Monday, 28 May 2012

Mighty Neighbourly

When we bought our new home, one of the selling features was that the neighbour had a boat parked in the backyard. It had "Berserk" scrawled across the aft quarters, and sat proudly on its trailer. by the smooth bottom and clean appearance I guess it was a racer. I was right.

It turns out that Berserk is owned by a very accomplished racer and her owner sits on the Lake Ontario PHRF committee. Someone who is serious about racing, and passionate about sailing. One day I stopped in to say hello and introduce myself. That day I found out that Berserk is a Viking 28, a previous club champ, and a boat that is known to terrorize PHRF races all over Lake Ontario.

And her owner is an absolute gent. While I was waiting on delivery of Iris, I crewed aboard Berserk, and learned a little about racing in the spinnaker fleet. I also picked up some tips that will help in our races in the JAM fleet and got introduced to many of the members of the new yacht club.

I was a little surprised to see the new neighbour standing beside Iris when I poked my head out of the companionway after Uncle Charles left on Saturday. We chatted and he asked when we were going to launch. I told him it was going to be early on Sunday morning, and he promised to be there to lend a hand with the launch. Its great to have someone to share an event with, and I was glad to take him up on the offer.

Yesterday I headed to the boat and wrestled with all the prelaunch chores that are typical of this time of year, and then looked at the mast. I figured I would get it ready to be raised so that once I got to the club, I could recruit some help and raise it.

As I was fiddling, a gent with a German accent offered to lend a hand raising the mast. It was very kind of him. He set to the winches while I did the grunt work, and slowly the mast went up. Eventually the up direction stopped though. We were struggling against something. He took extra turns on the winch, and put his back into the effort, then went winch-to-winch in order to get even more power. I stopped the process, lowered the mast, and re-evaluated things.

After a quick survey of the situation I saw what the trouble was. One of the turnbuckles had jammed against the sheet lead T-track, and all the extra exertion had bent it to nearly 90°.  I bent it back, made sure nothing was going to jam again, and we gave the lift a second try.

This time around things went far more smoothly. The mast went up and everything hooked up right away. But those bent studs are bothering me. I think I will be approaching the local chandlery for replacements, and maybe looking to replace the rig - it has been 5 years that I've been sailing on it, and I don't know how long the previous owner sailed on it. I am also not sure what the life expectancy of standing rigging in fresh water is.

Maybe a call to the Rigging Shoppe is in order.

I spent the night aboard, looking forward to launch in the morning.A thunder storm kicked up, but I was warm and dry. No leaks in the vee-berth. The dead light appears to have survived another season.

This morning, our neighbour reappeared, watched our launch via travel-lift and then drove over to the marina where he caught me as I docked, and drove me back to get the van.

At this moment, Iris is sitting in her new slip at her new home, and I am sure throngs of visitors are crowded around her admiring her. Actually, I hope not - I need to get to her with the power washer and make her look like a boat again. Right now derelict is about the best description I can muster up of her appearance. She needs a good scrubbing.

Thanks to the help of a good neighbour and neighbourly hand at the marina, Iris has completed her relocation, and is set to sail - well almost.

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Rollin' Rollin' Rollin', Keep them Doggies Rollin'

Uncle Charles showed up on Saturday morning with his very manly dually pickup truck, and after a cup of coffee, and some messing with the lights and straps, Iris was ready for her road trip to Whitby. We put the boom in the back of the truck, and the mast support strapped to the trailer to keep the boat as low as possible on the drive.

I put a load of boaty stuff and tools in the van, and we agreed on a route with a check-stop 10 minutes down the road. The air was thick with expectations of adventure and thrills. iris bounced along behind the truck, and we headed east toward the York Region boundary.

It is significant to me that the boat is crossing a watershed into a new lake. It was originally a Lake Huron boat. The second owner sailed her on Lake St. Clair and Lake Erie. I sailed her on Lake Simcoe, and now she is going to Lake Ontario.

I watched closely in my rear view mirror as Uncle Charles and I rolled into Udora, and pulled into the UPI Gas station at the 4-corners of town. As he got out of his truck, Charles looked grim.

