Makeovers and such

Today is the two year anniversary of launching my Puddle Duck Racer, #824 Serenity. Happy birthday, Serenity!

The 2016 Lake Pepin Messabout looms ever closer, and Serenity has gotten some much needed upgrades. First, her sail has been replaced by the good folks at PolySail. While I had been debating going with a some form of balanced lug rig, I ended up with another Bolger styled Leg O’ Mutton sail. [If you’re interested in sailing or even design, you’d do well to check out Phillip Boger. The guy was an unconventional, prolific boat designer.]

What was interesting to me is I replaced a LOM sail with another, and the boom I’d been using had to be replaced. (It was about a foot short.) The reason why this was the case had been escaping me until just typing the previous line. When designing that first sail, I’d made the sail to fit the mast and boom, instead of creating the sail first and matching the spars to it.

I’ve also been experimenting with alternate rigging setups; mainly getting rid of my false traveler and attaching the mainsheet block to the rudder just aft of the pintles. I’d forgotten I wanted to try that out until I was out testing the new sail with my roommate Paul. I noticed an eye-bolt atop the rudder and spent most of the day’s sail confused as to why it was there. Eventually I rigged the mainsheet block to it, taking the load from the “traveler” and found that it worked quite well. I was worried it would negatively impact steering, but it did not. Additionally, the jam (or clam) cleat that holds the main worked FAR more effectively once the angle of the line was reduced.

In case that last paragraph made absolutely no sense, I’ll try to show why the cleat works better in this configuration. Here’s a jam cleat:

The jam cleat, also known as a clam cleat.

The jam cleat, also known as a clam cleat.

Jam cleats hold a line in place by tapering as they reach the bottom, the grooves help pull the line in that direction as tension is applied from the left of that picture. If the line is pulled up, or to the right the line will loose. The problem that I’d been having is the angle of the “traveler” meant it was always being pulled up a bit. This meant it would occasionally pop out, the sheet would loose depowering my sail, and I’d cry bitter tears.

The new way vs. the old way.

The new way vs. the old way.

Granted this is a new mod, and the jury is out if I’ll keep it this way or not. We’ll see.

Also, my friend Kristen came over to help out with a makeover. I spent an hour yesterday with an angle grinder getting rid off my terrible epoxy drip marks that had plagued her hull. I spent another hour today with the orbital sander smoothing out the angle grinder marks. Kristen and I got the first of several coats of paint done. The old girl is getting a whole look I’ll be unveiling at the Messabout. I’m very excited to see our end product!

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New sails on the horizon?

The lakes and rivers aren’t even froze yet, and I’m already thinking about getting back on the water. Naturally, my mind wanders toward the next Lake Pepin Messabout. I enjoyed attending the 2015 one quite a bit, so Serenity and i will be making another voyage. Between now and then she’ll be needing new a sail. Her current polytarp one has about had it.

I’m currently thinking about making a switch from the 65 sq foot Leg O Mutton sail that she currently has to a 76 sq foot balanced lug… I’m hoping to take advantage of the larger footprint to gain a tiny bit more speed out of her, while at the same time having the option of reef points. Which is something her current sail doesn’t offer, but would likely be helpful.

Now to price out material options. On one hand there’s polytarp, which is semi cheap, but seem to have about a 2 season shelflife. On the other is dacron sailcloth, a considerably more expensive option, but far more durable. I’m leaning towards the dacron because if I’m putting in the time and effort to sew together a fancy sail, it seems prudent to make it out of stuff that’s gonna last.

Lake Pepin Messabout

I have several posts in the near future to make, so bear with me if they’re a bit on the short side. The first of which is the condensed version of the Lake Pepin Messabout adventure!

After months of planning, acquiring equipment, and general boating obsession, it was time to leave for the trip. I had been back on American soil for 5 days, and the jet lag had mostly subsided. (New Zealand Trip post coming soon!) All the gear needed for the next five days was packed into Serenity, and by early afternoon my dear friend Mindy delivered us to Hastings to begin the trip.

The new and improved route.

The new and improved route.

