The Boatist

Sailboat Ownership, Translation Work and Tales of Minor Adventure

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

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Reefing in Storm Conditions

Someone Googled "can a Corbin 39 be sailed by one person" and landed on my site.

Mr. Googler, if you're still reading my blog, the answer depends on the specific Corbin and on the sailor.

I don't want to sound like a hero, because I'm not, but I've sailed Jakatar solo (i.e. the only person aboard) in howling winds more than a few times. And I mean sailing, not motoring. Sailing to the Algarve in summer means sailing past Cabo Raso (near Cascais) and Sagres (the very first town on Algarve's south-west coast).

In these two notorious spots, the wind can go from 5 knots to 40 knots in a wink of an eye almost always during mid to late afternoon on warm days when wind convection currents form storm-like conditions on otherwise beautiful sunny days.

Three years ago my jib exploded while sailing into Cascais flying the jib, boomed staysail and 2 reefs on the main. What's my excuse? The jib was getting old and I secretly wanted a new sail with roller furling. That's a lie, in reality I was being smug about how the boat could handle it and also being cruel to my sails.

Here's the old sail plan before I installed a furler and a larger genoa (44 m2).

Corbin 39 sail plan
The sail plan before the hank-on jib exploded and before I replaced the boom that snapped in half when a large wave rudely broke over the deck during the crossing and scaring the shit out of my crew down below.
As I was saying, I sailed solo when I had no roller furling, no auto pilot and no self-tailing winches (I'm still lacking the luxury of self-tailing winches).

Sailing solo and staying safe is all about reefing or reducing sail area. If you can do that, you're in business.

How did I reef by myself without an autopilot or furling? 

All lines lead back to the cockpit, including my secret weapons: downhauls on the jib (pre-furler) and main.

When the wind piped up gradually, I sailed as close to the wind as possible, eased the main sail and then, in quick cartoon-like maneuvers, I'd release the main halyard until it reach one of the red marks (reef points), while keeping one hand on the wheel and the other on the line jammer. Then I'd pull in the luff line, steer, pull steer...and so on. It took a while and that's why I sailed at least 3 miles from shore.

If the wind came in a blast, to hell with that pussyfooting! Point it into the wind fast, all sails flogging like mad (a noise I absolutely despise), release the jib halyard and pull on the downhaul like mad while also pulling in the sheet to keep the sail clew from falling overboard, then tie both lines down.

Whew, she's down and I'm sweating by now. But I'm no longer pointing into the wind, instead I'm sailing again in whatever direction the wind caught me. Damn, turn her into the wind once again and sweat some more reefing the main in the manner already described above. By now, I've got a couple of bloody fingers, my heart is racing and I could sure use a drink.

Now that I have roller furling and an auto pilot, I yawn, reef, and yawn some more - almost too easy, but I don't miss bleeding fingers at all.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Naked Boat in Culatra

Anchoring in Culatra
Anchored in Culatra - Jakatar in the center of the picture
This morning I woke up at 4:30, groped my way to the bathroom, and came back to bed knowing I'd sleep no more. I began thinking about this summer's cruising plan.

In the 11 years since I crossed the Atlantic to Peniche, I've sailed Jakatar 9 times to the Algarve to cleanse my soul. The trip normally takes 3 days there and 4 days back, with stopovers in Cascais, Sines and Sagres. Sometimes I stop in Sesimbra; and I may bypass Sagres on my way down - but never miss it on the way up. I've also sailed to and from the Algarve various times crewing on friends' boats.

I couldn't sleep because this year's trip will be totally different. I'll head out around mid June and leave the boat anchored in Culatra or Alvor (that's why I bought the Rocna) and take a bus/train back home. Then, whenever I have some free time, I'll drive down to indulge in my "second life." In September I'll take the bus down and sail back to Peniche. I'm really excited about it and I hope life doesn't get in my way.

After running the whole trip through my mind, I drifted into the land of Oz - in other words, trash fantasies.

This morning's fantasy was not x-rated, totally wacky or plain delusional. Not quite, but almost. I began scripting a movie in which I write a short e-book while anchored in Culatra? I went as far as to drum up some potential titles: Naked Boat - Self-Mutiny; Naked Boat - Less than Zen; or Naked Boat in Culatra. As you can see, I can't get the "naked boat" concept out of my head.

