This blog is devoted to my John Welsford designed 15' Navigator yawl Ellie. I built her in my garage over a period of 18 months and launched her in 2011. She sports a sliding gunter main, roller furled jib and sprit-boomed mizzen. Her construction is glued-lapstrake over permanent bulkheads and stringers. This blog is a record of her construction and her voyages here in the Puget Sound area and (hopefully) a useful resource for fellow Navigator builders.

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Centerboard Maintenance

Ellie was launched in 2011. She has seen a considerable amount of use in the 8 years since her launch, both on the water and on the road. She’s been repainted several times, both inside and out, but her centerboard has never been removed and inspected since her launching. Time for some overdue maintenance!

To be honest, I was a little bit afraid of what I might find. Her centerboard has always worked perfectly, but that doesn’t necessarily mean all is well below the surface.

So I summoned up some courage, removed her pivot bolt, removed the centerboard and brought it to the workbench.

The board looked pretty darn good. A quick inspection revealed no major issues. No soft spots, wood rot, or significant damage anywhere, thank goodness. Just a bit of normal wear and tear.

The first thing I noticed was some missing black paint. My centerboard was constructed of Alaskan Yellow Cedar, sheathed in epoxy and fiberglass, sanded, and painted with Rustoleum alkyd enamel spray paint. One of the lessons I learned while building Ellie is that paint will only stick to epoxy if the epoxy is well sanded until it looks “frosty”. Epoxy cures to a smooth, shiny and slightly waxy finish that paint simply will not adhere to. Everywhere you see missing paint on my centerboard, you will also find glossy epoxy. These areas will get a more thorough sanding before they get repainted.

Paint was also missing in areas that get some wear and tear. The entire leading edge of the board is missing paint. I sail over the Snohomish river bar very often. The bar is sandy, shallow and thick with seaweed. You can see where the sand and seaweed has worn off the paint.
There is also a bit of missing paint on the sides of the board, where the board rubs up against the inside of the centerboard case.

And one ding on the bottom of the board.  I'm not quite sure where this came from.  I may have hit a rock at some point.  This will need to be filled with epoxy.
The area with the most wear is the area around the pivot bolt, as one would expect. Here the paint has been worn away, and much of the epoxy coating. Even the fiberglass has started to wear a little bit. It’s a good thing I decided to do this maintenance now, before it wore through the fiberglass and into the wood itself.

This wear can be repaired quite easily. I’ll give it a light sanding and a fresh coat of epoxy or two on the worn areas. Then the entire board will get sanded, followed by several coats of paint and the board will be as good as new.

The hole where the board pivots is in perfect condition. When I originally built the board, I made a "bushing" here by drilling an oversized hole in the board. I filled the hole with a mixture of epoxy, chopped fiberglass, and silica. After that cured I drilled a smaller hole through it for the centerboard pivot bolt. I did the same procedure in the centerboard case. This creates a hard, waterproof bushing that will never wear out.  The procedure is described in detail here.

It’s easy to forget to maintain your centerboard. Don’t let a small job become a big problem!

Monday, February 11, 2019

Nearshore Anchoring using an Anchor Buddy

Ellie and friends using their Anchor Buddies at Fossil Bay, Sucia Island State Park, Washington
What is an Anchor Buddy?

Simply put, the Anchor Buddy can be thought of as an anchor rope that stretches. It allows you to anchor your boat about 35 feet offshore, in water deep enough to keep it safe from rocky beaches, boat wakes and wind. Its stretchiness allows you to pull the boat to shore (stretching the Anchor Buddy), where you can board, depart, or load and unload gear. When you’re finished, the Anchor Buddy retracts, automatically pulling your boat back out to deeper water.  The Anchor Buddy also allows many boats to anchor close together without bumping into each other, as you can see in the photo above.
The anchor buddy is constructed of 3/8 inch diameter surgical tubing surrounded by a woven poly outer sleeve. The tubing stretches like a bungee cord while the outer sleeve limits how far the cord can stretch (to prevent breakage) and provides great strength when the Anchor Buddy is stretched to its maximum length.
Rigging the Anchor Buddy

The Anchor Buddy connects between your anchor chain and rode. Here you can see the setup I use on my 15’ John Welsford designed Navigator yawl.