The truck was pulling fine, but the boat was bouncing a little, and the bow had broken away the rubber support that went under it. We would need some roadside engineering to get it stable. I produced a spare ratchet strap from my van and we tied the boat down a little harder. A scrap of plywood was found, and jammed in under the bow. We stood and scratched our chins.

A gent came up to us in the parking lot and started talking about sailing. Turns out he was a partner in the Marine Cradle Shop - a local business that builds sailboat trailers and cradles. He shared some stories and commiserated with us over the pains that occur in a boat haul. It was too bad he didn't have any tools with him that would have helped us.

With the boat as secure as it was going to be, we hit the road again. Southbound out of Udora, we climbed and descended the rolling hills of the Oak Ridges and passed quiet farms. Eventually we came down the long descent that leads to Davis drive and Uxbridge. Here we turned East again, and then turned back to the south on Lakeridge. Almost immediately we pulled off onto the shoulder to assess how Iris was doing.

I felt the trailer's hubs and tires, and noticed that one of the tires was warm. It was rubbing on a fender. With some words and kicking and pulling, I bent and twisted the fender so that it was no longer a problem (or functional) and it wouldn't rub on the tire.

We travelled south on Lakeridge road all the way to Whitby, passing more farms and ski hills. Lakeridge Road is a very busy arterial with a lot of high-speed travellers. They didn't like being held up by the boat and would pull out to pass Uncle Charles, only to realize that I was ahead of him. Because of this I tried to keep a big opening between the truck and I - making space for passing cars to duck in. Once they were trapped behind me, I could pull aside onto the shoulder to let them pass. The system worked well all the way to Lake Ontario.

Once we reached the lake, Uncle Charles left Iris at the boat launch while I completed a handful of chores aboard her. Next week, she will be launched with the marina travel lift. Ready or not, sailing season is about to begin.

Just in case you were expecting more Rawhide references, here are the Blues Bros...

Friday, 25 May 2012


It's time for a re-boot! Not like on a PC where you open and close windows and stuff like that, more like replacing the spreader boots. Spreader boots are caps that go over the ends of the spreaders to protect sails from the rough edges and wires and stuff at the ends of the spreaders. If you want to be all traditional you can make spreader boots out of soft leather and stitch them in place. If you want to be all modern you can buy plastic pre-formed boots and tape them in place. If you are low budget, then tennis balls sliced in half will do the trick.

I chose to be modern.

Before I got the camera out for the pics below, I cut off the old boots. This starts just after that with the old seizing wire, new seizing wire, new boots, and finally rigging tape. From here in, I'll let the pics do the talking... 


Thursday, 24 May 2012

The Easiest Mod Ever - Quick Access Bilge Plate

You can convert your standard bilge plate to a new & improved "Quick Access Folding Bilge Plate" in about 30 minutes with only a modicum of power tool experience. For my friends who have asked about this mod, here is the play-by-play...

Images taken in the off season - its usually not that dirty down there.

Tools: Table Saw, Hand drill and bit, and screwdriver

Materials: 2 small brass hinges or piano hinge, or similar.

On the table saw, cut the board in half just aft of the middle mounting screws.Measure the width of your blade (kerf) and the width of the barrel of the hinge. Take as many passes with the blade as needed to make the kerf match the barrel of the hinge.

Take your board(s) and Hinges and screwdriver and drill aboard the boat and install the bilge plate halves as they were intended to go. (4 stainless Steel screws).

Place the hinges in place with the barrels down in the cut you just made.

Mark the holes and drill one hole, and set one screw for each half of each hinge (4 screws). Remove the lone screw holding down the aft end of the bilge plate.

Do a test open-close. If you are satisfied that everything will fit fine and is lined up well, set the remaining screws in the hinges. Throw away the screw for the aft end of the plate.

Now you might be wondering why anyone would do something so revolutionary to their boat. There are a couple reasons. The biggest being that this allows you to check the bilge for water in a fraction of the time it would take to remove 4 screws and lift a plate to look.

Secondly, the bilge is perhaps the most temperature-stable location on the boat. If you wanted to store anything in a cool spot with constant temperature this is likely the best spot for it. I leave it to you to imagine what would be stored there that needs those conditions.

