Previous years: 2008 2007

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

All done for the season. I'm certain that I got my money's worth out of this one! Here's a picture of Thin Man on City Island's newest patch of earth.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

The boat yard is still not ready for hauling Thin Man, so I organized another cruise around Eastchester Bay with some friends. Not a lot of wind to start, but by sunset we had enough breeze to get the boat moving nicely. And it was just warm enough that I didn't need a jacket. In the middle of November!

Monday, 9 November 2009

A few of us had a mighty fine weekend thanks to Thin Man. On Saturday we took advantage of the beautiful autumn conditions (50F, cloudless skies, moderate breeze) to go for a long sail. Before setting sail, I changed the engine oil and Aaron (who just bought his own J/92) tried out some Nexus instruments purchased on eBay. Once away from the dock and tedious chores, we sailed up and down Eastchester Bay trying out the two spinnakers that came with Aaron's boat. We nearly hit 9kts on one of the gusts. It was just a beautiful day to be playing on the water.

On Sunday, the same crew plus a few extra hands (for moral support) met up at City Island Yacht Club for the annual awards brunch. Thin Man earned quite a bit of silver from just two CIYC races—the Distance Race (1st in class, 1st in fleet, 1st to finish and 1st overall corrected) and the Sayers Series (1st in class, 1st overall).

Tuesday, 1 November 2009

The game plan was simple: get a couple of friends, go sailing for a bit, then drop the boat off at the yard to be hauled this week. Only one problem: the yard is not ready for hauling.

We had a moderate breeze and cool temperatures starting out with a crew of three. We picked up our fourth hand once Michael had fixed his flat tire and made his way to City Island. We sailed by and picked him up off his boat at the mooring. A few hours of easy sailing, top speed 8kts, then it was back to the mooring for a quick hoist to the top of the mast to remove the wind vanes and VHF antenna and off to Michael's club for a bloody mary to top off the day. The sunset was spectactular!

I guess we'll try again next weekend. Tragedy.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

The racing season is over, and what an intense year it's been! We finished the Manhasset Bay Fall Series in 6th place out of 10, but not without some amazing experiences including a new top speed of 14.5kts and a beautiful ride home at the end of the regatta. This picture sums it up nicely.

Monday, 14 September 2009

Sunday was a good day for some very important maintenance. I noticed on Wednesday night that the stuffing box was dripping at a fairly rapid rate (a drop every 5 seconds or so), and the automatic bilge pump did not seem to be operating properly. That struck me as a particularly bad combination of problems, and this weekend was the proverbial calm before the storm—regattas pretty much every weekend through the end of October, so I wanted to make sure Thin Man is in top shape while I have the time. In addition to the stuffing box and bilge pump, there was a lot of friction in the speed transducer thru-hull, one of the Nexus displays on the mast was fogged from solvent on the plastic lens and I wanted inspect the mast from top to bottom.

Brian joined me for our little work party, and we took care of everything pretty quickly. All the fittings at the top of the mast were still snug from Spring commissioning (hurrah for Loctite Blue!). I retaped the top of the headstay and the upper spreader tips. Everything else looked great. I brought the camera with me so I could capture the bird's eye view.

In case you were wondering, we did well last Wednesday: first place, beating Gin by 26 seconds. I was expecting it to be a breezy evening based on the NOAA forecast, but the weather system was delayed a little bit and the breeze didn't come on until shortly after we finished, giving the boats behind us a nice push. We also earned another throwout, so we've now discarded all of our low scores. All that's left are 1st and 2nd place finishes. Nice position to be in going into the last race!

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Winners for a day! Click on the picture for a slide show from the race.

It was a really good ride, despite the light winds. Here's some proof of how hard we worked.

Two more Wednesday races to go...

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Thin Man competed in the Vineyard Race last weekend, completing the 116nm course from Stamford to the East end of Long Island Sound and back in 30 hours and 25 minutes. Well, sort of.

We had very light and variable wind conditions, with tons of current at various points during the race. Despite the challenging conditions, we made the boat move extremely well. At the end of the race, we crossed the finish line literally drifting with a favorable current the last 50 yards with 0kts wind and 0kts boat speed. We found out from those ashore that we had finished ahead of all but four of the largest, fastest boats! Champions!!! But wait! There's more.

The next morning, I checked the online score sheet to see who had finished when. Thin Man was listed as 1st place in fleet, but with a "Protest" tag attached. Huh?!? A quick call to the Race Committee and I discovered that the 2nd place boat had protested us for failing to round the Easternmost mark at Long Sand Shoal, based on some rather dodgy reasoning (they were ahead of us by a few miles at sunset on the first day and we couldn't possibly have passed them overnight, he thought). The protest was dismissed and I breathed a sigh of relief.

Then I got a message from one of the crew. We did miss a mark, just not the one for which we were protested. At the end of the race when the winds were dying at sunset and the current was fighting us every step of the way, we were set toward a rock near the harbor entrance. The marker for the rock is about 150 feet West of the rock itself, and I was focused on avoiding the rock. I thought the mark was one of the marks of the course that we had to leave to starboard, but a quick pow-wow on deck reading the Sailing Instructions led us to believe it was not, so we cut inside it (still missing the rock).

