Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Cameraleather.com

So remember back in June when I bought that Rolleicord at the camera repair shop? Well, I ordered a kit to replace all the leatherette on it from a site called www.cameraleather.com .

I was going to document the process and do an instructional video. Only problem is, eight weeks later, my kit has never showed up.

I had good email communication with the person running the site and sent several photos and answered several questions about my camera, so the kit would fit it. Then nothing.

They definitely have not refunded my money via paypal. Guess I'll shoot them an email and see what happened.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Phone a friend? No thank you, but I do need a lifeline

Another summer weekend come and gone. I guess there's really only one left -- good old Labor Day weekend.

Why does time seem to move so much faster as you get older? If I was still doing advertising we'd be churning out holiday collateral by now, and that just really skews your sense of time.

It was supposed to rain all weekend in Houston, so I took a step back from the boat. I'm trying to avoid becoming the completely one-dimensional person who does nothing but sail. I wanted to make some time for non-boat friends. That turned into pretty much just walking around a mall all day, which is a rather excruciating task for me. However, we did have lunch at Cheesecake Factory, which brings me to the point of this boring tangent. I ordered Buffalo Blasts as an appetizer.

Let me just say, I think Buffalo Blasts should be their own food group. I want to shout it from the rooftop that I LOVE BUFFALO BLASTS. These culinary geniuses at Cheesecake Factory were like, hey, what if we made a crab puff but instead of using crab, we used chicken and buffalo sauce?

I'm just saying, they're delicious. You should try them.

They're probably an aphrodisiac.

Just saying.

Anyway, I was up at the crack of dawn Sunday and headed to the marina. I was going to attempt to actually teach someone else to sail. I was nervous. I felt like it might be the blind leading the blind.

As I was giving her a preliminary orientation of the boat, I realized there are some things I should really fix. For one, my shifter is reversed -- back is forward and forward is back. It would probably take about 15 minutes to flip the shifter and switch the linkage on the side of the transmission, but it has never been a priority. However, with other people now driving the boat from time to time, a reversed shifter is just an accident waiting to happen. I think shifter linkage reversal is definitely on my Labor Day weekend repair list.

For the most part the lesson went well. I think I actually looked like I knew what I was doing and all but one of our tacks went off without a hitch. However, we had one that ended up with the boat hove-to. That was an entirely different lesson than I was attempting to teach, but hey, grab the opportunities when they happen, right?

We tacked  back and forth to Redfish Island where I dropped anchor. The water was actually looking green instead of the usual brown, and you could see almost two feet down, which is great visibility in upper Galveston Bay. We went swimming without a single jellyfish attack. Aside from a motor boater attempting to set his anchor right in front of us while backing upwind to set it and having to yell him off while attempting to explain that he was going to swing right around into my boat, it was a nice afternoon.

I still couldn't get good sail shape with my new jib when attempting to run downwind on the way home. Last time I thought the main sail was blocking the wind, so I only put up the jib this time, but still no luck. I guess I need to use the whisker pole, but I didn't have it with me. It was a slow trip home at about 2.5 - 3 knots.

When I finally went forward to drop the jib and motor through the channel, the boat was heaving a bit. I grabbed the port lifeline to keep myself from falling over the bow, and to my surprise, the port lifeline went slack in my hand. It was no longer connected to anything!

I caught my balance, finished pulling down the jib and then took a look. The pin that held the lifeline to the bow pulpit had disappeared. The ring that held the pin in place must have rusted and sheared off. Then the pin worked free. Then my lifeline was left hanging in my hand. Not good.

hanging lifeline

Lifelines were my next big repair item, but I was planning to wait until November or December. I at least need to get this one put back together -- probably before we start getting high winds and storms from Isaac because right now that line is just slapping around on my hull.

In other news, I did put the ridiculously expensive v-berth sheets in the v-berth. They do fit. They're some kind of stretchy material that feels a bit like an Under Armour athletic shirt. I threw them on the bed right before I left just to make sure they would work, and I didn't need to send them back. I have yet to actually sleep on them, but I do think they will be comfortable. They definitely make the v-berth look much nicer although someday I hope to have actual covers for those cushions.

