17 August 2015

Sailboat Projects and Logistics

Captain Linda Perry Riera

The Other Side of Sailing - Some of what we are doing when we are not sailing

Sailing Argon can perhaps be divided in to the following categories:
  1. Sailing
  2. Exploring & relaxing in harbors & ports
  3. Boat projects / upgrades
  4. Boat chores, maintenance & repairs
  5. Logistics of living aboard
Most of our blog posts deal with items 1 and 2 above which are plastered with scenic views, exhilarating experiences, interesting explorations, and generally the most inviting and enjoyable aspects of sailing.  However, there are certainly other aspects to sailing that are not necessarily as appealing but it is helpful if one embraces these less obviously enjoyable tasks so as to add to, versus subtract from, the overall sailing experience.  It is sometimes a bit like a puzzle or game to try to figure out more efficient ways to handle logistics or better ways to approach a chore.

Boat projects, while not as fun as the actual sailing and exploring, are generally quite interesting and several of our blog posts outline various projects.  Most projects usually entail an important initial period of learning and figuring out options and which route to go.  For instance, before even getting around to Installing Davits, we first had to figure out what type of dinghy we wanted (inflatable or rigid? hard bottom or soft? size? brand / type? etc.) and how we wanted to transport it (deck? collapsed? tow? davits?), then what kind of davits and what manufacturer to use, then what specific features (winch or just block and tackle?  rigid or swinging?).  Then there is the ordering or parts gathering and finally making time to actually do the project.  Even though we purchased Argon brand new and had some semi-custom specifications, there have been many boat projects in just our first two seasons with her including AISdavits, some re-wiring, spinlock rope clutches, etc.

But in addition to projects and upgrades, there are all sorts of chores, maintenance and repairs.  These items are needed for coastal cruising or to keep Argon looking good.... part of the overall sailing lifestyle.  In addition, given that we are currently living aboard, there are many normal daily activities that are approached differently.  This blog posts shares just a handful of boat chores/maintenance as well as some logistics as part of coastal cruising.

Keeping Argon's Exterior Spiffy - We think Argon is a gorgeous sailboat; and we also know it does not take long for any boat, especially salt water boats with heavy use, to quickly look weathered and loose their luster.  Therefore, we spend quite a bit of time:
  • Polishing, polishing and more polishing:  gelcoat, hull, chrome (stanchions, bow roller, canvas framing, porthole frames)
  • Cleaning and treating the teak floor of the cockpit and the coming ledges
  • Varnishing the teak cap rails, table, washboards, etc.
  • Scrubbing the waterline and cleaning the bottom

Buffing and waxing the gel coat parts of the deck:  Linda worked on this while we were docked at Liberty Landing across from Lower Manhattan earlier this summer during a very hot morning.  It is unlikely she was as happy as she looks in this picture.  Although we use a really nice Makita brand buffer for the large hull area, given that the gelcoat on the deck is in smaller patches among the non-skid sections and between all the portholes and hardware, this job is best done completely manually with lots of elbow greese.

Cleaning off last year's teak oil from the combings in the cockpit.  Needed to use a very strong acidic cleaner (Semco Part 1) with gloves  and a stiff brush followed by a neutralizing agent.   Although the teak oil initially results in a nice golden tone, we have learned that it builds up and attracts too much dirt.

Looking much better after a cleaning.
Teak sole in the cockpit drying.  We aim to keep the teak floor a tan/natural color versus letting it grey.  When we spec'd out Argon we were initially unsure about the going with a teak floor due to the extra cost but we have been very happy with the functionality as it provides good grip when the boat is heeled.  And, of course, teak adds to the beauty.