Knowing we had not correctly sailed the course, I had to notify the Race Committee that we were Retiring After Finish. No score. No trophy. Nothing.

The crew did an amazing job making the boat move, and the fun we had was immeasurable. I hope that every one of them comes back next year to take the trophy and bask in the glory that we almost had this time.

Monday, 24 August 2009

Thin Man goes to Iceland

In other news... Last Wednesday we had another good night of racing. Winds were 8-10kts out of the South, gradually dying throughout the evening. The course was four legs, giving the crew extra opportunities to mess up a mark rounding. After a second-tier start behind Renegade, we tacked to the right and I turned the helm over to Ed. Renegade was just ahead of us at the first windward mark. As we headed downwind, we got into the groove and were able to sail just a little bit lower and faster than Renegade. We couldn't quite push through their shadow, but we were approaching our layline and saw an opportunity to put them behind us by carrying them to our layline, which is too far for them (our chute is asym, theirs is sym). They screwed up their gybe and we walked away.

We did not screw up our roundings and continued to go the right direction with good boat speed, leaving us first to finish and well ahead of the competition. In fact, our corrected time was better than all of the spinnaker division, including the J/105's in Division 6. A key ingredient of our recent success is a longer headstay, which gives us more power in light winds and also allows us to shape the main with the backstay without depowering the genoa.

Sunday was a brief work party on my own. The starboard running light has been misbehaving and one source of the problem is the cracked green plastic lens allowing water into the assembly. I bought a replacement pair of side lights and replaced the metal dome and plastic lens, as well as the bulb. In addition, I straightened out the lifeline netting on the bow and replaced the tape on the lashings for the lower blocks on the mainsheet fine tune.

Monday, 17 August 2009

We finally got to race again last Wednesday after a couple of weeks of uncooperative weather. We were a little sloppy on boat handling and I didn't get a great start, which forced us to the right side of the course just in time for a big left shift. We never fully recovered from that blunder. We're still in 1st place for the series, but Mustang Sally is doing a very good job keeping us honest.

More importantly, though, is the City Island Yacht Club Distance Race we entered on Saturday. It could have been a 68nm course to Stratford Shoal Light and back, but the Race Committee had mercy on us and chose the short course to Cable & Anchor Shoal, a mere 40nm sprint.

With a crack crew of five and a forecast for very, very, very, very little breeze, we put on some music, slathered on the sunblock liberally and motored out to the starting line. The fast boats in the spinnaker fleet were a Santa Cruz 52 rating -21 in PHRF and a Schock 40 at -18. To put things in perspective, our rating for distance events is 108. In other words, the SC52 would owe us nearly 1.5hrs at the end of the race.

We were the second start (the SC52 and Schock 40 were among the first boats starting). Winds, true to forecast, were 5kts or less from the Southeast and the current was running East. The starting line was extremely skewed (40° favoring the pin end!), so there was no choice about where to start. We followed the plan and started at the pin with good speed. Our competition (X-332, S2 9.1, Morgan 30) chose to start at the committee boat, so they gave us 100 yards advantage for free. Thanks, guys!

Sailing under jib and main with a pretty good pace, we started closing on the big boats that started five minutes ahead of us. By Hart Island, we had passed most of them. Many of the boats in both classes set spinnakers, though it was a pretty tight angle (110° true). About half way between Hart Island and Sands Point, we decided to give it a try ourselves. At the same time, the wind moved aft a little (good timing!). We kept a close eye on the big boats ahead of us. The Schock was flying a big asymmetric spinnaker and carrying nicely, so we kept heading down the rhumb line. The wind on the water was visibly patchy, and it was looking calm ahead. Suddenly we noticed the Schock's spinnaker was completely collapsed, hanging straight down with the foot in the water. The SC52 noticed also and gybed away, nearly perpindicular to the course. We gybed just before we got to the SC52's line, and stayed in a nice breeze heading across the Sound. We took another pair of gybes to keep in the breeze, and converged on a J/37 and Beneteau 36.7 which were also in the class ahead of us. Since they seemed to be in the breeze and their track looked to keep them in it for a while, we went just beyond them and gybed back toward the mark.

As we carried on, the wind started backing a little bit and forcing us (under spinnaker) to begin heading away from the rhumb line toward the Westchester shore. Most of the fleet to our South and behind dropped their spinnakers and aimed for the mark. We chose to be just a little bit different. In my painful experience, the middle and Long Island side of the Sound become a huge vacuum around the middle of the day. The sea breeze tends to start locally on the Westchester/Connecticut shore and build its way out to the middle, so we committed to dodging rocks on the North side of the Sound in hopes of getting the breeze first. We did exactly that, and how!

