Tag Archives: sailing lessons

Essential Navigation and Seamanship

Over the last number for weeks, when rambunctious toddlers konked out upstairs, Erika and I would break out our charts, plotter and dividers, and settle in to do the RYA Essential Navigation and Seamanship course.  It’s designed for the complete beginner, starting with nautical terminology, and advancing to calculating the best place to moor with 10kt winds from the north and a 2kt ESE current because of spring tide.

It was a fun and informative way to spend the cold wintery evenings, and kind of sad that it is all over.  Our new education has given us the renewed confidence to try another trip to the Bras D’Or this summer which didn’t go too well back in 2012.

It also got us thinking about other educational options available.  The next step, through RYA, would be the Dayskipper courses, which come in a shore-based theory portion, and a five day liveaboard practical section.  Through Discovery Sailing on the mainland, (one of two RYA training centres in Canada),  we had the option of taking the practical portion in August of this year.  As tempting as it was, with Charlie still nursing,  five days ( plus a day travel time both there and back) was a bit too long to be away from the kiddos.   By June 2015 we should be ready to roll.

Since we’re looking ahead to next year, why stop there?  In 2016, why not charter a boat in the Caribbean?  From the limited amount of research on this, the British Virgin Islands seems the place to start this adventure, because of the many harbours, great weather, and mostly all line of sight navigation.   Never too early to start planning I say!

Essential Navigation Seamanship

The New Navigators



Leave a comment

Filed under The Big Picture

Return of the Jib Halyard

With the threat of our second Nor’Easter in a week looming in the next day or two, today’s sunshine and mild temperatures seemed like the perfect time to get some outside work done.   I could have cleaned out the boat, but with the kids at their grandparents for a few hours, there would be no better time to replace the jib halyard.

For those who need a refresher, a jib halyard is basically a rope.  What could be hard about replacing a rope eh?  On the top of the mast there is a tiny hole, and there is one at the bottom as well.  The halyards (ropes) go in the holes at the bottom, and come out the holes at the top.

The jib halyard is in red

The jib halyard is in red.  The difference between this diagram and Indy, is that the top hole is right at the tippy top of the mast.

They are used to take the sails up and down.  If the person in the boat pulls the halyard at the bottom, the sail goes up.  They then tie off the halyard, and it stays up.  When it is time to take the sail down, they simply untie the halyard, and pull down the sail.

On an unseasonably warm October afternoon last year, we had our birthday mackerel fishing trip.  As we were packing up, the crew began pulling down the jib.  I forgot to tell them to unshackle the halyard from the sail before folding it up, and the loose end at the bottom, was pulled up inside the mast.  ….shit.

I’ve been wondering how I would get the halyard back in there all winter, as the elders of the internet had no consensus on the best route.  all they could agree on is that it’s a major pain in the arse.

Since this was the last trip of the season, the mast was taken down, and Indy was brought back to the drive way.  May of the people I’ve read about remedying the situation, had to climb up the mast and deal with it from 30′ in the air.

Before there was any hope of getting a halyard back through there, The creatures that were living in the mast had to be evicted.  I don’t know how long it was there, but birds had been stuffing straw, twigs, and mud into the hollow bottom of the mast for some time.  My hand couldn’t fit into the base to start removing the nest, so I undid a wire hanger and kept the hook on the end and scooped it out.  When I cleared all I could with it, I had to tape a second one on to be able to reach in further.  Eventually, it all came out, but it was in there about 5′!

Inside the mast after mucking it out.  You'll notice the jib halyard missing from it's spot on the lower right.

Inside the mast after mucking it out. You’ll notice the jib halyard missing from its spot on the lower right.  It is somewhere down that dark cavernous shaft… along with who knows what else!

Joe MacKenzie, one of the many great people I’ve met in our island’s many marinas, suggested standing the mast up against the house, putting some sort of weight on the end of a string and dropping it down.  It seemed a better idea than anything I had in mind.  Step one, find a weight that would fit in a tiny hole and would be heavy enough to pull the string down.  I taped a small drill bit to a screw… to big.


I managed to find a furnace chain that sort-of fit.  I had a 6′ long piece, yet only three feet of it would go in.  I cut the chain tied on the string and onto step two.

For this we took the anchor rode (the rope that ties to the anchor), and tied it to the mast around the spreaders sockets.  Erika went up to the baby’s room too out the window screen and started pulling.  Once the mast was raised, she very slowly fed the string into the mast.  The chain was just heavy enough to pull it down.

feeding the string back into the mast

Friends in high places

I shudder to think about how difficult this would have been if the mast wasn't coincidentally the exact perfect height to reach Charlie's bedroom window.

