Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Happy National Peanut Month!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

2011 work, backstay, sheet blocks, twing, cupholder

It's not winter without a little boatwork, and Niki and I tackled some this weekend. Nothing really necessary but there were a couple little upgrades I wanted to try out.

While sailing etchells this winter and trimming spin, I realized that trimming for a fixed cheek block, no matter how good the angle, is kind of tough as you move around the cockpit, stand in the middle, or sit on the side. Our sheet ratchet arrangment was similar to the Etchells, so I started to feel kind of bad for our spin trimmer.
You can see in this photo that when installing the ratchet, we pretty much matched the angle of the original winch. This worked ok if you were sitting on the opposite rail, but was kind of the wrong angle for standing and trimming both sheets.

Lots of boats have free ratchets, mounted outboard, as opposed to our setup, and I wanted to try something like that. My first thought was to use pivoting lead "flip flop" blocks, but realized pretty quick that sitting on one of these the wrong way would be quite painful. The lowest profile setup seemed to be a free floating block instead.
I'm usually a pretty big harken fan, but decided that we'd give the newish Ronstan Orbit ratchets a try, and do so in a way that let us compare the two brands back to back. The thought is to use both and see which one we prefer, maybe switching sides mid season. So far, the thoughts are:
-Ronstan looks cooler, no doubt about it. I think Niki is sold already.
-The Ronstan dyneema link looks neat and has some good features, but is actually slower to attach than the regular headpost swivel. That said, it articulates in a really natural way as opposed to a locked swivel headpost. Really not sure which is better.
-Ronstan ratchet faces holds more load, Harken is a bit smoother. I've found that Ronstan ratchets hold better, but are a bit harder on line. Our spin sheets are polypro cover over dyneema, and 2 yrs old, so this will be a good test as the polypro will show wear fast.
-Ronstan has 3 modes, off, on, and auto. I'm really interested to try this out, as we usually switch our ratchets by day or when the wind changes.
-Harken has an adjustable load ratchet engagement. This is a pretty big plus, especially on a spin sheet.

Install was dead easy. We had an eyestrap in the right location, which is used for the cover, but it was stamped strap which was plenty strong for the tiny load of the sailcover, but a bit iffy for holding the loads from a turning block, so we swapped it out for a forged Harken strap instead. This did move the lead into the cockpit back a bit, but that was actually essential as part of one of todays other projects, which took the place of the old cheek blocks.

The old teak pads that held winches for 40 years, and cheek ratchets for 3, were not looking so good once the cheek blocks were removed. They had about 7 holes for fasteners, plus a big hold for the underdeck drive spindle for the winches. If we just removed them, we'd have a bunch of holes in the deck to fill, plus some paint, and then we'd be left with an odd shape in the nonskid where it went around the old pad. That all sounded like lots of work, and the hole in the pad gave me an flux-capacitor-caliber-idea. Beerholders!
3" hole saw in the right spot gave us a large enough opening for a 12oz can, amd some teak plugs made a (kinda) solution for all the old fastener holes. To hold the can in place, I used some Alpha Ropes K Mix blend cover, welded into a loop with a hot knife and tacked into place. This was essential for can holding while underway. We used some cut pieces of spectra sailcloth for a grippy and keeping-in-theme bottom liner.

A quick-heel test in the kitchen and it was deemed ready for the boat. Very excited to try out this new high performance addition to 88. It really has been a problem in the past, and I've found myself wedging beercans in all kinds of less effective places
-in between sheets (the can can crush)
-in the back of Jacobs lifejacket (he tends to move around)
-on the seat (stays upright about 3 seconds)
-in the spinnaker basket (you can guess where it goes)

When I was rebuilding 88 originally, I asked if we could swap out the clunky bronze casting for a ball bearing sheave and was told no, it wasn't legal. Turns out about half the Newport fleet had already done it, so right after I'd finished painting the boat it was grandfathered in (doh!) The old fitting has worked for us ok, as we milled a slot and put a ball bearing sheave into it, but I find that the wire wears out quite quickly, and we had a few busted strands on a 3 year old piece of wire, which is way too soon. Also, a ball bearing sheave would allow the use of rope as opposed to wire, which would be nice from a replacement point of view, and-this is a big deal-would be easier to mark for backstay settings. The tricky thing was the Harken 310 sheave I'd like to use is not at all watertight, so it would not be your friend in a bad broach or other sinking scenario. While I was at it, I also wanted to make it easier to change out the backstay pennant. Traditionally, you have to climb into the aft tank (a tiny, horrible place) and cut the wire, have someone push the new wire in from above while you try and thread it through the bronze casting, then do a nico press with about as much room to maneuver as the average glovebox.

And since I'd already recut the deck for the old fitting, I'd have to make a cover plate, as the Harken sheave is a lot narrower than the old round piece. So I made a somewhat ugly HDPE cover piece with a recess routed in for the sheave underneath. Theres a 5/16" hole for the spliced 3/16" line, which should definitely make it as watertight as possible. I also made a backing plate with some threaded stacks of fiberglass, which means that once the assembly is installed and bonded underneath, I can remove the 2 screws from above and access the entire backstay pennant, all from above deck. If this doesn't seem like a big deal, you've never been in the aft tank of a Shields!

