"There is nothing more pleasant than cruising on a boat with the whole family."
Letter from Empress Catherine the Great

Monday, August 25, 2014

August 10 to 24 -- Not Much Sailing

We began by going to a lovely wedding of friend's daughter, out on Long Island.

Lene, Lianne, Ellen and Rudy
Then came Lene's successful surgery: laperoscopic removal of the malignancy in her left lung and her return after two nights in the hospital. We were very lucky to have such a good outcome due to an accidental early detection.
There was also a membership meeting at the Harlem YC to discuss our need for an assessment to pay for mistakes of the past such as forgetting to pay the taxes we collected and the need to come up with not just the taxes, but  penalty and interest as well. Self inflicted wounds caused by volunteers who are human and hence fallible. Been one; done that. The more important issue was how to create a mechanism to try to insure against repetitions of such debacles. Creation of a new position: A designated Pain In The Butt Officer who will have a calendar of dates when payments and license renewals, etc. are due and whose sole function will be to bug the other members of the Board and demand to see that the checks (taxes, payroll and insurance) and applications (occupancy, fire safety, etc.) are written.

And a visit to Fran, in Western Connecticut where a smaller boat was involved.
Mendy in the bow; can you see his muscles?
Also, I worked about thirteen hours during three days on many small projects involving electrical, carpentry, plumbing, sanding and varnishing. I'll spare you the details.

And there were three days of sailing though short ones, totaling only about eight hours.

1)  With Bennett, bringing his boat, fresh from the repair of damage caused by a close encounter with a rocky bottom, from Barron's Yard, on the other side of City Island, back to the Club, but with a sail through the channel off Kings Point and to Throggs Neck, about two hours, in light winds and smooth seas. A pleasant day.

2) With the Wednesday afternoon sailing club (formerly and sometimes currently called The Old Farts). This group assembled automatically and organically in prior years but has had a rocky start this season so I organized this outing, the second one this year. While still not a success, we did get nine folks out on two boats for a couple of hours. With me on ILENE were Richie, who no longer owns a boat, Rhoda, and Alfred and Leona. The latter two are older, averaging in their higher 80's,  and while Alfred's ability to steer, learned in German waters before WWII, is unimpaired, his ability to see is not as good and I had to stand close while he was at the wheel to get us back on course. Leona had great difficulty in the transfers between the launch and the boat -- knee problems -- and actually hurt her arm on the way off. Sorry Leona. Both great sports and Alfred will be back. The other vessel was Brian and Angela's "Debut," a Bristol. With them were Morty and Clara. The G&Ts were supplied by Alfred and Leona after two hours of sailing in light winds to the east coast of Mamaroneck Bay and back.

3)  We sailed in the Club's 60th (or so) running of the Sidney J. Treat Regatta. Lene steered, our nephew, Mendy, did most of the winching and Rhoda and Lloyd helped out as well.  But we are the scratch boat and have to finish far in front of the other boats so our time after PHRF handicap correction, will still have us as the winner. Specifically we were assigned a handicap of 87 compared to the others in our division, which ranged from 123 to 234.  And the upshot is that of the five boats that finished (out of six that entered), we were next to last in actual time and dead last after corrected time.  So I guess I better explain why we lost. These are the reasons, not excuses. The biggest problem is that due entirely to my fault, we were way out of place and did not get to the starting line until about two minutes after the race started. In a race that lasted less than 43 minutes, this is a deadly sin. Another thing was lack of crew training and practice. Mendy is very strong and very willing, but I had not trained him so I had to tell him what to do which slowed things down.  The last reason other than my mistakes was the nature of the wind on race day. In very strong wind I can use ILENE's small jib, which is self tacking, making the tacks and jibes very fast, i.e., we do not lose much speed. But in lighter wind, as on race day, the power of the big Genoa is needed and to tack or jibe with it, one has to furl it, do the maneuver and then let it out on the other side, which in such a short race takes ages. For long distance ocean racing, where a tack of gybe might be needed every few hours or even every few days, the loss of a few minutes per maneuver is no big deal and ILENE can do well. Every boat's handicap is computed based on the performance of other boats of the same model in all kinds of races. These results are averaged out. In strong winds ILENE will do well against her handicap but not today.
After the race we took a long loop into Littleneck Bay before returning to the Club to congratulate the winners. ILENE has won Club races but this was not our day. Nevertheless, a good time was had by all.