As we got near the shore around Rye, the wind continue to back a bit and it looked like we were going to have to douse the spinnaker and set the genoa to keep us off the rocks. Up went the genoa, and we started talking about who would do what during the douse. Aaron made a most important observation: our speed was at least half a knot better with both the spinnaker and genoa flying! I found this very hard to believe, but as a scientist I have a simple way to test such a hypothesis. We dropped the genoa and let the boat settle down for a minute under spinnaker and main only. Yes, our speed was down half a knot or more. OK, part two of the test—up with the genoa and let the boat settle down. It has been confirmed. With winds below 8kts on a reach at 110° true wind angle, three sails are better than two!

To make a long story/race short, the sea breeze filled in and swung to its typical direction of SSW, lifting us nicely up to the mark scooting along at 6-7kts with three sails flying. No other boats followed us to the shore, and we had Colin working the binoculars to keep tabs on the competition which stayed in the middle or went to the Long Island side. By the time we rounded the mark, we could not see anyone, even with binoculars! We executed a most beautiful gybe drop going around the mark and settled in on a close reach under genoa and main. We followed the rhumb line all the way back with breeze building to over 10kts (some gusts to 14kts), and boat speed staying in the high 6's and low 7's. Oh, and the timing was perfect to ride a favorable current all the way home.

We marked down the times when we passed by each boat still heading outbound. We were literally miles ahead of them all. We kept a close eye on the SC52 as they headed out to the mark. Once they rounded, we lost track of them. The sailing instructions call for a radio check-in when passing Execution Rocks (about half an hour from the finish, give or take). A few minutes after we called in, we heard the SC52 call in. What?!? We looked behind us and could not see them anywhere (they are BIG, so they're pretty hard to miss). I looked to the North side of Execution Rocks and located them near the Westchester shore. They must have decided to follow the shore on the way back (why? I couldn't say).

You've probably figured out by now that we were aiming for the line honors trophy (first to finish, regardless of class or handicap). Seeing the SC52 that close got our adrenaline going in a hurry and we concentrated extra hard on squeezing out every bit of speed possible. We had to tack twice to clear the South end of Hart Island, but that was nothing compared to the bite that the SC52 had to take coming from so far North. Once we were in the deep water we tacked back toward the finish, beating the SC52 by about 12 minutes.

First to finish. First in class. First overall. YEAH!

Monday, 10 August 2009

The YRALIS Championships were exhausting. Light, shifty winds made for some really challenging racing. In the first race, we were fortunate to find ourselves with good boat speed on the inside of a big lift and took a solid 1st place. Unfortunately, we got caught on the wrong side of shifts more often than not and ended up in 3rd place overall. Got a good tip on mainsail trim from a prominent local sailmaker on the winning boat (after the regatta was over, of course). When the wind speed is under 6kts, a very different type of air flow happens (laminar vs. turbulent) and the primary consequence is that you have to put a helluva lot of twist in your sails (see Bethwaite's "High Performance Sailing" for a good exposition). We could have been faster.

Tuesday, 6 August 2009

Yes, Thin Man is alive and well. While I haven't been writing about it, there's been no shortage of fun, sport and amusement. In the past month we've climbed to the top of our division in the Wednesday night series, served Race Committee duty on a stormy night, taken the boat up and down the East River to participate in the Red Grant Regatta in Raritan Bay, and demonstrated to a potential new J/92 owner just how fun and easy the boat is (changing the engine oil while we were at it!). We've hooked three new people on the sport and had some very pleasant daysails. Just business as usual, you might say.

This coming weekend is the YRALIS PHRF Championships in Greenwich and we're all looking forward to the excitement of another fun weekend on the water. The following weekend is the City Island Distance Race (60nm around Stratford Shoal Light), and Labor Day weekend is the Vineyard Race. It's all good.

Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Well, it was a close race, but in the end we missed first place by 23 seconds after 8½ hours. Congratulations to Wave Dancer, an Olson 30 that gave us a run for our money last year in the Vineyard Race. Thank goodness we finished before the 14-hour time limit (remember last year?).

Delivery from City Island to Greenwich went smoothly, motoring in calm conditions with the autopilot tracking the route programmed into the GPS. With a Northwesterly breeze of around 8kts, we had a downwind start at 1400 and set the spinnaker a couple of minutes later, once we were certain we would have no issues carrying it on course. We sailed toward Long Island expecting to get the sea breeze first and possibly a bit of current relief. We got trouble, instead, finding ourselves in the convergence zone between a weak sea breeze and the NNW gradient. We saw a King 40 South of us lose their breeze first, so we gybed away, but couldn't escape the parking lot. At 1630 we had to douse the spinnaker after two drifting tacks! Less than five minutes later, the gradient breeze took over and we set the chute again, carrying it all the way to the lighthouse. We completed the rounding at 1830 with the 155% genoa and made a bee-line for the finish, never straying more than a quarter mile or so from the rhumb line. We saw boats to the left and right getting stuck in lighter breeze, but we managed to stay in it all the way back.

After the finish, we eased the sails and reached all the way back to City Island. The wind came up after the finish (naturally) and we were able to cover the distance home in just 2 hours. Still a loooooong day. Glad we did it.

