Saturday, January 30, 2010

Cross Country Skiing at Mt Ranier

Today I got up at 0530 and was underway from the house at 0630. A stop for Mc Breakfast at Spanaway and I was at Paradise at 0930. The temp was actually quite warm at 33Deg. There was a couple inches of new snow.

I left the parking lot and skied down the road in Paradise Valley to Reflection Lakes. The distance to the lakes is 3 miles, but I continued on for another 1/2 mile to where the road starts going downhill into Stevens Canyon. The conditions stayed good with some new snow falling most of the day, but it got warmer and when I finally got back to the truck, it had warmed to 35Deg.

On the return back up Paradise Valley, my toes started hurting from the pressure of the plastic boots. I have not used this ski gear very much, so this was a bit of a surprise. My toes hurt so bad that I was not sure I could get back to the parking lot and when I did, I could hardly walk to the truck. I will probably loose the toenails, something that happens often anyway.

As soon as I started driving down off the mountain, it started raining and most of the way home, it rained really hard making it hard to see while driving.

Just before I got to the parking lot, a fox came by me. He seemed totally unafraid of me. I tried to get video, but could not get the camcorder turned on in time.

Reflection Lake

Skiing down Paradise Valley

Friday, January 29, 2010


This has been a great week. My ear and jaw have been painful for several weeks and the ear especially has been very sensitive to cold weather. My niece, the ear doc, looked in it last weekend and said that it looked good.

So this week I was able to get out and ride the bicycle the previous three days. The main criteria for me was that it not rain. The weather was cool at times and even foggy, but most afternoons the sun came out. As long as I kept the ear covered with a headband, it seemed to do well and not cause any problems. I put on quite a few miles this week.

So, I reported my activities on the great social networking site, Facebook. The response was interesting. One Facebook friend commented on each day as "liking" what I posted. I appreciated that. But one day, a FB friend said: "is everyday like groundhog day for you? Get up, check the weather, go for a bike ride? Retirement must really suck.". I was kind of taken aback by this comment so I replied : "So what is your day like: get up, go to work, come home, eat, go to bed, repeat day after day?" He conceded after that. Afterall, he has many years of work before he will be eligible to retire.

But it got me thinking. First, I really don't care what someone thinks of my activities. It was that way when I worked too, most people had no interest in what I did and were usually critical of my activities. Second: work was probably a lot more redundant than my life is now. When I worked, so often I did the same work over and over again on the same ships in the class. We would shipcheck to the same places repeatably. On board it was often a case of "well this pipe run will work if we move it a couple of inches" or "this equipment will go in the same place". And the drawings all started looking the same. The excitement of solving an emergent problem that a ship was having usually broke up the boredom. Just getting up and going to work day after day could be redundant.

So, now my life is differant. There is still a bit of redundancy, but I can go ride the bicycle during the middle of the day if I want. there is less traffic than in the afternoon and I don't have to try to cram a ride in between work and evening. I feel good when I ride a lot. I can keep my weight down, my blood pressure and heart rate stay down and there is just the "fun" of smoothly riding down the road at a high rate of speed "in the zone". Kind of like being a kid again. And I can use the bicycle for trips to the boat or store, saving gas and expense. Other activities like sailing, motorcycle riding, camping, hiking all have places in my life too. Will I work again? Maybe, but my choice of jobs may surprise people. And there is volunteer work to consider too.

So, what did I do today? Well, I got up at 6 AM, something I do everyday, ate a light breakfast, read the newspaper and went to Group Health for my H1N1 vaccination and tetanus booster. Then to my parents for some more breakfast. Since it was payday, I went to Costco for groceries. Finally in the afternoon, I rode the mountain bike to the Illahee Preserve Park and rode on the singletrack trails. I almost cleaned (ride without putting down a foot) a couple of steep technical sections that have frustrated me. I hope to be able to ride those sections soon. I rode hard for about an hour and burned quite a few calories.

What's next? Tomorrow I am planning on going to Mt Ranier to xcountry ski. Monday will probably be the Seattle Boat Show. And then the following week, I will return to Seattle to spend my tax refund on maintenance items for the boat and then install the equipment on the boat. And then take the boat to Olympia for a race. And I am working on a plan to use up some of my frequent flier miles. Where do I find the time.....?

Video Test

Today I purchase a new camcorder. The last one that I bought(and still own) was purchased in 1994 and it used something called 8 mm tape for the storage media.

The new camcorder is a Flip, Mino HD. Of course it is solid state with 8GB of storage for 120 minutes of recording. It is very small, but seems to take good video. Some people questioned how good they shoot in low light and some say that the non-HD unit is nowhere near as good as the HD unit. So, I bought the HD model. I have a waterproof bag ordered for it too.