Niki and I did the install in about an hour with dry fits and bonding. The new backtstay pennant is a piece of 5mm SK90 I had lying around.

No, I did not feel we'd need the 10000lbs strength of SK90.
Yes I did pick it because its purple.

So now we've got an easy to remove pennant, a little less friction, and a markable backstay.

The last change we made was to move the twing cleat from it's location by the helmsman (Who is not great at remembering to work the twings in gybes) to a spot in the coaming where the previous owner has the backstay cleat. This puts it up by the jib and pitperson, who have free hands in the gybes.

So, a nice day to get some work done on the boat, but only reinforces the need to get on the water with the Shields ASAP. We are certainly looking forward to trying out the different ratchets for ourselves. I'm certain the beerholders will get some extensive shaking down as well.

Restarting blog, Nationals 2010 (very) post game wrapup

Restart! Apparently my trying to blog from my old blackberry at nationals looked (to Google) like someone trying to hack said blog, and it locked me out around day 1. Since unlocking it required a phone call, and Nationals, or at least our performance, wasn't really worth writing about, I'd left it dormant without thinking about it too much. Well, spring is right around the corner, we've got boat work coming up and some big plans for sailing this year, so it's time to get back online. Unlocking the blog was embarassingly easy, so look for a few updates over the next couple weeks on boatwork projects; including a backstay upgrade, some control line tweaks and the high performance combination of spectra sailcloth, kevlar rope cover and teak: all in the same object.

For now, heres what I wrote down from Nationals.

Race day 1:

OW OW OW. Well, at least we're consistent, with an 18, then an 18th place, and finally we finished 18th. Pretty light air and lots and lots of current definied the weather, and going slow in the wrong direction was our play today. We really really should have prcaticed as a team before the event, as it's taken all day to get our handling down and speed back, and even so we feel pretty slow. Had lots of exciting racing, but always found ourselves losing in the end. There was one finish in which we lost, within 100' of the line, the 5 boats we'd passed downwind. As Skip says, tomorrows moving day, and we really need to get out of the neighborhood.


Improvements were made, and we're getting aroudn the course better, going faster and starting well. First race was looking awesome, we were approaching the mark in about 4th, but overstood (thanks HL) on port layline. Had an ugly "room to tack" situation in which a leeward boat tacked and we had to crash tack, right at a boat we had already started to duck. At one point in the tack I kind of thoguht to myself" pick which boat to hit, because we're getting at least 1 collision here!" but amazingly we cleared. Less amazing was the gybe we had to do, followed by the reach away from the mark, followed by us rounding last. Ouch. In analyzign the situation, we've figured that the boat to leeward could have hailed for room to tack (as they say they did) but that since we were already ducking a boat together, they owed us room to keep ducking. That said, I guess the lack of collision is evidence that we had room, but man, it was inchhes. Finished a sullen 21st. Lets make that our drop! Second race less dramatic, with a similar gain on the left, followed by a top 5 rounding. Lost 2 boats over the course of the race to finish 7. Better, kinda.

Final day of racing.

Glorious day to sail LIS. Little more breeze, and we tend to go better when theres wind. First race we got a7th, which is about what we deserved. Race was pretty much decided one the first beat, and we finished around the same boats. Tough call to make on second race, as the marina said they might not be able to haul all the boats on Saturday, and Barb and Skip had to be back in Chicago monday. We ended up retring from racing and sailing in early to make sure we made it out. Had a really fun sail back in, down the river and past lots of neat boats and shorside scenery. Had a chance to reflect a bit. The regatta was initially very disappointing, mostly the first day when we pretty much sealed our fate with 3 bad results. The next day I kinda stopped thinking about it as a regatta, and just a series of races, which took the sting out a bit. Our preparation for this regatta and mindset just werent right. That coupled with some light air speed issues (as in, we're slow in light air) kept us from doing as well as we'd hoped. If I could do it again, we would definitley have done more practicing with the whole team together in Chicago, as we did too much figuring out on the first day. The light air issues are tougher to figure. While out there, we learned what the sailmakers are doing to their mains, essentially recutting the luffs a bit to better match the newer masts which have a forward bend at the hounds. This sounds like exactly what we need, to get that top telltale flying in the light without adding a ton of backstay. In the end it was a fun regatta, the highlights being some good competition and meeting some great people, notably our hosts who were a blast.

Well, that was nats in 2010. Looking back I had fun, especially once we got it through our heads that we were not going to do very well overall, and just went out and sailed.

Nats this year is in Seawanhaka, which was probably my favorite nats ever, about 10 years ago. We've got a lot to figure out if we're to go, but we've got some time yet. The crew seems interested, but along the way we've got the pull together a trailer, tow vehicle, and possibly some decent sails.