Monday, February 28, 2011
I am always amazed at the amount of stuff I can learn by listening to experienced older seamen (and seawomen...). Some of what they say might not be in current fashion, or may not conform to the latest scientific ideas, but it often confirms to the hard rules of seamanship and commonsense. And many time quotes from old timers have come back to me in the light of some situation and suddenly make perfect sense. Of course make sure of the credentials of the person you are listening to, there are always plenty of armchair experts...
Also local knowledge is fantastic, I always try to ask the locals about their area, even the newbie boat owner knows much more about the area they sails in than I will. And it is a great way to meet local people. I have had alot of luck talking to the local fishermen, many are often surprised when I ask them about the area (being more used to yachties snubbing them) and their knowledge of the local coast and weather is often incredible. I take a pen and paper for drawing mud maps, and writing stuff down.
Of course I need to be careful of blindly accepting everything at face value, sometimes it is wrong, or more frequently the info is right but I may have interpreted it wrong, but I usually get some really good useful info, and make some friends as well.
Saturday, February 26, 2011
|The dome needs abit of "De-icing"|
|Little green hatted man is warm, dry and very happy!|
|From Astern, a bit of food on the wharf to store somewhere...|
|Now thats a dodger! All Polycarbonate on alloy frames, it goes right back to the helm, ideally the helm needs raising slightly for better visibility, but you can stand to the side and steer with you foot for excellant vis. Note the clutter on deck...|
|The original dodger that spawned provided the pattern for mine, Looks much sleeker on a 38 footer, Nice work Wayne, Greg and Grant.|
Friday, February 25, 2011
Wednesday, February 23, 2011
|See how the top batten can get caught...|
I have dealt with a lot of mains, from the 1500 square foot gaff main on Soren Larsen (putting a third reef in with 40-50 knots needs about 12 people and half an hour..) to a fully battened, fully batcared, all lines led to the cockpit setup on the ex open 60 "Spirit of Sydney" so I have a good idea of what I like...(this really just means I am obnoxiously opinionated)
|I got a two year old to draw it...|
Make sure the reef pendants stretch the foot of the reefed sail tightly, I like belly bands (or reef bands) through the sail for this reason (they control the stretch), although I note that most sailmakers don't.... If the foot is not reasonably firm you end up with two much shape in the sail, and to much power. In a strong wind the main should be flat.
So basically If reefing the main seems like a big deal that you tend to put off, and need to wake extra crew for you may need either a smaller boat or a better system. I have really only scratched the surface of all the options or ideas, and each boat and sail setup is so different. But make sure your system is effective.
Sunday, February 20, 2011
Saturday, February 19, 2011
Thursday, February 17, 2011
|Yes this is a lame picture,about 35 knots so get some sleep now.|
But to move on, I made a mistake in Part 1 Did any of you notice? See I knew you weren't paying attention.... (mind you I didn't notice it either) The caption on the first picture reads "Careless is the ass, who sleeps with a low and falling glass" when in fact this is probably exactly what you should be doing.
Rolf and Deborah from "Northern Light" drummed this into me as a kid when I spent hours reading my grandfather's copy of their excellent book "Northern light". They have a term called the sleep bank, you put hours into it and you take hours out. simple, and you do have an overdraft facility, but go to far into debt and you are in serious strife... It is scary how quickly your decision making part of the brain gets defective with lack of sleep. You start doing really stupid things... Like writing blogs..
So Number 1, get some sleep. Also:
- If you haven't already (and you really should have been..), get the best weather info you can and work out if you can set a course to clear the worst areas.
- Study the chart, make sure you are no where near a seamount, edge of a steep continental shelf, or fractured zone these may cause upwellings or somesuch that can make the sea state horrendous. Two deep sea fishermen I have talked to like to get 30 or 40 miles clear of even very deep seamounts if there is any bad weather forecast. They also report 3+ knots of subsurface current at times near these areas. These fishermen are the only good source of info I can find on this, so don't take it as gospel. Here is an interesting link about the schooner "Orbit" capsizing, make sure you also check out the technical notes at the bottom of his page.
- Start logging weather info as often as possible. Then you can possibly track the low center. If the storm force winds aren't forecast you have an obligation to let the nearest met office know, and broadcast it to other vessels.
- Cook up a feed, eat and drink lots of water, organize some snacks.
