project: Adjustable Clewboard

For sailing geeks of all kinds:  An innovative way to maximize jib trim while underway with a self-tacking jib

Bob Damiano


Argon has a self-tacking jib

We had always considered a self-tacking jib to be a bit of a sissy feature as we've always had "real" rigs with jib tracks that required lots of winch grinding when tacking.

While we have since come to really appreciate the simplicity and ease of a self-tacking jib, it does have a few disadvantages:
  1. Sail Shape: When sailing very far off the wind, the shape of the jib is really not so great.  This is normally not that big of a deal because this is when we would deploy the "reacher" (our 150% genoa) which is sheeted from good old fashioned tracks and cars.
  2. Heaving To: It is a bit tricky to "heave to".  Since you want the jib on the "wrong side", and with this rig, it always goes to the "right side".  We mitigate this by having pinned stops on the traveler so we can pin the sail to one side of the boat or the other.  But, it does mean going up on deck to do this and generally when needing to heave to, the conditions are not exactly safe for deck work.
  3. Sheeting Angle: In a traditional setup, you can move a fairlead forward or aft to adjust the angle at which the sail is sheeted,  This critical adjustment tweaks the twist of the sail - the idea of which is to keep an optimal angle to the wind at all elevations of the sail (wind speed is usually higher aloft and so the apparent wind angle is different).  In those setups, if you move the car forward, you're pulling more "down" which tightens the leech and spills less aloft.  Move the car back and you're pulling more "back" along the foot and letting more wind spill aloft.  In our self-tacking setup, the only adjustment for this is a series of holes on the clewboard which offer different attachment points for the sheet.  Choosing a lower hole is like moving your jib car aft, while choosing an upper hole is like moving it forward.
As for #3 above, the trick with this rig is to guess ahead of time which hole to attach the sheet to based on the conditions. This is of course fraught with error, and we often find ourselves sailing with way too much or way too little twist and are either way under or over powered.

Argon's self-tacking jib traveler with car pins.

Can you adjust it while sailing?  

Well, yes but it's a pain.  I've manged to do it in light air while sailing by attaching a "temporary sheet" (our boom preventor) while I un- and re-attach the clew. In higher wind conditions, the only way is to furl in the sail to completely unload, and do it then.  In either case, it's only a matter of time before we drop a critical pin or shackle overboard in the process.

What does google say?

Well, not much.  I've searched quite a bit to see if anyone makes any sort of contraption to make adjusting the sheeting angle underway easier. I thought for sure that like most boat problems, solving this would mean just typing in a credit card number. In this case, I really could not find anything. (I look forward to the comments to this post that will surely include about 17 off-the-shelf solutions).

A couple times over the summer, I tried to design some sort of continuous adjustment scheme using various blocks, lines and cleats.  I even bought a $92 block/cleat combo to experiment with. I was careful not to remove it from the shelf card so I could return it if if didn't work.  I ended up returning it.  The main thing I didn't like was that I just ended up with lots of dangling hardware flinging around behind the sail.

Then, last week I was looking at this again and it occurred to me that there was lots of room on this  big fat strong aluminum clewboard to mount a cam cleat directly to it.  I started fooling around with some soft shackles and other pieces of dyneema I had laying around and came up with something much simpler.

The Prototype (V 1.0)

So, here it is.  The main attachment point is made with a soft shackle (the gray one) between the block shackle and the main shackle on the clewboard.  It is attached to the lowest (max twist/max spillage) position.  Another soft shackle (green) goes through the block and a  dyneema line with a Brummel Splice attached to that up through the highest hole and is cleated by a cam cleat mounted right on the clewboard.  The cam cleat is through-bolted with some 10-24 screws with nylock nuts.  I used tef-gel all over everything since it would be stainless and aluminum sandwiched together.

The prototype adjusted about half way.  Two soft shackles, a Brummel Splice and the cleat.
By pulling down on that adjustment line, the block is raised which give the same sheeting angle as if we moved the main attachment to the upper holes.

Now, time to test out the contraption under sail.

