sailboatbliss

Cruising by sail in the Pacific NW


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Westcoast Shakedown – Sailing Non-Stop Down the West Coast of Vancouver Island Part 2: The Passage

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It was sometime last spring when we first proposed the idea to do a 3 or 4 day “practice passage” down the west coast of Vancouver Island at a Bluewater Cruising Association meeting.  At the time, we didn’t think much of it – it just seemed like a good idea.  As the end of July approached, it seemed so much more, especially with the unstable weather we’d had through the first 3 weeks of the summer.  However, in spite of this dodgy weather and our apprehensions, by the time we tied up in Shearwater on Saturday July 27, we’d gotten a 3 day usable weather window and were mentally committed to doing the trip.  The nervous energy of the last few days didn’t disappear, but the pointless hand wringing did and was replaced with a fevered effort to get stuff done as fast as possible so that we could get underway: recycling, last minute grocery shopping, diesel, propane and laundry…all in just over an hour.

We started motoring south down Hunter Channel, next stop Sooke, just after noon, in gentle southerly winds and mostly overcast skies.  We could’ve beat down the channel, but our schedule and the light winds kept us motoring.  Eventually, we exited the very tight archipelago at the south end of Hunter Channel and motored into the open water of Queen’s Sound.  Surprise, surprise, the weather was still not quite as promised.  Instead of sun and a glorious reach, we got clouds and a motor in the sloppy leftovers from the departing south-easterly.   Not very exciting, but the monotony was probably good – it turns out that it’s just as hard to stay nervous when you’re bored doing the activity that was making you nervous in the first place as it is when you’re busy running around preparing for that activity.

We motored for quite a while, choking down what should have been a wonderful meal along the way.  Eventually though, our patience and faith in the forecast was rewarded and we were able to sail in light winds on a close hauled course straight at Cape Scott.  Fortunately, Palomita sails very well in these conditions and we were happy to trade the din of the engine for the satisfying swish of the water.  By 9pm, we were doing 7 knots on a close reach.  We were 32 miles north of Cape Scott and it was magical.

Before we left, we’d decided on a formal watch schedule starting at 10pm and ending at 8am.  Our plan was to do a 3 hour watch each, and then a 2 hour watch each.  We figured we could manage the daylight hours on an informal basis.  With a little tweaking over the two nights we were out, this system worked really well for us, and unlike our previous experiences sailing through the night, neither on us really got to the point of total exhaustion.  The first watch on Saturday night was mine, and it was a highlight.  The night was pretty much perfect for sailing to weather: Palomita rose to the gentle seas with enough wind to keep her moving fast, but not so much that we were on our ear.  The ride was so pleasant that we both spent our off watches in our regular bunk.  At midnight we were 11 nm from Cape Scott,  still on a close reach doing 7 knots, and it was still magical.

We rounded Cape Scott – which is really a 5nm wide pass between Vancouver Island and the Scott Islands – at about 1:30 in the morning, where we decided to turn the engine back on for 20 minutes to power through the wind shadow of the Scott Islands.  My watch had ended at 1:00, but because we weren’t sure what we were going to find at the cape, I stayed up until we were clear of the pass.  We’d never done this long of an overlap between shifts before, and we really liked the time together – so much so that we think it should be a regular part of our night watch routine.  Along with breaking up the monotony of sitting alone quietly while on watch, it gave us an opportunity talk about the conditions, other vessels, our location, our course and our sails.

I turned in when we were able to sail again.  Unfortunately, Lori’s watch lacked the sailing perfection that mine had.  The wind continued to veer into the west, but it didn’t build.  When you are sailing into the wind, the wind speed the sails feel is a combination of the true wind speed and the boat’s speed.  Palomita will sail quite well in 8 knots of true wind speed as long as the wind is coming at her.  As you turn to have the wind behind you, the wind in the sails drops.  If you are sailing dead downwind, the wind you feel is the wind speed minus the boat’s speed.  We don’t sail downwind very well at all in 8 knots, especially if there are waves.  As the wind shifted aft that night, the wind across the deck fell to the point where Lori had to fire up the motor for another half hour just to keep the boat moving at a reasonable speed.  By the time I got up at 4:30, reality finally started to catch up with the forecast, and the wind had risen enough to keep us moving well as we sailed towards Brooks Peninsula on a broad reach.  It was the beginning of a remarkable day.

Albatross

After going off shift, Lori managed to sleep for a couple of hours, but the by the time she got up, I had no desire to lay down.  The cloud cover was still close to 100%, but we were moving well and I was having fun sailing.  We also had lots of wildlife to enjoy: albatross, petrels, and shearwaters in the air, and multiple humpbacks in the water.  The whale sightings sound great, but having a humpback surface or breech right beside your boat can be a little nerve racking.

