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Picture of the Day

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Pic of the Day


 

STORY - DUCTTAPE

Captain Duct Tape Makes a Sandwich

As is the way of things, sometimes everything is easy, and sometimes things are, well let's just say sub-optimal.

There I was, minding my own business, on one of those not exactly perfect days in our universe, ninety miles off the coast of Pismo Beach, Ca. On a heading of about 204 degrees magnetic, in twenty to thirty knots of wind.

A reach is a fast point of sail on an Olsen 25. It is even faster with a spinnaker, and a well-trained crew. But Captain Duct Tape doesn't have a spinnaker up, or a crew, trained or not. Guess, I'm just a MORON (Midget Off-shore Racing, Official Novice), and a single-handed sailor to boot. Doing nine knots with twin 125% headsails, and the main.

I know what you're thinking; twin headsails are for going deep. Dead down wind on big fat displacement boats, not for reaching in heavy seas on a fast little yellow MORC ultra light. Right? Wrong. With the weather twin poled-out to windward, and the leeward twin set for a reach followed by the main you can go quite fast, and semi- stable. With this bastard rig, we have had the boat at speeds up to three times hull speed, in thirty to forty knots of wind. That would be good under any sail combination. And without all the painful overhead of a spinnaker, no broaching, no wraps, no round downs, no round ups, no death rolls, no need to do your best impression of twelve monkeys trying to accomplish on a bowling ball something which is best left to two consenting adults behind closed doors.

But even with all these advantages, I still manage to find trouble, the seven P's of life have no respect for tradition, or lunchtime, or bathroom breaks. Prior Proper Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance.

There are few things more important then checking out your craft, gear and equipment, before you use it. I know this, but my problem (like everyone else's) is how to know beforehand what items will fail during normal use, and what items will fail under the not so normal conditions that they will be placed under by the Gods of wind, sea, and bio-mechanics.

All that anyone needs to solve this minor problem is a little thing called clairvoyance. No big deal. As I understand it, all you need is the blood of a freshly killed chicken, a teaspoon of sun-dried newt's eye, one cup of goose liver pate', a table spoon of extra virgin olive oil, a pinch of tarragon, and a dash of Tabasco. Unfortunately, I never carry tarragon on the boat. So I am stuck turning the pages of the story, one at a time like everyone else.

Four O'clock in the afternoon was a little early for the sky to be darkening off the coast of California at the end of May, but that is what happened. The army of clouds that filled the sky from horizon to horizon had been building slowly all afternoon, but in the last half hour or so they had sped up their preparations for the impending war. Unfortunately, I did not notice this. While situational awareness may be a virtue, I was too busy below decks.

I know what you're thinking, below decks, with a storm building? Well, in my defense, while it may be stupid to be hanging out below decks with a storm brewing, you would only know there was a storm brewing if you listened to the weather report, or were above decks watching it. That said; let's see if we can spot a few minor oopsies in our preparations for this little trip:

  1. Always a good idea to check the weather report for your entire route, before you leave the dock.
  2. If you are going far offshore, you will need long range weather reports, this will require a weather fax, SSB capable radio, world band radio receiver, weather instruments, or some long distance communications device, and someone on the other end to tell you the weather report.

    So, why was I below decks? Well, the seas had picked up a little, and some gear had shifted below, as the autopilot was busy handling the tiller at the time, the only member of the crew available to sort out the mess below was Captain Duct Tape.
  3. All gear should be stowed for heavy weather, even if none is expected.
Why was gear adrift? Because although I had spent all the night before stowing gear, when I tried to test the generator before leaving the dock at 7:00 A.M. (a good idea) it had not started, and it had to be overhauled. Once I got it working, at 5:30 P.M. I realized that it made a lot more noise then I had expected, and the fumes were enough to loosen the bowels of a full-grown Botswonian rhinoceros. But, when you borrow gear, you take what you can get, you say thank you, and you bring it back in at least as good a shape as it was in when you got it. Even with the noise and the smell, it was a lot better then trying to make electricity by rubbing to sticks together, which was my only other option (note to self: always carry two sticks on the boat incase the generator fails.)