Getting to the boat launch and loading up serenity was kind of intimidating. The weather looked a tad ominous, and the river in that area is BIG. Not as big as it gets later on, but after looking at all 8 feet of Serenity, and across 1200 feet of Mississippi, the ideas of what this trip might all be about became very real. Big Muddy and I were going to form a bond over the next several days.

Thy sea, O God, so great, My boat so small. It cannot be that any happy fate Will me befall Save as Thy goodness opens paths for me Through the consuming vastness of the sea.

Thy sea, O God, so great,
My boat so small.
It cannot be that any happy fate
Will me befall
Save as Thy goodness opens paths for me
Through the consuming vastness of the sea.

Serenity and I launched without an issue, and with a wave back to Mindy, we started our trek towards Lake Pepin. I was only a few hundred yards into the trip when I encountered the first obsticle: the water was high and the measurements I had for the bridges were off. I passed under the Hastings Rail Bridge with about 2 inches to spare instead of the 4 feet I was expecting! Within three hours of being dropped off, the skies had turned darker, and rain was threatening. I donned my foul weather gear and waited, as luck would have it I didn’t wait long. The rains started slow, and eventually whipped the surface of the river into a froth. All the while I maintained course down river, sopping up as much of the rain as I could with my bailing sponge, and squeezing it overboard.

Thankfully, the first of the rains only lasted for an hour or so, giving me a much needed break for a snack. As I began to make my way towards a beach, I heard my sail start making an incredible noise. Upon looking up at the head of the sail, it was pretty clear what the trouble was: The ties that held the sail to the top of the mast had given way and would require a repair. “This trip is starting out AWESOME!” I thought.

Thy winds, O God, so strong, So slight my sail. How could I curb and bit them on the long And saltry trail, Unless Thy love were mightier than the wrath Of all the tempests that beset my path?

Thy winds, O God, so strong,
So slight my sail.
How could I curb and bit them on the long
And saltry trail,
Unless Thy love were mightier than the wrath
Of all the tempests that beset my path?

As previously mentioned, this trip had been fixated upon for months, and there were very few things that could befall it that would cripple me on the water. After a quick stop for repairs and a snack, it was back to the river sailing onward until darkness began to fall. There was almost no wind, and a good 4 miles between our position, and the campsite. It pained me to do it, but I decided to put in the trolling motor and make a break for it. I made it into the slough upstream of Lock and Dam #3 just as the sun was setting. Supposedly, there is a campsite there, but I never found it. I ended up hiding Serenity in some trees, and hauling my camping gear about a half mile up the road where I found a peaceful field to try to get some rest. A quick meal, a change into not soggy clothes, and I drifted into almost sleep. As it turned out, I had set up my camp about 100 feet from the railroad tracks, which was trafficked every 30 minutes for the rest of the night.

The next day was as uneventful as the previous day was eventful. I woke up early, ate breakfast, and got Serenity pointed into the lock. It was a bit harrowing, as there are no indicators as to where the intercom for the Lockmaster is. Fighting currents with the trolling motor pointed in reverse to slow my entrance, I finally found the pull-chain WAY into the lock. The Lockmaster looked at me like I was completely insane, and asked if my boat was Coast Guard Approved. I said I didn’t know, but it was registered with the state. I’m not sure either of those things mattered, and he opened up the lock for me. The waters are so high that time of year that I only dropped about four inches during the lock process. Once on the other side, and safely out of the eddy area, I pulled the trolling motor, and set the sails with the goal of hitting Frontenac Park.

I passed through Red Wing and the most exciting thing during that leg of the trip was colliding with a navigation buoy in full view of a fisherman. Wait… That’s embarrassing, not exciting. There was more sailing, and as luck would have it, I ended up making a lot of distance on that second day. So much, that I passed Frontenac and made it all the way into Hok-Si-La by later afternoon. A full day ahead of schedule!

The rest of the Messabout was a lot of hanging out, telling lies with other boatbuilders, relaxing, and sailing. My favorite vessel by far was the one-of-a-kind Arcebus. Captain Greg took a couple of us out for a ride on a fairly choppy and rough day, and we managed to get a top speed of 7.25 mph, which on a sailing vessel of that size is damned good.

My favorite moment came after the Messabout had completed, and while I missed this little guy and his dad, I’m glad I managed to inspire them. Hopefully, I’ll see them next year at the Messabout!

