GBCA Icicle 4: Pure heartbreak

You would think that after three weeks of focused boat repairs and adjustments, sailing performance would go up.

You would be wrong. Icicle 4 was the worst race yet.

When we re-installed the jib, we tied on the old slightly smaller diameter sheets that had been found in the bottom of the lazarette. The theory was that our new sheets were too large for the turning blocks and were binding up during our tacks. Unfortunately as we unfurled the jib on our way to the starting line, one of the sheets came untied leaving the jib flapping in the wind.

We left our starting position to partially furl the jib and get the line re-attached, but that put us about 10 minutes behind and quite a bit off course.

Once the jib actually caught the wind, the bow of the boat started turning uncontrollably giving me a clear indication that the center board had not actually dropped when we lowered it. Apparently the centerboard winch was jamming up. We spent another 10 minutes finessing and finagling it while I was inside the boat jerking on the centerboard wire trying to get it to deploy.

At this point we were 20 minutes late and completely in the wrong spot to start. We had to spend another 10 minutes motoring back to to race area before we could even get into a starting pattern.

We started VERY late. There was only one J boat and a trimaran behind us.

The jib sheets did seem to bind up less during tacks, but it was hard to know if it was the line size that was making a difference or if it was the fact that I cleaned quite a bit of corrosion out of the jib cars, so that they were operating better. Unfortunately the self-tailing winches did not always hold the smaller line.

One of the biggest problems I’m still facing is that with our undersized shallow draft rudder, we have a major issue with the boat continuing to turn in a circle once it starts the tack. I don’t think there’s any cure for this. This boat was designed by a single man for anchoring in shallow water and drinking in the spacious cockpit. It’s essentially a trawler with a mast, and it sails like garbage. The fixed keel version handles much better, and I’m quite sad we didn’t go that route.

We managed to make one tack on the first leg of the course, then the wind dropped to 7 knots, and we stopped moving. Everyone was content to drift, but eventually we were drifting into a children’s regatta area, so we had to give up and turn on the motor to make sure we didn’t float over a bunch of kids on optis.

To say I’m more than a little depressed about the boat’s performance would be an understatement. Every other heavy, cruising class handicap boat finished the race. To be fair, they all had a 30-minute lead, so maybe there was jmore wind down the course or they were able to make the first turn to be on a better point of sail before the wind dropped, but I think something is seriously wrong with our rig and sail plan.

We have one race left in the series, and my aspirations of placing have diminished to just hopes of finishing. Of course, unless I can get the centerboard winch unseized before the race, we may not be able to sail at all.

At least we’re getting off the dock. That’s progress over the past two years.

Still, it’s hard to stay positive in regard to this boat when it’s sailing so poorly. I don’t mind having a pig, but this is ridiculous.

The low tides and high times of GBCA Icicle #3

Spoiler alert, we did not start (DNS) Icicle Race #3. The north wind was gusting all day Friday, and there just wasn’t much water left in Clear Lake.

On a normal day, there is no beach here along the bulkhead of our marina. Due to low water and a low wind forecast, we decided not to risk leaving Finn with a baby sitter and getting stuck in the bay for hours. Had we made it to the race, we would have had less competitors, but sometimes the risk is not worth the reward.

Earlier in the week Mary began re-stitching the sacrificial sunbrella that was ripped on our jib during Icicle 1. Her Sailrite sewing machine has seen at least five years of hard use, and it finally gave out. While it awaits repair or replacement, we had to hand stitch the sail. I finished about four feet, and that has put me over my sewing quota for all of 2021. I don’t know what kind of sewing machine Mary wants this time, but I will buy it.

Despite the extreme low tide, the weather was really nice, and Finn enjoyed his weekend at the marina. His crawling is getting more advanced, and he made dozens of laps around the cabin floor.

He also tried out the swings for the first time.

During one of his naps we managed to get the jib back on the roller furling unit and ready for Icicle #4 (knock on wood).

It would have been a perfect, relaxing weekend except for one thing.

At some point, my wallet disappeared. The most likely timeframe is when Tex decided to randomly start peeing on the rug in the boat, and I rushed to grab him and corral Hemingway, then wrestle and carry them both up the extremely high bulkhead to get them to the grass for a bathroom break. I think as I was stretching and then sitting and twisting on the bulkhead, my wallet must have broken loose and taken a dive.

I spent several hours retracing my steps all over the marina and turning the boat inside out in the hopes that I had just set it somewhere, but with no luck. It is gone. Now starts the process of canceling cards and ordering a new driver license.

Honestly, I’m surprised I made it almost 43 years without ever losing a wallet before, especially since I’ve spent the past 11 years on boats every weekend. Here’s to hoping that will be the big loss of 2021, and the rest of the year will be smooth sailing.

GBCA Icicle Series 2: We learn more limitations of the boat

After the line adjustments and repairs, I was fired up for race 2. Our handicap boat rating went from 218 to 221, so our start time was moved a minute earlier. We got to the course on time and managed to get the main unfurled correctly on the first attempt — everything was going great.

