Thursday, December 19, 2013

Kayak Testing

I had a chance to paddle the new kayak this week briefly and get an idea of her speed. We had done some basic model testing and drag prediction of this hull so we were curious to get some data from the "full size model".

I was able to achieve 5.4 knots (6.2 mph)  flat out. This corresponds to around 11.5 lbs of force applied. At this speed wave making resistance accounts for just slightly over half of the total resistance of the hull. Note the clearly visible bow and stern waves when she is at speed indicating that we are very close to hull speed.

The as seen weight here is 38 lbs. With paint, hatches and deck rigging the finished boat should come in right around 45 lbs. More to come. I will look forward to hearing Floatsome's comments on maneuverability of the boat after he gets her broken in.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

A kayak in your Future

Started working on a new Kayak for a friend and fellow Watertriber Floatsome after kicking around design ideas for a few months in our spare time. She is very similar to the Mirage 530 and will utilize an old Mirage rudder. Converted into stitch-and-glue construction with recessed deck hatches and bent plywood cockpit ring the aim is to have a stiff light kayak for expedition and surf play.

 Floatsome plans to have her on the beach in March for the Ultra Marathon.

Monday, September 02, 2013

Surf SUP

While I was pretty gung-ho about building my own Stand Up paddle boards, after pricing out materials I decided to just buy used. Two paddle boards later, here we are paddling around Harbor Island. Planning to take the board back out into the surf soon.

Monday, July 22, 2013

New EC Design Rolled Out

Just finished up a new design for watertribe friend Jim (AKA Sundance) Click Here to see his building blog. She is a folding trimaran designed to go up against the Hobie AI and TIs that have started to dominate the "mini-class 5" entries in the watertribe over the last few years. The 4mm stitch and glue construction, enclosed sea-kayak style cockpit and narrow 21" main hull set her apart from her plastic competition.

She will feature, folding crossbeams, kick up rudder and centerboard as well as a skeg for extra trimming options and tracking in large downwind conditions. Look for her on the beach in 2014. Looking forward to Sundance's build pictures.

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Back in the Carolinas

We made it home early monday afternoon. Lots of new lessons learned from the show. Lots of ideas on how to improve the kit especially for the boatshow and how to speed up the build process. This time we actually wrote them down!!!

Sunday, June 30, 2013

So... how do we get this boat out of here?!?

Decks went on, joints were taped, parts were distributed and questions were answered. It's all up to them to finish now.

We packed up the trailer and begin our trip home.

Last pic: notice the boat shaped grass preserves.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Day 2 a Blur of Epoxy

Various stages of completion. Daggerboard trunks installed. Decks coated.

Top: Graham assists glassing the Jesse

Next: Father, son, grandson work tirelessly on their Amanda named 'OLD GUY' ... after the father.

Friday, June 28, 2013

End of day 1

6 hulls together. Gunwales on. Tomorrow fiberglass.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Ready to build

Finally made it and got all setup.

Adventure on the road

Well we've paid our due to the road trip gods. Hopefully a pair of trailer wheel bearings will be an acceptible sacrifice.

Bound for Mystic, Ct

6 boat kits in tow.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Southbound does it again

We finished! Tired but happy. We did a lot of rowing but at least we didnt get rained on. Average speed 2.7 knots. 21Hrs in the water.

OFUM: Sailing onward to the finish

Pictures from earlier today

Saturday, May 18, 2013

On the beach at the OFUM

It's been drizzling on and off all afternoon here at the start line. Not enough to discourage people from playing in their boats at the CLC event but a bit of a chill in the air. Fog rolled in on the bay around sunset. Had a big fish dinner. Passed out in the tent.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Family Boat building in Mystic Seaport, CT

Get "onboard" today and sign up to build a Jessy, Mandy or Amanda at the family boat building event in June in Mystic Seaport!

Jessy kit demonstration at the marine market in Washington, NC

30 minutes later it's ready to be glued together. 

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Headed to the "Washington Marine Market"

Taking the boat up to Washington, NC this weekend for a small Nautical Expo. B and B yacht designs will be giving an afternoon presentation on Family Boat building and assembling a "Jessy" kit for all to see. Many B and B boat owners will be bringing boats down for exhibition and to help get people excited about boats.

'Jessy' a 12' runabout available as a pre-cut kit from B and B Yacht Designs

"Southbound" a Core Sound 17 on the beach at the North Carolina Challenge 2012

Recently got around to applying the name on Southbound. Thanks to Jake at Green Room Graphics for the decal. Their website is still under construction but then again so is their green room. Email Jake for all your Graphics needs. 

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Everglades Challenge 2013: Flamingo to Key Largo

The exciting conclusion...

We were off on a reach into the night. Tin Can channel was moving swiftly past us. We were making great time and feeling pretty good. We were very aware at this point that the Class 4 course record was within grasp but we just kept going trying not to make mistakes. Dad was on the GPS announcing adjustments to the heading and I was driving and working our big spotlight, lighting up day markers and keeping the boat in the deep part of the narrow channels...usually. We were on a reach most of the time so we only had to worry about steering to the markers with only occasional sail adjustments.

