Friday, November 21, 2008

Red-tailed Hawk Sail

We had a clear day in Stumptown and I took advantage, heading down to Willamette Park around eleven. As I came through the Terwilliger curves and down toward John's Landing, I could see the river and it was surrealistically glassy.

I decided to head up to the chandlery to see if my twisted D-shackle came in and maybe cause some wind to start whipping as I drove across the river on the Marquam bridge.

I picked up some new sail ties to replace the set that floated away on the infamous DR 1 sail. My twisted D wasn't in, but I found a comparable shackle, sail ties, and some other odds and ends that this sport niggles out of you.

Back down to Willamette Park and I launched about noon. There was a slight breeze and some nice little 4 knot puffs that started to pick up as I set off. I sailed upriver, tacking a half-dozen times and trying to pay close attention to the sail shape and what the telltales were doing.

I was able to get a nice little v-wake behind me, with the initial wave actually rolling over itself. The centerboard was gurgling and I was making good way upriver. On a starboard tack, the Portland Spirit headed up the channel as I made way toward her. I crossed the river toward the Macadam Bay floating home community and made a final tack back to the center of the river and around the green can.

I struggled getting the boat to go wing and wing, even after pulling the centerboard up. I was struck by how rapidly the boat makes way down river, down wind, while the apparent wind is hard to detect at all. After a thirty minute trip up, I was back to the launch in about ten minutes.

I furled the jib and put the centerboard back to about halfway down and was able to gybe to port and into the launch corral. As soon as I pulled centerboard back up, the boat slipped directly across and I came abeam on the starboard side, releasing the mainsheet as I put out a hand to brace the dock.

After loading the boat I headed home. Turning up Taylor's Ferry and rounding a corner to right, I saw a large bird dropping in front of me from the trees. A red-tailed hawk dropped a car length ahead of me, and facing up hill at windshield height, he spread every feather he had to turn his dive into a flapping recovery. I was able to pick out details in individuals feathers, a few feet away from me, as he flapped back up and away.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Designing for Fabulous Prizes 1

Jolea the Gypsy Pirate Wench knocked out a handful of great logo ideas for the dinghy. Love'em!

Call for Designers

So, I posted this bit about the boat name and a potential logo here, despite Kris's protestations. She had designed this one in MS Paint in about ten minutes and it was intended to be a conceptual thing that would evolve into the eventual real logo.

When Kris's colleague, Cameron the Real Designer, saw it, his response was, "Were you going for hokey? Because if you were, you nailed it." Or something like that. This, of course, was funny on a couple of levels. The obvious one and then the fact that Kris is a designer by training and has a great minimalist eye for home design; incredible color sense; and she's the most OCDishly organized person in my universe, all of which adds up to her being embarrassed that anyone would see a work in progress and think she was, in her essence, a bit gauche.

What, you don't see the humor in this? It's because I truly am gauche. I'm Gregory Gauche. In fact, I think Gregory is French for gauche. Wait. Gauche is French for gauche, isn't it?


So, if you read this blog and you design stuff, take that theme and send me what you got. I'll pick the top three or one and have a poll to decide which logo gets painted on the Hunter 170.

Yeah? Anybody out there?

I'll send you a fabulous prize, too.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Air Command?

Great day for a drift! Kris got her first trip on the dinghy yesterday. I was wondering what her hold-up was. I'm certain that past events couldn't have caused the hesitation on her part. However, she did seem a little more confident that Shannon the real sailor was coming along with us on Sunday.

After a pretty hearty b-day celebration, my newly 24 (ahem) y/o wife and I set off for Willamette Park and a day on the dinghy. It was incredibly beautiful in Portland this day. We hit at least 61-deg and the sun was shining the whole time. In the morning, we took our breakfast and coffee to our favorite spot on Skyline, atop the West Hills and we were able to see as far as Mt. Rainier in the North Cascades. That's a long way from Portland, since Mt. Rainier sits just a bit SE of Seattle.

It's also a rare treat this time of year, since we are usually socked in with some Pacific Low that brings us much grayness, wetness, and thoughts of our own doom. If you've ever had a water pipe break in a closet with no lights and then you spent six months living in that closet, you can imagine what a winter in Portland is like. Not too cold, not drenchingly wet, but more of a drizzling wetness, not very well-lit, and too long.

