Log of SV Free Spirit and ships company

The chronicles of the schooner Free Spirit and her crew, embarking on an open ended journey upon the great rolling heap. Free Spirit is currently pursuing humanitarian and commercial goals in the Dominican Republic, on the island of Hispaniola. Working under the Ocean Reach USA and Paradigm Research banners, she is serving as logistics headquarters, workshop, and development laboratory for many ongoing projects. This is the log of her journey.....

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Thursday, March 30, 2006

Ghost Ship gets painted!

On the way up from Ft. Lauderdale last year, it was convenient (if amusing) that most boats gave us a very wide berth while in the waterways, some nearly to the point of running aground. Covered with peeling paint and rust, performing her best "floating ship of doom" imitation, Free Spirit scattered the faint of heart. Somehow our desheveled appearance, along with my 9 year old son giving his presidential wave from atop the cabin trunk gave some the impression that a collision with a lesser vessel was not likely to be of the slightest concern to us:

......With a satisfying crunch, the rusty hulk split our polished fiberglass hull cleanly in two. The death groans of our lost craft could just be heard over the rust chips falling into the water. "just a minute!" called a voice from the other end of the ship. The inflection in the voice gave the impression of minor inconvenience, as if we had just asked for a glass of orange juice. Several minutes later, a balding man with a fresh cup of tea looked down upon us from the foredeck. "thanks, chap - I reckon that'll save me a few on the sandblasting! Care for a tea?" Overcome with incredulity, words failed us completely. "very well then, just clear off to port, we'll be out of your way in a flash, and you can swim over to those pilings".....

Our port of destination was Glades Boat storage, just southwest of lake Okeechobee. Free Spirit was sorely in need of painting, and looked for all the world like a derelict snatched from Neptunes salty grasp. Her paint system had failed due to improper surface prep or incompatible paint, and though only seven years old and completely sound, she was, by a substantial margin, the worst looking boat in the yard. To her credit, although she was in a sad cosmetic condition Free Spirit still looked salty and capable - sort of a ghostship chic - but that she was an eyesore by any measure could not be disputed by a sane man.

We had her hauled to the sandblasting pit, which was at the apex of the right hand turn to go to the entrance of the yard. It so dominated the entrance to the yard that the following passage was added to the driving directions on the informational brochure:

"Driving to the yard after securing the final turn, the rusty ship looms ever larger on the horizon, as the distance separating you from the hulk collapses into a mere wish. At the last possible second, in the very shadow of the ghastly apparition, the road darts to the right, providing a quick, if narrow, escape. "

When we talked to the kind folk undergoing preparations of their own, the question of which ship we were from would inevitably arise. "Oh, ... It's so ......... .......... ........ Big! " It was altogether too kind of them to conceal their true thoughts, which could only have been "rusty....rusty.... must... not.... say.... RUSTY HULK!"

Her transformation could only be described as astounding.

Those you meet along the way

One of the things I enjoy the most about sailing are the people I meet along the way - cruisers, voyagers, boat bums, sailors, and dock rats.

People are people, no matter where you might meet them - but some of them you meet out on the water, in the harbors, the boatyards, and dockside taverns of the world are truly exceptional individuals. Why this seems to be more the case for boat people than for others, I do not know - but I would guess that it has something to do with the dream, the wanderlust, the call of the sea.

Our recent trip to Florida illustrates this well. Laura, the boys, and I were there for a month or so this winter to assist and supervise the sandblasting and painting of our floating home-to-be, the schooner Free Spirit.

Among those that we encountered while at the boatyard were Kim and Scott, a young couple just starting out on their sea adventure. We met them as they prepared their newly acquired aluminum cutter Tin Lizzie for sea. We shared many wonderful conversations , and it was fantastic to get to share ideas and experiences with others in the process of casting off the lines of shoreside life. Good Luck, Scott and Kim - we'll see you out there!!!

Also there was Laura Zolo, the world famous Italian yachtswoman and her two year old son Nicky. Laura has a truly extraordinary story, and was very kind to us - giving us lots of info about cruising Europe, inspecting our boat and giving suggestions, and generally just being a most welcome and accommodating friend. Thank you, Laura - you have contributed more to our dream than you know. Our boys had a blast playing with Nicky - they spent many hours with games on the grass and in the yard - I hope that we will see them again once we get over to the Med.

