Tuesday, 27 November 2012

The Quarterly Report

Having spent most of my career as an international civil servant, I can still write quarterly reports in my sleep. (Some of my best work was done that way.)  In a fit of nostalgia, I decided to drag out my U.N. reporting language and results-based management training to give you this update on our first 3 months of sailing Spray.

Title:                                              The Spray Project
RESPONSIBLE OFFICER:              Me
FUND CENTER:                              Him

Expected Results:  World peace promoted through travel-induced education and culture at the individual level.

Implementation strategy:  Buy a boat and sail it around the world.

I.  Identification of needs:  Education and cultural awareness promoted through travel is a proven method for facilitating world peace.  Implemented at the individual level, this process is a cost-effective way of building community networks that can foster synergies at national and global levels.

II.  Modalities of action:  Buy a boat, learn how to maintain it, learn how to sail it short-handed, gain experience in a protected environment, gradually expand range and conditions of sailing, sail around Europe and the Mediterranean, begin world tour.

Performance indicators: (method of verification = self-reporting):
  1. Days at sea this quarter:  28 days out of 92 = 30% 
  2. Miles logged:  difficult to determine as speedo was not calibrated until early October and only discovered later that this information could be obtained from the main GPS unit (which also sometimes doesn’t work). 
  3. Short-handed sailing manoeuvres mastered :
    • Hoisting and furling sails (10/10)
    • Tacking (9/10):  Genoa lines get snagged on railings, shrouds, etc.  Rollers not yet in place.
    • Jibing (9/10): Not 100% smooth on all occasions with only 1 person handling both the main and headsails.
    • Reefing the main (8/10): Sticky automatic reefing system not fully mastered yet.
    • Changing the headsails (10/10).
    • Hoisting the Spinnaker (0/10, see knowledge gaps). 
    • Port manoeuvres (7/10):  Needs improvement, taking into account wind conditions and best order for fixing lines in given conditions and port configurations.
    • Mooring buoy manoeuvres (10/10).
    • Anchoring (9/10):  More experience needed for choosing the most comfortable site given wind and swell conditions, horizontal area and water depth available, and length of chain.
  4. Environmental Conditions Encountered:  dead calm on several occasions, several moderate squalls of up to 25 knot gusts with heavy rain and 2 meter swells, one major squall with 37 knot gusts, heavy rain and 3 meter swells.  Several occasions of fog, one in total white-out conditions for several hours while sailing close to a labyrinth of rocks.
  5. Navigation Range / Places visited:  Hoedic Island (Port), Houat Island, Belle Ile (Ports and Moorings), Groix (Port), Port Haliguen, Port Crouesty, Auray River.  Ports = 55%, Moorings and Anchorages = 45%. Longest sail = 8 days.
  6. Maintenance techniques mastered (9/10):  see Annex 1 (Maintenance Log).  Most maintenance, repairs and installations performed without outside professional help.

Knowledge gaps
  1. The auto-pilot, very important for short-handed sailing, is still temperamental and thoroughly untrustworthy.  I recently removed the spare 12 kg anchor from the cockpit locker that was perhaps too close to the auto-pilot compass flux-gate, which seems to have reduced its schizophrenic tendencies.  We need to put the pilot through the “automatic learning procedure” described in the manual, and then manually set various features to optimize performance.  We also need to replace the 2nd ball joint under the steering column to reduce play in the tiller, which should also improve pilot performance.
  2. Hoisting the spinnaker has been put on hold until the auto-pilot is able to assist.
Next quarter goals
  1. Repairs and Upgrades for next quarter:  fix the lazy-bag support on the boom, replace plexiglass on portholes, investigate leak in the exhaust system waterlock, add waste water holding tank, change 2nd ball joint under steering column, fix rollers on lifelines to facilitate passage of Genoa, add coconut fiber / latex mattress support to aft cabin to reduce humidity, figure out why AIS system is not recognized by MaxSea navigation software.
  2. Winter training, sailing in colder / wetter / rougher conditions.  Expand range of navigation if weather permits.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Back to Basics

Less than 6 hours after leaving our mooring buoy in the Auray river, we were back to basic sailing:  no GPS, no computer with navigation software, and no toilet. 

The GPS has been having difficulties for a few weeks.  I suspect a bad connection that seems to be curiously affected by the cold and/or humidity.  We managed to get it operational after opening the back panel and blindly jiggling some wires, but it still takes about 20 minutes for it to warm up (?) and get a satellite fix. The computer we took out this week was a back-up computer that, we discovered, didn’t have an appropriate driver for the small mobile GPS.  And the toilet had been showing some early signs of a leaking seal in the hand pump and finally decided the time was right to break down completely.  Fortunately, we could still evacuate the toilet, so we just had to keep a bucket of seawater handy for flushing.

But the good news about getting back to basics is remembering how to navigate without gadgets.  In an area we knew fairly well, with reasonable visibility, and with good charts, a compass, and plotting tools, I had great fun navigating the old-fashioned way.  After a day in port with an internet connection, we managed to download the driver for the computer GPS, but I found that I actually preferred to use the main GPS and charts instead.

The rest of the week was full of lessons and adventures as follows:

We pulled into the lock basin at the port of Le Palais on Belle Ile (a first for us) and were promptly greeted by Gerard, our sailing friend from Vannes introduced in last week’s blog, who was out for a few days with another Vannes sailor, Gilles, a retired French Army colonel. 

Spray double-parked in the lock basin of Le Palais, Belle Ile en Mer.

We spent a lovely evening on board Gerard’s motor cruiser, dining on “French individual reheatable combat rations” provided by Colonel Gilles.  Gilles said our boat was a jewel and he appreciates good Kentucky Bourbon - I liked him immediately.

We rented bikes and toured Belle Ile with Gerard and Gilles, including Port Goulphar with its light house, Port Coton with its famous Needle Rocks immortalized by numerous impressionist painters, and Port Donnant with its large sand beach.

Goulphar Lighthouse, Belle Ile.

Gerard points out the good mooring spots to Patrick at Goulphar.

The Needle Rocks, Port Coton, Belle Ile en Mer.

Patrick: "I want to moor Spray HERE."

The beach at Port Donnant.

Turquoise water amongst the rocks on Donnat Beach.

We got a useful lesson in boat heating and humidity control (not to mention comfort) from Gerard and as a consequence we will soon be purchasing both a small electric fan heater and an electric oil-bath radiator for use in ports during the winter.  

We left the port at Le Palais to head to the island of Groix but light winds inspired us to spend another night on Belle Ile at the port of Sauzon in hopes of better winds the following day.

Our wish was granted to excess:  we left Sauzon for Groix with lovely force 4 (15 knot winds), growing to a bracing force 5 on a close reach (i.e, 20 knots in the nose), strengthening to 6 with gusts to 8 (37 knots) and 3 meter seas underneath the 3 successive squalls that hit us.  A crossing to remember.

Double rainbow after passage of one of the squalls.  Small compensation...

We learned that we need to close the cabin and head doors when faced with 3 meter swells.  The hinges suffered badly.

We rented bikes and visited the island of Groix and its wild south coast.

South coast of Groix.

We learned that we need to revise our estimates of boat speed for a given wind speed.  Spray is much faster than we’re used to and we can get 6-7 knots out of 10-12 knots of wind (especially if we calculate the currents just right…).

Our only companion on the water that day:  a Sinagot, the traditional fishing vessel of the Gulf.