The downside of the HD unit seems to be the size of the files, they take a long time to download to Blogger. My video skills are worse than my photography skills, so stay tuned!

The Flip, Mino is very small, literally fits in the palm of my hand!

Sample video!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Smarter and stronger.

One of the sailors skills on a sailboat is the ability to use mechanical advantage to assist  in being able to handle the large loads encountered when handling the sails. The most traditional device is the block and tackle. A block is what is called a pully by most non-sailors. A traditional block consists of the parts as shown below:

A traditional block would have been contructed of a wood shell, metallic sheaves(bronze or steel) and straps and fittings of bronze or steel. This is the traditional block as seen on old sailing ships or "classic" sailboats. The principle is that a line is run thru the sheave and the direction of the line is changed or with multiple blocks, a machanical advantage can be realized. The sheave turns on a simple pin and bushing to help minimize friction, but a traditional line is also stiff enough to impart frictional losses.

Here are examples of basic block and tackle theory from "Sail Power" by Wallace Ross:

On modern sailboats, the blocks are made of more sophisticated materials. The shell and sheaves are often made of high strength plastic and the fittings are stainless steel. Also, the sheaves often turn on ball bearings for minimal friction. Furthermore, line is often a small diameter, high strength synthetic line that runs through the sheaves with less friction.

Racing sailors are especially savvy at designing block and tackle systems with very high mechanical advantage to control the very high loads seen on racing sailboats. Most cruising sailors do not encounter the loads that racing sailors see on a regular basis and therefore utilize less exotic blocks and line and their systems are not as powerful.

One of the racing sailor's tricks to increase power in a block and tackle is to have one block and tackle pull another block and tackle. This multiplies the mechanical advantage of the system. This is known as a cascading system. It is often used for high loads that do not require much movement and on "two speed" systems with a coarse and fine adjustment.

Here are three examples of cascading systems with high purchase ratios on my boat, a J35:

This is the mainsheet system. This is an example of a cascading 4:1/16:1 system with a coarse adjustment and a double ended fine adjustment. The blue lines are the mainsheet. The solid blue lines are the 16:1 double ended fine trim and the grey/blue line in the fiddle block is the 4:1 coarse adjustment. The cam cleat on the fiddle block is a special trigger cam cleat that can be released under high load. A normal cam cleat cannot be released under the high loads that we see. Also the big sheave in the fiddle block is not round, but is a hexagon. The groove is a v-shape instead of an arc. This sheave ratchets one way(when pulled in) and helps hold the line from running out. All the blocks are ball bearing for minimum friction losses and the line is spectra for minimum stretch.

The red line is the traveller cross haul system to adjust the position of the mainsheet for trimming the boom for differant conditions. The system is a 4:1 continuous line that is cleated on either cockpit wall and because it is contiuous, the far side can be uncleated without crossing the cockpit.

This is the boom vang. This is an example of a double cascading, double ended system. The tube has an internal spring to support the boom and a 3:1 wire purchase to compress the tube(and hold the boom down). Attached to the wire is a 4:1 tackle made with high strength, small diameter spectra(dyneema) line. Attached to the end of the 4:1 tackle is a block that is part of a 2:1 double ended line that ends at cam cleats near the cockpit. This allows: 3:1 X 4:1 X 2:1= 24:1 purchase. Of course, there are some friction loses. The wire, small diameter spectra line and ball bearing blocks minimize friction. The length of the spectra line is critical to allow the maximum movement of the boom vang. If the spectra is too long or short, the single block of the final 2:1 cascade can be "two blocked" against the upper or lower blocks. The strong purchase allows us to vang sheet the main and reduce main sheet loads in high winds. This may be a bit of overkill to have such a high mechanical advantage. My main reason was to be able to lead the line to the cockpit to make it easier to control. But in a recent race, we needed to adjust this system often to keep the mainsail and boat under control. The crew person was able to rapidly ease and take in the line without undo effort. This helped our speed and the ability to keep the boat under control.

This is a 4:1 system for adjusting the genoa car position. The black line runs from the cam cleat, turns 90 degrees through the rachet block and goes forward through a double becket at the front end of the track, and through the double block on the genoa car for a 4:1 purchase. By pulling on the black line, the genoa car goes forward changing the angle of the genoa sheet to the car. By releasing the line, the car is allowed to move aft and is assisted by the solid black shock cord. The blocks are all ball bearing as is the genoa car on the track.

