Oct 122012
 

One big mast, one big sailAlright, it’s time for some updates. The last two and a half months on Clearwater have been incredibly full. Lots of beautiful sailing up and down the Hudson, visits to the city, a festival here and there, and lots of teaching. I can’t believe it, but my contract is more than half over, and my planning for next steps is in full swing.

I found out while I was in Tasmania that I’m eligible for what they call a working holiday visa. I didn’t know about this visa when I went. Everyone should know about this! If I had I’m sure I would have applied for it and worked (rather than volunteered) during my time there. This 12 month visa is available to people with undergraduate degrees up to and including the age of 30, and allows them to seek temporary employment, spending no more than six months in each job. The idea is to facilitate cultural exchange between participating countries by making it easier for young people to visit.

Outboard practice in Tas.So, with a partner in Tasmania, a closing window of eligibility for this visa, and some Tasmanian qualifications, I’m planning on returning to the apple isle again in the New Year. My most exciting prospects for jobs in Hobart are working on a sight-seeing boat as a tour guide, running boats at a fish farm, and working on research vessels for UTAS or CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency. My goals for my next job are to get a lot of experience handling a small boat, or work on a boat with some scientific overlap, be it field observation or research.

Hopefully Iain and I will also have time to do some travel around the mainland, see some of the outback and the great barrier reef…maybe even another trip to New Zealand? A transit by sea is of course also in the world of possibilities. Right now I’m still in the planning stages, but I’m getting excited for a return to such a beautiful place.

Wineglass Bay, just one of the many gorgeous spots I'm looking forward to visiting again on my return to Tasmania.

Wineglass Bay, just one of the many gorgeous spots I’m looking forward to visiting again on my return to Tasmania. Photo by Iain.

Aug 192012
 

When I was on Windeward Bound, I had an idea to post about all of the little innovations and solutions I saw on Winde for problems or annoyances I’d experienced on other boats. Things got busy and I never got around to it, but I’ve had the same thought about Clearwater after seeing so many clever improvements to old designs. Here are some shots of the best new twists on old ideas. I think the gem of the bunch is the leak-free butterfly hatch.

Dorade boxes: A dorade box is a very cool invention itself. It allows ventilation below decks without letting rain and spray in. These are the first I've seen with clear "roofs", allowing light below decks in addition to fresh air.

Dorade boxes: A dorade box is a very cool invention itself. Below the "trumpet" is a hole in the box, offset from the visible one in the deck, allowing ventilation below decks without letting rain & spray in. These are the first I've seen with clear "roofs", allowing light below decks in addition to fresh air.

Butterfly hatches: These beautiful contraptions are found on so many traditional boats. They also let light and air below decks, but I've never met one that doesn't leak. This is the most elegant and effective solution to butterfly hatch leaks I've ever seen. This looks to be a piece of 2" bronze pipe cut in half and set into the frame just below the hatch hinges.

Butterfly hatches: These beautiful contraptions are found on so many traditional boats. They also let air and light in below decks, but I've never met one that doesn't leak. The butterfly hatch on Clearwater doesn't leak! This is the most elegant and effective solution to butterfly hatch leaks I've ever seen. This looks to be a piece of 2" bronze pipe cut in half and set into the frame just below the hatch hinges.

Scrolling map: Switching between large-scale and small-scale charts is always a nuisance, but traveling up and down a river makes for a lot of chart changes.

Scrolling chart: Switching between large-scale and small-scale charts is always a nuisance, but travel along a river requires a particularly frequent change of charts.

Clearwater crew of years past constructed this scrolling chart by cutting and taping the necessary charts together to get them all the way from Albany to New York City without a chart swap.

Clearwater crew of years past solved the problem by cutting and taping the necessary charts together and binding the final product into this scrolling frame to allow them to get all the way from Albany to New York City without a chart swap.

