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An unexpected bottom job

I still like the boat, despite the push to dispose of her.
Behold Valiente, the Viking 33 I've been attempting to sell for some time now. Behold her freshly semi-scoured waterline (there's only so much I can do without a Multi-master and a power washer) and her freshly VC-17'd bottom. I had hoped this job, a springtime ritual for which I have little love, would have fallen to another, i.e. "the next owner", but this has yet to happen, despite the incentivization of dropped price.
Phones and I have a complex relationship akin to that of 50 Shades of Grey
Speaking of dropped, guess what exited a pocket straight into the tray while I was crouched anti-fouling the keel? Every mishap involving a phone has happened to me either under, coming on or coming off a boat. It's a sign of something.
That largish hatch has provided many a sleep-positive zephyr.
Having been informed, among other things, that sail bags in the V-berth were detracting from the presentation, after replacing a leaky scupper hose I'd found, I chucked Jibs 1 to 3 into the quarterberth. The main stands alone, but one can see it's a full-sized berth now. I have to say, however, if you're looking for palatial sleeping, this isn't the place. If you're looking for a fast, lively ride, it is.
The ruddy rudder, freshly Brazilianed
I burnished and serviced the prop on the basis that shiny objects attract magpies, or something. The rudder got a sanding on its leading edge. I'm sure it'll add a knot. 
Ready to launch, but nowhere to go. She's got some nicks, but she's still pretty.
There's a prospect coming this weekend, says my broker, hence this flurry of prettification and prep. We'll see how it goes. Two random guys in the yard took a tour while I was cleaning up. One of them had just bought a CS27 for $5,500.  This officially makes classic plastic boats cheaper than yacht club memberships, meaning the boat is barely significant in the sailing equation. The real question is: Can you afford to keep any boat? Particular boats matter hardly at all. Next week or so, I'll probably have to start paying for land storage. I could launch immediately. The batteries are charged and the motor has been dewinterized. Make me an offer.


Beltane splash

Slipped and slided
Today is the first of May, in many Northern Hemisphere cultures the traditional start of spring, irrespective of the chilly winds or the pelting rain that may be occuring in your locality. In ours, the last day of April was our club's Launch, 2016.
Prop property of Alchemy

After a few last-minute tasks, such as the servicing of the Variprop, the day began at sunrise and was slightly cold and increasingly windy as the hours passed, but still, it was a day very amenable to effective launching.
Cranes are the most popular birds ashore this time of year.
This year I was one of the crew on the club's workboat, the vessel designated as the towboat for boats with either known deficiencies of propulsion, or those who find out that what ticked over nicely in the cradle does not always do so when introduced to a 5C lake. 
My club, National YC, uses professional crane operators, but the rest of the process is done by volunteers.
As can be seen, conditions were nearly ideal with an intermittent zephyr from the increasingly popular east. Most people who've paid attention have noticed in recent years a higher proportion of easterly winds in our area. While generally benign, it does make for a damper and chillier waterfront and does indicate an evolution of the historical wind patterns. 

Most boats were self-propelled, but a few with dead engines would prove to be doozies. Doozies that came in groups.
The spectacle of launch is always a compelling one, even from a brisk vantage point on the water. The difficulty is the adjacent airport, where helicopters and "quiet" turboprops can make communication difficult by voice and radio.
Hanging out on the boat.
The observation that most of the boats picured are between seven and 14 metres in length and weigh from two to 20 tonnes gives an idea of the size of the cranes used to hoist them straight out of their winter cradles, dozens of metres in the air and down into the lake with the tiniest of splashes attests to the skill of the operators and the confidence of the "pusher" crews on the sea wall that they won't get a keel to the noggin. Those blue safety helmets really are for show in such an outcome. 
That boat is nine metres. The top of the crane is where eagles dare.
After several hours of towing and waiting to tow, including one tow that featured a huge, unsteerable wooden powerboat that was sinking because its planks hadn't swollen or clinched or whatever the term is that means "I am not having four tonnes of water in my bilges" and which needed a 120 VAC outlet to power heavy-duty pumps,  we got to our row. The process is interesting visually, I think, so here it is in pictures.