The morning progressed, and the wind built as forecast.  By the time we were rounding Brooks Peninsula, 50nm south of Cape Scott and commonly regarded at the most demanding headland on Vancouver Island, we’d pulled the main down and were running under jib alone.  It was only blowing 20 kts, and we could have left some of the main up, but the boat goes fine in that much wind with only the genoa out, and it’s safer -we can run almost dead downwind without having to deal with poles or boom preventers – and we were expecting the wind to keep rising through the day.  As an added bonus, the sun started to make an appearance.

It’s hard to describe our day running between Brooks Peninsula and Estevan Point in a way that adequately describes our experience.  Pictures can’t really show what we saw, never mind what we felt.  It was at times awe inspiring, amazing, monotonous, and exciting.  Rounding Brooks had been easy – the wind and seas were was still moderate – but the conditions built steadily through the day as we made our way south until winds were blowing a steady 28-30 kts, gusting to 35, with an average seastate of  2-3m.  This means that the odd 20 footer rolled under our keel.  Spicy, but not scary.  In fact, this time was some of the most amazing sailing that I’ve ever done – just us and our boat doing hull speed in big waves and sunshine.  It’s amazing what being in the midst of “it” does to your mind – the positive effect of actually being fully engaged in an activity instead of just thinking about it.  This is a lesson I have to learn over and over again.

 

The fun lasted until the wee hours of the next morning during Lori’s watch.  It’s not easy to sleep with the sails slatting as they alternately filled with air and then lost it as the boat rolled.  Lori kept heading up – turning into the wind – in an effort to increase the wind over the deck, but by 4 am it was pointless – we were on a close reach doing 4kts and pointing right at Hawaii. We were 15 miles off of Ucluelet when we fired the engine back up and turned the boat 90 degrees to port to get us pointing back at our destination.20190729_060417

Day three was pretty mellow compared to the day before.  We motored for quite a while, a couple of hours of which were in the fog.  Gale force westerlies were forecast for Juan de Fuca Strait, but these usually fill in early in the afternoon, so we motored on, anticipating a great sail to finish the trip off.  Juan did not disappoint…by noon we were sailing again and by three we were running under foresail only.  We’ve done this stretch under these conditions before, so this sail had a distinctly laid back feel compared to the day before.

We finally pulled into Sooke Harbour at seven.  It was blowing pretty hard over the spit, and we spent quite a while poking about looking for a good spot to drop the hook.  In the end, we settled in a tight spot just off the spit near the entrance to the harbour.  We were the second boat in, so our tight spot was really tight..not the best, but the winds were supposed to stay out of the west all night so we hoped we’d be fine.  We were, but the wind and tight spot didn’t inspire the confidence I need to sleep well.

We arrived in Victoria at about noon the next day after another great sail through Race Passage.  The sail was absolutely fantastic, but even so, the difference in our stress levels when we tied the lines to the dock was palatable.  We were supposed to meet friends on the dock, but they were a day late.  Good thing – we spent the afternoon tidying up the boat and hit the sack early. We would’ve been terrible company.   

It’s been a month and a half since we arrived in Victoria which has allowed plenty of time for reflection.  Lori maintains that she had “type 2” fun – the kind of fun that is better in hindsight – but that she’d do it again “for a purpose”.  I get it.  There is no doubt that the time leading up to us getting underway was fraught with needless angst, and that living on a small boat at sea is tiring and uncomfortable.  But I’m having trouble 20190730_151035squaring up the time frame of my fun.  I missed being out there almost immediately – cruising in Desolation Sound just wasn’t the same after the high adventure of surfing down 10′ waves for hours at a time.  Three days is just a small taste, and it’s highly likely that  sailing like this for days on end would grow to be routine and might (would?) eventually become tiresome. The bottom line is that, regardless of how we handled it or felt about it, the trip was totally worth it.  There is no other way to test yourself, your boat, and your systems other than to get out there and sail, and I’m happy to report that we passed this test.

I’ve created a companion video for this post.  You can view it at https://youtu.be/KzFp5lLq6Dg

Some of what we learned:

All of our little steps over the years have lead us here with confidence.  I’m pretty sure the next trip like this will be much easier in terms of pre-departure anxiety.  Everyone who wants to head offshore would benefit from a trip like this.

The autopilot (Raymarine Evolution EV200 with a linear drive) can handle fairly challenging conditions, but oversteers using the settings we were using.  We will have to tweak these to try and get it to steer a more consistent course, especially when the boat starts rolling in cross seas.

Our modest 160W solar array kept up with the demand over 24 hours no problem with no engine run time.  I’m hoping that by expanding it considerably – we’re thinking of adding another 400W – this will remain true in lower latitudes.