Then there was a couple barely into their Caribbean cruise that had come down from Maine on their 40' fiberglass sloop, whose two boys made fast friends with ours. The played and visited with great intensity over the couple of days before they left, and our boys remarked "mom, they are just like us!!" it was a great experience for the young ones to meet another family pursuing such a similar dream.

Then there was "Crazy" Lynden, the brother of the guy who started the Outlaws Motorcycle club. I've heard my share of b.s. and posers, but this guy was for real. Sometimes you just know when you are presented with the genuine article, and this fellow had seen some sh%t in his day. He spent some time in years past sailing in the Bahamas on a Herreshof (ketch, I think?) and had plenty of yarns and experiences to relate. He seems to have done well enough for himself, and has an attitude and outlook on life that I hope I can muster when I get to be his age. He's pretty well tied to land now, but I can certainly imagine seeing him out there - jolly roger flying high. Colorful does not begin to describe this character - I hope he writes a book or two!

There were of course many others as well, too numerous to mention. Amazed by the coincidence, we encountered two other boats in our boatyard whose hailing port was our hometown of Fairbanks, Alaska. Among them were some folks we have known professionally for some twenty years. It occurs to me that one might never find out someone was a sailor in the landlocked town of Fairbanks - perhaps we should found the Noyes Slough yacht club.

Small world, indeed!

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Electronic Charting trials - SF Bay

I go to Isleton, CA in a few days to prepare and trial the sloop Westward. She is a Roberts 25 with a two foot longer stern to accommodate a protected motor well, sort of a Roberts 25+2. A simple sloop, she will serve as my testbed for the new SEACLEAR charting software and NOAA RNC charts, as well as the tillerpilot for my friend Raoul's Cal28 Feng Shui. My month on her in the San Francisco Bay / River delta area will also give me the opportunity to brush up on my piloting skills, as well as give me a working environment with much more traffic than I am used to working in. I look foreword to the challenges and opportunities to come. If I like the SEACLEAR software, I may start offering a bundle of free software and data including all NOAA RNC charts, Pilot Charts, Port guides, etc - including hopefully, a copy of SEACLEAR as well. I am considering offering this bundle at a low cost to cover duplication/ development time, and also perhaps as a bundle with a suitable USB GPS puck.

Wish me luck - those of you who follow this blog will find periodic updates as events unfold - thanks for stopping by!

Friday, March 24, 2006

Traditions of the sea

The ship at sea is a strict classroom, but one with few distractions. Since the dawn of seafaring, children have been going to sea, learning to shoulder responsibility and to act as men and women at a young age.

As master of a dinghy or as Junior Officer on the quarterdeck, a young boy or girl can try out the boots of command without tossing over their childhood shoes. Plenty of room to make mistakes, room to shine, to compete, but it's not bumper cars. The sense of responsibility is tangible. There are rules. There is just enough danger, and real at that. There is tradition to live up to.

A recent adventure comes to mind. I was lake sailing last summer with my ten year old son Blayde in our 11 foot mirror dinghy. The wind was twelve to seventeen knots with occasional higher puffs. The shallow, warm lake had built a small chop of about a foot or so. My lifetime friend Raoul and his family were on the Laura Ann II, our Venture 24, as were my wife and other two boys. They were having a great sail, casually racing the other boats out on that blustery day.

The mirror was sailing hard, taking an occasional wave top over the rail. Blayde was at the helm, and I was keeping the bilge empty and providing ballast. Blayde sensed that the boat was near her limits (for his skill) and he voiced his concern, but knowing that even if we capsized we would be in no danger, I told him that we should catch the Laura Ann II to find respite. I did not know at the time that he took this to mean that our lives depended on it.

With renewed resolution he pressed on, taking every advantage to close the gap to the much faster 24 foot sloop. Laura Ann II darted this way and that in pursuit of other boats to show her heels. With each change in direction, Blayde cut the distance, pressing the little dinghy for every ounce of speed she could muster. With grim resolve, Blayde relentlessly sailed ever harder, and in and hour or so the gap was closed within a ropes throw.

