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Mainly, over the winter

Drooping fenders Photoshopped out to avoid bruising the eyes of the (c) Jeff Cooper

When I last discussed the topic of Alchemy's main, we had yet to actually sail with it. Well, now we have, and we and our sailmaker (Ron Fernandes of Triton Sails) have judged it's worthy to keep as a spare. In the meantime, as previously mentioned, it's been taken to Mississauga to act as a template for a new, 9.5 ounce, roachier, heavier-built new main.
It's only laid out on a floor that the curve of the luff and the "belly" of the sail are apparent.
I have the Tides Marine measuring kit and will order that gear shortly with American dollars put aside for such things. Ron concurs that it's a good choice for offshore, combined, of course, with mainsail lazyjacks to "tame" the now-reliably plummeting main. The combination of a main designed to be loose-footed, but with full battens (chafe-resistant patches in the right places) and tripled, UV-resistant stitching and reinforced grommets seems to be the way to go.
The little bits of line are called "reefing points" and allow an orderly capture of the unused folds, or "bunt" of a reefed-down sail.
The actual location of the reef points, which can be thought of as "gears on a sail" as they act to reduce sail area and therefore the ability of the wind to drive the boat, is still to be discussed. I favour a deep first and second reef for Alchemy, based on the her rather high S/AD ratio, i.e. she likes a good breeze to get going, although she will move in the light stuff, and this attitude is premised on a full hoist into the low 20-knots apparent wind range, but a deep first reef in order to take gusts to 30. The second reef could leave as little as 40% of the main's area still in play, or as John Harries puts it "the third reef". The question whether or not to use a storm trysail is still an open one, as of yet. I want to deliberately sail Alchemy in crappy, if transient, heavy weather here on Lake Ontario (if I can find it, and I seem to have that knack, alas) to see if even a fully reefed new main is too much when we intend to keep actively sailing, instead of hoving to. So more research and opinion-culling is called for, and I will be discussing in January my conclusions with our sailmaker, who is a genial fellow and seems quite pleased to be doing a relatively rare for him (given our inland locale) "offshore" mainsail.


Hauling glass and metal...

I like full keels and I cannot lie.
Haulout 2015 is done, somewhat wistfully. In the case of Alchemy, hauled October 24th at National Yacht Club, it's the mixed emotions that we got two months with the stick in, the sails pulling and the fuel filter system complete and (so far) without flaw...and that we got just two months. Still, a lot was done and my cheerfulness has increased thereby.
Stand back, everyone...

Alchemy went up and down without much fuss, although despite a few launches and haulouts without tow assist now, I still get the odd club member (most are) expressing surprise at seeing her self-propelled. I've known for some time that as a boat restorer, I'm a bit of a club joke, having taken years to show progress visible to anyone not actually doing the work, but I feel waving goodbye is more than enough by way of seeing honour satisfied. Speaking of which, we are discussing, prepartory to leaving, downsizing our house; more on this over the winter. Down went the boat, and I'll winterize tomorrow as, after a chilly and gratifyingly breezy October, we are in a days-long warm stretch conducive to such tasks.
Angles like these really show her volume.

Valiente was put on Kijiji last week at what might charitably be called an "incentivizing" price. I got over 350 views and a few phone inquiries; she's been shown (on Sunday, in the water) once and will be shown on Thursday in her cradle, as today was her haulout day. Haulout at Pier 35 off Cherry Street is dirty, because the place is dirty and is abaft a very dusty recycling plant, so the boat is no longer as pristine externally as she was a few weeks ago. Still, a bargain. Felt sad, but then I felt sadder still when I wrote the cheque for winter storage. Sentiment is dangerous to a sailor. Dangerous to the wallet.
The view forward to the east end of Toronto's Inner Harbour. The bike is to get home from Cherry Street.
I have to admit, however, that I couldn't devise a better day to haul: full sunlight, about 5 knots of SW wind to ripple the waters, and temperatures in the teens that required that I shed my sweater by 1000h. Not bad for November 3rd.
Middle right is Marina Quay West, which, despite liking the place and having been treated very well, I hope not to see again soon. Time and salesmanship will tell.
The usual ill-tempered staff (they are competent enough, but the seamanlike language predominates) threw the slings to the marks and up the relatively compact Viking 33 went. Note the placid waters. Much nicer than years in which 20 knots made for exciting crane operations.
While Valiente's hull is flat enough not to require sling cinch belts, I've never seen them in use here, even when a full keeler (see below) is getting hauled.