For a more interesting post than this one, Google: "Sail Pandora" for an account by our friend, Bob, of his sail on a 180 foot luxury yacht out of Newport RI.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Our Part in the Harlem Yacht Club Cruise of 2014

Sunday Aug 3 - Work Day on the Mooring

The Club Cruise ran from Aug 1 to 10 but ILENE's part became five nights and five days, with three nights with the main contingent of the Club Cruise in Mattituck and the Seatauket YC on the North Shore of Long Island. I worked four hours the day before we got started. I found the missing green washer for the dink's air pump -- under the dink and made some progress on pumping it up, but it is not right yet. But we will be on anchor, on dock or on a mooring with launch service for this entire mini-cruise so the dink will not needed. So I moved the outboard from the car's trunk, the gas tank from the boat and the air pump from the dock -- all three to the locker with the oars I found located there buried under the winter covers. Also, I am not putting the water maker into service until we leave for the winter -- unless the manual says it can't remain pickled for a whole year. I'd hate to foul up that expensive piece of machinery.

Other work included: (1) sawing the three pieces of veneered wood to close up the port aft cabinet to size, though installation requires return of our drill which was lent out; (2) cleaning birds' mess off the dodger which needs more scrubbing. Actually is is not guano but fish guts, scales and bones -- birds being such messy eaters;
(3) attempting to knock out the boom's thumb cleats, which was not successful, though I did learn that the first reefing line had been led through the forward part of the boom on the wrong side of the thumb cleat, which was what was causing the harm to the line. So by releading and repairing this line I may not have to do the knockout or replace the line; (4) locating and installing the hatch board bag and inserting the boards therein and installing the cafe doors. These doors put me psychologically into cruising mode. I'm ready!

Mon August 4 - Prep Day and Sleep Aboard, Anticipating an Early Start

This was mostly a land day for prep, provisioning and packing. We loaded the car, including the cats, and arrived at the Club at 8:30 pm. After getting everything aboard and put away, we slept peacefully in calm water. This was the cats' third trip to the boat this season and they did not complain about being locked in their stuffy carrier in the car. I think it is because they have associated the carrier with boating, which they seem to love. So much for my amateur feline psychiatry.
Whitty: "Do I look like I'm worried"

Alphie: "I'm Captain of all I survey"
Our efforts to keep out flying biting pests at night was thwarted by the cats ability to "break and enter" by pushing in the screens covering the small side opening ports. They want free rein of ILENE's cabin AND exterior, 24/7. But if we close these ports, the screens cannot be pushed through and the cats have to elect between the two sides of the boat: in or out.

Tues August 5 - HYC to Port Jeff Cove

Underway at 7:00 am for six hours. It was eerily still with mist on the water that the sun had not yet burned off but fine visibility. We were the only boat moving. We waved to some fishermen on the Morris YC dock. By nine a.m. there were a few other boats out but far away. We motored the entire way and never set a sail. Normally a sail will stabilize the boat against rocking but the seas were flat calm with occasional 2 or 3 knot winds, so rocking was not a problem. It was a day made for power boaters, who like flat seas, but not for sailors. Perhaps all that great wind in July has blown itself out and we will have to content ourselves with weak weather sailing conditions in August.  
Clouds and Northport stacks mirrored on the water

Our wake, if you can call it that, as if cut through oil
The last time I recall sailing with such views was crossing the Caicos Banks.  See blog: "Judy and Meridel and Turks and Caicos Part 1", April 3, 2012.