The Laura Ann II, luffing to slow for us tossed a line. I took the helm of the dinghy and told Blayde to make it fast to our bow cleat. Though the larger sloop was doing her best -short of taking down sail- to accommodate us, the wind veered a bit and she picked up speed. The end of the line was pulling hard, and Blayde could not get enough to take a turn on the cleat. Not understanding his frame of mind, I wondered at why he kept trying, even beyond his strength, to pull us up to the skittish Laura Ann II. After fierce effort, he lost the end of the line. When he looked over his shoulder to me, I then understood that he felt that his failure had secured our doom.

Suddenly feeling cruel and foolish, I reassured him that all was well, and we would make another pass. Raoul brought the sloop around, and as she passed us we secured to her hip. Still showing no signs of weakness, Blayde climbed aboard the twenty four foot sloop into a world of relative calm. Taking his leave formally, he went below and broke down for a few minutes, having escaped, in his young eyes, a brush with death.

In retrospect, contrasting what he must have been feeling with his actions, I cannot help but beam with pride over his great courage and resolve. Though he thought we were in mortal danger, his determination never faltered. He bravely pressed on, well beyond his comfort, in order to “save” us. In my ignorance, I was having a grand time, casually sponging the splashes out and enjoying my turn at being rail meat. Meanwhile, he thought that my efforts were all that were keeping us afloat, and that he must persevere at the helm to secure our safety.

Since that time, he has learned a great deal, and can now sail the Venture 24 in mild conditions on his own. He says that if his little brothers could be trained a little better, that they could go anywhere. I’m not quite sure about that, but I am sure that he grew that day, and that he learned one of many lessons to come - from wind and wave.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Kluane Lake

Kluane Lake is located in northwestern Canada. Approximately 154 square miles in size, and 43 miles long, it is fed by the glacial meltwater of the Slims River. The Lake drains into the Kluane River, whose waters flow into the Bering Sea by way of the Yukon.

Secret harbor

Looking out the window, the thermometer tells me that it's zero degrees. Fahrenheit. It is not unseasonably cold for Alaska – and therein lies the rub. You see, it will be frozen solid here in Fairbanks for at least another month or so, and for the avid sailor this is somewhat problematic. At times like these, sometimes the best you can do is daydream, reminisce, and think about warmer venues.

One such remonition brings me back to early July 2002. The place was Kluane lake, Canada, and the ship was the Laura Ann, a 17.2 foot centerboard cruiser by Vandestadt & McGruer. The Laura Ann was a fully decked boat with a snug cabin, ballasted centerboard and self bailing cockpit. Though I have become accustomed to much larger boats, many fine adventures were brought to me sailing upon her fifteen and a half foot waterline.

The aquamarine waters of Kluane Lake rest tentatively in northwestern Canada. The lake is some 43 miles long, covers 154 square miles, and is fed by the glacial meltwater of the Slims River. During the 1901 gold rush it was busy with water traffic - but now there are very few craft about, and the locals told us that they had not seen a sailboat there for more than a year. In fact, over the time we were there we saw only one other boat, and that one only briefly.

Fruitlessly inquiring after a chart, we were cautioned by the locals (obviously not the sailing type) that the lake was "deep, and cold, and sometimes the wind comes up." These facts were quite well known to us, as it was for these reasons we came to sail. Granted, the glacial water was quite cold, but not extraordinarily so by my measure. That the water was deep was a blessing to the sailor, and the wind was of course an integral part of our plan.

I would be remiss if I did not pass along a word of caution. While Kluane is only a medium sized lake, because of the surrounding mountains it is not to be taken lightly. Hurricane force winds in excess of 120 knots occur periodically, and fierce williwaws come down with regularity when the winds are moving briskly over the mountaintops. There is evidence along the shore that the breakers can carry great force at times, and owing to its long, canyon like geography it is possible to get a very stiff wind with nigh unto forty miles of fetch. The steep, short period waves often exceed 5 feet according to local reports, and the many uncharted shoals shift frequently. There is very little shelter nearby for many areas of the lake, and most all anchorages are exposed from one side or another. This lake is no place for the unwary family in a canoe or open boat.