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That’s us in the background of this photo Sunspot Baby took just before the start.

We started exactly on time on a starboard tack. It was beautiful, and a huge improvement over our late start last week.

Then the wind died.

The forecast projected 8 knots until 1 p.m., then down to 7 knots through the afternoon. In reality, it was closer to 4 knots with occasional gusts up to 7.

At 4-5 knots, the boat did creep forward but couldn’t point better than a broad reach. Below 4, we didn’t move and all steering was gone. We spent two hours bobbing around on the first leg of the course with no perceivable forward motion towards the mark.

We spent some time diagnosing why the jib sheets keep binding up. I think we’re going to have to invest in new jib cars. We also noticed the sheets tend to bunch up and bind in the turning blocks near the winches. Our options there are to either upsize the blocks, which will require quite a bit of teak work or the downsize the lines. I haven’t decided the best option on any of it yet since whichever route we go, it’s going to be expensive.

We finally threw in the towel and turned the boat around. Icicle Series 2 was a DNF for us. However, it looks like only one boat in the non-spin club handicap division finished.

I did get the new strainer basket installed in the climate control system, so we have heat and air-conditioning again. Mary and I also spent a couple hours removing old wires and autopilot equipment this morning, but due to the cold and rain we only got the interior sections of the boat finished.

We still have major water leaks that need to be remedied. We removed the old staysail track and epoxied the holes, which stopped the leaks coming down the front of the mast. I think the track was leaking into the core and that water was then flowing out at the mast opening. I’m not sure where all the water is coming from at the front of the mast. It’s a virtual water fall when the rain gets heavy. We used spartite to seal the mast in the collar, but the base of the collar itself could be leaking.

Fingers crossed that Icicle 3 will finally be our race.

Here’s to new adventures in 2021

2021 started on a good tack. We spent New Year’s Day on the boat prepping for GBCA Icicle Series 1, and we were treated to an absolutely amazing sunset.

I finally broke down and bought a 3M Stripe Removal wheel to take the old Florida registration numbers off the hull. It was working pretty well until it popped out of the drill and into the water.

Poseidon demands his sacrifices. I almost went diving for it, but then I remembered I still have stitches in my stomach from the hernia surgery, so I decided against it. Guess I’ll get another one and try again next weekend, but I’ll be checking the chock tightness frequently.

We were up early Saturday to finish boat prep before our crew arrived, and we cast off just after 11 a.m. for our first race aboard the Krogen 38. There’s no better way to shakedown a boat than to race it. As a wise man once said, “If it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen out there.”

We’re still having trouble with our furling main. It’s an early design, and it just doesn’t seem to work very well. Someone has to literally sit under the boom and guide the line onto the drum by hand or it wraps too low and then overwraps. It took multiple attempts to fully deploy the main. Then our staysail and jib furlers just don’t want to spin. Even with decent wind, it took some real effort to get them started. It probably doesn’t help that the staysail furler lost an eyelet during transport to Houston, and I had to rig it with a big U-bolt to stop it from overwrapping immediately. Apparently it’s not a great solution because when we attempted to furl it back in after the race, it was still an overwrapped mess.

Hopefully by the end of the series we’ll have it all figured out and working correctly because replacing two furling units and switching the main to a smart track is a really expensive proposition. We’ll see how it goes. Our furling issues definitely contributed to a late start for race 1.

Overall we did well. Our tacks were messy, but it was literally everybody’s first time sailing the boat. Yes, Mary and I have been out on the boat previously, but we never had the jib out in more than maybe 5 knots of wind.) We learned that the jib does tack across in high wind, but that it has seen better days. It did not hold shape well, and there were several patches of sunbrella fluttering in the wind by the end of the race.

Mary helmed the start and the first leg of the course while I was fixing furlers, then I took over the second two legs.

I have no idea when we could have possibly hit 16.8 knots. It must have been while Mary was driving.

Racing with dogs aboard was interesting. Tex has been sailing for the entire 10 years we’ve had him, and he could care less except when we start heeling, and he gets dumped off a bench. However, he does get cold.

Hemingway, on the other hand, was nervous the entire time. By the third leg Mary was designated dog holder. There had been discussion of possibly bringing Finn along for a race in his car seat, but I think that will have to at least wait until the summer rum races.

We spent this morning addressing all of the little issues we documented during the race. I also noticed the air-conditioning water return wasn’t flowing very well, so I decided to clean the strainers.

Unfortunately, there wasn’t much strainer left to be cleaned. The underside of the lid was coated in barnacles, and the basket was completely deteriorated. The good news is that the basket is a common size that is still being made. The bad news is, nobody had it in stock, so we may not have air-conditioning or heating for a couple of weeks — but that’s the excitement of boating, right?

Here’s the hoping 2021 continues to stay exciting, not just in sailing, but in all of our endeavors.