2014-09-01

Summer's end getaway

Once home, then away
While the (finally) warm weather can be expected to persist locally for some weeks yet, the arrival of Labour Day and the reboot of the school year is usually considered the end of the summer here in the Great White North. Consequently, time was carved from boat restoration and grubbing for dollars for a few days' rest and relaxation aboard the soon-to-be vended Valiente, the sloop of blue that, while basic on the amenities, is no slouch in the sailing department.

There's a Canadian Coast Guard station in Cobourg Harbour featuring life boats I estimate at about 15 m.
Of course, actually going on a sailing getaway is by definition not really restful or relaxing; far from it. From the cat-minding arrangements to the hauling of gear and provisions down to a vessel usually stripped out for daysailing...and not to mention the oil changes, fuelling up and minor repairs customarily the province of the Skipper...there was a good day's worth of shuttling from house to dock before we decided the best way to reach our chosen destination of Cobourg, a town some 70 miles to the east and a perennial favourite harbour of ours, was to commence sailing at 2200h and go at it all night.
This, if you're lucky. Photo (c) 2010 Windandsail.com
Of course, this decision was predicated on the anticipated transit time of 12 hours, the forecasted winds (port beam or just aft) and the practical consideration of arriving in full daylight, not that the approach is particularly tricky. The decision did not take into full consideration the length of the preceding day nor the energy expeditures involved, meaning that while Mrs. Alchemy and myself were not fully exhausted by the time we slipped the lines, we were a touch cranky. The first three hours were, in lieu of sufficient breeze, just motoring. The clearly visible storm clouds aft emitted the occasional rumble and flash, but stayed away. Their passage to the north-east did eventually produce sufficient breeze to justify sailing with the No. 1 and full main, and so off we went with 90-minute "deck naps" as we spelled each other off on the tiller. The missus got considerably better air than I did, as she favoured coming inshore, whereas I sailed old-fart style to my preferred bearing, losing 1.5 knots in the process. Thus, when daylight came, we were closer to shore, but with less breeze; we switched on for the last bit from Port Hope to Cobourg Harbour.

After arriving at noon with a fully rested offspring, we just decided to stay awake. Note the 60 foot steel schooner in the background of the northwest corner of Cobourg Marina.
We have watched this relatively modest town (save for its grandiose town hall, built as if Cobourg was destined for grander things) evolve from the standard Southern Ontario template (lots of Victorian brick, lots of small businesses on a gradually decaying "Main" street, usually called "King") into something part Toronto bedroom community to retiree-magnet and alternative lifestyle mini-Mecca. There's a lot of geezers here...hell, I recognized a couple...who have bought condos and Toronto interests here: There's an unexpected number of health food outlets, places in which to buy yoga mats, and fair-trade coffee shops than any circa 20,000 population town should by rights have. More condos near the modest if deep harbour are going up...they can be seen in the background, and the semi-industrial aspect of the old Cobourg waterfront has been nearly obliterated by stylish retirement living.
Fuel dock, with fuel guzzler and newish condos aft.
We like this town, however, even if it's always been a push to get here in one passage. The exception was in 2005 on the return leg of the second photo below. Despite the summery conditions, this was taken in mid-October on the way to Belleville, and on the way back, the weather went decidedly autumnal, but with a 30-knot half-gale from the NE. We went Cobourg-Toronto in about nine and a half hours, a point-to-point record that still stands for sheer SOG.
2014: Cabin Boy stretches out on park anchor
Same anchor, 2005, with four-year-old Cabin Tyke: Note the absence of condos in the background.
Anyway, Cobourg is offering the right sort of investment mix and savvy that, given its relative proximity by car to Toronto (close, but not too close) should see it remain attractive and forward-looking while small towns around it fade. Hell, I saw more LED streetlights erected by the town-owned electrical utility in Cobourg than I've seen in Toronto.

Cabin Boy is slouching. He's within a centimetre of Mrs. Alchemy's height now.
Our son enjoys Cobourg because, not being car-owners, we don't "go anywhere" in the usual sense, although we cycle long distances and visit friends in other parts of our city frequently. This is the obligatory "comedy shot" by the former jail/currently pub in Cobourg.
Not pictured: Manicles and nearby cannon.
Cannon and boy, 2005. Quizzical expression still in full effect.
After finding some sort of medicinal coffee treatment, we stumbled around to see what was different. The local chandlery, Dean Marine, was having a moving sale, which seemed a little eerie after the news of the soon-to-close West Marine in Toronto and last week's shuttering of Genco Marine in downtown Toronto (thus finishing my wife's handy part-time employment). Mr. Dean himself is returning to a smaller shop by the marina, which is only steps from where we first found him in the early 2000s on our first trips to Cobourg. He had no idea Genco's Toronto shop had closed.