The large powerboat beside us is probably close to our weight. The furry stick is a "pusher" for keeping launched but unsecured boats away from the sometimes gnarly sea wall. Note how it also features load spreaders.
The orange rectangle is called a "spreader frame" and distributes the boat's mass around the center point of the crane hook, while also providing a more or less vertical drop to the connections to the slings in which the boat is hoisted into the air. Were the spreaders not there, the slings would compress against the sides of the boat and would potentially damage or even crush the hull. 

Because this boat has flat sides, the owner covers his hull with fabric to prevent the grotty and abrasive slings from mucking up his topcoat.
There's only half a metre or so between boats. If it's windy, as it was at this point, belaying lines are used not only to turn the boat in the slings, but to keep it, once airborne, from swinging into its neighbours, in this case, us.
More is better: We requested a specific orientation of our bow into the wind so we wouldn't have to make a three-point turn.
Seen here are the "control lines"; dropped from the quarters of the bow, volunteers on land use them to turn the boat and, to a limited degree, keep it from starting to swing in the wind if the wind is playing up. Conscious about the inertial potential of a steel full keeler, I usually put out four 40-foot lines.
No use cleaning one's decks with the muck-covered boots in play. The slings are guided by taped sling marks on the rail.
Because the front sling is on the slope of the keel, I request "cinch belts", which discourage slippage when the full weight of the boat is on these slings.
Ready to fly! Note that the cinch belts are nearly taut. They take little force; they are more like suspenders to the main belts.
The boat usually pitches forward 10 degrees or so because the front sling is slightly above the rear sling.
There's never a year that goes by, despite the number of times now that Alchemy's been launched and hauled, that someone doesn't comment on her heft or admitted butch appearance. That's fine. We are comfortable with her relatively rare looks on an inland lake.

Forget it, Jake, it's chine-town.
 Again, the skill of the operator is evident in that I didn't hear a splash. You'd think you'd hear a splash.
The flag shows that there was some wind slotting in between buildings. We didn't want to do a multi-part turn with our windage in the relatively tight spaces involved. We can and have before, but it's not the first bit of motoring I prefer to do.
The people who do this (including Mrs. Alchemy while I am usually in a work or safety boat), tend to do the same job for many seasons. They know their jobs well and generally are very Zen-like, save for the grunting.
Down, aye, down and the engine started instantly. The docking was without issues, either.
We are finding that we are far less worried about the boat's part in getting to the dock than things we can't fix, such as weather or the attention spans of the people maneuvering the boats.
Next: the enmastinging. Alchemy almost looks fast here.
It's going to be a busy season. Stay tuned.


Painting the hull red and other preparations

Ah, Pettit Premium: How much you cost.
A break in the weather coinciding with a break in the workload has allowed us to creep ahead of the "rush point" to launching Alchemy on April 30, weather, again, permitting. Mrs. Alchemy fits rather better under the hull than do I, and I'm sticking to that story, so while I finished up the mast tabernacle re-org and cleaned off the prop, she dealt with a few rust spots and needful places for cold galvanizing spray. We may, if time permits, even paint under the pads with the remaining dribbles, something we haven't always done as the boat tends to be put in variable places in its cradle from year to year and we can paint what was missed when it's revealed without lowering the pads. Now that we can move, I care more.

The topsides will be repainted in the customary two-part Endura once we are in the water, but the hull got, once again, its layers of Pettit Premium Performance anti-fouling paint, which, despite its claims to be "very economical", is clearly significantly pricier than it was last year, to which I attribute generalized greed and the daunted Canadian dollar.

I find its "performance" not great, but realistically, if you put ablative paint on a boat that doesn't move, you're not doing it right, so this season, where movement is very much scheduled, I expect to change my views. The issue is also that I want to do what Capt. Matt did and take the hull back to bare metal, have a nice thick barrier coat put in, and have hard, multi-season anti-fouling put on, not ablative, single-season. Given Capt. Matt's issues with outrageously low-balled estimates locally, I'm thinking we'll go down the St. Lawrence as is and get this done in Halifax or nearby on a commercial basis, as Alchemy is smaller than the average fishing trawler, and yet we want pretty much the same industrial-grade, ocean-ready bottom coatings.

