31 December 2007

Three For Five

Last Thursday, I got the Megabyte wet for the fifth time and managed to go swimming again--that's three for five. This time was particularly embarrassing as I capsized at the dock while trying to belly my way up the foredeck to the dock. A couple of nice kids on the dock where pretty confused by the old guy swimming in the bay. They helped out by retrieving my floating hat and water bottle, but unfortunately the handheld VHF which I had just unclipped went straight to the bottom. Bummer.

Prior to the dunking, the sail was quite nice, though. Very light wind made for some good practice time snapping the full battens when tacking and getting my weight well forward. One thing I noticed is that this boat is too light (and probably too wide) to ghost through the lulls. When the wind stops, it sticks.

RYC Small Boat Midwinters this coming Sunday.

19 November 2007

Screaming Reaches

Got some good practice time in the Megabyte's aft hiking straps yesterday. Turns out they're pretty dang useful when screaming along on a full plane. I sailed out of Martinez with the old rig and headed under the Benicia bridge for the mothball fleet. Found some big wind over there on a broad reach down the inside of the fleet. Had to sit about as far aft as I could get to keep the bow from plowing into the backside of waves. The boat was just screaming along on a plane for about a mile. Wow. Fun.

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12 November 2007

Death rolls for turkeys

Finally had a chance to meet Megabyte Fleet 3 for some friendly racing at the annual Lake Washington Sailing Club Turkey Shoot Regatta (yes, they do give turkeys as prizes. ) Very nice group of enthusiastic sailors. We had six boats all with the new Mk II rig, and the gusty wind was certainly testing the new rigs. The last race of the day got pretty nasty with big gusts and large shifts. Headed for the final leeward mark, I managed to build up a lead. I was flying downwind on the edge of control with the vang eased off on that big old windsurfer-like sail --bad idea. A big gust hit, the boat got all squirrely, and death rolled (as my friend Dean says, "upside down is slow.") That whole de-power thing with the new rigs doesn't apply downwind! Too much twist, and bam! More vang next time. With the boat now upside down, I thought for sure, that was the end of it for me. Then, I saw Charles (#338) do the same thing right behind me. I got my boat up first and pointed at the mark. 50 yards later I rolled it again and Charles went on by. By this time, I was tired and struggling with the boat. Charles swung by to see if I needed any assistance--very nice gesture. Once I finally got her back up, Charles sheeted in and I followed his transom to the finish line as usual. :-)

02 November 2007

Megabyte Mk II first sail

Picked up the new rig for the megabyte today and headed straight for the water at Rio Vista. Wow, fun sail. The thunderous cracks as the full length battens snapped the Mylar to each new tack gave me flashbacks of windsurfing in this place many years ago.
This new sail is going to be fun to play with and learn how to setup just right. After one sail, I see that some rigging modifications are in order. I will need to lengthen the control lines for the vang and outhaul. Most importantly, I'll need a bit more purchase on the cunningham which seems to be the major shape knob for this kind of rig. That's just like the old windsurfing days, too. Pull on lots of cunningham to bend the mast and make the leech just floppy enough.
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28 October 2007

2007 Fall Dinghy (and a little more swimming)

Yesterday, Dean and I raced his Vanguard 15 in day one of the Fall Dinghy Regatta at St. Francis Yacht Club. A building breeze throughout the day countered by a simultaneously increasing ebb tide made for some interesting racing. With just 8 boats in the fleet and a rather large and true starting line, it was pretty easy to find good lanes off the starting line resulting in nice crowded mark roundings and tight bunches down wind. In a couple of races, all 8 boats were spread out abeam of each other on the downwind legs as each skipper tried to discover the best combination of high wind (outside) and low current (inside).

We were tied for 4th after six races, but due to other commitments today, aren't going back for day two. Oh yes, there was more swimming involved. Coming out of a rather rolly roll tack in race 4, I missed the hiking straps and went flying backwards out of the boat. Dean waited patiently while I got my legs untangled from the jib sheet and clambered back aboard. Dropped from 4th to 6th because of that--bummer.