The main channels are all marked with wooden stakes anywhere from 25 to 100 yards apart depending on the straightness of the channel. They range in height from a few inches to 6 or more feet. Almost all have reflectors at the top and almost all have indicators telling which side of them you ought to pass them on. The indicators are just angled bits of wood screwed to the top which "point" to the correct side. More on those later. Sometimes a marker lacks the indicator and if the channel is curving you may not be able to tell which side to stay on until it's too late. Assuming there is enough water depth to begin with, this is the most common scenario for sailing out of the channel and into the mud. If that happens in a blow, you could be pushed farther off the channel when you raise your centerboard or rudder and strand yourself downwind of the channel with no way to sail back up into it. This is why you hear sailors tell stories of dragging their boats in Florida bay with snowshoes...yes snowshoes. Similarly, a disoriented paddler might run aground and try to get out and walk back to deeper water. The mud is soft and deep and one could easily lose their footing, lose track of the boat or paddle for an instant, and then look up to see their now unburdened vessel floating happily downwind in 3 inches of water out of reach and up shit creek. These are the kinds of situations Florida bay is known for. We always try to hug the upwind side of the channel. If you run around on the upwind side its no big deal, just allow yourself to be blown back into deep water. Of course it's impossible to follow that rule all the time especially when a marker is positioned on the edge of the downwind side of the channel and you sail to the wrong side of it.

We zipped passed Bouy Key and got on course for the Dump Key cut. The wind was still strong out of the WNW and we actually got up on plane doing 9 knots plus at some points in the flat water of the bay. The moonlight was beautiful as it reflected off the water and through the sails making them glow in the darkness. This was some of the most beautiful sailing I have ever done. We came up on Dump Key and zoomed up to the cut. As soon as we neared the cut, the wind died and it got real quiet. I shone the light down into the deeper water as we glided silently through our momentum carrying us to the other side. We saw horseshoe crabs scuttling along the bottom and marveled at the crystal clear water. It only lasted for maybe 30 seconds but it was a very memorable part of the crossing because it was in such contrast to what was all around. A different world in the middle of the bay. As soon as we exited the cut, the wind hit us and blastoff, we were doing 8 knots again away from Dump Keys.

The wind was out of the NW about 10 gusting to 12 knots. We got on our new heading across more open water to End Key and I was sawing on the sheets to keep the boat in the groove trying to keep her up on plane in a deep reach but we were going kind of slow I thought. After a while I realized we must be dragging something as our speed was down to around 6 knots. I looked back and sure enough the rudder was covered in weeds. I bore off and popped the rudder up and back down clearing it's edge. What a difference, back up to 8 knots and popping up on a plane in the puffs. But soon after this speed boosting event you could almost hear Florida bay say, "not so fast guys", as the centerboard started dragging the mud followed quickly by the rudder. Dad raised the board and I popped the rudder line but while we frantically tried to figure out which way to turn the boat came to a stop, sails still full and beautiful. It happens just that fast. We were in about 6 inches of water and we figured out that we were north of the channel and I must have sailed too high and into the shallows. Downwind was more shallow mud and we had to sail south to get back in deeper water. We raised the board and rudder fully but the bottom of the boat was already dragging the bottom and we were just slowly being blown deeper into the mud exactly what we were trying to avoid.

Fortunately in this situation, the Core Sound 20's Cat Ketch rig comes to the rescue. The split rig allows you to apply turning moments to the boat that just aren't possible with a Bermudan main and jib setup. We let the mainsail fly and sheeted in the mizzen while moving our weight to the front of the boat to free the back end and she started to rotate counter clockwise to the north and eventually almost into the wind. Then we grabbed the end of the main sprit and pushed it far out to starboard causing the main to backwind blowing the bow off and the boat kept rotating. The bow crossed through the wind and we eased the main while she spun around and presto, we were pointed back toward the channel. After sheeting in both sails (boards still up) the boat started dragging bottom but in the right direction and gaining depth with every inch. About 5 minutes after we grounded we were back in the channel, rudder down and on our way. In no time we were looking for the markers to the entrance to Twisty Mile.

I spotted the markers with the spotlight and we started winding our way through the maze. Some markers just barely above the water and some I missed completely until it was too late. We bumped over some shallow spots but luckily didn't get stuck. It's quite a twisty path (go figure) through the deep channel and the spotlight is invaluable. I could pretty clearly see where the tops of the seagrass changed the look of the clear water indicating the edge of the channel and dad updated us aloud what was ahead on the gps, left turn, right turn, which helped us to think ahead of time what sail trim would be needed, or whether or not we might need more centerboard in anticipation of a short beat. We made it through back into the deep water and on course for Jimmy channel.

Jimmy Channel came and went without incident. We were making great time and I was beginning to look for the red flashing light of the radio tower which is just behind the finish line at the Bay Cove motel. Ahh the motel, I remember thinking how nice it will be at the finish line just relaxing and sailing around. What are we going to do with ourselves we thought out loud its only monday morning. We can sail around all week! The wind was beginning to shift more easterly now and we were sailing due east on a beam reach. We planned to go through the cut just west of Stake key. We took this cut in 2011 and since it is due east of Jimmy channel we chose it again. Dad navigated us to where the entrance markers should be. "left...more left", he said as I headed up and sheeted in beating now north east. I searched for the markers with the spotlight. "Got em", I said and I steered for the two markers marking the east and west side of the Stake Key cut. The wind was right out of the N now and a bit stronger. We were close hauled and realized that we might have to tack through the narrow cut with the wind on the nose. We entered the channel and held the tack as long as possible and I could see the two markers on the other side of the cut about 20 yards away. Once we got past those we were back in the clear.

