I didn’t go sailing this weekend. Shame on me! In fact, I’ve not been exercising at all for several months now. Still, a few things happened this past week. A diver cleaned Changabang’s bottom and inspected the zinc anodes, which are both in a good state. The diver reported scuff marks on the keel edge and the rudder. Joe repaired the small tear in the Flying Fish spinnaker. I acquired a bilge pump, which apparently is now required by the Class40, as well as 50 feet of hose. It could come in handy if I suffer a hull breach.
I did visit CaB today and inspected the blocks and lashings. Everything seems to be holding up. Speaking of lashings, Saturday, I spliced 4 low friction rings, just for the fun of it. I’m not sure yet how I’ll use them but it was gratifying work.
We signed up for a two days/two legs race for 8/28-29. At the end of the first leg, we’ll have to anchor in Drakes Bay, about 22 NM North West of the Golden Gate Bridge. I haven’t anchored with CaB and I’m concerned about the process of dropping and weighing anchor, not to mention dragging it. The type of anchors aboard CaB doesn’t have a great reputation. If we are to anchor from the bow, as is usually done, we would have to figure out a way to protect the bobstay. Rigging the rode to make sure it doesn’t get stuck on anything is also going to be of concern. I don’t have a good solution to rig a snubber line either. I hope the conditions will be friendly. If it blows hard I may prefer going offshore and heave to. Time will tell …
The flying fish is flying again! Last Friday our new to us spinnaker arrived. With southerly winds Saturday it was time to try the sail on CaB. The sail has been lightly used and it’s in an ATN sock with a hard bell. I also received sheets and an ATN tacker, which I haven’t tried yet. It was fairly easy to set things up and fly the sail. I didn’t fly it from the tip of the bowsprit, but about two-thirds out. I’ll have to try the end of the bowsprit and then also the tacker. The sail was setting nicely and, at 125 square meters or so, it pulled CaB gently. This sail is much more comfortable to fly. The only negative is that it’s only 0.75 oz. Nylite cloth, which means that 15 kts apparent wind is probably the most we can fly the sail in.
I finally tried using a snatch block at the bow to lead the sock dousing line back to the cockpit. It was so easy to get the sock up or down while controlling the sheet!
Leading Edge Sails again
I keep visiting Joe these days! There was a small scratch on the spinnaker, which he’ll help repair. But mostly, our fancy $10,000 2018 jib is already in pain. I’ve had to take it in for repairs twice already. This time it’s more serious: the leech tape has worn out and cut through the laminate in multiple places. A difficult surgery is required to replace the leech edge. Next weekend I’ll try the old jib I got from California Condor.
I’ve been advised that a well used 3Di jib from Spray is available in Los Angeles. So I may consider another trip South.
I have no other news other than we hit something again last Saturday …
And work life is slowly draining me. The pain of having to end my circumnavigation attempt came mostly from the fact that I just didn’t want to be back on land. And here I am, slaving away … Every time I go sailing, what makes me go is the desire to “leave”.
Let’s try to keep a positive outlook. I have a plan, a boat and still some funds to give this another go. Until then, it’s more practice and preparation. In fact, with Alex, we signed up for a local “ocean” race in 4 weeks. So yesterday we went sailing to practice tacking and sail changes. It was a day of light wind from the South. I was able to confirm that the B&G AP seems to be good to go. We pulled a few tacks to figure out a sequence that works.
We unfurled Genny to check the repair. I confirmed that there are black spots on the sail now. When I returned last November I didn’t dry that sail and it staid wet for 8 months. We hoisted Big, the A2. It’s still the same story, we’re slow. It was strange to sail downwind against the swell.
We tried to fly the solent and the staysail together, without much success. But it’s been nice to see Alex make good progress and getting familiar with the boat.
Looking at the future
It only takes a couple of weeks for the rudders and waterline to turn green again. It’s time for a good bottom scrub!
The deal is done: we’re going to fly the flying fish again. It was both a foolish/vanity purchase (the sail isn’t really a great fit) but also a smart move (the sock is great). All combined I think this will turn out to be a good addition to CaB. That’ll be our third spinnaker. I’d like a fourth one of 1.5 oz cloth now.
