Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Breaking Real Ties to the Land

I worked hard for this place.  This was my fourth home.  It's a product of my desire to have a warm beautiful sanctuary in Seattle; a place full of original art, to display my collection of books (over a thousand volumes) and momentos of my family and to live with my amazing wife, Kerry.

And now it's sold.  We had planned to sell it in 2010 when we bought Brigadoon.  The problem was we could not.  A combination of incompetent Realtors and a lousy housing market made that impossible. Kerry decided that we could make it a vacation rental, so we did.  It served us well, paying for new upholstery and sails for Brigadoon, while allowing us to keep the place until a buyer appeared.

Well, one did appear, about six weeks ago.  The deal actually went smooth as a Lake Union summer night on the water; barely a ripple.  There was no Realtor.  The new buyer is in the house last night and we no longer owe the bank hundreds of thousands of dollars.

That's Hundreds of Thousands of Dollars -- Hundreds of Thousands.

I will miss this home.  I started my marriage to Kerry in this place.  We figured out how to be husband and wife there, how to live together. I built the place I always wanted, in Seattle.  I filled it with art, music, happiness and love.  I will miss this home in a way that I will miss any other.  This was my home.  I bought with my previous wife, then had to buy it all by myself when my previous marriage ended.  I shared it with Kerry. It was beautiful.  I will miss it.  But...

It's part of the Freedom Project; to reduce out debt, our constraints, our commitments.  It's part of enlightenment.

My debt is "enlightened" to tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars, and that gives us freedom.  It means that Kerry or I could lose a job tomorrow and the other can still take care of us.  It means we are that much close to our goals, and that much more free.

It means I no longer own a home on land.  I may never own one again.  I have less of a tie to the land.  Before, if we had to, if we needed to, we could head back to this lovely town home.  Now we cannot.  It belongs to someone else.

It really, really means that Brigadoon is our home -- for good.

Brigadoon, sailing away.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Race Your House II

I just landed some choice pics of Brigadoon in the 2012 Race Your House.  I'm so stoked to get this shots, especially the one up close.  Without further ado, here they are:

Brigadoon, going past the committee boat at the start of the race.  Bob and James are driving.  Donn is crouched down on the starboard deck, repairing a block that came loose.

A great shot at Brigadoon's lovely broad canoe stern and dingy!

On our first upwind leg, headed towards the committee boat.

Brigadoon, headed for the final turn, just 21 seconds behind the Catalina 30.  We are hauling for all we are worth, rail buried in the water.

The Catalina is rounding up, having just crossed...we are next, tearing up sea for all we are worth.

Brigadoon, taking second in the 2012 Race Your House Regatta.

And easing off to go home...

Where my love of sailing comes from...

I was going through my father's things yesterday.  I found nine typewritten pages.  My dad, with six months sailing under his belt, had his first ocean race on a 6 meter.  

Five years later, he taught me to sail.  He was twenty five years younger than I am now when he wrote this.  This is his story.

I love you, dad.  Thanks for teaching me to sail.

Kazahaya's route in the 1963 NORC

Fast Wind" To Mikomoto
October 1963
by: Donald E. Pedro

The place, Yokosuka, Japan. The date, September, 1963. There was more than the usual activity at the Yacht Club and for good reason. The personnel of the Navy Special Services were working many long and hard hours to make ready a long and sleek looking boat resting in skids outside the workshop. She was the "Kazahaya", meaning “fast wind”, a six meter racing sloop designed for racing and known as a "wet boat" by those who had sailed her. She was five and one-half foot in the beam, low of freeboard and her every line hinted of speed. Her mast was fifty four feet in high, and for balance, she had twenty-two hundred pounds of lead in the keel. The carpenters and sailmakers under the supervision of Chief Boatswain's Mates Gamblin and Mandell were busy while another crew worked the hull and decks over from bow to stern. Her mast lay on wooden horses in the workshop along with the spinnaker boom. There were modifications to be made, all metal fittings to be checked and replaced or reinforced if necessary.

When the information had been first published that the Nippon Ocean Racing Club was sponsoring an ocean race on the 20th of September, hopes soared throughout the Yacht Club members. There was the possibility that three boats from our club would be entered, the Hanafuji (23 feet), the Buckaneer (26 feet) and the Kazahaya (36 feet). Upon inquiring into the rules set forth by the NORC we found that the Hanafuji and the Buckaneer could not be entered due to non­compliance with the NORC requirements in their construction. For the crews who had anticipated racing these boats it was a great disappointment and I can under­stand how they felt. Captain Bernard W. Moulton, USN, ComNavForces, Japan had a list of people who had made themselves available as prospective crew members.  I hoped that when the word was passed that I would be selected as part of the crew. 

A close friend of mine, Johnny Collins, had introduced me to sailing only six months before.  He had taught me everything I knew about handling boats under sail. I was working in the office the day I received the word from Captain Moulton that he would like for me to crew for him in the race. It was hard to believe that I had made it. I could hardly wait until I could tell my wife and Johnny. Living only a half block from the basin, I watched the progress on Kaz with anticipation and a growing restlessness. 

Over the weeks that followed, I began to feel a close relationship develop with the boat. This was to be my first experience in an ocean race but the Kaz was a veteran of many. She had won her last ocean race in 1955 and, due to a large handicap placed on her, hadn't won a race since. Her sister ship, the Hayakaze, was lost at sea in the race of the previous year with all hands aboard. Not even the smallest trace of Hayakaze had been found nor a clue to why she had went down. 

Our crew, having been picked weeks ago, were busy gathering together the things needed for the trip ahead. The crew consisted of Dr. Fritz Hodemaker from the Naval Hospital, Lt. Joseph Russell from Naval Supply Depot, Boatswain's Mate 2nd class, Bill Snow, from the USS AJAX, Chief Hospital Corpsman James Grolton and myself, both from the Naval Hospital. Six people who had one thing in common; to race the Kazahaya and win!

Captain Moulton had raced the Kaz before and was familiar with her. As a skipper, he was the best. It took a good skipper to race, bringing the crew and boat back safely. The race started at ten-thirty at night at the port of Koajiro-ko across Sagami-wen bay.  It then ran between the southern tip of Honchu and Oshima Island, around Mikomoto Island and back on the same course to the island of Jogashima. One hundred miles that were designed to test both boat and crew. We had a good crew and one of the best boats built in Japan.

