The summer that started In August

by Jerry Powlas
When we bought our beloved boat, Mystic, nearly 20 years ago, she had non-self-tailing winches, hanked-on headsails, and an anchoring system without a windlass. For all the intervening years we kept her just like that, not wanting any of that stuff. Well, almost. At the beginning of last season I added a self-tailing halyard winch and two self-tailing genoa winches. These upgrades were limited successes. The halyard winch on the foredeck grabbed the genoa sheets and foiled most tacks until we learned to set the inboard end of the whisker pole on the mast to help the sheets over the winch.

There were problems with the sheet winches too. We took off beautiful stainless-steel Barient 22s and put on nice-looking self-tailing Lewmar 30s. I was looking forward to easier cranking in the tacks. Going from 22 to 30 should have been a mechanical advantage improvement of 36 percent. Actually, there did not seem to be any improvement at all. Maybe it was even worse.

Thus equipped, we did something we had never done before. We spent the summer on our boat circling Lake Superior counter-clockwise. As it happened, we did not stay anywhere very long unless we were storm-bound so we did quite a lot of anchoring and cranking in headsails.

As so often happens, we met up with our friends Ron and Bonnie Dahl. We never arrange to meet, we just meet them out there. You will say the lake is too big for that, but it has happened many times over the years. Ron and Bonnie watched us in action raising anchors (we always use two) and later Bonnie took me aside and explained that we needed to make some upgrades if we meant to spend that much time aboard. I didn’t argue. I cornered Ron and had him explain his foredeck to me. It featured roller furling and an anchor windlass. I understood that we had reached the stage in life where these things might be important to our continued sailing.

Ron and Bonnie have a much larger boat and they prefer all-chain rode. That did not quite fit our situation. We were not about to buy a larger boat and the chain we prefer is a pound per foot. We would have had to have at least 200 feet of rode divided into two sections. I think little Mystic would have stood right on her nose with that much weight forward.

There were other problems. The furler adds weight forward and the extrusion adds weight higher up. When furled, the sail adds to this. The complications began to multiply. The more classic looking boats can add an anchor platform . . . the sort of thing that looks like a diving board or platypus bill sticking out along the bowsprit. If they do it right, the boat actually looks better. I could not picture that sort of thing on my little 30-foot club racer nor could I bring myself to put the anchor weight even farther forward. Worse, I wanted two anchors up there because we always anchor with two anchors.

On and on it went. The design was getting complicated. On a very small piece of deck, I ended up needing to add a roller furler, a very small anchor platform, two anchor rollers, two new cleats, a windlass, and an additional small winch. All in all, that meant 30 fasteners, most going through the balsa core. There were nine backing blocks as well. Where the holes went through the core, the holes had to be drilled oversize, filled with epoxy, and re-drilled.

That sounds like a lot, but it was just the beginning. There was too much deck curvature to ignore. That meant I had to make risers for each component that was curved on the bottom and flat on the top. That came to five very custom-made parts that would fit the curvature of the deck where they were located. The curvature varied on two planes at each location and the deck was not as symmetrical as I might have wished.

In my spare time, I upgraded the engine to a serpentine belt drive for the alternator, replaced the water pump, and took off those large sheet winches — new last year — and put on new ones that were obscenely large. I’m convinced that self-tailing winches need to be much larger than non-self-tailing winches. Add to this that my ability to crank any winch is declining with age. Karen is still young but I’m pushing 70.

Anyway, if most of the stuff that I’ve done works, we will get to sail for almost all of August and a little of September. The Annapolis Boat Show cuts into the end of the season, so we will simply go sailing for those few precious weeks, return, and haul our poor baby out again for the winter.

This year the sailing season started in August.


One Response

  1. […] The summer that started In August « Good Old Boat Blog […]

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