I shudder to think about how difficult this would have been if the mast wasn’t coincidentally the exact perfect height to reach Charlie’s bedroom window.

The remaining nest material was easy to pull out once the mast was upright.  Delicately Erika fed the string through until I heard the delicate jingle of the chain make its way down and peek out of the bottom.  Bliss.

The string we used was just cotton butcher’s string which made me extremely nervous.  We lowered the mast.  Instead of using the cotton string to pull the halyard back through,  I got a spool of masons line and easily pulled it through.  Next was the halyard.  I tied and taped it to the mason line.  It was too blood big to fit in!  I had to remove the tape so was really hoping it made it through, because if it slipped, the know came undone, or it broke, it would be back to square 1.

It was tough, but a good tug it came through, the whole thing.  With the large hole at the base it was easy to get it through the bottom hole.  about 3 hours after starting, the halyard was back in ready for a long summer of serious jib-hoisting!




1 Comment

Filed under Projects

Cold Island

After so long without a post, I almost feel that a state of the journey post is in order.  It is strong.  It is strong.  One could say it is stronger than ever as we continue to endure what could only be described as a winter hand-painted by Satan himself.  I was thinking about what to say in this post, and the original plan was not to bitch about winter , but then this came in yesterday, ( a full week into spring now)


Cape Breton’s winter of 2013-2014 is certainly one for the books.  It was the coldest since 1986, and we had already more snow than all of last year by mid January.

The winter started much earlier than usual.  Indy was barely in the driveway a day or two last November before she was buried in snow.  In such a rush to get her home, we chucked her bits and pieces into the cabin, and haven’t ventured out to check on things for some time.  In advance of the blizzard, I went out to fetch the battery powered radio, it wasn’t pretty.  Mold growing on the table, bilge full of ice, and general unpleasantness.

These two were here in Cape Breton for the blizzard, experiencing first hand the fury of Les Suete wind phenomenon


We sally forth.  A ll indicators, however, do signal that there will be a summer this year.  I am basing this on the fact that there were summers each year for the last 80,000 years or so.  In preparation, we enrolled in an online navigation course through the Royal Yachting Association.  It’s very informative, and a lot of fun.  So far, we’ve learned how to read charts, buoyage, and different navigation methods, like plotting a course, finding your location, and finding your bearings.


RYA Navigation Course

The last few nights, Erika and I put the kids to bed, got some snacks, broke out the plotter, charts and dividers (that comes with the course by mail) and learned the ways of the mariner.  This is one of a number of courses offered by the RYA through Canadian sailing schools.  We signed up for this one through Discovery Sailing on the mainland.

Coming up on the weekend, there is talk of mucking out the boat… it may even get above 0°!!!

1 Comment

Filed under The Big Picture, Videos

Up South

Ever look at the map of the world, and pick out where you live?  For me, the eye wanders to the upper right edge of North America, tucked quaintly between mainland Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland.  It’s all very familiar.

Being North American, and looking at North American made world maps, we’re always somewhere in the middle.  But why is it always in the middle?  Why is North America always near the top?  Why is North always up?

There is no reason that North is always on the top, but a few theories.  One is that Ptolemy, the great Egyptian map-maker, started it, and relative to him, all the best known cities were north of him.  Other theories point to more Eurocentric beginnings.

Ancient Arab cartographers placed south at the top of the map.  Most of their known world lay to the  north of them, it drew the most attention to their area

Most early maps, before the wide-spread use of the compass, placed east at the top. This is generally thought to be due to the fact that the sun rises in the east. It was the most consistent directional maker.

When you look back at the history of cartography, a good indicator as to who made the map could be whoever is at the center or the top of it.

A pretty exotic looking place

A pretty exotic looking place



Leave a comment

Filed under The Big Picture

Window Pains

I am 36 years old.  One learns much about ones self after 36 years.  Yet somehow, after 36 years, I am still astonishingly able to under estimate how much time, elbow grease, frustration and cursing will go into any given project.  Astoundingly, I am able to look at a job and consistently tell myself “Shouldn’t be too bad”, and believe myself, despite this having never been the case.

There is a certain amount of hyperbole here, but changing Indy’s foggy, leaky windows would fall into this category.  The only difference being, I was expecting this to be a tough job.  Once again, my expectations were exceeded.

Many people with 30 year old sailboats with original windows, will tell you they look like this.

