2013 NCC

The weather gods were not smiling on us this year for the NCC/NCPC. There were extended small craft warnings/advisories in effect for the whole week which led to Chief deciding to officially cancel both races. He said that people could always do them on their own but they wouldn’t be a “sanctioned” watertribe race. Although, if anyone managed to complete one of the courses, then he would include that completion in the record books.

Some people took him up on that and started out to do either the NCC or the NCPC. No one was able to finish the NCPC (at least by the time of this writing) but some did manage to complete the NCC. As I am writing this, some others are doing the NCC course a week late now that the weather is much better.

I decided, along with a few others, to do a downwind reverse course portion of the NCC from Cedar Island to Beaufort via Core Sound. We arranged for a ride back to Cedar Island and I had a place to store my boat in Beaufort so that worked out. The trip was fun and only took 6 hours to go the 30 nautical miles.

The first of the following two videos show the launch beach conditions at Cedar Island the day of the official race launch. The weather didn’t change much throughout the next several days. In this video, I just went out the end of this rock jetty and back to the beach. To do the original NCC course, we all would of had to make it past the rock jetty.

The second video is of me doing that 30 nautical mile downwind run from Cedar Island to Beaufort.

2013 Everglades Challenge

The watertribe race means different things to different people. Some race other people, some try to beat their own previous times, and others only strive to finish within the race deadlines purposefully taking most of the week. I definitely fell within this last category. My goal was to find a sustainable pace that could be maintained for the duration of the race or even longer. I always got a good night sleep and sometimes delayed my morning departures so the sun could dry any wet clothes. I also had a goal not to have any race drama along the way with things going wrong. Of course, it is usually when things do go wrong that make the most interesting stories, so I will elaborate on the couple of time things did go wrong on my trip.

1. On the approach to CP1, I ran aground by not following the channel. In raising and lowering my rudder, I pulled out the rudder pull-down cable (that keeps the rudder in the down position). I was able to get into CP1 with the rudder kept down only due to its weight. I needed to fix this, though, to be able to effectively use the rudder for sailing later on. It is a simple operation to re-attach the pull-down cable but I had to take the rudder blade out of the rudder bracket assembly at the stern of the boat to do it. Since my Triak is awkward to get out of the water via floating dock, I decided to go swimming at CP1 to remove the rudder with the boat still in the water. I had to carry the necessary tools in my hands and mouth to do the job. If I dropped anything, I would be screwed. I got the rudder off, took it ashore, reattached the cable, and went swimming again to put it back on. Nothing was dropped. Mission accomplished.

2. On the approach to CP2, my asymmetric spinnaker was no longer effectively snuffing. When I tried to snuff it, I would get a wad of sail flapping that could not be retrieved in my snuffer bag. I was able to beach it and manually push the spinnaker back in but I decided not to use it again until the cause could be determined. I did not want to be caught out in a blow far away from shore with not being able to retrieve the spinnaker. When I next camped, I found the cause was a loop on the sail had come unraveled and needed to be sewed back on. Fortunately, my required survival pack had a sail needle and thread. I had also brought along a small pair of needle-nose pliers. With these tools, I was able to sew the loop back on and was once again able to reliably snuff the spinnaker.

3. On the approach to CP3, we experienced first close hauled conditions, then high wind downwind sailing, then close hauled again. Foreseeing these conditions, I decided to partially unrig the spinnaker. It would not be needed for close hauled conditions and can’t safely be used in high winds. I partially unrigged it by removing the control lines and leaving it in the snuffer bag on the bow of my Triak. I didn’t have a lot of room elsewhere to store it. I removed the control lines because it is always better to have only those control lines rigged that are needed. There is less chance of the spinnaker lines getting fouled with anything else since I would be sailing far from shore in order to achieve the best tacking angle and could not beach it to solve any fouling problems. This worked fine until the wind shifted and built to have a strong tailwind and following seas. My bow would burry after surfing down a wave and the spinnaker snuffer would then act like a break (being that it is just a big scoop). Also, the spinnaker itself in the bag/scoop had collected perhaps 30 pounds of water and was weighing the bow down. These things were slowing me down. I finally decided to remove the spinnaker and snuffer even though I was a couple of miles away from the coast. I decided to go overboard to take it off. Since a boat can drift faster than a person can swim to keep up with it, I first tied a safety line from me to the boat. Once I got in the water, I could tell how fast the boat (even on bare poles) was being moved by the wind. I was glad I had that safety line. I worked my way to the bow and untied the and got the spinnaker and snuffer off. I worked my way back to the cockpit and threw the stuff in the cockpit. I then struggled a bit to get back inside. I had to just jam the spinnaker and snuffer down in the cockpit with me under my spray skirt. It was the only place it would fit. With that off, I was able to effectively sail downwind surfing down the swells periodically burying the bow. I made really good time after that. I more than made of for the time the removal took with increased speed.

4. Crossing Florida Bay, I had only bothered to store one route in my GPS. This route turned out to be disadvantaged towards the end (after Manatee pass) with needing to sail against the wind. If I had planned a bit better, I would have had that alternative route programmed that did not have the upwind section at the end. At least I got in a few hours of upwind sailing practice to finish the race. I was paddle-sailing so I could point a bit better but I was trying to let the wind still do most of the work.

The following shows the boat lineup at the start of the race

The following is my Everglades Challenge compilation video:

The following is me commenting while panning through the course with GoogleEarth:

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.

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.