- Tidy up all that mess that always accumulates (on my boat anyway, maybe you are a tidy person)
- Secure boat (ie lash down that heavy sextant box)
- Get storm gear ready
- Make sure batteries are topped up
- Lash spinnaker pole down well (it is your emergency mast). I must set mine up to store below.
- Put clothes, computers and stuff in dry bags
- Get crap off the deck (fold and stow sails)
- Top up any day tanks, empty all bilges, and make sure they are clean and the pumps work.
- Put the small vane on the wind vane
- maybe consider seasick tablet if you are so inclined
- I put extra lashings on my liferaft, to disable the hydrostatic release. You can make up your own mind about this.. BUT definitely make sure a sharp knife is handy...
I'm sure there are many points I've missed. This list is not definitive, let me know if you think of any others and I'll include them.
You are allowed a moment of panic, abit of fear, and quite alot of worry,(unless you really are a robot) but try not to let it stop any of the above. And if you have crew, don't let it show to much...
I will try to write something on sleep patterns latter, but for now I will just note that kind of meditating and relaxing in my bunk seems to work almost as well as sleeping, so now I just get my head down and relax, rather than trying to force myself to sleep. Even 20 minutes of not quite asleep refreshes me alot. You shouldn't be in nasty stuff in the first few days (if you are you need to learn to read a forecast..). So at least you should be in sea sleeping mode (It takes me a few days).
At this stage the boat should be making its way out of the path of the worst weather and hopefully towards your destination. You may have some great sailing, as the winds and sea build, slowly reducing canvas. I don't push the boat hard at this point unless I really need to get out of the way of something very nasty.
I like to study the sea, Especially the swell directions - there will be two or even three swell patterns overlaid, and of course the wind-driven sea on top of this. Getting this info may prove vital later, because this will give you some idea of the direction of any rogue waves, and may give you some idea which is the best tack or gybe be on latter if things start to get really nasty. Rogue waves tend to come in the average direction of the swells and seas - ie a NW swell with a SW sea will likely give a rogue wave from the west, It also may not, but on probability it is more likely, so if running it would be better to be on the Starboard gybe heading east rather than on the port gybe heading north. Or if hove to, be on the port tack heading west, rather than south. You really want to minimise the chance of a rogue hitting you on the beam... So pay attention to the waves.
I think rogue waves are the big killer, and ultimately the best defence is a strong boat and a bit of luck - the specific tactics have less to do with it, but certainly can help. That's why I like to prepare for the worst before leaving the wharf.
I have run with drogues in the past, With mixed results, and I would like to talk about this at some later point. But for now need to leave this topic a bit. There will be a part 3, or more, but for now this will have to do, I have already spent too much time deleting and rewriting sentences, and I am still not really happy with it...
All the best, and I hope you never need to use any of this stuff.
Tuesday, February 15, 2011
"If you can think of a plausible reason for 4 waterproof, isolated GPS units (including one in a Faraday cage) to simultaneously die, for more than a couple of days, I would very impressed." (note this is a hypothetical situation)
Chris from Brilliant star was good enough to reply and give me heads up on space weather. So now we have at least one possibility, a solar flare, to add to our list of sextant requiring events.
After abit of digging around It seems their is a very remote possibility a large enough solar flare could compromise the GPS, Galileo, GLONASS and Irridium satellites and HF radio for long enough to make carrying a sextant across an ocean a good idea.
From the geology.com website they suggested that normal flares would only reduce the accuracy by 50 meters or so, not a big deal if you are navigating defensively. And they mentioned an 11 year solar flare peak 2013… although some sites are saying it might be this year.
However the chances of an large enough solar event (The 500 year flare.. NOAA ) to wipeout these systems for any significant period seems very remote, And it would also cause chaos ashore, so it falls squarely into my doomsday apocalyptic situation.
But by pure coincidence today has the largest event this solar cycle (11 years or so) according to (see I am turning into a journalist..and covering my ass) these guys .But looking at the chart from the noaa website this will not really effect anything, only being a G1 on the NOAA flare scales for the moment.
But it may be worth looking for an aurora tonight, and think about how having a good idea about space weather could help with the ladies (or whoever you are trying to impress..) I mean how romantic would it be if you plan that evening walk to coincide with a stunning aurora display...
So I will still carry a sextant... And I will also keep an eye on the space weather and also be aware that a strong aurora and poor radio propagation may also indicate reductions in GPS accuracy. But I won't otherwise worry about it, i'll let the NASA guys do that and will continue to focus on keeping the water out and my crew safe.