When I first spoke to the wife about the possibility of crewing on the ocean race she didn’t have much to say. She knew the sea could be dangerous but I think she consented because she knew how I loved the sea and sailing. Donn, the oldest of our three sons knew his father would be gone for a week and promised me he would take care of his Mother and Brothers while we were gone. He was a grown up little man for just four years old and I knew he would accept this responsibility with sincerity.

A list was made of the equipment we would need and given to Chief Gamblin. He would see that on the day that we were ready to load the boat that it would be complete down to the last item; sails, both working and racing, com­passes and other navigational equipment, safety lines and life preservers, signal flares and so forth. The list was long but not one item could be omitted. The major work on the Kaz was finished and all we were waiting for was the morning of the 18th when she would be lowered into the water, allowing her mast to be fitted and secured. Her decks and the hull were glistening white down to the waterline. Due to some last minute work she wasn't set in the water until late that evening, which set our schedule back a little. I went down and watched adjustments being made on the shrouds and fore and aft stays supporting the mast. 

The starboard spreader light was not working proper­ly due to some malfunction. I can still see Chief Gamblin hanging precar­iously from the lower set of spreaders, trying his best to repair it. He had put in many extra hours in preparing the boat and we were all grateful for his work. When I left for home later that evening he was still on the boat checking her out to his satisfaction.

When I got home, I checked my gear again, sat down over a cup of coffee with my wife and discussed the race even more. The winds were unpre­dictable at this time of year. I prayed for good wind the next day and a running sea. The race was being held at the height of the typhoon season and consequently, caused concern with the crew. As a rule, the typhoons originated far enough South of Japan that if one did develop we would have ample enough warning. On the seventeenth we were getting gale force winds that were the aftermath of Gloria, having just swept through Taiwan and up the coast of China. It gave you something to think about, but was one of those things that no one mentioned, especially our crew. If a typhoon did develop we would get periodic reports from the Joint Typhoon Center in Guam through the Far East Network broadcasts.

With the race and weather on my mind, I didn’t sleep at all and tossed fitfully all night. The skipper wanted the crew down at the basin at seven the next morning with our personal gear, ready to load the boat. When morning finally came I was even more anxious to get underway. After a light break­fast and coffee I said goodbye to my wife and boys and walked down to the basin. The skipper and Bill Snow were already there and we started loading the equip­ment. Within a short time the others had arrived and we soon had everything aboard.

After the boat was ready, we made small talk while some minor work was being accomplished. During the conversation I made a remark referring to the pulleys that were being installed. This was a definite mistake on my part. The skipper let me know in no uncertain terms that pulleys belonged on farms and that they were referred to as blocks aboard a sailing vessel. 

Aye, Aye, sir!

We rigged the main and working jib, made a last minute check on every­thing and were ready to go. Friends and family came down to see us off and see the Kaz for themselves. Bill Snow’s wife was concerned and tried to hide the fact that she was worried; I told her she had nothing to worry about. We had a fine boat and the skipper would bring us back safely. On orders from the skipper we raised the sails, cast off the bow and stern lines, and were underway at last. The anxiety that had built up inside of me seemed to fade away and we settled down to work. We set a course for Kannonzaki lighthouse and soon had it in sight. When we rounded the point the breeze picked up and we started to beat into the wind.

The large working Genoa went up and the old girl started to show her stuff. She pointed extremely high and sailed as smooth as glass. I soon found out why she was referred to as a "wet boat". The entire deck was soon wet from the spray her bow threw as she sliced through the sea. When running close hauled, our leeward deck was awash but she took to the ocean like she owned it. We hoped to reach Aburatsubo before dark so the skipper could get a look at the immediate area where the race would end. We beat into the wind for about four hours and soon had Misaki in sight. We dropped off on a port tack and sailed for the bridge that connected Jogashima with the mainland. We passed under the huge bridge, through the harbor and out to sea on a starboard tack for Aburatsubo. The sun was just falling over the horizon when we came to the anchorage. We dropped anchor and secured the boat for the night while the skipper went ashore to get a check on the weather for the next few days.

A privately owned boat from our Yacht Club was anchored only a short distance away. She was one of the few catamarans in Japan and was going to participate in the race unofficially. We passed the time talking back and forth about the merits of the two boats.

Chief Grolton was our cook and I must admit he did a fine job considering the con­ditions under which he had to work. We ate on the boat and settled down for the night in our sleeping bags. The next day, the one we had been waiting for, came soon. We raised our canvas just before noon and sailed for Koajiro where the race would start. When we arrived the catamaran had already anchored and invited us to tie up alongside. We talked about the race and made some final adjustments on the after stay, which was a little loose from the mast settling into the keel. Soon, darkness came and the race was only a few hours away. I felt the tension starting to build up inside again. I imagine the rest of the crew felt the same. We took down the working sails, stored them and bent on the racing main, jib and Genoa. The spinnaker sheets were laid out and ready to go in case we needed them. At ten o'clock we put on our life jackets and strapped on the belt and safety lines, which I learned later are indispensable on a pitching and tossing boat at sea. At ten-fifteen we said goodbye, wished our friends good luck and cast off the lines. We moved slowly up to the starting line. 

Soon, other boats appeared out of the dark­ness. There were running lights all around us. Twenty boats in all and ours was the only American boat. The wind was calm and we made slow progress forward. The sails would fill themselves and then back. The "telltales” gave no indication as to wind direction as we waited patiently. When the race started we were still approa­ching the starting line, moving slowly forward. The lighter boats having an advan­tage soon disappeared in the darkness. Then we caught our first good wind and the sails filled. The Kaz started to move and a wake appeared off the stern. In what seemed a matter of minutes we overtook the last boat and could see stern lights ahead of us. The old girl closed the gap fast and soon we had passed all the other boats. Now, I knew why she was called "fast wind", she thrives on it. I was to find later in the race this was just a sample of what she could do. We beat into the wind toward Oshima island and as the wind increased, so did our speed. Our leeward rail was awash and the water was churning off the stern. In an hour or so we started passing through the shipping lanes. All eyes searched the darkness ahead for ships. Joe Russell had the helm as the skipper was busy taking navigational bearings and fixes so we would know our position on the charts at all times. The two compasses we had aboard checked out to within one degree of each other. 