5 miles is not enough sea room off of either Estevan Point or Brooks Peninsula when it’s blowing.  More is better.

Shorter watches with a scheduled overlap made the night watch go so much faster.  The trick is to sleep as much as possible during the day to stay rested.  We’ve sailed overnight a grand total of 10 nights – I think that it’s likely that longer watches would become easier with more experience.

We’re both pretty immune to seasickness, but there is a limit.  Neither of us really felt like eating for the whole trip.

25 – 30 kts behind you in the ocean is still fun, but I wouldn’t want to have to sail into it.  30 – 35 is doable, but is pushing it as far as fun goes.

Our boat is fun and easy to sail, even shorthanded.  We already knew this, but we appreciate it more as we learn more.

 


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Who Doesn’t Like a Kitchen Reno?

lori in the galley

Plastic laminate – Arborite – is a pretty amazing material.  Our galley is thirty years old, and until this winter, everything was still original and looked to be in reasonable shape.  A few chips, but no burns or big scratches.  Impressive for a thin layer of paper and plastic.  The fridge and sink not so much.  Both were showing their age and in need of an update.

The fridge was our main concern.   The freezer would frost up so badly that the lid would get frozen shut as the frost worked its way up and out past the lid.  The lids themselves were heavy and held up by a spring that would drop the lid on your head if you breathed too heavy while rooting around for a cold beer.  To add insult to injury, the freezer itself didn’t even work well – it refused to get much below freezing in the bottom.  Upon further inspection, we found that this poor performance was due to water making its way into the insulation from the fridge drain.  The whole thing really needed to go.

The sink was mostly just ugly.  We decided early on that we wanted an undermount to make clean-up a little easier.  I could’ve built a counter using plastic laminate and dealt with finishing the edge at the hole for the sink, but chose to use a solid surface – Meganite – instead.  This material is easy to work with but has a reputation for cracking if it is installed incorrectly…time will tell if this was a good decision.

I find that many seemingly easy jobs have a way of getting complicated as you start making decisions about details.  If you aren’t careful, one choice early on can push you into a corner that is hard to get out of.  The big decisions for this project all required more consideration than one would think.  Just finding a sink that would fit was a nightmare…

  • what, and how much insulation material?
  • what would the box be lined with?
  • how would I fabricate proper lids with a latch and two seals on each?
  • how would I mount the sink?

We decided to go with 5 – 6″ of polystyrene insulation – the pink or blue boards you can get at a home improvement store.  The other easily obtained choice – polyisocyanurate – is more expensive and has been shown to have an R value that decreases as the temperature decreases.  Not good in a freezer.  I lined the box with epoxy and glass and didn’t include a drain.  This one piece liner can’t ever leak into the insulation.

The openings for the fridge and freezer were the biggest challenge.  I replaced the massive teak structure that defined the original openings and the lid insulation with styrofoam assemblies covered in fibre reinforced plastic panelling (FRP).  I attached the FRP to the styrofoam with thickened epoxy.  The lid insulation rests on teak trim rings in each opening.  These rings support the lower seal and gas filled support struts.  The lid insulation is in turn affixed to the Meganite lids with silicone.  I added a small step around the top edge of each opening for a second seal. We’re super happy with the results – it all looks like it came from the factory.

I sourced the sink through Amazon.com and had it delivered to a friend in Anacortes.  Amazon .ca didn’t have it and the RV shop I called in the valley wanted double what I paid.  Sometimes shopping here really sucks.  The counter material is not designed to support the weight of a sink, so I build a frame to rest the sink edge on.  This also serves to support the counter as required by the installation instructions.

The counter itself was fairly easy but time consuming and stressful.  It required a huge amount of planning, prep, and travel to make sure everything lined up correctly.  The most important step was to build templates for everything.  Essentially, this meant building, testing and trimming an entire counter out of MFD before starting on the Meganite; working on the finished product using only the old countertop and measurements as a guide likely wouldn’t have produced the same results.  I did almost all of the fabrication work after hours in my shop…every test fit required driving to the marina and humping the piece in question out to the boat and back before proceeding.

The counter is held in place by a few blobs of silicone to allow the top to move as the temperature changes – not really the most secure method, particularly if we’re knocked down, but it’s the the only one recommended by the manufacturer.  Putting screws into the counter is a guaranteed way to induce cracks.  To add some structure to the assembly, I am adding a fairly substantial fiddle around the front edge edge and a moulding along the back edge that will be screwed to the cabinetry to clamp the counter down.  This should allow for regular movement and help secure the counter against irregular movement in the event of an “accident”.  I would’ve liked to use the original one piece laminated fiddle, but didn’t think there was enough meat to make it robust enough for a worst case scenario.

counter done

Aesthetically, we’re both really pleased with the results.  It looks new and fresh.  But more importantly, it is also functionally superior to the original.  The undermount sink makes wiping the counter down a treat, and the fridge should be far more efficient with dry insulation, a reduction of wood in the top assembly, and proper seals on the lids.