There may be an opportunity for a used jib in Los Angeles, so it’ll be another long drive. In fact, since my life raft is due for service and the Plastimo service station is in LA too, there’ll be three long drives in my future. 🙄
I finished reading “Journey of a hope merchant” by Neal Petersen. His experience going against the “well to do white man” reminded me of “Maiden voyage”. Oh, how man is vile. I’m reading “Moxie” now and I’m very much intrigued by trimarans, and their speed potential! Maybe in a very distant future.
Looking at the future, Changabang is still on a cruising permit, which will expire in spring next year. At that point I’ll have to sail out of the US for two weeks. It seems reasonable to think that I’ll sail to Ensenada for a new bottom paint.
Side note: there are over 50 Class 40 boats registered for the Transat Jacques Vabre 2021! That’s one healthy class! Buying CaB almost feels like an investment … not.
I drove to Ventura to pick up an emergency rudder (thank you, generous donator!);
I did a kindergarden project (fabricated a cover for the NKE display using cardboard and tape);
I’m in talks with Bill to acquire an almost new spinnaker that’s branded with the OCC flying fish! I’m so stoked at the idea of flying the fish again!
E-rudder transom bracket
Now that I have the e-rudder I need to figure out a way to attach it to Changabang’s transom. If you have suggestions I’m all ears. My thinking goes along these options:
Fabricate a bracket and not install it at all: if I need to deploy it I’d drill holes in the sugar scoop transom, put some backing plates, and affix the bracket.
Fabricate a bracket and have it fiberglassed in: I’d need to find another specialist as I don’t think that the one who did the job for the hydrogenerator brackets will be interested;
Last option, which I don’t really entertain, is to re-use the hydrogenerator brackets. I don’t think the base is wide enough to spread the load.
If I have to deploy the e-rudder because one of the rudders was damaged, it is possible that the stubby may be enough to steer with the e-rudder just doing the job of a centerboard. Who knows? It’d be interesting to test.
What’s next? Testing the gennaker to verify the repair, testing the B&G auto-pilot to verify the repair, doing a few maintenance chores with the boat’s navigation lights, and more …
Il faut des jambes! Sunday I had planned to re-install the secondary auto-pilot and test it. But when I got started I realized I had forgotten four bolts. And so instead Todd and I went sailing. It was another light wind day. We set out Richie and went up north towards San Francisco. Around 1:30 PM we turned around, snuffing the spinnaker in the sock, gybing, and re-hoisting on the other tack. We then dropped the spinnaker in favor of the J2 until we rounded the outside green buoy. We were really slow then and re-hoisted the A1.5 for a while. Finally, we decided to turn the engine on to make the last few miles home.
As we were out I also engaged each hydrogenerator to make them work a little. The shaft seal has been known to dry so a bit of action will go a long way in preserving the seal, or so I hope.
At the beginning of our outing, we furled out the gennaker. I hadn’t used it since the last few days of my return. As I inspected the sail I noticed a tear at the luff, a couple of feet long. So Genny will have to meet with Joe, again, for a repair.
I’m growing really concerned that all my sails are old and tired. As you can see in the above video, Richie is blown out and has had some serious repairs done to it. So is Big, and now Genny. I hope that, in exchange for their old age, they’ll share their ocean and wind wisdom with me! After giving some thoughts about my sailing inventory, I have realized that the one sail I need to prioritize is the J2. I only have one, and it would be very wise to have another one. After the mainsail, the J2 is the next most important sail on the boat.
Not forgotten after all
When we were done, I checked my bag, and what did I find in there? Four bolts! At that point, after putting the boat away, I was not about to re-install the AP, so it’ll be for another day.
Following up on last weekend’s work on the autopilot, I ordered a replacement clutch, which I installed today. I think that the autopilot is now ready for action. The next step is to reinstall it aboard Changabang.