You may be smirking, "pal, you can't write worth beans."

Well, yes and no. After 20 years of nose-to-the-grind translation work, I'll admit I've lost the touch; in the process of becoming a successful translator, my writing has become awkward, mechanical, lame...boring.

Give me a week anchored in Culatra, give me some solitude (not too much), give me free time, give me back to me. God, how I love the sunny life afloat.
Catamaran Lagoon where abandoned boats rot away
Culatra catamaran lagoon
The Catamaran Lagoon Community
Culatra schack
Local fishing boats

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Not Too Naked for Adventure Sailing

Before or after reading this naked boat analysis, you may be interested in reading a short FREE book from Amazon called Flinch. It will transform you into an awesome person (simply follow the instructions); if that doesn't work, buy a sailboat!
Stranded in the Atlantic
Naked Boat in the doldrums during my Atlantic Crossing. I sold the barbecue and the recently damaged windvane will be scrapped soon - the less clutter the better. This was pre-lazyjacks days, which explains the outrageous mainsail tie-down job...who's going to see you in the middle of an ocean anyway?
After having been asked if my boat was for sale, as described in a previous post, and after being told that my boat was naked, I got to thinking about how naked is too naked!

I mean, what do you really need in order to cruise safely and adventurously? Whether it be a one-month or a ten-year cruise. Sailing to a nearby marina doesn't count. I'm talking about sailing and anchoring sprinkled with a few marina visits.

I've sailed on a number of boats owned by other sailors - from a half rotten plywood boat to a new Beneteau 51. From my experience I've concluded that the best compromise lies somewhere between these two extremes since a big luxurious boat lacks the Slocum factor that has stoked many dreams and a really small boat will have you cursing and blaming Slocum for your miserably wet and cramped quarters.

So, size matters: too big and luxurious numbs the adventure, too small and rustic dampens it.

Then there's the equipment. Let me give you an analogy. Let's say that, being really fed up with living in the suburbs, you rent a charming grass hut on a tropical island for 6 months to escape from the fast-paced, gadget-filled, sedentary life that's poisoning your soul. You arrive in shorts, T-shirt, sandals, a bag full of books and a huge smile.

Then you step into the hut and your jaw drops when you see a TV, leather couch, air conditioner, microwave, Wifi router, laptop, washing machine, bla, bla, bla. I believe that your gut reaction would constitute a fairly accurate barometer for determining what kind of sailboat and equipment is appropriate for your real personality, as opposed to your fantasized escape plan. And believe me, magazines have turned sailing into a fantasy; if you don't think so you haven't taken on many wannabe crew for a sail of over 6 hours. It doesn't take long for disillusion/boredom to distort most faces - the ones that didn't get seasick. Or maybe, just maybe, I'm a bad host.

Anyway, here's what I have aboard my Corbin 39 (the naked boat):

Deck hardware:
- 6 winches, none of which are self-tailing
- Alado genoa roller furler, self-tending and boomed staysail and lazy jacks on the main sail
- 2 reefing points, all reefing/other lines run back to the cockpit
- 2 preventer lines running back to dedicated winches
- Manual windlass + 25 kg Rocna anchor + 20 kg plow+ 25 kg plow+ small Fortress + 45 m of 10 mm chain and 300 m of 24 mm nylon rode
- Rutland 913 wind generator + 16 amp dockside charger

- Raymarine hydraulic auto pilot, handheld compass, Ritchie electronic compass
- Hydraulic steering in cockpit and pilot house
- VHF radio + waterproof handheld radio
- Magellan 5-inch color plotter + computer and chart program + handheld GPS
- Sextant (I once knew how to use it, now it's good for my image)
- Depth sounder of course
- Heavy duty drip-free shaft seal
- Kubota 44 hp engine with 1,170 hours, burns no oil, runs better than my watch
- Origo 2-burner non-pressurized alcohol stove
- Enough tools, bolts, screws, pieces of wood and other scattered stuff to drive most people nuts.