Just before I arrived, the booze cruiser behind my stern was having its 75-person liferafts removed for a May 2016 recertification. Some actual commercial marine work at Toronto is not often seen.
I deem the VC-17's antifouling performance this year "meh". Let's hope the next owner switches it up.

The slings landed on the pads, leading to more profane pantomime.
After some wobbly repositioning of cradle and slings, Valiente was down and off to her cat-beset winter sootery. Let's keep collective fingers crossed that this Very Good Old Boat is sold the next time I write about her.
Bye for now! And yes, I will winterize the engine and remove the main later this week. Frankly, I want the boat to look like a boat for as long as I'm showing her to potential buyers.


Unsticking and other season-ending events

Bye, bye, summer!
Some might see our efforts to put up Alchemy's mast in August only to take it down in mid-October as fruitless or even silly labour. Clearly, we disagree. The exercise was very useful (and was also good exercise) in determining where and how best to run sheets and halyards, to do the small repairs due to the long hibernation of the mast in the club's racks, and, of course, to get the mainsail measured in preparation for a new one with an improved batten car setup.
Blurry, but repaired, jib topsail in full effect.

Next season's head start also included a new and seemingly effective installations of a VHF antenna and a blindingly bright tri-colour/anchor light/strobe, and the afore-mentioned halyard replacements. We also marked on our solar arch the location of the passage of the twin backstays, meaning that particular bit of custom work can be altered to accommodate all four panels as designed.

Once more unsticked.
But the real benefit of getting in a few actual Alchemy sails in was of course to crew morale. A great deal of the last few years has been spent either research in front of a computer screen, designing things in front of the same screen, drilling and bending things in a garage or installing things in an often cold, dark and cramped area of the boat. To actually use the thing was a great joy to myself and Mrs. Alchemy, and provided a real boost to further off-season labour in the cold and dark, which is less dim and miserable a prospect when lit by memories of  late summer's sailing. We learned a lot, and even if the semi-symbolic nature of an August "start" can be justified by the better state of prep next spring, it's been a blast this year to even drive about staring at a mast base.
It needn't be complex. It needs to be on the outside helm binnacle.
The sail control lines are working well, but I do want to install a third pair of winches for speed, and will do so after I install a new traveller this winter. The rehabbed Lewmar 44s I picked up some time ago should do nicely. Once again, it's been a case of me springing on a deal of sorts well before it ends up being installed. Revealed over the last two months were the rather pressing need to install a second throttle/shifter at the outside helm, as my ability to see the dock is assumed rather than actual from the middle of the pilothouse, causing either a sudden backing down or calls to "go around again; you're six feet off". Luckily, the shifter, engine and four-bladed prop are working very well, and I fancy people think I have a bow thruster, given the tight maneuvering we are capable of. So...that's promising, but I need to dock from outside.

Not seen: the 35 knot gust that happened while this massive ramp was briefly 10 feet in the air on a club forklift that impressed me by not falling into the lake. I was handling the tiny yellow rope in the foreground.
Amidst personal boat stuff, there is the club preparation for the months of not-sailing. Above is the dinghy ramp, sturdy enough to have a trailer and not necessarily lightweight boats on it, plus any number of kids learning to sail. It would be damaged were it to stay in all winter, so out it must come. The wind was constantly over 20 knots yesterday, and often crested 30 (I checked with the nearby airport weather info site for pilots) and it was a cheek-reddening sort of day.
It got even wavier (two to three metres) later.
I'm on the Mooring Committee, as I've mentioned before, and we seem to do (without exaggeration, I think) a lot of the tougher jobs, such as keeping the moorings serviced, moving disabled boats, and lifting heavy things up and down. Yesterday we discovered, while looking for a boat reported missing, a second boat which had chewed through one of its two mooring lines.
Speed was in this case of the essence, so we took the water taxi instead of the heavier, more powerful work boat.
It's no joke to re-reeve a mooring line on a boat and a water taxi that are both in motion of differing periods. Pictures don't do justice to just how much of the lake was sloshing over the sea wall, but that spouting wave hitting the end of the airport runway gives an impression.
Thar she blows!
After securing the boat above, we went to the far end of the basin, where an old Shark monohull was chewing its topsides on the eastern seawall. A quick tow to safety and too much time trying to push a line through an abandoned fender later, and the owner should buy us a beer.
Two hundred-odd kilos of get you offshore, fit to be tied.
The same mates from the Mooring Committee were kind enough to help when Alchemy's now extracted (at sunset the previous, less windy, day) stick needed to be racked for the winter. Friday and Saturday are "Haulout", a melancholy, if in these parts necessary, duty.
While a more complete paint-job will happen in spring when I can get underneath it, Alchemy's cradle got some Tremclad love today.