Last Thursday a mobile mechanic came over to service the diesel engine:
Engine oil & oil filter
Sail drive oil change
Fuel primary and secondary filters
Installed a fuel bulb between the fuel tank and primary filter to help bleed air out
Saturday I met with Alex to go sailing. The forecast called for light winds so we did a few maintenance tasks. First, we tested the water ballast pump, which took a little time as it was running dry. After a while, I managed to get it going again. I now have a saltwater, high flow pump! There are still some light leaks, including the usual at the scoop. Next, Alex winched me up the mast for a rigging inspection. To my untrained eye, everything looked good. There’s one area that I’m not sure about: it could be cracked paint or … I do think that this is heritage and has been so for a while as the tang doesn’t appear to be perfectly aligned with the wire.
After all that, we pushed off and motored into Half Moon Bay, where winds in the 5 kts greeted us. We hoisted the mainsail and the solent. Then we hoisted the code 0 I received from California Condor. As we were sailing I was looking at the boat’s polars, and to my dismay, we were doing speed in the 4.5-5.5 kts range, when we should be doing 7+ kts! Argh, I really don’t know what to do: the only explanation is that I’m not flying the right sail for that wind range. We had a picnic aboard and then hoisted the A1.5, which greeted us to similar conclusions: slow I am. Bang that, instead, we proudly named the A1.5 “Richie”, coz’, you know, it’s a somewhat reeching kite. Indeed we were sometimes sailing at 70 AWA. Richie then joins Big, and they both have battle scars all over them.
Finally, we turned in for the day, not without talking of possibly signing up for OYRA races.
Saturday, Todd and I went out on CaB for a bit of spinnaker work. The winds were in the 10-20 kts range for the day and the swell stayed comfortable at 4-6 feet. As we made our way out of Pillar Point Harbor we hoisted the jib and sailed West for a bit. Then we pointed towards Santa Cruz and hoisted the A2. Everything went smoothly with the ATN sock. We traced our path back North so we could do another spinnaker run. This time we were going to hoist the A1.5 (a gift from California Condor). We set up for a hoist and then let the sock go up. But things got a little sideways. The sock dousing line bunched up inside the sock; then there was too much pressure with the A1.5 opening up and we lost the dousing line. It got stuck up the first spreader. Dang!
We could have considered a letterbox takedown but it looked like a great opportunity to go up the mast while underway. The sea was fairly tame and I didn’t have to go high. So, up I went. I don’t think I got bruised up much. But I did struggle holding on and avoiding being thrown on the shrouds. I retrieved the line and we were good to go! After that, we tried to see how much the A1.5 can reach: at 20 kts 90 AWA we broached, so now we know.
After that it took us a little while to return to the marina, put things in order and drive back home. I’m so grateful for Todd’s excellent sandwiches! On another note, I thought I had been successful fixing up the plumbing for the water ballast pump but it looks like more work is required. There’s a small o-ring that’s letting water through again. This repair needs us to get the boat out of the water. Too bad …
Some repair work
Sunday I got around opening up the oil pump for the failed L&S tiller drive. I had been told that there may have been broken springs, and indeed there were! There are 6 pistons and a total of 5 had their springs broken. I replaced them all with new ones, filled the oil reservoir, and gave it a run. The motor would run but the clutch would not engage. I removed the clutch to see if there was anything going on. My untrained eye could not see anything wrong but now the clutch did engage. I put it all back together again, tested with my car’s battery, and this time it worked. It may be time to swap that clutch and keep it as a spare.
I am getting a little more comfortable with these repairs, which is good for when I’ll have to do them at sea.
The end of something
On a separate topic, I reached out to rogue rigging last weekend to inquire about cost estimates for some rigging work. The answer was that Ryan declined to work with me “based on past interactions”. Since his shop is at BMC, I reached out to Cree to see what his position was. Same same. So that’s the end of that. Maybe that’s for the best for both of us. But as I tried to wrap my head about this, considering that the Bay Area is small, I realize that people talk and there was even a rumor that I hadn’t paid my bills. The truth is that I, on multiple occasions, had to inquire about getting an invoice, which I finally received while I was at sea, and my wife paid it in full a few days after reception.
Sometimes, everybody has the best of intentions and things still go sideways. But the thing that got me is that I think this was likely out of people talking, not the BMC team actually reading my blog. And hence I’ve disabled notifications going forward, this post included.