This was soon no place for formality and we were soon calling each other by our first names. By dawn the next morning we had Oshima in sight, which was understandable after the way we had run for the past nine hours.

The wind held strong for the next three or four hours, then dropped off to nothing about ten o'clock. We were finally becalmed and sat for an hour or so. Wasting precious time, we all waited anxiously for a sign of wind on the water. Mr. Purdy, CDR,USN retired, was on the racing committee and soon came into view, checking on the boats. He was in his own private power boat called Gypsea, out of Tokyo. We talked for awhile and then he left to check on the whereabouts of the other boats. About noon on the 21st the wind began to pick up; you could see patches of it on the surface of the water. We raised the spinnaker and had a short run downwind with Oshima off the port beam. The wind shifted and we went on a port tack, taking down the spinnaker. The wind picked up again and the sea began to run rough, which was exactly what the Kaz thrived on. I can remember once when I went forward to bring the Genoa across on a new tack, the sea was actually running over my ankles. Joe Russell had the same experience later on the leeward side of the boat while taking up some slack in the Jib halyard. We finally had Oshima off the port beam and then looked for Mikomoto island which was ahead of us off the star­board bow. It was beginning to get overcast which made it that much more difficult to pick out land masses. Whenever we got on a starboard tack, Jim Grolton would make us sandwiches and coffee. This was the only time he could get into the refri­gerator without everything spilling out over the deck of the cabin.

We sighted Mikomoto at 1830 on the 21st and made the final tack that would bring us between the mainland and the island. The wind had picked up considerably and the sea was getting rougher. We ran on a port tack until the skipper felt that we had cleared the island enough to go around her if we went to a starboard tack. When we were ready the skipper brought her around through the wind and she took off as though she had been shot from a cannon. We had to reef the main in order to keep the sea from running through our cockpit.  She had heeled far enough that water was running about three feet up on the Genoa. We doused it and run up the topsail to compensate and yet not lose speed. As the bow would drop into the sea, spray would cover the entire boat. The skipper warned us that there were shoals that encircled the island and to keep a close watch for any indications. Night was falling as we rounded the island and fell off on a starboard tack. She was really moving fast now.

The wind was strong enough that the skipper thought it best not to try to jibe her stem through the wind and risk losing a boom or the mast. He decided instead, to tack up into the wind and then fell off with the wind off the stern. This was all accomp­lished within a matter of seconds, too fast to think about and the crew had to act rapidly and efficiently. Someone made a comment about being halfway through the race and it sure felt good. By this time we were all wet and the strain was beginning to show on the faces of the crew. We still had a lot of hard work ahead of ourselves so there was no real relaxing. Darkness had completely enveloped us by now. The wind was off the port quarter allowing us to run before the wind with the sea foaming and boiling off the stern. 

Fritz Hodemaker was at the helm and had his hands full at the time. We were on course 050 which, if the wind held, would bring us to the end of the race and Jogashima. The skipper hadn't slept a wink yet and, seeing the marked strain on his face. I wondered just how far he could push himself without some rest. We ran on into the night with the main winged out to starboard and the Genoa out to port. Rigging the spinnaker was discussed but the skipper decided the wind was a little too strong. The swells were about four feet high around us, but we were running ahead of them as if the Kaz was a giant surfboard. 

By this time the crew was exhausted and it was beginning to show. The skipper relieved Fritz from the helm and let him rest. Jim Grolton and Joe Pussell were down below. Bill Snow was asleep on the cabin top lean­ing against the foot of the mast. I flipped on the compass light periodically calling off the readings to the skipper. After about seven hours at this break­neck pace, we saw what appeared to be a light on the horizon. The skipper timed the intervals of the flashing light and confirmed it as the lighthouse at Jogashima. Fritz took the helm but had to give it up because of his eyes playing tricks on him. We soon picked up other flashing buoys to confirmed our position. We were close to the end of the race. 

We were in the shipping lanes again and the skipper had the entire crew topside as lookouts. It was now about 0230 on the 22nd and we were still half an hour out. When we got close enough to the sea wall that led into the harbor the skipper had the main taken down and we sailed through the small opening in the wall with just the jib raised. Bill and Joe were up forward, ready with the heaving line and anchors. We brought her in at 0300 and dropped anchor. The jib was brought down and we went about securing the boat.

It had taken us a total of 29 hours to complete the race. We were all exhausted. While we bagged the sails and stowed lines, the skipper went ashore to report to the race committee to learn that we were the first boat in . We took off the life jackets and safety lines and relaxed for the first time since the race had started. 

We slept aboard until nine that morning and then got ready to leave for Yokosuka. We bent on the working sails, raised our bow and stern anchors and fell off on starboard tack under the bridge and Misaki point. The sun was out and the sea was running smooth. We took turns at the helm while the others slept. The leisurely cruise back felt good and gave us all a chance to get unwound. 

Joe Russell wrote a note with our names on it and the fact we had participated in tbe 1963 NORC Ocean race, sealed it in a bottle and tossed it over the side. 

We rounded Kennon-eeki lighthouse at 0430 and sailed for the Yacht Club. Two or three of the clubs boats came out to greet us and congratulate us on being the first boat in. One thing I must say is, it was an experience I will never forget.  I only hope that I will be in the next race in 1964. We had a beautiful boat, a good crew and the best as far as we were concerned for a skipper.

I found out at a later date that we had finished eighth in the final standings on corrected time due to the handicap, but they couldn't take away the fact that we were the first boat in!

Monday, October 29, 2012

The sailboat never offends the senses of fish, fowl or man.

Brigadoon and the air.

"To one who has turned lifeless materials into a thing alive and forced it to do his bidding against the resisting forces of nature in silence, without fuel and without defiling air or water, there can never be anything more wonderful than the sailboat. "The sailboat never offends the senses of fish, fowl or man. To make it move faster is to make it more a thing of freedom and beauty."
--Bernard Smith, "The 40-Knot Sailboat," 1963

That's all it takes, the puff of the breeze, driven by the heat of the sun, to give us the ability to slip the lines at the docks and cross Oceans.

We move silently, in concert with the water, the weather or engine, the sails our wings.

That is why I love sailboats. No noise, no pollution, no disruption, no discordance.  Just a boat, gliding across the waves, sliding trough the water, driven by something you cannot see.