That said, we felt we were well enough prepared for most things that the lake could throw at us, so we put in at the northern end of the lake. Sailing toward Silver City, we took in the breathtaking vista as we steered a lazy reach southward. As the light began to show signs of its gradual decline, we thought it wise to work towards finding a secure place to spend the night. The question of anchorage was a bit tricky given the prevailing wind and the possibility of williwaws, so we stood out east by northeast for what looked like a sheltered spot on the “chart” - a placemat enhanced by hand sketched details from a topographical map and local commentary.

When we got to our planned anchoring spot, there were three footers bending around the point, and a restful anchorage was not to be had. We beat our way up to a place on the “placechart” where it looked like there might be a mouth to a stream (or maybe just a coffee stain). What we found was a narrow, rocky, winding channel that led to another lake nestled in behind a great bar. The channel was all but invisible until within 75 yards, then it could be barely discerned. The approach to the channel was very shallow even for our scant 10 inch draft (board up), so we anchored off and set out in the kayak to have a closer look.

We found a narrow channel across the outer bar, and with the water nearly flat in the cove decided to give it a go. We set up a rockpile range ashore to guide us in and out, then proceeded to drift inward with the gentle breeze that now prevailed. Following our range, we made it to the channel mouth without incident. The Channel itself, barely wide enough to accommodate our six and a half foot beam while turning, was strewn with giant menacing boulders - many of which rose nearly to the surface. Threading our way in carefully - one man at the helm, one at the bow fending off and giving direction - we managed to get in easily but with very little margin for error.

Once in the protected lake, we set the hook and settled in to the droning hum of the bloodsucking insect horde outside. Window screen and toilet paper. Don't leave home without them. I silently wondered how long we would be stuck here if the wind came up strongly out of the west, and my shipmate Raoul settled into his bunk for a good read.

The rousing aroma of eggs and sausage enticed me out of my cozy bunk, and I awoke to Raoul cooking breakfast on the bridge-plank. Here’s to picking good crew! It was usually more practical to cook out in the cockpit on Laura Ann, as her diminutive size made a galley inside nothing more than a pipe dream. Lack of amenities notwithstanding, Raoul managed a wonderful meal complete with fresh blueberry pancakes, all cooked up with copious quantities of butter. My cardiologist would giggle with anticipation if he watched Raoul cook, but its hard to argue with the taste!

Morning came with striking colors (not ours!!), and in the full light we could truly appreciate the beauty of this "secret" harbor. After breakfast, we took some time in the kayak to explore the quiet lake, nestled as it was among the beautiful cliffs and hills. There was moose and black bear at hand, and we regretted our lack of a telephoto camera to capture the moment. Upon returning to our little floating cocoon, we replaced the shear pin on our tiny outboard and decided to take advantage of the calm conditions to work our way out against the light westerly breeze.

Working upwind, we finally made the channel mouth, started the motor, and raised the board. Now understand - Our tiny 1.2 HP outboard was direct drive. No neutral, no reverse. Just ahead, more or less. Promptly, we struck a boulder with the prop - destroying our last shear pin. It would of course be trivial to jury rig one, but now we were mid channel, wind on the nose, poling among the menacing boulders at a snails pace with all of our might against the building wind. Did I mention that the wind came up? I should have counted on that.

With agonizing effort, we managed to make the outer mouth, but the wind was still on the nose. We had no motor, a narrow channel, and no ability to sail in the depth we had. We continued our efforts with boathook and oar, carefully lining up the range marks astern. At length we crossed the outer bar and found water enough to lower the centerboard a bit. We clawed off the lee shore into the quickly building waves which were breaking over the bar to leward. At first, we could make almost no way against the wind, but with each foot gained, we could lower the board just a bit more, and so on, until finally we had a clear tack to deep water.

Freed of our clever trap, we went on to other adventures. The next days were pleasant enough, with rolling seas of two to three feet, beautiful scenery, pleasant daysails with the children, and so forth.

Despite our difficulties in doing so, choosing the shelter of the harbor given the conditions was a wise choice. Chief among my mistakes was dawdling in the still morning air, giving convection a chance to build. I also could have easily set an anchor outside the bar and led a float in to the mouth of the channel on my way in. With such preparation, I could have picked up the line and kedged my way out handsomely after making the channel mouth. Also, of course, I might have motored out neatly without striking the prop, but looking back it was unwise to assume that this would be the case.

