Thursday, July 30, 2009

Ketch? Sloop? Schooner??

If you're not in the sailing world, you've probably heard these words, but you maybe don't have a clear definition in mind for them - they are vaguely "sailing terms". Or maybe you thought a schooner was a container for beer.

No need for you to feel that vague unease any longer! Here are the three most common sailing rigs you are likely to encounter on the water.


The simplest rig, a single mast. It is held in place with a forestay (which keeps the mast from falling over backwards), a backstay (or sometimes two - keeps the mast from falling over forward), and an assortment of shrouds attached to the sides of the boat to keep the mast from falling over sideways.

The sloop carries two sails as "working sails" - that is, the primary sails (I am not going to talk about spinnakers, reachers, screechers, asyms, etc): the mainsail, and the jib. The mainsail is attached at it's leading edge (the "luff") to the mast, and at its foot, to the boom. The jib's luff is attached to the forestay, and it is controlled only with a line to its aft corner (the "clew").


Some would argue that this is a modification, rather than a rig in its own right. A cutter has an additional forestay, mounted lower on the mast and behind the forestay on the deck. A sail has its luff attached to this inner forestay and either has a small boom (club-footed) or not. This sail is called a staysail - it helps to accelerate the airflow between the jib and the mainsail. It is also a useful sail in high wind, when the jib is too big to use.


A ketch is a two-masted boat. The important distinguishing characteristic is that the shorter mast (the mizzen mast) is the aftmost one.

Because there is no way to attach a forestay to the mizzen (it would interfere with the mainsail), the mizzen mast either goes without (in which case the forward shrouds are brought as far forward as possible), or a stay (the triatic stay) connects the top of the mizzen mast to the top of the mainmast, thereby relaying its load to the forestay. There is no backstay for the mizzen, therefore the aft shrouds are swept back as far as possible. On the other hand, since there is no jib on the mizzenmast, there is little forward load on the mast (leaving mizzen staysails out of the discussion).

The combination of the mizzen and the staysail is particularly well-suited to heavy weather, since it keeps the boat balanced with reduced sail area.

Eolian is a ketch, with a triatic stay. Well, technically, she is a cutter-ketch, since she also has an inner forestay and a staysail. Yes, that means we can fly 4 sails. That first picture is Pau Hana (also a Downeast 45, since destroyed in one of the recent Florida hurricanes) - sadly, I don't have any pictures of Eolian with all her sails up.


Like a ketch, a schooner is a two- (or more) masted boat. But with a schooner, the two masts are of equal size, or the forward mast is shorter.

Here is another Downeast 45, Reward which is schooner-rigged. The angle from which this picture was taken shows how well the rig delivers the cumulative slot effect (what that means will have to be the subject of another post, about how sailboats actually work).

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Power of Imagination

It is hot in Seattle (at least by Seattle standards). So, as a public service, please imagine this... It is 38 degrees, the wind is blowing at 25 kt, and it is raining.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Project: Folding Companionway Closure

Project from 2002

Because of the design of Eolian's companionway, there was no way for the factory to put a door there - just the sliding overhead hatch and the weather boards. This is a problem. Putting in and taking out the weather boards as a regular means of entry and egress in the winter when the companionway needs to stay closed for heat retention is very impractical. The previous owner addressed the problem by making a panel which filled the companionway opening and which was hinged to the underside of the sliding hatch. After long study and lots of beer, I concluded that indeed this is the best solution to the problem. Unfortunately, the execution by the previous owner left very much to be desired. Although he used teak plywood, it was apparently cut with dull sabre saw, and was never finished in any way. Then, the hardware was all plain steel stuff, which rusted badly (pix 1). Finally, when the small vent he installed in the middle of the swing panel proved to let in too much cold air in the winter, he simply glued a scrap of Plexiglas over the louvers with silicone.