We were on a port tack but we weren't heading high enough to make it through. I don't remember exactly the moments leading up to what happened next except that I must have called for more centerboard realizing that it wasn't down all the way. With the extra board we were just going to make it. I spotted the marker and we sailed as high as we could. I cranked in the mizzen to get the last bit of height out of the tack and dad leaned out on the rail. I watched the maker clear the starboard gunwale by about 2 feet. "We made it", I said and I started to bear away on the other side of the channel but suddenly the boat started slowing down.

It all happened in about 5 seconds. The boat slowed but in a weird way and my first reaction was, "get the board up were dragging!", but before we could do anything the boat wrenched hard to starboard and I saw what was happening but could do nothing. Our spinnaker halyard which draped lifeless on the back side of the mainsail had fouled on the indicator stick of the channel marker as we passed it heeled to starboard. The halyard started to pull the boat over as we decelerated from about 6 knots, the spinnaker was now half in the water yanked out from under the side deck. The sails were still fully pressed and the mast bent back sickeningly. I heard a loud but short and hollow metal-y sound and watched the main mast snap and hit the water. The boat was relieved of the pressure and continued to spin around a full 360. We came to a stop pointed into the wind stunned at what had just happened.

In that 5 seconds, dad had been trying to get the centerboard up and wasn't even sure what had happened. He was pretty tired at this point and this was like a shot of adrenaline to us both. It was still pitch black dark and we were about 6 miles from the finish line. The wind was a steady 15 now from the NNE. I didn't skip a beat though and clicked on my headlamp and headed for the bow. "We lost the mast", I said, "lets get this rigging cleaned up and save the mainsail". Dad started untying the spaghetti of halyards, backstays and sheets and I went to the bow to drop the anchor. I got the anchor on the bottom before I realized that we were already nicely tied up to the channel marker which was now bent over about 45 degrees in the mud. I started untying from the bow and pulling in the spinnaker from the water. The spinnaker didn't like being dragged over stuff and sufferd a few 12 inch tears. We got the spinnaker stowed and pulled the mainsail down the broken mast and I pushed it back into the cockpit. The mast was bend about 15 degrees midway up but the sail came down easily. We fought with it in the wind and got it rolled up. I hauled the mast up onto the boat and we laid it across the cabin top. We got it lashed down to the bow cleat and to the top of the cabin. In no time we had the boat all sorted out. We were kicking ourselves for losing the mast and at the same time we were sad to see it go. "It was a good mast," we said as we prepared to get back underway. It was a good mast too.

After we were totally ready, I pulled up the anchor and gave us a good push off of the busted channel marker. I had some experience sailing my CS 17 under mizzen alone and after a few failed attempts I got the boat moving on a reach and slowly sheeted in and heading up until we were close hauled. It took a good bit of force on the tiller to keep her from going head to wind. A few times I sheeted in too hard and the mizzen would overpower the rudder and put us in irons. We had to backup, sheet out and get going on a reach again, and slowly turn up with plenty of boat speed to avoid a repeat. We still had about 2 miles to sail directly into the wind before we could turn onto a reach on the other side of Bottle Key. We were surprised that we were actually able to make pretty good speed and our tacks weren't that much worse that with both sails! The boat had less power sure but also a lot less windage with no main mast so it must have balanced out. Beside being difficult to tack without going into irons it wasn't that bad.

The dim light of sunrise was just starting to lighten the sky and we could see the radio tower now about 5 miles off. "We should have taken a picture!." In the excitement of the situation we had neglected to get even one picture of the mast over the side with the sail in the water. Oh well. We were doing fine, making steady progress in the stiff wind and we knew we were almost there. We were also still in disbelief that we lost the mast. I guess we won't be sailing around at the finish line afterall.

We finally got around Bottle key and cut across to the ICW. We were almost there! We were able to make it most of the way up the ICW to Bakers Cut on one tack and got ready to tack over and sail through to Buttonwood sound. With dad on the oars helping to pull we just eeked through the channel makers of the cut (staying well clear) and into the sound. This was the home stretch. We could almost see the finish line and sunrise was well underway. It was about 30 minutes to 7 and while it was too soon to think about it back in Flamingo, we realized that we really could make it in under 2 days. We had started on Saturday at 7am. Dad just kept on rowing slow and steady adding about a knot to our speed. We weaved our way through the mooring field, damaged but unbroken toward the finish and I spotted the distinctive grass roof of the hut at the Bay Cove motel. We sailed up to the dock sheltered by the trees from the wind and tied off. The time was 7:02. Two days and two minutes. Oh well, we made it.

I spent the next couple of hours cleaning out the boat and setting stuff out to dry while dad looked for signs of life. He was dead tired and no one was at the motel not even the staff. After an hour someone finally came to let us into a room. When I finished with the boat I found dad asleep on the bed. So this is what it's like for Lumpy and Bumpy and SewSew we thought. Kind of lonely, but if you finish first, I guess you have to do it alone. As happy as we were with our finish and that we could relax for a while I was kind of jealous that our trip was over so quick and everyone else was still out there, "having fun". Maybe next year I'll go a little slower? Maybe...