My anchor is shackled to 10 feet of ¼ inch chain. The chain is connected to one end of the Anchor Buddy (yellow). Additional Anchor Buddies can be connected in series if desired, with each additional Buddy providing an additional 35 feet of stretch. An anchor swivel is attached to the other end of the Buddy, followed by 100 feet of 3/8 inch nylon rode. When anchoring close to shore, I find that 100 feet of rode is nearly always sufficient, but I also carry along an additional 100 feet of rope for use when anchoring out or when towing.
Deploying the Anchor Buddy

To deploy the Anchor Buddy, begin by slowly motoring, rowing or sailing towards the shore so that you can survey it. The ideal shoreline will be devoid of large rocks or other dangers, but will also have a nearby tree, log, boulder or something else to tie your anchor line to.

When you get approximately 100 feet from shore, begin lowering your anchor to the bottom, and pay out line as you slowly approach the beach. When you arrive at the shore, exit the boat taking the remaining anchor rode with you. Begin pulling on the anchor rode. As you continue pulling the rode, you will feel the Anchor Buddy stretching. Continue pulling until the Anchor Buddy is fully stretched to its limit and the anchor will begin to set. Pull as hard as you can to ensure the anchor is fully set. Release the anchor rode and allow the Anchor Buddy to fully retract. Take the bitter end of the anchor rode and tie it to a tree, log or boulder, removing all slack from the anchor line without stretching the Anchor Buddy. Finally, return to the bow of the boat. Pull the anchor rode again until the Anchor Buddy is fully stretched. Cleat the anchor rode to a bow cleat. Give the boat a gentle push off the beach and watch as the Anchor Buddy retracts and pulls the boat 35 feet offshore.
What if there’s no tree, log or boulder to tie to?

If there’s nothing convenient to tie to, you will need a beach anchor, sand anchor or spike anchor. These come in a variety of styles. If you carry a secondary anchor, that will work too. The beach anchor I use is an auger style called a Tie Down Mate.
Tie Down Mate beach anchor
Coming and going

After deploying the anchor, suppose you want to do a little fishing, or participate in a sailboat race. Once you are set up, you can easily come and go without retrieving your anchor. Simply pull the boat to shore, climb onboard, let the Anchor Buddy pull you out, untie the boat and off you go. When you return, beach the boat where you anchored and get out. Pull the anchor line in, tie to your bow cleat and let the Anchor Buddy pull your boat out.
Dealing with tides

The areas where I sail often have tidal ranges of 13 feet or more. They also have shallow beaches that are less than 13 feet deep at 35 feet offshore. That means there is a good chance that my boat could go dry at low tide, possibly suffering damage. There are several ways to avoid that. One way, mentioned earlier, is to daisy chain two or more Anchor Buddies in series. Each Anchor Buddy will place the boat an additional 35 feet offshore. Another way, if the weather, your schedule, and the bottom conditions safely allow it, is to let the boat go dry until the tide comes back in.
Only allow boat to go dry at low tide if it's safe
Yet another way is to occasionally move the boat closer or farther away along the anchor rode as needed. If the tide is going out and the boat is getting too close to shore, re-adjust it by un-cleating the rode, stretching the Anchor Buddy to its limit, and re-cleat it. Conversely, if the tide is coming in and the boat is getting more than 35 feet offshore, re-adjust it the same way.
When I sleep overnight on my boat, I always ensure that I won’t go dry at low tide during the night. To do this, I climb onboard, untie the anchor rode from the bow cleat, pull the boat well offshore and re-tie it there. Then I set up my boom tent and enjoy a worry-free night’s sleep.

According to the manufacturer, the Anchor Buddy is intended for temporary anchoring/mooring only. It has a 4000 pound capacity which far exceeds the weight of my cruising dinghy. I have used it for many years and I am confident using it overnight, especially considering how the boat is also anchored to shore. For increased confidence, a 45 foot long line can be connected alongside the Anchor Buddy. This will keep the anchor attached to the boat if the Anchor Buddy were to fail, while still allowing it to stretch and function normally.

If you’re ever in the Puget Sound area and you see a small yawl anchored in a cozy cove, there’s a good chance it will be me, and my “Buddy”.