Blue tape, lots of blue tape as the cap rail and other teak trim is prepared for varnishing.  When Argon was getting commissioned last year we went with a product that has been available in the US for only the last few years:  Awlwood from Awlgrip.  It has the deep finish of traditional varnish but needs a little less maintenance.  Looks much better than the more common Cetol which lacks the luster.  We are very much DIYs but we hired the local experts this summer to do the two needed maintenance coats of varnish.
Anti-fouling paint helps protect the bottom from unwanted algae and other sea life from adhering to and growing on Argon's bottom but there still tends to be a thickening film that will form and thus negatively affecting Argon's sailing performance. We use Interlux Micro Extra bottom paint. Think your house paint is expensive?  Try $230/gal for this stuff.
We hire Brian from J&B Underwater Services to scrub Argon's bottom periodically.  While down there, they will also  check and replace the zinc on the sail drive.  Bob regularly scrubs the waterline during his periodic swims.
Cleaning Gunk Inside - Not sure gunk is an official term, but it aptly describes the crud that needs to be regularly cleaned out of filters and the bilge. During the spring and early summer in Boston, there is a large bloom of Jellyfish. These tend to get sucked into any raw water intakes on boats. Not so much a problem for systems that run intermittently like the engine or the A/C but for the refrigerator, it's a big problem and requires the strainers to be de-jellified every day or so.

Strainers for refrigerator and diesel engine raw water cooling system are checked and cleaned at least weekly; more often if it is moon jelly infestation time as jellyfish get sucked up and clog the strainer - makes for a stinky job.

A simple metal filter collects debris from the fresh water tanks and is cleaned out at least weekly.  Adding just a bit of chlorine to the water tanks is helpful.
The bilge runs along the center line of the boat under the floor and collects water and residue.  Although a pump keeps the water level low, it is important to keep the bilge clean to avoid bacteria growth and odors, and to prevent corrosion of equipment that sits in the bilge. 
Laundry  - Not a huge challenge but certainly not as simple as having your own easily accessible and predictable washer and dryer in your home.  And given the sparse amount of clothes we keep on board, it is important to do laundry very frequently as we just do not have a lot of back up clothing.
Although many marinas and town harbors have facilities, there is great variability in the settings of washing machines and dryers.  More than a few articles of clothing have been been ruined by unfamiliar, rough machines.  Waiting for availability can sometimes be an issue.  And there is the skill needed in hauling laundry back and forth in bad weather or on a wet dinghy.  
Garbage Runs - Given the sparse storage space, we have very small trash bin on Argon thus very frequently need to dispose of our garbage.  When at a dock it is generally straightforward even if not very close by.  But when out on a mooring or on anchor, it means remembering to load up the dinghy when going ashore and finding a proper disposal container.
Filling up the dinghy with dirty laundry and garbage for a trip to shore.  Sometimes it is tricky to find a proper dinghy tie up (aka parking space) as well as proper garbage disposal containers.  It also can be challenging to ensure the freshly laundered clothes make it back to Argon clean and dry.  When the weather is nice, it is much easier.  
Dampness  - A dry interior is much more comfortable than a damp one.

When out on the water a lot, bedding often gets damp and this can be uncomfortable.  We take advantage of sunny, dry days to air out blankets even though this gives us a bit of a trailer park appearance for an afternoon.
Paperwork - While venturing out on long coastal cruises and certainly for living aboard, we have to be a bit more creative and compact with our personal paperwork.  Our navigation table doubles as a desk.  And thank goodness for the increasingly standard electronic options of transactions.
The logistics of life need to be organized with much smaller storage space.  Our navigation table also serves as our home desk for needed paperwork.  Heavily using Drop Box and Google Docs as well as maximizing electronic mail / bills is immensely helpful in keeping our paperwork manageable.  Currently we do not have a printer/scanner on board which is occasionally a challenge.  We will be looking in to very compact options in the future.
Managing Fuel, Water, Electricity, and Waste - Managing our electricity usage when not plugged in to shore power is critical.  See our recent blog post regarding some of our challenges:  Starving for Voltage.  In addition to monitoring amps and volts, there are also gauges to monitor and manage:
  • How much water we have in our water tanks (capacity = 120 gallons) - military showers and conscious dish washing is the norm; with careful usage, we can go about two weeks before needing to fill the water tanks;
  • Amount of diesel in our 75 gallon fuel tank - we try to keep the diesel tank at least half full as we have learned that it is a shallow, flat tank susceptible to slurping up air if we are heeled while running the engine (eg, while motor sailing).  We also track the diesel consumption which is normally about 0.8 gallons per hour;
  • Holding tank volume - this is for, uh, human waste; the holding tank is either emptied by visiting a dock with a pump out station, having a specialized boat come and pump the sewage in to a different tank to be transported to land, or releasing overboard if one is many miles offshore in designated ocean areas. 
In addition to monitoring amps and volts, there are gauges to monitor water, diesel fuel, and waste.  We have learned to bring along our special fabric hose to fill our water tanks from different marinas to avoid awful, garden hose tasting water.