What makes a captain? Apparently, it is the hat.
Fifty percent off cheap skipper's caps was too much for my son to resist, filthy Tilley knock-offs not being his style, and Dean Marine was compensated.

No, I don't have a better shot. I was distracted.
When amongst a large selection of them, I like to look at boats, he wrote with absolutely no surprise whatsoever. I spotted this evidently 1970s IOR-styled racer at the end of a finger; its name starts with "G" and it's at least 60 feet and, according to a random guy on the dock "doesn't go out much". Probably because it needs a crew of six minimum to work it, I would imagine. Pretty thing, however, and sporting bucket-sized winches.

Peter Tielen and family on HMP, his custom CS 36
 I would have made better note of the name but I was distracted by the appearance of HMP, Peter Tielen's boat. Peter is best known as the proprietor of Holland Marine Products and as so often happens on Lake Ontario, a decent wind brings acquaintances together. But Peter had to fix an engine overheating issue and we weren't able to share a beverage. Instead, some swimming happened.
This buoy was so off-station (in about 80 cm. of water) that we considered salvaging it. It would have fit Alchemy admirably.
The beach at Cobourg is pure sand and is shallow a long way out. It's perfect for aimless splashing about, if, given this summer's tepid temperatures, a touch brisk.

More sitting and standing than swimming, really.
After unrecorded meals and wandering in circles getting the boat kinks out, we set back for Toronto on the promise of an ESE five-knot breeze that might have gone S to 10...a marginal day at best, although what wind there was promised to blow in the right direction. After an hour or so of chugging along (dependable, but noisy and somehow a failure in a sailboat), we decided to unleash our Secret Weapon, the massive cruising kite I bought years back and fly maybe twice every three seasons, as it's happiest at under 12-13 knots on a broach reach. Given that our son just spent a month flying spinnaker on 420s, we felt he could contribute as we literally forget how to fly the thing year-to-year.
Ancient block on ancient bow with reasonably fresh tack line. The anchor had to be lashed to the deck aft of this.
She's a beauty, however.
Eventually, we got the lines sorted and the course laid and managed to sail mostly above five knots, with the occasional drop to the high threes. Sailors will understand that a nice, slow sail is better qualitatively than a faster motor point-to-point, and where possible, extra hours spent on the water in transit under sail are permissible and even desirable. This was that sort of day.
The always-fascinating "PORTS" publication, or at least, more fascinating than helming.
As our son has grown, he has exhibited both the sullen laziness of the incipient teenager aboard and actual enthusiasm and competence of the born sailor for the business of sailing. His comfort at the helm of a 12-foot dinghy, however, does not always translate to easiness at the helm of a 33-footer flying a sail large enough to blanket our house.
Seriously. It's big enough that I'm going to bring it over to Alchemy as a light-air chute.

"HI! CAN'T TALK. BUSY STEERING!"
He did a good job, however, and was most helpful on deck when we encountered a spot of bother later in the day.
The wind was light, but sufficient to keep this pulling.
We tend to go a fair bit offshore to clear the Leslie Street Spit that juts out several miles on the east side of Toronto Harbour.
 The main was up, but I questioned if it should have been, thinking it was on occasion blanketing the chute. Later, the wind started increasing slightly before falling light again, and I wondering if the No. 1 would have been a better choice.
So nice.
Instead, I did an experiment: Wing-on-wing with an asymmetrical spinnaker. I preventered the main to port and steered slightly off dead-downwind. This took some concentration, but we added nearly a full knot to our SOG.
It worked until it didn't. I should have known better with a skinny-arsed IOR boat.
 A sudden wind shift to the south plus a fairly rapid increase in wind speed caused the spinnaker to "hourglass" around the forestay, and during the prolonged period I had to use the preventered main to blanket the mess while the wife and son laboured mightily to unscrew it and get it down on deck without ripping the expensive cloth, we pointed toward land (Pickering, actually) and picked up speed to above five knots on main only. Eventually, and it was a long, tiring eventually, the spinnaker, undamaged thanks to carefulness on the part of the crew, was rebagged and stowed in favour of the No. 2, for during the unscrewing exercise, the wind had rotated about 40 degrees, we had come toward land about 2.5 NM, and the angle to Toronto was now just aft of the beam.