Monday, June 20, 2016

New and Improved boat tent - version 2

Every Spring I try to improve something onboard Ellie.  I call these Spring improvements "Spring Tweaks".  This year's Spring Tweak is an improved boom tent.

This tent has several improvements over my previous boom tent, yet remains just as inexpensive and easy to construct.  It fits and functions better, it's a little quicker to set up, and it's brighter inside.  It also resolves some shortcomings that I discovered using the previous tent.

The most obvious improvement is the color.  While cammo green may be ideal for Stealth Camping, it has the unfortunate affect of making the interior of the tent very dark.  This new tent is made from  white polytarp which is far brighter inside.  I like the brightness a lot better.
Another big improvement with this tent is that the main sail is now stored outside the tent, not inside the cabin.  The last thing you want, after sailing in rainy weather, is a wet sail inside your tent dripping on you.  Instead, I lash the mainsail to the gaff and raise the whole affair up the mast prior to setting up the tent.

The boom is supported with a boom crutch instead of using the mizzen halyard.  This holds the boom in place much more securely.  Snugging up the mainsheet and boom vang lock the boom in place. The ends of the boom crutch simply attach to the stern cleats with a loop of rope.
The tent is secured with bungee cords rather than relying on sandbags (or water bottles) as weights.

After the boom tent is set up, I lower the gaff (which still has the mainsail lashed to it) down so it lies atop the boom, securing it in place with a bit of rope from the end of the gaff to the mizzen.

When not in use, I store the boom tent under the port seat.  I added quarter-turn hatches to the front of bulkhead 5 to provide a new storage area for the rolled-up tent and boom crutch.
The tent can also serve as a sun shield on hot summer days by flipping one side over the boom (folding the tent in half along the boom).  My Navigator sleeps one or two in comfort using my sleeping platform.

The tent performed well during the Pocket Yacht Palooza Crooza where it rained quite hard during the night.

Will there be a version 3?  Probably - there is always room for improvement.  I noticed a couple of small drips during the night (although it was raining very hard).  They occurred around the gap at the aft end of the boom where it protrudes outside the tent, which can be eliminated.  The tent could be made less drafty.  It would be warmer at night if I had taken greater care in eliminating gaps between the tent and the deck around the front.  The tent is starting to fray along the edges (I cut it with scissors). Next time I will trim it using a soldering iron to melt the edges and "cauterize" them.  But overall I am quite pleased with the results.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

My dinghy cruising packing list

I've been doing quite a bit of dinghy cruising this year. So much so that I haven't had much time to write about it, sorry.

I've gotten my packing routine down to the point where I feel it's getting quite efficient.  I always bring the same items and store them in the same place for every trip.  A little organization goes a long way when it comes time to find something.  I try to bring only what I need, and use items for multiple purposes whenever possible.  I only bring extras of items that are crucial.

It really bugs me to have things out where I have to walk on or around them, so I store everything in the lockers and under the thwarts and side decks. Once everything is packed away, it looks like I'm not bringing anything at all.  That's not easy to do in an open boat.

Here is the packing list that I use.  This first page shows where on the boat I store everything.   Many of the items are stored in bags.  I use soft-sided cooler bags for food and water, duffel bags and backpacks for clothing, and dry bags for electronics. Page 2 shows the contents of each bag.

Most of this stuff stays on the boat permanently.  Usually all I have to pack for a trip is food and clothes.

Sailing with Andrew's Navigator Wren

Sailing Ellie alongside my friend Andrew's beautiful Navigator Wren at the Port Townsend Pocket Yacht Palooza Crooza around Marrowstone Island, Washington was a real treat.

Andrew did a magnificent job building Wren. Her beautifully varnished seat tops and laminated tiller are especially beautiful.  I love her colors, and envy the batten arrangement in her mainsail, which allows the main to be dropped without removing the battens, unlike mine.  Comparing boats was a learning experience for us both, as we pondered  each other's ideas.  There are more photos of Wren here.

The Palooza and followup cruise were both fantastic.  We had every kind of weather, which made the trip quite interesting.  It was great meeting John Welsford again, albeit briefly, as John was quite busy tending to his Scamp Camp.

For more photos of the Pocket Yacht Palooza and Cruise, click this link.

Can't wait to do this again next year!