So, we had the opposite this day and it was a great day for a float. If we'd have had the slightest breeze, it may have been a great day for sailing also. However, we ended up drifting out into the current, then heading downstream, catching a slight puff and tacking back to the local sailing club, where we sat abeam the dock for a half-hour and chatted. We took turns looking up at the club's wind indicator, the rotating three-cup type, commenting at how it was possible that thing could not be moving AT all.

A woman came down with her Feva and launched while we were there. We chatted with her as she made about a tenth of knot toward us. Then we were off again, as the slightest hint of a breeze puffed at us.

We made way to the channel and the wind died again. So, out came the paddle, which was about the fastest we traveled all day. Passing a Catalina Capri 18, we realized that our failure to stock the boat with beer, as these folks had, might have been more a cause of jealousy this day, than our envy of their motor. Drifting becomes a whole other enterprise when properly fueled. This sort of undertaking becomes a chance for reflection and deep philosophical exploration if properly lubricated.

After some more drifting and paddling we made it back to the launch where we talked some more and hung out. Then, miracle of miracles, a palpable breeze and we were underway.

At least four tacks across the river and Kris got to feel some real sailing, before it died out again as we drifted into the launch ramps.

We hauled the boat, reconvened at the Fulton for victuals and called it a day.

The legend of the DR1 is growing, I should add. I may have to re-title that post. Throughout this day's sailing, Kris and Shannon kept asking me, feigning innocence, "Where was it you capsized?"

And, "Air Command, eh? I didn't even know Portland had that sort of thing."

Yeah, they 'have that sort of thing' and they apparently aren't afraid to use it...

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Sailing on Sunday

Going out tomorrow go redeem myself!


Monday, November 10, 2008


The wind was a bit gusty Saturday morning on the Willamette. I wanted to take the girls out (my seven and five y/o daughters), so made them wear windproof stuff; in hindsight, neoprene would have been the better choice.

We got the boat set up in the parking lot and then launched in the water without too much trouble. Once alongside the dock, however, the mooring line set itself free and the boat set sail on it's own. Fortunately, it was moored on the upriver side of the boat launch ramp, and, corralled as it was, the boat only drifted to the downriver side, before I was able to grab it and convince it to stay put with the port jib sheet.

I put the pickup back in the parking lot and loaded the girls on board the boat after a safety discussion and a re-check of their life vests to ensure they were secure. I had a brief thought of reefing the mainsail, but I thought the wind was only a bit brisker than the previous two days and I'd spent both of those drifting for the bulk of my time. This looked to me like it would move us a little bit more consistently than in my past two days experience and potentially be an exciting introduction to sailing for the girls.

As soon as the main was up we began to move across the river at about 3-4 knots. I had the girls each assigned to a jib sheet and they unfurled the jib and we picked up another knot. We were across the river very quickly and I made my first tack.

My youngest didn't like the rolling motion of the tack and began to get a little upset, saying she wanted to go back. At this point I released the main sheet to get them situated and we weather-helmed. I took over the jib sheets, as the girls were having problems releasing them from the cleats, which now seems like it was because of the wind strength.

We had drifted down river about fifty meters from the launch and the wind was coming from the boat ramp, so we were going to have to tack back upriver to get to the dock. We made our first tack toward the West bank and the docks and turned into the wind and went across the river again.

Now, slightly upriver from the dock, I set us up to turn to starboard, back into the wind and home. I released the port jib sheet, turned the rudder and pulled the main sheet in toward the center of the boat. The wind gusted and the boat began to heel over to port, sending the 5 y/o across the cockpit and into the lap of her older sister. I released the mainsheet, but it was too late. We had a long slow moment of hope and fear, not unlike last Tuesday evening, and then we were all into the water between the boat and the boom, our hopes dashed in the face with the cold reality that, although Obama may be our man and may be able to help us improve our image around the globe, turn around our lives at home, and create a new hopeful America, he wasn't going to be here to stop the three of us from splashing into the Willamette River this Saturday morning.

With the mast downriver, the sail in the water, and the prevailing wind blowing against the bottom of the boat, it wasn't long before the boat started heading toward turtle-land.

I grabbed the 7 y/o and tossed her an arm's length away from me, outside the gunwale of the boat, then did the same with the 5 y/o. I ducked under and out myself and was able to quickly chuck both girls up on top of the now turtled boat. I was near the stern, so turned and waved and gave a shout, "Hey, can you guys give us a hand?" to a couple of fisherman at the dock launching their boat. The girls heard my shout and both began yelling "Help us!" in their high-pitched little girl voices.