Hitch yer Ponies...

So the relocation tow is drawing nearer...

Yesterday I stopped by Port Whitby and was told that if the boat was on their grounds by Saturday it could be launched first thing Monday morning. That is great news. First thing Monday is at 7:00 AM, so I will likely spend Sunday night aboard the boat. Between now and launch, there are still a number of outstanding chores to be done.

I need to seize and wrap the spreader tips, clean up the interior, hook up the gauges and rebed them, relocate all the boat stuff in the basement to the boat itself, and make sure the trailer (with its new tires) is up to the haulage job itself.

The trailer is the priority right now since without it, the boat isn't moving. The tires were installed about a week ago. The install went well, but the new tires are larger in diameter than the old ones were, so they rubbed on the fenders. Actually, they pushed the fenders up and got all ugly-like. I cut off half a fender on each side of the boat.

With the tires on and teh fenders off, I turned my attention to other things, and spent Sunday afternoon checking trailer lights. None of them worked, but I had a new kit, which I installed with much cussing. We now have brake and turn lights but for reasons unknown to me, no running lights. I'm OK with that. We won't be driving at night anyways.

I think the trailer is good to go. At least I hope it is. On to other projects.

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Friday, 18 May 2012

Wagon Wheels

Since we are trailering Iris to the new marina, and since that involves rocketing down some of the busiest highways (or quietest back roads) in the area for over an hour, I thought I better get the trailer ready to go.  Step one in trailer preparation was to air up some pretty flat tires.

When we bought our trailer last fall, it came with 4 small tires, and a larger size spare. At haulout, it was pointed out to me that the only tire I had that was actually a trailer tire was the spare. All the others were undersized and had a low load rating. Since the trailer was only going about 10 minutes between the house and marina it wasn't a big deal, but with an hour-long trip this spring I was having second thoughts about the tires.

Maybe just once I could get away with the existing tires. After that the trailer would be a yard trailer anyways, and only rarely see the road.

I got out an air compressor and took a look at the tires.

Tire 1:

Completely flat. When I added air it hissed right back out of the valve stem. The rubber stem was cracked. I would have to replace the valve stem. Oh well. I could use the spare in its place. Remove tire 1, set aside.

Spare tire:

This being the only trailer tire, I had much confidence in it. Plus, its tread was like new. I aired it up. Water hissed and bubbled out of a slice in thesidewall. Oh well, I already needed to repair one tire, might as well look into fixing this one at the same time.

Tire 2

This one had held air all winter, so that made me happy. I put a pressure gauge to the stem and it read double the recommended inflation. I let air out. As I waited for the tire to deflate I noticed a series of cracks where the tread was separating from the tire. Since the trailer was already jacked up for removal of tire 1, it was easy to remove this tire as well. It would have to be replaced.

Tire 3

I wandered around to the other side of the trailer and looked at the next tire. Dead flat. As I added air, it too showed signs of tread separation. I jacked up the trailer and removed this tire, stacking it with the other 3.

Tire 4

With 4 tires already stacked for replacement, there was no point in even trying to pretend there would be nothing wrong with the last tire. I just took it off and stacked it with the others and then started calling around for a shop to replace the tires.

It was surprisingly difficult to find replacement tires of the right size and load rating. Certainly Princess Auto carries them. The ones at princess auto are already mounted on rims and ready to go. They were also expensive - which is uncommon for Princess Auto. Canadian Tire was my next call. They also had some availability of product, pre-mounted on rims, also expensive. I was starting to see a trend and was ready to bite the bullet and just pay whatever I had to. Then I called around to some local tire shops. Eventually I came across Duff Tires of Newmarket. They offered trailer tires at a great price and fast service, but I only had about half an hour to get the tires to them. Some quick effort by Chuck and I and we were on our way.

We made the 40 minute drive to the tire shop in, well, 40 minutes, arriving as they were closing shop on a Saturday afternoon. I was half expecting to be told to come back some other time, but instead the staff welcomed us, helped off load the tires from the van, filled out the paperwork and wished us a great weekend. The fellow who helped us had "honour" and "respect" tattooed on his forearm, and I can say he lives to his mottoes. The folks were great.

