Tuesday, December 15, 2009

They come for the whales

Newfoundland is known for its icebergs and for it’s whales, particularly the humpbacks. For the tourists who come here I can only imagine they are somewhat sceptical that they will see whales if they go on a whale watching boat tour. It’s not like they’re in a small area, or that we have a small coastline (28,956 km to be exact) But I can assure you, There are whales around here, and plenty of them. For those who live in Newfoundland and work or play on the ocean, whale sightings are like moose sightings, common place to the point of nonchalance. It’s generally only the close encounters that get the mention in conversation. “Out fishing today, some whales came close so we took some time to pet them”, That sort of thing. I have seen several species of whales in my life but I still get a thrill when I see any in their natural environment. Greg Smith sent my brother these photos of a couple of Humpback whales playing last August near his home in Trinity Bay.

wave for the camera

The main thing is to remember to bring the camera in the first place and second... batteries.

Gaff Jaws

The gaff jaws that I hurriedly made for Pikake served their purpose, but I failed to realize until after installation that the angle of my gaff was steeper than I planned and built. The main haul up block at the throat was too close to the mast and the screw that passed through the gaff to attach the sail from underneath was also striking the mast causing premature wear. Since my mast gets treated with great reverence, I needed to make changes to my gaff jaws set up. John Welsford sent me a couple of ideas on how to make a suitable set of gaff jaws and one in particular is pretty easy to build. The plans I had purchased for the Pathfinder had included the gaff jaws plans, but since I deviated and didn’t make my mast, boom and gaff from aluminum tube (As per plan), I had to come up with something else.

The new gaff jaws will let me raise the sail easier and the peak will go to the proper angle allowing for better sail shape. I had noticed in pictures taken of Pikake that there was a wrinkle from the end of the boom at the foot up diagonally up to the base of the gaff (not enough peak hauled up)

This will be no longer an issue with the new jaws.

That is a New year project.

The Chuck Box

I’ve finally reinstalled my door to the workroom and put up the wall board. Other household chores now demand my attention as well but in the back of my mind is the chuck box, my boat kitchen. I’ve began some initial design sketches and after a while had to pause and figure out the box’s exact purpose. Most chuck boxes are large wooden boxes with configurations so a person can stand at the box with attached legs and cook their meals. They are also the sort to be carried by two people to a vehicle. There are many styles that can be found on the web, and they are well designed for the purpose their intended, however... Mine is a little different. I need my chuck box to be suited for use on Pikake or other small boat.

What it needs to do;

·Compact in height in order to fit under the deck, and be able to set up in the boat.

· Light enough for me to lift it over the side of my boat and hand off to a shipmate.

· Able to carry all the equipment needed for a camp kitchen such as the stove, dinnerware, utensils, pots/pans and cleaning gear.

· Able to have shelves fold out or attach to sides and serve as a small table.

· Rubber feet to prevent box from sliding on a wet surface.

· Weather resistant, not necessarily water proof.

The design has gone through some changes already with the removal of pockets for attachable legs. Whether on the boat or beach, having the box at a standing working height is not a necessity for me, as long as it’s not right on the ground. This saves weight and some space. One of my most important decisions was to use my trusty ole fuel powered Colman stove. I had thought of getting a new propane stove, but I really, REALLY dislike those disposable propane cylinders and their cost vs cans of fuel is high. (Just a personal thing) Sure I have to fill and pump up the pressure in order to light my stove, but it’s reliable and I know how much cooking time I have left. This stove was my starting point in the box design. Other design points included space for my kettle, pot kit and dinnerware set, all to accommodate the needs of 4+ people. The rest of the space is for everything else that can squeeze in.
Bear in mind that this box is built to suit my needs and may not at all suit other sailor/campers. It is also sized to fit under the deck my Pathfinder.

The first models changed from a large size to a smaller more compact design once I decided what would go inside the box.