Thursday, April 11, 2013

2013 Everglades Challenge: Cp2 to Flamingo

1:58pm. We arrived at the infamous Chokoloskee. Infamous for it's thick sticky mud. We came to a halt and since I had my drysuit on I was the obvious choice to made the trudge to the lock box. Dad hit the OK button on the spot and I made my way to the "beach". I actually didn't have too much trouble with the mud this year, just took it slow and steady and got it done. I signed the log book, filled the water bottles and threw away some trash. I was moving quickly thinking that every second we weren't moving the 17 was adding to their lead.

I made it back to the boat and we pushed off. I made sure to wash the mud off my boots before stepping into the boat. We slowly crawled away from the shallow mud steering with the sails with the boards up until we were far enough away from the mud to avoid getting stuck again. Then we turned away and headed around the island. We proceeded to navigate a carefully choreographed path south away from Chokoloskee to the entrance to Rabbit key pass. We have found it easiest for the skipper to also have control of the GPS in this area since the lag time between... "turn right", "no more right!", "RIGHT!" is just too much for the winding path through the oyster beds. With the sun in front of us and a following wind, you only get one shot at making it through without lots and lots of horrible noises produced by oysters against the thin epoxy coating that is the bottom of the boat. This year we performed as close to a textbook route through the oysters as we ever have and into the deeper pass. The current that was in our favor coming in was now raging against us in the narrow and winding mangrove channel. In some areas we were making just one boats length of progress per tack into the unrelenting wind and tide.  Fortunately we had enough width to tack out. During past years and lower tides, we have had to row through some of the narrowest sections much like the row out of Cp1. We probably put 50 or more tacks in to get out and on a heading for the point of Rabbit key.

We made it! We were on a screaming reach heading away from the islands and back into the gulf. And then we saw them. Off the starboard beam a mile or so away I spotted the CS17. They must have taken the other route to the gulf (Chokoloskee pass) and in so doing we popped out right beside them. After an hour of offing we were on the same line and running on a heading just west of dead down wind. The drag race had begun. Our average speed between Choko and Flamingo was 5.5 knots but I can assure you that we spent many of the next nine or so hours at or above 8. The wind would lighten and the 17 would pull away slowly then it would build again and we would pull them back in. We spent most of the time wing on wing but occasionally on a deep reach on starboard to keep on our rhumb line. The sun was getting dimmer and we still had to cook our dinner. In these surfing conditions we kept our weight as far back as possible and dinner had to be made in the cockpit sole. The cabin was basically off limits.  I was up for the task and did it as fast as I could. Our jetboil makes this difficult task possible because it boils water so fast. We don't have a mount for the stove so you have to hang onto it the whole time. I got the two freeze dried meals done and we took turns eating and driving.

Dad was enjoying the surfing conditions but we were both in a state of ever present alert because we were still carrying full sail in a lot of wind. Surfing is fun but you have to remind yourself that your still in a 20 foot dinghy. As Dan Neri and I joked after the race Core Sound boats feel like much bigger boats in these conditions thanks to their hull form but at any moment your situation could change dramatically, i.e., a capsize. It was getting dark now, the wind was increasing. We were still "ok" but could we do this for the rest of the night? There was no chance of sleep in these conditions. As theses things weighed in our minds another gust came and we felt a surge of speed. It pushed us onto a big swell and the boat rocketed onto a plane. The boat is smooth and easy to steer at this speed like a car on the highway, it just takes a tiny movement to maneuver down the wave. With that speed however, also comes the realization that bad things can happen just as fast. We didn't come off of plane for a long long time. Water was spraying out from the sides of the boat. The mainsail was starting to luff as the apparent wind shifted forward.  Then we finally caught up to a swell of equally large size and plunged into it from behind. The boat felt like it was going to dive like we were steering down into a hole in the water. I remember leaning back and focusing all my energy on keeping dead straight down the wave. The bow hit the swell and sliced it perfectly in half causing a wall of water to eject out from either side of the bow. All I could see in front of us was water, cabin and more water. The boat decelerated and buried itself deeper into the swell until we were now on-top of it. At this point we were once again set up to catch and surf down this swell just like the last and that is exactly what we did.

This continued a dozen more times as the the sky continued to dim. Had it not been for the steepness of the swell I'm sure we would have arrived in Flamingo by now but running into the backs of the swells was like driving over huge wet speed bumps. We could see Dan and Phil experiencing the same conditions although from our perspective, they seemed to be riding over the tops of the waves a little easier no doubt thanks to their light weight construction I thought. With darkness falling it was getting a little ridiculous, surely we couldn't do this for another 4 hours in the dark. We were tired and moving at incredible speed. Capsizing in the dark in 6 foot swells is an unpleasant thought. We plunged into another massive swell at warp speed and the boat decelerated back down to 8 knots. Right when I was ready to say, "Ok that's enough, lets reef", I looked over to our right and saw Phil and Dan had beat me to it. We followed suit right away and rounded up for a reef.

We eased the main and sheeted the mizzen in hard. Once head to wind, I pulled the rudder up as well. In higher winds we have trouble getting the boat head to wind for reefing with just the wind-vane effect of the mizzen perhaps due to the extra windage from the cabin. But with the rudder up the stern is free to swing around and the boat happily points into the wind. In this case one must take care when putting the rudder back down because your moving backward pretty fast so the rudder can get slammed hard over. I let the halyard down to the new position and slacked off on the snotter. We don't have jiffy reefing lines rigged so we have to manually insert the end of our sprit boom into the reefing clew strap. It took a couple of tries but we got it done. I went forward carefully to hook the downhaul in the new tack grommet and lash the forward reefing lines while dad tied the aft ones accessible from the cockpit. We readjusted the snotter and downhaul and were ready to go. Rudder down, main in, fall off, ease sheets and bear away.

