Time to get ready

Its that annual time of the year, when we start thinking about how to make Big Red faster, dryer and safer. In the last 3 years I have broke a mast step ( different boat) , sunk and broke off a rudder. Just a bit of luck this year would be nice. My new crew member will be my other son-in-law, still working on the perfect name. And if we could just hold the wind down to under 30 knots that would be great also….ha. Training sessions start in force after the year and working on cutting about 50 pounds off the boat. It has to be faster.

Good test run

Had a nice sail on Sat in 10 knots of wind with a few gusts of 15 or so. Sailed out in to the Gulf of Mexico. Beating to weather we were holding a steady 6 knots and about 30 degrees off the wind. Some spray over the bow.  Forward waterproof locker and new drain system worked great. Changes a lot of things in a positive way! We tacked to take off on a broad reach. As I went to raise the drifter, I grabbed the wrong end of halyard and ( you guessed it) pulled the halyard up and through the block and back to the deck. I had forgot to tie off the end. But with no drifter, and using jib and main, we were still surfing on some waves, hitting at least 8.5 knots. Maybe higher, but that was the highest I spotted. Roller furling Jib worked great.

So, now we are getting to the minor stuff. I tied in the required reef point ties on Sunday. Still have to try reefing the main. We sailed with full canvas last year, but I understand why we need to be able to reef. Fiberglassed on the stern light base. 5200 did not hold. Rigging a second block for the drifter with a light line, just in case I’m stupid again. Still need to repair the mainsheet attachment to the boom. Have to add some new line on the trampolines. Still have some touch up paint for the bottom. Last year when we beached the boat full of water, my new bright red paint job got scratched up on the bottom.  Putting gaskets on the “cooler” lids and adding tie downs to them. Also going to try putting in tupperware containers, just to help keep water out and stuff dry.

Next test is in about 2 weeks. We are loading the boat as close as possible to the race load exempt for all the food. Taking a 8-14 hour sail in the Gulf, a little night sailing. Should really be a good shake down to test all of the gear. Work on night reefing and using the drifter at night. Overall feeling much better than last year.

I think we are ready………

I have to admit, my fiberglass work is getting better, at least better than last year. 2 weekends and 5 nights have brought along a lot of progress in getting Big Red ready for this years EC. In the past when loaded with 2 adults and all the gear needed, the cockpit sat lower than the waterline. We always had water in the cockpit. So we raised the cockpit floor around 4″ with a drain straight down through the hull. It will change they way we sit, might add hiking straps to help balance.  The forward “cockpit” took a lot of water into it last year. Pounding into 6 waves did not work well. We added a waterproof hatch and glassed a bulkhead to make the entire front 8′ of the boat, a waterproof, dry storage area.  Hatch is still big enough to allow dry bags and paddles to be stored up forward.

Under the hull liner was a open area that filled with water last year with the leaks from the centerboard. We believe we had 40 gallons+ ( 320 pounds) when we put the boat under water last year.  This year we used a two part closed cell foam. Two quarts equal 1 cubic foot of foam with 60 lbs of floatation.  Fun to mix, equal parts, 10 seconds with a drill and with in 30 seconds its growing! We added 4 cubic ft of foam to the tune of almost 240 lbs of floatation. That not only makes the boat safer but keeps it de-watered below decks.

Next we went over the amas to find the leaks. Hooking up the air compressor to the drains and rubbing soap over every possible leak we were able to track down 2 leaks and repair them. Lastly, we picked up the Jib and main sails from Dennis @ Banks Sails in Tampa. The jib is now on roller furling and the main sail has its second set of reef-points. It also cleans up the lines leading to the cockpit as we no longer need the jib down haul or the jib halyard. Only thing left is to add a fair-lead for the furling jib.

This Sat. we go out for test with my crew/son-in-law, Ted Eversoll aka “danceswithmullet.”  More to come next week!

Pictures from Roy Edwards

Getting ready for 2013 EC

Getting serious about making “Big Red”, 18′ Sailbird trimaran “more” ready that last years EC. Changing hanked on headsail to roller furling, and adding 2nd set of reef points. Forward area of cockpit will now be enclosed with a water proof hatch. Last year we were taking on water in the forward area making us bow heavy. I think I solved the leaking centerboard control line. We discovered after last yearss race that there was not a lot of clearance between the top of the centerboard and the water line when loaded with gear, 2 adults and lots of wind/wave action. Water came through the top of centerboard and into the bilge under the hull liner. We added a tube to drain the water to cockpit. Revamped and improved drain system in cockpit. Adding waterproof storage bins to cockpit. Adding 2-3 cubic feet of flotation ( 180 lbs of flotation) to the bilge area around the centerboard area.  Last year we totally submerged the boat at one point. Doing everything possible to make sure it does not happen again. Also have added access plates so we can drain bilge just in case water seeps in there with out having to stop the boat. The loose “cooler” lids with be attached with piano hinges and gaskets to make the cockpit storage area waterproof. Also planning on adding access plates to the amas so we can pump water out just in case. Working on several “paddling” systems, but hard to paddle a 500lb+ trimaran to far anyway. Lastly, making a big effort to lighten gear and bring less gear than previous years.

