Taking SmartTrack toe steering system off

As an experiment, I installed the SmartTrack toe steering system (with trim tab) on my Triak about a month ago. I’ve been wanting to be able to brace my feet for paddling and wanted to give this a try. The only question mark was how well it would perform for sailing in high winds. I’ve been very pleased with it for paddling and for sailing in light winds. I had mixed results, though, last month for moderate winds while sailing. Today I took it out in high winds and was pretty frustrated with the steering performance. I finally decided I’d be better off with the original sliding foot peddles for steering for being able to sail in all conditions so I spent the afternoon putting the original sliding system back in. Sometime you just have to keep things simple. I will sacrifice some paddling efficiency but I need to be able to sail in all conditions including high wind.

On the plus side, I tried out my new claw anchor when out in a blow with white-caps and it worked well. I was able to deploy it from the cockpit, it set well, and with the line tied to the bow the boat was at a good orientation to the wind. I was able to retrieve the anchor with a second line spliced into the primary line from the cockpit. The only negative was the anchor line ended up looping around the bottom of my bow before coming back to where I cleat it off by the cockpit. If I had to sail a long distance like that, it might slow me down a tiny bit.

All in all a good learning experience today. I didn’t get many derby points, though, because I was just trying stuff out and then back to the workshop.

January practice runs

This video shows some experimenting with paddling while flying the spinnaker.

It also shows how the SmartTrack toe levers and supporting guides move a bit when the system is under strain. I fond that this movement restricted the full range of moving the rudder while beating to weather. To relieve this motion, I tried removing the little flexible spacers between the guide and the hull. I’ll report back once I’ve had a chance to try the boat out in the water since this change.

The end of the video below shows the movement before I took the spacers out.

SmartTrack toe control Rudder System

If you need to paddle the Triak long distances (like we had to for the North Carolina Challenge) you can’t utilize the most efficient paddle stroke because you can’t brace your feet for each stroke. Since I want to be able to do this, I’m trying out the SmartTrack toe steering system (with trim tab). In theory this system will allow you to brace your feet for efficient paddling and use your toes (or top part of foot) to control the rudder. A “cool rudder wedge” is used to hold the wire rope at the rudder so there is no need for a crimp there. This means it can be adjusted without any tools. There is also a Trim tab accessory which allows you to hold the rudder in place for long periods without having to maintain the pressure on the toe lever. In theory this all sounds neat so I’m going to try it out. I just installed it and will report back after I try it out in the water. I’m hoping to participate in the 300 mile Everglades Challenge in March and if this works, it should help in the very long tacks down on the Florida coast. And if the wind dies, I will be able to paddle more efficiently…

Original Foot brace

New Foot brace with toe control (left side)

New Foot brace with toe control (right side)

Trim tab tension control

Trim Tab Lever

Cool Rudder Wedgie

[Edit 12/31/2012]

I had an opportunity to try out the SmartTrack toe steering foot braces last Thursday and Friday and was very pleased with the ability to brace my feet while paddling. I successfully did some sailing in fairly light wind conditions and the toe steering performed well in those conditions. I also did some paddling in a narrow creek during some high winds and they also performed well. I’ll report back again once I have had a chance to try them out sailing in heavier wind.

It is possible to get full rudder deflection by pressing the toe lever far enough. With using the trim tab, though, it is also possible to get the full rudder deflection without needing to press the toe lever so far. Using these two (trim tab and toe pressing) works well in combination. The Trim tab lets you keep your feet in the neutral stance where some rudder deflection is necessary. If you get the SmartTrack toe steering system, I would recommend also getting the trim tab accessory. They work well together.

The Trim tab system utilizes a continuous wire for the rudder control. The two ends of the single wire terminate at each end of the rudder. The trim tab lever adjusts an offset for the midpoint of the wire. By adjusting the lever, one can make a neutral foot position cause the rudder to be deflected slightly one way or the other. For sailing, this allows you to keep your feet in the neutral position (not actively pressing on one of the toe levers) while having the rudder slightly deflected. For paddling with a cross-wind, this allows you to brace your feet without needing to keep one of the toe levers slightly depressed. The cross wind can be adjusted for with the trim tab lever. The following link is to the installation guide for the Trim tab. It will give you a better idea of what it is. http://www.paddlerssupply.com/PDF/TTInst.pdf

I needed to install the trim tab lever off to one side because the dagger board trunk prevented a central installation location. Offsetting it to one side was fine. There was plenty of tubing and wire for this slight change. It doesn’t make any difference for how the system works.

With being able to brace my feet, I was able to assume the proper paddle stroke utilizing the core muscle groups in the lower body and back. Without being able to brace your feet, the muscle groups in the arms and shoulders must carry a much larger share of the work.

The only big question mark is tryign it out in high wind coditions while sailing. I’ll report back after I have had a chance to do so.

[Edit: 1/13/2013] I took the Triak out today and tried some close-hauled sailing. The Smart-track system (with trim tab) seemed to have some difficulty with all the pressure on the rudder for close-hauled sailing. I think the tubes going from the trim-tab to the foot braces might have been deflected a bit resulting in not as much effective trim adjustment. I was needing to put the trim tab all the way to one extreme and still press fairly far with the tops of my feet. I will have to experiment with this a bit at home. Perhaps if I anchor the tube in a couple of places, it might solve that problem. The trim tab worked find for down-wind sailing. I’ll also take it out a couple more times before the EC so I can device whether to leave the smart-track in there or switch back to the stock system.

Ama repair job

A month ago my port ama suffered some cracks while on a practice sail for the NCC. I was able to do a temporary jury rig to finish the trip but needed a permanent repair before the ama could be used again.