Phil and Dan were already moving again when we got back on course and the boat felt easier and more stable with the reef. The change didn't hurt our speed though and when its past time to reef, it usually never does. We were still blasting down the swells on a plane no problem. We were pulling away from Phil and Dan and I was having trouble seeing them now. They were right behind us but the height of the swell made them only occasionally visible. We thought they must have put more than one reef in and maybe we should have done the same. I didn't really like not being able to see their lights. We had been surfing in pretty big conditions all evening but knowing that another boat was right alongside was comforting in case something bad did happen. Now it seemed we were both on our own and all the more reason for shortening sail.

The sky was crystal clear, calm and still in stark contrast to the wind and water below. The stars were out in force and I spent the next few hours steering by them. We started breaking up the distance to help us stay alert. "10 miles to Cape Sable, 5 degrees to port", dad would say, and I would shift my attention to the next bright star over. In this area the water is only about 8 feet deep but you would never guess it by the height of the swell. Incredible really, as we made the final turn around East Cape we squeezed through between the cape and the green '1A' marker. We saw a campfire on land in the darkness about 50 yards away and some flashlights jerked around in our direction. Probably not watertribers and we must have seemed like a ghost ship in the night to them. We traded the steep swells for the lumpy but flat shallow water of the sheltered bay and as soon as it calmed down we shook the reef in the main knowing that the 17 was close behind.

Dad said, "you should get some sleep, I can sail until we get to the channel", I had been at the helm practically since sunrise so I was tired but it didn't occur to me at the time that I was still ahead on sleep. I didn't argue though. in 2011 we both zonked in Florida Bay when we underestimated the crossing time and ended up rowing the last 1/4 of the bay in the wee hours in a zombie like state. We didn't want a repeat of that so I jumped in the cabin and fell immediately to sleep. I woke to dad saying "we're there" and I took back over. The wind was light and we were moving about 4 knots. I couldn't see the 17 behind us but I was sure they were there.

We turned up into the channel and immediately realized that we would have to tack to make it through. The wind was light and I held the tack as long as I could until we came to a silent stop as the centerboard hit the mud. Crap. We got going again on the other tack only to repeat the start stop maneuver a few more times. I looked back at the entrance to the channel knowing we should see them any minute and sure enough I spotted their nav lights. "There they are, coming into the channel, their right behind us!", I said. "Should I get out an oar" dad asked, "yeah", I said, "good idea", so with dad rowing on one side the added boat speed kept us going longer on that tack but again we stuck in the mud. Crap. The edges of the channel were impossible to anticipate and in the darkness, lining up the day markers to draw an imaginary line was a difficult task. They were definitely gaining on us. With dad rowing on one side and the boat stuck, we started spinning. "stop stop", i said "were just spinning around". "well, I can row on the other side" he replied as he switched oars. "yeah yeah good idea". That spun us back around and in no time we were headed back across the channel but I couldn't tack with him rowing on one side and we ended up in irons and this time backed up into the mud. Crap. "They're getting closer!", I said.  "I could row on both sides" dad said finally, and we laughed at our own stupidity. Maybe we were more tired than we thought. With both oars pulling, we easily, albeit slowly, climbed up the last half of the channel with just one more tack.

We sailed past the concrete wall and rowed through the narrow entrance into the Checkpoint. Ridgerunner was there to greet us and told us where the lockbox was. We were hoping to get in and out as fast as possible and since the Spot "OK" message is the official CP time, dad asked Ridgerunner, "Do we actually have to sign the logbook?...with a pen?". Meaning can we just use the Spot and stay in the boat. He replied, "Oh no, you can use a pencil." Dohh, it didn't really matter anyway since the Spot takes a few minutes to send the message so we signed the logbook anyway. If your Spot message fails, it's nice to be able to prove you were there anyway. Dad spoke to Ridgerunner briefly as I signed in and as soon as the Spot was done sending we were off again just after midnight.

We rowed back out and slid into the bay in the light following wind. Phil and Dan were just outside the entrance to the checkpoint and as we passed I think i said, "Man you guys are fast, good luck in the Bay". To which they replied, "You too, are you going across tonight?". "Yeah", I said. But that was all we could get across. We over analyzed the short exchange, were they not going across tonight? That hadn't really occurred to us since we never planned a stop and at this point I was pretty sure the class 4 record was within our grasp. We realized though that we had crossed the bay many times before and this was their first time. Our gps track of previous crossings combined with mental pictures made it possible for us to be confident navigating the channels in the dark. We quickly sailed out of Flamingo and turned east onto a reach. There was no sign of them leaving the CP so we assumed they were stopping. It was our race to lose.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

2013 Everglades Challenge: Cp1 to Cp2

Cape Haze Marina to Chocoloskee (CP 1 to CP 2)

Getting into Cape Haze was a bit easier than getting out. The narrow entrance that funneled us in moments ago was now a windy obstacle too narrow to tack through. In this situation our oars really prove their worth. We keep them in the oar sockets rotated forward laying on the side decks so we can easily deploy them. With dad on the oars we crawled our way out against the wind inch by inch until we could bear away south.

