The Boatist

Sailboat Ownership, Translation Work and Tales of Minor Adventure

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

Monday, August 26, 2019

Building a Mooring and Deploying it from the Boat

I gave up my marina berth in Peniche and decided to place Jakatar on a mooring in Alvor, Algarve, 175 miles to the south. Since I would not have a car or a place to build a mooring ashore or even the means of deploying it, I decided to take all the materials from Peniche and to build the block on the boat and on-site in the Alvor anchorage.

Nearly everyone I talked to thought I was making a big mistake or downright crazy (even me at times!). But, as time went by, the idea began to grow on me and there was no way I would pass up this opportunity for yet another adventure in boat ownership.

About six months in advance I began to design a mooring that could be feasibly launched from the boat. It took some time before I discarded a number of dubious mooring designs: a steel box frame assembled on-site using pre-drilled bars weighed down with 20-kg precast concrete blocks; a bunch of concrete blocks tied to the stud link chain; or a long iron bar with large spikes weighed down with the above-mentioned concrete blocks.

In the end, I decided on making a single concrete block on-site. I planned and revised the procedure, step by step, to the smallest detail.

Plywood box assembled on-site and on deck
A 4x4 pine lumber section under the box and fastened with an eyepiece as shown below
6 metres of 22 mm stud link chain
8 metres of 10 mm galvanised chain
10 mm high quality stainless steel swivel and galvanised shackles
18 metres of rebar cut into desired lengths
100 kg of cement
320 kg of coarse river sand
150 kg of dense beach stones of varying sizes
Pails, old blankets, tarp, etc.
Total cost: about 337 euros, not the including the mooring buoy which is also another invention

Eyelet piece going through the pre-drilled box and 4x4 lumber section, which held all the weight until the concrete cured.
Step 1
Assemble the box on deck with screws. When finished, raise it with a foresail halyard and drop it on the dinghy alongside the boat.
Place fenders (preferably high density fenders) between the box and hull.
Move the box to the bow and fasten it temporarily with a line.
Lower the heavy bottom chain and shackle it to the eyepiece.
Connect the heavy chain to the riser chain with a swivel and necessary shackles that must be moused using monel seizing wire or equivalent method.
Fasten a strong line (preferably Dyneema or Spectra) to a cleat that  then runs through a link in the suspended heavy chain, as shown in the second photograph below, and which comes back up through the bow roller to the drum on the winch. Tie the bitter end to a cleat and give yourself enough excess line to drop the mooring to the bottom.
You could, optionally, also use a chain hoist fastened to the bow roller.
Tie another backup line to the chain, just in case the load-bearing line breaks or somehow comes loose.

Step 2
Place blankets, tarps, etc. on the fore-deck, pour cement into large bucket and sand into another. Use two smaller buckets to mix the concrete, 3 parts sand to 1 part cement.
Tie a a line to each bucket and lower them with the mixed concrete to box level.
Ideally, one person would mix the concrete and another would be in a dinghy below pouring the concrete into the box.
Place rocks in the concrete as you go along (rocks are heavier than concrete and thus lose less weight underwater).

Step 3
When full, allow the concrete to cure sufficiently (a few hours) so that it does not wash away.
Next, slowly drop the box to the bottom. Note that concrete cures better under water than when exposed to air (it's a chemical curing process rather than a drying process).
I let it cure for two days because I had 4 rebar pieces penetrating the box bottom (30 cm below and 20 cm into the box) for greater holding power. The concrete had to be sufficiently hard to hold these rebar pieces in place when the box hit the bottom.

Step 4
Position the boat at desired location using a second anchor. I did this at 3 a.m. when there was no traffic, no wind and at low tide. I rowed out a F-11 fortress anchor and then used it to pull the boat forward and to port.

Step 4
To lower the concrete mooring block, slightly loosen the bitter end of the line that is rolled onto the winch drum, give it 50 cm of slack and refasten to the cleat. If the line is wound 3 or 4 turns on the winch drum it will be held in place and you must ease it for it to slip. Don't get your fingers between the drum and the line. Always use a backup line tied to the chain and fastened to a strong point, and ease it accordingly.
Repeat this operation until the block lands on the bottom and then pull on the line to retrieve it.