Also, not raining.
The seas went to about 1.5 metres (five feet), nothing to worry about, but as they were coming the length of the lake, they had a near-oceanlike rolling quality we never see with the more typical westerlies. The wind was twice to three times the forecast strength, and we took off like a shot.
Our 120% sized  No. 2 is elderly, but it remains my favourite sail.
We did 20 NM in three hours flat, a very good run indeed for what was supposed to be a mostly motoring day. Not pictured are the occasional surfs during which we broke eight knots, a rare-ish achievement outside of spring and fall.

Hard to see because we are coming off a big 'un: 7.4 knots. Hull speed is supposed to be 6.9.

This was a common sight as the sun set. We roared back home.
We arrived home right at 2200h, a fitting symmetry for the short getaway. More sailing was had, and of a higher quality, than we expected, which is always nice, but then when it comes to sailing, we hold to the premise that having a good day of it sometimes involves extending oneself.
Playground tackle. 2005





2014-08-30

That sinking feeling

Not a pleasant vista. Photo (c) J.C.
So, kids, keep those bilges clean, free of debris and attached to decent batteries! This was the scene about a week and a half ago at the marina where I keep the 33-footer. This is an older sort of small powerboat, arguably dirtier than mine but of a similar vintage, I would guess. It sank due to some sort of unknown bilge pump failure, but why water was coming in in the first place remains unknown.

Actual salvors doing actual salving. Not seen often around these parts.

Also a mystery is how this boat could be refloated, pumped out and then...not immediately sink again. Seen here is the handy work platform from which the guys brought in to fix the "sunken, fuel-dribbling power boat hanging off the dock" situation.
That's gasoline dispersant in the water, and an absorbant boom to contain (partially, at least) the fuel spillage.

I think for these salvors it was a nice and easy day to resurrect a boat sunk in a marina, as opposed to a freighter run aground in a storm or anything during the winter. I enjoyed their casual way with tossing live AC power cords hither and yon. 

Rises again, only to be hauled away.
The owner was surrounded by a cloud of unknowing: he had no clue as to why his boat sank, or, indeed, why it was floating again. But to judge from the slightly gritted teeth I encountered at the marina office, plus the very tatty look of the boat, I suspect Mr. Grew will be trailering his powerboat from now on, as he has Left the Marina. Just another day on the water. Keep those hose clamps tight, kids.






Have a seat, Skipper

Base, strut, sliding plate thingie.
From the department of "failure to prioritize" comes The Helm Seat Purchase. I am in the midst of finishing the prolonged installation of the new diesel in the hope that I can, mastless, at least chug around in circles before haulout. That's the stated goal.

But sometimes opportunities/curses arrive in unpredictable ways. The opportunity was to purchase, at a discount, a long-contemplated item: an adjustable helm seat for the pilothouse. The curse came in the form of the closing of Genco Marine's Queen Quay outlet. Genco Marine was not only the closest chandlery to both my boats, it was also where my wife, the redoubtable Mrs. Alchemy, put in four to five days a week of thankless retail grinding. There's a West Marine in the downtown area, but seriously, that is the equivalent of suggesting Walmart to the purchaser of bespoke tailoring. They are great if you want an anchor-themed placement or a hat that declaims "Kiss the Captain!", but that's not me at this stage. Besides, even WM is slated to be bulldozed for condos, which is the Toronto way of things.

So while Genco will keep (along with Mason's, Holland Marine and a few others will continue to exist in the western hinterland of Mississauga, fat lot of good that does for a man with two boats and no car. Thus, the somewhat early purchase was made, because I got to put my bum in it first.

This will have to be moved around a bit to find the precise spot desired.
I needed a rather tall seat strut, because my wife (now and forever) and my son (currently, but not for long) are about one foot (0.3 m) shorter than am I, and we needed about a ten-inch height range. So calculations were made, and this is the result: a nice helm chair with arms, and yet not so padded that it can't rotate in a complete circle.  It also comes with a $100 item called a "sliding pedestal", meaning that it can shift forward enough to make the relative difference in arm length, and therefore, helming comfort, a non-issue. About the only change I might make is little cherrywood blocks screwed into the helm panelling so that the crew can brace their feet in heavy seas. After that, it's a manner of drilling holes and making sure a backing plate is installed under the steel decking to spread the load of bodies bracing themselves against the sea. Personally, this is intended mainly for motoring, as sailing will be done largely from the outside helm, but this will be very nice to have when peering at the various navigational gadget I have yet to install.