Beta Testing

We did not get a chance to test this out until Day 1 of the cruise. It worked great as far as adjusting the sail, but I did learn a few things to inform the next version.
  1. It is still not possible to adjust the angle higher when the sail is really loaded up.  But it was very easy to do during tacking or by just turning the boat up into the wind enough to let it luff a little.  No big deal.
  2. I actually got way more adjustment than I needed.  When the sail is sheeted in tight, the distance to the traveler is very short (like 1 foot) so very tiny changes in this make a big difference in angle.
  3. Because of that, the soft shackle between the block and the main attachment point at the bottom is not even needed.


Part of the design of this is that should the adjuster fail, I wanted the sail to revert to it's lowest (max twist) position so that the sail would be de-powered.  Well, we got to test that pretty soon.

The adjustment line is 5/16" dyneema and while that is certainly strong enough, it is not quite fat enough to stay securely in the cleat. With the winds at about 11kts, the cleat suddenly let loose of the adjustment line. It made quite a racket, but unlike many unexpected sailboat noises, we both knew exactly what it was immediately.  This was also a great test of the fail-safe design which let the sail resolve to it's lowest attachment angle and de-power. The other thing that became very apparent, is that when adjusted up say to 50%, this adjustment line is carrying half of the sheet tension.

Back to the drawing board

On Day 2, we were running mostly on a broad reach down Buzzards Bay (thanks to remnants of Hermine) using the genoa, so I pulled the whole rig back into the cockpit to rework.


The main changes I made were to lose both soft shackles.  The block would now attach directly to the sail like it always did.  And the adjustment line would now be 1/2" dyneema line Brummel Spliced directly to the block.  I buried the tail of the splice almost to the end of the adjuster so it is a nice big fat line now that goes through the cleat.

The adjustment line also tucks back through another hole in the clew so it comes out on the port side.  This helps sink the line into the cleat better.

Working on the revised version while under sail in the uncharacteristically flat Buzzards Bay. Making the splice for the upgraded version.

Now with the new, thicker adjustment line spliced into the block.

Real world test

On Day 3, we found ourselves sailing high down buzzards bay (wind direction more back to the normal W/SW).  The air was light, so this was exactly the conditions to try it on.

Close-up of the clew with V1.5 sailing close-reaching in about 9kts with the sheeting angle adjusted up.

The bigger picture of the adjuster in action.

The only thing left is to use my hot knife on the cut end of the adjuster.  I will do that next time we can plug into shore power! And to test again in light, mid and high winds.

02 September 2016

No house, no job, no car - What's next? Sailing of course!

Captain Linda Perry Riera

No house, no car, no job... I should write me a country song

The lovely home was purged of most possessions and sold 18 months ago. We have focused on preparing Argon and ourselves for offshore and extended cruising. More recently I have stepped away from a career that was both exhilarating and consuming. The cars are sold. Virtually everything we own is within this 40 foot by 13 foot tub of fiberglass. And I have never been happier.

The Three Year Plan is coming to fruition.  It has involved:
  1. Bigger boat; and modifying her for off shore and extended cruising
  2. Smaller house; well, we decided on no house and instead moved on to the boat April 2015
  3. Take off sailing for a year; which is happening in just a few days!
Wow... it is really happening; I am giddy (and a bit nervous)!

Our neighborhood for the past 18 months - Constitution  Marina, Boston.

We could have taken a slightly different path and kept the home... renting it out or hiring someone to oversee while we were gone which seems to be the norm for others taking off for a only year or so. However, we decided that this was not going to be solely a one year sailing excursion, but rather a deliberate pivot in lifestyle... downsizing on many fronts including:
  • dramatic purging of stuff
  • releasing the job in order to truly exhale
  • examining the priorities for the next phase of our lives
Our former 3000+ square foot home was a lovely hiatus for the family for that period in our lives. The process of giving, donating, selling, discarding has been liberating. It is astonishing how little material possessions we now have yet are completely content. With fewer things, comes not only less expense but less baggage. Of course owning a boat always ensures a never ending to do list and outflow of money, but we are able to embrace boat burdens more enthusiastically without also having our house-related responsibility, projects, bills and maintenance. Our lives have focused on preparation these past couple of years, now it is time to cast off.