Our dock's for the birds, clearly
After inspecting the quality of the shackles, thimbles and lines, and after verifying the shackle mousing could go another season, I put the dock lines in. If we know we aren't moving immediately, I tend to double the lines to and from the boat; Neptune knows I have enough fenders. The lines pictured, however, are 3/4-inch; after several seasons and careful deployment of anti-chafe, there's no real sign of wear on them. Still, we are conscious of the potential for 16 tonnes of mischief at large in the basin, and we try to reduce risk of our boat coming loose. I often see chafed 1/2 inch (or smaller) lines on other heftly boats, with no chafe gear and looking worse for wear. It's really the easiest thing in the world to deploy one's lines properly.
I haven't had complaints about this. In fact, I haven't heard a peep.
I'm on my club's Mooring Committee, which is fairly self-explanatory, although we also have a fair bit to do with the docks. This time last year, I was asked to redesign our guidelines and these illustrations are part of that. I don't see fore and aft springs on too many boats and yet it does distribute loads effectively, particularly in slips, like ours, where "beam-on" winds are the norm.

If the chain saws through the bollard, it's the club's fault, not the sailor's, which could be handy with one's insurer.
Regardless, those lines are heavy and I was glad to get them off the list and on the dock.

Gratifyingly, the dewinterization of Alchemy's engine went smoothly. I flushed out the system, checked oil, transmission and coolant levels, and slightly pressurized the fuel system. My reward was an instant start, even off the miniscule and aging Group 24 which I've been nursing as the putative house bank. On that front, the house bank batteries have been selected and priced and will be purchased and delivered in May. Then I have a lot of carpentry and rebar assembly to perform, as six L-16 batteries will need proper boxing and securing in a way the typical (for around here) pair of Group 27s also need, but do not always have. Anyway, we are ready to splash 10 days before we need to, and the forecast doesn't call for any freezing overnight temperatures and in face none lower than 4 C, so that's fine.

Lastly, my boat broker tells me Valiente's getting two showings this Friday. Perhaps it's because we lowered the price by a grand and perhaps the next post will have some good news on that neglected front. I hope so, as with a new main coming and a big battery purchase, we are burning cash again this spring.


Stepping up

Yes, it's a relatively simple bend and drill and tap and fasten job, but it has to support me and my big feet.
The failure of the fellow pictured here to actually get back to me over the winter, never mind to do the simple fabrications I requested or to provide an estimate, is driving me to attempt things I wouldn't have otherwise. Don't get me wrong, I dislike spending money on skilled labour as much as the next sailor, but unlike the next sailor, I am not, I hope, delusional about my own skills. "In many instances, theoretical" would be generous.

Nonetheless, some decisions can be deferred no longer. The new main is approaching completion, and  I already know that the new Tides Marine batten cars, along with the more robust fabric of the sail itself, will add considerable height to the sail height when lowered above the boom. I needed to stretch fully to unshackle the halyard, to secure the cover and other such putting-away jobs. My wife is a full foot shorter; her only option has been to climb atop the pilot house roof. As the new main will make this situation even more out-of-reach, it's time to get a leg up with "tabernacle steps".

Alchemy's mast sits in a 1/2 inch aluminum plate flange affair about 1.2 metres high. It's massive and is tied into the main beam that crosses the boat under the deck in front of the pilothouse, which in turn is tied into the stringers via secured piping. Throw in the 11 5/16th inch stays and shrouds, and we don't worry about losing the stick much. The mast has a heavy steel pin through it allowing it to pivot aft over the pilot house, which is handy for doing canals or changing mast top lights or other maintenance that might require a bosun's chair. But the tabernacle is strong enough to have two steps secured to it which will allow us to reach every part of the "stack", even in heavy weather.

Should be a nice place to hang coiled lines, too.