In some waters many miles off the coast, pleasure boats can empty holding tanks in to the ocean.  The waste travels from the holding tank on the boat through a macerator that grinds up and pumps out the waste.  Our macerator seized up at the tail end of our Summery 2015 trip but Bob was able to easily fix it after a fellow sailor friend pointed him in the right direction.
Argon has a 20 gallon holding tank; managing the volume is important as one is definitely not able to just flush and forget like on land.  Above is a pump out boat that was making the rounds offering to to empty all of Linda's rose pedals from Argon's holding tank while we were anchored off Shell Beach Shelter Island. Bob commended this guy on it being the "cleanest pump-out boat he's ever seen". The guy said "Thank you... I eat my lunch on this boat".
Bathing - We normally take military showers turning the water off for soaping up and generally being frugal so as not to run our water tanks down too quickly.  When the water is not too frigid and we are out on an anchor or moored, we can bath in the ocean then rinse off with fresh water using our cockpit hand held shower.  If we are at a marina with nice facilities, we may indulge in an overly long on shore shower.
Simple Projects - .... are sometimes not so simple.  The needed tools may not be readily available on the boat.  And it can be oh so easy to accidentally drop something in the water.
Bob is helping a dock neighbor trim a bit off an interior door.  A bit more complicated doing this on a dock instead of on a workbench.
Home Office - Argon is not only our pleasure boat and our house, it is also Bob's office as he works from home full time.
Bob WFB (working from boat).
A Few Additional Things....
Provisioning aka Doing Groceries:  Normally we walk to a nearby grocery store several times a week and get small amounts of groceries at a time.  This is not an issue and we quite enjoy the exercise. However, larger stock up trips require loading up a utility cart given the long walk along the docks to get to the boat.  When out sailing and staying in other harbors, we do a bit of homework to plan on where we will have access to stores to re-stock and may factor in a dinghy ride.

Bumps and bruises:  One or both of us always seems to have various bruises, scuffs, or cuts which seems to just be part of active sailing.  Thankfully we have only minor sailing injuries and mishaps.

Rocky, bumpy, and/or squeak nights:  Although it is usually relaxing sleeping on Argon, occasionally the waters can be rough resulting in difficult sleeping conditions; sleeping in the salon on the settees in midship instead of the V berth at the bow is helpful when the boat is rocking too much.  We also ensure that halyards are tied off away from the mast to prevent clanking and the boom is secured to the side to prevent the gooseneck from squeaking; however, sometimes nearby boats are not as noise-conscious or we may be at a dock with noisy pylons or ramp hinges in which case we pull out the ear plugs.  Lastly, on very calm nights while moored, the boat may drift up against the mooring ball resulting in an annoying thumping that is just on the other side of the hull from where we sleep.

This post may sound like a gripe session but it is not meant to be.  We absolutely love the sailing life and being full time live-a-boards.  The various chores and maintenance are just all part of the overall experience and lifestyle.  And all of the above allows for....

01 August 2015

Sailing Marblehead, Salem and Machester-by-the-Sea

Final Leg of Summery 2015:  Cockpit Sleeping & TONE

Summery 2015 Comes to a Close
After a completely enjoyable few days in Marblehead (more so for Linda since she did not have to work) we departed under only main sail sauntering just a few miles in very light wind over to Misery Island to moor for the night.  Although very close to home, we find this area of the North Shore 
spectacular and it remains a favorite destination:  Marblehead, Salem, Manchester-by-the-Sea, and the islands that speckle the coast.

Teeny, tiny bit of sailing over to nearby Misery Island.

