Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Going north again

I'm heading to Alaska again.  This time I won't be on board Altair, but this boat, and I will be working.  I got a boat job!
I've got a few days here before I ship out, so I'll be busy moving all my stuff out of my room and getting Altair ready for summer vacation.  I did get to spend a last hurrah with her last weekend out in the San Juan Islands, and I have some pictures from it.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Sailing the "small" catamaran

In my past experience building remote control sailboats, I've learned (and then forgot, obviously) that I don't really care to sail them that much.  I like the idea of sailing them and in the building process I end up making something that I don't want.  When it is complete, I sail a few times and find problems and then never fix them. 
This time it was different.  I built the model and figured out all the systems and got the boat almost ready for testing, and then discovered that I didn't really want to go any further.  But momentum prevailed and I loaded it up on the car to test it out.  The big problem is that the boat is gigantic.  It is bigger than my car, so I had to strap it on top to get it to fit, and that is a big hassle.  Then the wing is big and fragile and everything needs a lot of fine-tuning to work out properly.  So I sailed it once at Lake Padden, but I think I'll work on a much smaller version for the future.  Happily, I spent $6 on aluminum at Z recycling and actually got $7.65 back from bringing some old cans, so I've netted -$1.65 on the boat project (that is gain) so far.  For the radio, yes I spent 150 bucks and that I intend to find a good use for, if not in a boat, then potentially in a blimp or glider or some flying thing.  Its a good radio for that sort of thing. 
Lindsay and I also did a nice little drive out to the Lummi reservation, where we spotted some eagles performing some sort of aerial combat.  I'd like to get involved in an aerial combat club, if anybody could direct me to one.  Maybe with remote control planes, maybe with hang gliders (more dangerous)...  I remember watching some paragliders dancing around the sand dunes of Morro Bay, chasing each other and playing a sort of tag.  I want to do that also.  

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

More Wings

I had the day off work today and got back to working on my wing.  I've got the wing put together and the tail, and also have the structure of the catamaran put together.  I still need to add floatation, to make the hulls, and then the remote controlling stuff.  Its pretty cool though!
I took some pictures and some video of it in operation.  In the video, you will see me turn the tail (which is very easy to turn since its so small) and that little turning motion causes the whole wing to turn with the wind.  When I get the remote control system in, a small motor will turn the tail, and that is how I will control the power of the wing.  Then I'll have another one that turns a rudder and Presto!  I'm sailing!

Monday, May 13, 2013


 I've been slowly working on a wing, for my own version of the AC 72 class.  I probably won't race it in San Francisco this summer because it doesn't match up to the standards, but I'd like to make a small hydrofoiling remote control catamaran for sailing around. 
To that end I have been making a wing.  The main spar is a fiberglass piece of pole saw pole, and then I made mahogany foils and put a cedar leading edge on it.  I still have to put the skin on, but that is a careful operation, so I've been leaving that till later, when the other parts are finished.
The wing will be unstayed, so it attaches with a bearing (so it can pivot).   The wing is 7 ft tall, and the bearings on the bottom are only 6 inches apart, so there is a fair amount of load on the beams, but I'm getting it all figured out. 
The most interesting feature of this boat will be that there is no main sheet.  I intend to control the wing via a "tail" that makes the whole thing look like an airplane got stuck to the boat, so the tail controls the "angle of attack" of the wing-the angle to the wind-and if the wind shifts, the wing shifts with it, keeping a constant angle of attack.  To depower you just put the tail into straight ahead mode and the wing points into the wind.  This kind of set-up is used in a few other boats, and on a few autonomous boats, because it is easy to control.  You never have to ease the sheet in a puff, it eases for you.

In other news, I've made yet another sailing video, of a trimaran.  Its quick and stable and I want one.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Vendovi Island