"What do you miss about living in a house?" is a question we have received frequently this past year. Bob replies "my studio" (see the retired and "access to more extensive tools and place to work on stuff easily".

The spacious but retired Rock Science Studio.

The extremely scaled back studio on Argon. But Bob still makes music.

Instead of a spacious basement, workbench and garage, our living area sometimes looks like this when we are in the throws of a boat project.

For me, I miss a kitchen suitable for cooking more variety and quantity as well as easy social gatherings and overnight guests with my landlubber friends.

Annual pierogi making event at Christmastime is certainly not conducive to a boat galley. A generous, tricked out kitchen is one of the few aspects of my former life that I miss.

Negotiating a tiny galley. With the limited space, every kitchen tool and utensil is carefully selected. "Is it worth the space?" is constantly asked about anything that may come on to the boat. (The keyboard and guitars were apparently deemed worthy of their space.)

Some items that were a normal part of life for oh so long but are no more include:
  • home owners insurance, property taxes
  • gas, electric, and water bills
  • auto insurance, car maintenance, bicycle maintenance (we use the fantastic Boston Hubway program instead of maintaining our own bikes)
  • mowing and raking the lawn, mulching, planting, weeding, trimming (we enjoy the lovely flowers that abound the marina)
  • vacuuming and generally spending a lot of time cleaning (sweeping/cleaning our tiny boat floor space is quick and easy, and of course the cockpit, which doubles as our open air family room, just gets hosed off)

As we release all of the above, the other side of sailing becomes our new normal. The generous time out sailing is cherished and the never-ending list of boat projects is approached with gusto (usually).

Logistics - Downsizing our lives and preparing to be away

Medical Care:  Routine appointments have been front loaded during the first part of this year and we will pause preventative care while away. Hopefully (fingers crossed) will have nothing substantial arise in the coming year. A driving factor in taking this trip well before standard retirement age is the physical stamina that will be needed and not knowing how long we will be healthy and active enough to tackle this type of adventure.

Courtesy of the wonderfully knowledgeable and efficient staff at MGH Travel Clinic we received counseling, vaccinations and medicine to minimize the risks associated with typhoid, malaria, yellow fever, zika, and general infections.

Stocking our enhanced medical kit with some medicines courtesy of MGH travel clinic. Hopefully most will not be needed.

Since medical insurance is tied to ones employment in our country (when not of retirement age) I ventured in to the confusing and expensive world of private health insurance spending hours culling through the options on the healthcare exchange. I have planned for the major non-boat related expense of this trip being health insurance and am opting for a minimal coverage plan with crazy high deductibles.And the insurance spend continues... Enhanced boat insurance to cover off shore transits and extended geographies; medivac for travelers. Ugh!

Address: What is one's address when sailing the open ocean and island hopping for a year? We have decided to maintain a Massachusetts residence using my son's home as our legal residence. I suspect Christian secretly fears that I may just move in with him one day stating that this is where I live after all. Christian has kindly agreed to also serve as our mail triage and forwarding service. We have endeavored to get all bills and other mail electronically although there remains some antiquated hold outs (mostly municipal and government related). We have also scanned important documents and filed in Drop Box (insurance policies, boat manuals, etc.) thus we are about 95% electronic regarding paperwork.

Our official address for the next year while out on the seas will be in North Reading MA. Thank you, Christian.

Phone and internet: Both of our cell phones have been unlocked to allow us to purchase local SIM cards to avoid exuberant roaming charges. The WiFi router/booster will allow us to tap in to open WiFi signals when lucky enough to sniff them out. We also have two unlocked WiFi hot-spots with accounts on two different global providers (3G only) in case we can't find a better local option. This is the last resort as data on these plans is $90/GB!

Laptops, phones, mobile hot-spots will all help us stay connected.
A modest storage locker will be maintained to store boat supplies not needed on board, personal effects such as photos, and Bob's studio equipment for when we (probably) have a house again someday.