Now waiting for this years crew, one of the son-in laws is coming along. Both great guys and excellent sailors.

So what happened?

6 1/2 hours and we were out of the race, done, finished.  Not the way we expected to do in the 300 mile Everglades challenge. We had a good start off the beach and headed out on a Southeast tack in 14 to 16 knots of wind. Somewhere along that first tack we hit 11.9 knots. In the first 1/2 hour we noticed the boat was bow heavy and we were bringing spray into the forward cockpit, the first time that had ever happened. I was bailing from time to time to try to keep the water out and the boat light. Tacking West we cleared Egmont key trying to go Southwest against some 6’+ seas and building winds. Stingslikeabee was steering as I continued to try to move weight out of the bow  and keep water out. Our speeds kept dropping and we were only moving 5-6 knots with full canvas up. If we pitched up to go SW we lost even more speed. I thought the big seas were killing our speed so we tacked back towards Anna Maria island to go inside and down the ICW. As we approached Anna Maria we noticed we had only about 4-6″ of free board in the bow. Checking the aft hatch ( where you can look in to the bilge), we were full of water! We sailed on in and beached the boat on Anna Maria island in protected winds. I was able to pump 40 gallons ( 300 pounds) out the bilge area. There was still more, but with out being able to put the bow in the air ( like on a trailer) there was no way of getting the last 10-20 gallons out. Thinking we were some how leaking due to the pounding offshore, we took off headed down the ICW. 1 hour later we decided to reef as the wind was still increasing. Just after we had reefed, we took a gust, instead of listing slightly like a trimaran normally does, the bow went under water followed by the two cockpits and both amas! Only the stern stayed slightly above. With large fenders and dry bags up foward I knew she’d come back up. We both agreed we were under about 1 minute before she popped back up. We had to be full of water again! As I bailed the cockpits we sailed over to a small island and beached it again. We were full of water, again! At this point we knew something was really wrong and we could not continue. We called Chief and let him know that we were dropping out. Again we pumped as much as we could and then we moved everything of weight to the aft locker. We were going to sail down wind and did not want to bury the bow in any big seas. So we headed North back to Ft. Desoto and our trailer. Sailing North in 22-24 knots,we ran with just a reefed main and cruised at 7-8 knots and hit 9.1knots. 2 hours later we were on the trailer and headed home.

The next day I filled the Sailbird up from inside the bilge. There are no thru-hulls, holes or places water should be able to enter exempt the centerboard which was under a hull liner. I had expected water to come pouring out of the centerboard trunk as soon as I put water inside. Nothing. Added more water, nothing. Finally at close to the top of the centerboard trunk water stared pouring out. The next day I talked to some other Sailbird owners. There is a line that comes out the top of the centerboard and then up through the hull liner. This is so you can lift the centerboard when you get to the beach. There is between a 1/2 inch and 1″ gap betweem the centerboard and liner. Any water that comes through the rope hole goes into the bilge, not into the cockpit.  Since we had put most of our heavy gear forward, we had made the boat bow heavy right away. Between that and beating to weather, water had come through the centerboard line hole into the bilge. As the water entered the bilge, it kept making the bow sit lower and lower, pooling forward and making the water came in even faster.

The solution? So simple its stupid. You add a Anderson bailer ( used in small boats like a sunfish) to the hull in the bilge area. It sucks the water out as you are moving. Nothing to do but watch the water disapear.  For next year, we will move weight/gear aft and try to lighten the boat 100-150 pounds between crew, gear, food and the boat itself. 11.9 knots to weather showed that it will move.  Waterlogged with a extra 300-400 pounds of water inside and still hitting 9.1 knots bodes well for fast off the wind speeds. And I never got to fly my new reacher!

The count down clock to next March has started.