The wind.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Race Your House 2012

Hi - this is Kerry.  We decided we'd write a dual post about our amazing day in the "Race Your House" race, sponsored by the Sloop Tavern Yacht Club.  My writing will be in normal and Donn will be posting in italics.  :-)

I've never been that much into competition for competition sake. I have found that 'winning' brings out aspects some people's personalities that I don't enjoy.  In short, some people, in order to 'win' turn  into assholes.  I don't like assholes.  While I have enjoyed pushing myself, be it in martial arts, on a motorcycle, or in a sailboat, I've never really sought racing, per se.  Oh yeah, I've teased Kerry that we'd sail Brigadoon in the local Seattle Duck Dodge (mostly just to hear her object), I was never really serious.

Do I like competing?  Well, yes.  If I'm in a boat and there's another nearby going in the same general direction, I'll be more than glad to see how I do against her.  I've done this on motorcycles and bicycles too.  There's nothing wrong with friendly competition.  It's the organized sort that I've tended to avoid.

However, Kerry sent the notice to the Race Your House announcement.  She actually wanted to do it and, well, who was I to deny her.  

I mentioned this on Cruising Anarchy and, rather quickly, my good friend, Bob Perry said, "I'll crew for you."

I was stunned.  Sure, Bob, you can 'crew' for me on a boat you designed.  The boat I have just outfitted with brand new sails.

So with that incentive, we were on our way to Race Your House.

Friday afternoon we set out from Lake Union to Shilshole around 2:45 pm in an effort to get under the bridges before they close down for rush hour at 4 pm.  We made it through both bridges and the locks and found a guest slip by 4:15 pm.  Had a nice dinner over at Ray's Cafe and got a good night's sleep.  In the morning, I cooked breakfast with some talented use of the spatula as a microphone in the process.

Kerry making Moonstruck Eggs.
While we were at Shilshole, I ran into a good friend of Bob's.  James has purchased Eclipse, a boat we had looked at originally, back in 2010.  Eclipse is an amazing boat.  It just wasn't what we were looking for.  James was interested in my Ultra anchor and my Strongtrack installation.  While he was over looking at that, we mentioned we were in the Race Your House regatta.  When he heard Bob was going to be there, he volunteered right away.  We had another crew member.

As our amazing crew gathered, we got the boat ready to go and I gave the composting head speech, the safety "We'd really like you to wear your PFD's" speech, and then got busy with the laptop inside the pilot house to make sure we could accurately navigate around the course once we knew what it was going to be.  We left the marina and headed toward the committee boat to check in and get the course layout.  This was my first sailboat race EVER, so I had a bit of trepidation, but I also knew we were in great hands with Bob Perry at the helm and James trimming the sails.  I hunkered down in the pilot house for the ride and tried to offer as much navigational support as I could.

The first downwind leg to Pt. Madison

Rounding the first point, off of West Point, was an eye opener.  I started to realize just how close we were going to be sailing to the other boats - as everyone tried to round the points as closely as possible and head toward the next one.  Made the first one just fine and headed north to Port Madison.  This was the slowest leg, as we only had 5 or so knots of wind.  "The calm before the storm" if you will.

Right off the bat, I made it clear that Bob and James could have the boat,  if they wanted.  They were driving her any way they wanted.  I wanted to learn from them.  To that end, I volunteered to work the bow.  That's right, I was the going to be the bowman on my own boat.  I wasn't even going to drive her or trim.   

Bob and James soon had a good idea of what Brigadoon could do with the new sails from Carol Hasse and her crew at Port Townsend Sails.  While we had a slow start in light airs, we soon discovered that we were second across the line with most of the fleet spread out behind us.

I'm bowman on my own boat.
I must say - Donn was amazing all day.  He had the rough job of being on the bow, helping the genoa through on the tacks, deploying the whisker pole, making sure lines didn't get caught up.  He was good about clipping in to our jack lines, which made me feel a lot easier about him being up there when the wind started picking up.

I will tell you, working the bow is hard work.  However, it's a good deck with high bulwarks.  My mid-line designed jack lines worked perfectly.  Sure, I had to step over them but, I sure wasn't going to forget they were there.  In at least one instance, when a jib sheet wrapped around my arm, while trapping my tether, I was close to being pulled overboard.  However, the crew heard me call to ease the sheet so I could get loose.  The tether and jack lines kept me at the center of the deck until I could sort it out.  I'm happy with the design.

Because Bob is driving.

Having Bob aboard was awesome.  He friggin' designed this boat!  So he knew her well, knew what she could do and was having fun rediscovering that.  As the race progressed, he seemed impressed at how she was doing.
I think Bob likes driving.

On our 2nd time on the north leg, Bob asked me to make him a sandwich (part of my job as crew), so I hustled below and got to experience sandwich making in our galley while on a pretty steep starboard tack.  Never has making lunch involved so many muscles, timing and adrenaline.   :-)   For the record, he seemed happy with the roast beef, mustard and hummus sandwich I was able to produce.

The best part about this was how much fun my friend had.  He and James worked like a well oiled machine.  They knew what needed to be done and, when we were on our first close reach, beating back towards West Point from Port Madison, I could tell Bob was having a great time.  It was awesome.

Brigadoon hard on her ear, beating back towards West Point.

Yeah - it was quite an experience having her rail in the water so much.  She seemed pretty dang solid.  However, I might have been swearing like a sailor a few times during this part....

Now the rail is completely buried!
Yes, it's not usually the fastest point of sail for any boat but Brigadoon seems happy with the rail in the water.  Her weather helm is controllable and she is stable as hell, galloping along like  some war horse headed for battle.  She seemed pretty damn solid and, if I may say, happy in heavy airs.   This boat was made for the tradewinds.

"Hey Ray, hold the boom out on this reach."

Having Ray on board was wonderful.  He was happy to be there, willing to help with whatever was needed, and seemed to really enjoy the ride.

Ray was a great addition to the crew.  He isn't very experienced but, he's smart, listens well and does exactly what you tell him to do.  I'm looking forward to sailing with him some more.

"We just might win this thing."
When I first spoke to Bob about this on the phone, we talked about what I wanted to do.  

"Bob, I just want to have fun.  It doesn't matter if we win or even do well.  I just want this to be fun."