 We took someone's mooring in the big cove to starboard just past the breakwater in Port Jeff, hoping the owners didn't show up that evening, but there are about seventy private moorings here and only five boats at the maximum. On a weekend its quite different. Lunch, a nap and then chores before dinner, reading and sleep.
My primary chore was removing, repairing and reinserting the first (red) reefing line. The strength of such a braided line is in its core. The outside, which we see, protects the core from chafing and makes it feel better in ones hands. The covering was all bunched around the two ends and about six feet of the white core, where it runs through the boom, were bare. So the first thing I did was to pull on the cover from the ends to the middle, over and over. Gradually the cover moved toward the middle until the bare spot was only about eight inches long. Then I sewed some light thread through the cover and the core, to try to hold things in place. Then red electrical tape was wound around the remaining exposed core. The reefing line certainly carries a heavy load. More experienced sailors who may think this is a bad idea, please chime in. Otherwise, time will tell if this red line parts, and if the storm is severe enough to do this to the red line, there is the second black reefing line waiting to take its load.
My other chore was installation of self adhesive rubber weatherstripping to the underside of the cover of the aft port lazarette -- the propane locker. Practical Sailor magazine told me that this compartment should be locked and watertight, except for a hole in the bottom, through which any propane that leaks from the tank, being heavier than air, could escape outside the boat. We have gotten some water in this lazarette, when heeled in the rain, because it was not watertight. Most of this water escaped through the hole in the bottom but it's much better bone dry. The latch went on this past winter and now the weatherstripping.

August 6 - Port Jefferson to Mattituck

We hoisted the main at the mooring at about 8:30 but also used the engine to head north out of Port Jeff, through its wide channel, rather than tack in there. Then northerly winds made the next two hours of our 25 mile eastward passage something of a beam reach and the genoa got to play as well. With full sails, and a bit of help from the tides, we were making speed over ground in excess of two thirds of the apparent wind speed, averaging better than six knots, and without the engine's noise. But starting at about 11:00 the winds dropped to behind us and in strength so we had to use the engine the rest of the way. There was a mess in the compartment under the cabinet under the galley sink, which I cleaned up while Lene maintained the watch. She also had the helm from the breakwater up the two mile long bending bayou-like creek to the dock at Strong's Marina. We did this at low tide which made for a nervous time. In the bayou the deep water is not in the center and at times was only five inches below the bottom of our keel. We were on the dock, across from "Blast," Ernie and Camille's big Albin trawler, by 1:30.
This was ILENE's first docking this year except for her initial watering. I worked the afternoon, washing the top of the boat, filling the port water tank and then I caused a very expensive stupid mistake -- by not following the advice I always give to Ilene. "Make sure that the deck fill hole into which you put the water hose says 'WATER'".  Yes, I put the fresh water hose from the dock into the starboard fuel tank. Water being heavier than diesel, it went to the bottom of the tank and pushed a few gallons of diesel fuel out onto the deck and into the water before our neighbor, Bert, yelled that we were spilling fuel. Probably a few gallons, which subjected us to a potential fine and cleanup costs from the Department of Environmental  Protection. I mopped up what I could and did get to the marina's very nice pool to cool off a few minutes before it's five PM closure time.
I'm sure these guys didn't like my mucking up their home.
I think it was the anticipation of that dip which caused me to not be thinking about the right deck fill. A shower and dinner with our new friends, Bert and Margie of the fast powerboat "Blue Bell" from Mashpee, on the Cape and Florida. Dinner was at Paces Dockside, the restaurant on the marina's grounds. Bert bought a bottle of wine and shared it with me. And another good night's sleep before I had to face the music the next day.

