Road Warrior

July 7, 2014

Got the boat back to Port Townsend Boat Haven at 0100 yesterday morning.  When you’re injured it’s nice to be in your own home.  The trip kind of sucked.  Towing this thing is extremely stressful.  I don’t know if it was the traffic around the bay area, the July 4th traffic on the highways, or the horrible gas mileage, but I had a headache and ground my teeth all the way home


Taking up all the compact spaces.










This  was my average MPG for the trip!

This was my average MPG for the trip!













Anyway, I’m glad BackBeat is home.  Tomorrow I need to deal with all the damage and get home to Spokane.

I’m ready to leave for San Francisco.  NOAA forecast 25-35 kt winds in the central strait this afternoon and evening, which is about when I’ll be there if I leave in the next few hours.  I’m watching the buoy data, attempting to time my departure to miss that business.  Getting out of the strait is a bitch this time of year.  It’s eighty-odd miles straight into the wind, tacking all the way, and when the current turns against you those tacks can seem like they’re taking you nowhere.

In the meantime I made a couple of videos to show people where I’ll be living and working until mid-August.  It’s a small boat, and it seems even smaller looking at it on a monitor.  Am I sure I want to do this?  Well . . . ?  The cool thing about this kind of sailing is that, even when the weather’s awful and everything is going wrong, it only takes a day on the dock before you’re itching to get out there again.  Go out, get beaten up, recover, repeat.  I’d like to hear what a shrink has to say about that.

Outside the boat:

Inside the boat:


New Bottom

May 27, 2014

Here’s BackBeat going back in after a week in the yard.  Thirty five seconds of a boat in a lift.  I’m a cinematic genius.  See you at Cannes!

Bottom painting is my least favorite boat maintenance chore.  Vacuum sanders, respirators, and eye protection help, but it’s still a mess.  Between the barrier coat, fairing compounds, paint thinners, miscellaneous solvents and goops, and the bottom paint itself, you just can’t escape the heavy chemical smell.  And then there’s the squatting to sand and paint overhead with 52 year old arthritic shoulders.  Next time I’ll hire it out.  Yeah, right.

The good news is, first, that the old paint was in great shape after two years in the water.  I’d used Micron 66 last time, and after a light pressure washing it almost looked new.  From a few feet away, at least.  I use the boat regularly, and I’m sure the SHTP qualifier washed away most of the slime, but I’ve never had the bottom scrubbed by a diver; they won’t do it in Port Townsend on anything but hard paints because the fine is huge.  Second, the hardest work only took a couple of days.  I spent the rest of the time puttering, tackling the smallest items on my to-do list.

I mounted the 100-watt solar panel (well, actually, my oldest son did it for me), added foot loops at the stern quarters to help me get back on the boat if I need to, loaded up everything for the trip to San Francisco, polished and waxed the hull, re-tuned the rigging, added tie-down points for all the heavy stuff in the cabin, and more.


Like a little piece of jewelry.

One of the coolest things is these little eye nuts.  I’d looked locally for these, but could only find galvanized ones for $10 each.  A friend found these on Amazon for less than $3 each.  They’re 316 stainless, and exactly what I was looking for.  My cabin ceiling is studded with acorn nuts.  They’re there to protect your head from the ends of bolts holding down winches and deck hardware.  I replaced several of those nuts with these, and voila!









I ran shock cord from one cabin top winch base to the deck organizer six feet in front of it, across the boat and behind the compression post to the other organizer, and then back to the other cabin top winch.  So far I’ve used it as a clothesline, I’ve hung towels in front of the windows to block the sun, and I’ve use carabiners to hang stuff from it.  I saw this somewhere, on someone else’s boat, and it’s a great idea.

Well, the checklist is getting shorter, but there’s still work to do.  I’ll be back on the boat next Tuesday, watching the weather and puttering until it’s time to go.



This new battery monitor is cool.  I’d always just kept the previous battery on a trickle charger at the dock, and then wondered about it while were out and about on the water.  I remember only one occasion when the battery died, and I had a spare aboard.  Not a very scientific way to manage your batteries, is it?


Pulling about three amps with everything on the boat–except the tiller pilot–cranked.

The Victron BMV-600s is easy to install and simple to navigate.  It provides all the information about your batteries and charging systems that you’ll probably ever need.  It measures power coming in from chargers, solar panels, and the alternator on my outboard.  You can actually see the numbers go up and down in real time as you add or remove loads.  Sweet!  I was disappointed, though, to discover that my little 25 watt solar trickle charger was only contributing .75 amps, but then it is April in Port Townsend.  Oh well.  I have a 100 watt panel ready to install.

