Wednesday, 29 May 2013

3s and 8s

Threes and eights look a lot alike, especially when there’s a hole-punch over the number on a sticker telling you when your life raft is due for a revision and inspection.  I thought it was an 8 (August) and decided we should go ahead and send it for its 3 year check up before we head out this summer - ya know… to be ahead of the game.  It was, in fact, a 3 (March) and we have been sailing offshore with a expired inspection sticker for 2 months.  It’s still not clear to me what the penalty for that might be for sailboats, but one article we read suggested that the fine could be around $1000.  Anyhoo… sent the life raft to the shop and they tell us it will be ready before we head on out 16 June.  No offshore sailing for us until then.

In the meantime, we also realized that somewhere along the way our radar reflector tube jumped overboard.  That’s not too expensive to replace but it means yet another trip up the pole.  The weather also finally got above 15 C (barely) so I put 2 coats of anti-condensation paint in the 2 cabins.  So far, so good – a noticeable difference with the areas not painted.  And we painted the anchor to prevent it from leaving rust stains all over the deck.  We need to add a 2nd coat, but will have to wait for drier weather.

Downpours, but at least without sleet for the return leg.

 We just returned from a very wet and blustery trip to Crouesty to get the refrigerator repaired.  During a gale-force gust with sleet on the way there (well of course it wasn’t forecast… they issued a special weather bulletin 15 minutes before we pulled out of port, and we always think we’re protected in the gulf and never listen to these anyway), our anemometer decided it was time to have a meltdown (or freeze up?).  After it dried out a bit, it seemed to be giving more reasonable results, but another bout of rain on the way home today sent it right around the bend again.  We’ll check all the simple things we can do ourselves, but it’s going to be difficult to find an electrician who deals in that type of anemometer and can test a head unit with our cables to identify where the problem is.  I’m all for doing without, myself.  I know where the wind is coming from and if the boat is healed over more than 25 degrees, it’s time to reduce sail, right?… what more do I need ?

During the rain and gusts, we discovered a great little hideaway behind one of the islands in the Gulf (Long Island, it's pretentiously called).  The water there is too deep for us to anchor but there were some moorings that were available and we nabbed one, following the strong recommendations of a neighbouring sailor in Crouesty who heard of our plans to pick up a mooring ball in another part of the Gulf.  We’re buying that man a drink the next time we see him.  The mooring was dead calm … not even the slightest chop slapping up against the hull during the night, which was a pretty impressive feat given that the winds were still gusty and we are in the period of strong tidal coefficient. 

Tucked away behind Long Island while the gales pass north.

Did I mention that we were barrelling down the Gulf at 9 knots SIDEWAYS on the way to Crouesty ?  (Tidal coefficient 97 out of 120 in an area with some of the strongest currents in Europe.)  Short-tacking across such a conveyor belt is no fun (or, rather, it could be fun in a smaller boat where you are not the owner.)  At one point, to keep wind in the head sail, I realized I would have to turn the boat backwards, so we just rolled it up and managed with the main sail (with 2 reefs). 

Now we’re home for awhile getting some work done on the house (yes, things fall apart with a house, too). The weather forecasters are saying that it’s going to be a cool, wet summer here.  We have (jokingly?) discussed putting the boat in dry dock and heading off to Morocco instead…

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Spring Cruise Report

After a rough and delayed start, we sailed off for our first big cruise on Spray on 3 May.  It was a cruise of firsts and of confidence building, which was sorely needed after a crushing winter and an endless string of repairs. 

Cruise Map
Total distance: 200 nautical miles, longest leg: 40 nM.  (Yes, we took our time…).

Down (red) and Back (blue) ... not the actual route but you get the idea.  Port stops in Houat Island, Piriac, Pornichet, Pornic, Noirmoutier Island, Yeu Island, Crouesty, and Berder Island.


Accomplishments:

Spent 13 days at sea, alone together. Happily !

Escaped the protected confines of the Quiberon Bay, visited some beautiful cruising areas and made it to our target destination of Ile d’Yeu.










Sailed an offshore passage > 15 nautical miles from land / harbour and out of sight of land  (okay, that’s happened before because of fog, but that doesn’t count.) 

Crossed the Loire River Estuary cargo channel, twice.  We scanned the horizon like two nervous meerkats, looking for cargo ships ready to barrel down on us. Thankfully, they were all at anchor in the waiting zone.

Got the AIS working (although it’s still quite finicky.)

Passing behind the cargos: reality to the left, AIS screen to the right (note: Red =  Spray and Blue = Cargos at anchor.  Not to scale !)
Entered 5 ports we’ve never visited with Spray, including one with a somewhat confusing swing gate.

The Piriac swing gate (a barrier to keep the water in the port at low tide.)  You can see the top of the gate just appearing.

Perfected our reefing techniques (because we had to with changing weather conditions).  One day of squalls, one half-day of dead calm, two days of gales.

Managed food and cooking on boat for 2 weeks successfully (only 3 restaurant stops). 

Tested our new folding bikes.  They take up a lot of space on the boat but we appreciated having them for shore visits.

Bikes and laundry drying under the pareo ... boat vacation !

Things that broke:

The refrigerator is dead.  It was on its last legs but we had hoped to keep poking it along for awhile longer. 

The wire cable of the boom vang jumped off its roller in the pulley attached to the boom and got wedged down between the roller and the side of the pulley.  It was easily put back in place but a few wires are now broken and bent.  The ship chandler told us that no one uses these wire cables anymore and suggested we replace it with textile (spectra). 

Boom vang pulley and cable ... to be replaced with spectra.

And we still have to resolve the stanchion and life line problem.

Incivilities:

We were plagued this cruise by several mysterious “incivilities.”  Before we left home port, we filled the refrigerator and plugged into shore power for a couple of hours while we made our final trips back and forth between boat and house.  When we returned, someone had unplugged our shore power cable and thrown it in the water !  It’s hard to imagine how it could be an accident.  We rinsed the cable thoroughly with fresh water and dried it as best we could.

We noticed that a spinnaker pulley has been stolen sometime in the last few weeks. 

And the most bizarre:  in one of the ports we visited, someone unscrewed the metal cap to our heating system exhaust pipe and left the cap sitting on the deck.  ???  Did they think it was the gas tank ?  We’re just thankful the cap didn’t end up in the water. 

  
On the whole:

It was a great experience and we were in no hurry to get home.  The cruise also gave us confidence for heading off for 2-3 months this summer.  But Patrick has begun asking himself if the enjoyment he gets from the boat is enough to compensate the stress and costs.  (My answer is, of course, YES, but then again, I’m not paying the bills.)  Time will tell…


Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Parting Gift

Surely you didn’t think we could just sail away without incident? 

The stanchion after being rammed by a visiting boat.

A visiting sailor was surprised by a strong gust of wind as he tried to pull into the slip next to Spray.  His bow snagged one of our port-side stanchions and evidently gave it a pretty good shove before getting free.  Fortunately for us, he was honest about it and left all his coordinates with the harbour master.  

Life line took a bit of a beating as well.

This, coupled with bad weather and bad health have delayed our departure for a few days.  We made all the declarations with the insurance company, but it will take quite awhile before the local boatyard is free to assess the repair costs.  In the meantime, it’s nothing that will keep us from sailing.  No real harm done, but not a great way to start a trip.