I can see my pilot house from here!
The fab-up consisted of a bike trip in the rapidly improving weather to my friends at Metal Supermarket, who recognize me as the only geezer on a bike who buys plate and square tube aluminum.
Partially future garage sale, mostly boat stuff, the drift is shrinking gradually.
Not knowing precisely what I'd need, I had two-inch strips of 1/4" thick 6061 (same alloy as the mast tabernacle) cut to 90 cm. I drilled some preliminary holes on the press in the dim and messy Man Cave.
The elderly bench grinder has just about had it.
The bench grinder acquired from Ken and Lynn of Silverheels III prior to their departure ground down the edges and a cheap-ass Dremel-like tool smoothed things out.

I was going to make a jig, but that wasn't necessary with vises and clamps and dowelling to make nice curved bends.
 Yes, my home bench is messy, too. There is usually more than one project happening at once.

I made marks on the plastic coating in grease pencil to indicate where the bends needed to be.
I toyed with making a jig (see toy below), but I really didn't have the right bolts to hand. I expect if I start fabricating frames and straps to a greater degree, the purchase of a proper and versatile bending jig may be in order.
Eh, a failed experiment is also instructive.
The workshop at National YC had a much bigger vise and its own even beefier drill press. I like quarter-inch aluminum plate, however, because even modest power tools, like an electric jigsaw with the right blade, can cut and shape it easily.
The blue piece of particle board scrap has a rounded corner that was perfect for bending the angles I wanted.
Having determined my step "straps" were considerably too long, I cut them back and fitted them to the tabernacle. I had enough clearance to use nuts and bolts, instead of simply tapping into the tabernacle as some of the cleats have been. I isolated the #10-32 SS bolts with lanolin and secured the nuts with Loc-tite. If I spot issues, I'll go to bushings.
Not so bad with the plastic off.
The reason for doing all this work (about six hours in total, including travel time) is that I have really large feet. Super-wide, too. I literally based the mesurements around my largest New Balance running shoe (13 EEEEEE) and all measurements proceeded from that. The good news is that I don't fall over much, being ballasted by the keel. The other good news is that these two giant steps cost me about $18...pretty low-buck, if you ask me.
The second one is in. This will allow Mrs. Alchemy, who is just over five feet in height on damp days, to reach the new main headboard and to secure the cover.
I'm reasonably pleased with this; it certainly doesn't budge under my weight. I have a couple of displaced anodized cleats to relocate, but I think it's a decent improvement that solves the "new main is too high!" issue. Note, however, that I can't make a full revolution on the port-side winch. This is a deliberate choice. The winch on the port side only handles the jib and the staysail; the first is only hoisted once a season and the second is hand-hauled and only tightened on the winch at the end, so "cranking" less than a full circle is a small price to pay for the ability to safely and easily reach the top of the flaked main stack and to secure the sail cover. If one's boat has the more common mast partners or the "collar" type tabernacle, you can just put them clear of the winch handles. 

If I find I'm really missing the full turn on the port side mast winch, I can rebend that step slightly or I can weld an extender onto a winch handle "starsocket" or even weld up a custom crank. I could also even take that trend and move it up so the extrusion stand-off for the winch supports it, bringing that lower attachment inward, which gives me the clearance. So if this is an issue, I've given myself some options.


In appreciation to the readers of the ship

The long, strange trip continues.

It's not nearly a lonely life at sea as it once was; in fact, I have heard some mutterings from old salts that the ability to receive a cellphone call or text in the middle of the ocean is not so much a glittering advancement as it is an unsolicited horror. Nonetheless, the same cannot be said of the self-taught boat restorer/mechanic/carpenter/welder/bottle drainer and washer. That would be me.

I spend most of my time alone. I work alone from a home office in monkish solitude and I work (thanks to an employed Mrs. Alchemy) alone the vast majority of the time aboard Alchemy, winter and summer, as we crawl at reduced speed toward our goal of Sailing Away. I'm not saying I mutter to myself in the bowels of the boat on dark, windswept winter days, but I do have a keen sense of the acoustics of the vessel.