And saying good bye...

Friends and Family:  These final weeks before departure have been filled with wonderful visits and social engagements. My schedule, now unencumbered by a job, has allowed me to relish these times with friends and family while also attending to the myriad of trip preparations and logistics.

Our marina gatherings in the cockpit will be missed.

Dinner with Christian.
Final Connecticut visit with many including my brother, Tom, and his family.
Our former Arlington land based neighbors gathered with us at the marina for a send off dinner.
Biogen friends on Argon.

Wonderfully fun D Dock send off at the marina.

Sailing with D Dock friends.

Stachyra crew from upstate NY.
Ya think these two will stay outa trouble while we are away??
Another farewell dinner; this one in Portsmouth with Ken, Ginny and Justin.
A recent family reunion at cousin Geof's vacation home in Hillsdale NY was perfectly timed a few weeks prior to our departure.

Then there is the emotional component to all of this; the preparations have been a huge part of our lives for about three years. Now that departure is imminent, a mixture of excitement and anxiety swirls. Being away from Christian will be the most difficult aspect for me although I greatly look forward to fairly regular visits from the boys along our journey (as soon as early November in Bermuda). When asked how he felt about my upcoming trip recently, Christian replied "you're never more than a day away, mom". I will try not to overdo the texting and FaceTiming between our island visits.

My relationship will morph with these fine young men over the next year. I look forward to family gatherings in perhaps non-traditional and exotic places.

Lots of "Probably's"
We will probably return fall of 2017, probably to the Boston area, and will probably find a (small!) house; I will probably return to biotech research. However, nothing is definite. A welcome uncertainty lies ahead. This will also probably (hopefully) be our first extended cruise, not the only one; and we will probably be changed individuals continuing on our new, pivoted direction in life.

04 July 2015

Sailing New England and New York

Taking Off: Summery 2015

Time to Finally Do Some Real Sailing!

We have been quite sparse with the blogging this season and have featured mainly boat projects. Very cool boat projects in our opinion (Wifi, AIS, Davits) and we have been sailing but mainly just Boston Harbor and loops around the Islands except for a long haul to Newport in May to catch the Volvo Ocean Race whilst in town.  But now, we are in the early days of many weeks on the water - Aaaahhhhh :-).  Linda is fortunate to be entering a six week hiatus courtesy of Biogen's new mini sabbatical program.  Bob will spread out his more modest vacation time from Atlas by taking most Thursday's and Friday's off.

Pre trip dinner with two of the three boys, Jon and Christian

All provisioned with the new dinghy and new davits, ready to go!
Linda spent day 1 (July 1) provisioning, cleaning filters, filling water tanks, and preparing Argon for several weeks on the water whilst Bob hurriedly banged out more programming magic for Atlas.  We aimed to leave between 1400 and 1600 to ensure we could catch a positive current in the Cape Cod Canal.

Working on deadlines and averting craptastrophies.  Can you see the smoke coming out of his ears from all the serious programming?
We left Constitution Marina at 1600 Wednesday 1 July, motored over to Mystic Fuel to top of the tank and began our journey.  Bob was still working as we were underway leaving Boston Harbor.

Note the Bluetooth in his ear.  Bob had a 1630 teleconference that he took while we left the fuel dock.
Our new dinghy (Neon) and new davits with Boston in the background.  

Fantastic wind as we enter this first leg and prepare to sail through the night.
General Principles for this Sailing Trip

  • Maximize sailing to motoring ratio
  • Minimize pre-set "have to be x by y" and let the wind and our moods dictate where we go and when.  This being said, we have the following targets:
    • New York City / Liberty Landing (NJ side of Hudson) 5-9 July
    • Return to Boston approximately 23/24 July for a Tartan event at our marina before heading out again for another 10 days
    • Return to Boston again by 6 or 7 August to prepare to fly to Amsterdam (Joshua's wedding)
  • Relax, reflect, re-energize, and re-connect
Plan A:  (initial leg)
Practice longer haul sailing and associated shift changes between co-captains by sailing non-stop from Boston to Port Washington, NY (~40 hours and well over 200nm; Port Washington is on the western most part of Long Island just before Throgs Neck and entrance to the East River).  However, to stay true to General Principle #1 above we left plenty of time in our itinerary to allow for Plan B.