 

 


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Installing an ECHOTec Watermaker

panelLori and I have always maintained that a watermaker is completely unnecessary when cruising the BC coast – so what changed?  Well…we spent some time on a boat with one.  We still don’t think we “need” one, but the freedom of just using clean, fresh water whenever you want is very alluring.  Every swim can end in a fresh water rinse, dishes get a thorough rinse, and water shortages aren’t an issue like they were on our cruise to Haida Gwaii in 2015.  They come with a number of costs though: space, maintenance, energy, money – lots of money, and the effort of a significant install.  I tend to gloss over this cost over when I take projects on; this time was no different.

We started by doing tons of research.  I started by assuming that my search would lead inevitably to a Spectra simply because of their incredible efficiency.  But there are more things to think about than litres per amp hour.  After a lengthy detour to an AC system that we could design ourselves, we eventually decided on an 50 litre/hour ECHOTec DC system for a few reasons:

  • It will run off our existing DC system.  We didn’t want to rely on extra gear like a generator (ugh) or an inverter.  We normally have an excess of electricity, but will eventually upgrade our solar and alternator to ensure that we’re never short, regardless of the weather.
  • They are very simple – the system is essentially a DC motor, a plunger style high pressure pump as used on a pressure washer, and a membrane.  Nothing is automated.
  • They are a little less expensive than a Spectra – but not enough to be a major factor in the decision.
  • It should produce 100% more water in one hour of run time than we currently use per day when we’re being fairly liberal with our water use.  We figure a couple of hours of run time every second day will more than meet our needs, even if we turn into water pigs.
  • The vendor (Hydrovane) is local and well established.

We haven’t used our watermaker yet, so we don’t know for sure if we made the right call, but the logic and numbers still make sense to us.  We’re pretty confident that we have the right system.

The Purchase

We started by having Will and Sarah from Hydrovane visit the boat.  Not only are they the vendors, but they are also experienced bluewater sailors with experience living with the ECHOTec model we were considering.  We had a great morning talking about their adventures and our plans, along with a thorough look at our boat and the spaces we could use for the various parts of the system.  There are a number of large parts that needed a home:

  • The motor and high pressure pump.  The
    watermaker crate

    Pretty exciting – new boat toys are always fun to unpack.

    pump doesn’t reliably create the lift required to suck water – even with a boost pump to feed it water, it is best to locate it as low as possible.  The pair is also big and heavy.

  • Pre-filters.  These consist of a pair of domestic 10″ housings, plumbed in series.  This assembly is fairly large and needs to be easily accessible
  • The pressure vessel for the membrane.  It can go anywhere, but it’s long.

Will and Sarah brought a pressure vessel along as they believe that this is normally the most problematic component to fit due to it’s length.  We tried under our V-berth – it’s tight but it fit.  We measured out potential locations for the other major components and placed our order.  A month later it arrived in two large wooden crates.

The Install

We unpacked the crates and laid out all the parts on our living room floor to check them against the parts list.  Everything was as advertised, but the mountain of individual pieces was more than a little overwhelming.  Despite the simplicity of basic water making process, the addition of alternate circuits for testing, flushing, and pickling (preserving the membrane from biological growth for long periods of downtime), requires a significant selection of fittings and hose to figure out.  Thankfully, the relatively well written instructions helped to clear up some of the questions before we set to work on the boat.

I tackled the major components first: the high pressure pump and motor, pre-filters, pressure vessel, and control panel.  We originally planned to put the pump/motor assembly on the cabin sole in the V-berth, but this area was also a prime spot for the pre-filters due to its accessibility.  The filters won that tug of war.  We settled on sacrificing a difficult to access drawer and previously unused space under the v-berth for the pump/motor assembly.

This installation required that I replace the drawer with a strong shelf to support the substantial weight of the pump and motor and cut an opening for access to the space from above.  I glassed the shelf to the hull and painted the compartment before bolting the pump motor assembly in place.  I finished this step by using the old drawer front to cover the hole that the drawer used to occupy.  I cut a hole in the old drawer front to make room for the motor and provide ventilation, and hinged it to the cabinetry so that I could access the compartment from the side as well as from above.

 

 

I finished the pump installation by running a #2 wire from a breaker near the positive bus at the battery box all the way forward to a terminal block.  This run will power both the high pressure pump and the feed pump.

The pre-filters and pressure vessel were both easy to fit, requiring only a few holes for plumbing.

