2015: The Year of MaintenanceCategories Supplemental Thoughts
After a few trips to the shore for winterization and removing the seasonal stuff, our living room is once again looking like a boat threw up in it. In an effort to avoid dealing with that, I thought it would be a good time to do a review of the 2015 sailing season.
The main theme of this year's boating activity was maintenance. This was somewhat planned, although my estimation of maintenance tasks tends to be off by entire units of measure (what I expect to take a matter of minutes winds up taking hours, and if I plan on hours, it's probably days). We intentionally deferred a lot of work last year in order to get comfortable with the new Fortuitous, and this year we had to pay that back with interest.
- New Boom: In March, I finally found a replacement boom. In New Hampshire.
Masthead Upgrades: We pulled the stick to take care of several nagging problems at the top of the mast:
- We replaced the tricolor with an anchor light. We don't sail enough in the ocean to warrant a tricolor, but we do routinely anchor overnight. Since we didn't have wiring for both, we converted it to a normal, white anchor light and switched it from incandescent to LED.
- We added a jib halyard retainer to keep the halyard from wrapping around the headstay when furling the sail.
- We added a new block for a spinnaker halyard.
- I replaced the wire topping lift with an adjustable rope topping lift (fixed at the top, but adjustable from the boom.)
- Deep Cleaning: I doubt that using a pressure washer is recommended for boats, but mine is a small, weak electric one, I only used it on a wide pattern, and it really did a good job cleaning up some of the most troubling parts of the gelcoat that had obviously been neglected for a long time. That, followed by some wax, made the boat look a lot nicer.
- New Bilge Pump: While we didn't plan to replace our bilge pump right away, I wasn't sad to see it go. Our old one worked by turning on every couple minutes to see if needed to pump anything, which had an uncanny knack for waking me up just as I was about to fall asleep with a little chant of "you're taking on water." We were never taking on water, but it didn't really inspire confidence. We replaced it with a dumb pump and a reliable float switch from Ultra Safety Systems, added an on/off/auto switch, and re-routed new hoses so that our manual bilge pump would also work. This was a huge pain, but worth the peace of mind.
- Head Overhaul: After our head became possessed and started performing necromantic rituals while we were away from the boat, it was clear that it was in need of some attention. I still have not completely gotten over the fact that someone replaced the joker valve with one that was too big by about 50%. I can only hope that some day I'll run into someone holding an iPad up to his ear as if it were a telephone, with his sweatpants falling down because the elastic waistband is 1.5 times too big, trying to put 24 gallons of gas into his car's 16 gallon tank, and that I'll be able to gain some solace from his disastrously inaccurate sense of "yay big."
- Portlight Resealing: I don't even want to talk about it. It's here and here, if you must. Just know that the Poop Monster is unrelated to the previous bullet point.
- Teak Refinishing Phase I: The teak is likely to be a nightmare of almost equal proportions to the portlights, which is why we elected to not complete it this year. The long-neglected Cetol had flaked off in some areas, allowing those parts to gray, but was still wearily holding on in others, retaining its sickly opaque orange. As a stopgap, I stripped the remaining Cetol with a heat gun, a card scraper, and a sharpened putty knife. It looks better, but not exactly good. We'll tackle the rest of it some other time.
Fortuitous had a mostly respectable year of racing. This is only my second year skippering a race boat, and at our current pace I think I'd need to race for about 831 more years before I get to Malcom Gladwell's magic number of 10,000 hours, so I don't really expect to clean up out there. We seem to do surprisingly well, though, just by showing up and giving it our best. If we could figure out how to omit the occasional debacle, we'd be in great shape (not that there's any kind of regatta or series score at our club).
The first race was the Practice Race, which actually consisted of three short races so that everyone could practice starts. The first of those was completely botched and Jen threatened to mutiny. We rallied for the second, and came in 2nd or 3rd (there was a scoring anomaly and I'm not sure where we actually wound up after correction.) Everyone bailed on the third race except for us and Sunset, so we had a match race that turned out to be possibly the most fun I've ever had racing our boat (and we won—our first 1st ever, although it was only between two boats).
Despite the win in the third heat of the practice race, the Father's Day Race was perhaps our most complete race ever. We wound up second to only Tiki, which is neither surprising nor shameful, and we beat some very skilled sailors.
For the Tall Oaks Challenge, we were completely outmatched in near gale-force winds. We were lucky to have "finished" (there may have been some application of a mercy rule) without breaking anything.
The weather for the Frostbite Race was one notch more reasonable, but Sailor Steve wasn't able to join us and the conditions still weren't ideal for breaking in a new crew member, which we tried to do with Tim. We rounded up at the start and later had to crash tack to avoid hitting a boat that rounded up directly in front of us, and were generally on our ear the whole time. We were still pretty fast though, and corrected up to third place, which I felt pretty good about.
Thanks to all of the crew for a great season.
Actual Sailing and Cruising
Between the maintenance and the racing, I feel like we didn't get to do as much sailing as we have in previous years. The numbers don't exactly corrobrate that, but that was our perception.
Along with our usual daysailing, we also went to Beach Haven, spent a night at Myers Hole, tagged along with the Windjammers to Forked River for a night at the Captain's Inn, and ventured out into the ocean again with another sail to Atlantic City. The highilight of the year may have been seeing dolphins on the way to AC. Frolicking dolphins!
Aside from the number of cruises, perhaps the most notable thing with our cruising was an atypical lack of disasters. We were only batting .500 on trips to Beach Haven prior to this run (which is not a particularly challenging sail), but in 2015 we set a new personal record for time and seemed to avoid most of the perils of the past. We had to dock in strange places with people watching us several times, and I think we mostly gave the impression that we knew what we were doing.
We knew going in to this season that we'd be giving up a lot of time to restoring the boat. Part of what keeps me from attempting more audacious trips is that I want the boat to be in the best shape that she can be and I want to understand her systems so that I can anticipate and react to the inevitable problems. I finally felt like I was making ground on that front on our trip to Atlantic City. Although it was almost entirely a reprise of last year's trip, and although I guess I did a better job of muddling through the basics of the navigation and trip planning (getting the tides right, understanding the wind and wave reports for the ocean, etc.) the real breakthrough for me was that we fixed the boat underway.
While we were motoring toward the inlet in the pre-dawn light, ready to go out into the practically infinite ocean, I noticed that water wasn't pumping out of the exhaust. Noticing was maybe the most important part, but we also had the sail up, so we could safely shut off the engine and sail around while I investigated. I had enough general knowledge to check the raw water strainer and the impeller. I had the necessary tools on board. Even though I eventually had to call the marina for some guidance, I was able to pull a huge clump of seaweed from the hose leading to the strainer before things got seriously out of hand, and our trip continued.
I realize that it's minor in the grand scheme of things, but the more experienced we get, the harder it is to reach the next plateau (or know you're there), and little wins like this go a long way toward building my confidence.
Overall, 2015 was a fine year of sailing, and with the amount of maintenance and refitting that we did, our boat karma should be pretty stocked up for next season.