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Monday, August 20, 2012

Riding out the storm

I knew it was going to rain at some point this weekend. All of the forecasts were sure of it. The radar was very colorful. I just didn't know when it would rain or for how long, and in Houston if you're not going to sail when it rains, you're not going to be sailing at all.

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I was up early enough Saturday morning that I actually got to enjoy a cup of coffee with the sunrise. It's been so hot all summer that after 8 a.m., coffee is out of the question. It's just already too hot.

As the sun was coming up I rigged the spinnaker topping lift with new line and added swivel snap shackles to that, the spinnaker halyard, and the downhaul. I'm still up in the air as to whether or not I want to put a shackle on my  jib sheets. It would make switching between the 120 and the storm jib a little faster, but the added weight would probably affect sail shape in light air. I guess the first time I have to change head sails in rough weather, I'll know if I want a shackle or not.

I made a hike up to the marina office for ice and to complain about the fact that I've burned off two sets of zincs since January. Their solution was to move me to another slip about 15 yards down the dock. Can't say I have any faith that this slip will be any better, but oh well. All I can do is start saving money towards a nicer marina in January when my lease is up.

About 9:30 a.m., I motored away through Clear Lake on my first solo voyage.

The wind was blowing from north, which was very odd for this time of year. It made pulling up the sails a bit awkward as I had to motor extra far down the channel to be able to make a 180 and motor back down the channel into the wind as I pulled them up. However, the entire process went well, and soon I was running downwind towards Redfish Island ... and the largest black cloud I'd ever seen.

I was hoping if I stayed to the southeast side of the bay the storm would pass in front of me, and I'd arrive to Redfish on the backside of it, but no such luck. I turned into the wind, dropped sails and dropped anchor just as the rain hit. I stood in the companionway watching it until it got really bad. Then I had to shut everything up and hunker down until it was over.

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I'd never ridden out a storm in the Starwind before. She bounces. She bounces a lot. It was kind of like being on one of those amusement park boat rides where it swings forward and back, getting higher and faster each time. I've never actually gotten seasick before although I've felt a tinge of queasiness from time to time. This was one of those times. I had been sitting in the salon listening to the weather radio and reading blogs on my phone. I decided I better get up and look out the windows for a while. I made myself a sandwich, and then I was fine.

From time to time I tried to assess my position through the windows to make sure the anchor wasn't dragging, but the rain was so hard I couldn't see the shoreline anymore. However, once it cleared, I found that the seahorse had stayed put with no problem.

Raising the anchor was probably the most strenuous pulling I've done in years. That thing was buried deep in the muddy clay bottom of the bay, and for a minute or so I was worried I was going to have to swim down and blindly attempt to dig it out. Most of the bay is no more than nine feet deep, but the water is very heavy with sediment, so you can't see a thing. Even if I'd had a mask on board, it wouldn't have helped. Then, just as I was resolving myself to the idea of swimming, it came up.

Next issue. I went to start the motor, and the transmission wouldn't go into neutral. After taking that beating the motor was stuck in forward. Thankfully I was nowhere near shore, it was very calm, and there was no traffic in the bay, so I pulled open the engine compartment and gave the transmission linkage a good shake. It popped into neutral, and I was back in business.

Once the storm had passed there was no wind, and the bay was calm enough you could waterski across it, so I motored on to Redfish Island and dropped anchor.

About half an hour later my friends on the Tina Marie arrived and anchored nearby. They dinghied over to get me, and we all had a cold one and discussed how crazy the storm had been. Then they ran off in the dinghy to pick up burgers from Bubba's Shrimp Shack.

It was about the time the dinghy disappeared over the horizon that the dark clouds of the next storm appeared -- and also about the time I realized I had left my companionway wide open. There's nothing like an invigorating swim with the jellyfish to go close your hatches. However, I'm sure the exercise did me good, and I was back aboard to Tina Marie just as the burgers arrived, and we all ate and watched the Seahorse buck through another thunderstorm.

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Lifeline replacement is still top priority on my never-ending repair list, but a bow roller or some kind of centered cleat to tie off the anchor might improve the way the Seahorse behaves when anchored. More stuff for the wish list, I guess.