2014-08-10

Fluid movements

Good thing this stuff doesn't go off.
Lots of crouching and humming and a touch of swearing as tiny objects reminded me yet again how deep my bilges are aft of the engine. Today was the Filling of the Motor: ATF into the hydraulic shifter, which did not in fact wish to have its control cable reversed as I had speculated...well, not without a lot of unbolting...and so it will remain as is for the moment. The single lever at the helm does what it's supposed to.
ATF filter casing. Good thing I bought touch-up paint.
Following the actual directions for a change of pace, I ran down some of the engine commissioning details. such as checking the state of the transmission's fluid filter. Out came the metric Allen keys.
Looked fine, by which I mean wet.
 I moistened the O-rings with ATF and put it back together to the right torque.

Things are starting to seem real. Such is the magic of the word "Rotella".
Next came the lubricating oil. I ordered the shallow sump on my Beta 60 (I didn't need to, as it turned out, but there were a lot of variables as to the height of the engine mounts/stringers and the final placement of the Aquadrive coupler) and this took about seven litres of pouring.

Hard to see here, but this is "just right".
I've discovered that my block is not laid out precisely as my documentation might suggest. The Beta "marine conversions" of what is essentially a small Kubota diesel block found in street sweepers, forklifts and the more compact sort of backhoe or shovel thingie are known for having all the items that require changing or service at the front of the engine. I'm talking about water pumps, oil filters, dipsticks and the like. This is because most engines on boats live under a set of companionway stairs; one lifts or removes the stairs and hopes arms can reach the needful item. On my Beta, the water pump is about midway back on the starboard side, and I have yet to find what is called the "coolant drain cock". It's supposed to be slightly aft of the oil filter mount on the Beta 1720 canal boat model of the Beta 60 engine I thought I more or less (shallow sump, double power takeoff, ZF 25 hydraulic trannie) had, but certain items differ and I can't quite lay my hands on it.  The manual warns "make sure this is closed" and, if it exists, I can only assume it is in fact closed, as my bilges do not seem to have eight litres of coolant down them. The fuel pump lacks a priming knob, as well. I think I need to get out the dental mirrors and to scrutinize the schematics yet again.

It's clean down there. May it remain so.
The engine's confusingly named "fresh water circuit", which is actually a closed circuit of glycol/alcohol, is filled via what we call a heat exchanger, and what the British call a "calorifier". Having had Latin in high school, I can live with either one, as long as it isn't exploding near me.
One of the few pieces I kept from the old engine. Why not?
I filled the engine with coolant and then topped up the header or expansion tank to "middle". We shall see once fired up if I have too much or not. Next: cabling up the engine to the battery.

2014-08-03

Frenchmen not in evidence

Now with 30% less running aground
UPDATED 14.08.05 with pictorial splendour:  I am sitting in front of Frenchman's Bay Yacht Club, some 20 NM east of my 33 footer's customary tie-up. I am en famille, and expect Mrs. Alchemy and the Cabin Boy to manifest shortly after a rather prolonged walk to something called "a splash pad". Being relatively close to home, I had not visited here before, nor had we to Ashbridge's Bay YC, a very busy spot which, hosting a LYRA event, supplied us with their very last available visitors' slip.
Dusk at the stuffed ABYC: Dragonfly or slow shutter speed? You decide.
Perhaps ironically, I saw more National Yacht Club members there in their racing finery than I usually see at the club, arriving and leaving at odd, non-racing times, as one does when refitting.
Mrs. Alchemy in repose contemplating how the proximity to a sewage treatment plant (and the evening Parade of the Brown Trouts) may have kept the ABYC's rent low enough for them to have such a nice facility.

The Cabin Boy delves into obscure '80s science fiction and ice tea in an attempt to ignore LYRA-based revelries.