"Well, it's not worth doing if it's not fun.  But it's nice to win too," he replied.

And that is exactly what he wanted to do.  On our broad reach/run from West Point to Port Madison, as we were rolling along at over seven knots, with the fleet arrayed out behind us, he said, "you know, we just might win this thing."

I believed him.  Then he really started pushing the boat.

"Puff ten seconds out....five....and...."

James brought a lot of experience and a great attitude.  His tactics were spot on.

James read every puff, every gust, trimming the main for all it was worth.  His skills were way above mine.  I learned a lot from how he handled the main, trimming for gusts and shaping the sail.  It was great to have him on board. 

Can we really get her to go?

With more than a little blood lust in their approach, they pushed and pushed Brigadoon. I did my job on the bow, Kerry did her job navigating in the pilot house, and Ray helped out all over the boat.  Soon, we were tearing along, close hauled, a little over seven knots -- upwind.  

Apparently, Yes!  Yes, we can!

Steady, steady...

So - there were 2-3 times when we were rounding points where we came REALLY close to other boats.  This was something I wasn't used to at all and it was pretty stress inducing.  I didn't get any pictures of those moments because, well, for a lot of it, I had my eyes closed until the scary part was over.  At one point, we were coming up to the buoy from the NW on a starboard tack.  Another boat, on a port tack, was heading for the same spot from the N.  Bob called out "STARBOARD" about three times to remind them we had the right of way... oh my god, until they finally veered away at the last minute, I was holding my breath and swearing all at the same time (it's possible, trust me!)  My adrenaline hasn't been that high in years.  It took me awhile to get my breath back again after we had safely rounded the point.

Then a little while later I heard Bob say, "Don't tell Kerry about that boat".  "WHAT BOAT?" I yelled, and turned to look out my port window just in time to see the full bow of another boat coming right at me.  We passed it's nose and it whizzed past our stern a couple of seconds later.  I actually tried to get the camera up for that one, but didn't have time.

Yeah!  That's it!

We did have fun - even me.  I loved feeling Brigadoon galloping across the Sound.  As Donn said, this was a taste of what it might be like out in the ocean in the trade winds someday...    fun to dream about that.

Now just keep going.

I felt useful, which was nice.  I wasn't sure if I'd really be that much help, other than staying out of the way, and making sure folks had food.  But yeah, James and Bob called on me quite a bit to help with our headings and check if we were on track toward each point.

Kerry was great.  She was crew in every sense of the word.  Bob and James depended on her for tracking our course, checking our leeway, and providing them with what they needed to decide when to tack, and how well we were doing regarding the course.
Meet, Ray.  Happy rail meat and all round great hand.

Head for the pin to maybe win.

We won 2nd in our class - missed 1st by 22 seconds (corrected time).  Donn will supply the details of all that, but I was really impressed with our boat and our awesome crew.  We kicked some serious ass out there.  Not sure I need to do this again, even annually, but I am happy and proud that we did it.  If nothing else, we had fun and proved to ourselves that we have a damn fine boat on our hands.

I was very happy with this day.  The only thing we broke was a tiny cordial wine glass.  Brigadoon held strong and sailed well.  My crew was awesome.  The best part, the best part of the day, was when Bob said this is the best time he's had in a long time.  It was great having him along.  I only wish that we had actually taken 1st and that he would have been there to help me accept it later that evening at the sloop tavern.

I learned a lot racing.  Bob says that if you don't race, you never know how hard you can push your crew and your boat and, someday, that might be an important thing to do.

Thanks to Bob and James for driving Brigadoon so well, to Kerry for her great navigation and cursing skills, and to Ray for being there to do anything he was asked.  

It was a great first time out and 2nd in class and, that ain't bad.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Port Townsend Sails: a followup on performance.

The new main, just bent on.

I have to say that, when I was considering new sails for Brigadoon (I won't say shopping as that implies getting a deal), I heard a lot about how to get inexpensive (cheap) sails. 

I did get some good advice to go with other lofts from people I trusted. Those were about quality and service for the most part. I appreciated that feedback.

When I posted my decision to a sailing group or two, including links to the above articles, the howls of protest and criticism of my decision were evident. Someone said I didn't need to spend that much money. Another said that I was denigrating the work of local sail 'lofts' who happen to farm their work out to Signapore or Phuket - "not that there's anything wrong with that". Another said I'd get a better deal (cheaper sails) if I went with loft X or loft Y.

Some people took my decision as some indictment of their business, personal preference, or their religion as far as I can tell. That's like saying I'm knocking a Hyndai because I decided my BMW Z4 suited my needs better. I'm not knocking anything. One meets my needs more than the other.
It's not about money or status. It's about getting the best quality for the money. 

By the way, I don't shop at WalMart either.

The simple fact is, we wanted the best sails we could afford. We wanted the loft and sail construction to be *local*. We wanted to be able to resolve problems in a short drive, not a six week turn around to the loft in southeast Asia. 

And that is why I chose Port Townsend Sails. I'm seriously happy with these sails so far and, our performance in the Race Your House event, along with the satisfaction and praise from Bob and James, tell me all I need to know about this decision.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

On Returning to the Real World

This is the sunrise that greeted us as we left Friday Harbor, departing the San Juan Islands at the end of our trip.  As I looked into the sunrise, with the still waters before us, I contemplated what the last few days have brought to us; what they have been about.

Our trip outward bound was filled with a sense of adventure, one that foretold of accomplishment, one of extending ourselves and our experience.  We were going to make the big crossing of the Strait of Juan de Fuca to Canada.  We were going to visit the first of the Gulf Islands.  We were going to another country on Brigadoon.  Our home, our shelter, our haven was taking us somewhere else; somewhere wonderful.  Somewhere we have never taken her, nor her, us.

We had worked our way from the wonder of Pender Island, the beauty of Poet's Cove and Otter Bay, to Stuart Island, Deer Harbor, then Friday Harbor.  Our Nexus cards, and all the preparation that they required paid off.  We literally cleared into the good old USofA by phone, in the middle of the Sound, on our way to Deer Harbor.

It was here, as we left Deer Harbor and Orcas Island, one of my most favorite places in the world, that it hit us.

We didn't want to come back.  Not ever.  We didn't want to come 'home'.  We were home.  We didn't want to return to Lake Union, to Seattle, to our J.O.B.s (hammer nails, collect paycheck), to all the mundane, work-a-day world that we have lived for forty-three and fifty-three years.

