Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Rigger's Apprentice

Brion Toss was in Seattle last January for the Seattle Boat Show. I had contacted him earlier, through his great website, about doing a rig survey and he got back to me just before the boat show and said he would come by while he was in town.

He was spewing information much faster than I could take notes - touching everything and recounting experiences with this or that piece of gear, pointing out how this could be re-routed slightly for easier use, noticing that this or that part has been recalled by the manufacturer and could be replaced for free, on and on.

Much to my delight he did spend a fair amount of time pointing out and admiring C&C's engineering and build quality. I wish I could have plied him with whisky and tobacco and kept him there all day.

He didn't go up the mast nor did he disassemble anything. He did look at all fittings accessible from the deck including blocks, winches, boom, gooseneck, and the chainplates. I took up the floorboards and he inspected the mast all the way into the bilge and also looked closely at the collar and the step. From the cabin he closely examined the chainplates and the tie-bars.

Re-heading the rod-ends was something he mentioned. I don't have any information if it was ever done before by any previous owner. He observed that there was probably enough space on the turnbuckle screws to allow the existing rods to be re-headed without replacement but he was going to do a quote for both re-heading and replacement. He said that, while racing is hard on the rod, the Pacific Northwest climate is much easier on it than other areas - almost no freezing and plenty of rain to wash the salt out.

He also pointed out that the bronze Navtec turnbuckle screws are pretty resistant to galling. The hull surveyor stated that the screws needed replacement every 10 years but Mr. Toss said that they rarely had problems with the bronze screws. He thought maybe the hull surveyor had experience with the stainless units.

After meeting Mr. Toss I went out and bought his book The Rigger's Apprentice. It is slightly mis-named because it is full of information about how to do most things boating-related The Right Way. It takes over where Hervey Garrett Smith's The Arts of the Sailor leaves off.

Among other things such as the proper procedures for going aloft, it contains a lot of information related to ropes and rope-work. It applies that information to many aspects of boating. It is new enough to cover modern, high-tech lines and is relevant to both racers and cruisers, modern and tradional craft.

It was an honor to have Mr. Toss aboard my boat. He deserves his good reputation, respect, and is a nice guy.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Clean Fuel

I recently made up a rig consisting of a 2' length of copper tubing, some 1/4" clear hose, and a priming bulb normally used on the hose between outboard motors and their gas tanks. I've seen this mentioned in other texts.

The fuel tank on Scamper was built with several threaded connectors on it's top, two are in use - one for the engine and one for the Espar heater (plus the returns ). There are two extras that have caps on them. I removed one of the caps and put the copper tubing in there and pumped out a half gallon or so. I kept moving the tubing around and it picked up an alarming amount of black fuel. I did this until the fuel consistently came out clean.


Got a new OrcaGear jacket from AhoyCaptain.com (those are really good folks). It isn't exactly like I though it would be, a little warmer, a little softer, a little lighter material, but it's made pretty well and I'm happy with it. It isn't quite the same material as regular foul weather gear, it is a little lighter like a heavy windbreaker, but I think that makes it more comfortable. I haven't worn it in the rain yet but it was nice and cozy in the big breezes we've been having.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Dinghies and Outboards

Over the years I've had several dinghies. My first, when I lived in Texas, was a nine foot Boston Whaler Squall. That's a pretty good boat but it is way to heavy for a dinghy. After we moved to the Pacific Northwest we bought a traditional eight foot dinghy with all the sailing hardware.

With good oars and a good boat rowing is a very good way to go for pure dinghy functionality, that is, getting ashore, a little exploring, rowing out the anchor, etc. In the San Juans there are enough situations where your anchorage is within a couple miles of several really interesting things. We longed for a fast dinghy and considered a 11' Whaler with a good-sized outboard.

We never did get the Whaler but when we bought the powerboat it had an eight foot Livingston. That's a catamaran-style fiberglass boat. Somewhat more stable than a traditional dinghy but it doesn't row very well. Its in between a solid dinghy and an inflatable.

We sold the Livingston and got a ten foot Avon with an inflatable floor. It could certainly hold more than a traditional dinghy and was a lot more stable. Forget about rowing. A 5hp outboard would plane it with a light load but, all in all, I really didn't like the inflatable floor.

I also picked up a really small Achilles "donut boat" several years ago. It is easy to row but you don't go far with any one stroke. I powered it with a 1.2 hp Tanaka outboard and that made for a really lightweight, compact setup for one or two riders at a time.

We let the big Avon go with the powerboat so I looked around and bought a Mercury RIB. It is the right combination of price, size, and durability for the way we'll use a dinghy. I plan to power it with a late-'80s 5hp Mariner that has been giving really good service through the years.