After a few days on the lake, it was time to go. The wind was at about fifteen gusting twenty knots and building out of the west. We reached north toward the only small boat harbor on the lake, where the trailer waited at the boat ramp on the western shore.

Like any boat, Laura Ann had her strong points and her weak ones. The engine was of no use against a blow. Equipped with only a roller furling genoa for a headsail and sail balance that made serious windward work impossible under main alone, a stiff breeze put her at a serious disadvantage when close hauled. If you reefed the genoa, the sail shape was poor enough to seriously hamper windward progress. The angle that could be maintained allowed only minimal gains to windward, and if the tacks were too close together none at all would be had.

With the winds now over twenty knots most of the time, the difficulty lay in fetching the entrance to the harbor. If we waited much longer, we would be forced to bear off to deeper water and heave to or run. We might also close with the windward shore elsewhere and dangle from our ground tackle for the night, or any number of other unpleasant options. We decided to work our way in, knowing that we might have to change our minds if the wind continued to build. To have any chance at all, we would have to come in with all sail flying. Tacking up the narrow channel with sails reefed would put us no closer to our goal, and might well land us on the rocks if we got caught in stays for more than a moment. Alternatively, coming in over canvassed would mean maneuvering among the giant boulders at full speed, and just one chance to get it right or having to turn tail and crash-gibe. To make matters worse, the tiny harbor had no maneuvering room, so even if successful, we would have only seconds to douse the sails and slow down before landing at the dock, dead upwind.

After several thwarted attempts, and losing our boathook overboard during a tack (launched well clear by the jib sheet) we finally got our chance. All sails hoisted, at full speed we made the perfect angle to get inside. One mandatory tack to miss the breakwater - cheerly executed - then dowse the sails without delay. Just enough time to grab the dock with the stern line on the way by, snubbing up with a lurch just short of the ramp. Several seconds of silence followed, as the fact that we had pulled this off without a hitch began to sink in. A quick glance shoreside confirmed Murphy’s law of docking, that a crowd will only be present when you really screw things up.

Well relieved and justifiably impressed, my shipmate and I congratulated each other for a job well done, and put to rest all doubt concerning any stern words that might have been thrown about in the heat of the contest. Noted were some observations: that the boathook took on water and sank almost instantly, to our surprise - and that roller reefing could not be reliably trusted to function in situations such as these. In our case, it worked flawlessly, but if it had not (and it frequently did not) it would surely have cost us the maneuver, our pride, and significant gouging of the hull. In thanks, we poured the rest of the gin overboard for the lady of the lake. Okay, okay, I admit it. Maybe not all the rest.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Looking back on tomorrow

Looking Back on 20 years of sailing

My first memories of sailing were dreaming about foreign lands and the freedom to travel afar. My initial thoughts were towards a power boat, as I knew nothing about sailing, save that it depended on the wind. Many daydreams and fantasies later, I began to desire a more concrete idea of what a voyaging boat might be . At the local library, I found a book of designs by Herrishoff - Sensible Cruising Designs. It contained lines and planviews of many vessels, mostly sail but some power as well. I began to read about the boats, their capabilities, and for what purpose they were designed - a glimmer of understanding eventually flickered to life.

What I wanted to do, I now understood, required a sailboat. A vague understanding of boats and their properties had given me a vision, a possible dream, even if still beyond the means of a boy in my situation. So inspired, I studied the physics of sailboats. I was fortunate enough to already possess a strong aeronautical background , and sailboats quickly made sense to me.

I became a student of Herreshoff -he was an artist, and from his pen sprang creatures of extraordinary beauty. Using my basic sailing knowledge and chainsaw carpentry, I converted our 9' zodiac to sail - all the while hoping that my mentor Nat G. could not see the unsightly results from his perch on high. Dual permanently extended leeboards, a catboat style rudder, and a simple sloop rig of spruce pole and heavy black visqueen tarp brought her to life underneath me.

I was hooked - even though working to windward was tenuous at best, it could be done. I learned the plight of the sailor, and I would flee from my duties on the farmstead if ever the wind came up above ten knots.