I had prepared an electrical budget for the SHTP.  It’s good to know that all my estimates were relatively close to reality.  My goal was to have enough juice aboard to go for three days with no contribution from the solar panels before I’d need to break out my portable generator.  That’s about what I have–a little more if I’m careful with the power.  Woohoo!  Those long winter nights looking up currents draws paid off.

On another note, I’m staying on the boat.  We just stepped the mast and rerigged it, so my halyards are all tied off nicely.  Last night it was blowing like hell.  I read mid-thirties on my wind instrument.  My rigging was nice and quiet, but the rest of the marina sounded like a posse of street drummers playing garbage cans.  Today will definitely be a nap day.

Rewiring The Boat

April 17, 2014

I was sailing at night once, in some nasty weather, and my running lights went out.  Turns out a chafed wire was the problem.  My son fixed it for me, but I committed then to rewire the whole boat, by myself, before the SHTP.  I wanted to know where every tinned strand is, and what it does.

Well, it’s almost finished.  My mast is down now because I’m having the sheaves replaced at the top and in the base.  When the mast goes back up next week it will be better than new, and it will have a new tricolor, strobe, anchor light, and VHF/AIS antenna.

Back to the wiring.  I’m not dumb, but 12 volt marine wiring was a pretty steep learning curve for me.  I travel between Spokane and Port Townsend, and I wanted time to get it right, so I took the whole panel out of the boat, brought it back to Spokane, and spent the winter figuring it out.  Nigel Calder’s writings were a huge help.  I also relied on the SHTP electrical seminar notes published by Michael Jefferson.  In fact, my wiring diagram is pretty much taken right out of his seminar.  Between those two guys, and hours of looking things up on the internet, and asking some patient people the same questions over and over, I finally got it.

I have two new 6 volt golf cart batteries wired in series for a 12 volt, 232 amp hour bank.  I have the original Optima group 31 battery, at 75 amp hours, wired to the battery selector to be used as a spare.  Each bank is fused at the positive terminal.  I have a 1.5 amp charger wired directly to the Optima, so that it’s always full when I leave the dock.  The main bank is supplied by a 55 amp three-phase charger.  I have 100 watt and 25 watt solar panels with charge controllers.  The outboard alternator is wired into the positive distribution post.  There is a 2000 watt portable inverter generator,which easily runs the 55 amp charger.  I’ve completed the SHTP electrical budget worksheet and figure that, with no sun at all, I can go about four days before I’ll have to break out the generator.


The final result. The sink will go back in. I don’t use it as a sink, but it’s a great place to store wet things.

Here’s my new panel.  The radio on the left is the new Standard Horizon VHF with GPS and AIS (receive only).  Its antenna is at the masthead.  It allows you to set up a perimeter alarm, which I plan to do.  My MMSI  number is programmed in, so that radio is good to go.  Right next to it is the receiver for the Madman autopilot remote, which I love.  The battery selector lets me switch to the Optima backup battery if I need to.  The switch in the lower center is the panel power switch.  Right next to it is a Victron battery monitor for the 232 AH bank.  Both switch panels are waterproof.  There are two 12V powerpoints on this panel.  The one on the front has two USB ports in it.  The Garmin GPS is wired into the spare VHF right next to it.  It can be removed in seconds for portable use.  The spare VHF has its own antenna on the stern rail.  It also is programmed with my MMSI number.  The stereo is above the spare VHF.  It can play and charge almost anything with a USB connection and MP3 files.

All the cabin lighting is now LED.  Four lights are wired into the main bank, and five are battery-powered.  The running lights are LED.  The masthead tricolor, strobe, and anchor lights are LED.  All the wiring runs through conduit.  Before, it was run behind trim pieces, which made it tough to get to.  Now it’s a breeze.

Terminal block

This is one of the terminal blocks, where the positive leads are collected and sent to the panel.  Everything is heat-shrunk and labeled.  There is not much room behind my panel, so the fit is pretty tight, but it’s all easily accessible.


This is the back of the panel about halfway through the fabrication process. There’s a lot more wire in there now, but I can tell you what every single one of them does.




















I posted some other pics on the Boat Preparation page if you’re interested.  One thing I did that helped me a ton was to get two 6 volt lantern batteries and wire them in series.  That gave me enough 12 volt power to test every circuit before I even left my kitchen table.  If you know what you’re doing, this probably seems unnecessary.  I don’t, really, and I wanted to know that my new panel would work properly as soon as I turned the battery and panel switches.  It did.  Whew.

I made a few mistakes here and there installing everything, but nothing was critical and I learned a ton.  Everything works like it’s supposed to, and boat wiring is no longer a mystery to me, which was my goal.