Step 5
Get a drink, relax and celebrate. You've just built and deployed a 600 kg mooring block.
I used only 600 kg for a Corbin 39 sailboat because the bottom is soft mud in which the block will sink and create incredible suction holding power. I also have about 2.5 / 1 scope.
The heavy bottom chain is also sufficiently long to inspect the swivel and shackles between it and the riser chain simply by winching up the calibrated riser chain that comes aboard. The load is taken by two line snubbers, and the chain is attached to the boat as a bullet-proof backup. I sleep very well even on very windy nights.

With a bit of luck, the boat won't end up like this old English boat that sank in the anchorage a few years ago and which was refloated while I was building my mooring.

If you attempt to build a mooring in this manner, you need a boat with a sufficiently strong bow roller. A bow sheer also makes it a lot easier, otherwise you would need a rectangular box.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Jakatar, a Corbin 39, Wins the Peniche Regatta

Jakatar won its last (2019) regatta in Peniche, in its last year in Peniche, just before sailing off to the Algarve, maybe forever!

If you can read Portuguese, you can read the Newspaper report about the regatta, or you can translate it on Google or, even better, you can skip it.

I won because I had painted the bottom weeks before and because I decided to be a racer instead of a cruiser for one day. This means that I actually concentrated on winning. A Rival 38 came second while the supposedly modern fast boats finished way behind. We had winds of 10 to 15 knots and the legs implied sailing in nearly all points of sail.

The photograph below shows Jakatar about to overtake two of the fastest boats participating.

Also note the ugly stripe, which I started to repaint between the haulout and the race, but only got as far as removing most of the oil-based paint with a heat gun and paint scraper. A real pain in the butt job that I performed with the boat in the water...meaning that I worked on my knees with head and arms hanging over the side. Then there was the sanding, taping and actual painting. Not to be repeated in any circumstances.

Before the bottom job:

After, a slippery bottom perfect for winning races:

Coming up in the next post: Building a concrete mooring on site on the boat and launched from the boat. 

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

The End of an Era, Time for Something New

Late one morning, after having spent six days anchored in Alvor, I motored out the winding Alvor channel on a rising tide without running aground.

The plan was to sail to the marina of Albufeira, to anchor in front of the breakwater and to enter the marina early the next morning to fill up on diesel and water before the tourist sightseeing boats began to line up for diesel.

That was the plan. But the afternoon breeze picked up and, not yet running short on diesel or water, I shut the engine off and enjoyed a smooth sail to Ria de Faro where I arrived at midnight.

Ria de Faro is a very large lagoon with various channels. It is protected by a long island of sand with three small, car-free towns: Culatra, Farol and Armona.

This is the third of fourth year I anchored near this large sailboat that is normally berthed at the Cascais marina.

I spent about a week in Culatra, sailed up the winding Faro channel and then dropped the hook near a black steel sailboat near the shallows in 3 meters of water at mid-tide.

It was hot. Sitting in the cockpit with a glass of wine feeling the sun burn through my straw hat I heard a voice with a German accent coming from my port side.
"Don't you think you're too close?"
A swarthy middle-aged man was standing wearing only white speedo underwear on the bow of the black sailboat that I had thought to be unattended.
"Pardon me, I can't hear you."
"I think you're too close," he said louder.
"Are you on a mooring?"
"No, I'm anchored."
"How much chain do you have out?"
"A lot of chain. You will hit me when the tide and wind change, everybody hits me. My boat has been very damaged."
I didn't see any marks on the black paint and, judging by the distance between us, couldn't see how we would collide even if our boats charged each other like fighting dogs on chains.
"I have 40 metres of chain out," I lied. "I'll take in 15 metres after I test my anchor."

As he looked at me suspiciously, I suddenly remembered the familiar-looking boat. It had been anchored in front of Culatra two years ago and then in the little bay by the Olhão marina with a for sale sign that said "5,000 euros with good engine".

"This boat was for sale last year, did you buy it?"
"No, my boat was not for sale. I have owned it for 12 years."
"Oh. But it's the exact same boat, even the German flag on the windvane. I thought a young guy owned it. I met him."
"That was another boat."
"Exactly like this one?"
"Yes, I had two boats before, and I sold the other one."
The conversation got even stranger after that. But this is a blog not a gossip column.