We got a taste of that going out, that seeking new places on Brigadoon and, to be honest, we didn't want to return.  There was a point, somewhere out there, somewhere on the trip, maybe between Pender and Stuart Island, where we turned to each other and said, "what if we just kept going?"

A good question.

What if we just kept going?

I've worked all my life at jobs that I didn't like, had to work, had to endure, for the pay, for my family, for to pay the bills, for...what?

Responsibility?  Yes, then, it was responsibility for my wife and two daughters.  Keeping up with the Jones's, who I don't even feel any sense of kinship?  For obtaining stuff?  Maybe yes, misguided though it may be.

No, this is about the Freedom Project.  It's about being Out There with Her, my lovely Kerry, on Bridadoon.

We have some time, to pay down debt (it's good Karma to keep your word, even to the robber barons of the banks and the credit card companies that prey on society), to settle our affairs, to clean up loose ends, to get ready.

To get ready.  I like how that sounds.  To get ready, for the rest of my life, whatever that may hold.

Today, I held a dear friend and said, "I'll have to say goodbye to you one day, you know."

She said, "I know."

But that is OK.

So, as we sailed into the sunrise, the early morning fire scorching the waters of the Puget Sound, we returned here, now.  We returned to continue our goal, our determined quest for freedom.

On that quest, there will be a day when Brigadoon passes the mouth of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, we turn left and can realize the answer to the question as we turn left, "what if we just keep going?"

Friday, September 7, 2012

Brigadoon's 2012 Summer Cruise

Posted Image

  • 300 nautical miles
  • 16 days
  • 10 ports
  • First Canadian crossing and back.
  • Deepest anchor to date 50+ feet
  • Fastest true boatspeed @8kts
  • Fastest GPS speed (tide helping) of @10+ kts
  • 30% sailing and 70% motoring is my guess -- winds started out great but calmed out the last week.
  • The new sails are great and the engine ran like a champ.
  • Longest passage under sail - Pt Townsend to Victoria.
  • Longest day on the water -- about 12 hours
  • First trip to the Gulf Islands, Victoria, Sidney, and San Juans by boat.

Highlights of the trip:

Perry Rendezvous: The trip there was great.  No hassles whatsoever.  We didn't have any failures in anything.  We had a great time there.  Kerry got to see a dingy she is enamored with (Portland Pudgy -- to which Bob responded with, "Ehhhhh!  It's nerdy. However, it has a certain dignity.")  I also had fun playing for the dinner crowd before the real band started up.  Pt. Ludlow marina staff are awesome. It was a blast.

Pt Townsend to Victoria:  We had a great crossing.  Our trip planning is really getting good.  Usually Kerry creates the route and I check it.  Sometimes I create the route and she checks it.  Either way, it's working out great.  We made the crossing on one port tack the whole way.  The only casualty was a smashed lamp globe and some paraffin oil on the pilothouse sole because things weren't secured properly.  That was my fault and a good lesson in rigging the boat for sail.  Winds were stiff and so were the seas but it was blast crossing the strait.  Our old autopilot worked really well too.  We spent a couple nights in Victoria.  It's a nice place and all, though we are unlikely to return by boat anytime soon.  The town is too touristy for us.  The marina staff was really friendly and helpful.

Victoria to Sidney:  Another great sail, where I also discovered I'm not correctly rigged to reef my mainsail.  That shouldn't be hard to fix.  I also got to rig Brigadoon to run wing on wing with a correct preventer on the boom and the Genoa poled out for the first time.  It worked great.  Sidney is a nice enough town and the marina was very clean. Two notes: they will put your 30 amp boat in a 50 amp slip then tell you you have to walk to the office and back for an adapter that they provide.  Then they will tell you you need Loonies for the showers and only give you one key to share between you for the Men's and Women's showers. They are very professional and a little brusque.  Did I mention that the marina docs are such that it's one very long walk to the office/showers and back?  It's even longer when you are beat from being on the boat all day and it's two trips because they don't tell you everything you need to know at first.  I'll chalk up my lack of patience to being tired, grumpy and needing a shower.  

I have to learn to rest on longer sails.  I walk and stand around too much.

Sidney to Poet's Cove on Pender Island:  We motored here in a couple hours.  This was our first Gulf Island.  Poets Cove is a bit resorty, but it's pretty nice.  Great restaurant, nice bar, spa, and docks.  The bay is really easy to access, the staff is great.

Poet's Cove to Otter Pay on Pender Island:  We motored there too under very light winds and the fact it was so short a distance.  The place is very nice, if a bit tight to get into.   Imagine the most beautiful little trailer park -- nice pool, great little store, nice staff, great buildings.  There are even the old guys, locals, sitting about in the morning, complaining about local politics.  We were entertained.

Otter Bay to Stuart Island (Reid Harbor):  on the advice of Boomberries (I think) we chose this over Sucia Island.  We didn't regret this a bit. Our Nexus cards worked great for returning back to the States.  As soon as we crossed the border, mid sound, and had good cell service, Kerry called Customs and, after a five minute phone call, we were cleared.  We sailed into Reid Harbor, picked up a buoy and had a great time hiking about this small island.

Reid Harbor to Deer Harbor on Orcas:  I've always wanted to anchor near Doe Bay but, there really isn't good shelter, so we picked Deer Harbor on the west end of Orcas.  It's a great place, with good docs, a great store, nice people and great service.  We even rented a convertible Mustang to run around Orcas for the day.  They deliver it right to you, with paperwork and keys, you drive it, and leave it where you found it.  It wasn't cheap but it was a great way for us to drive to Doe Bay and confirm that, indeed, you can anchor there.  We will do that next time, I think.

Deer Harbor to Friday Harbor: another motor but, a short trip and a great place to recharge and get ready to cross the strait again.  Our goal was back to Pt. Ludlow.  We left before sunrise to catch the tides and get a good push.  

Pt.  Ludlow:  There were no slips to be had so we decided to anchor.  The bay is pretty deep in most places to so we dropped the hook in 48 feet of water. It was our deepest set yet. It worked great, though the manual windless, dependable as it is, is a bit of work lifting 200' of rode and chain.