Writing this blog (also done alone) is a way to organize my thoughts as much as it is a chronicle of what I'm doing and what occurs to me while I'm doing it. It's not radically different in tone, I've found, to the writings, in blog or book or forum post form, to the musings of the mostly men who bother to write about this pursuit, hobby, life goal or lifestyle. A certain taciturnity takes hold, limned with superstition; the willingness to discuss what one is up to declines, just as the eagerness to forecast even a provisional date of departure is avoided, lest Neptune notice and throw a trident in the works. My stock line is "drop by for a rum when the boat's lit up like a Plymouth whorehouse: that'll be one week's notice".

But this post, marking as it does another numerical milestone, or, I suppose, cardinal buoy, in our voyage toward functionality, is made in appreciation of the advice, help, constructive criticism and useful tips I've received from readers of this blog since (gasp) 2007. A great deal has happened in those years, or at least has been mentioned in just over 300 posts. Quite a bit more, and of some interest, I hope, is to come. If my readers have liked what I've chronicled to date, there's plenty to anticipate, given that Alchemy is now mobile by prop and sail.

A preview of the next tranche of posts would be precipitous, but would probably be hard to view, thanks to the blaze of welding ahead. More, however, is very much to come, and thank you for what is past. Launch 2016 is in 14 days. Tomorrow and Monday are shorts weather: there's a ladder in my future.


Do you cruise on port or starboard?

Cartoon (c) 2016, Steve Benson
Political discussion amongst sailors is nearly as verboten a topic as declaring which anchor style is best, or other sincere matters of faith. And yet sailors, not tending to be shy with their opinions (although there are always exceptions) will, between each other, tend to talk about anything contentious or even divisive, particularly after the third sundowner.

While I can't say there is a strictly political preference among the Canadian, British or French or Caribbean sailors I've encountered, there are certainly more politically conservative American sailors, at least to judge by various sailor-centric forums and Facebook groups of my acquaintance, along with a few I've met in person. This may be because a lot of American sailors, mindful of their Constitutional rights and often with a record of service in police or military organizations, often favour being armed in their boats. But many Americans, in my view, while very clear on the Second Amendment, seem less clear on the Fourth. I would add that a lot, or at least a lot of those whom blog or post online, don't seem to understand why other countries don't always allow them to sail armed in their waters. It's not just Americans, of course: many rich-country sailors are not always as attentive to the local laws of the often-poor and often-corrupt places to which they sail. Even the wealthy can learn the hard way that, yes, ignorance is no excuse.

Now, a fondness for weaponry is not necessarily a trait identifying a person with right-wing sympathies, although I'm not sure precisely what "right-wing sympathies" means when America is concerned. I do know that a relatively moderate or nuanced political viewpoint among U.S. sailors, at least among the bloggers, is less common to my eye. It doesn't mean it doesn't exist, clearly: my sample size is not overlarge, but it's equally not difficult to imagine the average investment-portfolio-funded cruiser failing the "feel the Bern".

In the broader sense, however, politics of any stripe is only a small part of sailing, although political considerations have influenced quite a few sailors, such as Leslie and Carolann Sike of the steel sloop Aqua Star, pictured above circa the late 1980s, to undertake voyages of nautical detente. Also, it can be argued that sailing itself tends to make sailors both conservative and liberal in their outlook, for this is what the sea itself demands: entrepreneurial innovation and anarchist vim in equal portions. The sea, after all, doesn't care how you voted; it doesn't give a tinker's about "dreams" and will kill the underprepared. There is among sailors, therefore, a certain OCD, double-checked list, give 'er a quarter-turn and check the belt tension mentality at work, a fussy sort of "I do what works because I must" attitude that is sometimes associated with conservatism. 

The sea will drown Bolsheviks and Objectivists alike, tovarisch.