Friday, 26 June 2009

It's just barely Friday (01:30 to be precise), I'm very tired but happy to report that the new alternator which arrived earlier today (Thursday) is installed and fully functional, and a new anti-corrosion zinc and mounting hardware is installed on the engine block. Brian and I went to the boat after dinner and knocked off the jobs in record time (except for the stuck, rounded machine screw head on the old zinc!).

Oh yeah, almost forgot... we won last night by a decent margin. Great teamwork does it! We were a bit short on experienced crew (4 to be precise), but we did it with the outstanding assistance of two able-bodied novices.

Saturday is the Riverside Stratford Shoal Race. Thin Man is ready to win. Ikitai!

Sunday, 21 June 2009

Next weekend Michael and I will be racing Thin Man double-handed in the Riverside Stratford Shoal Race, 45.5nm from Greenwich to Stratford Shoal Light and back. We took Thin Man out today for a little double-handed practice, expecting a soaking rain and strong breeze from a low pressure system wandering around Southeast of Long Island. The forecast did not exactly match the conditions we saw on the water, and I'd say we came out ahead on the deal.

We sailed off the mooring with 12-15kts out of the North, heading East toward Execution Rocks and Larchmont. Once we made it to Hen and Chickens shoal, we turned around and set the practice spinnaker for a real sleigh ride home. As we neared Hart Island, the wind picked up and we saw some gusts over 20kts, giving us a sustained run of over 12kts for about a minute! I hope we have some breeze next weekend for the real event. Last year was a complete bust, as the 14-hour time limit expired at 4am with us in the lead about a mile from the finish. No repeat of that sorry outcome, please!

In fact, we kept up such a good pace on the run back to Eastchester Bay that we were able to pass by a tug pushing a barge at about 8kts and get far enough ahead to gybe across his track with a huge safety margin and work our way into Little Neck Bay for a bit of practice double-handed gybing in a breeze (no problem!).

As we were rapidly running out of room to play, we decided to douse the spinnaker and head back to the mooring. Both the set in 15-20kts and the douse in 10-15kts came off without a hitch. We're ready!

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Although Mother Nature threatened to dump lots of cold, wet rain upon us, it did not materialize until well into the drive home after the race. We actually had pleasant conditions with the wind out of the SSE at 8-10kts. We were somewhat shorthanded, with five regulars and one new guest. We finished 1st over the line but corrected to 4th of 8.

We got a 2nd-row start because I let Tesser squeeze in at the committee boat. Once we got the boat settled in, I handed the helm to Ed so he could focus on driving and I could devote some of my attention to coaching crew who were learning new positions without slowing the boat down making S turns through the water (lesson learned from last week!). As we started building a solid lead, we noticed that our competition were rounding a mark which was not the one we thought we were going to. Uh oh!

We correctly read the course boards as "S" "E", but the individual (who shall remain nameless) that read the course sheet got the wrong course. Instead of K-L-K, we should have been going for A-C-A. We quickly reached off toward the mark and started preparing for a button-hook rounding and spinnaker set. This little detour cost us an extra 0.3nm according to the GPS track.

Last around that mark, we quickly overtook the tail end of the fleet on the downwind leg. By the time we reached the leeward mark, we were overlapped with the three lead boats. Unfortunately, we flubbed the spinnaker douse and it ended up in the water. We recovered quickly and got back up to speed. By the time we reached the windward mark, there was only Material Girl in front of us by a few boat lengths.

On the final downwind leg, we concentrated on sailing fast and deep and were successful in overtaking Material Girl to finish first, boat-for-boat. On handicap, though, the story was different. We owe Gin, the slow boat in the class, over one minute for every 10 minutes we sail. And they did not sail badly last night, so they got us by several minutes. Second place could have been ours for a mere 54 seconds, though. Was it the 0.3nm extra distance sailed? The second row start? The horrible spinnaker douse? Yes, all of the above.

Monday, 15 June 2009

Yesterday was just what the doctor ordered. I had to spend a couple of hours at the dock charging the batteries and sorting out some odds and ends.

  • Charge batteries with portable charger
  • Measure mast hounds to ensure laterally centered
  • Mark headfoil at head height to make measurements easier/more reliable
  • Re-reave backstay coarse tackle to eliminate crossed parts
  • Set up instrument displays for preferred pages of information

The weather forecast called for showers off and on throughout the day, but nothing heavy enough to stop me. In reality, the conditions were overcast with a steady 8-10kt breeze out of the Northeast, and after two hours with the charger plugged in, the clouds had burned off and it was delightfully sunny. The wind was blowing across the dock, so I dropped the spring and stern lines and left just the bow line looped around a cleat to let the boat sit into the wind. I hoisted the main and #2 genoa and slipped the bowline free to sail away from the dock.

I just LOVE singlehanding Thin Man. What a delightful, balanced, easily-driven boat!

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Last night's race was very exciting and fun, but ultimately unsatisfying. We got a great start with 11 boats on the line after some tight maneuvering to keep the Olson 30 (Flipturn) from squeezing in at the committee boat. We wanted to own the left side due to what we perceived to be a significant lift on port tack up near City Island. That was the plan.