April 17, 2014

Shameless plug for Ed Louchard at Zepherwerks in Port  Townsend, WA.  He custom makes all his sheaves on a lathe.  I think they’re reasonably priced, and when you have him rebuild something for you, he doesn’t just pop in new sheaves.  He gets out his calipers and adjusts everything so they spin like crazy.  He’s done four genoa cars, a traveler car, and a backstay adjuster for me.  Now he’s doing four sheaves in my masthead and six in the base.  If you want nice sheaves that don’t wobble or bind, check him out:


Sheaves. Not the most exciting thing on a boat, but you really want them to work right. Ed’s do.  Check him out.

Emergency Rudder

April 16, 2014

The SHTP Race Committee requires an emergency rudder.  This is what I came up with.  I still need to fabricate a tiller head and make a tiller that I can use with my autopilot.

This weighs 30 pounds, but it will not fail, and it's really easy to mount.

This weighs 30 pounds, but it will not fail, and it’s really easy to mount.

A long, long time ago I used to sail dinghies that were kept on moorings.  We’d grab the sails and rudders from the boathouse, row out to the mooring, and rig the boats in the water.  In any wind at all, getting the rudder pintles mated to the transom gudgeons was a challenge.  Same with my Lightning.  I didn’t want to deal with this in a seaway during the SHTP, so I had a support welded to an old outboard mounting bracket.

The rudder is permanently mounted to all of this, so all I have to do is hook the jaws of the outboard mount over the edge of the transom bracket and clamp it down.  That’s a whole lot easier than trying to fight the torque on the rudder.  Also, the transom bracket has about a foot of vertical travel, which means that much less rudder area in the water while I’m securing the whole contraption.

Speaking of torque, anyone with a tiller can feel how much of it there is on the rudder and its fittings when you back a boat up.  There’s a lot.  I got curious, so I tried to work out how much side force would act on a rudder if it were locked down sideways and dragged through the water at six knots.  I’m terrible at math, and it appears there are a few different formulas, but the results I got were shocking.  The lowest number I got was 228 pounds of force.  The highest was nearly 600 pounds!  I went with the higher number, and beefed up my transom and outboard bracket with large, half-inch backing plates inside and out.  The rudder hardware is stout.  That half-inch aluminum plate on the rudder mount spreads the top and bottom rudder fittings pretty far apart, which should reduce torque loads on the fittings.

Through-bolted with 5/16 bolts and 1/2 inch backing plates inside and out.

Through-bolted with 5/16 bolts and 1/2 inch backing plates inside and out.

I’m no engineer, and this whole setup could probably have been made lighter, but I feel good about the design.  It works well at the dock.  I’ll test in on the water in some weather as soon as I get a tiller made.  I use the outboard to get out of my slip, so that will mean getting into the bay, then taking the motor off and stowing it, and then mounting the emergency rudder.  Seems like a PITA, but I need to know how quickly I can do it if the need arises.  For me, it’s one less thing to have in the back of my mind freaking me out.  I’ve done untested, and it has never worked out for me.

Well, that’s my emergency rudder design.  Any input is certainly appreciated.  If anyone knows the real, super-authoritative formula for calculating rudder loads, I’d really be curious to know how my numbers compare.  Let me know.

BackBeat out . . .

Engine Trouble!

March 20, 2013

Been a while since I updated the blog, so here’s a story from the 2012 Race To The Straits.  Naaman had done the Seattle to Port Townsend leg with me, but I was singlehanding the PT to Seattle leg.  I’d turned around to head home after finishing at Shilshole late in the afternoon, and anticipated getting back to PT at about midnight.  The wind had come in pretty good from the North, though, and with the flood tide it took me a while just to get to Edmonds.  I was tired, so as dusk fell I pulled in to rest.  That seemed like a better idea than beating into the tide all night and getting in to PT god-knows-when.

I left Edmonds Monday morning.  About five minutes into the trip the motor started acting up.  I could tell that the impeller was shot, so I shut it down.  For a minute I considered sailing back into Edmonds and calling Naaman, who is a marine technician, but the wind was up and the tide was going my way so I decided to sail back to Port Townsend.  That breeze lasted about an hour before dying.

One of my brothers spends lots of time fishing in the sound.  He told me once that he doesn’t get why most of the sailboats he sees seem to spend more time motoring than they do sailing.  The answer is that traveling from one place to another in a sailboat, on a time schedule, is different from chasing the wind around the bay on a lazy afternoon.  When you have to get somewhere you need to plan for wind, current, traffic and tides.  These forces rarely line up perfectly with your plan, so if you need to get somewhere you’re sometimes better off motoring than sitting around in a traffic lane waiting for wind, or beating into a headwind with opposing current.