The control panel was another matter.  We paneloriginally decided to install it in a new cabinet on a small counter at the head of the v-berth.  I even went so far as to drill holes through the counter and fabricate a teak cabinet.  However, the number of wires and hoses connected to the back of the panel ultimately made this location unworkable.  We finally settled on sacrificing a small but useful storage space near to the cabin sole and adjacent to the pump / motor compartment.

Plumbing

I thought that the rest of the installation would be pretty simple – it’s mostly plumbing.  But there were also two more filter housings to install – one to filter chlorine out of a fresh water rinse circuit and one to house a water hardener – along with the boost pump and a water strainer.  Like the pre-filters, the rinse water filter housing and water hardener housings are both domestic 10″ housings and require accessibility and a bit of space.  The other issue we were starting to think about was how many spare filters we’d need to buy and store plumbingto fit in all of these housings; along with the domestic water filters under the sink, we were now 5 housing all requiring regular maintenance.  We thought about this for a while, and finally decided to re-plumb the pressure side of the entire cold water system in order cut that number by one.  This was a lot of work, but was worth it as it improved our existing system and cut the number of requires spares by 20%.

The rest of the water-maker plumbing was straight forward, but tedious.  Cutting the high pressure hose with a zip disk was easy, as was installing the fittings.  Much of the low pressure plumbing is routed from the control panel via 3/8″ hard plastic tubing and compression fittings – I used brass compression fittings and hose barbs to connect them to the boat’s systems.  The product water is sent to the tanks by tying the water-maker output line into the vent line – we’ll see how this works – and the raw water is teed into the wash down pump through-hull fitting, thereby reducing the number of needed through-hulls by one.  The water strainer and boost-pump are in the same compartment as the associated sea cock, and required a bit of wrestling to hook up.

hoses

The sea-cocks for the forward head sink, holding tank, wash-down pump and watermaker, along with the boost pump and strainer.  This compartment will have a shelf installed over the plumbing so that the through-hulls are protected and the space usable.

The test water line – you’d hate to inject bad water into your tanks – is teed into the foot pump spigot in the forward head with check valves in both lines to ensure the the foot pump and the watermaker can only send water out of the spigot, and not back into the system.

There’s more of course, but this covers the majority of the work required for the water maker to function.  For now, the feed water through-hull is still closed and, except for the membrane, the unit is dry.  I’m a little apprehensive about firing it up – there are tons of fittings and I’m sure some of them will leak.  I’m hoping for the best, and will post a report after we have some time living with the system.

 

 

 


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Working Through The Winter Blues

I’m a winter weenie.  Even in the lower mainland, which usually only has a wet stretch between fall and spring, I find it tough.  I think it’s the short days that are the worst, but the cold and wet don’t help.  There are fun distractions, but I spend too much time waiting for the spring.

Weeknights are the most difficult.  I have this really bad habit of sitting down, firing up the computer and surfing the internet or watching Netflix.  I kill precious hours doing essentially nothing, and then wonder where the evening went.  Not good.  Even worse, when the sun finally shows up again in April, I start working like crazy, trying to get all of the projects I want to get done finished before July.

I decided this year would be different – I would be productive during weekday winter evenings.  Hopefully this would also tick a few chores off the list earlier and restore some sanity to the spring.

So far, so good.  It’s still been cold and wet far too often for my liking, but I’ve been productive.  You’d think the list would getting shorter, but in normal way of boat jobs, it’s just changing as newly discovered jobs replace the original jobs.

I started with a re-build of the gooseneck.  After 30 years, the aluminum toggle was completely worn out, and the welds on the tangs were cracked.  After checking out the original supplier’s price I decided to get the tangs re-welded to the backing plate (thanks Pierre at Poco Marine – you’re amazing!) and machine a new toggle myself using an oversized chunk of  aluminum.   This was a small job that I got done before our cruise in November.   It eventually lead to a similar redo of the boomvang bracket too (thanks again Pierre).

 

 

The next job on the list was way more substantial.  When we bought the boat, I discovered rot along the bottom of the main bulkhead.  For anyone looking to buy a Sabre,  I think that this is a Sabre issue that is related to the design of the mast step – take a close look at the floor and bulkhead here before making an offer!

This bulkhead is also the wall of the shower stall in the forward head.  I cut the worst of the rot out right after we bought the boat, putting this shower out of commission for the whole time we’ve owed the boat.  Cutting the bottom of the bulkhead out revealed a seriously poor shower sump design that needed a re-work to be viable.  I fixed this by cutting all of the rot out and replacing the material with epoxy, woven rovings, and multiple layers of 1/8″ ply.  I also moved the sump pump plumbing and replaced the pump.