I hope they do!

I hope they do!

Also, Google photos made a pretty sweet “story” about it… Which you can view HERE.

Rudders and such

One of several repair tasks on Serenity was replacing her rudder. The old one was basically a short tiller arm bolted to the rudder stock, which was bolted to the rudder blade. Just about as simple as you could make it…

Here’s an early, unfinished pic of the original rudder:

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While this design worked, it was kind of lacking in a few ways:

  • The blade had a tendency to unbolt from the stock. This never actually became a critical problem, mainly because Serenity was never on the water for more than a few hours at a time, and I’d check that bolt/nut to make sure it was tight before embarking.
  • There was a lot of flex between the blade and stock. With only one contact point, (the bolt), and all the forces pushing on the rudder, it would bend laterally under strain. Again, this never got so bad that it failed, but it certainly wasn’t the strongest way to do it.
  • No way to hoist the rudder up when coming in to land, going over sandbars, etc. Instead, it mostly gets dragged through rocks, mud, sand, etc. Not the end of the world, but eventually, I’ll need to make a new one if this one continues taking abuse.
  • Tiller was bolted into a fixed position on the rudder stock. This means if I need to move the tiller from one side to the other, anything/anyone in the middle of the cockpit needs to move around the tiller. That’s just silly.

I set about fixing these issues, and have come up with a new design that seems to fix all these issues. Sadly, I didn’t do much in the way of documenting the design process. I knew I wanted to keep the rudder blade, so I cut open some brown paper grocery bags, and traced its shape out, I then proceeded to make parts templates for the new rudder stock to match up to the blade. Basically, a full scale paper model. I decided on a design that houses the rudder blade on port and starboard, with a”stop” built into the front.

The following pics are a work in progress: the tiller handle still needs to be urethaned, and the sides/stock pieces need at least a couple more coats. Also, because I document my screwups as well as my successes: You’ll notice a change to the rear of the handle, from the first pics to the later ones. I neglected to trim the tiller handle with a radial cut around the bolt. (It wouldn’t lift. I would be stuck down.

Initial test fit. Seems pretty good so far.

Initial test fit. Seems pretty good so far.

Other side. You can see the rows on the sides where the bolts will hold this together.

Other side. You can see the rows on the sides where the bolts will hold this together.

Overhead view. Still looking good.

Overhead view. Still looking good.

After making the radial cuts. No longer stuck in place.

After making the radial cuts. No longer stuck in place.

SEE?!

SEE?!

In hindsight, this should have been a GIF.

In hindsight, this should have been a GIF.

Tiller and rudder stock ready for the finish.

Tiller and rudder stock ready for the finish.

Interior view of the rudder blade matched with the stock.

Interior view of the rudder blade matched with the stock.

 

 

You can’t see it very well, but there’s a plastic spacer that covers the threads of the bolt in the last picture. That should protect the inside of the rudder bolt hole from wear. Additionally, I’m hoping it also acts as a bearing to keep the pivoting of the rudder blade from turning the bolt. I plan to put a padeye on the rear edge of the rudder blade that a line will be attached to to keep it in the upright position via a jam cleat on the top of the stock.

Getting closer… Ever closer.

Sail repairs and cramped hands

Winter continues to loom heavily here in Minnesota. The high today was somewhere in the neighborhood of 10 degrees F. Gross. As the stir crazy began to set in, I noticed my sail bag leaned in the corner and decided now was as good a time as any to make some repairs. The boat I acquired had a broken leech line and a couple small holes on the main. I had picked up some sail repair tape months ago, knowing a day like today would approach. I unfolded the sail as best I could in my basement and got to work.

Making do with limited space. I don't know how tall this sail is, but it wasn't getting unfurled in my basement.

Making do with limited space. I don’t know how tall this sail is, but it wasn’t getting unfurled in my basement.

Once I had it spread out, I found the two holes and went about patching them. My plan was to try to get about 1″ of tape on all sides of the holes, give or take. The holes were fairly small, and the tape is 3″ wide, so that worked out nicely.

Hole one.

Hole one.

Getting the tape centered, and pressed around the edges.

Getting the tape centered, and pressed around the edges.