View today off our 'back deck' as we are moored by Great and Little Misery Islands for the afternoon and overnight.  We took a dinghy ride around Great Misery and explored the island on foot a bit.
Great and Little Misery Islands one of nearly 100 areas around Massachusetts that are maintained by The Trustees of Reservations which has over 100,000 members.
Misery Island is a most un-miserable place.  Moorings maintained by Beverly Harbor are in three coves.  We like the southern area at the inlet between Great Misery and Little Misery.
Some storms were moving across Massachusetts to bring in slightly cooler temperatures and push out the humidity.  We have been skirting sever weather systems during this entire three plus week trip and tonight was no exception with just a little rain whilst the strong storms moved by to the north and south.

Weather system moving through resulted in exceptionally beautiful skies as we remained moored at Great and Little Misery Islands for the night.

Final Summery 2015 night on the water.  We have been enjoying falling asleep in the cockpit most evenings on this trip.  The temperatures have been perfect and the air usually dry.

Tartan Owners of New England (TONE)
Our short sail (15nm) from Misery Island back to Constitution Marina in Boston presented variable winds anywhere from 15kts easterly, to 4kts westerly, to an abrupt directional switch accompanied by dramatic increase in velocity as we entered Boston Harbor.  We were looking forward to meeting other Tartan owners as part of the TONE events scheduled at our marina.

Hanging out being boat people with Amy & Adam and fellow Tartan owners Emily & Greg.

TONE dinner in the North End at Filippo's.  Wonderful Italian food family style and fun company.  Bob and Linda have committed to writing a couple of articles for the next TONE newsletter this fall.
Although we have officially ended our Summery 2015 sailing adventure, we took off again Sunday midday heading back up to the North Shore aiming for Manchester-by-the-Sea.  This lovely and serene harbor is probably our favorite not only for it's beauty and quaint town, but also because this was the destination of our very first overnight sail on a J24 (Blue Jay) from Boston Sailing Center back in 2008.  We both recall the excitement and nervousness at setting out so far from the security of Boston Harbor in a sailboat!  And we are happy to report that we still retain much of the thrill and wonder of it all!

The thrill remains!

22 July 2015

Sailing Newport to Marblehead

Showering on Starboard Tack, Racing Jeroboam, & Starving for Voltage

Third Beach Sakonnet River to Red Brook Pocasset (or not... again)
Bob awoke Linda abruptly Saturday morning at 0530 announcing that he would like to haul anchor and set sail.  Linda fumbled to the cockpit in her PJs to steer Argon gently as Bob worked the windlass and we were off.  We motored for just the first 45 minutes or so in to substantial chop as the current came in to the Sakonnet but we knew we'd be greeted with 10-14kt southerly winds in Buzzards Bay and a current in our favor for a nice 40nm sail.  We had our sights on anchoring in another favorite harbor, Red Brook, by early afternoon.  This would have been around 38nm distance.

Sakonnet Light as we leave Third Beach (just east of Newport) banging in to chop and current before smoothing out once off the wind and in to a favorable current in Buzzards Bay.
Conditions were superb as we hummed along at 7-8kts.  However, this certainly was not wine and cheese sailing by any means but rather very active sailing with constant helm work.  Given that we were on mostly a beam reach we were not heeled dramatically but our house was fairly un-vertical all day.

Bob sporting his new Helly Hansen jacket as he tightens up the genoa in 16kt winds.  The overcast skies and slightly chilly temps were actually a welcome reprieve from copious sunshine.
Linda went down below several hours in the sail to shower and had a heck of a time with the tilt and chop.  In addition, the head is on the port side with the drain towards center, thus our starboard tack resulted in a bit of water overflow in the head. Oh well, boats are designed to get wet, even a bit on the inside.

Starboard tack all day; several hours in to our sail with brisk winds continuing.
Given our early departure and the swift progress, we found ourselves in sight of the Cape Cod Canal Railroad Bridge by 1000 and realized we would be anchored in Red Brook well before noon. Therefore, we checked the canal current and afternoon wind forecast in Cape Cod Bay and decided to keep going all the way to Provincetown nearly doubling our planned leg to 65+nm.
We bypassed our planned Pocassett / Red Brook anchorage and instead caught the current in the Cape Cod Canal
Cape Cod Bay side of the canal at Sandwhich.  Still overcast and with excellent southerly winds 15-20kts.