Although the exact timeframe eludes me, the next few years brought 3 more boats. Two of my own design , A 7' black scow, and 10' truncated sharpie, along with a seventeen foot plastic sloop by Vandstadt and McGruer.

The Scow was a smashing success, even though of heavy and rough construction. The sharpie was an attempt to avoid compromise, and was a performance failure. 4 feet were added to her stern, and then she was abandoned to the elements, a failure, but not a defeat, for I learned some very important lessons from my errors.

I learned that compromise is as much a part of small boats as wood and nails. I learned that a boat is designed to do one, or at most a couple of things well. Trying to get her to be a jack of all trades will only result in tears. Build her for one purpose, then live with the limitations - just like one accepts the peculiarities of a lover.

The Plastic sloop was bought for me by my girlfriend, now my wife (who wouldn't marry a girl that bought you a boat!!) Named Laura Ann after her, she was 15.5 feet on the waterline, with a small cabin equipped with berthing for four. (they all looked so happy and relaxed in the brochure, how were we to know they were gnomes?)

She was a happy little ship, if perhaps not of the best manners. With a fierce weather helm when heeled - which she did easily - she was pretty good at keeping you out of knockdowns, but was tiring on the helm. Many hours were spent sailing her on her ear, water sluicing freely in and out of her cockpit, testing the limits of her self righting abilities.

She took us on many adventures, from the reservoirs of Ohio, where I was pursued by a menacing sea monster* to San Diego bay, where we learned about tidal currents, to the lakes in interior Alaska and Canada where the williwaws lurk.

*My errant danforth, at the end of the rode, leaping and diving alternately one hundred feet astern with great splashes. Don't laugh - it was scary. You would have been scared too, if you were there, after all, there was no escape from this horrible beast that perused me relentlessly in the failing light. I was alone, with too much wind to close with land, roller reefing hopelessly jammed, a helm that could not be left -lashed or not - for more than ten seconds, on my second time in a sailboat over ten feet. I learned some things about sailors on that day.

We had her, Laura Ann, for many years. In those years I also spent time at sea, deckhand then engineer, then first mate on an 80 foot tender in Bristol Bay, Alaska. After herring season in Prince William Sound, We towed a 200 foot barge up through False Pass in the Aleutians to get to Bristol Bay for Salmon. At full speed, we could only manage four knots with our burden, and during a stormy week at sea were lucky to make foreword progress at all. That’s when I first learned about bad weather and big seas - the fear, the awe, and the sheer beauty of the raging ocean storm.

When we grew to a family of five we reluctantly sold up to a 1970 Venture 24. Still a good trailer boat, but large enough to take us and our stores for a couple of weeks, she has pleased me well with her speed, manners, and ease of handling.

When we got her, she was built rather light, but we refit her with additional backing for all deck hardware, a structural bulkhead amidships below the cockpit sole, and many other small improvements. She is now as stiff and strong as one could want, and with impeccable manners to boot. You can see the influence of NGH in her lines - especially her entry - and this I credit her performance to.

Last year we sailed her down Prince William Sound from Whittier to Crab Bay, and she proved perfect for a crew of three adults. She sailed well, though I rarely took the helm, preferring as captain to stand no watch so as to be always available and refreshed if needed. She fetched many destinations that would have been unreachable without her particular set of qualities, and provided us all with memories to be treasured.

In the last half decade, I have also acquired the Schooner Walkabout (a bare hull only) , Schooner Free Spirit, and Westward, A Roberts 25+2 sloop. Now, on the dawn of our great journey, I face the prospect of selling all but Free Spirit, for I will no longer be nearby to benefit the other little ships.

Of these, I am sure, it is the Laura Ann II that I will miss the most. So one more season it is to be. We'll spend a month on the sound, then a month at Harding lake for entertaining new suitors. Fond Memories to be sure, my fair plastic friend.

Friday, March 10, 2006

The Call of the sea... Is Collect.

The call of the sea. Jackpot bay, PWS ,Alaska - from the deck of Laura Ann 2

The phenomenon, known to sailors since there were sailors, is perhaps as haunting as it is expensive. Witness one sailor, who owns four boats over 24 feet, three under 12, and not a whole lot else. (please, please, please buy my 42 foot Benford, on ebay, and my 24 footer!!!) (but you can't have the 24 footer until august. Until then, she belongs to me and Prince William sound!)

