The Boatist

Sailboat Ownership, Translation Work and Tales of Minor Adventure

Retire early, be passionate, don't worry, die poor

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Kobra Anchor

You lose plenty during your lifetime; it can be frustrating and sad but you shouldn't dwell on it for too long. When you lose your life, you won't even give it a second thought. ~ Martello Mateus

Kobra anchor II
My new mistress...the others are history.
Over the years I've had enough anchors to become a semi-qualified expert on the matter, at least on how to lose them.

I lost my first anchor - a genuine and brand new 45lb CQR the first time I took Jakatar for a sail on Lake Erie, Canada. An anchor-roller pin was supposed to hold it in place, but it didn't...and, no, it wasn't attached to any chain or rode. I was really clueless back then.

Years later, I lost an almost brand new 35lb CQR at the marina in Peniche. I had two anchors on the roller, the 35lb CQR and a knock-off 45lb CQR. I assume a transient sailor decided that two anchors was one too many and pinched the genuine one. Either that or it worked itself free and swam back to Canada.

Last year, I lost a nearly new Rocna 25 plus 150 feet of excellent chain in the bay of Sesimbra on my way to the Algarve. It's a long, long expensive story.

Last year I also cracked the hinge on a 55lb Chinese non-name anchor when it got stuck in a rock. The damn thing was useless anyway, total crap, good for scraping the ocean bottom. It's in my garden now as a decorative piece.

So now I bought a new 25 kg Kobra II and 60 meters of calibrated 10 mm chain, plus 50 m of 10 mm line for my third reefing lines. All for a cool 1,003 euros.

plastimo chain
Paining the chain depth markers in funky colors.
Kobra vs. Rocna - I chose the Kobra for a number of reasons:
  1. It's half the price
  2. According to tests, it has almost the same holding power and sets quickly
  3. In thick mud it doesn't bring up a ton of black goo like the Rocna. Tests reveal that the Rocna may not reset quickly because of all this mud sticking to it, while the Kobra will. Since I leave the boat anchored in the muddy bottom of Culatra, this may be a big advantage.
Anyway, if I lose this anchor and chain, I'm going to sell the boat and buy a horse that knows how to swim.

I also picked up my solar panel mounting pole from the metal shop. I adapted the Rutland wind generator pole, and it looks pretty good, I think. The job cost 60 euros. Not bad.

solar panel pole top mounting

Now I have to find the time to get all this metal aboard, scrape the propeller, put in the 3rd reefing lines, wash the boat, buy some groceries and untie the lines on July 26. I'm motivated.


Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Pussy Sailors


Yesterday, in a very popular sailing blog I read that sailors who lead all their lines into the cockpit are mostly pussy sailors who don't venture more than 5 miles from the marina. The "expert" blog also listed all the merits of keeping the halyards and reefing lines at the mast. It sounded good in theory, and maybe it really is good, but I like my system better, only from experience you understand.

Except for the topping lift, I lead all my 17 lines into the cockpit:

  • 3 halyards
  • 4 reefing lines
  • 4 sheets
  • 2 preventers
  • 2 running backstays
  • 1 boomvang line
  • 1 mainsail downhall

That must make me the biggest sailing pussy ever!

Corbin 39
Sailing upwind during a regatta.
I'm no sailing hero. And to be honest, I didn't even learn much when I crossed the Atlantic from New York to Portugal, which included a rough 3-day storm (9 m waves). On the other hand, I have learned a few things on my annual sailing cruise from Peniche to the Algarve (12 times/years), either solo or with relatively inexperienced crew.

It's not the notorious Portuguese northerlies, the fog or the fish-net buoys that make sailing this coast challenging - no, it's the damned capes. In summer the wind near the capes can pipe up from 5 kt to 40+ kt winds while you're having a pee in the head. 

But after a few trips, hopefully you learn exactly when, where and at what time to reef and prepare for the fury. I say "time" because a cape can be sleepy calm in the morning and furiously wild in the afternoon on the same day.

The problem is when you're expecting bad and, instead, get a taste of hell.

Almost every year I sail solo from Alvor to Sagres in late August. It's only a 20 mile trip, and by the time I have breakfast, go ashore and get ready, it's nearly lunch. Normally there's no morning wind in these parts, so it makes no sense to leave early anyway.

So you leave with a nice north-northwest breeze all sails up, go past Lagos between Ponta da Piedade and the fish farm sipping on a cup of coffee and enjoying the view. Later, as the air over land starts to warm up and rise, the cooler ocean air rushes in to fill the gap, picks up speed and blows a stiff breeze down the cliffs on the southern side. The wind increases progressively and you start feeling uneasy as the boat shoots forward under sails drawn hard and tight.


That's when I go through the paces of putting in the first reef in the main and then roll in a third of the big genoa. As I sail toward Sagres, it gets even hotter and and more windy. Soon I've put in the second reef and also furled the genoa to half its size.