And, in a more basic sense, we love to "make and mend" and hate to part with something that can be fixed. Most of us love the latest gadgets, but bring leadlines and sextants. Many of us are also sailing for the solitude and the participation in nature, which is a different sense of conservation. Yet opposing this mindset is an often tolerant and, I dare say, liberal approach to human relations, otherwise one would never get off the boat. This is frequently combined with a near-anarchic sense of personal responsibility best expressed as a wish to flee well away from the herd mind of shoreside affairs, along with a determination to travel as cheaply as possible. I've met, and I'm sure many of my readers have, some crusty old salts who have been "hard left" politically while quietly making long back splicings by feel. Crusty need not equal conservative, and a '70s Marxist, presumably thanks to a pension, can be found at many a helm. I don't know how to categorize politically the new generation of crowd-funded cruisers, but surely there's a socialist element in having society pay for one's voyaging.

Of course, just as planning to cope with fickle Nature by drawing on 500 years of sailing and life preservation techniques (hint: if they drowned, it's not a great technique) and being rigorous about clipping on, lashing down and keeping the mast up appeals to the inner conservative, so does provisioning, hot-bunking, watch-standing and a constant sense of "we are all in this together" foster a sense of brotherhood and communitarianism so often absent ashore. Many sailors, travelling deep into the cultures and daily life of exotic countries, are often moved to acts of support and charity. In fact, this is quite common in the world of sailing, where, admittedly, there is often the odd wealthy person to be found, some of whom seem conscious of the role good fortune and accidents of birth have played in their ownership of big, gorgeous boats. Others of less flush circumstances donate time, skills and labour to improve the lot of those whose countries they visit.

It's tricky, however, not to come off as arrogant, insulting or to exude the scent of noblisse oblige. Not every one you may visit considering themselves particularly deprived and giving away pencils and old T-shirts may be rude, when wage work or errands from rich yachties (and even the poorest North American or European arriving in a filthy old boat is often "rich" by definition) would be much preferred. There's quite a history of well-meaning charities doing wrong in attempting to do right. In some places, a jerrycan of watermaker output, or a few hours of Honda 2000 runtime to do a construction job on a distant atoll may prove more ingratiating than any number of good-condition textbooks or dollar-store reading glasses. Check before you gift, and be aware of the social customs, some shading into taboos, of the places to which you're sailing.

The charitable impulse need not flower from a bed either right or left, but can arise naturally from the experience of sailing, which is itself a privilege. The context in which Westerners have political difference is luxurious as few of us are so hungry or so overworked so as to not have time to develop political viewpoints. This is not always the case in the places you'll go. I plan on sailing lightly as much as we can, and that includes politically.
She's unhappy about illegal logging in the Solomons, and rightly so. Photo credit: Catherine Wilson/IPS
Nonetheless, and irrespective of your crew's love for Donald Trump or Naomi Klein, sailors go places where they may be literally the only available face of the West's (including China) rapacious appetite for resources. The forests may be cut down and the seas plundered in some places, and your visit, representing the countries that are raping the local environment through their corporations, may not be welcoming. This may not discourage you from sailing where you feel it's safe, but only a fool would sail unaware of local feeling about happy, well-toothed foreigners in beautiful boats swanning into the bleached-coral lagoon.
And if they want you to buy a fishing license, do so.


Lofty ambitions

Spring in the yard.

Silence does not suggest inactivity. Work expanded recently to fill a scheduled week away in March on a Caribbean sailing charter that was unfortunately abandoned, due to the sudden illness of the skipper,  Nonetheless, things are proceeding in the run-up month to launch.
Featureless cylinder to some, galvanic isolation to me.
A visit to the redoubtable Johnston Plastics in Etobicoke (everything marine is there in Ford Nation) got me a big sheet of 1/32" thickness HDPE. I will cut this into strips to isolate the aluminum roof from the steel framing of the pilothouse. Nylon bushings will isolate the SS fasteners, and butyl tape and a bead of sealant will keep the ocean out.
Not seen: the shattered "radome" for the flux gate compass. There goes another dollar.
The tarp I use to keep the heat and rain out needed replacing, as is often the case in winter's blasts. The rain comes from a persistent leak I need to fix prior to replacing all the insulation and some new and additional wire runs, as well as from some failed gasketing on the port side top hatch...I need to order a specific shape of gasket material from McMaster-Carr.  There's a rather extensive list of things I require needful of the U.S. Visa card, which is making little whining noises of late.