Anyway, preparing for our voyage has shown me just what sailing the world costs - everything youv'e got, a little or a lot. Except for those with more money than sense. (in which case, feel free to PayPal me a few mil)

So begins my seven month yardsale, made global courtesy of Ebay, the P2P marketing genius.
(stuff zealots take note! here's your chance, if you know me and have coveted any of my stuff, make me an offer! :)

Things We're giving up to go to sea:

3 Automobiles
2 Motorcycles
Everything in our house we're not taking with us
Our house, for a 600 SF cabin on the hilltop
Immunity from motion sickness
A proper telephone
A Stationary anything
Uninterupted sleep you can bank on
The coffeeshop girls (at least the ones in Fairbanks)
(i'm not absolutely certain that Laura cares about this with the same zeal as I do)
Not really having to pay attention to the weather
Bunny Boots (think bugs bunny meets michelin)
Three other boats
Not worrying about sleepwalking kids falling overboard
Being dry, and total confidence that this is not a transient condition
Washing Machines
(i'm not absolutely certain that I care about this with the same zeal as Laura does)
(Just joking, beautiful - No, Really!!! @--;----- ; )
People stealing our mailbox, right off the pole
Relative certainty that we are not about to be set upon by piratical machete wielding ne'r-do-wells.
Not having to know what all those damn flags mean.
Electric bills
Heating Bills
Other peoples bills
Proximity to Family and friends
The Midnight sun
The Aurora
An oven that holds an entire cookie sheet
Ad Infinitum.

You see, Gentlereader, each thing taken is replaced by one given. Each discarded burden replaced by another. It is indeed a change, but as with the changes upon the vast rolling oceans, as ever as it is different, always it is likewise the same.

It is, you see, A Sea Change.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Getting Ready

On even the smallest foray into the blue, there is a myriad of things to check, to see to, or to procure. For my 3 week trip sailing in SF Bay next month, here is a start:

Before I go:

  • Get autopilot from Mr. Chapman
  • Teak 1"x2"x whatever
  • Crate up and ship the motor
  • Navigation gear
  • Solar panels
  • Battery Charger
  • HT VHF
  • Turn on cell data services
  • Binoculars
  • Books
  • PFD's
  • Line

When I get there:

  • Clean up
  • Fix Teak
  • Scooter
  • Gas tank / Fuel line
  • Check sails
  • Install autopilot
  • Install panels
  • Clean bottom
  • Basic safety audit
  • Cooler
  • Provisions
  • Fuel jug (small)?
  • Fix tiller
And whatever else I think of.....

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

The footsteps of giants...

It occurs to me that most people don't understand the plight of the sailor, the call of the sea. They think that sailing is a form of transportation. Well, I suppose it is, but sailing is not just going from place to place in a boat with sails - it is more than that.

The sailor strikes a compromise between the will of man and that of God - Between the ideal course and the fate that the unflinching elements of wind and water would put upon him.

On even the shortest foray upon the rolling heap, the sailor must not only contend with the adversities of wind and sea, but harness those very same forces - to bend the strength of the elements to his endeavor.

Command of a ship under sail is walking within the province of deity, yet with humility before the sea and her moods, earned without quarter in the trials of countless souls who have gone before.

This respect for mother ocean, for Neptune and his kin, or for the will of the one God comes from the simple fact that man must compromise to guide his vessel to ports afar, but the Sea suffers no such indignity. For the Sea bends not to the will of man, rather it remains unchanged, wild and ever renewed, suffering not even the footprints of giants if left within its surging reach.

Yet, for all its wildness, this fearsome, ever changing frontier tolerates the gentle wisp of a ship upon its face, but only if the respect due is paid - for the Sea has a peculiar hunger for the foolish and arrogant, for the unprepared and the unwary.

Fair winds, Gentle Reader, and may the seas nudge you gently from astern.

HAAR! Prop / engine / transmission Calculator!