Sooner than expected, and without warning, the shotgun blast comes thundering down the cliffs making the water boil. The mast creaks tight, the boat heels sharply, and my ears are full of wind as the boat picks up even more speed. I'm sailing a Corbin 39 and it's built for the fight.

When the hydraulic autopilot starts struggling against the weather helm, I ease out the main and then slowly roll in the genoa all the way while slacking the sheet. The hank-on staysail always stays up no matter what.

I pull in the main a touch to keep if off the spreaders. I've still got weather helm, but it's manageable. Then I cross an invisible line into hell and the blast rips the hat off my head, the boat lunges over and, shit, you know its going to get worse. I ease out the mainsail, this time to the spreaders, and manage to roll in the genoa all the way. My ears are full of howling wind and I'm gritting my teeth and curse for never having installed the third reef line...and I probably never will.

In the distance I see a sailboat motoring toward me with no sail up and heeling, and I also see the surface froth over the dark ripples. The Rutland wind generator is whining insanely like a low pitch siren, then breaks into a loud free-spin swisssssh when the thermal cutout is triggered, only to repeat the whining-swisssssh cycle over and over. When the wind generator does that you know you're in over 40 knots.

My mouth is dry and I have to act fast. I tap on the autopilot "+10 button" 3 times, the boat slowly turns toward land, stabilizes, and I tap the "+10 button" once more. I release the mainsheet and the main sail almost goes limp, the boat straightens to nearly normal and my mouth is getting drier than dust.

I release the main halyard clutch, pull on the downhall line until the sail is nestled in the lazyjacks, not too neatly but good enough, and I cleat it off. Now I press the autopilot "-10 button" 4 times and continue sailing toward Sagres with my staysail and hardly heeling.

I relax in the spaghetti-filled cockpit which I haven't stepped out of and cross paths with the sailboat that is motoring. I can't help notice that they have winches on the mast and no sail up at all - pussy sailors!










Friday, June 5, 2015

Mid-life Crisis - Unfaithful

I'm not a rock star blogger, but I'm rock solid. ~ Martello Mateus


That's the best I can say about my sailboat too - rock solid. 

I was looking at Jakatar from the transient dock and sadly noticed that it's dirty below and above the waterline, has a ridiculous mast rash, looks naked...abandoned. Besides, I fell in love with a cute Frances 26 that is not only rock solid but also beautiful, cheap, and easy to please. I think I'm going to have a mid-life crisis!
Corbin 39
Naked, dirty and peeling...and check out the "no parking" sign.
Corbin 39
Even the fenders are beginning to look like trash.
Then there's the Frances 26. I can see it's small. I realize it's cramped inside. I know it's not as fast. Yes, the water tank won't last 2 or 3 weeks, or the diesel for a year, like Jakatar. But look at it; it sets my boat hormones on fire.

Frances 26

The FRANCES 26 is a classic cruiser with a traditional profile built in hand layed-up fiberglass using the best materials and craftsmanship. She is the ultimate combination of comfort and sailing ability in a pocket cruiser for coastal or offshore sailing.

The original FRANCES was designed and built by Naval Architect Chuck Paine for his own use. He decided to reduce the size of the well known Colin Archer double ender and, as such, also reduce the problems (crew requirements, maintenance costs, original cost, restrictions to cruising waters due to deep draft) inherent to larger blue water cruisers. But the features that have gained acceptance, as necessary for safety and comfort at sea - heavy displacement, a double ended design, and sufficient ballast - were retained. The FRANCES is an alternative for sailors seeking quality and economy in a modern yacht.

Morris Frances 26

Small is beautiful. Small and beautiful is even more beautiful. Small, beautiful, practical and affordable is incredibly beautiful. 

Friday, May 22, 2015

Sailing a Dirty Bathtub

The first sail of the year on my boat was like sailing a dirty bathtub in sloppy waters.

Sailing in Peniche
Family visit from Canada: my brother Luis (a sailboat owner) and my nieces Erika (a sailboat owner) and Michelle (an adventurer).
We motored out of the port nose-punching the waves at 2.5 kt, raised the stay sail, unfurled the jib, killed the engine, after which Erika shouted, "Yeah, we're doing it!!" But we were doing it so slow I had to start the engine to tack.

Erika has a sailboat on Great Slave Lake in Yellowknife Canada where it's so inhumanely cold I can't even imagine doing anything there other than complain until they ran me out of town in disgust.

Anyway, except for some sunshine, the conditions were all wrong (unless you compare it to Yellowknife): 10 kt SSW wind; lumpy west seas; a dirty bottom and and an encrusted propeller. We had fun anyway. After all, day-sailing is more about doing it than speed. 

Changing the topic - or maybe not, depending on how you look at it - I fell in love with a Frances 26, online of course, despite the fact that I'm already married to a Corbin 39. 
I know she's small, but big enough, full of style, easy to handle and built for cruising...and affordable to own. There's a Morris Frances 26 for sale in Portugal with an asking price of €29,000. 

I wish I could say more, but I have work to finish. In the future you might be hearing more from me because a small but significant change has happened.