When the storm finally ended, my friends were kind enough to ferry me back across the gap, so I didn't have to endure anymore jellyfish stings. Notice how far the Tina Marie is listing to port? Apparently the gas station attendant thought they said put 150 gallons in each tank instead of $150 in each tank, so the port tank got quite the fill-up that morning whereas the mistake was realized before they put any gas in the starboard side. If I had to pay for that much gas every weekend, I could not afford to be a boat owner.

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One of my friends joined me for the sail home, and we wowed the crowds by sailing right off the anchor, performing a perfect tack, and heading for home. Of course, the wind completely died halfway there, so we had to motor most of the way, but nobody saw that part, so it didn't matter.

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There was another regatta going on this weekend. At some point I hope to be sailing in them, but I am obviously not plugged into the right crowds because I never even know they're taking place until we see them out there.

Sunday was supposed to be the big day. I had Matt, Tony and my brother Ben all lined up to launch the spinnaker. However, the radar had only been green spots on Saturday, and I'd gotten beat half to death. Sunday morning it was solid green and spattered with red and yellow patches. We decided to postpone yet another weekend.

Ben had already shown up to the marina, so we decided to do some fishing. I'd never caught anything except catfish, but my neighbors had been pulling out redfish like crazy using squid. We made a run to West Marine and got both squid and shrimp, and guess what we caught?

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Yeah, more catfish. I fed them squid and Ben fed them shrimp. They liked the shrimp a little better, but they weren't really that picky.

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Three years, and I've still never caught a thing except catfish. It's getting a bit ridiculous.

When I finally made it home Sunday evening my new V-berth sheets had arrived. I probably spent a little too much on them, but I was tired of fighting with the square sheets bunching up and never fitting. Plus, if I ever want to get a classy lady sleeping in there, I figure I need to make it look a little classier. Anyway, the package touts that these sheets will make you "sleep like a pro."

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I was unaware of these professional sleepers. Personally, I'd rather sleep like a champion who just sleeps for the love of the game, not a spoiled pro getting paid a ridiculous amount of money to sleep. However, if they help me sleep through the night while anchored, they'll be worth every penny.





Saturday, August 18, 2012

First time solo

I'm sailing solo to Redfish Island this morning. I'm a little nervous because we've definitely got some thunderstorms on the way. Guess this will be a real test.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Sometimes you should check the scale


No, not the bathroom scale ... although I should probably check that more frequently. I'm talking the size of things. When you're staring at tiny photos on the Internet, with no frame of reference, it's hard to gauge size. That's how I ended up with these 3-3/4" swivel snap shackles.

Swivel snap shackles

Do you know how large a 3-3/4" shackle is on a 5/16" line? It's rather comical. It will also probably scar up my mast, break a window, and give someone a concussion before the season is over.

On the upside, these shackles were only $9 a piece. After I re-ordered three more $9 2.5" shackles from a different eBay seller, I was still only into the entire project for $60, which is roughly the cost of one single small shackle at West Marine.

Now that I've shackled out my spinnaker halyard, topping lift and downhaul, the only thing that is standing between us and flying that kite is schedules and weather.

As you may remember we encountered water spouts on our first attempt. Last weekend I spent a day at Banana Bend with my friends on the Tina Marie instead of sailing. I know, another lost day, but we had a great time swimming in the fresh water of the San Jacinto River and grilling burgers. Plus, I got a chance to take some photos instead of driving the boat.

It's too bad I can't get the Seahorse under the bridges up to this place because I bet I could get a deal on it.

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And this, of course, is our famous obelisk.

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The Fred Hartman bridge is also an interesting landmark.

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But honestly, I spent the entire trip wondering where I can find a serious sailor woman for the bow of my boat.

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Hopefully I'll get to spend the entire weekend on the water, but unfortunately the forecast is predicting lots of rain.





Monday, August 06, 2012

Ticking items off the list

It was a nice weekend at the marina. I got there late Friday night and had the entire weekend to crank out projects.

I got an early start Saturday morning and finally hanked on the new jib. The Starwind only came with a 70% storm jib, so that's all I've been using the past three years. I actually purchased this new eBay jib several months ago, but I thought it was going to be a 130%, and we had such a windy spring that I always thought it would be too much sail.

New jib

The new jib was a perfect fit, but it's not a 130%. It's more like a 100%, which is still great. I can actually close haul now, which was next to impossible with the little storm jib. The only downside is it just BARELY fits in my jib bag, so I may have to have my neighbor sew me a bigger one.