In addition, there is a light gray spectra line that is attached to the back of the genoa car. It turns 180 degrees through a cheek block and then runs forward to the short track for the #3 jib. It goes around a single becket block at the front of the track, through a block on the jib car and ends on the becket block. This gives the forward car a 8:1 purchase(4:1 genoa purchase X 2:1 cascading jib purchase = 8:1 total jib purchase). By pulling the genoa car forward, the gray line also pulls the #3 jib car forward. In addition, the distance that the forward car moves is half the distance that the genoa car move. So, the genoa car can move the full distance of the longer track for any sail combination on that track without the #3 jib car hitting the end of it's track. Again, all blocks are ball bearing, altough there is a lot of direction changes that increases friction.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Tides and Currents

One of the first things I do when planning a sailing adventure is to determine what the currents are for the trip. This is important when sailing in Puget Sound and farther north in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, the San Juan Archapeligo and the Canadian portions of the Salish Sea(the new name for the inland waters of British Columbia and Washington State). With racing, proper knowledge about the currents can make the differance between a good placing and a poor placing. And when cruising, not utilizing the current information available can add hours to the length of a voyage.

When I first started sailing, all we had was a NOAA Tides and Current book. The daily predictions were published for the main current reporting stations(like Bush Point, The Narrows and San Juan Channel) and the other locations had to be calculated by the correction factors for specific areas based on the primary reporting station. Bush Point was the primary for northern Puget Sound and Admiralty Inlet. Tides were calculated in a similar manor with Seattle being the primary for Puget Sound.

The nice people of Microsoft bought a program called Tides and Currents. This is a nice tool for determining tides and currents for anywhere, no additional calculations required. I usually print out the daily predictions that I plan to sail or race in. I also have it installed on the boats navagation computer.

Another tool became available to me when I started using a Palm PDA. It is a freeware application called Tide Tool. It calculated the same data on tides and currents as well additional data on the phases of the moon and the rising and setting time of the sun. The tide and current data can be displayed as a graph in real time(a cursor points to the graph at the current time of day and reports what the current velocity is) or in table format. I carry this with me when I am on the boat and can have instant access to tide and current information if I don't have the information already printed.

I know the Palm is considered archaic now, but I would imagine that Iphones and other smart phones have similar information available as an application. Newer marine GPS's also are likely to have a tide and current tool built in. Mine is a few years old and only has tide information, no current information.

In addition to the electronic tools available, there are still books that show charts of Puget Sound and the direction of the current flow for differant phases of the ebb and flood.

A typical print out of a daily prediction for the currents San Juan Channel(south entrance). Other formats are available.

A Tide Tool display on the Palm in graph mode.

A Tide Tool display on the Palm in table mode.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Duwamish Head Race-Pictures

Here are some pictures from the Duwamish Head Race. Courtesy of Bryan M.

Hamming it up on Great White!

Looking through the raft up of boats before the race.
Here we are waiting for the wind to arrive so that we can start the race.

The Seattle skyline at the finish of the race. And the boat in the picture is us after dropping off a crew member at Bell Harbor in downtown Seattle.
And the sunset on the motor home.

Duwamish Head Race 1-09-2010

The Duwamish Head race is the second race of the four race South Sound Series. This race is 30.6 nm and starts off the Des Moines fishing pier, runs north to the Duwamish Head navaid, then west around Blakley Rocks off Bainbridge Island and south to finish off Des Moines. This race has been advertised as the first race of the New Year.

I got underway on Friday at 0743 for the delivery to Des Moines. The winds were light and the morning cool. Rain was forecast for the entire weekend, but did not start until just before I moored at the Des Moines marina. Then it rained heavily most of the rest of the day and night. I arrived at about 1100. I like getting there early. I had the pick of the moorage and the day was spent socializing with a lot of characters that I have known for many years. By nightfall, there were three boats rafted outboard of me. I had a pleasant night onboard with the Webasto furnace keeping it warm inside and the rain pounding on the deck outside.

Saturday morning was calm and when the sun came up, the sky was clear, the rain had passed. After a good breakfast sponsored by Des Moines Yacht Club, we got underway to the starting area. The winds were forecast for south around 10knots, but they were calm. The committee postponed for nearly two hours until a light northerly filled in.

The starting line was really skewed which made it hard to cross on starboard. I ran down the line toward the dock end on port dodging starboard boats looking for a hole and finally tacked to starboard with about 30 seconds to go and had a great start. Some boats were over early down at the pin end. Soon after the start, we started getting into the bad air of Liberte(C&C115) and Zorra(C&C115). They were pointing really high, so we cracked off a little and were able to get our speed up enough to dive through their lee and end up ahead. As we approached the mid channel, the wind swung left and we first tacked and then set the spinnaker. The spinnaker stayed up the rest of the race. We stayed in the middle of the sound looking for better ebb current.