The shower was a big job, and I don’t really like fibreglassing, but it pales in comparison to the next item on our list: a watermaker.  I’ve written a post detailing the whole process, but suffice to say that it was a surprisingly complicated job that had a cascade effect on a bunch of other stuff: cabinetry, a complete re-plumb of the pressurized side of the cold water system – not a small job – and wiring..

I hate messy wiring – I understand the attraction to just running a new wire when installing new equipment, but unless it’s done neatly, labelled and tied up in a logical manner, it just makes dealing with problems later a headache.  There are always problems later.

While I started this task because of the need to run power to the water maker, it is really a completely new job that I tackled because it’s relatively easy, low on the stress scale, and makes me happy when I open the panel.  I pulled tons of old wire out – some of it burnt – straightened out what remained, installed a new ground bus to get wires off of the panel buses, and tried to label as much as I could.  I have identified the function of about half of the ground wires so far, and the panel is now much neater.

It’s still early in the year, but the days are noticeably longer, and the boat is definitely better than it was in September.  Even better, I’ve cut my “sitting on the couch time” way down.  Is it summer yet?

 

 

 


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The Shake Out Cruise – A Review of Our Sabre 42 CB and Some Pictures From Our Summer

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFinally!  After all the work we completed in the first 6 months of 2017, we relished the opportunity to stretch our legs over a couple of months of cruising and really see what we had.  Our original plan was to spend our first week in the Gulf Islands to test our new systems and get familiar with them before setting off north for more ambitious destinations; we thought that the comfort of knowing that we’d always be close to help and supplies would take the edge off.   However, after a fun and relaxing first weekend near Silva Bay, we decided to head north to cruise with friends using the logic that everything seemed to be working fine so far and that Desolation Sound isn’t really that far from assistance if we ran into a problem.

Our first real test came on our 4th day out on the passage from Silva Bay to Pender Harbour.  This is a 33nm run to the north, and can be a challenge in a strong northwesterly – the prevailing wind here in the summer.   It was in blowing in the low to mid 20’s on this day, and Georgia Strait was in a bit of a mood with a steep 3′ chop.  Period is everything when it comes to waves, and Georgia Strait is notorious for generating waves with a short period.  It was 4 seconds on this day – short, steep and wet.  Perfect weather for learning!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Hard on the wind in Caamano Sound

We got our first “new boat” lesson when we went to put up the main.  The halyard on the Sabre is wire, and it has considerable mass.  As soon as I attached it to the headboard of the main, it started to flap all over the place, and in short order, had wrapped itself around the steaming light. With the boat bouncing and the spray flying, I gave up trying to free it pretty quick.  The day would be a headsail only affair!  The lesson?  Put the main up before it’s too rough.

Turns out we didn’t need the main anyways.  With the 130 genoa all the way out, we took off like a freight train – doing up to 7 knots at 40 degrees apparent, straight through the waves.  Fast, fun and wet.  We could’ve pointed higher with some main up, but the wind built and eventually we had to reef the 130 down, so perhaps having the main up would’ve been too much.  Regardless, the speed and comfort in difficult conditions were impressive.

We got our second lesson soon after setting sail.  However, this one was more of a reminder of something we already should’ve learned: make sure the hatches are dogged BEFORE setting sail.  Not long after settling into the groove, we took green water over the deck.  A good portion made it over the dodger and right into the cockpit.  A short while later, it happened again.  Wondering about the integrity of all of the window seals etc, I asked Lori to see if it was dry below.  It was not.  Just as she descended into the cabin, we went through yet another wave; the cascade of water down the fore-hatch was clear evidence that it was not dogged down tight.  Oops…The lesson here is embarrassingly obvious.

We learned our third lesson after docking in Pender Harbour : it’s probably a mistake to ignore a  leaking fuel tank.  (Yes, I know the “bad things happen in 3’s” thing is a cliché, but it really was the 3rd and final major lesson for the summer.)

We’d discovered the leak a few months earlier, but decided to ignore it as it was only leaking a teaspoon or so every week.  We put an oil sock in the bilge and a pad under the tank and moved on.  The rough crossing disabused us of this notion.

Soon after docking, I checked the bilge only to find the pad and sock quite heavy with diesel.  We debated leaving it, but decided it was now too much to ignore.  The next day, I emptied the tank and pulled it out.  Upon inspection, it was clear that the hole had always been of a significant size, but had been partially blocked with diesel sludge.  The agitation from the rough sail changed all that and turned the small drip into a cascade. Although a new tank is on this winter’s boat job list,  I’m happy to report that the temporary patch I put on at the beginning of July is still drip free; JB Weld is amazing stuff.