There are only two persons I’m putting the time in to write these blogs, which are almost 100% transparent: myself (to get my ideas in order) and the next Philippe (who wants to go on wild adventures but has little experience). I will say that I’m very thankful for everyone’s support and comments. I’ve enjoyed the ride and I hope you did too. I think this move is also part of my going under the radar now, trying to take it easy away from the public’s eye.
I’ll still be blogging so feel free to visit from time to time.
Most of my sailing, since I returned from 5 weeks solo at sea, had been double-handed. So I’m glad to say that the “curse” has been lifted and that on father’s day Changabang and I went sailing.
As I was out there I was reminded that I really like Changabang. It feels like I have a particular connection to her. As if she is my “boat mama”. I’ve referred to her as the whale in the past and it’s a bit how I feel when I’m at the bow, looking astern, and we’re sailing downwind. It’s just a good feeling all around.
One of the key reasons to get out was to test out CaB’s A2. As you recall, Big, as this sail is known, was in tatters and had gone in for surgery at Leading Edge Sails. It took Joe a full day to do the surgery. It was not an easy job considering how many panels had been torn apart. But the final result is good and I now have an A2 again. It was also an opportunity to try our brand new ATN sock.
I’m happy to report that all went very well and we’re ready for a downwind run anytime! I didn’t hear the rudder humming this time so I’m anxious to get there soon.
I’ve received the replacement parts for the broken tiller pilot oil pump and I will need to get dirty to fix that soon!
I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m not likely going to be able to invest in new spinnakers, just like I wasn’t able to the first time around. Recall that the new A6 was funded by an OCC grant award. But if I get $2,000 (the cost to me for the A6) in donation, I can buy the sock it requires. So, if you feel so inclined, please consider a donation here. What can I offer in return? Your name on the sail for anything above $100! Wouldn’t that be great?
As the saying goes, the cat is out of the bag: I’m going to give it another go. My first attempt only lasted five weeks, which makes it a great shakedown cruise. As I look ahead to identify what I need to work on I’ll start with the mental preparation. As I’ve written before, a long-distance offshore solo sailor must have his head squarely screwed on his shoulders.
In the months leading to my departure last September, I picked up enough mental junk that I wasn’t as ready as I could have been. During the winter following my return, I did a lot of soul searching. I’m hoping to have reached a new level of understanding that will allow me to be more relaxed about my adventure. I don’t care anymore about getting across to the other side; all I care about is being out there. And I will do all in my power to secure that time at sea.
My first attempt highlighted some of the weaknesses of my preparation. I’m now exploring what I can do to fix these at a reasonable cost.
Weakness #1: auto-pilots
On a fast boat like Changabang, the autopilot is essential. For my first attempt, I had 3 fully functional systems:
Primary: NKE electronics (wind vane, rudder sensor, compass, speedometer, wifi, computer, displays, etc.), L&S linear drive. I have no backup for NKE Electronics except for the rudder angle sensor.
Secondary: B&G electronics (rudder sensor, compass, depth, displays, computers, etc.), L&S linear drive. I have no backup for B&G electronics. I have a wind vane, which is not mounted.
Tertiary: Pelagic autopilot, which is self-contained. The Pelagic computer can be connected to the L&S linear drives as well.
A third L&S linear drive: this is an old and well-used (but still functional) piece of hardware.
A spare electric motor for the L&S drive.
Although the above seems like a lot, it really isn’t. Recall that my primary auto-pilot solution failed after 12 days or so. I fixed it when I got back: replacing the carbon brushes was sufficient. This is an operation that can be done at sea.
Any time I need to take the linear drive auto-pilot out of commission I need to plan for a few hours to get the whole drive out of its small storage space outside and another few hours to get it back in. Add to that the troubleshooting and repair, and you’re looking at a full day’s job. This operation also requires spending a bit of time hanging off the stern. These Lecomble & Schmitt (L&S) are supposed to be very durable; it’s just that on Changabang they are not that well protected.
Not once but twice!