Since the kids are older we plan on this dinghy being somewhat of an entertainment device. Not powerful enough for skiing, obviously, but the kids really love to go out on their own exploring or making trips to the store for goodies.

I also picked up a British Seagull Featherweight model (2hp) from the British Seagull Shop a couple years ago. I used it on a little 16' sailboat I had briefly. That's a great engine and the folks at the British Seagull Shop provide very personalized service. Even though that engine is quite a bit heavier than the Tanaka I think it will make a great combination with the little Achilles. If I can find suitable stowage on Scamper I will keep the Achilles and the Seagull on board all the time and only use the bigger RIB for longer cruises.

Monday, March 21, 2005


I put three SPM tiles from Sailor's Solutions on the board that makes up the back of the companionway ladder which is also the front of the engine compartment. The racket from the 3GM is way down, especially the mid-range rattle.

I bought the 6-panel kit and used three on the ladder and one on the overhead. They were really easy to cut and install. I cut them with a sharp rigging knife and cleaned the surface with a diluted mixture of dish soap. So far so good.

I have two panels left that I'll use on the port side of the engine compartment, between the engine compartment and quarter berth.

There are still a lot of things on the boat that rattle under power. Everything on the stove and in the oven, the propane bottles in the cockpit, etc. The previous owner "solved" this problem by stuffing open cell foam everywhere. Of course, when I got the boat, there were soggy sponges all over the place. I filled up a big garbage bag with wet foam the first night on the boat. What a mess.

Making Music Onboard

On our old powerboat I kept a Martin Backpacker hanging in the passageway to the v-berth. It hung there (and got played) for 15 years or so and is none the worse for wear. Strings got changed in the spring, like just another fitting-out task.

I kept a Baby Taylor in an SKB case on the catboat for a couple of years and have moved that guitar to the C&C. The guitar stayed in its case on the catboat and I was doing that on the C&C too. The C&C has some nice shelves outboard of the settees and the case fit there. It was handy and could be opened in-place.

Yesterday, I tied a peice of small-stuff to the tuning keys and hung the guitar on the coat hook on the main bulkhead. That allows me to grab the guitar for a quick flail much easier. That kind of playing is probably the most beneficial for developing new ideas. Much better than formal, sit down practice sessions. I'll have to deal with stowing the case, maybe even take it off the boat.

I also have two battery-powered amps that I have considered taking on board - a Crate Taxi and a Roland Micro-Cube. With the availablity of low-cost and efficient, small inverters it's probably not necessary to look for a battery powered amp, though I doubt if you could power your Twin very long from a battery bank!

I just saw the JamPlug FM and would consider that for electric guitar but an acoustic guitar seems to fit much better on the boat. I could also get a little mixer, run that through one of those FM transmitters into the boat's radio/CD player and let everyone plug into that.

I've thought about having a bass, harmonica, and conga player out to the boat for a acoustic jam. If the bassist brought his bass guitar, not the standup, I think we could all fit. That would be a pretty great summer evening activity. Keep the marina entertained or anchor off a local waterfront restaurant.


Really windy from the SE yesterday (Sunday). My hand-held Davis Wind Meter showed 25 knots from the foredeck in the marina. It would be cool to use the masthead windspeed instrument but that has been frozen since I first saw the boat. One of the reasons I ordered the ATN Mast Climber.

Went around to all of the rigging reachable from deck and hit it with a wire brush and some Boeshield. Nothing too bad and everything cleaned up really well.

The lifelines still aren't tight enough to pass an ORC inspection. I can't believe that there is no way to tighten them - no turnbuckle from the bow rail to the boarding gates. It looks like I can shorten the wire in the gates a bit and I might try that. The outer plastic coating is worn in some spots but there are no meat-hooks so I really wouldn't need to replace them for a while. On the other hand it's a shame to re-do these old ones with turnbuckles etc.

Found out that the steaming light at the front of the mast, called bow light on the electrical panel, doesn't come on unless the running lights are also on. Makes sense but I though the bulb was burned out.

Sunday, March 20, 2005


I installed a Weems & Plath electronic recording barometer. So far (24 hours) it's agreeing with NOAA. It's also predicting bad weather.

Several Items Today

Raining and wet.

One of the cabin reading reading lights just fell apart in my hand when I adjusted it so I replaced both fixtures in the main saloon with the little brass "Xenon" units from West Marine. They look good and put out a lot more light. Perhaps I'll replace the other three old fixtures.

Picked up a "tablet" DVD player off of eBay and mounted it in the main cabin with a RAM mount from West Marine. Takes up little space, always set up ready to use, visible from most of the main cabin. This is first rate.