August 7 - Lay Day in Mattituck

The morning was pleasant, with a walk into town to visit the hardware store, post office, book store, grocery, drugstore (for a postcard to send to my granddaughter), cheese store, and wine shop. But the afternoon entailed taking up the entire cabin sole to get to the top opening of the forward fuel tank (where the inoperative fuel gauge is inserted). That hole is inconveniently located directly under the one small piece of the sole that holds all the other pieces together. About 60 1.5" wood screws were removed. John is an excellent mechanic but took three very expensive hours to do what he could have done in a fraction of that time if he had been supplied with a stronger pump attached to larger diameter hoses. Out came the pink diesel fuel and the water, all told about 40 gallons, into five gallon cans which were poured into a fifty five gallon drum that was hauled off to an authorized hazardous waste disposal site. The pumping done, I shooed John out and put the boat back together again myself. Too late for that refreshing dip today. Instead the bitter pill of the bill. Let's just say with the replacement of forty gallons of diesel fuel my mistake cost north of one grand. And I have remarked how proud of myself I am when I accomplish a new task on the boat. So I better fess up about how rotten I feel about a stupid very costly mistake that harmed the environment. I know better and it won't happen again.

Dinner was a pot luck affair at a picnic table in the marina. This would have been better if we had had six or ten boatloads of folks. As it was there was us, Ernie and Camille from "Blast" and Marcia and Mark from "Leeds The Way". 
Marcia is the Club's current Fleet Captain, a position I held for a few years and that Ernie held for more than 20 years before me.  We love cruising but can do it without the Club, such as our 93 days in Maine last summer. It is sad that those who could benefit from our experience do not avail themselves of this resource. Anyway, there was no shortage of good food and beverages among our tiny group.

August 8 - Mattituck to Seatauket YC, in Port Jefferson Harbor

Underway from 10 to 4:30. We tried to sail and actually did sail a few miles, close hauled, easterly, along the North Shore of L.I. But we tacked to a northerly course and stayed on it too long. Too long because the wind had shifted and we could no longer sail east so we gave it up, keeping the main up for stability and headed directly for the Port Jeff breakwater, with the wind directly in front of us. Turning south to enter the harbor, the wind helped us and we sailed to about 150 yards from the mooring field, headed into the wind, popped the main halyard clutch and expected to hear the familiar "whoosh" of the mainsail tumbling down into its bag. But no whoosh. I went to the mast to tug down on the sail's luff. Nothing doing. I told Lene to head back out into the open part of the harbor and watch our depth and for other boats, like this ferry coming out,
while I would get into the bos'ns chair and she would haul me to the top of the mast (using the spinnaker halyard) where I planned to use pliers to unscrew the shackle and let the sail fall down. Luckily the wind was light, reducing both heeling and our speed. Lene said "Check the mast." Smart girl! Somehow, two loops of the end of the port lazy jack halyard had worked loose from their coil and in fact four lengths of this thinner line had become wedged between the main halyard and the housing of its block at the base of the mast. I managed to get the sail down by pulling the halyard through this block, a few inches and then feet at a time. Once the sail was down and stowed, we were able to take a guest mooring and then came the task of fixing the problem. First I cut the lengths, about 2.5 feet that stuck out from the block. Then I tried pulling the stuck bits out with pliers. I removed the block and it's shackle from the base of the mast to make the work easier. Next it was knife, ice pick and pliers, trying to pluck fibers from the errant bits but this was very slow going.


Notice how flattened these formerly jammed bits are compared to the width of normal line.
 (If anyone knows how I can get rid of the underlining below, which is unintended, please let me know, thank you.)
Dinner was at La Parilla, good Spanish food, followed by the traditional desert of the Harlem Cruise -- ice cream.

August 9 - Seatauket YC to Harlem YC
Port Jeff waterfront from our mooring; ferry docks to the right.