I told them to relax, we are going to be fine, as the guys in the boat waved back and headed our way. As they came across the river, I took my car key out of my pocket and told my older daughter to stick it in her jeans pocket. She took it and said, "I'll just hold it really tight, dad." I told her, "No, put it in your pocket right now."

When the fisherman arrived they asked how they could help. I asked them to take the girls back to the dock; told them the girls had my key and asked that they put them in the pickup while I try and right the boat.

They reached me with a gaff and I pulled on the gaff with one hand and the gunwale with my other and eased the two boats together. I had the girls come to me one at a time and was able to quickly get the girls in their boat without another dip in the water. As they headed back to the dock, I ducked under the open transom and moved forward toward the mainmast.

I was able to release the main halyard, without ducking under the water, and then, using my legs under the boom, and my arms over the boom, I reefed the mainsail up the mast (up being down in my newly inverted and very wet world). I then found the jib furling line (thank god for the self-furler), by imagining where it would be if I were right-side up and then looking on the opposite side; I think my years of turning wrenches while hanging upside down in engineroom bilges gave me the conceptual skills I needed here, as well as the practical ability to get something mechanical done in a sloshy, wet confined space.

I came back out from under the boat and two solo outrigger paddlers had arrived, as well as the original boat driver who'd helped me get the girls back to the dock. A second fishing boat came along and the driver was saying that the fire department was here and wanted me to return to the dock.

I looked across and sure enough, there were at least five Portland Fire Dept. vehicles in the parking lot.

Shortly thereafter, a jet-ski with two PFD swimmers and a Multnomah County Sheriff Water Patrol boat arrived. The mast hit some rocks at this point, and I was thinking the angle was going to make it easier for me to hoist myself up, grab the centerboard and get this thing righted.

The PFD swimmers now insisted that I return to the boat launch. Fisherman number one gave me a lift and I checked in on the girls, who were snuggled up in the back of Engine #10. I counted seven emergency vehicles in the lot and asked the firemen who had called them. They said they got a report of a "DR 1" which apparently means somebody had drowned.

By this point, no more than ten minutes had passed since we capsized. So, although impressed at the local emergency responders reaction time, I'm still not sure why the turnout was so large. Apparently, fisherman boat #2 had come over to check things out when my girls were back at the dock, and, me being underneath the hull reefing sails, they panicked when they didn't see anyone around.

So, without giving a shout, or really investigating much at all, they had reported to PFD that I was missing. The guys in the firetruck then took charge of my girls and told them their dad was "missing."

Later that night I found out that my 5 y/o overheard the radio talk and thought dad had drowned.


By the time I got back down to the dock, the PFD swimmers had righted the boat without me and towed it to the dock.

Kris came down and brought a change of clothes for me and the girls and we pulled the boat out of the water and called it a day. I dropped the sweatshirts back at the fire station on Taylor's Ferry and Terwilliger. The trucks were all gone as they were off for the day's scheduled training session, which happened to be a drowning practice. Later, I saw that this must have been the reason for the huge turnout. There was even a truck in the parking lot that was dispatched as the 'Air Command' center; apparently, these guys were to be the ones to direct and communicate with a helicopter that I guess must fly around and look for floating bodies.

Reflecting on my adventures, I learned a little about wind strength and dinghy stability. I'll take the girls out in a keelboat again, but probably will keep them out of the dinghy for a while.

I'm a former lifeguard and big-wave surfer and at the back of my mind the whole time was my consideration for what would happen if any of us ended up in the water. To that end, I had the girls both secured in their highly flotatious vests, and a couple of lines, as well as a seat cushion, were handy for tossing.

I'll reef the main and get more practice in higher winds before heading out with anyone less experienced that I am in the future.

The girls are not huge fans of sailing, needless to say. However, despite the panicky fisherman's call to 911, I still love this stuff and I know if I had pictures I'd be able to make it on H2uh0.

Friday, November 7, 2008

L & C

Draft one of our boat logo is up on the header. Kris whipped this one out tonight; she's going to keep working on it, but this is a nice start.

Big Love II

My wife's email exchange regarding my infatuation with my new friend:

Kris: He went out with "her" again...

Shannon (an actual sailor): Ha ha ha ha, yep that’s how it goes- and just wait til he gets some wind!

And Again

I was awake for about ten minutes this morning when I decided that, there being nothing for me to do in the office, and there being a boat in front of my house, I was going sailing. Was there ever really another option on day three of my sailing apprenticeship?