Foggy, leaky, scratched and freaky

Foggy, leaky, scratched and freaky

All of Indy’s windows looked like this, opaque, with a crusty grey spline, and water marks on the inside where the rain and sea had made its way in over the years.

Before removing all of the windows, I thought I would test out my process on the front port side window.  It came off quite easily, and was easy to see where the water was getting in …everywhere!

Dirt and Caulk

Dirt and Caulk

A knife with a fresh razor blade was able to get rid of the old sealant, and a quick rub with some sand paper to clean up any residue, and get a nice rough surface to which the new sealant could adhere.

The foam adhesive strip had perished and was pretty easy to pop the old pane out of the frame.  The strip was a bit more difficult to remove from the frame, but a few blasts with the heat gun, and it pulled off by hand cleanly.

cleaned up porthole

cleaned up porthole

Popped out pane

Popped out pane


A disintegrated strip


There is going to be a lot of caulking on the inside of the frame, try to cajole an assistant into scraping this stuff off.


Clean as a whistle

Those of us with Tanzer 22s will be happy to know that there is a place where you can still get Tanzer parts, despite the fact that the model is no longer being produced.  The folks at tanzerboatparts.com are quite quick to respond to inquiries, and eager to answer questions.  I had asked about replacement foam strip and rubber spline, and was pretty pumped to discover they carried it.  However, for 25 feet, which is necessary for all 6 windows, we would be in the neighbourhood of $140.

Fulfilling my duty, (my duty of being a cheap bastard), I decided to check out the local window and door makers here in Cape Breton to see if they had anything I could use in its stead.  Most told me they see a lot of boat and camper people coming in with the same plight, leaky windows, and could only offer advice on how to caulk it instead of using spline.  As anyone who has ever seen my bathroom can attest, caulking is not one of my strong suits.  The search continued.

Finally, Gary at Cape Breton Glass, gave me a 5 foot piece of black spline to see if I could jam it in the grove enough to make it work.  The problem with most of the splines carried by local shops, was that it was too robust, and couldn’t squeeze in.  It fit! (with lots of pushing and swearing).

He also gave me a roll of adhesive foam stip that was a bit wide, but with some carefully placed slits, it managed to round the curve of the windows.   In the end 30′ of spline and strip cost $14

Next I needed new panes.   Gary told me that since I was going to be cutting the panes with a jig saw as opposed to a band saw, I may need Lexan which is reputed as being virtually indestructible.  Arriving at the hardware store, I found that Lexan cost twice as much as the next brand, so once again, I cheaped out and went generic.  “Frig it, I’ll be gentle”  I remember foolishly telling myself.  90 minutes later I was back at the store buying the Lexan.

I was only a few inches in when I felt the plexi cracking apart under the tape. Lesson learned.

After gingerly setting the Lexan into the frame, I found a comfortable chair, poured a rum and coke, turned on an episode of Red Dwarf, and settled in for what I figured was going to be at least a half hour of grunting and pushing that spline into the grove.  But I was wrong.  It was a full hour.

Passes the rigorous cheek test

Passes the rigorous cheek test

The finished window

The finished window

 Slowly, I’ve begun the process with the rest of the windows, and now half are done.  Unfortunately they will have to wait until the spring to go in.  3M 4200, which is the recommended sealant, needs to be applied in temperatures higher than 4°, which doesn’t happen in December in Cape Breton.  Hopefully the tarp will keep the insides of Indy somewhat dry over the winter.  And hopefully I finish the rest of the windows by April!


Filed under Projects

Haul Out

Those of you with children will be able to attest, that there is a sensation at haul-out time, not unlike changing a diaper.  When that hull comes out of the water, it ain’t going to be pretty, but can vary in degree from mildly unpleasant, to full-on nuclear mess.

Haul out night was beautiful, unseasonably warm for Cape Breton in November, and dry compared to the rainy forecast.  My father and I met Terry and his massive crane down at the Marina.   When we first got Indy, we had no idea how to get it in the water.  With such a large iron keel, backing it down on a boat launch would have been impossible, unless the person driving the truck was willing to get wet up to his bum.  It has to be lifted.  Either by these neat little boat lift trucks that they have across the harbour at the Dobson Yacht Club or the Northern Yacht Club, or by crane.

Just as we were getting started it began to pour, but Terry was still able to maneuver Indy up and around the lamp posts and gingerly rest her on the waiting trailer.  It was dark, rainy and late, we towed her up the hill, down the street, before backing her snugly in the driveway.

