GBCA Icicle 5: We end the series with a spirited DNF

Friday evening our outlook for race 5 was still dependent on whether or not I could repair the cabin top winch that raises and lowers the centerboard.

Once I got the winch open, the mechanism turned out to be incredibly simple. There is a gear on the drum, a gear on the winch handle, and one pawl that is supposed to release whenever you turn the handle. I will have to completely remove the cable and lift out the entire drum assembly to identify why the pawl is staying locked, but I found a way to pull it clear with my finger. Using the finger method we could raise and lower the centerboard with no issues, so we were a go for Saturday morning.

The lack of wind that had plagued us the entire series was not an issue Saturday. In fact, it was the most intense conditions we had ever experienced in the Kadey Krogen — an all new test.

The first thing I learned was that 30 knot winds put Mary into a complete freeze-up panic. I know she was struggling hard with being out in those conditions, so when she asked that we only fly the reefed main and the staysail, I complied. The rest of the crew did not seem as worried, but I did notice they all put on life jackets for the ride.

We had a beam reach for the first leg with apparent wind frequently gusting to 35 knots, and we were consistently making 6.5 – 7 knots on our way to the first mark. I attempted to take some pictures and video, but Mary promptly took my phone away and told me to focus on steering. However, she did take this one video clip before zipping my phone into her pocket for the duration of the race.

The second leg, we were dead down. The main was blocking all of the wind to the staysail, but we were pushing ahead at 5.5 knots and steadily running down the one or two boats that started ahead of us. The better strategy would have been to roll out the genoa and drop the staysail and main, but with the extreme conditions we decided it was better not to change sails. We did try to push the staysail across for wing-on-wing, but with the single-line system we have on that sail, we couldn’t get it to stay.

By the time we had reached the second mark, we had seen some torn sails on other boats along the course. We made the second turn and that’s where our competitive edge ended. The wind had dropped to the 15-20 knot range, and we really didn’t have enough sail out. We also realized the line brake that held the outhaul was slipping, but the outhaul and the mainsheet share a winch. There was no good way to get the outhaul tight and then off the winch to a cleat. We also had no winch at all for the staysail line, which was taking serious muscle to sheet in. We had lack of sail, poor trim, and I was having to pinch to make any forward progress on the course. We were lucky to get 3.5 knots boat speed even with all of the wind. Then the real kicker was that we learned the boat cannot tack with only the main and staysail, so each time across the bay, we had to do a slow loopy jibe. It was terrible.

After crossing the bay four times we were the last boat still on the course. I REALLY wanted to finish, but Mary had been sitting in tense fear for more than four hours and kept suggesting we start rolling in the sails, so I finally turned on the motor.

While our sailing performance in this series was absolutely dismal, we did learn some important things about the boat. I think for safety we’re going to switch the mainsheet system because having the controls on the cabin top puts the user in a prime location to get hit by the sheet and traveler as it swings across. That would also fix the outhaul winch situation.

I was impressed with the way the Krogen handled the 30 knot winds. One of the boats had their traveler ripped off. The Krogen wasn’t phased at all. However, it is a real conundrum that Mary only likes sailing in less than 15 knots of wind, and the Krogen really only sails in more than 15 knots of wind.

I wish we had sailed better, but getting off the dock four out of five weekends in January was a big accomplishment. I can cross the first thing off my list of goals for 2021.

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.

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.

2016 GBCA Women’s Regatta

The only requirement for the GBCA Women’s Regatta is that there must be a woman at the helm from the starting line to the finish line. Somehow this year I got volunteered for this honor, and I dared not refuse. On our race boat there is a tradition as well of the woman backing the boat out and returning it to her slip.  “Dockline to dockline”

The Friday before I was greatly discouraged by the men-to-women ratio at the pre-race skippers meeting, and I encouraged all of my sailing girlfriends to come on out and show them how serious we were.

My friend Kayla from SV Folie a Deux joined us as well for her very first race.

We had a great mix of seasoned veterans and newbies out for the ride, and everyone really came together as a team. The veterans became teachers, and the other ladies were really focusing on learning their jobs.

Meanwhile our captain, Doug, was busy teaching me how to trim to the telltales.  A big part of this that I missed was steering from a place where you can actually see them. That helps a lot.