Now, where was I? Oh yes, below decks putting loose fasteners into the bags they should have been put into in the first place, reorganizing tools that should have been returned to their proper home in the first place, putting away chemicals, and food (try to store your solvents separately from your condiments). Not to mention, a chance to clear the brain-housing unit, after having just been running the generator for half an hour.

As the sky darkened, and the seas picked up, the wind started to freshen. This caused an increase in boat speed, and helm pressure. Making it harder for the Autohelm ST4000 autopilot to maintain an even heading. This caused the little boat to heal a little further port and starboard, and the oscillation time to decrease.

"Hey, George what did he say?"

"He said the boat was rocking more."

So,… up pops my little head, and I notice that the sky seems darker than I remember, looking back down at my watch, I see that it is only 4:20 P.M. hmm. As the gears in my head start turning, and the cobwebs are ground to dust between them, I realize that there may be a need for a reevaluation of the situation above decks. I climb off my custom athwart ships bunk (a very high tech slab of plywood set across port and starboard quarter berths amidships) in preparation for a trip to the cockpit.

As I was girding up my loins to battle the elements, the boat, and the worldwide communist conspiracy, a funny set of events happened:

  1. The boat healed a little more to starboard as my weight shifted.
  2. Which caused the boats heading to shift a few degrees westward.
  3. Which allowed the keel a better angle across the wave, which was just coming under the boat.
  4. This caused a slight increase in boat speed, as the boat started really surfing.
  5. Which caused the angle of attack to heat up even more.
  6. Increasing boat speed again as the apparent wind over the sails increased.
  7. Again causing the boats course to head west.
  8. Which caused the autopilot to realize that a correction to port was required.
  9. The autopilot dutifully pulled the tiller to starboard, but under the increased weather helm, this was barely enough to hold course, let alone correct it.
  10. This made the autopilot mad.
  11. So a much larger correction was put on the tiller.

    Unfortunately, the autopilot did not have the instinct to understand that turning directly down the face of a twenty-five foot wave, when traveling at twelve and a half knots, is not really a self-preservation move.

  12. This caused another increase in boat speed.
  13. Which was followed almost immediately by a rather load noise, and a really sudden deceleration. Oh yeah, and lots of water. Green water, over the cabin top.

    While I understand that this is what happened (thank God for black boxes), I was a little busy having just climbed up to the companion way hatch prior to the sudden deceleration, I was about to hook my safety tether into the cockpit when Sir Isaac Newton got his revenge.

  14. The boat decelerated very quickly as it buried itself into the back of the preceding wave, I however, continued on at my original speed along my original heading.

"Hey, George what did he say?"

"He said he fell down"

Unfortunately, the sudden change in wind angle caused by the course change, had sent the mainsail back, and pulled the boom aft with it (for more information on preventers at sea, please consult your local yacht club bar) this was corrected at the same time as my flying lesson, resulting in a broken goose neck. Luckily the rigid boom vang was able to not only hold up the boom, but also prevent it from generating enough force to damage the mast or rigging.

While this was going on, I had taken a nice little vacation, a short flight past the berth, through the galley, over the head, landing at the compression post. Where I was able to watch many pretty birds, and stars.

I decided to cut short my vacation, and get back to work, just as the boat decided to crash into another trough. I managed to get back to the companionway without too much more trouble, and was holding on with both hands when the next crash dive occurred. As the transom started to rise on the next wave, as if a crane was lifting it, I punched in a twenty-degree course correction to starboard on the autopilot, and dove uphill for the tiller. I pulled the autopilot arm off the connection nub, and pushed the tiller all the way to port.

Once I had the boat pointed back to the west, I reconnected the autopilot to the tiller, and quickly punched in another ten degrees of starboard on the brain unit. I had to slow the boat down, so I eased the jib sheets a couple of feet, and pulled in the reefing line on the roller furler. I repeated the process until I had two 80% jibs, one to each side. This slowed the boat down enough that I had time to look around. I could not figure out what was wrong with the main, until the boom almost hit me in the nose.