We just wanted to get away for the weekend on the boat, and threw together some food and T-shirts in a hurry. As for sailing, there has been very little wind, but the continuous motoring has provided plenty of juice to play with OpenCPN, a free and pretty decent nav program I am running on the rather basic netbook on which I'm typing this post. Even with the old version I'm running, the response is fast with a GPS "puck" and I got here without incident or worry, save for the vast field of waterlogged branches and tree trunks we had to dodge in the otherwise untroubled-by-wind waters.
Observed: One of many tree trunks and branches washed into the lake. This sort of thing went on for about three miles and was considered notable enough to report to the Coast Guard, who promptly issued a "Notice to Mariners".
On the other hand, the calm before the storms (see below) supplied plenty of interesting sights, among them a distant boat that appeared to be hovering well above the water. I would suggest such a feature would clearly affect their rating.
Blurry, but amusing. Talk about a tactical advantage.

 By the time we got to FBYC by steering for the massive tokenism of engineering, a 380-foot tall wind turbine behind the Pickering nuclear power plant, the wind must have been blowing a stern three knots. I was rather surprised to see that the entrance to Frenchman's Bay looked, well, like a French bay, well-constructed, obstacle-free and heavily issued with shiny aids to navigation.

More benign and welcoming moles than a first edition of Wind in the Willows

This rather charming YC used to be hard to get to in a shallow and silty bay with a dodgy entrance. Someone has paid to lift the submerged seawalls above the level of the waves, and has carefully buoyed and presumably dredged out everything between the spars to what would appear to be seven feet of depth. May they profit from their efforts, as it's a nice quiet spot that is tidy and, so it seemed to me. Last time I was here, around 1999 looking at a Grampian 34, the place seemed to be more or less a swamp with a water feature. But it is now a doddle to reach; a nice beach is a short walk away, and three new Weber barbeques and a reasonably priced bar ($4.75 pints!) offer comfort to the wandering crew. They seem afflicted by the general malaise among Lake Ontario yacht clubs of an aging and therefore inevitably declining membership, so if any of my readers (assuming there are some) in the east end of Toronto or the west end of Oshawa/Whitby are looking for a good place to tie up, consider this a rare endorsement.
Not seen: The other two squalls through which we had already driven.

Not unusual for a warm day in August, we were squalled upon a few times, but clearly, others had it worse.

The return to Toronto the following day featured a couple of hours of actual sailing, despite the automated drone of the weather frequency informing us "GRIMSBY BUOY, 2 KNOTS, GUSTING 2 KNOTS", which is at best discouraging.  The only problem was that the 10-knot breeze in question was coming directly from the end of the Leslie Street Spit extending into the lake, and which we had to round to get back into Toronto Harbour.
We heard a few MAYDAYS on the VHF and saw a few boats coming out of clubs under full sail, only to tack about and head back to the dock when it became clear it wasn't a great day for sailing.

So there were many longish tacks until the skies darkened and we decided that motoring was the better part of valour. We kept the jib doused and secured on deck and the main up in a token attempt to perhaps resume sailing, but if the threatening stormy bits around us truly roused themselves, I wanted to be motoring in the direction of the end of the Spit and directly into the wave train, which were essentially the same bearing.
 Toronto, Mordor's summer getaway.

As seems to be a recurring theme in my sailing career, the last squall to hit was the strongest, and naturally came not from the day's prevailing SW direction, but from the N-NE. The limitations of the direct-drive Atomic 4 engine with a smallish folding prop were soon made apparent.


Just before what I judge 30-35 knots hit. It was very similar to last fall's Brittany squall and lasted about the same 10 minutes.

After pushing our way around the corner into the Eastern Gap of Toronto's Inner Harbour, things quieted down very quickly as the extensive waterfront development can block a lot of gusting winds...or the squall line simply moved on to drench other regions. This gave us the chance to notice our surroundings, which included the oddest damn rainbow we had collectively ever seen:
The black smudges are cormorants. The pinkish thing is a blob, not a bow, of rainbow.

Best viewed with the Hallelujah Chorus playing in the next room.

A slightly less worse shot showing the patchy, non-radiused aspects of the "rainblotch".
As it was about 1700h, I would have thought the sun too high in the western sky (and occluded by clouds at sea level) to make the angle necessary to produce a rainbow. Nature had, clearly, other ideas.
Two colourful blobs of rainbow-like phenomenon for your enjoyment.
The lower blob brightened before vanishing.
Pretty, weird and pretty weird. Like a sundog celebrating Pride Week.

So if anyone has any ideas (ice crystals?), I would love to be educated on the topic of "blobs of rainbows". And yes, I realize the camerawork is poor, but it was not the weather nor in line with the helmsman's duties to be busting out the prosumer-grade lenses. My shorts are even now not entirely dried off.