In reality, we were forced to tack to stay out of the exclusion zone at Big Tom and our nemesis the J/29 (Renegade) planted a solid lee bow on us. We couldn't drive over top of them and we were falling behind and below them (owing them beaucoup time to boot!), so we tacked away once we cleared Belden Pt. We tacked back once we were close to the layline, and Renegade parked on us when we converged. The best we could do was foot to leeward of them, which kept us moving but forced us to give up another couple of boat lengths. They rounded the windward mark first, followed by us about 20-30 seconds behind.

As we headed away from the mark under spinnaker, we closed quickly on Renegade and had to decide whether to go over or under. Not expecting to be able to sail deeper than a boat with a symmetric spinnaker, we opted for the windward passage.

They, of course, did not like that at all. In fact, they disliked it so much that they took us to the moon, and we watched the rest of the fleet sail downwind while we had our own private reachfest match race. We rolled them, eventually (they put up a good fight) and started working as deep as we could and searching for some kind of advantage to get us back in the game.

Too little too late... we found more breeze and managed to get the boat rolling, but there just wasn't enough course left to make up for the misguided duel. We ended up 5th of 11, and Renegade still got us by 10 seconds. The moral of the story is quite simple, but clearly worth repeating (over and over and over): when racing in a fleet and holding the lowest rating, do not engage the competition!

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

What better way to celebrate Memorial Day than to take an excursion on Thin Man with my lovely wife and dog? The breeze started out quite fresh, convincing me to go with just the #3 jib and skip the main. Before we left the mooring it was already calming down a bit, but laziness prevailed.

For those keeping up with the minor details of the winter maintenance schedule, this happens to be the first time this season the #3 has been flown, and consequently the first time the new tracks and cars. Everything worked. Shocking!

Although the jib cars are adjustable, I haven't yet installed the required tackle. Too much to do, too little time, too much rain. You know the drill.

Sunday, 17 May 2009

Yesterday turned out to be a good day to take care of some outstanding maintenance issues on Thin Man. The weather was overcast and a little foggy, very light winds and a comfortable temperature. Freddie eagerly volunteered to help me with the day's chores. Our accomplishments were:

  • Charge the batteries on shore power for a few hours
  • Resolve discrepancies between Nexus compass and GPS
  • Remove the failed alternator
  • Replace starboard deck organizer for main and spinnaker halyards
  • Replace lashings for main sheet fine tune blocks on traveler car
  • Measure headstay length
  • Photograph mast bend
  • Remove MOB pole mount from stern pulpit

The compass discrepancy had been driving me nuts for a while. It seemed as though the Nexus would always display bearing to waypoint (BTW) and course over ground (COG) using True North reference, while the rest of the system was using/diplaying based on Magnetic North reference. We tackled the problem methodically, trying different settings on both the GPS and the Nexus. The apparent solution turned out to have nothing to do with True vs. Magnetic reference. Instead, it seems that setting the compass offset to 20° was the cure. Given that the compass is mounted on the forward bulkhead, I can't imagine how it could be off by 20°, but if that's what it takes to get a correct reading, I'm willing to give it a try.

The replacement deck organizers are stacked, meaning instead of the original two sheaves I now have four to work with. This will allow me to lead control lines such as the boom vang back to the cockpit, convenient for shorthanded situations.

Pictures from the work party are here.

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Oh, the pain, the pain. Sometimes (e.g., last night) two seconds is the difference between first place and last. Conditions were fantastic with a clear sky and a moderate breeze. A litle warmer would be nice, but that will come all too soon.

I needed to do a few things on the boat before the race: check that the mast tip is centered laterally, adjust shroud tension, reconfigure the furling gear so we can furl the jib, and charge the batteries while all this is taking place. The last task was due to the alternator on the engine not working since last week's commissioning.

Alex and I set off early from Brooklyn to give myself time to take care of everything, but traffic was heavier than usual and I discovered halfway to City Island that the gas tank was reading empty—an immediate detour to the nearest gas station (several nerve-wracking miles away) was mandatory. Duncan and Carrie were walking up to the club when we finally arrived, and Basia came along shortly after. Brian and Lindsay reported from Stamford that they were late departing and probably wouldn't make it in time. Michael called from the far reaches of Connecticut to let us know that he was not going to make it either. Suddenly we had gone from an ideal contingent of eight crew to a seriously short-handed and underweight five. Adding insult to injury, the breeze was blowing 12-15kts out of the South.

We set to our preparations with gusto. The cap shrouds needed two extra turns on the starboard side to bring the tip to the center. All of the shrouds were far looser than last year, so I cranked up the tension and measured with the Loos gauges (38/36/37 top to bottom). Setting up the furling gear took just a couple of minutes, and the crew rigged the lines and bent the main onto the boom while I did my thing.