The rest of the summer was relatively uneventful.  The 2 systems that I was most concerned about both worked well: we put 180 happy hours on our new diesel with no significant problems, and the electrical system worked as designed, with full batteries every day thanks to our new solar system.  I’m also happy to report that by August, I was spending almost no time doing maintenance or improvements; things just worked!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASome thoughts on the Sabre 42 and some comparisons to our Mariner 36

Overall, we are very happy with her; she’s roomy, fast, and comfortable.  The cockpit is wonderful for entertaining, and has plenty of places to brace yourself when it gets rough out.  We weren’t sure how we’d like the sail plan with it’s relatively small head sail and large main, but we’ve found the boat easy to sail and the smaller foresail an asset when beating to weather.  Down below, plenty of hand holds make getting around fairly easy, and the large galley is a delight to work in.

Sailing:

  • With the main up and centerboard down,  she’ll point quite high and makes very little leeway.  We raced her in June, and were pointing as high as our friend’s C&C 33 – around 30 degrees apparent.  EDIT 2019… We replaced the autopilot, and now can steer to the wind instrument.  We’ve found by cracking off to 32 – 33 degrees and easing the sheets just a little bit, we pick up at least a half a knot of boat speed in light to medium winds.  No more trying to point as high as 30.
  • Our trip across Georgia Strait was fast but wet.  She tended to sail through the larger waves (6′) without slowing down.  This is partially a product of the shape of the chop in Georgia Strait.  A 3′ significant wave height means we saw the odd 6′ wave.  All of them had a 4 second period.  These are steep waves that didn’t really allow the boat to rise to them.   We’ve only really had this one day of beating into strong winds and we looking forward getting out in the strong stuff again to learn more.
  • When going downwind under all whites, her best VMG is dead downwind, even in fairly light winds.  We’ve rigged permanent preventers, so sailing deep is pretty stress free.  In really light winds, we still tack downwind flying the asymmetrical spinnaker, but we seemed to need this extra power less often than we did with the Mariner.  In heavy winds, her longish keel means that she tracks quite well.  In contrast, the Mariner sailed so much faster on a reach that we often tacked downwind in light to medium winds.
  • There are genoa tracks and cars on the toe rail; moving the sheets outboard for downwind work dramatically improves sail shape and provides chafe free leads. We tried all kinds of things to achieve this on the Mariner; none of our efforts were as satisfactory as the outboard leads on the Sabre.
  • She stands up to a breeze, despite the fact that the keel is only 5′ deep.
  • The helm is super light.  After 13 years of sailing with an unbalanced rudder hung off a skeg, our new spade is almost too light.  On the bright side, it’s not tiring and the autopilot doesn’t really ever work that hard.

Motoring:

  • We replaced the Westerbeke 46 with a Beta 50.  At 2000 RPM, she’ll do 7 kts on roughly 3 litres/hour (just under a gallon).  Max RPM is 2800.    This efficiency is similar to the Mariner, which is fantastic considering the Sabre is 6′ longer and 2000 lbs heavier.
  • She doesn’t pound when sailing to weather, but does when motoring, especially when compared to the Mariner with her v sections forward of the keel.  Bottom line; she’s designed to sail, not motor.
  • The cockpit is super quiet!  The motor is under the sink, not the cockpit, making conversation under way a pleasant, no shouting, affair.  As an added bonus, the noise below is about the same as the Mariner.
  • She turns in her length, and backs up fairly straight.  I was worried that the distance between the prop and the rudder would mean that slow, close quarters maneuvering would be difficult, but this hasn’t been the case.

Miscellaneous

  • The quality of the glasswork is excellent, even in out of the way corners.
  • Access to almost everything is good.  The diesel tank was a piece of cake to remove and reinstall.
  • Cabin stowage is good, but for my tastes, the cabin could’ve been a little smaller and the storage behind the settees bigger.
  • Cockpit storage is excellent.  The two lazarette hatches provide access to a massive space that holds our cabin heater, fenders, paddle boards, fishing gear, stern line, dinghy wheels,  and dinghy pumps.  The sail locker is equally impressive.
  • The side decks are like runways, and provide excellent access to the foredeck.
  • The original install for the windlass was problematic.  The biggest issue was that the windlass didn’t drop the chain into the anchor locker; the previous owner actually hand bombed the anchor down when setting it, and peeled it off of the gypsy and flaked it by hand when weighing anchor.  I’ve since installed a new windlass and provided a lead for it to drop into the anchor by itself.
  • The bilge sucks.  There is a reasonably deep but small sump aft of the engine, but otherwise the bottom is flat.   I didn’t like it when we bought her, and I still don’t like it.  Unfortunately, most modern boats are built the same way.  The Mariner had a keel stub that would hold a significant amount of water and prevent it from sloshing around under the cabin sole.  Yes, I know the bilge should be dry, but that is pretty much impossible with a keel stepped mast.
  • The cabin top winches, clutches and cleats are just silly.  Not only are they toe killers and tripping hazards,  their location means that it takes 2 on the deck to take down the asymmetrical spinnaker.  With 2 of us on board, that means nobody is in the cockpit.  This is getting fixed this winter.
  • The anchor locker divider is also silly.  The top edge of the plywood divider is exposed to falling chain and moisture meaning that it will eventually rot out.  We took ours out and replaced it with a shelf.