Here's a slideshow of some GPS plots of the racing:

19 October 2007

Involuntary Swimming

Put the Megabyte in the water for the first time today. Chose San Pablo reservoir as a low key place to go where I couldn't get into too much trouble first time out in a new boat. Hmmm . . . two minutes out from the dock with a nice puff filling in across the lake, I slid my butt over the side and loaded up the hiking strap. Bazaaang! back flip into the water. I'm sure I had checked the knot on those straps! Luckily the boat stayed upright and I was able to haul myself back in before the lake patrol hit me with a citation for "body contact" with the "drinking" water. (They still let fish swim in there, don't they? And birds . . .)

So wait a minute, what's this Megabyte thing? Well, racing the Vanguard with Dean resurfaced my passion for racing small boats. I decided to get a one person dinghy that I could tool around in for fun and go racing once in a while. Happened to find a really nice Megabyte dinghy while visiting Seattle a few weeks ago. Bought it. Shipped it home. Sailed it today. First race is the Turkey Shoot Regatta at Lake Washington with Megabyte Fleet 3.

29 September 2007


My big sister came to visit this weekend, and we went sailing for the first time together in a very long time. We had a great time, albeit a crazy one on account of some rather extreme conditions. So, first time aboard Motrha, and my sister gets to experience a couple of wild knockdowns where we managed to twice fill the cockpit with water. We managed to do it two different ways, actually. First a little bit on the conditions. We were sailing in the Carquinez strait which is where the California Delta (fed by three big rivers) empties into San Pablo Bay. The river is tidal here and was near max flood (couldn't make headway against it in the middle of the strait) with some interesting eddies near shore. We also had an unusual wind direction
with a front moving through which had the wind coming down over a bluff across the strait rather than the usual blowing down the strait.

Knockdown #1: We were near the bluff and just about on the eddy line. The wind had almost completely shutdown (my masthead fly was spinning 360's!) Mainsheet was cleated. When the wind did come back it came in a big blast and I quickly noticed that the main swivel cam
had swiveled down to leeward causing me to have to shift my weight over there to go get it. By the time I had it popped out, we were on our ear.

Knockdown #2: This was another case of near no wind to max wind and complicated by being out in the max flood current. With the true wind shutdown, the current was strong enough to create an apparent wind from the opposite direction, and with almost no boatspeed through the
water, I had no steerage. Mainsheet was uncleated this time (didn't let it out of my hand after the last one!) When the blast came, it hit us beam-on. I let the mainsheet fly, but the jib was still
sheeted in hard. With no steerage and a strapped in jib, I was unable to round up, and the gust knocked us over just against the jib (yeah, it was a big one.) My poor sister, unfamiliar with the boat, didn't have the instinct to pop the jib sheet free. I was able to leap forward and pop it loose before we took on any more water.

whew! what a day. and luck would have it, today is a most beautiful California day with mild 10 kt. breeze. Looks like I picked the wrong day! All-in-all, some good lessons learned on boat handling in difficult conditions. Getting back in the harbor was interesting, too. We played it extra cautious by dropping the jib, reefing the main, and limping in nice and easy.

14 September 2007

More Vanguard Stunt Sailing

Don't try this at home. Dean let me skipper his V15 for the last Fleet 76 Friday night racing of the season. It was really interesting to see what the boat looks like from the other end--it's much bigger! Also got a good feel for how the boat really handles--should help me be a more in-tune crew member.

So anyway, what about the stunt sailing? We had just crossed all the other boats on a very nice port tack lift and were setting up to tack onto the layline for the windward mark. As I opened my mouth to say, "Let's go!", Dean hollered, "whoa we just lost a shroud!" Glancing to leeward I see the turnbuckle swinging back and forth in the breeze. If we had tacked, the rig would have dumped over the side just like that. Luckily we had plenty of searoom to sail on on port tack while Dean re-purposed a chunk of hiking strap line and managed to tie down the wayward shroud (the pin had disappeared in the drink.) We managed to get back into the harbor with a rather sloppy rig, and then swapped a shackle off the boom vang to make more appropriate repairs. 10 minutes later and we were back on the course!