Maybe building a boat would be easier

When I bought my 18′ Sailbird Trimaran “the Bird” last Oct, I thought this would be easy to get ready for the EC. Just add sails and fix the rudder. But then I looked over the rigging and decided to replace it and beef it up by adding lower shrouds ( never had any).  After that I was advised to beef up the ama cross beam attachments and the chain plates as both have been know to crack and or leak. Several weekends of fiberglassing took care of those projects. Then there was the search for some used sails.  I wanted to see what I really had before investing in new ones. If the boat was a dog, it would get dumped and a search for something faster would be on. I found some used sails and the Bird passed the sailing test, but the self draining system left 3-4″ of water in the cockpit all the time. So after some research I added a “one way” drain system with a ping pong ball in it. To do this I added a thru hull, a drain hole in the cockpit floor and a access plate so I could reach the screws for the drain . It was supposed to allow water out, not in, didn’t work. Meanwhile I ordered my new Mylar main, jib and reacher. 4 weeks later I had sails. The main and jib were easy once we figured out lines, and out hauls and where to mount the boom vang. But how to mount fly the Reacher? I needed a bow sprit, so with some luck I tracked down 1/2 of a  windsurfer mast. Mounted the base with a U bolt forward to slide it through since it had to come off when it was on the trailer. Speaking of trailers, tires were no good, so bought new tires and rims, but 4 bolt pattern does not work with a 5 bolt hub, so took them back and bought bigger tires, much better! The bird also did not come with 1 piece of line. So 3 halyards, 2 sets of sheets, a mainsail sheet, dock lines, boom vang, out haul line, line for the trampolines that had never been installed. Oh, yeah, and the drain system….so I glassed in the holes for the drain system and raised the floor 3 inches. Now I need to add scuppers once I verify the location. And then there’s the leak….have always been fighting water inside the boat, kept blaming it on the bad drain system. Well the drain was leaking, but so was the boat. Found a crack in the hull, just forward of the centerboard trunk. It had let in 250 pounds of water ( 30 gallons) in 8 hours the last time out. The pool noodles I had put inside the hull had helped to keep it floating, scary thought!  SO we dewatered the boat and glassed the crack. Still had to add a wind vane and running lights. And the rudder that was broken? Had that fixed early on, but the tiller was to short so bought a tiller extension, then another since the first was to small. Did I mention that after all my fiberglass work the Amas were still leaking a bit, so caulking was in order for those last leaks. And with all this done, just 2 things left to do. Sand the hull, fair in the rough spots, prime it twice and paint it twice. Wait 7 days before splashing and do one last test sail.  The other project? Start getting us ready for the race… like gear, food, clothes, charts, lights, phones dry bags etc, still have about 24 days, why panic?

Well, at least we didn’t sink….

Stingslikeabee and I did our test sail on Sat. We downgraded from a 60 miler to 4 hours South and then back after the wind forecast changed on Friday. It had been 15-20 Knots from the East and changed to 10 from the SE and 3 Knots at sunset…. We left about 10 and tacked against a short chop, and foul current through the AM. Early afternoon it looked like the wind was starting to die so we turned and headed home. Hit 7.7 Knots with maybe 8-10 knots of wind. A hour later we were ghosting along under reacher and Main in 4 knots of wind still holding 2-3 knots boat speed. First time with the reacher and it worked excellent. Looking forward to trying it with some real wind. As were were sailing back I happen to look inside the aft hatch where we store gear. The boat had 5-6 inches of water in it! Was not concerned about sinking, just frustrated that we had taken on so much water. When we made it back to the dock and put it on the trailer we dumped between 25-30 gallons of water out, 250 pounds! I had actually added 3 pool noodles to the inside of the hull in the unusable area the night before. Figured just in case we ever hit something, they might help support the main hull. Well I think they were helping to hold us up. After getting “the Bird” home we filled the hull with water and discovered that water was leaking out of a hairline crack at the forward end of the centerboard trunk. Looks like 38 years of the centerboard hitting had finally cracked it. Started doing the fiberglass repair last night. Hoping for 1 more test sail before we paint the hulls. Also curious to test our speed with out the extra weigh inside since we were sailing close to wind speed while water logged.

Training run

Planning a training run this Sat. with my daughter and race partner Brooke “stingslikeabee”. Planning to leave Safety harbor in the AM and sail South through Tampa Bay, under the Skyway bridge, back up the West coast to Clearwater. Finishing on the ICW just inside and South of Clearwater. The trip is somewhere between 60 and 70 miles. That could be as little as 6 hours, or as long as 14……. Wind forecast is either 16 knots with gusts from the East ( perfect) or SW winds of 7 knots, ( not so perfect). In the last few days I tweaked the rudder to get rid of the vibration, added reflective tape, and added a Stern light. The stern light is good for boats going under 7 MPH, so I guess we need to add the red/green to the bow since we plan to go much faster :). Also added the bases for the GOpro video camera so should have some cool video next week. Reworking the drain system and adding some flotation to the cockpit to make it dryer. Hope it works. If everything worksm and nothing breaks this weekend, we start painting next week, Orange, yellow or Black.

New Sails test run.

I went out with Dennis, my sail-maker from Banks Sails. We had winds of 15-18 knots just to make it interesting…… Below is a video as we first got started. Needed to do some tuning to the rig, the forestay was loose and the mast was bouncing around a bit. We were also hauling around a extra 150 pounds of water from the crappy drain system. Just as I turned on the camera we took a gust that buried the leeward ama. Talk about hitting the brakes! It got better after that with more sailing flat and faster. Still have a lot of tweaking to do and doing a 60-70 mile test sail this weekend.