What cannot be borne

It's funny what gets on people's nerves. Expert sailor and good friend John C. was so bothered by the horrible sight of downed fenders on our September photos of Alchemy under sail that he Photoshopped them out in favour of dangling lines! I do admit we were perhaps preoccupied and they are all up on the port side...I swear!
Fenders rendered and surrendered.


Plotting a hatch

Note the Swamp Thing hatchery in evidence.
Between work of the paying sort (both Mrs Alchemy and myself are hard pressed this month, which has already taken the edge off winter storage fees) and the algae attack in the basin of my boat club, it's been hard to consider pushing off for more sea retrials. But that doesn't mean the game's not afoot.

Measure twice, figure out the coefficient of thermal expansion, and cut once.
Behold Tony Johnson. He's a welder/fabricator, a marine engine mechanic, some variety of general contractor, and a professional diver. Truly, a hand for all seasons. He's taking on the task of turning my much-modified idea for an engine bay hatch and turning it into reality.

The Metal Supermarket-acquiried plate fits nicely, but needs building up in the form of HDPE frame-up to get it flush (minus the thickness of its eventual LONSEAL covering) with the rest of the pilothouse decking.
Behind Tony is the plate I bought myself to make the "fixed" part of the design below, which will only need to be unbolted should the engine or tanks require moving. Another advantage is that the fixed plate will make an excellent spot on which to mount some engine bay general lighting. Not all engine access issues happen in full daylight, after all. 
Evidently, I lowballed the measurements by about 1/8th of an inch, because I didn't realize the lid could be made as snug as Tony will build it...which is good.
While Tony will make up the metre-long aluminum hatch, I will drill the pin holes (I want clevis-type pins for this as they just need to stay in place) and to put in the struts (perhaps gas struts, but I already have friction-knob types and this hatch won't be super-heavy) and latches and insulation to finish the job, because that I can do. Given that I will need to isolate dissimilar metals with (likely) strips of EPDM rubber gasketing, which is one of the same materials I will use over the winter to insulate the mild steel inward flange of the pilothouse from its aluminum roof. So I'll need a fair amount, although it need not be thick.
A closer look: Tony told me to stick to Imperial measurements, which I found ironic coming from a guy in his 30s, but c'est la vie.

Getting rid of the existing framed plywood will cheer me up a great deal and a hatch that lifts forward, unlike my original "clam shell" design (see below) of vertically lifting half-doors, will actually be stronger and will allow better use of the floor when I need to deploy tools, and will have the added benefit of not having to make the lowest companionway step able to lift vertically.
Hatch plot the first: Elegant, but unnecessarily so.


The bitter end

Our main, it has been suggested, has been cut down along the foot from something considerably bigger. Photo (c) Jeff Cooper
There is no picture of the visit yesterday of Ron Fernandes, the owner of Triton Sails, because I was hauling and flaking and going hmmm. Ron came by to measure and to discuss the New World Main (yes that may be a Rush pun), the details of which will be shared in the future. Amidst all my rattling on about chafe patches, triple stitching and the need to widen the mast gate in the slot a touch for the Tides Marine batten slide system I intend to get (the measuring kit arrived very promptly, which is nice), Ron suggested that the angle of the batten pockets and certain other giveaways argued that our main was once the top two thirds of a much larger main, like off a 55 footer or something in that class. The number is suspiciously low.