We got off the mooring at 7:45  and at 8:00. Huh? Well, Lene and I had a "failure to communicate." She did not hear me say "Reverse," to back away form the ball, and took my pointing out where the ball was as a direction to turn toward that side. We drove the boat over the mooring, getting its lines tangled on the propeller. So I got a refreshing early morning salt water dip and got us off in short order, without cutting any lines.  In the harbor we saw about five knots of wind from the north and hoisted the main in anticipation of a beamy starboard reach while we retraced the first day's passage, in the opposite direction. We even set the genoa, a couple of times. But the wind died. This time, it being a Saturday, numerous wakes of large high horse-power floating big-ego machines roiled the surface so the main did serve its anti-rocking purpose. A rather boring passage and we were on our mooring at 2:20 and home in our apartment at 4. So, while a lot of things went wrong, everyone got home safely and a good time was had by all.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Who Is Reading This Blog With An Interest In Estonia and The Northern Bahamas

 I've recently observed an unusually high number of "page views" of the posts I wrote about these two places. I'm wondering if the readers liked something I wrote, hated it or have comments:

Our Last Three Bahamas May 2, 2012   -- 396 page views
Talinn (Estonia) Maritime Museum June 21, 2014   71 page views

This blog has never "gone viral" but I am enjoying writing it and wondering what I said that caused such a stir. Feedback appreciated.
Thanks. Roger

FYI: Our plans are for a short five day mini-cruise in Long Isalnd Sound starting today, and a seven to eight month one starting on or about October 8 to Key West Florida and maybe the Bahamas

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Four More Great Sails Round Out July And A Serious Health Issue Changes Plans for August