Plan B:
Wait for wind to minimize motoring - which proved to be needed.  

Boston to Cape Cod Canal was fantastic.  We also sailed nicely for the first many hours in Buzzards Bay, until we didn't.

Bob took the 2000 to 2400 shift while Linda slept bringing Argon to the mouth of the Cape Cod Canal in only 7.5 hours from Boston.  Wind was a perfect 12-15kts out of the southwest.  Gorgeous full moon.

Linda motored through a positive current in the Cape Cod Canal humming along over hull speed at 10+kts while Bob got some shut eye.  We were greeted by the expected headwind and churn coming out of the Canal which served to wake Bob from his rest.  But seas were calm ahead as Linda aimed high into a light SW wind averaging 5kts still under a brilliant full moon.  Sailing alone at night is a mixture of staying extremely alert and being calmly introspective.  

Watching the sun rise while sailing slowly in Buzzards Bay the morning of Thursday 2 July.
Fifteen hours in to our trip, we reluctantly took down the sails and began motoring.  After several hours of motoring, to stay true to General Principle 1, we tucked in to a cove in the western most part of Massachusetts to wait for the predicted better winds.  Alas, the wind data proved faulty and after hauling anchor, we toggled between motoring and slow sailing for many hours (mostly motoring unfortunately).  We decided to fully shift to Plan B and tuck in to beautiful West Harbor at Fisher Island.  

Brilliant sunset at anchor Fisher Island evening of Thursday 2 July.

Linda examined the wind and current forecasts and deemed a 0600 departure to be ideal.  We were both exhausted and slept soundly in this quiet harbor.  Thumbs up on Great Harbor Fisher Island.  

Pajama and coffee sailing 0630 hrs

Close reach in 10kts heading westward in Long Island Sound.

We hit 2000 nm on Argon west of Fisher Island.  We have a similar picture of us form last year (season 1 with Argon) when we hit 1000 nm east of Cape Cod Provincetown.  (When Bob saw this picture, he decided to shave and get a haircut.  See below.)
To prepare for his birthday, Bob shaved and Linda gave him a haircut while underway.  
The sailing from Fisher Island started out great.  We were taking advantage of the current doing 8kts in 11kts breeze close reach with the Genoa.  But then the wind died abruptly, as if someone just turned off the jets.  After motoring for another couple of hours with skepticism on the wind returning, we examined options and set a course for Port Jefferson.  So much for the non-stop long leg (Plan A) but we much prefer sailing over motoring and we still have flexibility in our timing (Plan B).

Port Jefferson Ferry shuttling passengers and vehicles between LI and CT.

Summer cottages dot the harbor.

Shallow Pirate Cove surrounded by interesting and lovely dunes.  We took the dinghy over and explored the dunes.  Really cool place (except for the broken glass that dotted the beach).

Very peaceful night except for a small group partying very loudly until wee hours of the morning.  It was quite comical to note the fitting name of the noisy boat the next morning. 

Happy Birthday, Bob!!!
Newly shaved and hair trimmed for his birthday today, July 4!!
After examining the wind and currents yesterday, we decided to leave Port Jefferson at 0800 for a 30  nm leg to Port Washington Manhasset Bay where we have a dock slip reserved for tonight to celebrate both Bob's birthday and the 4th.  The winds were as expected 8-12kts out of the east - perfect for a spinnaker run so we hoisted right away! We learned that our main is just too big and substantially interferes with spinnaker performance, at least in lighter winds. 

Nope, that's not right.

That's better!  A fantastic 30nm run to Manhasset Bay.
Soon we will be tied up to a dock slip celebrating Bob's birthday, the 4th of July, and the many blessings in our lives.

Below is a track of our journey to date, only the first four days.  Courtesy of Bob's Android and web service thingy.