It was about 5 pm, decision time. Do we head back outside through Gasparilla Pass or continue southward through Pine Island Sound? There are pros and cons to each route and the sailboats must all decide. With a NW wind and following swell the outside route should be faster. Just look at the gains we made by staying outside to stump pass. But once south of Sanibel Island we would be left hanging offshore and would have to be prepared for a long offshore crossing to Marco Island. If the wind died, the lumpy sea and slow progress could bring on sea sickness and kill morale as we drift for hours or worse row for hours. If the wind changes direction we could be in for a difficult crossing far from any lee shore or smoother water. In 2012, my mom and I were forced back into Pine Island Sound in our Trimaran, the Mosquito, after trying to take the outside route with a fresh east wind. We enjoyed smooth water until we were deposited into the open gulf miles offshore. 

My dad and I have put more and more emphasis on sleeping during the EC since our first race. This year we decided to stay inside through Pine Island Sound, knowing that this route would be much smoother allow us get some sleep. Time of day was the biggest deciding factor. Had we arrived at Gasparilla Pass in the morning the outside route might have been a go. 

As we neared the Gasparilla Swing Bridge dad just finished boiling water for our two freeze dried Mountain House dinners in the jetboil stove and was just pouring a third batch of hot water into a thermos for hot drinks later on. We continued south wing on wing in the calm water and I rang the bridge tender inquiring about the opening schedule. He responded cheerfully, “Every 15 min until 6, then on demand.” It was 10 till 5:00 pm and I reported that we would be there for the 5 o’clock opening standing by. Hal Link, aka Iszatarock was right on our tail. Hal is no stranger to the EC having raced using the Chief’s old boat the Tridarka Raider in 2010 and 2011. This year he looked like a pro on his Mystere 4.3 catamaran and he rounded up with us as we waited for the bridge. The bridge opened on schedule and we sheeted in as soon as we saw it start to move. Hal led the way and we flew right through with a 50 foot pleasure boat on our heels. We tipped our hat to the old CP1 entrance at Grand Tours as we passed. “Sailboat Dawn Patrol is clear of the bridge, thank you for the opening.” “Copy captain, have a good evening.” 

We kept Hal in our sights for a while but on a deep reach he was quick to fall out of sight as the sun dimmed. At 6:30pm dad took the helm. I got out the head lamps, fleece hats and sailing gloves and we clicked on our navigation lights. I ate my dinner and was then ordered to get some sleep. You might ask; why didn’t one of you just sleep during the day and then that person would be good to go now? More easily said than done my friend. In our experience it just doesn't work in the first 12 hours. The combination of steady adrenaline, other boats usually within sight, and a general feeling of excitement conspire against you. The breeze was still up and I didn’t want to get in the cabin so I made a cushion bed on the cockpit sole and got some “rest” for a couple of hours, but never slept. I was getting cold so I pulled out the jetboil again, refilled the thermos, and made another round of hot chocolate. 

Finally, I got in the cabin and got some real sleep at about 10 pm. At 1 am I remember waking up and seeing a bridge over head. I grumbled, “Is that the bridge?” and drifted back to sleep. At 3 am dad woke me and I took over. He climbed in the cabin and was out like a light. The wind had steadily died and when I took the helm we were bobbing around in the right direction. We could keep up about 1.5 knots on a deep reach. Staying on the low side of the boat, I kept us on a reach pulling us toward the beach where I hoped we might find a little more breeze. I focused on the lights of the buildings on shore. They always seem so much closer than they really are. When I got cold I did a few pushups (a big boat is a luxury) and if my eyes started to get heavy I would sail standing up. 

The breeze slowly filled in and I was averaging around 3.5 knots when dad woke up just before sunrise. At this point we were making pretty good progress down the beach. We switched places again and I laid down for another couple of hours. That was the last real sleep my dad would get before the finish. This would explain why, when we arrived in Key Largo, I spent several hours cleaning and organizing the boat and dad used the last of his energy to drag himself to bed for some well deserved sleep.  

I took the helm again about 30 min out from Caxambus pass (or ‘Cats-in-a-bag’ pass as we like to call it). It was morning but still dark, overcast and starting to drizzle. It was a toss up as to whether or not Caxambus pass was actually faster than rounding the cape but it was a bit shorter. Once past the breakwater we sailed into the lee of the highrises and were forced to motor sail with the oars until we found some steady breeze. Once in the channel we were moving well and trying to stay warm. I wore a pair of neoprene gloves for most of the race but my feet were never warm. Dad wore so many hooded fleece layers that at one point he joked that when he turned his head to look to the side, all he saw was hood. 

We made the final turn and entered Gullivan Bay on a beam reach headed for Indian Key Pass. It was about 55F degrees and we were cold in the wind but the clouds finally broke letting sunlight pour through. Much to our misery however, our heading was such that we remained stuck in the cold shadow of our sails. 

This year we brought along an iPad to check the forecasts and browse the Watertribe mapper for surveillance purposes. It could also double as a navigational aid and we really enjoyed having it. I suggested to dad that we get an updated forecast and check on everyone else’s progress since we were about to be out of mobile range. He pulled up the mapper and after a few finger taps, announced that Sambasailor and Sailsalot appeared to be about three miles ahead of us. “What!?” I exclaimed. I’m not sure why I assumed we were still in the lead. Maybe because we hadn’t seen another boat all night. We later learned that they had taken the outside route after CP1 and sailed all night to round Cape Romano at dawn. Dan used the trapeze off their mizzen mast to help them shoot across to Indian Key close hauled with their jib up. 