So - with the approach settled, the initial steps in building a new swinging door were removal and refurbishment: The old steel hardware was removed and the resulting holes dutched in with small pieces of teak. The companionway opening was stripped, sanded and refinished. The hinged panel was removed from the sliding hatch, and the hatch was rebuilt and refinished. As a part of this, custom plastic slides were cut (from Jane's cutting board - she got a new one out of the deal) and partially inlet into the wood sliding surface of the hatch. This was a necessary first step, since it was my intention to significantly tighten up the tolerances used in the previous design. And the plastic will outwear the wood by orders of magnitude (thus keeping the hatch at a constant height above the deck), as well as making it much easier to slide.

We bought a 9' teak 1x4 ($55 - this stuff is not cheap), and cut from it the 4 pieces to form the frame for the new swinging panel. These pieces were carefully custom-shaped to make the proper angles at the corners (all 4 are different) and to fit the opening with a total design clearance of 1/8" (that is, 1/16" on each side). Tenons were fashioned on the ends of the top and bottom pieces - next mortises were made in the side pieces to accept these tenons. A 3/8" rabbit was cut into the inside edge to accommodate glazing (which will be trapped with a small finish molding). This was all done with table saw and router.

The mortises were cut (by hand, with a 1/4" chisel, to a depth of 1.5 ") in the stiles of the new companionway door, and the door was then glued up with epoxy. Then two small glides/slides were made to stabilize the door in the center of the companionway opening (from Jane's cutting board again). And a shim to mate the stainless piano hinge to the crowned underside of the sliding hatch.

Finally, the door got multiple coats of varnish, and was glazed with a piece of 3/16" Plexiglas, bedded in polysulphide. And the 1/4" quarter round that I made from the teak scraps was used to finish the inside. Finally, a brass handle was mortised into the top edge on the inside to provide a way to pull the door open from the inside.

This was a very difficult project from a design standpoint. At seemingly each step of the way, there were at least 4 ways to build a door that would not work, carefully hiding the one way to make one that would. I feel very lucky to have negotiated this minefield successfully.

Friday, July 24, 2009

I love this time of year!

I sat on the deck, back against the lifeboat and facing west. It was warm and calm. I had my guitar, a big glass of wine, and a spectacular sunset. Still playing with the same set of chords, until my fingers said, "Stop!"

Really - does it get any better than this?

Thursday, July 23, 2009

In Motion

Eolian is big and she is heavy. She has a huge amount of lateral area in the water that makes it difficult for her to roll back and forth, because that requires sweeping that area back and forth.

Nevertheless, she is always in motion. On the calmest day, early in the morning when the water in the marina is a sheet of glass, if you watch that hanging kerosene lamp over the dinette table, you'll see it swinging, ever so slightly.

When you live aboard, that motion gets built into your world view - it quite literally disappears from your conscious perception. But it is still there, in some more primitive part of the brain, a part which communicates upward only poorly, and then only by coloring your consciousness with vague feelings.

When I sleep ashore, for example, I find it difficult to fall asleep. There is something vaguely wrong... for lack of a better explanation, the bed feels "dead". It takes several days for this discomfort to fade.

But it takes no time at all to re-accommodate when coming back aboard.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Incredibly blessed

As I took my shower yesterday evening, getting ready for work today, I gazed out the port in the aft head at this view. And I realized, once again, how incredibly blessed we are to be able to live like this.


Sunday, July 19, 2009

Annual Maintenance: Brightwork, step 3

This morning was perfect varnishing weather. It was dry enough where there was no dew, so I was able to start varnishing very early - while the wood was still cool, and before there was any wind.

I got coat #3 on the port side (shown) and coat #2 on the starboard side. That's it on the port side - it's as good as it is going to get for this year. Tomorrow, I'll get the last coat on the starboard side., and then the caprail will be done for another year.

To keep from going to seed this afternoon, I'll pull the tape off of the port side.