 

Impermanent Chafe Gear: Chafing on lines, especially dock lines, is always a concern. On every boat I've been on, the issue was addressed with old fire hose cut into pieces and sometimes sewn around loosely, sometimes taped securely to the most chafed areas of line. Inevitably, chafe gear gets stuck in fair-leads or doesn't end up in the place it was meant to be.

Impermanent Chafe Gear: Chafing on lines, especially dock lines, is always a concern. On every boat I've been on, the issue was addressed with old fire hose cut into pieces and sometimes sewn, sometimes taped to the most chafed areas of line. Inevitably, chafe gear gets stuck in fair-leads or doesn't end up in the place it was meant to be.

On Clearwater, there is an additional challenge of a new dock with different chafe points every night. I think their solution is every bit as valuable on boats with a home port. They have a big bag of chafe gear that gets attached to chafe points after every sail. This ensures strong, happy dock lines with minimal wear every time.

On Clearwater, there is an additional challenge of a new dock with different chafe points every night. I think their solution is every bit as valuable on boats with a home port. They have a big bag of chafe gear that gets attached to chafe points after every sail. This ensures perfect placement of chafe gear every time, for happy, wear free dock lines.

Feb 182012
 

It’s amazing how time flies. We have worked our way through our 10 day maintenance period, and finally have a couple of days off. Yay! As promised, here is a little explanation about what we’ve been doing to our yard and foot-ropes over the last several days.

The yard extends from both sides of the mast, with a foot-rope hanging from each "arm"The yard extends from both sides of the mast; a foot-rope hangs from each “arm”

First off, a yard is a horizontal piece of wood that holds up a square-sail, and a foot-rope is a piece of steel cable that is attached at both ends of the yard, and hangs down from it. While sailors work aloft, we “stand” and balance on the foot-ropes.

As you might guess, that steel cable could become vulnerable to oxidation, being out in the elements all of the time. In order to prevent them from rusting, sailors have been worming, parceling and serving those cables (which also happen to be used for shrouds, stays and other standing rigging) for generations.

Down-rigged foot-ropes with intact servingsDown-rigged foot-ropes with intact servings

For this project, we did not worm, which is the process of laying tarred nylon line into the grooves between strands for the length of the cable in order to keep out moisture. We did, however, parcel and serve. Parceling is simply tightly wrapping the cable in greased cloth, again, to keep out moisture. The next (and funnest!) step is servicing. The end result of servicing is a steel cable with twine so tightly wrapped around it that it creates a barrier to the elements.

Our process, from beginning to end, went like this (some repeat photos in here):

1. Unwind old serving and parceling1. Unwind the old, brittle serving, and remove the dried out denzo tape (parceling) to expose the cable
Greasy denzo tape (used for parceling) and tarred nylon line is removed to expose the cable, which is inspected for rust and cleaned with a wire brush2. Inspect the cable for rust and clean it with a wire brush
3. Wrap the cable with greasy denzo tape. Be sure to wrap with the lay of the cable, and overlap each round by a third.3. Wrap the cable with greasy denzo tape. Be sure to wrap with the lay of the cable, and overlap each round by a third.
A "serving mallet" is used to aid the process of winding the twine as tightly as possible. The mallet is bound to the cable by the serving twine, and regulates tension as it rotates around the cable, paying out twine as it goes..4. Serve. A “serving mallet” is used to aid the process of winding the twine as tightly as possible. The mallet is bound to the cable by the serving twine, and regulates tension as it rotates around the cable, paying out twine as it goes.
"Worm and parcel with the lay; turn and serve the other way"“Worm and parcel with the lay; turn and serve the other way”
The mallet can be rotated by hand, or if you're good, you can get it to turn itself by swinging the cable like a jump-rope!The mallet can be rotated by hand, or if you’re good, you can get it to turn itself by swinging the cable like a jump-rope!
Fully served and ready to tarFully served and ready to tar
5. Paint the serving with a mixture of roofing tar, black paint and varnish5. Paint the serving with a mixture of roofing tar, black paint and varnish
6. Allow one day for the tar to dry and apply a second coat. Enjoy your newly parceled, served and tarred foot-ropes!6. Allow one day for the tar to dry and apply a second coat. Enjoy your newly parceled, served and tarred foot-ropes!