I had intended to have the front and top cover to open up like a mechanics tool chest. And use the opened configuration to make a rain shelter to cover the top section where the stove sits. But knowing weather being as it is, a gust of wind would make short work of a nice wooden lid like that.

Once a general layout was figured out, how it all would fit together was the next step. What gets notched, what gets reinforcing blocks if any, and how it opens.... I don’t particularly like the way it opens but it’s all I can think up right now.

This design has again changed to a 2 drawer model since Less drawers means less weight and more can go in the larger ones. I'm still not happy with the front door arrangement but I'll figure something out.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Packaged for winter

A week after the Random Island trip I decided it was time to put My Pikake away for the winter. I removed all the rigging, rudder and cleaned off the leaves that had collected in the past little while. I picked up a 16ft length of 2x6 and built a brace for the back end and another for the front. the front one was mounted on the mast step and used the pivot pin. I read from some post online that someone used plastic water pipe for their roof and I did the same. I screwed the middle to the top of my 2x6 ridge beam and held the ends down with bungee cords. I then covered the whole boat with a heavy duty tarp. I opened the hatches to air out the inside and removed the drain plug just incase. I tilted the forward end up so any water getting inside would run out the back.
Now I just have to wait for spring... in 6 months... Ah well I have other projects to keep me busy.

Random Island scouting trip

With the sailing season quickly coming to an end, I just had to get out one more time and put Pikake through her paces. I Wanted to try and get to Random Island near my brothers place in Clarenville. It's supposed to be a great spot for fishing and sailing. I called Travor once again and he was definitely up for a Saturday trip. The weather was supposed to be fair at best Saturday and Sunday called for a steady rain and high winds, so what else is new. This was to be just a scouting mission for a good slipway and to check out the area for sailing and camping. A day trip.

It's an hour and a half drive to Clarenville from my place and to get the most from the day we left early, around 7 am. The drive was a nice way to wake up and We found a public slip just north of my brothers place near Shoal Harbor.
While unloading and setting up the skies grew dark and threatened of rain, but we expected this and had our rain gear just in case.
The spot we had found on the map was to the south east and was directly down wind. This was inland waters so even if the conditions deteriorated it would not pose too much trouble for The Pathfinder.
Though its October, the trees are still holding onto their leaves. The beaches are all accessible and there are even a few brooks and waterfalls to get fresh water from if need be. It was a short trip to one of the possible camping areas, but it was shallow, very shallow and choked with sea grass to the point where we had to paddle through it. My first time encountering this in Newfoundland waters. We figured we would be marooned for a full tide turn if we stayed here long, so we made note of the spot and its possibilities and then moved on. It was a great spot for Kayaks however and Travor having a pair would do well to visit this place next year. We pushed along the shore line and found the triangular point that had a nice cove and sand/pebble beach. It was full of dead sea grass from the batch of fall storms that battered this coast in past weeks but still a nice spot. I can see this being an ideal spot for a base camp next year. Apparently just on the other side of the bay is some fine fishing grounds that would only be a short hike in the pathfinder. We put ashore and loosely tide her to a rock and set up for a lunch.
Getting a fire going without the aid of large amounts of gasoline was not easy today. But A small fire was lit and kept the sand flies at bay while we cooked up a small lunch of Beans with wieners chopped up and added. basic fair but fills the hole. Chased with Travors home brewed coffee... sweet nectar. The beach was easily accessible and posed no real threat to the hull even with no rub strip yet installed. The direction of the wind made this cove particularly sheltered today and in our spot there was hardly a draft of wind.
We finished our meal, and relaxed a while before cleaning up and packed the boat for the trip back. There is a small brook only a hundred feet or so from this spot and made for a convenient place to clean the dishes (no chemical added)Travor and I had one last look at the beach before we left and promised to come back here next season. By then a half a hundred storms will have scoured this beach clean again and make for a great camping spot.The motor was started up and we headed out into the bay and homeward bound. The fishermen that were out on the bay in force had all gone home by now and I knew why. We were not going to be fishing this afternoon. Dark clouds now dominated the skyline and the wind was up quite a bit. In the cove it was still quite peaceful though.