Continuing to work the helm in Cape Cod Bay about 60nm in to our day.
Track of our 60+nm trip averaging well over 7kts!

Although we preferred to anchor, we decided on the security of a mooring in this fairly deep harbor and to opt for a dry launch ride to land instead of a wet dinghy trip in the high winds.  The wind was blowing near 20kts as we turned in to PTown Harbor, called for a ball, and fumbled a bit in the crowded mooring field near the breakwater.  The launch driver saw us circling with uncertainty and offered us an alternative mooring that was a bit less crowded.  Linda felt a bit deflated as it's just a mooring... we can certainly pick up a mooring even in high winds, right?!?  We eventually got settled and secured with a double bridle.

Bob exhausted after an exhilarating day of sailing that started at 0500.  He was too tired to drink the glass of rum waiting next to him. Little did we know that one of the sailboats moored next to us (just out of sight in this picture) would be our competitor the very next day as we sailed to Marblehead.
Our original plan was to stay put in PTown for Bob's scheduled workdays.  During a leisurely dinner in town at The Mews Restaurant a bit north of the main tourist section of Commercial Street, we discussed options for the upcoming days and again examined wind and weather.  We could take a chance on Thursday being good to sail back to Boston, or we could capitalize on Sunday's conditions and sail somewhere to the North Shore where Bob could settle in for his work days.  We chose the latter and left early the next morning.

Racing Jeroboam
We departed PTown in some fog motoring in to the wind past Long Point.  In addition to making swift headway in to the wind, we needed to run the diesel a bit as we have been struggling to keep our batteries charged sufficiently ever since leaving Sag Harbor about 10 days ago.  More on this later.
Given the early morning fog, we had the radar fired up for a little while. We have high quality Navionics charts loaded on our Chart Plotter. A frustrating feature of  Navionics is the speckling of little pink birds to designate wildlife preserves.  Hmmm put RED objects all over a nautical chart.  Great idea!  To be more fun, they use exactly the same pink as Raymarine chose for the radar traces. This makes picking out the little pink potentially oncoming vessels a bit difficult.  Please Navionics - Nix the freekin' pink birds already!

Still a bit foggy as we pass Race Point but clearer skies were not far off.  This is also where we started to see some whales.
Linda's view skyward while relaxing on the fore deck after the fog had cleared.

Bob working the helm.  Linda, well, not working.
Shortly after rounding Long Point and passing Race Point, we spotted a sailboat behind us with a spinnaker flying.  When two sailboats are heading in roughly the same direction, at some level there is a race - whether or not the skipper admits it. This boat had AIS so we were able to see her name, size, speed and course. Bob noticed the speed of the boat first and could see that it was consistently doing 1+kt faster than us. At this point, we were not flying our spinnaker but had main and genoa out. Bob looked again later and saw that AIS was reporting she was 115 feet long with a 26 foot beam. (I think when they filled in the MMSI application for AIS, they may have filled in feet where they were asking for meters.)  "Oh - he's a huge sailboat. Of course he's going to go faster".  Finally we noticed the name. The boat name, Jeroboam, sounded very familiar and after some searching through neurons, Linda recalled that this 35' boat was in the New Year's Day race with Constitution Yacht Club (Linda & Bob crewed on another boat on New Year's Day), and she had had an e mail correspondence with the Captain/owner earlier in the year about an open ocean seminar.
We soon realized that the sailboat a couple miles off our stern and gaining on us was a locally well-known racing boat with a very seasoned skipper / racer, Jonathan Green.  We starting using AIS to monitor Jeroboam's distance and speed, and (given our broad reach direction) to anticipate wind changes that would come our way.  Initially Jeroboam was sailing one knot faster than Argon - we had to change this.  Here, Bob just had to get a picture of one of the rare moments when we were going faster than them.