Our Summer Route:

This year we were focused on learning the boat, so stuck mostly to places we’ve been before.  Most of the pictures are from the area north of Bella Bella – our favourite stretch of the BC coast.  Our route took us north around Cape Caution, up past Bella Bella and Klemtu via the Inside Passage, and finally up Laredo Channel  to Campania Island.  Our route south was similar, but we stuck to more open waters on the outside wherever possible to take advantage of the strong north westerlies that established themselves early in August.  Our best sail was a 45 nm run down Laredo Sound into Hecate Strait, around McInnes Island and into Queens Sound.


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Moving On – Selling Palomita

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Palomita at sunset on what is probably our last night aboard – Jan 1, 2017.

Its been an eventful and stressful fall; after talking about it for years, we decided to buy a new boat.  And while it seems like 10 months should be lots of time to make this happen, we are currently the proud owners of two boats so as to eliminate any possibility of being boatless next summer.  Ouch.

Buying a boat is a complicated task.  You’d think that experience would make the task easier, but after spending so much time out on the water our list of necessary features in a boat has grown incredibly unwieldy.   This means that just choosing a suitable boat is hard, never mind actually finding one.   It’s all such a royal pain that Lori has always said she’d refuse to participate in a next boat search until I’d done a bunch of weeding through options – not because she doesn’t have any opinions on the matter, but because it was so hard to find something we liked last time.  Countless hours poring over listings on yachtworld.com and specs on sailboatdata.com looking for something that met our expectations didn’t make the process any less daunting.  At any given time, there just aren’t many candidates that feature the look, layout, performance and build quality that we want at a price that we can swing.  Even with a continent wide search, they are few and far between.

Then there is selling Palomita; we love our boat.  She’s been amazing, teaching us and taking care of us every summer since 2004.  Our family has grown up onboard, and many of our social connections have their root in our beautiful boat.  We can’t imagine having done everything we’ve done over the last 13 years on any other boat.

Still, we both agreed that we wanted more space and performance, and the only way to get that was to buy a new boat.  Last spring we found a candidate, and she was local.  We weren’t really seriously looking at the time, but the boat did strike a chord with both of us.   Finding her in BC made her especially intriguing.

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Indemnity (don’t worry, the name isn’t staying) is a a 87 Sabre 42CB.  Her layout, performance and reputation fit the bill, but the cored hull and centerboard raised serious concerns about the possibility of a compromised core and insufficient stability.  The lack of alternatives forced me to look deeper. Simply put, there are lots of boats out there, and they are all compromises.  Short of building a custom boat to suit our individual quirks, we’ll all have to pick our boat buying poisons.  After some research, we decided that a centerboard and a cored hull are ours.  After some digging, I’m not even sure they’re compromises.

Palomita draws 5 feet, and this has always been a double edged sword.  We’ve appreciated the freedom of having shallow draft and bemoaned the leeway while beating .  Indemnity also draws 5 feet, except for when she doesn’t.  Put the board down and she draws up to 8’6″.   Yes, its a pain to crank the board up and down, but the deep draft with the board down should make her point fairly high and with a 42% ballast ratio compared to Palomita’s 35%, it is unlikely that stability is an issue.   We’ll see.

To my mind, the cored hull is a little bit more straight forward.  Well done, it allows builders to build stiffer, lighter boats.  For someone interested in performance, these are both desirable attributes.  Sabres have been building cored hulls for a long time and have a long reputation for quality glass work.  On top of that, the survey was great, so we’re pretty confident that she’ll be fine.

But this is all just a bunch of technical mumbo jumbo.  While it’s really important to get right, it turns out that it’s not the hardest part of getting a deal done.  It really shouldn’t be a surprise that the toughest part is the people part.  Buying a boat isn’t the fun it should be considering the cash involved.  Negotiations, schedules, emotions and the unknowns of purchasing something as complex as a 30 year old boat make the process fraught with tension.  Dealing with vastly different ideas of what seaworthy maintenance looks like only adds to the frustration.  On second thought, maybe it’s not fun because of the cash involved.

So here we go.  Selling a big part of the last 13 years of our lives, and starting again on a new boat is a major undertaking full of challenges.  And once the buying and selling is all done, the real work of making the new boat ours will begin.  It’ll start with a new name.