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?