When the wind finally picked up again it was straight out of the North and the tide had changed.  I was trying to get North, so this sucked.  Hours later I had worked my way up Admiralty Inlet to a point near Oak Bay.  The video above is of the approach to Oak Bay, which  at the moment was hosting a nasty tide rip.  I guess you can’t really see it on the video, but those rips are worth avoiding.  The problem with avoiding this rip was that I’d have to go up the East side of Marrowstone Island and around the top to get back into Townsend Bay and my comfy slip at the Boat Haven.  If I could just work my way through the nasty water, there’s a channel at the top of Oak Bay that’s the regular short cut between Port Townsend and parts South.

After I shot the video above, I kept sailing into the bay despite the tide rip.  The wind died soon after and I spent the next few hours coaxing out a couple of knots of boatspeed as I worked my way toward the channel.  As I neared it the tide began to change and the current eventually flushed me through.  It was a wild ride.  The currents were stronger than the wind, so the boat was spinning and wandering while the sails were flapping.  I had no steerage, and at one point was running around the deck with a pole to keep the boat away from bridge pilings.

The current spit me out the North end of the channel and the wind died completely.  I just sat there for a moment to collect my wits.  By now it was dusky and I was beat, so I decided to anchor at Port Hadlock and finish the last few miles to PT in the morning.  The anchorage is about half a mile away, though, and there was not even a molecule of breeze.  So I started sculling.  Yep, that’s what it came down to.  After 45 minutes of sculling I picked up a mooring in front of the Wooden Boat School and called it a very long day.

The next day–by now it was Tuesday morning–I cast off in light air and worked the current up to the Boat Haven.  It took a few hours, but by noon I was back in my slip buttoning things up.

In the end, what is normally about a thirty mile trip took me about 42 hours with no motor.  When I account for the time at the Edmonds marina and on the hook at Port Hadlock, that’s only about 18 hours spent actually sailing.  Singlehanding in the dark in that busy part of the sound isn’t really safe, though.  I used about every sailing skill I have, and a few that I didn’t know I had.

I’m writing this in March, 2013.  The Race To The Straits happens again on May 4th and 5th, and I’ll be there.

My blog statistics tell me a lot of people get here by searching “double braid eye splice”.  My previous entry about this splice won’t show you how to do it, so I thought I’d link to the video I had used.  It helped me; I hope you find it instructional too.

Double Braid Eye Splice

December 2, 2011

I got back to the boat a few weeks ago to tune up the rigging, chase down some leaks and do some maintenance.   This trip I had plenty of “sit-and-stare” time, which worked out well for tuning the rigging, but not so well for the other project.

The foreguy is a line that controls the height of the spinnaker pole.  If you’re lost already, don’t worry.  It’s just a rope with a steel shackle at the end.  Mine was ratty and gross.  I had time to kill before heading back to Spokane so I resolved to replace it.  That meant learning the tricky double braid eye splice, which leaves an eye at the end of a line.  There are a number of reasons you’d want an eye at the end of a line; in this case the eye holds the shackle, which is used to attach the foreguy to other hardware.  How hard could that be for a guy with time to sit and stare?  After all, the rig tuning had gone smoothly.

I cozied up in the cabin with my Samson Ropes splicing kit, some new 1/4 inch double braid, and a how-to video queued up on my iPhone.  Double braid is a rope that has a braided core covered by a separate, braided cover.  The splice requires joining the core to the cover, the cover to the core, and burying the whole thing back inside the rope while leaving an eye at the end.  If it sounds complicated, that’s because it is.  Real riggers do this all day long, so it won’t seem like anything to them, but to regular folks who’ve never done it, it’s tough even to visualize.


It turns out 1/4 inch double braid is already tough to splice because it’s so small, but I finally got it.  The pause button on the video really got a workout, though, and it took me about half an hour.  I was turning the splice around in my hand, admiring my work, when I realized I’d neglected to insert the shackle before closing the eye.  Unbelievable!  No amount of vexation, cussing or stink-eye was going to get that shackle into that splice, so with mounting frustration I cut it off and began again.

The second splice still took some time, and I kept having to rewind the video, but I finally got it.  Once again I sat back to admire my work, and once again I noticed I’d forgotten to insert the shackle.  Aarghh!  I sat there for probably five minutes just staring at it in disbelief.  Neither of the splices had looked pretty, but they were done correctly and I’m sure they’d have been fine.  By then it was time to head home, though.  Defeated by the double braid eye splice, I closed up the boat and left.

Later, in the comfort and ample light of my home office, I finally tamed the beast.  It turns out it’s much easier with 3/8 and larger lines.  I still needed the YouTube video, but at least the double braid eye splice no longer seems like witchcraft.  I worked through it a few more times.  The photo is of my best effort to date.  It’s still not as pretty as what you’d get from a pro rigger, but I’m happy with it.  Now I just have to do it again for the new foreguy, and remember to add the shackle before I close the eye.