Four more day sails and one work day closed out July. Regrettably, Lene was not aboard. Average of 4.55 hours per sail.
First was Greg and Kathy. Greg is a member of my Mens' Book Group. We men get to meet each other's wives when we have dinners at each others' homes and at our annual Spring social. Kathy and Greg have also visited the Barnes Collection in Philly with us a couple of years ago. Greg, a terrific artist and retired professor of drawing has sailed with me several times and Kathy, a retired teacher,
Greg's drawing, sorry about side view.
overcame her fears on this rookie voyage. The wind started at less than ten and grew to more than 15 as the day wore on. We used the small jib and main, getting to Sea Cliff YC and then dipping into Manhassett Bay far enough to see Port Washington, on the way home. Pinot Grigio on the mooring at the end. We have been enjoying stronger than normal winds this July.
Next up was Cynthia, a past guest, in a lot of wind for 2.25 hours underway. We used reefed main and no head sail and made speeds of five to seven knots on beamy reaches back and forth into Little Neck Bay.
The excitement came at the end, when it was time to fetch the mooring. This is no task for a sweet petite lady who is a bit older than I. So I had to try to get close to the pickup stick and slow ILENE before running forward to the bow to grab the bobbing pickup stick and then pull up and grab and attach the bridle before the wind blew us away. I made six tries. The problem is that when you slow down enough to not race past the mark, even though you aim as close to the wind as possible, the wind will come a few degrees on one side or the other and blow the boat's bow away. I gained a new appreciation for the accomplishments of my friend Jim, who sailed "Aria" solo for many years, though his run from tiller to bow, on a 26 foot boat, was shorter than mine. Twice I grabbed the pickup stick in these six tries. The first time the boat turned and the wind pushing on its side made the boat too heavy for me to hold; I had to let go. Frustration!!!! The second time the cheap flimsy line with which the mooring servicer had tied the pickup stick to the bridle -- parted! I had the stick but it was no longer attached to a bridle. FRUSTRATION! And in all this I had a few close encounters with friends' moored boats -- but no touches. Strong reverse gear pulled ILENE's bow back past the bow of the neighboring boat. So what to do? Call the Harlem launch and ask for help! The operator wisely let me wait, circling, for a few minutes while he got reinforcements. Two strong men Dave and Jeep, jumped from the slow moving launch to the slow moving ILENE. Then, when I got ILENE's bow to the mooring ball, and held her there, they used a boat hook to grab the bridle and the problem was solved. The alternative plan B I had contemplated would have been to go a bit outside of the mooring field and drop anchor. Cynthia professed that she was never worried. This was because I never showed my fear. Lene joined Cynthia and me for dinner at Neptune Restaurant, a favorite, on First avenue near 12th Street.
Next I enjoyed a very productive work day with Lene's cousin's sons, Jake and Jared. They were transformed from guests the weekend before, to worker bees, for five hours. The economy is so weak that they don't have summer jobs. So they liked the money and I liked the quality and quantity of the work they accomplished, largely helping me bring the RIB dink from the upstairs locker to the dock and compounding and waxing the topsides and cockpit. While they worked I varnished the other side of  the cafe doors, replaced the mooring bridle to pickup stick line with a stouter one, whipped a few ends and cleaned up the galley stove top. I also picked up the outboard from Tony, proprietor of Island Outboard, two blocks from the Club, on City Island Avenue (718) 885-2012. Tony has done a lot of good work on my outboard over the years and we use it many times more than most people.
Next day being a Wednesday, I tried to revive the Club within a Club (See Blog, July 2012.) This is the informal group of people who have Wednesday afternoons available. With the loss last year of four of our larger boats (ILENE was in Maine), the group had sort of fizzled out. But on only 15 hours notice only three other folks showed up. The very light winds may have held down attendance as well and I have been encouraged to try artificial respiration again later, with more notice. Morty asked that we sail with him and his wife Clara on their 30 foot Catalina, "Easy Living." Completing our quartet was a new member, Mary, an Oncological Nurse Practitioner, who does not have a boat yet but has been found qualified to use the Club's J-24s and is enthusiastic.  The sailing was rather listless with very light wind but we did get up to 4.5 knots on two occasions when puffs lifted us. And the lunch before hand, the conversation during and the G&T (vodka actually) after were all quite good.
Finally, on the last day of the month, I helped set up a sail with our former member, Nick, whose boat we helped sell last year after he became a resident of the Hebrew Home for the Aged due to memory issues.
Master carpenter and dance instructor, Nick, at dinner after.
I signed him out and was met at the Club by three other old friends of his, one of whom, John, had driven up from Maryland's Eastern Shore.
Don and John
We were off the mooring for five hours: close hauled out of Eastchester Bay, then broad reaching with a couple of jibes to about six miles east of Matinecock Point before tacking for one long  close reach back past Execution Rocks. Then to give them some excitement, after changing back from the genoa to the small jib, we tacked back up through Hart Island Sound, over to near L.I. and then to the mooring. After dousing sails we passed through the channel behind Big Tom under motor and went through the City Island YC fleet looking for Nick's old boat but we did not spot her. All of these men are good sailors. Like Nick, Don and John are past members of the Harlem. Nick taught John how to sail. Don preferred to trim sails and the other three men shared the helm. Nick's memory problems definitely did not involve any impairment of his ability of to handle the helm.  Pat, rounded out our group.
Co-organizer of the event, a nurse, and one of the most knowledgeable and helpful men in the Club.
He spotted a damaged ring clip at the tack of the jib,which we replaced and taped. It was catching the Genoa jib sheets, causing damage to them and itself. I usually try to "improve" my friends' boat when I sail with them. This time Pat did this for me. He had also brought the Chardonnay that we shared in the cockpit, apres sail. Then the guys helped my try to inflate the dink on the dock noting that the washer at the end of the pump hose was missing, which was the problem. (A new one is on order.) The day ended with dinner together before the three others drove Nick home.
And proving that our rosy life does not exist without a few thorns, I got a call from Lene during our dinner. The needle biopsy of her left lung came back as malignant, but stage one, slow growing and small. It gives one cause to pause. It will be removed by laperoscopic surgery on August 12, with preparatory tests between now and then. If one has to catch cancer, this is the type to get and the early dtection was quite lucky.
But, of course,  this means that our plans to cruise up to Nantucket during the entire month of August will not come off. We are now planning a short five day cruise in the Sound before the surgery, during which we hope to catch up with the HYC Club Cruise, at Matinecock, in the Sound. Lene's attitude is really great. She is cheerful, positive, determined and optimistic. She knows that worry does one no good. NYU's Langone Medical Center is a world class hospital and she has excellent doctors. Stay tuned!