We waited as long as possible hoping that Brian and Lindsay would miraculously appear, but they were still far away when we had to get rolling. We left the work dock at 1855 and motored full throttle for the starting area, our Division 4 start scheduled for 1920 putting some serious pressure on us to get into race mode quickly. After a bit of agonizing over headsail choice, we finally decided on the #2 genoa, which is good for 8-15kts. With the breeze on the upper end of the range, I wanted to be able to plenty of backstay tension. When the yard stepped the mast, they had to loosen the backstay coarse adjust to have enough slack to connect the tackle to the backstay, so I untied it and tightened the tackle while we sailed toward the starting line.

The race committee gave us a bit of a break by postponing due to an incorrect signal during the starting sequence for Division 6. We were fully primed when the sequence restarted, and we began to look around to identify our competition. At first, we thought no others in our class showed up, but soon we spotted Renegade, a J/29 sailed out of the US Merchant Marine Academy.

Match race! Well, not really. We owe them 12 seconds per mile, so if we're close enough for match racing we've already lost on handicap. We took it to heart and simply nailed the start, hitting the line a few seconds after the signal right at the committee boat, with decent speed. They were at the line early and had to reach down nearly 1/3 of the line before the signal, giving us an instant comfortable advantage.

The course was four legs, windward/leeward for a total of 6.1nm. We made it to the first mark well ahead of Renegade and set the jumbo spinnaker without too much delay. Before we got settled into our groove, we found ourselves scooting along at over at 8kts in the fresh breeze. Nice! The leeward mark was an easy fetch without a gybe, so we opted for a gybe drop around the mark. Everything was set up so nicely, and we had extended our lead over Renegade substantially, until...

The spinnaker halyard fouled horribly on the douse, and it took us over a minute going nowhere fast to get things sorted and start rolling again. Renegade had no such problems and caught up to within a few boat lengths of us.

Having suffered our 'equalizer', we started anew. It was tougher to separate from them on the second upwind, gaining only a few boat lengths by the time we got to the windward mark again. Our second set was not so smooth due to a minor hourglass, but we cleared it and got the boat moving toward the finish fairly quickly. The wind was beginning to die, but mostly it held for us. We nearly made the finish line without a gybe, but we couldn't quite make it that low and ended up throwing in a quick one right at the pin end of the line. We were well ahead of Renegade, but not quite enough. Two seconds!

Despite the narrow loss, I can't praise the team enough for a great effort and truly unforgettable 1st race. We had a BLAST! We are going to have some serious fun this year.

Sunday, 10 May 2009

Wednesday evening we finally held the wetsanding party (thank you Duncan, Brian, Michael and Carrie!!!). The bottom came out super slick, much smoother than last year. After the wetsanding was complete, we installed the rudder and tiller so that the boat could be launched. The yard resprayed the rudder's edges because the first coat was not thick enough.

Friday I took the entire day off to prepare the boat for Saturday's 32nm Edlu race (Larchmont to Eaton's Neck and back). I was joined at various points in the day by Brian, Michael and Duncan. From 11am until 9pm we worked on the huge list of things left to be done. Since the boat was not yet in the water (panic!), I wetsanded the fresh paint on the rudder. After going over it with 320, 400 and finally 600 grit, I was so happy with the results that I did the same to the entire keel. The hull itself was in great shape thanks to Wednesday's team.

Duncan and I returned to the boat at 9am Saturday and loaded up for the race. We set off from Barron's in hazy, almost foggy condition. By the time we got past Execution Rocks, it was flat out foggy. The only way we could find the race committee boat was by GPS coordinates and fog horn. Starting a race in the fog is both nerve-wracking and extremely disconcerting. I hope I don't experience that joy again anytime soon!

Until about 3pm, visibility was generally 100 yards or less. We couldn't see what the earlier starts were doing, but going up the course we would occasionally encounter other competitors and knew we were passing some of the boats from the earlier starts. After 3pm, the fog started to break up and we saw boats appearing all around us, all faster rated and earlier starts.

It turned out to be a beat to windward to get to 11B, and most of the return trip was under spinnaker, though the wind was often absent from the eqation. We kept a close eye on the GPS Estimated Time of Arrival—the Sailing Instructions specified a time limit of 10pm for all finishers and our ETA was trending well past midnight in the lulls. There was an inversion layer about 40ft above the water (the anemometer at 45ft read a 5kt southerly wind which was clearly not hitting the sails).

We set the reaching chute at the mark, carried it for about an hour and then switched to the jumbo chute (bare-headed quick change). After a while, the wind came on the nose and we doused to put up the genoa. Later, the wind started up again from behind and we put up the jumbo again. Once that breeze died out, the genoa went back up and we stayed with it for the rest of the race.

We crossed the finish line with just over 3 minutes remaining before Time Limit Expired. That's one way (not recommended) to get the most from your entry fee! We were scored 4th in our class, but the finish time recorded on the preliminary results is an hour sooner than when we really finished. I'm not sure what's wrong with the scoring information, but it is unlikely that any corrections would change our finish position.

We then headed straight back to City Island. As luck would have it, the cold front passed through and we suddenly found ourselves facing a 20kt breeze with 30-35kt gusts out of the Northwest. When we entered Eastchester Bay, it was so rough that I knew it would be extremely unsafe to try to tie up at the yacht club's work dock (we were too late for the launch service, so going to the mooring wouldn't be an option). Instead, we headed back to Barron's which was conveniently situated on the lee side of island. We tied her up carefully and dragged our exhausted bodies home for some well-deserved rest.