Check out these posts for more photos and explanations:
http://www.shesails.net/2012/02/parcel-and-serve-in-photos/
http://www.shesails.net/2012/02/detail-of-a-yard-in-photos/
http://www.shesails.net/2012/02/down-rigging-a-yard/

 

Feb 072012
 

Boats are so much work. Wooden boats edge into their own universe of time, money and energy sinks. Someone should write a self-help book for wooden boat lovers.

We sand, paint, varnish, replace. We caulk, curse, reef, re-caulk, re-curse, curse, curse. We crawl into small spaces, flash-lights gripped in our teeth, searching for the source of that drip, that smell, that creak. We confidently reassure that all wooden boats leak as nervous friends eye rising bilge levels.

Wooden boat sailors! We argue, we disagree. To salt the bilges or not to salt the bilges? To fill the checks or no? Poly-urethane, Cetol, or Deks Olje? What’s the proper type of filler to use for that epoxy job? Spikes or bolts? Sikaflex or 4200? Sikaflex or tar? Sikaflex or Dolphinite? We peer over rails, we offer unsolicited, unwanted advice. Too many sentences begin with the phrase “On MY boat…”

But we love it. We love it all. We are cursed with an affection for the highest maintenance lady of them all, and we are addicted to her insatiability.

In 24 hours, our crew begins a two-week maintenance period during which we’ll be tackling several major projects including (but not limited to): scarfing a new piece of wood into a rotten bit of our jib-boom; re-caulking a leaky spot on our deck-house roof; sending down, sanding, re-finishing and re-installing our lower topsail yard; re-serving and tarring its foot-ropes; and probably painting our topsides.

God willing, we’ll have it all done by the 25th when our two months of back-to-back voyages begin. We love it. We love it. We love it.

A load-bearing eye-bolt lives in some now-punky wood, covered by a preventer at the moment

A load-bearing eye-bolt lives in some punky wood, covered by a preventer at the moment

The one place our deck-house leaks is above our chart-room, where all of the expensive equipment is!

The one place our deck-house leaks is above our chart-room, where all of the expensive equipment is!

The lowest yard, the course, is in cue for repairs after the lower topsail yard has been serviced. Note the early signs of wear on the foot-rope.

The lowest yard, the course, is in cue for repairs after the lower topsail yard has been serviced. Note the early signs of wear on the foot-rope.

 

Jan 312012
 

The other day out on the water, my crew-mate Alex and I were standing bow-watch together. We were looking out at the waves, and Alex asked what wind force I guessed it was. “I think seventeen knots. Twenty at most,” I said. He ran back to the helm where we have an anemometer, a wind gauge. “The anemometer says twenty-three but our speed downwind is 5. That makes it eighteen knots!”

When I was First Mate on the Bill of Rights, I used to quiz my crew (and myself) on wind force. There’s a guide called the Beaufort Scale which allows you to estimate wind speed based on sea-state. Zero knots is “surface like a mirror”. Force one, or 1-3 knots, shows ripples. Force two, or 4-6 knots, ripples begin to form crests. Force three, or 7-10 knots, crests begin to break…you get the picture.

 

A scale that relates wind speed to psychological stateI remember one time we found a “Psychological Beaufort Scale” which I thought at first was a joke. It’s not a joke, but I think it may be better for judging your own sanity than the wind speed.

It’s important to be able to estimate wind speed by observing the state of the ocean. We decide how much sail area is safe to carry based on wind speed, and being able to judge that without running over to the anemometer could help you out someday. GPS isn’t the only bit of technology one which the modern sailor has become too reliant. Here’s a clip of the full Beaufort Scale. Note that sea state is also affected by any nearby landmasses, and the length of the storm.

A scale that relates wind speed with sea state