Sunday, 27 May 2012

New sail shakedown

The new mainsail, gaff and halyard setup means a few changes to how Robinetta should be handled. The clew sits much higher, and this means putting the topping lifts on before raising the sail is a must. The gaff exerts a much stronger force on the saddle than before. This is a combination of the higher peak angle and the span being cleated nearer the peak. Because of this, the gaff needs to be kept a bit below horizontal while raising the throat to keep the load off the saddle and the saddle free of the mast.

Lowering is also very different. keeping the gaff almost vertical pushes the saddle down and the sail drops very naturally. Then the gaff can be dropped and with any luck, the sail flaked as it comes.

Once up, trimming is a very different experience too. Gone is the unsightly deep belly and the tell-tales make one instantly aware of the aerodynamics. The most surprising thing about the peak adjuster is that it seems pretty obvious when to use it. I'm really pleased with the arrangement of the fiddle blocks. They sit above the horse looking like they had always been there. The only problem is that the peak halyard falls are fouled by the gaff and look pinched between the gaff and the topping lift.

I had to splice an extra length on the peak halyard and being lazy, I did it with a short splice. This splice acts as a stopper, preventing the fiddle blocks separating. It turns out that this means its possible to let the peak adjuster off and un-cleated and know one has the maximum available adjustment. Something of an unexpected safety feature.
Peaking-up and slacking off the peak is a piece of cake. Like nearly all lines, the adjuster comes back to the cockpit and you just uncleat it, play it and recleat.

Reefing was a little more difficult than it used to be. Some practice required.
We also practiced changing jibs. Putting the snap shackle actually into use made this quite easy. As did the strop to make off the wickham-martin Alison had installed on the stem-post.

Lots to learn, but it all seems to work.

First Sail!

Julian had a OU day school on Saturday, but luckily the place where it's held isn't too far, and it's on the way to Robinetta, so we headed to West Mersea on Saturday at tea time.

Bright blue skies, and a cooling breeze  made for a lovely evening, but a stiff  row out to Robinetta again. I ended up with blisters on my right hand, a first for me! Almost the first thing we did was move Robinetta down the Ray to the deepest vacant West Mersea Marine buoy. I'm almost sure it normally has a motor boat on it...

Julian spliced a new becket onto a second hand block we acquired at the OGA AGM last January. I had refurbished and re-varnished it earlier, and we intend to use it on the bowsprit tensioning rig, but the original becket was too long when we tried it. We'll fit it later. Then I rowed us back to the pontoon and we went to the Victory pub for dinner, before turning in for an early night.

We left Worm on the mooring at 0820 next morning and motored out to the Blackwater eating  breakfast on the way; I wanted plenty of water for our first raising of the sail in earnest. We avoided the Nass Beacon and its adjacent wreck by heading for Bradwell by the no4 channel marker.
The wind was blowing about force 4, and I decided we'd try the no2 jib first. It's not a bad balance for the main, but when the wind got up a little more the helm felt heavy. One roll of reef balanced the rig up again.

We beat out of the Blackwater with the tide beneath up, making about 5 knots. With one reef and the smaller jib we weren't exactly pushing her. Julian's not very well, feeling unfit after suffering from a feverish cold for two weeks that's left him with a debiliting cough, so I decided stopping for a lunch time rest was a good idea. The wind was going a little lighter, so we unrolled the reef, and headed for the Colne. By 1120 the wind was light enough that Julian thought trying the no1 jib made sense, so we headed away from the Colne again, while he changed sails. It took ten minutes, not bad for a first go under way, but not exactly race speed!

We sailed into the Pyefleet, and Julian tried picking up a buoy under sail. He nearly made it, but the tide was running a bit faster than expected, and he needed to use the engine a bit. We were on the buoy by 1210 for a nice long lunch time rest.

Having failed to sail onto the buoy Julian was determined to sail off, and did so perfectly at 1400. We beat out of the Colne against the tide and wind making 3-4 knots. Lovely job!

Very broad reaching, and some jib-staysail winging brought us back to the Nass by 1600, then we rolled the jib away and gybed to sail up the Thornfleet. Slackening off the peak tension slowed us down to 4 knots as we sailed through the moorings, but a wind lull at the start of the piles made me put the engine on to be safe. It went into neutral again almost immediately, and we sailed close hauled up to our buoy.

I missed it on my first attempt (I haven't practised picking up buoys under sail nearly as much as Julian), but got it on the second, almost I used a burst of engine reverse to stop us, which is definitely cheating!

While we were getting the sails away a motor boat came past, setting up a nasty wash that made Julian lose his balance. He fell against the club foot, and it broke; an unfortunate accident at the end of a really good day.  Bright blue sky, hot enough for shorts, and plenty of wind for sailing.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Toplac all done

Alex and I went back to Robinetta today to finish the painting. There was no rain forecast, and the temperature looked good, so we went, even though the wind speed was higher than ideal.

I had the tide with me for the row, but the wind was against me, and the wind had the advantage; 16-17 mph NNW is hard work to row against! It took so long that Alex had a snack, and accidentally dropped some cellophane wrapping in the water. We had to chase it down and recapture it, which added a fair distance to the row!

Alex rubbed down and washed the bulwarks, then painted what he easily could from on board.  We had realised as we left Robinetta last time that the white stripe on the cabin sides were not nearly as well painted as the rest, so this time they would be finished off from Worm; it is much easier to see what you are doing that way!

I did a final touch up of the blue, and checked my design for the sail cover by fitting a tarpaulin mock up of the mast end. Very instructive! I had it nearly right, but in such a way that I had to recut the whole thing in situ.... The way I work making a mock up is essential!