Before all was a trackless waste.

The "sailtrack" portion of the Tides Marine setup. After reading the directions and looking at the current bound and stacked mast of Alchemy, I think I will wait until I have the mast in its pre-hoisting position on sawhorses to install this. I need the mast to be facing the sky, and I may have to tap a few holes. 
Exceedingly pricy bits my sailmaker seems to understand.
The other bits went to Ron Fernandes at Triton Sails, who has laid out the new main's shape and whom I visited earlier today to see where he wanted to put the two deep reefs I want.

I wondered how a) he told all these lines apart and b) how often he had to repaint the loft floor.
The orange pin represents the tack end of the mainsail, the part that is through-bolted to a fitting on the mast end of the boom. The red writing indicates the position of the first or lowest of four battens, which will attach into batten cars, which will pivot on slugs which will slide on the sail track currently inside the big hexagonal box. See? Nothing to it.

More arcane squiggles.
Knowing a bit about how Alchemy needs all her sail to move her heft, I explained that our ambition was to carry a full main much of the time: Alchemy will do quite well up to 20 knots with a full hoist and a staysail running off, although I prefer to roll up much of the Yankee. What more theoretical, and is where Ron's experience and some back-of-envelope calculations that made me SA/D came in, is deciding where to put the reefs. They can't interfere with the battens and they must be, in a heavyweight, ocean-quality sail like this, represent meaningful reductions in sail area for when the wind is howling and the seas are well-developed.
Money goes here.
Reefs are akin to gears on the boat. Put a deep first reef in and everything stands up a bit more and slows down to a less frantic pace. The sails power the boat's progress: reduce the sails and the progress is reduced.

I believe this is the second reef. I was trying to follow Ron's descriptions.
On our original main (which we are keeping for light air duty and as a spare), there are three reefs, although they were not set up in a permanent fashion. The first reef subtracted five feet of sail height; the first reef here subtracts eight. Because we aren't racers, and because we will more likely be running off the wind than to weather, I would prefer a decisive depowering should we decide to reef. Pilots, other offshore sailors and my own experience tell me that it's the lack of wind, not too much, that is usually the problem, but, should we find some, I don't mind going slightly slower than we potentially could, because I may not have all the facts at hand, such as "will this stay steady in the mid-20s?" or "are the seas yet fully developed?" Often, I will have these facts, and if I know we're in for the milder sorts of squalls interrupting a good 15 knot steady blow, I would likely ease the main, fully up, and just faff around until we could resume travelling at a good clip of 6 to 7 knots.

Possibly the second reef? It was much clearer at the loft.
The second reef makes the main less than half its normal height. Not quite trysail-sized, but enough to provide drive and control up to about 40-45 knots, or so I project. It's the reef I would put it, if the wind allowed, for heaving to purposes, and I would consider dropping our fairly large staysail in favour of our heavily made storm staysail, which, as the "stay" part of "staysail" suggests, would be the last sail before we went under bare poles.
Helpful terms for the uninitiated.

It's hard to see, but there's a white chalk mark to the right of the line representing the original main's leech or aftmost part of the sail.
A welcome addition to this sail is about 20 square feet of extra area. The original sail is clearly a cut-down main from (Ron estimates) a 55 footer. It's very triangular in the sense that the leech is very straightly cut from clew to head. There's a big gap between the current main's leech and the twin backstays I want to fill with roach, and Ron has cut a lovely curve that will give us a little more oomph. More oomph, however, dictates that deeper first reef. The reason I haven't gone with three, as is customary, is due to weight aloft (more reefs equal more weight higher up the sail) and the rather stolid nature of our boat: she needs, most of the time, all the sail she can carry, but when she doesn't, I want to take it easy. As I stated long ago, around the world at four knots is fine by us...if we can get there in one piece, including the main.
More hard to see and confusing lines.
Across the street was Holland Marine, where the bottom paint we favour until we really have the hull blasted and recoated was paid for in full knowledge of the crap Canadian dollar. More to come soon.