With this new information I was awake and motivated instantly. Game on! Up with the spinnaker! Dad’s attitude was slightly more subdued, perhaps he was in disbelief or simply not awake yet. In any case, I hoisted the spinnaker and we beam reached across to Indian Key Pass with no signs of the Core Sound 17. We must have been just out of visual range. A few times we thought we saw them coming into view but each time we were fooled by another sail shaped channel marker. 

At this same time we noticed we were being followed and we eventually recognized the battened sail of a Hobie 16. Crazy Lugan and Heathen from Michigan were hot on our tail and they caught us up at Indian Key. We turned into the pass and waved to some spring breakers lounging in an canoe holding up a tarp sail. The Hobie 16 didn’t turn with us into the pass and looked like they were break. Odd, we thought as we tacked up the pass and out of sight. They had apparently lost their GPS and had to buy a replacement at West Marine mid race but with no programmed routes they weren’t sure if this was Indian Key pass. They must have found it though, because they arrived impressively in Key Largo a few days later. 

We tacked our way through Indian Key Pass with a favorable tide. I remembered the places where we got hung up in mangroves with the trimaran last year attempting the same feat under very different tidal conditions. We passed a group of kayakers out for a day paddle. They were enjoying the sunshine in T-shirts and rental life jackets. I tried to imagine what its like to only experience the Ten-thousand Islands for 3 hours at a time, must be nice. I think once your a watertriber you can never go back. At our prescribed waypoint we bore away at the top of Chokoloskee Bay and gybed the main over wing on wing. Dad raised the centerboard and I un-cleated the rudder downhaul and held it tight so as not to put on the brakes in case we had to squeeze over some skinny water. 

We saw Chokoloskee come into view and I squinted intently into the mid day sun hoping to see the CS 17 up ahead. Finally we spotted her dark sails on the mud bank at the check point. We watched Sambasailor and Sailsalot sail off around the corner and out of sight with about a 10 minute lead.  We came to a silent, sticky stop in the mud about 100 feet from shore. I could make out Whitecaps and a few others there to greet us. We had arrived at CP2 and there was not a moment to spare.  

Thursday, March 14, 2013

2013 Everglades Challenge Trip Report: Launch to CP1

A Few EC's Under our Keel:

When my dad and I launched our Core Sound 20 'dawn patrol' in the 2008 EC we were still screwing on hardware at the campground the night before the race. It would be her maiden voyage and due to the pedigree of the design we knew she would be well found. Not only did she see us to the finish in '08 but also our large backup tent, 8 or so gallons of water, many many... many pounds of food and a repair kit that basically consisted of all the tools we used to build her. This year was our fourth year in the watertribe everglades challenge and unlike previous years...we were ready. 

Our biggest asset on the boat was the addition of a small cuddy cabin during the build which we modeled after the cabin of the EC-22 design. A dry place to sleep is an incredible luxury but absolutely necessary for meaningful rest. After the 09 race we added an asymmetrical spinnaker and bowsprit to our boat which has vastly increased its downwind reaching and running ability. This was also a feature of the EC22 and has served us well.

Fast forward to 2013 and we anticipated a great race knowing that a great rival was being born in the team of Phil Garland of hall spars and Dan Neri of north sails who had been putting together a Core Sound 17 kit for this years race. Not just any CS17, this one was reportedly put together with carbon fiber tape instead of fiberglass, tricked out with the latest north sails tech and a larger sailplan, a super stiff carbon fiber rig that boasted a trapeze off the mizzen mast and a huge asymmetrical spinnaker and bowsprit. Oh...and a jib for better upwind work. 

We met Phil and Dan on the beach before the race but they were busily assembling their boat and no time for chit chat. We helped them get their brand spanking new boat off their trailer with its glossy untarnished bottom and sparkling baby blue paint job. We tried to convince them that it would be good to wet-sand the hull prior to the race and that we should just drag it down the beach. They laughed. We helped them carry it.  

Launch to CP1:

The EC start is always a sight to behold. This is perhaps the first year we were actually able to witness it. That may seem strange but with just an hour or 2 from waking up in the campground (when the race really begins) you've got to pack up your tent, park your car in long term parking, get to the beach, hoist the sails, hit the head, load the boat with the last of your gear, pump up the boat rollers, attend roll call, pose for a group photo and oh yeah try to eat some breakfast. Also, its still dark during all of that so headlamps on. By the time the sun comes up its 10 minutes to launch and everyone is running around with headlamps on the beach like ghost crabs fiddling with gear and spectators are sleepily gathering behind to watch the spectacle. There has never been any 7am starting gun that I could hear, we just wait until we see the kayakers in the water and GO. 