Discovered that if I push air into the forward bilge area, through the v-berth step, using a fan-powered dehumidifier, that air circulates throughout the lockers. This is great news for keeping those lockers dry. I tried pumping heated air through those spaces using the little space heater on high but it blew the shorepower breaker. I'll just leave well-enough alone and use the dehumidifier.

Really want to get out sailing.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Going Up the Mast

The windspeed sensor at the top of the mast is frozen. Hopefully it just needs service. I also want to go up the mast and install LED bulbs in some of the lights up there.

I bought a webbing ladder on eBay but it didn't get me up there. You need stout shoes for that job but stout shoes make it hard to get your feet back into the loops on the way down. I put it back on eBay and it sold immediately.

The Prime-Climb mast ladder looks good but it requires a square sail track. Scamper's is round, as in a bolt-rope could go in there. The guy I talked to at Prime-Climb was very nice and quite helpful.

I know all the pro riggers use a bosun's chair with a tackle and I came pretty close to making the huge investment in line and blocks for a rig like this. I was going to use a six-part setup but that required close to 250' of line. Ouch.

I broke down and ordered an ATN Top Climber from Defender. Should be here next week.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Acquiring Scamper

When I first moved to the Pacific Northwest in 1983 we bought a 15' Montgomery sailboat. My wife, Beth, and I sailed that boat for a couple of years culminating in a week in the San Juans. We came back to Seattle and immediately traded it for a 25' sailboat. We kept that for about two years but as children started coming along we needed something bigger.

Having never tried powerboating our "family boat" became a 28' Bayliner. We ended up keeping that boat for 18 years, most of that time moored in Friday Harbor. The kids became pretty attached to it and it was hard to let it go. The reality was that the kids were growing up and had plenty of their own pursuits, gas is pretty expensive, and, when it's for me, I really want to sail.

To satisfy the desire for sailing I picked up a 1975 Marshall 22 catboat and kept it in Tacoma, near the house. That's a pretty great boat but owning two boats with upkeep and expenses for moorage, hauling, maintenance, insurance, etc. was too much. I decided to consolidate.

I found Scamper, a 1981 C&C 34, on YachtWorld back in October of 2004. I made the two hour drive from Tacoma and decided she was exactly what I was looking for so I began the task of selling the Marshall and the Bayliner, and then purchasing the C&C.

It didn't work out exactly that way. The Marshall sold almost immediately. I put an ad everywhere on the internet that was free and then in 48 North. Before the 48 North ad came out I got a call from a great guy in Olympia who was looking for a traditional catboat. He and his wife came out, looked the boat over, and bought it on the spot. I left that meeting and drove straight to Anacortes to look over the C&C. The Bayliner needed work and I decided to wait until closer to spring to sell it.

Judging by its condition, the C&C had been neglected for at least six months. The previous owner just wasn't as interested in sailing as he had thought. According to the broker he raced a bit but there was no evidence of any cruising gear or activity. Plenty of dirt and moisture everywhere. This didn't look too good for the balsa-cored hull.

Fred West at West Yachts was pretty helpful with the long distance aspect of buying a boat but I don't think brokers, in general, have caught on to this Internet thing yet. We arranged for a hull survey and a separate engine survey.

Before I went up to take posession, North Island Boat Works in Anacortes did a pretty good engine survey. They knew the circumstances of me taking this strange boat for a two-day trip home with lots of motoring likely. In addition to a condition survey of the engine they replaced the fuel filters, the water pump, both batteries, the belts, and checked the injectors. The biggest problem with the boat was that it sat idle so there was plenty of deterioration, etc. Everything turned out okay and the engine seems pretty healthy so far. The engine has pretty high hours (2,100). Most folks I've talked to say that the Yanmar 3GM should go 5,000 hours or more.

The boat has no "systems", no pressure water, no water heater, and that is a plus to me. A hot shower would be nice but I put a drain in the head's pan and can run a sun shower's hose through the vent.

Turned out the easiest way to get up to Anacortes to pick the boat up was to get a cheap rental car. Both the bus and train were in the $30 neighborhood, one way, and that wouldn't allow me to take any gear. I wanted to take a minimal amount of my own gear since the boat was pretty empty and was also rather old and unknown. My 13 year old son came along as deckhand and found the trip a great way to sleep in and watch DVDs.

The trip home went well. It rained most of the time but we had a nice sail across Juan de Fuca to Port Townsend. We got up early in Port Townsend and, with no wind, motored 11 hours to Tacoma. Last August, I made this same trip in the Bayliner in under 4 hours. Used a lot more gas though.