Pt Ludlow to home:  Motor again.  No wind. Our original plan was to overnight in Shilshole on Saturday night and hit the locks early Sunday morning, missing the madness that Monday would be.  As we approached Shilshole, ahead of schedule at 3:00, I asked Kerry about trying for the locks.  She said yes, so we went for it.  I joked that it would be a breeze: railroad bridge up, locks green and clear, Ballard and Fremont bridges opening right away.

"Sure," she said.  "Now visualize that lottery ticket too."

However...the railroad bridge was up, the small lock had just emptied out, and we were the first boat in.  As we left, two larger sailboats were ahead of us, coming out of the large lock and they managed all the bridge notifications.  I never dropped below my comfortable cruising speed of 4kts until we stopped at the dock.  It was great.

Lessons Learned:
  • When you are on passage, sit the hell down and relax -- fool.
  • *Eat* something goddammit!
  • Cross checking the charts worked great.
  • Trusting my safety officer worked out well.
  • My jacklines work really well.  I trust them.  The tether is easy to use.
  • Coastal Explorer navigation software is awesome.
  • My new NMEA 2000 network and Garmin GMI10 instruments are just as great.
  • I made assumptions about my reefing -- I was wrong.  I have to fix that.
  • I need a lot more practice working on deck and moving about.
  • Spending too many nights at marinas and eating in restaurants is expen$ive.  Next time, more anchoring out and eating in.
  • And finally...

Brigadoon is the right boat for us and Kerry is the best first mate I could ever want. 

More pictures and details of this trip to come...

Monday, July 30, 2012

Finally getting the hook dirty.

In "Hold Fast...", published back in March of 2012, I wrote about the process we went through to select a new anchor for Brigadoon.

The technology we purchased was pretty new and the anchor turned out to be a work of art.  It's a beautifully crafted stainless steel Ultra.  I didn't want a stainless steel anchor.  They tend to speak to me of dock queen boats, owned by less than experienced owners, who see such shiny anchors as an ornament rather than functional ground tackle.  This opinion is supported by stories of people returning ordered stainless anchors for their mega-yacht because they were scratched.  And anchor -- scratched.  Go figure.

Then again the Ultra only comes in stainless and, even though that adds to the cost, I was more interested in the design and how it performed.

We had the Ultra on Brigadoon's bow pulpit for six months before actually trying it out.  Oh, we made plans to do so.  We were going out one weekend, then the weather was only fit for selected species of arctic ducks. We'd go out another and spent the night on a dock instead.  We went out another weekend, into the sound, and were tempted by our friend's handy mooring ball.  We had yet to spend the night on a mooring ball, or to try out our cool new mooring hook, so no anchoring in Blakely harbor that night.  After hearing that I had this shiny new anchor our host insisted that, next visit, we must anchor.  I agreed.

However, the first chance to finally deploy the Ultra was on an overnight trip to Lake Washington.  It was a beautiful day, full of good breeze, warm sun, and a stated goal of not touching land for the entire weekend.  We met that goal in two ways.  We spent the first night on a mooring ball on the south end of Union Bay, just outside the Montlake Cut.  The water was very shallow there but we scooted in and, with the depth sounder screaming we only had 4 feet of depth -- it was fooled by the weeds, we were sitting on the ball in about 10' of water.

The next morning found us drifting along towards Juanita Bay, on the northeast shore of Lake Washington.  We were watching the weather forecast for wind direction.  Out plan was to ensure we were as protected as possible from wind and waves.  If the wind was out of the north, we'd anchor in Juanita Bay for the first time.  It it was out of the south, our plan would change to Cozy Cove, where we have spent the night before.

With the winds out of the south, we chose Cozy Cove.  On our way there we decided to have a nice dinner on shore.  This was our only time touching down on shore the whole weekend.  After a nice dinner at Carrilon Point, we cruised Yarrow Bay, then headed deep into Cozy Cove.

The last time we were there was for a raft-up with two other boats.  All of us sat on my single 45# CQR and 100 feet of chain.  We were also held in place by a monster stump that we ended up lifting out of the water when we tried to leave the next day.

This time, we were determined to avoid that stump again, and try out the Ultra.  There was much discussion in the cockpit, as Kerry and I decided where to drop the anchor. She had a very good memory of drifting towards shore, with a huge stump hanging from our CQR the last time.  This time would be different.  It would be more different than I expected.

As we did last time, Kerry was on the wheel in the cockpit while I readied the anchor on the bow.

Let me pause at this moment to admonish some of the male captains out there that send an often smaller, physically weaker person, forward while they yell instructions from the cockpit.  That is usually their wife or girlfriend.  I wish you would stop doing this.  It reeks of sexism, shows us now terribly much you need to be in charge, and makes being a captain look like a badge of douche-baggery, not one of responsibility.  Just stop it.  Stop it now.  If you don't trust her on the wheel, then teach her to handle the boat. An anchorage, especially if it's not crowded, is a great place to start.  You likely have almost twice her strength. She's got to be smart enough to learn to stop at one spot in into the wind and back the boat gently under power.  Now, where was I?

So there I was at the bow and Kerry on the stern.  The last time we did this the CQR, good anchor though it may be, ended up skipping along the bottom as Brigadoon backed like a drunken sailor, until the anchor hooked the stump.  Now, I will admit, that may be due to our inexperience that the CQR skipped along but, I've heard they are prone to that in some conditions.

We reached the agreed upon spot with Kerry at the helm.  She stopped us in place and gave me time to drop the Ultra.  The wind gently pushed us back while Kerry did her best, which turned out to be excellent, to back us downwind as I paid out chain.  In 20 feet of water, i wanted a 5:1 scope so, when I saw the 100 foot tag on the chain pass the bow roller and touch the water, I snubbed the chain.

Brigadoon had drifted slightly sideways at this point. She does that due to her cutaway forefoot on the keel.  I watched the chain as Kerry stood ready on the engine.  Soon, the chain started pulling up and, in one very definitive action, she swing directly towards the trip bouy we had set.  I mean, she settled, hard.

I went to the stern to see just how hard she had set.  Placing the engine in reverse I gave her a good burst.  We were very well placed. The chain pulled up and we didn't move one bit.  I felt confident we were well set and could settle in for the night, a wonderful night.  Brigadoon shook off the numerous wakes from the ski and wake boats that play in Cozy Cove most of the afternoon.