It was a no wind launch and we didn't have any trouble getting the boat down the rollers and into the water. We gained an early lead on many of the class 4 boats (sailboats) thanks to our long oars expertly manned by my dad. The breeze soon filled in light from the NE and we didn't waste any time putting up the spinnaker. We were able to hold off Phil and Dan aka Sambasailor and Sailsalot in their 17 across Tampa bay as we played follow the leader through the narrow passage in the smoother water behind Passage key. There were many boats around us but we were in full race mode and it was the 17 in our rear view. With just their jib up we were holding them off downwind but it seemed like I turned my head just for a moment and when I looked back again they were flying what appeared to be the spinnaker off of an 18foot skiff. It was a massive sail and our hearts sank as we sized up the new threat. Dark clouds quickly rolled in and with them a cold drizzle added to mood.

The wind was now light from the NW as we entered the gulf and they came ever closer. We gybed leaving them behind but they soon caught us back up. The wind backed to the SE for a time and we found ourselves close hauled. We even flew our mizzen staysail off the bowsprit in an attempt to keep them in striking distance but they drifted ahead. We were hugging the coast but they had the inside and seemed in a better position. A line of far out breakers north of longboat pass was our next obstacle and following Phil and Dan about 50 yards back, we watched them sail through a few waves without incident. We changed course a bit to go farther around not giving the cresting rollers much more thought. While checking the GPS two rollers combined into a freak crest headed right for our starboard gunwale I had only enough time to say "hold on" as the small mountain of water lifted and then dropped our rail depositing about a foot of water in our cockpit and yawing the boat hard enough that I fell off my seat and landed first on the tiller extension, bending it in half, and then in the cockpit turned bathtub. It was an all around embarrassing event especially in the light air. We had the cockpit dry in a few minutes of bailing and I was able to bend our telescoping battle stick back into a functioning tolerance. "Don't do that again," my dad said as he retuned to navigating. I was kicking myself for not having the GoPro running. We got back underway and continued the chase.

Wing on wing now charging down the coast we finally received the steady NW winds around 10-15 that were forecast and we began to reel the 17 in slowly with our bigger sailplan. We had a great time surfing the swells down the coast lounging against the transom and playing with the gopro camera. we gave appropriate offing around Sarasota point and we were finally neck and neck taking back the inside about an hour north of Venice inlet and passed them before quickly being passed again. The boats were very closely matched for speed running in the 3-4 foot rollers. As we approached Venice inlet we speculated that they might take the chance to switch to flat water. We made the final mental commitment to stump pass a further 17nm south and of course the wind and swell picked up We were surfing more and the swell was shorter and steeper. As soon as we watched them make the turn into Venice we headed up and put the first reef in the main. Two more hours of fast surfing followed and we caught up to a Hobie Getaway sailed by Coastie and ClamCounter and passed them as we approached the much revered stump pass. We carefully lined up the entrance markers to the pass and gybed over onto a reach which became a beat as we approached the middle of the pass. At one point in the pass the breaking chop coming off the sandbar to the north swept over the channel and knocked us around a bit but nothing compared to our earlier encounter with the instant bathtub. We left 3 tacks in our wake and in we went. Inside I immediately looked north half expecting to see the 17 charging down the waterway but to our relief we appeared to have gained on them. The Getaway actually beat us into the pass using a unique tactic known as, "plow right over the sandbar and emerge unscathed on the other side," also known as a long shot. It worked out great for them and allowed them to avoid tacking through breaking swells. We were impressed.

Once in the waterway we did some housekeeping and lost some of our warm layers. The late afternoon sun dried off our jackets and we cruised the 3 miles down to the entrance to Cape Haze marina right behind the Getaway. The entrance to the new CP1 was very narrow but well marked and we proceeded to make an immediate right hand turn once inside the marina. Luckily someone was there to tell us we were going the wrong way as we proceeded past expensive boats to a dead end. We did an about face and with some help from the oars got around the dock to the correct dead end where a dock full of helpful friends waited for us. I held the boat and my dad hit the OK button on the SPOT tracker which would transmit our time to the watertribe website and register us as officially at the checkpoint. He signed the logbook and we didn't waste and time getting right back in the boat. Not more than 5 minutes and we were off again. Later we remembered there was hot soup at the CP and realized we had completely forgotten to fill our thermos. In hindsight we were focused on one thing only, moving down the coast.  

Pictures and Video forthcoming....
Stay tuned for part 2. 

Cool Kite Aerial Video ...
A video of the start this year...
Another start video and tail end of roll call...
A pre dawn Beach Walk....

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Tons of video

The EC is over and the blogging will begin. I have tons of video and pictures from the race this year thanks to my new gopro which worked great. We created nearly 40GB of video in the 2 days we were sailing and another 40 of pictures and video in the week that followed of other racers finishing and some great video of many racers out on florida bay.

My dad and I are on cloud 9 with our finish this year. This was our 4th EC on our Core Sound 20, Dawn Patrol and we are very thankful that some great downwind weather and the best competition we've ever sailed against combined this year for a very memorable race.

I just can't tell you how much we enjoyed sailing with Phil Garland and Dan Neri (SambaSailor and Sailsalot) on their Core Sound 17. We may have eeked out a win but they were on our toes the whole time without even trying. I hope they come back for more next year.

As you may know, we broke our main mast aboat 8 miles from the finish which didn't slow us down too much since we had plenty of wind and the CS20 sails just fine upwind under mizzen alone with a little extra work on the tiller. But sadly it kept us from sailing around after the race and now we've got to build a new mast. Work on a boat is never finished. I'll be starting a race report with pictures and video so stay tuned in the days that follow.

Wednesday, March 06, 2013