Jeroboam is a Beneteau Oceanis 351 looking pretty with her spinnaker and stay sail.
After loosing ground the initial hour or so pre-spinnaker, the wind finally got around behind us enough to be comfortably flying our spinnaker too. From then on Argon maintained her .5nm or so gap with Jeroboam the remainder of the 30nm ride.  The wind continued to clock around behind us and we were both having trouble keeping our chutes full. We should have "put more in the bank" earlier in the day. Both vessels remained on a port tack trying to keep the sails full and speed up while sailing more downwind than we would like. We both jibed just before reaching The Breakers and headed due north for a short starboard run before dousing the spinnaker near Marblehead Harbor.
We deployed Argon's spinnaker when the wind got around behind us more.  
What was the result of our race?  Well, we got to Marblehead first but Jeroboam got there faster.  They left PTown probably nearly an hour after us and were only about 5 minutes behind us after the 42 miles. We've never officially entered Argon into any race and had a handicap established. The owner's manual says our PHRF (Performance Handicap Racing Fleet) rating is "84 estimated". A Beneteau Oceanis 351 has a higher PHRF rating than a Tartan 4000.  However, we were happy to be practicing our relatively novice racing skills and racing attitude by sailing Argon well enough to not allow Jeroboam to pass during this eight plus hour sail.  We reached out via e mail to Jonathan once in Marblehead to thank him for keeping us on our toes and briefly joined him and some other local sailors at The Barrelman for drinks. This little competition further sparked Linda's interest in participating in the 2016 Newport to Bermuda race.

Marblehead - Sailboat Heaven
Marblehead is a bit like a mini Newport with a tad less sailing cockiness (just a tad).  Power boats are definitely the minority with most of the sparse engines working to deliver lobsters to all of us.
Hundreds of kids out sailing dinghies for Junior Race Week in Salem Sound.  This town endeavors to embed the sailing bug while they are very young.

Marblehead Harbor crowded with masts - a lovely sight.

Linda's home study area while Bob works below.

Another beautiful sunset set looking out towards Salem.

Marblehead Harbor abounds with stand up paddle boards, kayaks, and floating craft of all sorts.
We enjoyed an evening of pizza and conversation with our friends Brenton, Jillien and family who live in town.  We met Brenton, owner of Black Rock Sailing School several years ago at the New England Boat Show and have taken ASA classes from him (and some private docking lessons as well).  His school is fantastic and we always enjoy getting together socially.

Brenton Lochridge is the owner and lead instructor of Black Rock sailing school in Boston, Marblehead, Warwick RI and BVI.  We have taken several sailing classes with Brenton over the years including ASA 104 Coastal Cruising, ASA 105 Navigation, and private docking lessons.  We highly recommend Black Rock Sailing School!!

Starving for Voltage
We mentioned a couple of posts ago about our rookie error mismanaging our electrical consumption. Ever since Sag Harbor we have struggled to keep the main battery at a reasonable charge and have resorted to running the engine simply to get the voltage up.  We have not been plugged in to shore power since NYC two weeks ago but this really should not be an issue if we monitor and control our usage.  However, between Bob's kick ass-hot running-electron sucking lap top cranking during his work days, and with frequent bursts of amps sucked up by the refrigerator, the alternator of the diesel is just not sufficient.  (Not to mention our two other lap tops, two phones, iPad, etc.)  For any sort of serious cruising in our future, in addition to learning to live with less power, we will definitely need to supplement at least with solar (and perhaps also wind).   Needing shore power will not work both for accessibility and expense.

After anchoring and mooring for two weeks, we secured one of the few dock slips in Marblehead and gorged on voltage all afternoon.  Bob was able to keep working his programming magic for Atlas without constantly running the engine to feed his computer.

The 116.2 VAC input and a proper charger made our batteries feel oh so much better.

Normally when we plug in to short power there is "bulk charging" for just a few seconds or minute.  Our batteries were so starved that the "bulk charging" (at 80+ amps) did not switch to floating charge (as shown above) for about 10 hours.  Our batteries are now fat and happy again.  We beat on Battery 1 pretty good this trip. Hopefully it's not damaged or else Bob will have to sell another kidney.
Several boat projects loom in our near future:  solar panels, potentially wind generator, satellite, supplemental heating for winter (do not want to think about winter too much yet), etc.  But for a few more days we continue to just enjoy Argon and sailing around in our home.