So far, the day's entertainment has been next door. Curtis dropped a key in the water, and so donned his diving gear to retrieve it. Following that, since he was already in the water, he cleaned our speedo transducers and his prop.

Then there was beer.

And then red wine and enough guitar so that I should have quit long ago (at least that what my fingers tell me). I hope the neighbors aren't getting too tired of me working on variations of C, Am, Am7, Bb, F and G. Those of you who know me (and know music) will recognize that as a departure from the blues.

At least I'm playing inside.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Annual Maintenance: Brightwork, step2

"Your eyes are bigger than your stomach."

Did your mother ever tell you that? Mine sure did. And I wish she could have said it to me when I published, for all the world to see, a wildly ambitious plan for today.

No way.

I started in as soon as the sun had dried the dew, sanding with 150. I sanded, and I sanded, and I sanded. By 4 PM, I had done the whole caprail. And my arms felt like (feel like) lead. There was just no way that I was going to pick up another project. For one thing, the aft deck is already a mess, with the things that have to be gotten out of the way in order to get at the caprail.

It was windy at 4 PM, but not terrible, so I decided to try varnishing. I got a coat on the port side, but by the time I got to the stern, it was blowing 15-20 kt, and the vanish was drying 1/8" behind the brush.

So, I declared the day over, popped a beer, and fired up the grill for a cheeseburger.

And now, I'm blogging :)

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Annual Maintenance: Brightwork, step 1

Well, I realize that this brightwork isn't actually all that "bright" - it has too many layers of varnish on it. Three coats per year, for the 11 summers we have been caretakers of Eolian. One these years, we are going to have to "wood" it (take off all the varnish and start over). But not this year - there isn't time. In fact, I have been running behind all year due to the bowsprit replacement.

So far in the evenings this week, I have taped off all of the caprail and the lower "feature strip" - all the way from the bow on the port side to the bow on the starboard side. I have used about 2 1/2 rolls of tape so far. I also need to do the cockpit coaming cap this year. And instead of being out there taping, I am in here blogging and drinking a beer. Whose fault is that?

We use the Scotch #2080 blue tape - it goes on easy, but more importantly, it will come off easy next week, after baking in the sun - even if it gets rained on (perish the thought).

The hardest part is taping the side away from the dock. To do it, I put the dinghy in the water and work from it. But it is an exquisite platform for teaching basic physics principles: every time I apply pressure on the tape going onto the boat, the dinghy slides away from the boat. So it is a constant battle: apply some tape, pull the dinghy back, apply some tape, pull the dinghy back. I spent an entire evening doing the work from the dinghy (starboard side and the stern), and I was sore afterward. From fighting the physics teaching platform.

Tomorrow, I tape the cockpit coaming, and then I start the sanding. Yes, it all needs to be smoothed out and roughed up... I use 150 grit for this first trip around the boat. If I am forced to miss a day between coats (if it rains, perish the thought), then I need to go back and resand everything again to allow for at least a physical bond between coats, if I can't have a chemical bond. For this return sanding I use 220 grit.

But for now, I'm going to finish this beer.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Destination: Deception Pass

If you arrived here by searching for a chart, please see this page.
Deception Pass is a narrow little cut between the North end of Whidbey Island and the South end of Fidalgo Island. It may be small, but the tidal flow thru it is prodigious. And, unlike Agate Pass or the Tacoma Narrows, the flow is turbulent, disorganized.

There is no way we could possibly attempt to go thru Deception Pass against the tide. But because of the turbulence, we will not attempt it with the tide either. A friend of ours who used to be here on G dock did attempt Deception Pass with his 60' power boat. He had the power it took to stem the tide at the height of the flood, and was feeling pretty good about the transit when suddenly the boat entered an eddy, and he was heading straight toward the shore at a high rate of speed. The only thing that saved him, he said, was that another eddy then spun him back the other way.