Even harder to do while you’re constantly being distracted by ladies wanting pictures. 😛

Overall we did really well for a heavy boat in light wind, taking 4th.

I can’t wait for next year’s Women’s Regatta!  Which of these lucky ladies will get to helm next?!!!  🙂

Big thank you for all the pictures Mike Cameron!

GBCA Icicle Series Race #4 – Low Tide, No Wind

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Recent north winds have been draining Clear Lake and Galveston Bay of all their water.  This beach pictured above normally does not exist, and you can see how close that channel marker is in the distance.

The low water conditions left us on the dock until the very last minute deciding if we should risk trying to get out.  Our boat is a shoal draft, and is the most likely to make it. Unfortunately it’s pretty under-powered motor wise, and can’t plow through mud very well. In the end we successfully braved it, but we saw plenty of other dedicated sailors who were obviously stuck.

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The winds were 2-5 knots, and we watched our calculated finish time climb past 9pm.  Icicle drop dead time is 3pm.

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Some boats were even flying spinnakers going upwind.

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When the time rolled past 3pm and we were not yet to the second marker we decided to just sail around a bit and then call it a day.  Many of the other boats were doing the same. In the end very few boats ended up finishing.  One of which was Hamburg (pictured above stuck) who took 2nd.

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The highlight of the trip for me was that I docked the boat for the first time, and didn’t hit anything! I took advantage of the extra crew to have Fred show me when to turn etc.  Just need to do that a few more times before I have it down.

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Thanks to Mike Cameron and Tina Caron for a couple of the pictures!

2016 Icicle #3: A little bit rainy

The forecast said the thunderstorms wouldn’t start until 3 p.m., but the rain came early Saturday.

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The first leg of Icicle #3 had us close-hauled in 13 knots of wind, so we tried reefing in the jib to drop it from a 130 to a 100 to see if we could point a little higher this week. We made good speed and had a more neutral helm, but we still couldn’t point as high as most of the fleet.

It probably didn’t help that just before we started the race the slug on the back of the mainsail jumped out of the track on the boom, and we had to do some quick rigging with an extra line to tie it back down. I guess we’re going to have to put a larger slug on there.

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The wind then shifted to right off the mark during the second leg, which sent everyone tacking. I saw a couple boats choose to make about 10 short tacks instead of 3 or 4 long ones, and we caught up to a few of them.

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The last leg shifted back and forth between a broad reach and a run and got quite rainy. I wish I had a photo of all four crew members and the dog huddling under a leaky dodger.

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Judging by the time between lightning flashes and the thunder, it was never THAT close to us, but it was still a little unnerving when it would light up the sky.

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Based on performance in the first two races, our PHRF got shifted from 180 to 186, which moved out start time from 11:56 to 11:55. However, due to the mainsail issue we didn’t get started until 11:59. We finished at 2:16 with three boats behind us, which might be the best finish we’ve had so far. More importantly, we didn’t break anything, but we will have to work on the main. I’m also going to have to replace the halyards soon as they’re stretching and chalky, but my budget says we’re going to have to wait a few months on that.

Thank you to Brian, Matt, Shari and Tony for crewing, and special thanks to Shari for bringing kolaches and pulling her phone out in the rain to take a few photos for the blog this week.

Rum Race #7 and a Redfish Island Barbecue

With the race boat that we crew on out of service for the week, we posted on facebook inviting anyone who wanted to come out with us for a little grilling at Redfish Island. Well not five minutes later our friends Shari and Daniel volunteered, and we were getting ready for a day of sailing.

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Even though we have limited destinations in Galveston Bay, one of the best things is that the flurry of boats and wildlife make every trip a new adventure. Today we happened to be sailing through the Cruzan Rum Race #7, and on a very similar course. Fortunately, having no start time we got a bit of a head start.

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It wasn’t long though before boats started passing us left and right. I spent most of my time on foredeck trying to snap shots of all of our racing friends.

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All the while Fred is at the helm yelling..”Get this one!”  “You’re missing all the good shots!”

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Well I think I got a couple decent ones.

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At one point we were even passed by Doug, our captain on Antares, crewing on a Walter and Beverley’s boat Shaken not Stirred. Daniel almost had to walk the plank when tried to toss Doug beer, and lost it forever in the drink.

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We even managed to catch a glimpse of this Flying Phantom absolutely streaking through the race.