I drove the three miles down to Willamette Park and started rigging up the boat. I managed to drop a little screw in the centerboard trunk and spent fifteen minutes trying to retrieve it with a combination tool of my own invention. I didn't have anything long enough to reach to the bottom of the centerboard trunk, nor did I have anything thin enough to reach up from underneath.

I used my U.S. Navy issued machinist-mate ingenuity and dropped the longest screwdriver I had in to the trunk in hopes of hitting the screw and dislodging it from it's perch just forward of the centerboard opening in the bottom of the hull. I retrieved the screwdriver with an inverted pair of channel locks. Inverted channel locks, you say? It's a technique I have considered submitting a patent for.

The channel lock pliers would not fit in with the gripping head down, so I turned them upside down and was able to grip the handle of the screwdriver between the pliers handles and gently pull the screwdriver up and out of the trunk. Alas, I was not able to dislodge the little screw. So, I gave up and went sailing, after jamming a paperclip through the screw hole to hold the boom vang in place.

Yes, astute readers will recall that boom vang was the source of some momentary confusion yesterday. I suspect that more problems may occur in this area of the rigging in the future. The boom vang may well turn out to be my personal Achilles heel.

Enough of the landlubber nonsense; I'll be spending enough time at the local chandlery, I'm sure. Today there was a nice ripply surface out on the Willamette and I was quickly underway and shooting across toward Oaks Park with a real V-wake trailing out behind me and actual bubbles coming from under the transom moments after launching.

The breeze seemed to be coming from the Southwest, so was at a slight angle to the river, about 45-deg off of straight downriver line (the Willamette pretty much runs from South to North right here). I was able to aim almost directly upriver when on a starboard tack and then toward the West shore on port, and repeat, quickly making way toward the Sellwood bridge.

I'm very impressed with how close the boat sails to the wind. I remembered to put the wind indicator on the mast today and I was slightly inside the 45-deg vector a number of times when the wind was blowing freshest.

As the breeze slacked a Mallard drake swam toward my starboard beam. I passed him and he turned and paddled along in my wake, happily keeping pace until the breeze picked up again and I left him behind. I tacked back toward the Western shore and heard a splash and my friend the drake slid in behind me again.

Twice more he caught up to me on the wing and it occurred to me that he was expecting some treat for his troubles. Unfortunately, my cranberry-orange scone crumbs were left in a paper bag in the pickup cab, back at the park. I shrugged and he paddled off, wagging his ducktail at me, "for shame, for shame."

I made it nearly to the green can just below the Sellwood and fell off for my first downwind run in my new boat. I was able to deploy the jib to starboard and the main to port and remembered to lift the centerboard. Wing and wing, I cruised slowly downwind, noticing the distinct difference in apparent wind. I was probably making just as quick a pace over ground as when tacking across the river, wind abeam, but going downwind it felt as though I was simply adrift. I checked the rudder and could see that I was definitely making way and faster than the current.

I made my a couple of jibes and then came about to sail back to the docks when the wind died on me and I ended up sculling with the rudder the last 150 meters to the launch. Fortunately, the rudder tilts, so I was able to create a near parallel to the water angle and make some good way sculling with the tiller.

As I was gliding in the last few meters, I heard a gaggle of honkers calling to each other and turned, looking to the sky for the geese. When I finally found them I realized they were at water level and headed straight at me in two groups. I was the peak of their vee.

They rose up to about eight feet off the water and converged just ahead of my mainmast, a double-wing of California-bound waterfowl, noisily honking over the boat launches and across the park. This is great stuff.
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Thursday, November 6, 2008

First Sail

Pardon me if I sound like a vacuous sorority girl, but, I have to say OMG! That was sooo much fun!!!

I bailed on work today and headed down to Willamette Park by myself with my new girlfriend in tow. I stopped at Staff Jennings, under the Sellwood Bridge and picked up an emergency paddle to keep handy in the boat. When I arrived at the boat launch, the river was about as flat and glassy as it could possibly be, with a wet fog hanging on Portland's autumnal-colored West Hills.

I spent about fifteen minutes in the parking lot stepping the mast, rigging the boom, rudder, tiller, and a few other things. I saved myself thirty seconds by not rigging the boom vang until I was underway and discovered a pulley and some line hanging off the boom.

It was a very quiet morning and there was absolutely no wind. I did manage to make some way upriver, but I think it was owing to the tide. Even though we are sixty miles from the ocean, we are affected by tides. I played around with the tiller and was able to make a little way by swinging rudder side-to-side. I'll look in my New Complete Sailing Manual tonight and see if I invented that one, or they already know about it. I suspect the latter. (Nov. 7 update: sculling!)