So, we transit Deception Pass only at slack tide. And we really, really try to time things so that when the slack ends, the beginning flow is in the direction of our travel, because otherwise we would soon be overpowered and spit back out the way we came like a watermelon seed.

This tight timing means that a place to wait nearby for the slack to arrive is needed. Eastbound (transit at low slack), we find that Bowman Bay is ideal. It is part of Deception Pass State Park, and is a lovely anchorage. There are state park buoys there too. I'm not sure I'd want to be there with a strong SW wind tho.

In the Westbound direction (transit at high slack), many boats wait in Coronet Bay, just inside the Pass itself. But we find Coronet to be a tad shallow, so we wait at Hope Island. The island too is a state park, and there are are buoys on the North shore. It is also possible to anchor here, but the tidal current can be significant. We spent the longest night of our boating career anchored in the little narrow channel of deeper water on the South west shore. Tidal current figured prominently in our lack of sleep that night.

The passage up the inside of Whidbey Island and out thru Deception Pass is used by many boaters as a way to avoid a rough weather crossing of the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The Pass opens at the Southern end of Rosario Strait, almost directly across from both Lopez and Thatcher passes, entrances to the San Juan islands.

(These pictures show a Westbound transit. As always, they are thumbnails - click on any one of them for a full-sized version)

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Dolphin

Tonight, Scott asked, "Where is the dolphin?"

I have to report that there was some corrosion where the bolts went thru him to hold him on the bowsprit and beakhead. He is brass, so he corrodes very quickly when the metal is bare. So he is still in the shop, awaiting time for me to strip the varnish off of him and recoat him. We miss him too, but getting him back on the bowsprit is a lower priority than other items.

Sunday, July 12, 2009


There is lightning and thunder outside right now... yes, right here in Seattle! For those of you in far away and exotic places like the midwest, a single clap of thunder in Seattle will bring out all the news reporters, with breathless eyewitness accounts of the event, on all the channels.

As I sit here typing this, I am less than three feet from a 65 foot tall aluminum lightning rod, and fervently hoping that it doesn't strike here.

One time in Wisconsin on Green Bay, we were tied up at a marina where lightning struck a boat (not ours - we had the shortest mast in the marina). The sound was deafening, and afterward there were pieces of masthead instrumentation on the dock. It was comforting to be the shortest mast.

We no longer have that comfort. Tho we are not the tallest mast in the near vicinity (I think Wind Dancer gets that honor), we are definitely vulnerable to a strike.

I am very happy that we are in Seattle where lightning is a newsworthy event, rather than in Miami or Indiana.

Still, there is thunder out there...

Friday, July 10, 2009

Crab Party!

Last night, several boats combined their crab catches from the afternoon and we had a dock crab party. There was an amazing total of 5 gallons packed full of crab - yeah, that's right... a 5 gallon plastic bucket packed full of crab. Scott and I split the cooking chore and Curtis made grilled corn on the cob. It was an absolute feast!

Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately), my hands were too greasy to take pictures.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

I Love It When A Plan Comes Together!


The Plan worked! We've come out of the San Juans several times, but this is the first time we have hit the tide right all the way... back to Seattle! We rode the ebb out of Lopez Sound, to Smith Island, where it died at slack water. We kept powering toward Admiralty Inlet, and sure enough, we soon began picking up a knot, then two, then... At some points we were making nearly 10 knots over the ground! The only error I made was going a little too far East on leaving Smith Island, so that we got out of the flow for a while.

The wind was mostly uncooperative. We powered the whole way, but we were able to take advantage of the wind perhaps 30% of the time to augment the engine. It was a looonnngg day - We left Center Island at 09:30, and arrived here in Port Madison at 20:15. Yes, we went all the way, bypassing Port Ludlow - we were making 9+ knots as we passed there, and it seemed a shame to waste that. Yes, we were exhausted.

So, we are here. Resting. We'll cross the Sound tomorrow and tie up in Shilshole, hose the salt off the boat, and see what's been going on in the world for the last two weeks...