Monday, July 13, 2015

How to make a boat tent for under $20

It's that time of year again.  Spring Tweak time!  I know, I know, it's more of a midsummer tweak.  Sorry, I'm way behind schedule this year.

This year's Spring Tweak is an inexpensive boom tent.
Most of the messabouts that I plan on attending this year require sleeping onboard the boat.  Unlike Sucia Island's abundant camping, many of the other destinations we like to visit have limited camping.  Saddlebag island, for instance, only has 5 campsites.  Hope Island, only 4.  Next week is the "Pocket Yacht Palooza", followed by a 4 day "Crooza" to several destinations which may or may not require sleeping onboard. It's also nice to have the option to tie up at a marina.  And there's always the possibility I could be late getting home and have to anchor who knows where for the night.  Having a boom tent onboard at all times really is a necessity. It doesn't have to be fancy in my opinion.  A quick and cheap one made from a tarp will do just fine.

So here's my version of the classic tarp-type boom tent.

After quick trip to the local Harbor Freight Tools store, I returned with this 11 x 15 foot cammo tarp for a mere $16.49, and a grommet kit for another $4.  $20 for a boom tent.  Can't beat that.

They also carry the classic blue and silver tarps too, of course, but let's be honest.  There's really only one choice here.  Not only does cammo look good, in a far-less-tacky sort of way, but it also enables one to go Stealth Camping.  Stealth Camping, in case you are unfamiliar with the term, is the practice of arriving late at night, mooring up to someone's private dock, boat, or any other no-camping area, and stealing away early in the morning before anyone realizes you were there.  I, of course, would never do such a thing ;-)

To support the tent I needed a ridgepole.  I lashed my boom and gaff together and use them as the ridgepole. My topping lift/jackstay line, and my peak halyard both prevent draping the boom tent over the ridgepole, so they get disconnected.  To support the ridgepole, I disconnect my mizzen halyard and connect it to the aft end of the ridgepole.
I measured the distance between the main mast and the point where the mizzen halyard connects to the ridgepole.  Then I cut two equal length slits in the tarp so that the distance between the slits was equal to that measurement.
That allowed me to drape the tarp over the ridgepole.

The next part is simple, as the famous sculptor Michelangelo allegedly once explained:
After marveling at Michelangelo’s statue of Goliath-vanquishing David, the Pope asked the sculptor, “How do you know what to cut away?”
Michelangelo replied “It’s simple. I just remove everything that doesn’t look like David.”
So I got out my scissors and trimmed away everything that didn't look like a boom tent.
I left some flaps at the front and rear of the boom tent so I could seal both ends off in a rainstorm.

The flaps can be rolled up and secured with a clip to keep them open, or tied down with a bit of rope to keep them closed.  I trimmed the sides even with my lower rubrail.

When I removed the tarp and laid it out flat, it looked like this.  Not an easy shape to define on a  drawing.  You can see why it really needs to be cut in-place.
The most difficult part about making a boom tent is coming up with a way to secure the sides.  Several methods have been employed.  Ropes can be strung under the boat from one side to the other.  Clips or snaps can be added to the gunnels to attach the boom tent to.  Ropes can be run fore-and-aft to provide an attachment point, and so on.  But the easiest, most effective, and elegant solution I have seen my friends use are sandbags.  Several small sandbags weighing about 1 lb each are fastened to the boom tent to weigh the sides down and keep them taught. They work very well and don't require a bunch of new holes to be drilled in the boat.

I didn't have enough time to make sandbags before our annual Sucia trip, so I improvised.  I used 500ml plastic water bottles instead of sandbags.  They actually worked quite well.
I drilled a small hole in the water bottle caps, tied them to the boom tent, and store the empty bottles under my front thwart.  When I need them, I simply reach over the side and fill them with seawater and screw them onto the bottle caps. The only thing I don't like about them is they tend to bounce against the hull at night, keeping me awake.  I think sandbags would be quieter so I plan on replacing them with sandbags soon.

My son Tim and I just got back from our annual Sucia Small Boat Rendezvous.  It rained off and on the entire weekend, but we were cozy and warm under this humble boom tent, using our sleeping platform

When we awoke in the morning, there were no signs of condensation or leaks anywhere inside the boom tent.  We were very pleased with the results.  Well worth the $20 to be sure.