The waters were now choppy but nothing serious. Just right in our face as we headed back.

The winds had picked up fast so the waves were as yet still small and with a narrow bay, not able to build to any size. yet.Our progress back was hampered by the fact that we wanted to hit the slipway where the car was parked before dark, and tacking back and forth the bay would not do it. So no sails. Motor only. The wind speeds were about 40 kph sustained with 50 kph gusts. Windy but still quite comfortable. I have had the Pathfinder in this wind before. Wind speeds increased, and bands of rain could be seen on the other side of the bay, We were going to get wet today it seemed.About 20 minutes into the trip back then wind was now quite gusty and putting a 4ft swell on the waves with breakers. I knew this would be about as bad as this bay would get being inland some so I wasn't worried. Pikake rose and fell with the waves and cut through more sending spray flying, but not in the boat. We were comfortable and as yet still dry. If we were not Travor would hardly be using his wife's camera to take these pictures. She'd kill him for certain. As strange as it may seem, it was actually kind of fun riding the surf and all the sea crashing about. Hardly ocean cruising but fun all the same. The sails down, centerboard partially down and motor chugging along, we were in no danger of capsizing. or even taking on water.Those rain bands were surely to nail us eventually though. Wet skins on, and gear pushed forward out of the coming rains, we were ready. But it was not to be, the rain bands split and we motored up the middle and hardly a drop fell on us. It was very cool to watch all around the rain and wind yet be dry as we neared the slipway. Back do dry land and ready to load up, the wind and rain in the far off distance. Even a rainbow capped off our trip. What a way to end the season. We are definitely coming back here next year. I even told my neighbour Peter about this area. Him and his wife are avid kayaker's and this inland waterway would be the perfect spot for a kayak camping trip. Random island I figure would take 2 days to navigate in a kayak and plenty of places to stop for a night.I made a note of the ramp conditions and taking a picture helps me remember. Low tide actually works best here for launching Pikake. But high is good too. We headed home and discussed next years many trips we'll take and the other new places we'll explore. but that's for next year.

I have to unload the boat and prepare it for the oncoming winter. We will be getting snow soon.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Upcoming projects

With summer officially over and days growing ever shorter there's probably 2 or 3 good full sailing days left to enjoy. I will still try to get a primer trip to Random Island for a day sail to scout the area for future trips, but time is running out quickly. A sharp eye will be kept on weekend weather for sure.
But with winter coming my attention is turning to winter storage issues and projects to tie me over until next sailing season. I have house issues to attend to I know and that will take some time, but its an afterthought in time compared to building the boat. One of my small projects will be a "Chuck Box" or camp kitchen or kitchen in a box. Chuck box is what the southern US folk seemed to have labeled this. It is as simple as it sounds, literally a kitchen contained within a box. Their easy to find on the Internet and are customized for their owners uses and tastes. They normally contain space for a propane or gas stove, all the pots, pans, utensils, cooking aids, cleaning agents drying and cleaning cloths, spices and other items. Mine will be built to be used on Pikake and on shore. On board it will sit on the floor and have the stove on top. The doors will swing up for table surfaces. Below is a picture I found as an example of what one looks like.
The Pikake version will be even more compact and lighter to make carrying ashore easier, and hopefully water resistant. I will draw up plans based on the Colman fuel stove I have and my pot set. More details will be shown as I develop them.
In an unrelated topic, Rick Coreless has been progressing on his Pathfinder over in BC. His deck looks very professional and the time taken to get to this point is certainly paying off. His site can be found to the side in my links list. Keep it up Rick.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Kelly's Island run