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Tide and Timing


We are getting ready for the homeward push. Once again, we are anchored behind Center Island in Lopez Sound. Now here's the timing bit.

We will need an ebb tide to give us a ride out of Lopez Sound and down into the Strait of Juan de Fuca. But an ebb tide will prevent us from entering Admiralty Inlet, so we want a flood tide for the trip on the South side of the Strait. In other words, we want to see low slack (tide at its low point) at about the center of the Strait. Paying attention to the tidal current now, instead of the tide, we need to be at Smith Island (at about the center of the Strait) at about 12:00. Other than considering the tremendous inertia of the water streams, I cannot explain how the tidal current and the tide can be out of sync. But they frequently are.

In the past, we have gone behind (to the East of) Smith Island, and had difficulties. Looking at the various current tables last nite, we discovered that apparently behind Smith Island, a gyre forms. I guess this is not surprising, when you consider that the water coming down the Strait has to divide and part go North thru Rosario Strait, and part go South thru Admiralty Inlet. Smith Island is apparently the knife that splits the stream, and behind it, all is chaos. So this time, we will go to the West of Smith Island.

Paying attention to the tidal current is important for us - we make 5 knots or so in still water under engine power, and maybe 7-8 knots under the most favorable conditions for sailing. At the entrance to Admiralty Inlet, we have seen tidal currents in the 5 kt range. Yes, that means that at full throttle, we are essentially stationary in the flow, burning diesel and going nowhere, if we are going against the tide. Going with the tide, we could make 10 knots.

So, figuring out boat speed, and factoring in the loss of a knot or so due to headwind, and adding in the expected help from the ebb tide, we need to leave here at 09:30. Ish.

Timing is everything.

Sunday, July 5, 2009


Indian Cove was wonderful. But eventually, the urge to be some place different overtakes us, and so we moved. It was a short trip, just around the corner to Parks Bay, just across San Juan Channel from Friday Harbor.

Parks bay is a delightful, close little cove, with room for perhaps a dozen boats or so. Anchoring is good here, and especially so in the very back. The little bight in the SW corner is full of pilings tho, and you should anchor there only after careful exploration with a dinghy, at low tide. Presently, there are some escaped dock segments tied to some of the pilings, making wonderful places for small boats to tie up (and clearly marking the pilings). This time, we rowed around in the dinghy and I marked the piling locations with my hand-held GPS (all except one, which we couldn't locate for sure, darn it!). I had made a hand-drawn map of the pilings at an earlier visit, when we had a -3 tide, so this served as the reference.

We took a wine cruise on the evening of July 3, and another on the evening of July 4. Jane made the July 4 one special - she had found a frozen shrimp cocktail plate, complete with the red cocktail sauce, and she had it stashed away in the freezer. So we took white wine and made a wonderful time of it. We drove out to near the mouth of the bay and then drifted all the way back, munching and sipping. It was perfect - we need to keep some of these frozen shrimp cocktails aboard! The bar has been raised.

There was no phone coverage and no internet in Parks. For phone, we had to dinghy out to the mouth of the bay where Friday Harbor was visible. I wasn't going to take the laptop out in the dinghy, so we had another few days with no internet connectivity.

The July 4 fireworks were a bust for us. Others in the anchorage took their dinghies out to the mouth of the bay to see the Friday Harbor ones (which sounded spectacular), and then the Roche Harbor ones following, I had already pulled our dinghy up for the night. While the man-made fireworks were a bust, the Divine ones were more than spectacular, both evenings.

We are now tied to the dock at Friday Harbor. The NOAA forecast for tonight has 20-30 kt winds howling thru the area, and while we were stewing about where we should move the anchor in Parks Bay to best hide from the wind, it finally occurred to me that the only prudent thing would be to be tied to a dock. So we drove across San Juan Channel to a dock, civilization, internet, shopping, and a brew & burger at the Front Street Ale House brewpub up the hill in town.