He's probably right, which is why he is the sailmaker and I am the customer, because this never occurred to me. But in the shot above, you can see what he's getting at. What I am getting at is that this sail, while in remarkably good shape given that it may be original to the boat, i.e. 1988, it's not 27 years old, it's a maximum of 20 years old, as it's been packed away in my garage for seven years. Furthermore, I don't think the previous owners sailed very much, as it shows little of the sort of thread damage or signs of chafe one comes to expect. So the above main is now the "Light Air/Spare Main"; it has three reefs and plenty of life in it yet, but it's somewhat lightly built for the ocean, in the view of myself and the sailmaker, who may be biased.
This is possibly too much roach. Illustration from Wikipedia

Looking more closely, one can see that there is zero roach to this sail, and as we are going to have battens to better control and shape the sail, we might as well get the benefit of some extra sailing area, and therefore, extra drive, out of a new mail. While some disagree that battens are necessary or desirable, not me. I like them and I want them. While the headboard of the current main is properly sized, it's pretty well the long side of the triangle down to the outhaul from there; even a conservatively cut roach will add precious oomph. My thoughts on where the reef points should go, I will save for now.
Yes, you are looking as a miscalculation.
The sharp-eyed will note that there are only two Kyocera solar panels here, and not four. This is because I failed to recall that I had backstays when I had the solar arch fabricated. Needless to say, I feel a right twat, but this can be fixed with a little welding of plate and some repositioning of the mounting fittings. Live and learn...the hard way.

These holes are as small as I could make them and are well off the anchor well decking.

A more successful needful task was to make up a place to attach the anchor rodes to the boat. Such a place is normally called the bitts, and was traditionally two heavy timbers lodged into the frames of the boat or ship. This bitts differ from bollards, which are deck-mounted structures that perform the same function as cleats, but which are generally more heavily built. The term bitter end is the end of the anchor rode, which can be rope, chain or both, which attaches to the vessel. 
Pacific Fasteners, you are so much more reasonably priced than chandleries.

Non-sailors assume that this is where the anchor rode pulls at the boat at the bitts; this is not in fact the case. The anchor rode can be attached to the bow of the boat at the waterline with a snubber, a plain piece of stretchy rope with a chain hook, or via a bridle, two ropes that run up to cleats and bollards. Other pieces of colourfully named equipment, such as a devil's claw or a chain brake, come into play as well.

A fairly typical bridle and hook setup. Some sailors tie the nylon rope directly to the chain. Illustration (c) Bosun's Supplies
The point is that the chain, which in any kind of a sea can experience very impressive shock loads, is not in fact directly attached to the bow roller, the windlass or, indeed, the end of the rode, directly to the boat without some kind of intermediate shock absorber to tame the yanking motion of the boat going up and down in waves. The weight of all-chain rode does dampen this naturally, but the idea is to have stretchy or springy materials absorb and smooth out the sometimes abrupt loads.
Some dielectric paste and Lanacote to mitigate the dissimilar metals.

Now, the gold standard of making this up would be to not use aluminum plate as a load-spreader with a stainless steel U-bolt going through mild steel. I know this. But I also happened to have these pieces of aluminum, which I originally drilled years back as backing plates for deck-mounted cheek blocks on Valiente, handy, and I had Lanacote and dielectric paste, plus butyl and the fact that all surfaces are painted on my side. So I'll test this and see if it is sufficiently galvanically isolated to not corrode overmuch.
I love butyl and I cannot lie.
First off, I put butyl strips on the back of the "outside" plate. The SS threads and nuts were liberally coated with dielectric gel.
The whole forepeak will be emptied this winter, and will get a fresh coat of anti-rust paint, topped with bright white two-part for maximum light down there.
The same process was repeated for the back side of the anchor well, inside the forepeak.
Finger-tightened. No butyl is escaping at this point.
I added washers for very little reason, save that I had them nearby. There's enough leftover threaded U-bolt inside to conceivably make a bracket or a light mount there. Depends on my ambition, really.
Why, yes, I did have an 11/16ths inch deep socket. Doesn't everyone?
Dogging down the bolts consecutively, the butyl started to squeeze out around the edges of the backing plate. I've done this sort of job with butyl and bedding goo so often, I can usually estimate "enough" without needing to trim or to fetch rags.
Done...for now.
Here's the finished job on the outside, although I will trim that slight over-squish next time I'm there.
Strong enough to step on. I know, because I did it.

