riding home on the gale and some lessons learned
Monday, November 29, 2010 at 13:53
Eric in underway

Gale Warning FlagsWe sailed out of Two Harbors with a gale warning in effect. There were some strong gusts, and if any of those gusts get over 35 knots, the two red flags go up (a single red flag is a Small Craft Advisory). Primarily we dealt with 25-35 knot stuff throughout the night with some larger-than-desired swells, and in the morning it died to about 10-15 knots: positively charming.

For the most part we fared quite well. One thing that I realized is that the boat takes a real pounding in heavy weather, and not just the rigging. Our cabin is very handhold-friendly, but even with that, people and objects tend to go zinging about down below and when they do, they smash into things. It might be as simple as some chipped paint, or more serious like a door hinge getting ripped off the door (both happened). But when a hundred or two pounds of human being is thrown this way and that, there's a lot of inertia going on and it will hurt the boat.

But in summary, here are the things I learned from this trip of ours:

- The solar panels and batteries worked really well. They got a little knocked around in the wind, so a tighter mechanism of securing them needs to happen, but they really got put through the wringer and came out okay. If the forecast called for anything over 45 knots, I might pull them off and store them below. The charge they put out has been able to keep the batteries almost always in the 70%+ range, including during a few days of rather cloudy weather.

Eric & guest crew Mele- The new composting head has been great, although it certainly comes with its own learning curve. I will take it any day of the week over the standard marine head we had before.

- We need a self steering system, and I'm going for the Cape Horn. Without it, a passage becomes a grueling endeavor for a short handed boat especially as the weather strengthens. With a self steering system, a watch stander can perform sail trim, navigation, tidying up, and have a cup of coffee. All completely impossible in hand steering situations. It's good to know that everyone onboard is a qualified helmsman and can hand steer if needed, but subjecting a two person crew to port and starboard watch rotations is draconian. At ~$5,000 there's a reason we haven't placed one in yet (and the cheap electrical unit failed a while ago, as they do, which is why they're cheap), but honestly I don't want to do any more hand steering long passages. It's just not any fun.

- We need a "passable" method for showering on the boat, below decks. I can stand to take cockpit showers using our rather cool shower-bug-sprayer-thing, even with the cold weather. And hell, maybe once a in blue moon Charlotte might have to as well. But whatever the mechanism, we need a workable below decks shower arrangement. We have a sort of shower stall in the head which drains into a separate sump, so that part is taken care of. And we have the bug sprayer thing, so we have pressure and can make hot water easy enough (either leave it out in the sun or add 1/3 hot water from the stove). So I think it's just going to come down to a seat of some sort, and making sure we're not soaking any wood or causing mildew problems.

- The handheld VHF clipped to a fishing rod holder in the cockpit is nicer than the fixed mount mast head version. If you need the distance, use the ship's radio, but if you want to lower the obnoxiousness level, use the handheld for most of your needs. We have an Icom M72 that really proved its worth. A good 60 hours of so of operation on a single charge, and it's still over half way on the battery.

- A water maker is in the cards for us. We're pretty delicate with our water use and can get about two weeks and some change on a single tank, not refilling via rain or portable tanks. When you can pull up to a dock and drop a garden hose in (for free) and sit there for two hours while it fills the tank, life is good. But when adding 100 gallons of water means lugging twenty 5 gallon jugs, or three five gallon jugs six times (which is what it would take for us to fill our tank), it's not a lot of fun. Part of the reason I wanted to hold off on the water maker was to see how much spare solar juice we have, and it looks like we'll have enough to desalinate water, even if its just ~5 gallons a day or so. 

- I want to get us a reacher or drifter sail. We're far too heavy to make way with our working sail configuration in light air, and the amount of diesel use is higher than I'd like. We need a standard mechanism for light air, and a hankless drifter (or reacher, with a cuff) might just be the ticket for us. They pack small, make for a comfortable ride, and can mean the difference between the engine or sailing. Especially true for those of us in southern California, or any area with tragically light air.

- The diesel heater will not be used underway. Sometimes it's great, and sometimes a gust comes along during a tack choking the cabin full of smoke. 

- SCUBA gear really helps, although you can rent the pricey stuff (full suit / tank / bc / reg). For changing out zincs and cleaning the bottom, you need sufficient time down there to do rather intricate attachments.

- Bring disposable chafe gear. Pieces of thick leather you can cut to whatever shape you need. You don't know in advance what type of mooring arrangements you might end up in, or where the cafe will happen. Be flexible and be ready to add some leather or firehose anywhere. You can buy a lot of leather cheap, especially since for chafe applications remnants and less-than-beautiful pieces are fine.

Article originally appeared on Rebel Heart (http://www.therebelheart.com/).
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