A few days later I saw him playing guitar on the street in Olhão with a tipping hat in front of him.

About a week later, I went to Tavira for the first time. I've always shied away from Tavira because of the silted entrance but went in now based on rumour that it had been dredged.
Doing the laundry in Tavira.
The Tavira anchorage was full of moorings and I was forced to anchor too far out in the channel. Nobody bothered me so I got used to it and had a great time in the anchorage and in the old city of Tavira.

After Tavira, I slowly retraced my steps back to Peniche at the end of August.

The BIG NEWS is that I did not renew my slip in Peniche for 2019!! It's time for something new, a new era...on the water of course.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Brits in Alvor

2018 marked my 16th round trip to the Algarve. On this trip, I anchored in Cascais and Sines, bypassed Sagres, and arrived at Alvor 3 days later just before dark. The usual routine.

Dock in Peniche
Leaving Peniche on July 24 wearing winter clothing!

Arriving in Alvor at sunset.
I was anchored on a windy day in Alvor when I heard a guy with a British accent yelling "how much chain have you got out?" Curious, I popped my head out the companionway to see what the fuss was all about.

A British-flagged Hallberg Rassy 36 was motoring nearby with 4 crew members all wearing inflatable lifejackets shouting insanely toward the big catamaran. "How much chain do you have?" they repeated.

The German catamaran owner, who's been here for many years and has surely witnessed more anchoring blunders than most, didn't even bother to come out. 

The agitated Brits motored back and forth, at one time nearly running aground in the shallows, to finally anchor in front of the catamaran sailboat where the anchorage turns into the entrance channel. I was anchored in front of a small sailboat to the right of the catamaran motorboat shown below.

I assessed the situation: Brits sailing a Hallberg Rassy and wearing inflatable lifejackets - probably nutty but definitely experienced old salts. Unconcerned, I went down below and started making lunch.

Later, while eating in the salon, I heard the anchor chain rubbing loudly on the bow roller, as it does sometimes, and kept eating until I started hearing strange thumping noises.

Up on deck, I saw the Halberg Rassy broadside to Jakatar's bow, but not touching it, and no salty Brits aboard, so I quickly placed some fenders up high along my hull.

On closer inspection, I saw that my chain ran under the Rassy in front of his skeg, like a travel lift sling. It seemed that my trusty 25 kg Kobra anchor was holding both boats firmly in the strong breeze. 

Now I had a dilemma: a) I could wait for the Brits to return and hope they did so before the wind picked up as it does in the afternoon; or b) I could try to extricate myself and risk having the Rassy pick up my anchor as it passed by, which would cause both of us do drag. 

I chose choice "b". If it fouled my anchor I could always start the engine and drag the other boat around the anchorage until he let go or, as a last resort, use my backup 45 lb CQR anchor. 

So I let out about 10 meters of chain hoping it would sink to the bottom and release the Rassy to drag happily across the anchorage. But not luck.

At a glance this looks like one single boat, but it's actually me and my lunch date.
Instead of being released, it pivoted and lay abreast of Jakatar against the fenders, still hooked by the rudder skeg.

Having let out more chain, I was now nearly on top of a small sailboat moored behind me. What to do, what to do? I swore at the not-so-salty Brits who were obviously ashore feasting on beer, fish and chips and probably still wearing their lifejackets just in case. Swearing didn't help, so I started the engine and, without any other alternative or better idea, I put Jakatar in gear gunned it and dragged the dam Rassy forward with a wicked smile on my face.

When I stopped, the anchor chain went slack, fell to the bottom and the Rassy started moving downwind again. I held my breath until I was certain its anchor had not picked up my chain. 

Whewww, see you later, nice knowing you. Then I heard the German guy on the cat applauding, giving me the thumbs up and saying that he had been hit too. 

The Rassy dragged all the way to the marina and stopped within an arm-length of an expensive  looking motorboat tied up to the outer pontoon. Never saw the Brits retrieve their boat. Too bad because I'd be willing to give them a free anchoring tutorial.

At least it didn't end up like the old tugboat below that belongs to a British sculptor who's been here for about 10 years. Probably skipped town after his boat sunk. Anybody want a free tugboat?

Next stop, Culatra.