To repair, I first ground out the cracks and filled with an epoxy colloidal silica mixture to provide a smooth surface for the subsequent steps. I then sanded off a large area of the gel-coat in preparation to lay down some extra fiberglass layers. I did this to both amas since whatever I did to the broken ama, I also did to the other one as well. I didn’t quite sand all the way down the fiberglass, but I did remove the shiny outer layer of the gel coat.

I next added and wetted down a small piece of fiberglass with an opening cut out for the wing connection to each ama. The line around the piece is from the felt-tip marker used to indicate where to cut the fiberglass. Hopefully a later painting step will cover this up.

Then I added a large piece of fiberglass over the entire area.

And proceeded to start to wet it out. I made some cuts at the center of the wing connection so it wraps down inside the connection.

After finishing wetting out, I added a piece of pealPly over the entire area. Using PealPly gives a better finish without using as much total epoxy.

Since pealPly won’t conform to strange curves, I had to make a number of slits up around the wing connection area.

After the epoxy started to gel-up, I cut off some of the excess and then temporarily made the connection with the wing to ensure that there was a good fit. I had pre-treated the wing with mold-release. I just kept the connection in place for a couple of minutes.

Then I finished removing the excess material and after it firmed up a bit more, the pealPly.

The last step after the epoxy cures will be to sand out any imperfections and coat with yellow-tinted gel-coat. I’ll post an edit to this post after I paint it.

2012 North Carolina challenge

The following video shows the boat and kayak line-up on the beach about 45 minuts before the start of the race.

The following shows the start from the perspective of my boat being pulled in. You can see the “big boat” filter at play.

The following video shows me weathering the down-draft of a thunderstorm while in my Triak. I had rolled the sail up and paddled in plave to keep the bow pointed into the wind. I was fairly close to shore here so the waves did not build up much. The wind was trying to blow me off shore. The shore, though, was rocks so I couldn’t beach it right where I was when the down-draft hit. It felt worst than the video indictes – perhaps due to the wide-angle lens.

I worked out a way to point a little better with using a very light-weight carbon canoe paddle (while sailing close hauled) and also had successfully experimented with an extra line to help me control sail-shape. I’ll describe that better in a future post. You can see the line set-up in the launching video.

The first part of the day was either no wind or close-hauled. I was almost totally exhausted after paddling through the straight portion of the Harlowe canal. After the third bridge, I just kind of limply paddled making very very slow progress for the next two hours. Then when I finally got out of the canal into the Newport River, I perked up with the open water and a bit of beam wind. I was able to sail over closer to Beaufort but grounded out on a sand-bar. The area around there is full of sand-bars and if you deviate from the channel particularly at low tide, you will ground out. A few people shared stories of getting stuck there. I had to hop out and drag my boat a while to find deep-enough water. Finally I made it to Beaufort (the half-way point) at around 3:00 AM after 19 hours of struggle. I had some hot chocolate, re-filled my water bottles, and then headed off again to find a place to crash and get a couple of hours sleep.

I had gotten permission to tie up and sleep on a private dock down the creek from Beaufort so at about 4:00 AM, I got there, blew up my air mattress, and simply laid down there right at the end of the dock. The mosquitoes were eating me alive and I didn’t want to bother to pitch my tent so I simply unzipped the door to my tent and put it over me and laid back down on the pad. That worked fine. I was breathing through the mosquito screen as part of the tent. I got two hours of very needed sleep. Then at about 6:00 AM, I got up, hopped back in the Triak and pushed off.

I had a couple of hours of good downwind and beamy wind in which I was able to fly the spinnaker. I was hoping that I was going to be able to sail like this all the way to the finish line. But after a couple of hours, the wind shifted and I had head-winds for the next 5 or 6 hours. More close hauled sailing. My eyes were stinging bad due to a combination of sun, salt, wind, insect repellant, and sun-screen.

When I was about 10 miles from the finish, a big thunderstorm hit. I was caught in the cold down draft which lasted for about 20 minutes. During that time, I just concentrated on keeping my bow pointed in to the wind. After the downdraft part of the storm subsided, I was able to paddle over to a protected cove beach it, and get out to not be the tallest thing around while the rest of the storm passed. There was lots of thunder and lightning.

After the storm, those last 10 miles seemed very long. I made one wrong turn and had to backtrack a ways. When I was back-tracking, I got stuck in the mud once and had to get out and drag the boat a ways. Interestingly, I saw footprints were I was dragging my boat so some other race participants may have been right there earlier in the day doing the same thing.

I was almost on empty when I finished the race. I unpacked a little bit but then simply left the boat and all my gear on the beach and walked to get my car. After a warm shower at the campground, a dry set of clothes, and a meal at the hotel restaurant, I almost felt human again. That night I actually pitched my tent and got a much needed sleep. The next morning I work up early, packed up the boat, had breakfast, went to the award ceremony, and then had a nice brunch. I had no problem eating breakfast twice.

My main physical ailment was that the skin was rubbed off of my waistline with the chaffing from my bathing suit. I had used some mole-skin there but it wasn’t enough. I will have to come up with a better anti-chaffing solution for future long trips.

I met a lot of really nice people and swapped a lot of stories. The nice thing about these adventure races is it is really about the adventure. As long as you had a meaningful adventure, then mission accomplished.

Practice Derby #7

I went to the York River again for the last practice derby entry before the NCC. Since I damaged one of my amas and I feared I could not do an adequate repair before the big race, I borrowed some amas from the dealer (Peter) in Florida. These amas were previously damages and repaired and I like the repair job. As the video shows, a large piece of twill weave fabric (wither fiberglass or carbon) was placed as a cap over the whole wing connection area (and farther) to really distribute the forces from the ama. I plan on doing something like this to repair my own amas after the NCC race.

The day testing them out was a fairly light wind day but they at least remained water-tight.