Just past Three Tree Point, the boats that went toward shore initially looked like they were running out of wind, but by Fauntleroy the wind started filling and for the east boats it came first. Flashback(J35) jumped out in the lead followed by Liberte, Absolutly(G&S 39) and Intuition(a very well sailed C&C 37/40XL). Grace E(J35) came out from the shore and got by us on the left. As we closed on Alki Point we closed on Fast Feather II(J35). The wind was around 10 knots at Alki Point and the boats started bunching up. The reach from Alki to Duwamish head is always a bit tricky. Grace E and Fast Feather went low after Alki and started luffing each other. We stayed high and got by Fast Feather but could not catch Grace E.

As we neared Duwamish Head, we could see that the race was being shortened there. We finished at about 1618. We ended up 8th out of 16 finishers. I was happy with the results. Like so many of these races, it takes a lot of luck as well as never giving up to do well. We worked the boat hard and as always learned more about this course. When you do these races over and over again, you can started noticing trends in the conditions. There are no hard and fast "rules" about how to races these races.

After we finished, we transferred Peg to Fast Feather for a ride back to Des Moines and took Kathleen to Bell Harbor marina. She lives in Seattle and took a bus home. We then motored back to Brownsville. The evening and sundown was spectacular and warm. We had one strange occurrence off the Manchester Navy Fuel Depot at the entrance of Rich Passage. The autopilot started misbehaving and I was getting strange error messages on it. I wonder if there was some transmissions from the ship there interfering with the wireless autopilot remote. Worked fine after we were past the depot.

I drove Tom to Port Orchard and Jim to Des Moines to get his car arriving home at 2240.

Our crew of Tom, Jim, Peg and Kathleen did an outstanding job. Many thanks to them.

Race distance:13.4 nm

Total distance for the weekend: 56.4 nm

Preliminary results can be found here(we were in Class D):

Pictures by Jan can be found here(we are very hard to see in these pics and I forgot to bring my own camera):

Our course for the day. Pretty straight forward. The location of the jibes can be seen.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy New Year! Now What?

Well, here we are in the year 2010. The New Year festivities are past, the football games are winding down and people are starting to talk about New Years Resolutions.

I am not a person that proclaims what my New Years resolutions are. I really don't have many. Or any. I really don't know if that is a good thing or a bad thing. I suppose that a resolution for me is to get my weight back down, but that is something that is a ongoing struggle. A few weeks of illness (like I have been going through lately) and not being able to ride the bicycle and my weight starts creeping up. Hopefully I can start riding again soon. I am tired of being sick. At least I still work out in my home gym.

But maybe my future plans are my resolutions? Well, here is a short list of things I need or want to accomplish:

Sailboat racing. Every few weeks there will be a race and contrary to my rants a few weeks ago, I will continue sailboat racing for the forseeable future.

Boat maintenance. Goes hand in hand with racing.

More cruising in the sailboat.

Bicycle riding(I mentioned that above).

Crosscountry sking. I have not done that in a few years.

Motorcycle Touring.

More hiking.

Shampoo the carpets. I know, this is pretty domestic stuff, but it needs to be done. And I do have the shampooer.

Carpet the home theater riser.

Build a storage locker in a "void" in one of my rooms.

Take a short overseas trip to one of the locations I frequented when I worked. I do need to use up some of my frequent flyer miles.

And many more short day trips!

So, I guess this must be my list of New Year's Resolutions! I never really think about it much. Every year has been so great that I never think of the New Year as a time of renewal or a new beginning. I have been so thankful for my life and the oppurtunities and look forward to the future, new year or not. Now if I can only remember to write 2010 on my checks!

More bicycle riding!

I enjoyed my two motorcycle camping trips last summer. I would like to do this again this year as well as more long day trips. This is Lake Ozzette.

This is Dry Falls in eastern Washington.
Another trip(or two) to the San Juans this year should be in the works. Maybe this year I can pull off a early spring cruise. This is Jones Island.
This is Friday Harbor in the San Juan Islands. I visited this town four times last year. Friendly town and a great jumping off point to ride the bicycle around San Juan Island. I will spend a few days here this year.
This picture is like a "Where's Waldo". And I can pick out my boat in all the masts.
The home theater riser needs to be carpeted.
My half hull boat model is coming along nicely. Still have more painting and finish work to do.