I edged forward, to the mast, and found the damage. The bolt that held the gooseneck together had sheered. It had probably seen a lot of stress over the years, and this last little nudge had been the straw that broke the camel's back.

I figured that getting the main down was a good idea, but not so easy with the boom not supported on the mast. Ok, plan b. lets figure out a way stop the boom from moving. Back down into my little hole. What can be found in my newly redecorated cabin? A roll of duct tape in the port side galley cabinet top. Thank God, there has to be a way to save my ass with duct tape. As I fished the roll out, I spotted a large Phillips screwdriver, and grabbed it figuring I might be able to use it to pry things into place.

Back up on deck, the wind, and sea are starting to get downright nasty. It was not completely pitch black yet, but it was hard to see. Holding the tape, and screwdriver in my right hand, I scrambled to the mast, and wrapped my legs around it. I tried to get the boom into position with just my left hand, but there was too much force on the main, and everything was moving in all directions (I bet this whole thing would have been easier tied up to the dock, on a warm sunny day, with a beer or two).

So I placed my tools in my lap, and grabbed the boom with both hands. I was able to get it into position, so that the gooseneck body was pretty much in the bracket on the mast. But I was out of limbs. You cannot start a roll of duct tape with one hand, let alone no hands. So I figured I had to free my hands. Time to use my head.

I placed the left side of my head against the boom, and reached down with my right hand to grab the tape. As I picked up the roll, the screwdriver fell out of the center, and hit my knee. Dropping the tape back between my legs, I managed to grab the screwdriver before it was sacrificed to the water Gods, and without loosing my grip on the boom.

Too make my life easier, I figured that I could shove the screwdriver into the gooseneck, so I could use both hands on the tape job. Once I had it in place, I realized that I had just built a gooseneck. DUH. But I had to keep it from flying out.

Duct tape! Wow, and here was a roll right in my lap. It was getting a little hairy, so I needed to hurry. I wrapped the tape around the mast and the screwdriver under the boom, four or five times, and crawled aft to the cockpit to get the main under control.

As I no longer had a tack fitting for the main, and the wind was still freshening, I decided that discretion being the better part of valor it was time to put the main away for the night. I eased the mainsheet out until the main was flogging, cleared the halyard, and opened the rope clutch. Then, back to the mast on hands and knees with two sail ties from the port side halyard bag.

As I pulled the main down, I realized that there was a very good chance I would live through this little adventure. I flaked the sail as best I could, and tied it in place. As I crawled back aft, I reset the rope clutch, and tensioned the halyard.

The sky was black. I could not see much of anything, besides the foam from the waves. So I went down below, and turned on the instrument and navigation lights.

Time to set course for Point Conception, and get some food in my stomach. I got the heading off my GPS, and punched it into the ST4000+. Then I went below to find sustenance.

Time for an Offshore Belly Bomb. Armed with a French roll, 3 slices of baked Turkey, 3 slices of sharp cheddar, 4 slices of Honey Baked Ham, 18 slices of Dry Salami, and a bottle of Tabasco Habanera Sauce, I proceeded to attack my hunger, patiently awaiting my next opportunity to use my trusty duct tape.


"Hey, George what did he say?"

"He said he fell down"

Unfortunately, the sudden change in wind angle caused by the course change, had sent the mainsail back, and pulled the boom aft with it (for more information on preventers at sea, please consult your local yacht club bar) this was corrected at the same time as my flying lesson, resulting in a broken goose neck. Luckily the rigid boom vang was able to not only hold up the boom, but also prevent it from generating enough force to damage the mast or rigging.

While this was going on, I had taken a nice little vacation, a short flight past the berth, through the galley, over the head, landing at the compression post. Where I was able to watch many pretty birds, and stars.

I decided to cut short my vacation, and get back to work, just as the boat decided to crash into another trough. I managed to get back to the companionway without too much more trouble, and was holding on with both hands when the next crash dive occurred. As the transom started to rise on the next wave, as if a crane was lifting it, I punched in a twenty-degree course correction to starboard on the autopilot, and dove uphill for the tiller. I pulled the autopilot arm off the connection nub, and pushed the tiller all the way to port.