It was quiet enough that I had lots of time to reflect on things like the five yellow jackets accompanying me on my first voyage in the new dinghy. One of them fell out of the mainsail when I removed the cover and the sail ties in the parking lot. The forward foursome dropped out of the mast when I stepped it.

Yellow Jacket Number One was the liveliest of the bunch. He manned the boom traveler for most of the sail, while his buddies sprawled about the mainmast as though they'd spent the night feasting on leftover picnic spareribs and just couldn't be bothered to move themselves.

I never got much further than a hundred meters from the boat launch, before deciding to work my way back to the start. After about an hour-and-a-half of very peaceful drifting I took a break, moored the boat, and hit a Starbucks nearby for an Espresso Truffle.

Back to the boat (this picture is how she looked when I returned) and underway again. I got a little excited walking down to launch for round two, because I thought I could see some ripples on the water. As I got closer to the boat, however, I realized the rippling was from the flock of geese swimming by. Sigh.

I launched again and this time drifted across and down stream. As I tacked back toward the docks, a breeze started to blow from the South, puffing down river.

I think the time I spent drifting and playing with the tiller and the rigging in light winds was probably the best first thing for a novice sailor like myself, since I was able to sort out the best way to move around in the cockpit, while situating the lines so they were easy to handle without being under any real pressure.

As the breeze started to pick up the boat began to heel over quite a bit. That's when I realized that in the light winds, I had been roll tacking (I think that's what it's called; using body weight to shift the boom and turn the boat) and the boat had been heeling to the side I was on, the leeward side.

With some real wind to work with, I carefully shifted myself to the windward side of the boat, keeping the sails set. The boat immediately leveled out and I could see water moving under the transom. As I approached the dock I tacked back toward the other side of the river, shifted the jib, and began making way across toward Oaks Park and the floating home community on the East side.

At this point YJ#1 took the initiative and moved over to man the port jib sheet. The next time I tacked, however, he had disappeared. As much as I'd like to think he flew off, with the cold wet air and the sluggishness he showed, I suspect he wandered into the centerboard trunk and met his doom.

As I trimmed the sails and played with the centerboard height there were actual ripples coming out from under the transom and I could hear the water moving out of the way as I made about three knots across the water. I fear that if anyone saw me at this point they must have either thought it was wonderful that this grinning idiot was allowed out on the water to experience such joy, or they were scandalized that the group home let one of it's own out on the water alone without a life jacket.

A couple more tacks and another hour had gone by, so I headed in and was able to get the boat trailered, the mast unstepped and everything ready to roll in about twenty minutes. I called my wife then, giddy as the aforementioned tri-delt and she caught the enthusiasm. We are going to try and get out on one or both of the weekend mornings and sail her together.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Big Love

Woohoo! There's a sailboat in my front yard.

Kris asked me, in worried tones, if there was enough room in my life for another woman. I guess we'll find out. ;)

Call me!

C'mon yacht broker. I'm sitting here, waiting. My phone is fully charged and turned on to both make a sound and vibrate. I know because I've checked it twice in the last thirty minutes.

It's time for daddy to bring home the love and coconuts...

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

It's only a day away

The latest exchange with the yacht broker:

Hello Greg,

17 Hunter will be ready to go this Wednesday. The owner is scheduled to be in at 9 am to sign off the title, receive his payment, etc, so the boat should be ready to go by 10 am or so. I am looking forward to you getting Love'n Cocoanuts soon.

Nice. I'll be there about 9:59. :)

Seller can be late at times. I'll call your cell phone the minute we wrap things up.

Yeah, next time I do a sailboat deal I'm going to put a caveat on in there about an offer expiration. Get the spurs kicking so I can go sailing, dang-it.

I’m on your side! See you later in the week.

Later in the week? What is that? Is that a foreshadowing that I'm not getting my boat until Friday, or some nonsense? This is killing me.

In the meantime, I'm taking the whole day off tomorrow and given the slightest hint of a breeze, I'll be out on the Willamette launching from the park in John's Landing.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Really Want to Sail

Kris and I drove over and handed the bank check to the broker and found I have to wait for funds to clear before they'll give me the title and let me sail away.

I guess there's a fear that I'll head for Maui in the open dinghy and the check from my bank will bounce. Oy. I blame you flakey sailors out there for perpetuating an unreliable stereotype.

I'm dying here.

Dinghy Desire

C'mon, FedEx man! Bring my check today, 'cause I wanna sail tomorrow.