Sail flipped over for the other side to get taped.

Sail flipped over for the other side to get taped.

Hole #1 repaired.

Hole #1 repaired.

Same procedure with the second hole. Tape the top...

Same procedure with the second hole. Tape the top…

And then the back... Hole two fixed.

And then the back…
Hole two fixed.

With the holes now repaired, it was time to check out the leech line. I’d picked up some replacement line that I’m hoping will not fall apart on me, though only time will tell. Yes, I cheaped out. What can I say? I’m a broke college kid and marine anything is expensive.

The purpose of a leech line is to give the sailor the ability to tension the trailing edge of the sail (leech) which stops the flutter. This, in turn should allow for more efficient and less noisy sailing. The line in this sail had snapped somewhere about 4 feet from the clew on the leech. Additionally, I’d somehow managed to pull most of the line through the foot, meaning I couldn’t just attach the new line and pull it through.

Lacking a better idea I decided to attach a safety pin to the new line, and attempt to feed it through like a drawstring in a pair of swim trunks. I ripped open the seam on the line pocket, and fed in the new line through the eyelet near the tack of the sail.

Line fed through to the other side.

Line fed through to the other side.

Pulled a ton of slack through to this side, attached the pin, and set to work.

Pulled a ton of slack through to this side, attached the pin, and set to work.

About an hour of shifting it through the pocket, I reached the foot/clew eyelet. Just in time too, the pin finally popped open and the top bent so I couldn't close it again!

About an hour of shifting it through the pocket, I reached the foot/clew eyelet. Just in time too, the pin finally popped open and the top bent so I couldn’t close it again!

Fed the slack through this  deadeye and ripped the seam opposite the eyelet of the leech.

Fed the slack through this deadeye and ripped the seam opposite the eyelet of the leech.

Using some solid copper wire, I fished the line through the eyelet to make the long run to the top.

Using some solid copper wire, I fished the line through the eyelet to make the long run to the top.

Wire fished through to the eyelet.

Wire fished through to the eyelet.

Line pulled back through eyelet to the leech opening.

Line pulled back through eyelet to the leech opening.

At this point I had some decisions to make. It took me about an hour to slowly get that line across the foot. My estimate of that distance is about 8 feet. The leech is closer to 25-30 feet. Since my pin barely made that fist trip, I didn’t want to risk a failure halfway up the sail. I knew the original break was about four feet up, and if I could fish the line to that point, I should be able to bend the new to the old, and pull it the rest of the way to the head. This course of action decided upon, I began the process of fishing it through.

Opened the seam a foot north of the break in the line, and fed the wire down the pocket.

Opened the seam a foot north of the break in the line, and fed the wire down the pocket.

View from the clew to the new opening.

View from the clew to the new opening.

New line attached to the wire with a sheet bend and ready to be pulled through.

New line attached to the wire with a sheet bend and ready to be pulled through.

Once the new line was pulled through to the broken line, those were securely tied together. I enlisted the help of my brother, Jeff, to tension the edge of the sail to keep it from binding up while I pulled the line all the way through.

New line all the way through to the head. Now to tie and stitch it together.

New line all the way through to the head. Now to tie and stitch it together.

Like so many of my projects, I ended up putting this away for the day unfinished. Since I really do not want to do this again, I need to do a bit of reading on the proper way to lash the old and new ends together. All said and done, the project took about 2.5 hours, and I didn’t even draw blood! Not a bad way to spend a very cold day.

Messabout preperations

There’s a few items that probably need attention before I make this voyage to the Lake Pepin Messabout.

First of which is installing the oarlocks and getting my oars installed. Also, I’ll need some kind of bench to sit on when I’m rowing. Fairly easy upgrades.

The rudder need to be redesigned as their present state has a nasty tendency to unbolt itself and also to float. Along those same lines, I’ve been pondering the best way to construct a windvane so I can get some relief while single-hand sailing. I’m usually only out for a couple hours at a time. This trip will require several hours of sailing per day, for three or four days in a row. While I could probably do it without too much stress, it would be nice to take the hand off the tiller once in a while to eat a sandwich or something…

There are some other technical additions I’m considering, such as a cheap solar charger for my phone which will also be functioning as a chart plotter on this trip. As well as a VHF marine radio. Might be useful for the locks as well as keeping tabs on commercial barge traffic.