Only today was I able to get out and give a proper inspection of what was happening below the water line over the last five months.  I was also interested to see how the cheaper antifouling paint performed.

The first summer in the water, Indy was coated with an expensive antifouling paint that came with the boat. When we hauled her out in 2011, the hull was spotless, not a barnacle to be found.  This summer, Indy was sailed less, and sat in a calmer part of the marina, coupled with the fact that the paint we used this year was 1/4 the price, I was kind of nervous over what was going to be growing on the hull.

antifouling paint

I was pleasantly surprised by how clean the hull was.  With the exception of a thin layer of miscellaneous scuzz, it was pretty clean.  When painting the hull in the spring, I didn’t get the area under the jack posts, as is evident by the six, square shaped colonies of sealife.

I managed to get two coats on the hull.  The rudder however, only saw one coat, and what a difference a coat makes!

There is a rudder somewhere under all of those barnacles

The keel is over 1000 lbs of iron.    In spring 2011, I ground down a few rusty bits, and covered it with a product called POR 15 which apparently worked pretty well when I hauled out last year.  This year, it might be time for another session with the wire wheel, because as our mutual friend Niel Young can attest, rust never sleeps.

Rusty Keel

Rusty Keel


Tucked in for the winter

Leave a comment

Filed under Adventures

Wawartok I & The Lotus Of Kuan Yin

Late October.  Cape Breton hits daily highs of of about 4° to 10°C.  The wind is brisk and biting.  Almost daily, cruise ships with American tourists unload at Sydney Harbour, hop on buses, and are whisked around the Cabot Trail to see the changing leaves, the hills and the heather.  Sailing season is coming to a close.
I find that it’s usually this time of year, that my attention shifts from the smaller steps, to the big picture.  After Frances is in bed, I’ll find myself more often procrastinating by opening up Google Earth, and looking at places I’d like to visit (sometimes while listening to that country’s indigenous music, for the full effect!)

Along with the wonderful places to visit, thoughts turn to how we’ll get there.  Indy is a trusty steed when it comes to putting around Sydney Harbour, but to cross oceans, we’ll need something a bit bigger.  It will be a few years before we actually upgrade to a bigger boat, but one always has to be aware of what is out there, and what kind of investment, both money and time, will be involved in getting it ready.  Usually, I limit my searches to the Maritime Provinces, and the Northeastern areas of the United States.  A couple caught our eye in the last few weeks that were close to home.

The Lotus Of Kuan Yin

About an hour and a half drive from where we live, lies a 50′ ferrocement ketch called the Lotus of Kuan Yin.  Its ad said it was moored near the canal town of St. Peter’s, and must go.

Erika and I were headed to Halifax for the night last week, and decided to take a look around while en route, to see if we could find it.  We stopped at the local marina, but it was nowhere to be found.  An Acadian gent popped out of the building, to see what we were up to.  We told him what we were looking for and he said he knew the vessel well.  He told the story of how Lotus was moored near the marina for years, and never moved.  How one day it broke its mooring and he was part of the rescue party when it went adrift, luckily before colliding with another boat, or running aground.  He told us it was sitting in French Cove, a few kms down the road, and we were off.  Here is a pic from the ad:

The Lotus of Kuan Yin

We eventually found it, on a quiet misty evening.  It looked like it was haunted, sitting on a motionless cove.  It’s description said it spent 4 Nova Scotia winters in the water, and it looked that way.  The price was extremely low for its size and age, but needed a massive amount of TLC.

Wawartok I

A bit farther away, St Margret’s Bay on the Nova Scotia Mainland was a 42′ steel Colvin Gazelle.  I’ve been doing a fair bit of reading on hulls, and seaworthiness thanks to some great books from my Uncle John,  and Thomas Colvin designed with this philosophy in mind.   Wawartok I had a junk rig, about which I knew practically nothing.  But after a bit of research found the junk rig has some pretty neat advantages:

  • Less flogging of sails (quieter)
  • Less danger of an accidental jybe due to balance of the sail
  • More “reef points”
  • The sail can be constructed by an amateur – the cut is entirely flat

Most of the disadvantages that come with the junk rig have to do with performance.

42' Colvin Gazelle

I am impressed by both Colvin’s reputation for seaworthy design, and steel hulls, so if a similar vessel is for sale a few years down the road, it will be a serious contender!  I looked at steel Gazelles that are for sale throughout North America, and foud them all to be very similarly priced, luckily in range that we would be looking.


Filed under The Big Picture