This week, work has run late a lot, so the tires have been waiting for me since Monday, but last night I finally got out of work in time to make it back to pick them up. I called before leaving the office, and then made the 75 minute drive in, well, 80 minutes, arriving just after the shop had closed.

I was met at the back door by the same gent who had checked me in when the tires were dropped off. He laughed about me being late (again), helped load the tires into the van, and then walked me to the front of the shop where he checked me out with an easy-going and friendly demeanour. Total cost for the tires came out to $550 for 4 new tires and the best of the old tires set aside as a spare.

Despite not expecting (or wanting) to replace the tires, these guys did a great job for us. I'll have to add them to my A-list of services. Now I just have to hope the tires last a few years. I see UV covers in my future.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Nothin goes to windward like a...

So I've been struggling to put together the relocation cruise. First there was the time off work issue, which was resolved. Then the issue of timing came up which was also resolved, but forced some compromises. After that there was the crew issue, which resulted in a few responses to a classified ad online, and selection of a guy who seemed able to do the job and a couple who were excited to give cruising a try. Then Stephen Harper made some budget cuts.

Now normally I would say federal politics has very little to do with sailing, but in this case, the national Conservative Party is stepping right into the middle of my summer vacation plans.

Since we are fighting for an economic recovery, and since so many Canadians are struggling to pay for essentials like groceries and houses, my summer vacation isn't very important. To that end, the Harper Government has decided to cut funding to Parks Canada to the tune of thousands of jobs. Which I understand. Certainly the frills of advanced society are the first things to go to prevent further economic decline. Except that, well, the Harper cuts are preventing me from visiting a dozen towns to buy bagels and cream cheese, dinners out, and ice cream.

But the federal government is saving a LOT of money by cutting the staffing in the parks.

I thought about the impact of the cuts and decided to call Parks Canada directly to see if I would still be able to buy bagels in Bobcaygeon, or if the plans to transit the Trent would have to be scrapped. A cheery operator named Philippe or something answered my call. He sounded thrilled to hear from me and his french accent was gentle and kind.

"Le canal vill operahte vid de normale howers, but ve canot guarantee le efficiency of ze staff."

I wasn't sure what he meant by "Cannot guarantee the efficiency of the staff." I asked for clarification.

"Vell, ze staff could be very busy vid ze extra verk, and zey could be cutting ze grazz ven you need to go true de lock."

I was starting to see what he was trying not to say. "Are you worried about work to rule or job actions?"

"Parcs Canada cannot comment on vaht ze unions may do zis summer."

"OK thanks."

I hung up the phone and thought about it a little bit. Harper has had unions in his cross-hairs since he sat on his throne after getting a majority government. He has played games with postal unions, airline unions, and other government employees. Heck, under his watchful eye, the Caterpillar plant in Ontario recieved millions of taxpayers dollars in government subsidies, and then was shut down under the reasoning that teh union was too expensive. He knows that a lot of people feel like parks should be among the first round of cuts if we are adopting the current trend towards austerity, and the parks workers likely have a twitch in their trigger finger right about now.

The parks staff can actually stand up to him since they would never be mandated back to work (like he did to postal and airline employees) if the parks staff do decide to work to rule or to strike or to take other job action, I don't want to be trapped in a lock or on some lake watching the clock tick down on my vacation time. Harper can't close the canal (a la Caterpillar) since it is a national historic site, but the unions can kill it for anyone wanting to transit the system. Heck, all they have to do is close one lock and no one can get through.

That uncertainty, coupled with the crewing challenge, tight timeline and vagaries of weather had me pretty shaky. Then as I was discussing the route and challenges with the good folks at the rigging shoppe, Michael made a comment: "Nothing goes to windward like a gasoline engine and four tires."

Uncle Charles will be pulling Iris to Whitby behind his dually pickup truck, and I just saved myself a bunch of worry and a week's vacation time.

Monday, 14 May 2012

I think he is having a wardrobe malfunction....

Dear Buddy,

Well yes, you are correct that your toque does keep the sun off your head.

But isn't it a little warm in there??

Love, Mama