Stir crazy already? Gonna be a long winter…

It’s too early in the winter to be having totally crazy ideas, but that doesn’t seem to be stopping me. Here’s a rough travel plan for my sailboat starting in Bloomington, and ending near Lake City. Just over 75 miles, not including all the tacking back and forth I’d likely be doing.

I my napkin math tells me it would take about 19 hours of sailing to get there at my average speed. I have no idea what the current of the river will do to that time. I would hope shorten it, but who knows? Even if I had good currents, I may have terrible winds, and vice versa…

The impetus behind this “grand” plan is trying to decide how to get to the Lake Pepin Messabout. (If I even decide to go. We’ll see.) The way I see it, there would be few things saltier for an inland sailor to do than to sail his boat to the sailboat meetup… Kind of like driving your Harley to Sturgis versus trailering it there. (People do, and it’s looked down upon.)

It’s probably crazy, and would require some preparation, but I kind of want to do it…

Bloomington-Lake City

New Boat and Trailer Follies

I’ve been neglecting the blog lately due to classes starting back up. That said, the end of my summer was fairly eventful, and there were certainly things I should have been blogging about.

First of which, I have acquired another boat! She’s a Johnson Boat Works 16′ J-Sailer from 1980. Getting her home was quite the adventure, since I didn’t really have a proper trailer, and used my 8′ utility trailer to get her back home. Let’s just say I learned a lot about proper weight distribution while towing, and managed to terrify myself (and probably every driver around me) in the process.

She’ll be awaiting next summer to get wet, as there were a few repairs that I didn’t have time to complete this summer:

  • Tiller dry-rotted, needs to be replaced
  • Leech line broken, needs to be replaced
  • Small hole in transom, needs to be repaired
  • Two small holes in sail, needs to be patched
  • Sail bag has holes in bottom. Repaired

Nothing too extreme, though I’m certainly glad I’ve had a chance to hone some of my repair skills on the PDR. Serenity has been very giving in that regard. Never a shortage of things to learn and try out.

I did eventually pick up a dedicated trailer for this one, and here’s a few photos of the debacle that was me attempting to get it off the sawhorses and onto the trailer.

Trailer length looks better. It won't be sticking 8 feet off the back end now, anyway.

Trailer length looks better. It won’t be sticking 8 feet off the back end now, anyway.

Step 1: Use blocks to raise the bow up enough to slide the trailer underneath.

Step 1: Use blocks to raise the bow up enough to slide the trailer underneath.

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Raising the rear and sliding the trailer further under

Raising the rear and sliding the trailer further under

Beauty. She's all set on the trailer.

Beauty. She’s all set on the trailer.

Eww. Bilge water.

Eww. Bilge water.

Draining the cockpit

Draining the cockpit

Lesson: Do not attempt to drain the water out of the craft by tilting it until the bow is secured to the trailer.

Lesson: Do not attempt to drain the water out of the craft by tilting it until the bow is secured to the trailer.

Front roller WAY too high to be useful.

Front roller WAY too high to be useful.

Adjusted to better fit the bow.

Adjusted to better fit the bow.


Bolted a length of chain to the roller post.

Bolted a length of chain to the roller post.

Huge shackle to hold the bow to the trailer.

Huge shackle to hold the bow to the trailer.

All tucked in. More bungee cords needed.

All tucked in. More bungee cords needed.

Serenity Update

It’s been too long since I posted about Serenity. A few things have happened since the last post, first of which being the finished fiberglass bottom. It held up marvelously, and none of the areas I thought might leak have done so. At this point it seems safe to assume it’ll be good until she gets sailed into a stump or huge rock.
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Water is supposed to stay on the outside, right?

The last couple times out sailing, there’s been a small trickle coming in from the transom. While this seemed not ideal, it didn’t trouble me too much and it was relegated to the “Meh. I’ll worry about that later.” part of my brain.

That is, until I took a good look at the rear of the boat, and noticed it was splitting and delaminating. This is bad. My roommate Paul helped me flip the boat over so I could get a better look at what I was dealing with, and it turned out to be inexperience.
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