This morning I returned to City Island and moved Thin Man from the yard to her proper mooring. The winds were calmer than the night before, but not by much. The anemometer showed 20kts with gusts to 25. I'm happy to say that I picked up the mooring on the first try, despite the unsavory conditions. Thin Man is back and ready to race!

Sunday, 3 May 2009

I stopped by Thin Man Sunday afternoon and was delighted to find that the bottom has been sprayed. Finally we can move on to wetstanding in preparation for launch next week! I won't be able to get to the boat again until Wednesday evening, so launch will have to happen on Thursday or Friday.

While I was at the boat, I wanted to get at least one overdue item accomplished. For the limited time available, I decided to finish installing the spinnaker halyard parking bracket. With a new 10-24 tap, it went lickety-split. I think this is going to be extremely useful for shorthanded spinnaker handling.

Snapshots from today are available here.

Thursday, 30 April 2009

The final batch of items I ordered last week arrived yesterday, just in time for a trip to the boat last night. I have plenty of projects on the list of Things To Do, so the plan for the evening was to wetsand the newly sprayed areas on the bottom, 'dry fit' the new hardware and reave the lines which we stripped off the deck for the winter. Duncan, Brian and Michael were my stalwart partners for the adventure.

Michael was first to arrive at the boat and reported that the bottom had not been painted. Considering how chilly it was last night, perhaps that was a blessing in disguise. I still haven't forgotten how terribly wet and cold I got last year around this time doing the same thing. At least there was progress in terms of the patching. Almost all of the patches are now nicely feathered into the surrounding paint, and the keel bulb looks much, much better.

With Plan B thrust upon us, we took to the rigging (and a few Guinness) with gusto. One minor mishap arose due to crossed signals... the starboard genoa lead car was removed from its track as it was thought that the new lead cars were replacing the existing ones. I noticed the removal in the typical way—watching the ball bearings roll off the deck and drop into the gravel beside me while I was photographing the condition of the bottom. Arghhhhhh!

Another task was to install the spinnaker halyard parking bracket and cam cleat on the mast. After drilling the first hole, I attempted to tap threads only to find the 10-24 tap was stripped out at the tip. Arghhhhhh!

Next up was to replace the broken deck organizer which leads the halyards from the mast base turning block to the clutches at the aft end of the house. Removing the screws was pretty easy. Just before preparing to pry the old organizer off the deck, Brian observed that we would have to fill the old holes and drill new ones. Eh?!? I ordered the midrange organizer based on safe working load, and it turns out the boat was originally fitted with small boat organizers with a significantly lower SWL of 300lbs. Arghhhhhh!

In the waning light, the last exercise was to lay the new jib track and car on deck and see how the control leads would run. The spectra control line for the jib car will run from the aft end of the genoa track to the forward end of the jib track. It's not exactly a straight shot any way you route the line, so I wanted to see just how bad it would be. Looks like it will not be a problem—even though the spectra will press against the jib car, there's no real friction or chafing possible.

With so much left to do before launching ?next Wednesday?, it looks like I will be making a few night time visits to Thin Man in the next few days. Arghhhhh!

Here are some pictures from the evening's entertainment.

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

I managed to overcome my wallet's fear of commitment and have finally placed the order for a new track and lead system for the jib. It was challenging primarily because the standard accessories for the midrange gear from Harken were only good to about 30kts apparent, and I know that there are times when Thin Man will be out in stronger winds. I decided to aim for a setup with a safe working load suitable for 40kts. If I'm out sailing in more breeze than that, I better have a storm jib.

The heart of the system is the Harken 1599 genoa lead car with sliders. The sliders are plastic inserts replacing the bearings, so that there is no chance of bearing failure. If I don't love it, I can always get bearings to replace the plastic inserts--the same car works with both.

I'll set up a 2:1 purchase on the forward end of the track to tow the car, and that will cascade off the back of the #1/#2 genoa car, which has a 4:1 purchase. The track includes pinstop holes and I ordered pinstops which will be available in case the lead adjust tackle fails for any reason. The area of deck where the track will be installed has been glassed in solid, instead of the core used generally on the deck. This should be bulletproof.

I also ordered replacement deck organizers for the halyards, and got the 'double double' organizers instead of the simple doubles so that I can run four additional lines from the mast to the cockpit (vang, cunningham, outhaul, reef?). The new organizers have the same hole pattern as the old ones, so I don't have to drill additional holes. Yeah!

Now I just have to find a day or three to install all of the hardware. Measure twice, cut once!

Sunday, 19 April 2009

Yesterday, I stopped in at the boat for a quick check on progress of Thin Man's bottom patching. Some of last week's filler has been faired, but there's plenty more that hasn't yet been touched. Progress is entirely dependent on the weather, so launch day remains indeterminate.

The keel bulb still has some rough spots on the bottom, but the profile generally looks quite nice now.