Fingers crossed there is no more painting to do this season, and we can go sailing at the weekend!

Thursday, 17 May 2012

More painting...

Alex and I went to West Mersea and found Robinetta had been moved to her mooring up the Ray. She's further up than last year, and there are empty moorings in deeper water, so I'll ask if she can move a little closer.

I measured up the boom and gaff in their harbour stow. The idea is to finally make a new sail cover. I also measured up the stay sail. The cover there is looking shabby and it would be smarter to have one that matches the main sail.

Alex washed the bulwarks then painted them with a coat of Toplac, she'll need another coat before she's done. I cleaned the cabin sides then gave them a coat of Varnol. We also got the cabin top and cockpit washed and painted with a layer of masonry paint. All of a sudden she's looking much smarter!

It was cold though, with no sunshine, and a brisk wind. Roll on the summer!

Sunday, 13 May 2012

New Sails

We got to West Mersea a little after 10am on Saturday morning. Robinetta was still on the mooring in the Strood where she was left on Thursday. This made it a nice easy row out from the pontoon in Worm.

Alison had wanted to paint the bulwarks but I vetoed that, “You’re not getting paint on the new mainsail!”. I put a pair of hose clips round the gaff to act as temporary hooks for the span. I hooked the throat up as she used to be and raised the gaff a little. We got the mainsail draped over the boom and pondered how to attach it.

The hoops were still around the mast, but one less than of old – I removed a rotten one last season. The old gaff lacing was obviously going to be too short, and anyway was currently acting as the bob-stay tensioner. I found the old boom lacing and we had a nice new length of soft buff three-strand Mark had put in with the sail.

Options included using lacing instead of hoops and ro’bands or lacing for the gaff. Tom Cunliffe swears by ro’bands in Hand Reef and Steer. Sailing on Prospero last weekend had convinced me of the benefits of a loose footed mainsail and I wondered if this was possible on Robinetta but decided that the round-the-boom roller reefing dictated a laced on foot. Everyone says a roller reefed main is an abomination – almost as bad as in-mast reefing. But it’s such a useful feature, and in its original condition, that I’m loath to change it.

I knew I wouldn’t get things right first time and wanted to see the sail in situ. I used the new rope to lace the head to the gaff and the old braid to lace the foot to the boom.  I tied the hoops to the luff starting at the throat, mostly to get them out of the way. We pulled the sail up. It was awful. The sail needed to be much nearer the mast at both the foot and the peak.

The strangest thing was that only one luff cringle didn’t have a hoop! I started wondering if the luff was short. We measured it and it isn’t. The sail must be fewer cringles than in the old one.

As previously, the bottom cringle has to be left untied for reefing. I think I might make a plastic hoop with a quick release mechanism.

Bringing the foot forwards was reasonably easy. The second hoop up is still a little tight but OK. Lowering the sail is easier if the boom is topped up, reducing the luff tension. It proved impossible to understand the throat geometry without having the throat lowered to eye level but the peak at working angle. I judged the correct angle by levelling the sail numbers. We really are peaked up high now, but not “gunter high”. The whole throat attachment needed to be re-thought. I’ve had this in mind all winter, but knew I wouldn’t get it right except on the boat.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Happy Birthday

Robinetta went in the water today, 75 years after her initial launch.

There is still a lot of work that needs doing, so I went along in the morning, and finished painting the transom that we had to abandon because of the rain yesterday. I tidied up a bit too, then folded up the ladder, and waited for the tide to come in so the yard could launch her.

She went in an hour late, as the yard's work-boat came across a small motor cruiser that was about to sink on its mooring. She'd been left there, ignored, for a couple of years, and there was at least six foot of kelp dangling off her hull. The time taken to haul her out safely meant that there was no time to take Robinetta to her own mooring so she was left on one right by the yard.

I had hoped to stay on board for a little to check whether she as taking up at all, but there was no time. She's in view of the yard though, so they won't let her sink!

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Looking like a sailing boat

Robinetta's mast was fitted when we arrived this morning, and the re-inforcing on the bob-stay bolt got done before lunch as promised. Weatherwise the day really couldn't make its mind up, and we got the odd bits of rain every time Alison and Alex picked up a paint brush. But we got just enough done for the rest to happen on the water.

I spent the day rigging. The biggest part was the new peak adjuster. We hadn't really worked out how to attach it, but in the end it fitted really nicely where the peak halyard block had sat on the horse, while the existing block moved one place outwards to share with the reefing block. They don't argue at all there. The new fiddle blocks are a little small for the rope we use for halyards. I used the redundant topsail down-haul as a temporary measure. It all fits really nicely, but there are a couple of things we will need to think about. Firstly, there is no pin for the extra rope in the cockpit. It currently shares with the reefing line but I don't think I'd want to be messing with both when reefing. Secondly, its closed the gap that we reeve the bowsprit into. We might just leave it poking forwards. The picture shows the new fiddle blocks for peak adjustment, and the new gaff; we'll get the sails on once we've launched.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Slow progress

After an excellent weekend cheating on Robinetta in the Solent we had planned a full day today. We hoped the mast would be in and I could de-winterize the engine and rig her while Alison and Alex finished the painting. Then Alison got a call and needed to work at a school in Harlow. Alex and I got there about noon. No mast, no welding. We have been promised it will be done by lunchtime tomorrow. I got the engine done and loaded everything up. We did a little painting and Alex sanded the blue parts of the hull ready for the final coat. Hopefully tomorrow will be a better day, but the weather is set to be rubbish again. Had a chat with Rob Williamson and his mate Wayne.