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After clearing the intensity of the race we started to take down our sails and head for Redfish for an evening grill. As we dropped anchor we could see the racers heading downwind.

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Then it was time to fire up the grill.

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After an incredible meal of beer brats, grilled egg plant and salad it was time to raise anchor and head home. Me and Shari decided that, girl power and all that the two of us were going to raise the anchor. Well we didn’t know that Fred had a patented technique that involves cleating and waiting, and pulling and cleating, and so we were extremely unsuccessful and had to rely on men.

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Our sail home was all downwind jib sailing and was extremely lazy and beautiful.  We set the autopilot and all went up to the foredeck for some relaxing sailing.

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Of course we posed for a small photo shoot.

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After several hours of beautiful sunset sailing we realized that we had in fact been going very very slow.  At about 2 knots we were not going to reach shore anytime soon, so we finally started up the motor.  Arriving well after dark, despite the best efforts of some drunken navigation from foredeck pointing us away from the channel, we managed to arrive home safe and sound.

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GBCA Cruzan Rum Race #5

Saturday we reported to Kemah Boardwalk for Rum Race #5 of the current series. Hippokampus was out of action for the weekend, so their crew joined our crew on Antares. Mary took her post working the main sheet, but with plenty of able bodies aboard, I skipped winch duty and spent the afternoon sitting on the rail and taking photos. Here’s a few of my favorites from the day.

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I decided to shoot this entire race with my vintage 90mm Elmarit. While it provides a great crop for landscape shots of the race and gives me enough reach to capture the crew of passing boats, it’s not so good for capturing any pictures of the crew on your own boat.

While I was goofing off taking photos, Mary was doing a great job on the main sheet. I would say she has definitely conquered her anxiety in regard to heeling since we came across the finish looking like this.

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We had a great run, but a bittersweet ending to the day. The diesel wouldn’t start, so we had cruise up and down the channel a few times waiting for a tow boat to come get us.

But hey, at least we got another photo op when we sailed back past the committee boat.

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Thanks to Scott Lacy for the photos of Antares. Click here to see the rest of his shots from the race.

Weekend plans

It looks like we’ll finally have an entire weekend with no rain here in Houston.

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Saturday we’ll be crewing in the Galveston Bay Cruising Association Women’s Regatta. Mary isn’t quite ready to helm Gimme Shelter in a race, so we’ll be on Antares, the Cal 40 we crewed on during the Icicle Series earlier this year.

Sunday we hope to stop by Lakewood Yacht Club for the 2015 Keels & Wheels Show. Who doesn’t want to classic cars and some gorgeous wooden boats while benefiting Boys & Girls Harbor?

Then sometime in-between all that excitement I plan to change the steaming light, mount a wind instrument, run cables down the mast, install a NMEA 2000 backbone, and change the zincs in our heat exchanger … unless, of course, we decide to just go sailing instead.

A slow day racing is better than no day racing

We’re not really hardcore sailboat racers.

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In fact, I entered the boating world by restoring a sunken sailboat that didn’t move for almost three years. That probably makes me more of a sailboat mechanic than an actual sailor. I only took the ASA basic keel boat course because I needed to know how to run the lines when I put the boat back together.

Laid back cruising has always been the plan.

However, after being invited to crew on Antares last year, I’m really starting to enjoy racing. It’s definitely been great practice for sailing on our own boat, and we’ve made lots of new friends.

Last weekend Mary surprised me with a new set of Henry Lloyd foulies as an early birthday present, so I’d have them for the last two icicle series races.

They’re very nice. I put them on Saturday morning, and even the snowy egret hopped up on the breakwater to check them out.

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However, the foulies proved completely unnecessary. By race time the weather was so nice, and the wind was so light that we actually got Mary to come along for the ride as crew photographer.

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There was enough crew to run both Antares, Doug’s Cal 40, and Hippokampus, Andy’s Pearson 422.

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First leg started with the spinnaker flying, but even with the kites up, this photo pretty much captures the speed and intensity of the entire race.

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Yes, he’s napping on the transom. They also had a guy napping on foredeck.

Hippokampus was flying her spinnaker for the first time. The red, white and blue definitely looked good.

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I got some good practice working the spin sheets and the jib sheets, and Mary got some good photos.

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