Once I had the boat pointed back to the west, I reconnected the autopilot to the tiller, and quickly punched in another ten degrees of starboard on the brain unit. I had to slow the boat down, so I eased the jib sheets a couple of feet, and pulled in the reefing line on the roller furler. I repeated the process until I had two 80% jibs, one to each side. This slowed the boat down enough that I had time to look around. I could not figure out what was wrong with the main, until the boom almost hit me in the nose.

I edged forward, to the mast, and found the damage. The bolt that held the gooseneck together had sheered. It had probably seen a lot of stress over the years, and this last little nudge had been the straw that broke the camel's back.

I figured that getting the main down was a good idea, but not so easy with the boom not supported on the mast. Ok, plan b. lets figure out a way stop the boom from moving. Back down into my little hole. What can be found in my newly redecorated cabin? A roll of duct tape in the port side galley cabinet top. Thank God, there has to be a way to save my ass with duct tape. As I fished the roll out, I spotted a large Phillips screwdriver, and grabbed it figuring I might be able to use it to pry things into place.

Back up on deck, the wind, and sea are starting to get downright nasty. It was not completely pitch black yet, but it was hard to see. Holding the tape, and screwdriver in my right hand, I scrambled to the mast, and wrapped my legs around it. I tried to get the boom into position with just my left hand, but there was too much force on the main, and everything was moving in all directions (I bet this whole thing would have been easier tied up to the dock, on a warm sunny day, with a beer or two).

So I placed my tools in my lap, and grabbed the boom with both hands. I was able to get it into position, so that the gooseneck body was pretty much in the bracket on the mast. But I was out of limbs. You cannot start a roll of duct tape with one hand, let alone no hands. So I figured I had to free my hands. Time to use my head.

I placed the left side of my head against the boom, and reached down with my right hand to grab the tape. As I picked up the roll, the screwdriver fell out of the center, and hit my knee. Dropping the tape back between my legs, I managed to grab the screwdriver before it was sacrificed to the water Gods, and without loosing my grip on the boom.

Too make my life easier, I figured that I could shove the screwdriver into the gooseneck, so I could use both hands on the tape job. Once I had it in place, I realized that I had just built a gooseneck. DUH. But I had to keep it from flying out.

Duct tape! Wow, and here was a roll right in my lap. It was getting a little hairy, so I needed to hurry. I wrapped the tape around the mast and the screwdriver under the boom, four or five times, and crawled aft to the cockpit to get the main under control.

As I no longer had a tack fitting for the main, and the wind was still freshening, I decided that discretion being the better part of valor it was time to put the main away for the night. I eased the mainsheet out until the main was flogging, cleared the halyard, and opened the rope clutch. Then, back to the mast on hands and knees with two sail ties from the port side halyard bag.

As I pulled the main down, I realized that there was a very good chance I would live through this little adventure. I flaked the sail as best I could, and tied it in place. As I crawled back aft, I reset the rope clutch, and tensioned the halyard.

The sky was black. I could not see much of anything, besides the foam from the waves. So I went down below, and turned on the instrument and navigation lights.

Time to set course for Point Conception, and get some food in my stomach. I got the heading off my GPS, and punched it into the ST4000+. Then I went below to find sustenance.

Time for an Offshore Belly Bomb. Armed with a French roll, 3 slices of baked Turkey, 3 slices of sharp cheddar, 4 slices of Honey Baked Ham, 18 slices of Dry Salami, and a bottle of Tabasco Habanera Sauce, I proceeded to attack my hunger, patiently awaiting my next opportunity to use my trusty duct tape.

Site maintained by Mike Wilkinson if you have comments or suggestions, or contributions.
Copyright © 2005- Mike Wilkinson(1292)

 

 

 
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The Canadian Olson 25 Nationals are going to be at Barrie Yacht Club in September 2011.
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The 34rd America's Cup protocol stipulates all new yachts. It will be held in San Francisco Sept 7-22, 2013.
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Yacht Facts

Check out this article on the Olson 25 from Sailing Magazine