At the very very bottom of the Free Spirit blog
you will find the tools section. First on the list is PROPCALC, to help you select the right engine / prop / transmission / hull combination for your project! FREE to use on this page (all other rights reserved), but if you like it, check my google ads at the top of the page to "hook me up!!!"

Feel free to put a link on your page to this one, to encourage folks to use the calculator.
Just link to sailfreespirit.blogspot.com .

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Nothing to do really with sailing, but perhaps more with the -reason- we sail, you can now find the GCP indicator icon on the lower left below the archives. Fascinating project - it lends support to the notion that we are all somehow much more connected then separate, in ways we are perhaps just beginning to comprehend.
Find out more about the GCP at princeton here: noosphere.princeton.edu

Thursday, March 02, 2006

EVERYONE needs a (miniature) CANON!!!!

AAARG Matey!! Repel them boarders!!!
Get a ships canon made by the dreaded Cap'n Smyth! If you Order a Parlor Canon, Mention " I'm a Free Spirit" and get yours with a stamped plaque with the ships name on it (or if you want, Your Ships name!) OK, OK, this is a cheesy promotion, but we do make these in our machine shop, and they are cool. And besides, we;re sailors, so, of course, we always teter on the edge of financial ruin, so every little bit helps. You've got to admit, its better than just begging your way around the blue sphere! (ok, ok, that was cheap too. And hey, if it works why not!)

Introducing Propcalc 4.0

Use Propcalc to easily match your hull with your engine, transmission, and propeller
Put the known data in the top fields, then hit the Update button to get the answers.
Results, of course, should be verified by a Naval Architect or qualified surveyor.
Data is provided for three bladed propellers of average type
For two or four bladed props, use the modifiers shown below.

Fill out the fields as follows:

Vessel LWL (ft) = Waterline length
Vessel Disp (lbs) = Vessel displacement
(max) HP = Rated Engine Max HP
Engine RPM max = Engine RPM at Max HP
Engine RPM cruise = Desired or estimated cruise rpm
(Cruise or Max) Kts = Speed to work the calculations for
Slip = Propeller efficience. 45% is average for a displacement cruiser.
Gear ratio = 1: Gear ratio of transmission
SL Ratio Adj. = This value will be added (or subtracted, if a negative value) to the calculated S/L ratio.

Key information:

If the "hp required" is greater than the "cruse HP", you have your cruise RPM set too low for your engine parameters.
If the "hp required" is significantly less than the "cruse HP", you have your cruise RPM set too high for your engine parameters.
If the "hp required" is greater than the "Max HP", then your target speed is too high for your engine/hull parameters.
The S/L ratio is calculated automaticaly based on your input. It can be adjusted if necessary, but normally it should be left alone.
If the calculated S/L ratio exceeds S/L MAX, then the results are likely to be non-predictive. Try a lower speed requirement.
SL Ratios of 1.1 - 1.4 are typical of displacement hulls. Semiplaning or planing hulls can go higher.

Typical propeller slip values:

Sailing auxiliary, barges, etc less than 9 Kts............45%
Heavy powerboats, workboats 9 - 15 Kts....................26%
Powerboats, Lightweight Cruisers 15 - 30 Kts..............24%
High speed planing boats 30 - 45 Kts......................20%
V bottom race boats 45 - 90 Kts...........................10%


it is possible to get irrational answers by irrational input , I.E specifying excessive speed for hull type and length
Any attempt to exceed hull speed (1.34 times the square root of the waterline length in feet) with a displacement hull are likely
to fail unless the hull is extremely fine (multihull) or otherwise exceptional. In such cases, an S/L adjustment would be in order.

2 and 4 bladed props:

For two bladed propellers, multiply the diameter by 1.05, and the pitch by 1.01
For four bladed propellers, multiply the diameter by .94, and the pitch by .98

Vessel LWL (ft) =
Vessel Disp (lbs) =
  (max) HP =
  Engine RPM max =
  Engine RPM cruise =
  (Cruise or Max) Kts =
  Slip =
  Gear ratio = 1:
  SL Ratio Adj. =
  Prop rpm max =
  Prop rpm cruise =
  Pitch =
  Diameter =
  Static Thrust =
  Cruise HP =
  Cruise HP% =
  SL Ratio =
  DL Ratio =
  SL Max =
  HP Required =