Next on the list was the cockpit table. This has been a work in progress for a long time, and I was anxious to see if my home-made brackets would work.

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The brackets worked great. The spring-tensioned drop leaf from McMaster Carr worked great -- the table flips up and stays, then you pull the bracket, and it flips back down. All the neighbors were impressed. So far the table is a complete success.

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The best part is that this table was about $30 in lumber, $40 in hardware and $30 for stain and varnish -- although I have plenty stain and varnish left over for the next project. Compare that price to an Edson table. I had a late dinner on it Saturday night.

Once the table was in place, I moved on to the next project -- wiring the autopilot. Since I don't have any wind instruments or chartplotters to plug into the Simrad, and I don't plan to add any, I figured the easiest way to deal with it would be just to stick a fused 12v DC plug on the end of the wire and plug it into a socket in the cockpit. Plugged in, it's on. Unplugged, it's off.

I already had a 12v socket near the instrument panel, but it was the old two-prong design, and I decided to just install a new waterproof car-socket type plug, so I can also use it to charge phones, etc. Since the wires were already running to the socket beside it, I just pulled them off, stuck them on the new socket, and it was good to go.

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But that's not all.

At this point I had to recruit some help because winch installation is a two-person job. Someone has to crawl back into the depths of the boat and hold a wrench while someone mans the screwdriver topside.

It's always interesting to see the hidden backside of various deck-installed items. In this case, the bolts on the starboard winch had been cut off flush with the nuts. It just took a couple turns, and they were loose. However, the bolts on the port side were EIGHT INCHES LONG! Even with an electric screwdriver, it was a pain to get them off because I'm trying to hold the wrench on the nut, but the nut is getting really hot from the friction. Then the hot bolts were burning my hand as I was trying to reach other bolts. It was not my favorite part of the day.

I made a run to West Marine for appropriately sized bolts, fresh fender washers and nylock nuts as well as a tube of 4200.

They really need to start making 4200 in tiny tubes. Why not sell me a 5-pack of tiny tubes for $15 instead of one giant tube that I can only use once? It was also some time after the bedding of the winches but before we finally cinched them down that I was attempting to squeeze some 4200 onto something else when the entire tube ruptured and exploded in my hands.

Do you know how difficult it is to get 4200 off your hands? I washed and scrubbed and washed some more, but I basically had no luck until about an hour later when it finally cured enough to peel off. I'm going to retract my previous statement regarding the long bolts being my least favorite part of the weekend. The 4200 explosion was definitely my least favorite part.

However, once the 4200 was off my hands, and the winches were finally secure, the weekend got much better. I did a quick cleanup, and we took a late afternoon cruise to test everything.

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Once we got out on the bay, we saw there was a huge regatta going on, and the sight of all those spinnakers coming up on the horizon was pretty amazing, especially since that was our plan for Sunday -- fly the spinnaker!

The new jib worked nicely. The self-tailers worked nicely. The autopilot worked nicely. The sunset worked nicely.

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We got a late start Sunday morning because I hadn't done any of the spinnaker rigging yet. And yes, before it was all said and done, I had to climb the freaking mast again.

The weather wasn't looking great, but it wasn't very windy, so we decided we didn't mind a little rain and set out to do great things.

Then we rain into this.

Waterspout!

It was my first time to see a water spout. Apparently there were three in the bay Sunday morning. If we had been on time, we would have been right underneath them. The crazy thing was, it wasn't even windy where we were in Clear Lake. We watched the waterspout for a few minutes until it disappeared and turned into a wall of rain. At that point, we decided to drop anchor and wait a bit to see if things would clear off.

After about 20 minutes we decided to press on, and continued towards the bay. It started raining on us. Then it started raining harder. We finally checked the radar, and saw that it wasn't going to clear off at all, turned around and motored home.

I spent the rest of the day cleaning. The bilge got scrubbed. The dishes got washed. I even opened up the cupboard and cleaned up that mess. A can of no-stick cooking spray exploded in there, but it took over an hour to scrub it all out because it was sticking to everything. Ironic?

The rain was gone, and the sun was setting by the time I closed things up for the weekend.

Sunset at Marina del Sol

Once again the spinnaker eluded me, but there's always next weekend.