01 September 2007

Small Water, Big Sail

Two new things today. Had Mothra in fresh water, and tried out the genoa for the first time. We decided to give Lake del Valle a try which is just a few miles South of Livermore. Very nice lake with a 10mph speed limit which keeps things quiet for us sailors. The wind blows mostly straight down the narrow lake, but being basically a dammed up puddle in the bottom of a canyon, wind speed and direction is constantly switching about. We quickly found that having to short-tack up the narrow lake made the big overlapping headsail impractical. So, we just dropped it and had a very nice relaxing time making our way under mainsail alone. Will have to try the genoa again when we have a bit more sea room as it did seem to draw very nicely in the light wind.
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20 August 2007

V15 National Championship

Three boats from the nascent eight boat Benicia fleet entered the Vanguard 15 national Championship regatta this year. We all had a fantastic, if a bit crazy, good time. World class competition, big wind, and on The Bay before The Gate. Wow. My skipper Dean posted a nice summary of the event which I quote here:

Vanguard 15 Nationals Recap:
Beating more boats would have been a bonus, but there were no slackers out of the 29 crews. One wrong maneuver or screwed up tactic would likely cost you several boats each race. The fleet had some really high caliber sailors with resumes that were rather jaw-dropping. Twelve races in anywhere from 10 to 25 mph winds meant for sore and really tired bodies.

Jamie showed serious signs of brilliance. He had a "12" in the first race and placed in the teens several times. On one of Sunday's races he was in 5th place at one point! If he would have had another 50-100 pounds of crew weight, he would have easily been many places higher than 21st.

Despite my heavier-than-average crew weight, Dave and I were only one of two boats that didn't finish with a race in the teens. We fought to the end to hold on to 22nd place overall. We didn't ease up until our nearest competitor in the standings death-rolled in the very last race. I think that we may have been in the top 10 at one point during a race on Saturday, but one of our two driver-induced weekend swims put an end to that.

Joel and Jorge also showed signs of serious speed when they got rolling (e.g. that 19th on Sunday). Joel still hasn't figured out what "too much wind" is despite being most likely the oldest skipper out there. And Jorge, six months after buying a boat despite not knowing how to sail, found himself in the thick of a national regatta. Like me, they also caught the capsize bug. I didn't realize until looking at pictures that we were swimming just about 30 yards from each other at one point on Saturday.

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10 August 2007

Trying to remember how to race

Back on the Vanguard 15 tonight. Dean and I are entered in the Vanguard 15 Nationals next weekend, and we need some practice (I've only been in this boat twice.) Teamed up with the Benicia fleet for some more short course racing. Dean and I have both been trying to brush up on our boat tuning, racing tactics, etc. after having not raced in a proper regatta for almost 25 years now.

Overall, I'd say we were pretty much discombobulated. trying too hard to think about the right things to do instead of just doing them. Should be fun next weekend!

03 August 2007

Lions and otters and whales, oh my!

Took Mothra on her first trip away from home waters. Trailered about 2 hours south to Moss Landing. Nice little harbor smack in the middle of Monterey Bay. The wildlife there is absolutely incredible. Sea otters are pretty much all over, swimming on their backs using their tummies as tables to dine on sea urchins. Sea Lions appear from time to time, and we even saw a few dolphins cross our bow a couple hundred yards ahead. Cool. On our second day out we sighted a California Gray Whale.

The Monterey Bay area has always been one of our favorite places to vacation--now we have another way to enjoy the natural beauty of it.
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29 July 2007

Ayala cove, 232 years later.

Ayala Cove was named for Lt. Juan Manuel de Ayala, who in 1775 moored his ship in this delightful cove on the North side of what he was to name Isla de Los Angeles. From there he commissioned the first ever mapping of San Francisco Bay. 232 years later, the sailing vessel, Mothra, visited this same spot; this time for a picnic. Incidentally, it was also about 34 years since the skipper had last gone ashore here.

16 July 2007


Hmmm . . . Posting to the blog from my phone. I guess we'll now be able to update this thing from on the water!

Stay tuned.

09 July 2007

Spinnakers & Mothballs!

Wow, what a great sail! Vanguard Dean and his son Jake joined me on Sunday for cruise from the Benicia Marina down to Suisun Bay to check out the Mothball Fleet. Mothra the Mariner really scoots under spinnaker, and proved to be ridiculously easy to control despite the high winds. We had enough wind to require a reef in the main upwind, but the spinnaker was well behaved down.