I went over to Vendovi Island this weekend.  Never before had I set foot upon this island, until Saturday.  There are some islands in the San Juans that you go on by, you let those ones go.  Maybe they are too small, or populated, or lack the proper spot to anchor, maybe they are forbidden (though those are the most tempting, right?) and maybe you don't have a reason, but rather just a better option.  Vendovi is one of those.  I've also never gone to Eliza before, and on this trip I sailed right past it twice.  It remains the domain of refrain, but Veni, Vidi, Vici, Vendovi!
It all began with my brother Abe notifying me that he wanted a ride over to this island in order to attend the Native Plant Society meeting that was going to be held there.  The water taxi ride over was steep, so he figured we could make a weekend of it.  My friend Ric came along as well as my friend Lindsay.  So off we set, into the wild blue.
We got to Lummi Island for the first night and Abe went ashore and breathed out a fire in no time at all, then set up some cedar sticks for roasting salmon.
The salmon crisped up wonderfully and filled us all to stomach clasping rolly polly wonderment.  I was fat and happy for the night.  It was a very warm night, and the stars beamed down their pleasure on us as we feasted on the bounty of the sea.
 The next day we got up with the sun and made our way over to Vendovi for the meeting.  The weather was not as forecast, nor helpful, as it came from the north with enough brunt to form a troublesome chop.  We sailed as we could, then motored as well to make the small marina on the island.  All systems were performing, though the voltage on the batteries could have been considered to be a wee bit low.
(All of my batteries are very very old, and at the point where they have one foot in the grave, so I was not too concerned)  The tour of the island was great, with lots of flowers and lichens and excitement over the small green things of the world.  Green and brown and golden.  Some of the native plant society I had known as a child, and some were new to me, but all of them pleasant and excited about life in green.
This shot is through a binocular, with my wide angle. It really makes the depth of field all wonky, but I think it looks cool.
Vendovi was named after a Fijian who was a prisoner aboard a ship exploring the area, and has some neat history of the place.  There are also very few non-native plants on the island and almost no mammals.  Only Mice, Squirrels (and I think there are probably bats as well)  No deer, which is rather unusual for this area.
 The Madrona trees with their peeling red bark enchanted me, and they were flowering, and there were some stands of straight firs coming out of the hot soil and wafting a hot smell over us.  Summer has arrived!
We spent the day and then got back aboard Altair for the return trip to Lummi Island.  It was still very choppy and the waves were coming right into the small marina entrance, so I was forced to use the engine to get out.  I turned it on and it ran for a few moments and then went back to sleep.  I had run out of fuel.  The last time I filled up was in Port Hardy, on September 14, last year, so after a 300 mile trip and 8 months of small adventures, I was wondering when it would quit.

I had a small tank in reserve, and I put that in and opened up the boat to bleed out the fuel lines.  Opening the boat is very difficult, and it I had just put another broken casualty of the trip inside the boat (and taking up most of the floor space).  The dinghy that Ric borrowed from a friend of his and spent most of Friday patching and making seaworthy had torn a hole in the floor and was no longer fit for duty, or for towing behind, so I had put it down below.  Now I needed all the space I could get down below to tear apart the engine compartment in order to work on things.  I bled the engine and got it running and off we went.  The wind came up outside the marina and we sailed freely, so I turned off the engine to save fuel, but then as we passed behind Lummi Island the wind died out and the waves were furious, so I tried to turn on the engine again.  It fell a second time.  I noticed that the batteries were sick and tired of trying to turn over the engine, so they were very low on the voltage.  After struggling with the lack of wind, I finally decided to tear the compartment apart again and bleed the engine again.  With the leech still sucking, she kicked to life once more, and we drove onward until the wind helped us arrive at our anchorage.  That night was another fine night, where we made pizza in a cardboard box on an open fire.  Clear skies and warm night air blessed us again, and the phosphorescence blossomed during the paddle right to the boat.

The following morning was our last day, but we went for a hike in the morning.  I'd previously been to the top of Lummi Island before, but this time we went to another place, to the Quarry.  There is a great look out over Portage Island and Bellingham, and plenty of rocks to roll down the steep hillsides.

We got back to the boat and then sailed off the mooring to head back home.  All was working well until the wind died right out from Fairhaven, so I turned the key on to drive in.  Again the motor failed me.  This time the batteries were so beat down that when I bled the system out I didn't have enough juice to get her started, so I decided to open up the electrical system and get rid of two of the oldest batteries in it.  That of course took a lot of time and moving lots of stuff around, but I finally got it all sorted, and now my battery system is in slightly better shape than before, with two super old and very dead batteries sitting on the floor waiting to be taken away, and the others hooked up and charging in the sun.
It was a fun weekend, but a long one, and with not enough sleep for me

Friday, May 3, 2013


During the Captain's class I have been taking over the last few months I would carpool with Mark, who is an avid sailor.  Here is a short video of his boat.  This thing is fantastically beautiful, and surprisingly quick.  With the spinnaker up we were almost matching speeds with a small racing fleet in light air.