The blister behind the rudder post has been faired.

And the head intake looks muuuuuuuch better now.

Today I decided to show my lines a little love. I gave 'em a warm, slightly soapy bath in the deep sink and hung them outside to dry.

After dinner I moved them inside to hang in the basement near the dehumidifier.

Monday, 13 April 2009

Friday was a holiday, so what did I do? Relax? Or strip/clean the automatic bilge pump that came with the boat along with an 'Out Of Order' sticker on the on/off switch? You guessed it! It was pretty filthy to start, but the outcome was a clean, fully functional pump (tested with a portable battery in the deep sink).

I like the idea of an automatic bilge pump, so that the boat will hopefully stay afloat until help arrives in case the boat springs a serious leak. Armed with a 'good-as-new' pump, I set off for the boat on Saturday to install and test the pump. In addition to the pump needing a thorough cleaning, the anti-siphon check valve on the exhaust host was not entirely happy. I disassembled it and noted that the flap valve tended to stay partly open in the absence of back pressure. I flipped the gasket/flap combination and now it is much more effective.

Wiring the pump was another bit of work, since it has both a manual mode and an automatic mode. I may also have accidentally discovered one of the main sources of electrolysis on the side of the keel. The electrical wires to power the pump are white/green/black, and the pump wires are black/brown/brown+white. However! The boat ground wire is WHITE! If someone had wired the pump black-to-black, the hot lead would have been the pump's 'ground'. Since the pump is sitting on top of the keel bolts, there's a fair chance for stray current when the sump is partially submerged. I also noticed some 'fizzing' on top of the two keel bolts sitting under the pump. It's not a provable hypothesis, since I didn't make a note of the wiring before I disconnected it over the winter, but that's my story and I'm sticking to it.

While I was on the boat, I decided to check the cabin lights, remembering that I had no red light on the port side last season. Dead bulb replaced and it's good as new.

As I was packing up to return home, I happened to notice something odd out of the corner of my eye. Looking more closely at the bottom of the boat, I saw that the yard has started fairing the spots where the paint blistered away last season. That means fresh paint soon (and a wet-sanding party!).

As I was driving out of the parking lot, I noticed a mysterious creature on the lawn across the street. Was that the Easter Bunny?!

Pictures from the weekend's work are here.

Sunday, 5 April 2009

I had no choice for the day on which we'd polish and wax Thin Man's topsides. As luck would have it, the weather was spectacular! A blue sky, gusty winds to make the halyards in the yard sing and the temperature approaching 70F made for perfect conditions. I was fortunate to have six good friends join me for this outing. Between the seven of us, we completed quite a few important projects.

  • Clean and wax mast and spreaders
  • Clean and wax hull topsides
  • Measure halyards
  • Run halyards in mast
  • Attach backstay and shrouds to mast
  • Recondition spreader tip shroud retainer plates and screws
  • Install spreaders in mast
  • Ultra-thorough scrub of head
  • Clean bilge with wet/dry vacuum
  • Sand 0.5mm off new rudder post top bearing
  • Test fit rudder with new top bearing
  • Reseat companionway ladder starboard base mount
  • Clean and wax bow sprit
  • Scrub bottom
  • Polish stainless hardware on deck

Check out this slide show from the day.

Monday, 23 February 2009

It's been a long time without an update. Sorry for keeping Thin Man fans-at-large in the dark. Fear not! There's been plenty going on and I'll work on bringing you up to date one project at a time.

The big story for this winter was completely unanticipated. While stripping gear off the deck on the delivery to the boat yard for winter layup, I discovered a rather troubling issue with the port jib track.

The jib track should be perfectly straight. The very strong breeze (25-30kts) on the 3rd day of the Manhasset Bay Fall Series produced enough load to pull the track away from the deck. A close look at the track is not pretty.


Thursday, 19 March 2009

The weather is warming up and the 2009 sailing season is just a month away, so it's time to get our groove on!

I've posted the Thin Man 2009 schedule.

The rudder has been removed and bearings inspected. I have replaced the boat GPS with a more reliable model which will enable us to have more advanced navigation on the instrument displays.

With the warmer weather, the boat yard should soon be in a position to fair and paint the blisters on the bottom. Afterwards, we'll need to wet sand the entire hull (VOLUNTEERS NEEDED!).

Another great volunteer opportunity will be scrub-and-polish day (once the yard has turned running water back on). Stay tuned for the scheduling of that fun event.

The sails are in great shape, so no changes to the inventory are anticipated for this season.

Can we go sailing now?

Monday, 23 February 2009

It's been a long time without an update. Sorry for keeping Thin Man fans-at-large in the dark. Fear not! There's been plenty going on and I'll work on bringing you up to date one project at a time.

The big story for this winter was completely unanticipated. While stripping gear off the deck on the delivery to the boat yard for winter layup, I discovered a rather troubling issue with the port jib track.

The jib track should be perfectly straight. The very strong breeze (25-30kts) on the 3rd day of the Manhasset Bay Fall Series produced enough load to pull the track away from the deck. A close look at the track is not pretty.


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