Our night was peaceful and secure.  When I'd wake at night I'd take a peek about and note we had not moved aside from some gentle swinging about on the light winds.  There is something special, almost magical, about sitting there, not attached to land, enjoying a nice dinner of hot pasta and fresh bread.

The next morning, after about 20 minutes pulling on our reliable manual windless, and cleaning a few bushels of lake weed off the chain, we pulled the Ultra free.

How to plow a lake bed.

There ya go.  She's finally dirty.

I think we made a good choice here.  The way this anchor set was much quicker than I have ever experienced with any other anchor.  It felt secure all night.  It was easy to retrieve.  It wasn't cheap but I think that, like most of our buying decisions, buying high quality is worth it.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012


I have a friend.  She has visited the boat the last few nights.  Last night, as a read on the dock, she sat two feet away, her bill tucked into her wings, her eyes closed, seemingly happy.

Oh, I have plied her with Cheerioes (tm) but there is a trustfulness about her.  I sit here, working on the new laptop/tablet and she shows up, behind me.

I've fed her twice today.  She doesn't get any more, but she doesn't leave.

It's good to have a ducky friend.

I call her Quackers.

Monday, July 2, 2012

And lo, for there were upgrades ... and maintenance.

Brigadoon, on the hard, at CSR boatyard.

It's been quiet because we've been busy.  The new sails are settling in, though we have had little time to seriously exercise them during the normal Seattle Juneuary (cold, little wind, not fun cloudy days).  That's just fine though.  It allowed us to take Brigadoon out of the water for a planned haul out.

The haul out was to redo the bottom paint, inspect the cutlass bearing (that is the bearing that supports the prop shaft as it exits the hull) and rebuild the stuffing box (the thing that keeps all that water out of the boat where the prop shaft enters).

There was also the matter of our electronics/navigation instruments, or the lack thereof.  Brigadoon came equipped with a rather rudimentary set of instruments.  There was a 25 year old depth sounder, with nixie tube display (look it up -- they used this type of display on the Apollo missions).  The knot meter was funky.  We had no real wind instrumentation.  So we started researching putting new stuff on the boat.

We did a lot of research and had some mighty plans for Brigadoon, which we ended up scaling down as necessary.

As I look at the systems on Brigadoon and my plans on going places in this boat, I have thought a lot about systems that I have, which ones need an upgrade, which ones I need to obtain, and which I need to junk.

I mean, I could load the boat up with the latest in chartplotter/radar/AIS/VHF/depth/fishfinder/watermaker/inverter/tv/vcr/dvd/blueray/blender/mcrowave/hot tub/etc/etc/etc

I could spend a fortune loading the boat with gadgets. I could also have to quadruple my battery bank to support them. I could get ridiculous with it. Or not...

So I'm looking at what is really necessary, what can be re-purposed, what can be used for dual purposes. The thing is, as you add one capability, you have to take into account the infrastructure to support it and then, maybe those things need additional infrastructure, etc, etc, etc....

It can be a long and winding road of this thing, supporting that system, requiring an upgrade of another and pretty soon you are so surrounded by what you *have to have* to support something maybe you really didn't need in the first place.

I understand this is blasphemy the manufacturers out there, who want us to consume their "marine grade" pens, pencils, log books, and toasters that they are very very proud of -- just look at the co$t. Well, I don't have to buy all their stuff just because it is shiny and new, because it was reviewed in the latest issue of SAIL, or I think I have to keep up with the Joneses when at anchor.

So every purchase is backed up by some questions.

Do I really need this?

Can this capability I'm acquiring be done another way -- especially one that is less costly?

Do I need additional infrastructure to support the shiny new thing and, how much is that going to cost?

What are the unintended con$equences (costs) of the addional infrastructure?

With those thoughts in mind we decided to haul Brigadoon, take care of some maintenance, and do a few upgrades.

The first was the haul out and bottom paint at CSR boatyard.

She needs new bottom paint, bad.

The prop didn't look too good either and, there is no zinc here.
While she was out, we also decided to make use of her "dryness" to take care of a possible worn cutlass bearing, and replace the old stuffing box with new packing. 

The stuffing box in an antiquated thing; technology a century old. It consists of a bunch of flax rope, soaked in paraffin, that is stuffed into a "packing gland" around the prop shaft.  It is supposed to keep most of the water out of the boat while allowing just enough to lubricate the spinning prop shaft.  There is a newer version of this technology called a "dripless seal" but, when doing my research, I found that it's failure mode is a little too catastrophic for my tastes.  You see, when an old style stuffing box fails, you just get more water.  When a "dripless" fails, you get a whole lot more water -- gushing water.  I like simple technology that is easy to maintain and repair over more complex technology that you have to replace to fix.

Since we are caught in the "while she was out" phase, we decided to have her hull polished too.  And this is what we got...

New bottom paint and polished hull.  
New paint, pretty as can be.
CSR did an excellent job with the bottom paint, repacking the stuffing box and polishing the topsides of the hull.  We are very happy with their work.

I will never be comfortable watching my eleven ton boat being hauled around like this.  I know they don't drop them but...
And they put her in the water nice and gentle.

We also decided to have this haul out allow us to replace her depth sounder and knot meter.  This was a perfect time to upgrade her navigation instruments.

This meant we could go with an all-new NMEA-2000 network on the boat.  This is extremely simple and useful.  The backbone powers all the instruments.  It allows every single NMEA compatible sensor, computer, instrument, antenna, to talk to each other and share information.

So we decided to go with the backbone, a new GPS antenna (hidden under the deck), new masthead instruments, depth sounder, knot meter, water temperature, air temperature, barometric pressure, wind speed, wind direction, three displays, and an interface to our laptop, which contains our navigation software.

All this was installed by Yacht Masters, which is located right near the boat.  They did an excellent job.  We are very happy with their work.

We have data!
In graph form too.

And one next to my bunk too so we can monitor the boat at anchor.
There is also a GMI 10 at the wheel in the cockpit.  It's great being able to display any data we want, at any location, and on the laptop too.  

This was a big bunch of maintenance and upgrades for us.  There is no doubt out capabilities are greatly enhanced.  They were well worth doing.

Now it's on to much smaller, less expensive projects, and to get some sailing time in this summer -- it's on August 22nd and 23rd, right?