A Big thanks to Chris onboard Brilliant Star for the information and links.
Sunday, February 13, 2011
|The star of the show for me... A simple two part dingy..|
My excuse is the Australian Wooden Boat Festival, And what sailor can resist acres of gleaming varnish, and polished brass, and more enticingly the chance to sit round drinking beer and discussing boats day and night. This year is the biggest ever, and it was also free, so truly it is a slice of Fiddlers Green, and right on my doorstep every two years.
Anyway in typical Ben Tucker style, (or rather with the absence of any...) I found the acres of varnish bought back painful memories of scraping and sanding my way around the pacific on the Brigantine Soren Larsen. And I missed the quirky solid little cruising boats that I normally admire. But I did spot this great looking two part dingy with a sailing rig... And I also saw a Farrier Tri with a little aft cabin much like I would like to put on snow petrel one day...
Anyway a big thank you to all who entered their boats, to the organisers and to the sponsors, and finally to the buses for being free this weekend (A good start in an oil constrained world). If you ever get the chance to get down to Tassie, try to time it to catch this event.
Friday, February 11, 2011
|Open heart surgery. A terminal problem|
Right.. don the Sherlock hat, and think... (ouch). Since I was getting no charge from either of the two panels the problem must be where they join at the regulator. Elementary my dear Watts-in (sorry..). looking closely I noticed the negative wire was loose, and the heat from the loose connection had burnt and melted the connection strip (see the photo). I can only guess that the deeper than normal discharge had resulted in the full charge being pumped in for the first time in a little while, creating too much heat, either that or I had bumped the wires at some point... or more likely a combination of both. Case solved.
Anyway yesterday I fixed it, after all it does the battery no good to sit half charged for any length of time. I cut away the melted plastic and put it all back together. With enormous satisfaction I noticed the smiley face on the screen saying thank you after I faced the panels back into the sun (I shaded them for safety) and turned the batteries back on.
|All fixed, note the smiley face!!|
While I was at it I checked all the battery cells with the hydrometer (Being very careful not to get any acid in my eyes,skin or on my clothes). Although all the individual cells (6 cell per 12v battery) are all in the red they all floated at about the same level, and needed just a bit of de-mineralised water to top them up. So maybe there is more life in them than I thought. If I had one cell that was using lots of extra water, and floated much lower than the others it is really bad news (actually a terminal disease, with no effective cure), and this dodgy cell will keep sucking the lifeblood out of any battery connected to it. This is one thing I like about standard batteries, I'm not sure how easy it is to check the heath of an AGM or other sealed battery?
Buoyed by my success I also installed the 800w inverter. Now I feel very pleased with myself... I think regular maintenance might improve my heath as well as the boats.
By coincidence John has just written a good article on batteries here and it talks alot about equalising the batteries, for those of you that don't know about this it means gently overcharging the battery's to break the sulfates off the lead plates. My solar panel regulator supposedly does this every month, but I need a good sunny day. The only point here is to be careful that you don't blow up sensitive electrical gear, because the voltage can go up to 16 volts or so. Also be very careful of battery gas and water levels. For more info about equalisation see here.
I need to work out how to easily isolate one battery for equalisation while using the other one, Guess it will just be abit of fiddling with wires. One other point, my regulator cuts off the load (ie ALL power like lights and GPS etc at about 11.2v), so I have rigged an emergency bypass switch, this also disables all battery monitoring, like charge in and charge out, but could be good in emergencies.
A note on battery safety, having seen an exploded battery.. not a good look and very dangerous (not to mention the cost!), don't over charge them and be very careful of the hydrogen gas released when charging hard. It goes up (lighter than air), and it goes BANG...so ventilate well and always use insulated tools, (or at least wrap lots of insulating tape around the handles) to prevent a dead short if you drop it or are otherwise clumsy like me, Oh and don't wear metal Jewellery. Also Battery acid is nasty stuff, wear safety goggles. Oh yeah.. and they are bloody heavy.
The point of all this waffle is that batteries and charging is a big deal, you need to understand your system, and the simpler it is the easier it will be to maintain, fix and understand. This is why I do not have a fridge or freezer, the continued draw would totally overwhelm my system, and I would be forced to run the engine to compensate, and then I would need a smart regulator for my alternator, then extra batteries, then more fuel... well you get the idea.
PS I am working on Storm Tactics part 2, but with my one finger typing it is rather slow going..