Click on the photo here to check out the video footage and have a good look at the USS Iowa. Old BB-61 is biding her time waiting for enough sponsorship to move out of mothball status and on display at Mare Island, Vallejo.

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02 July 2007

Mothra vs. Benicia

Took the family out for another sail this past weekend. We launched out of the the Benicia Marina this time. We experienced really screwy winds as the weather was beginning to build for the typical afternoon blow. We generally had around 10 to 15 knots of wind, but with some occasional blasts over 20 and huge wind shifts. We put a reef in the main and kept a watchful hand on the mainsheet.

Overall, the new jiffy reefing setup worked very well, and we learned a few tricks on how to better manage hoisting and dousing sails while underway:
  • Have plenty of sail ties handy if needed and keep a shock cord on deck to stuff the jib under.
  • Hoist the main first, then the jib! Makes things much easier to steer. (embarassing to have forgotten this basic principle)
  • Make sure all the slugs are in the luff track before leaving the dock. I had left the bottom few out, and getting them in while underway with one hand on the halyard is a real challenge.
  • Don't bother with the topping lift. On this boat it's better to just dump the end of the boom into the cockpit. This makes it much easier for the helmsman to stand up, change sides, attend to the motor, etc. without the boom hanging overhead. [edit: need to clarify this. Meant to say, "don't bother with the topping lift when the main is down." lowering the main and the boom all the way down into the cockpit keeps it out of the way on this little boat when motoring.]
After dropping the jib, we found that the boat sails very nicely on main alone. That would probably be a better way to go on days like this.

Fleet 76 Friday night races

Joined my friend Dean again a couple of Fridays ago for another try on the Vanguard 15. This time we had a steady and not nearly as overpowering breeze. Five boats showed up making for a good little fleet for some great short course windward leeward racing. Great fun! will have to do that again . . .

Father's Day Sail

This past Father's day, we had the kids out for the first time in the new boat. All-in-all, a good trip, but a few lessons learned:
  • Explaining that the boat will heel when sailing is not the same as actually experiencing it. The little one who had never been on a sailboat before got pretty scared at first.
  • Stay were the wind is. The wind completely shut down just outside the Richmond channel breakwater leaving us bobbing up and down on all the powerboat wakes. That's a good recipe to get the family sea sick.
  • If the family wants to run the outboard motor, then run the outboard motor. Once I finally came to the realization that the wind was not going to fill in, we fired up the old outboard and got the heck out of there. Everybody started feeling much better once we were on the go again. Didn't take long to get back to where the wind was blowing.
  • If your wife complains about some old worn out part of the boat, take advantage of that to order a replacement as soon as you get home. New sails are on the way--wahoo!

15 June 2007

Getting rid of badness

Well, back on topic for Mothra the Mariner. As noted before, this old O'Day Mariner had been sitting for quite some time before I picked her up. I've been methodically going through all the bits of broken or just plain worn out hardware. Gee, I think I've probably spent as much now on new Harken stuff as I did to buy the boat! Recently, I've switched my focus from broken stuff to things that are just plain bad. For example, there are an awful lot of non-stainless steel fasteners in this boat. I've started pulling some of the more critical fasteners (like, oh I don't know, say the three quarter-inch bolts that hold the mast step in place.) Yikes! Don't know how long they've been there, but an alarming amount had rotted away. Or how about galvanized plumbing elbows screwed to bronze thru hulls for the cockpit drains. It's all gotta go. Latest project was properly eliminating the holes remaining from the original marine head (yes, in 1969 it was legal to pump raw sewage back out.) When I got the boat, it just had a bolt hose-clamped into the end of the flimsy plastic tubing. Well, did the right thing and pulled the plastic thru hulls and fiberglassed over the holes tonight.

Ready now to go in the water for a nice Father's Day sail with a bit more peace of mind :-)

06 June 2007

And still something different -- The dory skiff Lappy

OK, again off topic from the exploits of Mariner #1460, but all this boating activity inspired me to pull my old dory skiff out of the side yard and get her sailing again. I built "Lappy" to Joel White's Shellback design about 10 years ago. I used to sail/row her a lot in the early years, but she's been under wraps for the past three years. Anyway, she needed a little maintenance to get back in sailing shape. One weekend of work and then I went looking for a place to launch . . .