Then recall that the second linear drive recently gave up as well. So, during my lifetime with the boat, that’s one every 3,000 miles or so. Considering that the electric motor of the primary drive had to be replaced before I bought Changabang because it made weird noise, it’s a pattern. On a trip of 30,000 miles, we’re looking at 10 failures! Three backup plans are hardly enough. That’s not even counting the risks of the electronics failing.
There were also problems with the drive not disengaging when the auto-pilot was turned off (on both systems), presumably because the clutch was stuck (dirt?). This would be resolved by “light” hammering at the end of the piston rod.
So what to do?
I’ve not had the actuator (cylinder/rod) itself fail. But the pump failed once and the motor three times. I have 3 full systems. They are of different generations, each with slight variations of the hardware. I should be able to scavenge from one to fix the other. I also have one spare motor. So I think I’ll add the following to my arsenal:
8 spare brushes;
a maintenance kit.
That’s a lot of spare, which I won’t know what to do with if I don’t use them. But it’s an essential part of the backup plan.
Weakness #2: electronics
Each component of the NKE or the B&G electronics system is a single point of failure. Some of these are exposed to the elements. The wind vane at the top of the mast and the rudder sensor, in particular, are very much at risk. In summary, if any component of the NKE, B&G, or Pelagic systems fails, the whole system fails. I have not had a failure of either, yet. But still, I need to beef up the spare and backup plans in this area.
To function properly, the NKE system requires the rudder angle sensor, the compass or the windvane, the computer, the voltage regulator, and a bunch of bus boxes. The B&G system is several generations behind and no spare parts are available, except maybe for the rare item on eBay. The NKE system is fairly recent so spare parts can be purchased but their cost is so high!
There are other options to consider. In particular, I could get several Pelagic auto-pilots as “consumables”. I’d just need to make sure that I have a solid solution for the tiller connection (I don’t today), or use it to control the L&S drives.
In the final analysis, I feel like acquiring a second spare NKE rudder angle sensor, a basic NKE compass, and another Pelagic pilot.
I started a new job 5 weeks ago. It’s been very intense. Days start early and end late. Since there is a lot of work to do and I like to do a good job most of my energy is spent re-organizing a small team of engineers. I have not yet fleshed out a solid plan for a second attempt at sailing around Earth. Instead, I am doing small (tiny) jobs on Changabang and sailing once every 3 weeks or so. Things could be better.
Water ballast system
I have made good progress fixing up the water ballast system. The old pump was not rated for saltwater and I replaced it with a Rule 17 livewell pump. It is very much the typical boat project. Attaching the pump in the small space it’s located required retro-fitting a mounting bracket on the previous mounting bracket. The new pump draws 25 Amp, which was tripping the old circuit breaker. I had to upgrade the breaker, install the new 25 Amp breaker on the fuse panel, and re-wire things a bit. Next, I’ll try to fix the leaks in the plumbing. Oh, and the joint in the scoop, which was replaced in August, leaks again after holding tight for a while. I can’t wait to be able to sail the water ballasts without leaks!
The secondary auto-pilot failed recently. After a bit of troubleshooting and conversing with L&S France, it looks like some pistons (on springs) in the oil pump may be broken. I’ll have to order new ones and try a repair.
I replaced the staysail halyard, repaired the zipper on the mainsail cover. Joe of Leading Edge Sails repaired Big (the A2). Considering the damage I did to the sail, we’re not 100% sure the repair will work well so I will try it as soon as I receive … the new ATN spinnaker sock. Etienne is very supportive and his products are excellent!
I climbed the mast to install retainer bungee cords on the running backstays (one of them had been torn apart). Then a diver replaced the sail drive anode (which apparently was gone, dropped due to vibrations maybe). And I dove to do a bit of bottom cleaning (a real cleaning is due as I can feel rugged growth on CaB’s bottom).
I’m trying to get a marine mechanic to visit Changabang for an engine maintenance. I will have to drive to Ventura to collect a J-125 emergency rudder and then think about how to install it on CaB’s “sugar scoop” stern.
It looks like the boom repair is holding up. It hasn’t been tested (which is how it should be, none really wants to accidentally gybe!).
I think that’s all I can recall for now. Other than the above, I’m writing an article for the Ocean Cruising Club.