Thursday, February 10, 2011
|Careless is the ass, who sleeps with a low and falling glass.|
Wednesday, February 9, 2011
|Two solar panels getting iced up.. Not much charge going in..|
So if I spend the money on another wind generator it will probably be something like the Rutland 504 which puts out a pitiful amount of power but is small, quiet, safe and works well in strong winds. Most of the bigger ones have to be shut down for safety in gale force conditions, right when the solar panels are often under cloud, and when you don't need any power issues. Saying that, in some places like the trade winds or with a good reliable sea breeze wind generators may make more sense?
Monday, February 7, 2011
Edit 15/2/11 After discussion with Chris at Brilliant star see here for more details and also the comments on this post. It seems we have our answer, there is a remote possibility a large enough solar flare could compromise the GPS, Galileo, glonass and irridium satellites and radio for long enough to make carrying a sextant across an ocean a good idea?
From the geology.com website they suggested that normal flares would only reduce the accuracy by 50 meters or so, not a big deal if you are navigating defensively. And they mentioned an 11 year solar flare peak 2013…
However the chances of an large enough solar event to wipeout these systems for any significant period seems remote, And it would also cause chaos ashore, so it falls into my doomsday apocalyptic situation. By coincidence today has the largest event this solar cycle according to (see I am turning into a journalist..) these guys
BUT I will still carry a sextant... And I will also keep an eye on the space weather and also be aware that a strong aurora and poor radio propagation may also indicate reductions in gps accuracy.
A Big thanks to Chris onboard Brilliant Star for the Info
for further info see
The 500 year flare.. NOAA
NOAA flare scales
Sunday, February 6, 2011
Sent from my iPhone so now I know how to add photos to the blog while using next to no electricity. Nice sextant hey?
So today due to being on the boat with a flat computer battery I thought I would try to email in a post about my lovely new sextant. But while halfway through composing my masterpiece of modern literature, my far to fat forefinger acidentally tapped the far to small screen in the spot called send.. so off went my half finished post into the interweb with that stupid iphone signature that I nomally delete..
Anyway the thing doesn't support flash or something so It won't let me go back in and edit the post on my site, hence this longwinded explanation, but anyway you can still answer my question in the last post, what to you think, are sextants like tits on a bull? (ie useless)
While on the subject of phones, for us power starved cruisers this little phone is a marvel, internet at your fingertips, draws next to nothing powerwise. Stores songs and brilliant sailing podcasts from Furledsails.com (you can look them up) And it also stores charts, for $15 (Navionics) I have the whole of Australia stored on It. (it even updates them for me!) Its now a pocketsized chartplotter (It has a built in GPS). Absolutley amazing.... now if only those screens were bigger.
Cheers from Snow Petrel
PS I'm sure the other brand smartphones are just as good, and infact the 3G part of this phone has died so its reception is pretty bad out of town. And in my defense mine is a crappy old 8 meg 3G not the way cooler 3gs or iphone 4, but if anyone from apple is reading this I do accept sponsership...
I brushed the cobwebs off the hatch of Snowpetrel and shook the cockroaches out of the sails, then sailed across to Bruny Island for BBQ. The next day I popped in to see a mate who showed me a sextant he had aquired in a garage sale. I checked it and adjusted out the slight errors, and just held it, unlike my old plastic davis mk 15 this had a "Real" sextant feel, so much like the sextants I learnt to use on the ships. Anyway I bought it.. 500 bucks for a virtually new Freiberger with a lovely wooden case. Why are they so expensive asked karen? 500 bucks I could have bought about 4 GPS units, which would do the same job quicker, more accurately...etc.
So are sextants about as much use as tits on a bull? should they be resigned to antique stores with the walker log?
Sent from my iPhone
Friday, February 4, 2011
|About to enter the pack ice for the first time..Me and my Father, I hope you can tell I'm the one on the right.. Photo Matt Tucker|
I can be one of the wimpiest sailors I know, fretting and worrying over small and big things.
1 Ignorance is bliss, not even being aware of the dangers
2 Knowing the dangers and fearing them, or fear of the unknown
3 Confidence that you can deal with the dangers as they arise and any unknowns
4 Overconfidence and a fright can kick you back to stage 2
If you have any comments to add, please consider chucking them up on Johns site, This post is really an extension of his.. Ohhh and a big hello to the three people who have been over here for a look at my amaturish efforts..