I went to the Berkeley Marina with my dory skiff to test that out as a quick entry point to bay sailing. Unfortunately, the place was absolutely jammed with big honkin boats, trailers, etc. Musta been some kind of fishing derby going on. So, I headed down to the Oakland Estuary ramp. Totally crappy little ramp with big old bolts sticking out of the side of the dock and all the cleats broken, but hey, it's free! Nice little place to sail. Reminded me a lot of day cruising Newport Harbor except a lot more industrial. Tack your way up the channel checking out lots of interesting stuff along the way. Then, spin it around, break out the sandwiches and beer, and run for home. cool.
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23 May 2007

Something a little different

OK, not about the Mariner this time, but a few notes on a different sort of sailing. My long time sailing buddy, Dean, invited me out for a sail on his new Vanguard 15. I showed up at the same place we visited last week with the Mariner where we had decided not to launch on account of very high wind. Well, the wind was screaming again that day. Confident in each other's ability and well suited up in wetsuits, pfds, etc. We put the boat out into the carquinez straits. Wow! The boat was flying (literally at one point thanks to a very large powerboat wake) planing upwind and truly screaming off the wind with a wall of spray pounding the forward crew (me.) That's probably the fastest I've gone in a sailboat since racing a Thistle on Huntington Lake in high school. Later, checking the reports from the nearest weather bouy, I found that we had experienced winds at 25 knots gusting to 30. It was a wild ride. And yes, we did capsize once. All was going well, and then bam! We lost the edge. Boat flipped and turtled pretty quick. Took a while for the newbie to figure out how to leverage himself up on the rail, but we were off and running again without too much trouble. Good experience to know that we can handle the boat (even upside down) in that kind of blow.

13 May 2007

Benicia Boat Picnic

Never did hit the water. We went to West 9th, but it was too honkin' to feel comfy taking the kids out for the first time. So, we played in the park, walked on the beach, ate lunch in the boat (cozy in that little cabin), but the wind never did want to let up. The wave surge at the dock there is pretty nasty, too. Later, we rolled on over to the ramp in the marina to check that out. nice little ramp and dock. Says to pay at the office. Where the heck is that? If I can figure that out, I think I'll launch there next time. Motor out through the marina, hoist the sails, and go cruising . . .

11 May 2007

Mothra Paint

The family thinks it would be cool to name the boat "Mothra" or maybe that should more properly be "Rebirth of Mothra." Anyway, here's what she might look like as Mothra. What do you think?

First sail video

click image for some video footage from the first sail

First Sail !

Some more background on the boat and a report from the first sail
In December, I "rescued" O'Day Mariner #1460 (1969 2+2) from where it had been sitting in a back yard for almost 10 years. Over the past couple of months I've cleaned off all the scum, replaced a few bits of broken rigging, and refitted with appropriate safety gear. I finally had a chance to try the boat out on April 6. From scanning through the MarinerSailors yahoo group and the Mariner class website before I bought the boat, I had a pretty good idea that it would make a nice little family boat (the family is little, too.), but she sails even better than I had imagined. The forecast called for 5 to 20 on San Francisco Bay, and I'd say we got all of that. A bit more wind than I had planned for on a first test sail, but we quickly discovered how comfortable, well behaved, and surprisingly fast this little boat is. After a few practice tacks/jibes in the marina, we followed the Richmond shipping channel out into the bay and were soon tacking across to Angel Island with an occasional glimpse of San Francisco poking through the typical fog. Perfect. After an hour or so, we spun around and reached for home topping out at 8 kts. a time or two. Cool!This boat's a keeper. Just ordered a bunch of parts to remedy some of the old boat shortcomings (old jam cleats don't hold the jib in any kind of wind) and spiffy her up a bit.

Here's a Google map log of the first sail

Or, view in Google Earth

Introducing O'Day Mariner #1460

There she is. First time in the water after many years sitting in a backyard in Sacramento. Overall, the boat is in usable condition, but a lot of work ahead to get her all fixed up. More to come . . .