One Saturday morning I awoke early to a rising sun and no cloud. I could not let it go to waste. Our summer conditions here in Newfoundland are short and it's now in its final warm days. Night time temperatures are now dipping to only +7 degrees C. It was only 8am when I called my friend Travor "Were going sailing" He responds "Give me 45 minutes". I speed pack a bag with water, canned stew, teabags, sugar, milk and all the essentials for a day on the water. I slapped some butter on bread and unceremoniously dumped that in the bag as well. I stole one of the "good" frying pans from the cupboard and tucked it away. I had no time to find the camping stuff so the kitchen utensils would do, If I loose anything, I'm dead. The safety gear has been left in the covered boat so all was needed was the food and such. A quick inspection of the trailer and off I went. Today's destination was Kelly's Island, a small uninhabited island that lies just off the coast. Travor met me at the Foxtrap marina not far from the island and we set to putting up the mast and rigging. With a few trips under my belt now each setup takes a bit less time. The biggest hindrance are the strangers who come around for a chat and ask where I got the boat and all that. It takes about 30 minutes to prepare for launch and with a quick shove Pikake was floating and ready. The bay was flat when I was driving to the marina, but by the time we launched the winds had picked up to a respectable 15 knots. With Travors son along for the day I reefed the sails knowing he was a little timid of sailing, and the fact that as the day wore on the winds would only get stronger. It was a simple single tack to Kelly's Island and the winds out of the north east, in winter that meant a blizzard, but today it just gave us a strong cool breeze. Kelly's Island is mostly cliffs and steep bluffs with very little shoreline, but there are a couple of spots suitable for landing a boat. With the wind in the direction it was, we couldn't land at a cove frequented by boaters, and the winds now kicked up a swell with breakers on the beach areas on the north east side. With the sun beating down we sailed around the island taking pictures and marveling at he cliffs. It's the closest I have been to this island and it's much higher than I had thought it to be. The rock was also loose so we didn't venture too close, we could hear rocks fall every once in a while. The south side of the island had a suitable beach to put our gear ashore, I dropped sails and started up the motor. The winds in this area were light and almost still near the beach. Travor went forward and brought the anchor to the rear, I prepared it while he took out the forward line that would go to the beach. Not wanting to get his feet wet I ran aground and he hopped out. He held the boat steady as his son put all the gear ashore. I then reversed the boat and set the mooring anchor. A following sea prevented us from landing and beaching properly, and the rocks would not be kind to my new hull. Once I got ashore I found a big enough rock and tied the boat to it. It would do well enough for the afternoon. The stove was set up and A quick lunch of stew and fresh bread was chased down with a cup of coffee that Trav had made for the trip. (He's the coffee maker and always has a thermal bottle of the good stuff) Lunch done we just had to explore this island. Travor found a rope that lead to the top of the bluff, it was old but strong, and the slope at this point was not hard to climb. I even managed to take my cup of coffee with me. We explored, took pictures, and chatted about if anyone had once lived here. It was certainly big enough, but we didn't see any fresh water so that would pose a problem for any settlers many years ago. There was an abandoned camp site from where some campers had been earlier the summer and ready for new residents. With exploring done, we headed back to the beach and packed up our things for an afternoon of sailing. The winds were now strong and gusting at times to 25 knots, but with sails reefed and our weight aboard, we were hardly listing. The pictures seem to make a Lier out of me in that they seem to show a nice calm sea state. Close hauled she sliced through the waves, and broke over the top of many. On the broad reach and running reach we managed to surf a couple of waves, now this is sailing. Travor's GPS was clocking us at 6.2 knots and an average of over 5.6 and we figured that was pretty good, not like we were racing. The whole afternoon was spent tacking up the bay, cutting across and then running with the wind, just fooling around. All within sight of 3 yacht clubs with about 60 sailboats and twice as many motor cruisers. We were one of only 4 hulls on the bay and the only boat with sails up. Sebastian (Travors son) asked why they had their sails down, "I guess it's too windy" was my reply. He looked at me oddly then smiled. We sailed, snacked, drank coffee from the thermos and chatted our day away under a September sun. The haul out location was at the public launch at the Newfoundland yacht club. A steep yet poorly maintained launch way, I nearly got stuck pulling the boat out. We left the marina (yearly dock fee's in excess of $2000) satisfied that we rung every moment out of the day and hoped that the rest of our future sailings would be half as good as today's.
(My thanks to Travor and Sabastian for the photos)