The two rodes, one a rope and the other a chain attached to a rope attached to the U-bolt, here performing the function of the bitts, are now securing the anchors safely. Whatever else I do, I can't easily let the anchor rode run off the boat now. 
Looks like it's supposed to be there. I can also attach chain hooks to this if I wish.
But what of the bitter end? See that red, white and blue piece of knotted rope? That's a cut from the spare Dyneema cored halyard I bought when I reroved the mast halyards. It's between the U-bolt and the bitter end of the chain rode that terminates at the other end at my Fortress anchor's stock. If the chain ran completely out in benign weather, sans bridle, snubber, chain brake or devil's claw, it's strong enough to take the pull. If, however, we get hit at anchor with such heavy winds that it is impossible to retrieve the anchor without injury or damage, and we have to put to of that piece of rope as a fuse. It can be cut with a few strokes of a serrated knife, and a small, labelled buoy can be affixed to the bitter end with enough light line (enough to match the depth of the anchorage) to let the buoy float. Heavy weather passes, and you go back and haul in the chain and anchor. It helps to keep a non-rusting, serrated knife nearby, but you should have one in your pocket or on your PFD.

Now I think I'll relax with some bitters in my rum.
Paradoxically, I'm feeling less bitter already.


Sail of the decade

Well done, main.

This the main of Alchemy. It is pulling 15 tonnes of steel pilothouse cutter through the water.

Note the ever-so-slight heel. We are off the dock, folks.
This is the still-warm water. It's Lake Ontario on September 15, 2015. It's what we call "a good start".

I have a much more impressive flagpole in the garage, which is what a lot of middle-aged skippers say.
This is Toronto. We haven't left it yet, but we appear to have the means, if somewhat primitive and in completed, to do so in the form of a functional sailboat, functional in the sense of "sails".
This beauty is Cristal, a Dufour 36 Classic, a very nice find for Mr. Cooper, seen at his own bow, showing immense trust in his autopilot.
The man at the bow above is Jeff Cooper, a good friend with a very nice boat who, upon hearing we were fixed upon casting off today with intent to sail (it was a sort of light air day that would give us the opportunity to correct screw-ups, should they arise), decided to come over and take some pictures. The best one, in my view, is at the end of this post, but this is pretty excellent, as well:

You can make out where the luff of the "temporary jib" is just about three inches too long. Photo (c) Jeff Cooper
I think she looks rather good. Like many boat owners who don't own a drone with a GoPro, I haven't seen my own boat from a nicely framed distance very often...even with the sin of descended fenders visible.

If I can get this furler about five cm. higher, I'll be able to use this completely inappropriate Kevlar No. 2 racing jib (from, if I recall, a C&C 34) as a spare light-air genoa. Or I can just cut down the foot a bit.
Today's "test sail" was to see if all our lines would run freely and to just try to remember how to sail a cutter rig with a furler way out front. Mostly, things went well, although I would consider furling the jib when tacking if the wind was 15 knots or more, as the space between the forestay and the staysail stay is rather tight.
What the numbers and "J" means, I have no idea.
The main, seen above, is in good shape, but it's light for ocean work (but fine for Lake Ontario) and is full battens with slugs...and is 27 years old. I want a new, heavier main for ocean work, so these photos are getting shown to the sailmaker tomorrow.
Flying well, given the somewhat undertensioned halyards.
The original Yankee-cut jib is damaged from an inopportune hoist last week, so the same sailmaker will evaluate it for repair or rethinking. The staysail is also a tad on the light side for ocean work; I am mulling over a heavier one with a line of reef points to make it good to 50 knots.
This is the square-rigged steel sail-training brig Playfair, off making use of her sail area.
So filters did not clog, nothing ripped or tipped, nothing broke and, despite the presence of possibly dozens of PFDs, nothing went into the water. A very minor 90 minute or so sail in steady, if featherweight, winds, but enough to get us sailing what has not been sailed in this decade.
WE'RE BACK, BABIES! (Photo (c) Jeff Cooper)

Please ignore the dangling fenders. The dock-departure checklist was significant and they were overlooked in the rush to get out and sail, probably because we dock portside at the end of a finger and these are basically "preserve the other boat" fenders...The sharp-eyed will also note the missing solar panels on the solar panel arch over the aft helm station, i.e. "the poop deck". These were removed in order to better position the backstays (there are two). I'll figure out how to get them placed shortly, as I'm going to move onto The Problem of Batteries soon.