- Liferaft, flares and other required safety items
- 3 fire extiguishers
- 2 jacklines and 2 harnesses
- Sissy bars at the mast
- Bossom's chair and Top Climber
- Two automatic bilge pumps and one manual

- 350 liters of diesel in 2 stainless tanks embedded in expanding foam insulation and with inspection holes - spotlessly clean, no condensation, no algea.
- Racor fuel filter and fuel tank selector plus electric lift pump and spare
- Stainless water tank holding about 350 litres
- One underwater seacock - yes, I said one - leading to a stainless distribution tank
- Holding tank and pump-out pump (thus no need for another hole in the hull)

- High density foam mattresses and sofas - no sinking feeling
- Lavac toilet (with a Lavac you'll never call your toilet crappy)
- Huge stainless icebox
- Two kitchen sinks
- Enough storage space to start a small grocery shop
- A Vetus mushroom vent in the galley and a solar vent in the head

And a bunch of other miscellaneous stuff I'm not going to list because this is getting tiresome.

My Naked Sailboat vs. Dressed Up Sailboats

I know sailors with really shiny mid-size boats with a bimini, dodger, name it. But they're always running out of food, water and fuel or getting their fuel fouled with algae because the plastic tank is in the lazarette perspiring like mad. They have one undersized anchor (where would they keep the spare?) and a plague of underwater through-hulls. Tools and spares..."whatayoumean tools, spares, extra lines, a bosoms' chair...Are you nuts, I'm already overflowing with cereal boxes and beer?"

OK, that settles it. Obviously, you can have both worlds if you have a big wallet. I don't, but I don't mind that much because I don't want my grass hut in paradise to have all the comforts just like back home. Call me a masochist, call me a purist, call me anything you want...but I'll say it again: too much comfort kills the adventure of it all.

So, what do I really, really need for my naked boat? What am I craving to buy? Let me think for a few seconds...oh, yes, now I remember:

- 1 self-tailing winch for the halyard sheets - maybe I'll get one in a few years when I can no longer do 100 push-ups every morning.
- maybe also a new solar shower bag, the plastic head on my current bag is cracked, squirts water to one side, which is really beginning to annoy me.

I also need to paint the mast, but that's maintenance and doesn't really count.

So, as you can see, I have everything I need...almost.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Naked Sailboat for Sale

Naked boat
The naked boat sailing off Peniche.
The other day I was in the boat when Manuel showed up with a still-youthful retired couple who keep an attractive steel boat at the marina. I invited them inside for a look and the wife immediately embarked on a thorough inspection. Us men stayed in the pilothouse talking about technical stuff. The usual gender split.

This couple had already cruised the Mediterranean in one month legs during their summer holidays. Now they are ready to go cruising full time.

"I like the pilothouse," said the husband grasping the pilothouse steering wheel, looking out over the long flush deck. "Very spacious," he continued as we heard the wife opening and closing doors down below.

His wife called her husband and we joined her. She proceeded to show him the hanging closet, the head and the forward berth. She opened the large closet door again and stared intently at all my faded cruising rags on the hangers.

We were standing in the large salon talking when I saw them exchange a knowing look.

"Is your boat for sale?" he asked half jokingly. Before I could answer he continued: "We just spent a lot of money outfitting our boat with everything...I mean everything - but it's only 10 meters long. It was perfect for our holidays; now it's small for living aboard. Maybe I should have bought a boat like this one instead."

"Ah, that's a pity," I replied feeling a tremor rushing up my spine, " I would have sold you mine."

"Would you like to trade?"

"Sorry, but I'm not into steel boats."

"How much is your boat worth?"

"Never thought about it," I replied hesitantly. "Anyway, you're sailing off soon."

"That's true, but who's to say I won't sell mine while we're travelling."

"You never know."

He went back to the pilot house, looked around, stuck his head out the companionway and looked around some more.

"By God! Your winches are prehistoric, your windlass is manual, there's no dodger and you have no electronics except a radio."

"I have a hydraulic autopilot and a chartplotter," I said but noticed that he had plunged into deep thoughts.

"You know, I'd need to spend fifty thousand euros to outfit it properly. It's a great boat, but it's naked."

After they left, I thought about the fifty-thousand-euro upgrade. Although he had a point, I think 20,000 euros would be sufficient. At least sufficient for me. After all, too much luxury might ruin the adventure of it all.

So, how could I improve Jakatar with 20,000 euros, if I had the money to spare. Stay tuned for thoughts on the matter. First I have to finish a translation.

PS. Yes, I would sell Jakatar and immediately buy a smaller naked boat.