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

No random island trip

Hurricane Bill came and went. Not even a real storm by the time it reached here. The following weekends had one event or another that prevented an overnight trip. Life happens while your making plans. However, last Saturday Pikake hit the water for a day of fun. Details to come.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Next stop, Random Island

With the success of the bay trip to Embree some 4 hours drive away, I set my sights on the next trip. Random Island. Random Island sits in a bay near my brothers community of Shoal Hr. in the Clarenville area. It has high bluffs and cliffs but boasts some beautiful scenery and a few great sandy beaches for beach camping. I need to dig out the charts and scan them for this post. I also need to make up my list of essentials to take along. My buddy Travor will be coming along and if I remember correctly will be our first weekend boat trip since our childhood. I'll keep an eye on the weather through out the week to see if it's favorable for the trip.
But right now I have to keep an eye on a little hurricane "BILL" bearing down on me as I type. It is supposed to hit after midnight. To be honest, I think it's hyped up a bit in the media, It will make landfall here as a tropical storm and dump less than 100mm of rain on us. I've seen these conditions this past spring. Other than some washouts on the shoulder of the road and some displaced patio furniture, nothing too major. Not that I haven't taken precautions.
We'll see.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The islands

With very little planning I decided to take an extra long weekend and take PIKAKE out over the highway to Embree. A small community where the in laws live. My Corolla had no trouble towing the 800lbs of boat and trailer and I never broke the 3000 rpm mark the whole trip. I just let the speed fall off on the large hills. Back to about 80 kph or so. I launched her on Friday morning from a beach not far from the house. Not a true slipway, but close enough to do the job of one. The winds were gusting to 50 kph and I was running with the wind. To be honest I had too much sail area up and it made me and my wife uncomfortable with an unproven boat. (I'm still getting a feel for how PIKAKE performs) after a while of the crazy sailing downwind I dropped sail and motored to her uncles cabin. There's a narrow "tickle" or run between 2 islands and the wind speed is even higher there, and so is the sea. It took about an hour of motoring but quite enjoyable. with no danger of capsizing with sails down she broke through the chop with ease. As John Welsford said, "she's a dry boat" I agree.
The afternoon winds were no different, but I was determined to sail in it. I reefed the main to it's second set of points (smallest area) and headed out with my father in law and uncle. Both are used to these conditions and it was sunny at any rate. We sailed around the nearby islands and I kept an eye on how the boat performed in these winds. I could have gotten away with more sail area out and have more speed, but this was good enough. Even with the wind the reefed sails kept us upright all the time. We had the sails down and tried some fishing but this time of year the cod are full of caplin and are not biting. With sails down and us fishing from the sides we were all impressed with how little PIKAKE tipped when we were up and about. We returned to the cabin for supper but after the wind was just right and myself and the father in law went out for an evening run. Idea conditions. A light breeze and no sea. It had calmed down a lot from earlier. This is why I built the Pathfinder...The next morning there was not a breath of wind. I was up early, anxious to start the day Everyone else was asleep so I wandered around snapping some photos. Me and Nadine motored back to Embree and picked up a load of relatives and shipped them down to the cabin.

As we were heading to Embree Nadine snapped this shot of us cracking the water of the bay. Not a soul around, not a sound to be heard. By late afternoon a small breeze had developed and I managed to get my nephews out for a sail. They thought it was pretty cool to sail into the wind and not just away from it. Totally enjoyable.We sailed about the shoals and small islands for an hour or so before the wind died again, but it was still so satisfying to do this with my nephews. Later that evening we gathered at the cabin for a large BBQ. Steak, pork chops, sausages, salads, oh my, the food. Once all the food was eaten everything was packed and we shipped out. With very little wind in the evening it made for a quiet trip back to Embree.

I'll add some more shots when I download them.