Plan B

On Wednesday, the wind came up something fierce, from the NW... there were whitecaps in Blind Bay! Our anchor held (it has held in far worse than the 15-20 kt we were seeing), but the motion was uncomfortable. Besides, we had been here two days and it was time to go somewhere new.

So we hoisted anchor and drove into th teeth of the wind up into West Sound on Orcas, which is aligned in a NW-SE direction, and which lines up almost perfectly with Blind Bay. The plan was to check out Kaiser Bay, Clapps Bay, or finally at the very head of the Sound, an anchorage behind Skull Island, hoping to find something where the NW shore would provide some protection from the wind.

No luck. The farther NW we got, the stronger the wind became. Finally, at Skull Island, we were seeing a constant 22 kt. This plan was not working.

It was time for Plan B. We turned around, killed the engine and hoisted the yankee. It was a great downwind sail. Plan B was to get as many islands between us and the wind as we could. Interestingly, the wind came out of a clear blue sky, dazzling the water. Oh, and the views here in the San Juans are dominated by Mount Baker - anywhere you have an Eastern view, it looms big and white.

Plan B took us to Indian Cove, on the SE shore of Shaw Island.

Indian Cove is a new anchorage for us. Note: When entering Indian Cove from the North, do not try to go between Canoe Island and Shaw to make a short cut. That little passage is strewn with rocks. You might see someone with local knowledge go thru there, but unless you have it, don't try it. The bottom in Canoe Cove is mud, and shoals very gradually, at least on the Southern two thirds. There is plenty of room in here, and it is a great anchorage in a northerly.

The southern half of the shore is a county park, and has a great sand beach. From the beach, Eolian almost looks like she is anchored off of Canoe Island. It was hot on the beach, but we enjoyed stretching our legs a bit.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009


Well, here we are in Blind Bay, on the North side of Shaw Island. And here we are with no internet connectivity! But it's OK - I can quit using the Internet anytime I want. Really. I can! Umm... I just don't want to right now.

I can't blog, so I am writing this entry in a text editor and I will post it when we get somewhere where I can.

After a night of rest, we motored up here from behind Center Island and dropped the anchor in 18 feet of water in the very back of the Bay. This is a great anchorage - it is large enough to be uncrowded, yet small enough to be protected. The bottom is mud, which our Bruce anchor likes very much and hangs onto tenaciously. There is a small island guarding the entrance of the Bay called (in an amazing coincidence) Blind Island, which is a great place to explore. It is directly across Harney Channel from the ferry dock on Orcas, at the town of (wait for it...) Orcas. You can camp on the island, but only if you arrive on a human-powered craft - that is, by kayak or canoe. (Paddling over from your parents' boat does not count.)

The ferry dock on Shaw is no longer run by the nuns, nor is the store (it was always a kick to see a nun in full habit, with an orange life preserver/vest, directing traffic off of the ferry). But it is still really funky and cute, and is a great place to go for a bowl of ice cream on a hot day.

We spent two days here, and accomplished two boat projects in that time (because our Calvanist background won't let us just read all day or something). The first was completing the wiring of the new GPS, by providing a wire entrance thru the cockpit coaming. I used a forstner bit to make a large but shallow flat-bottomed hole, and then used a smaller one to make a hole inside the first, leaving a shoulder. Finally, I drilled the rest of the way thru with a 3/8 bit. Then I epoxied in a flanged bronze bushing. This is the same technique that I used to make the peg locating holes for the backrests a couple of years ago. It makes a nice finished looking hole that will not wear out and enlarge with use.

I have no pictures of the second project. I rebuilt the aft head. Did you really want pictures of that?

(We are now in Indian Cove, on the SE corner of Shaw Island, hiding from the 20 kt NW wind. I have the flakiest internet connection ever - I am talking to a linksys - what else? - router over a mile and a half of water. )
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