Saturday, July 28, 2012

Sea Scouts bring TIME MACHINE home from the Island

Upon arrival at the Island our friend Heather was there to greet us, our shore bags were all at the Inn on Mackinaw and soon we were all showered and changed. Getting the multiple layers of sun-screen off felt really great. The boat was cleaned up and we all met for a nice dinner at the Yankee Rebel. Tuesday was the party, which was held down the hill from the Grand Hotel and was a definite step up from past years. There was a bit of concern that Eric, our crew for the trip home and who's car would take folks home, had not contacted us, but that soon resolved itself. Heather, Andy and Austin took off and the rest of us got cleaned up for the dinner at the Woods restaurant, which was the usual special event.

Wednesday morning we packed up from the Inn and met at the boat to head to Mackinac City. Shawn and Carol took the ferry, as they had arranged for a separate ride (good thing since the scout's truck was small). We fueled and iced and pumped out the holding tank at the Shepplers dock, the Scouts arrived and loaded all their gear and provisions aboard. By 1000 hours TIME MACHINE was ready to go! The adventure for the Sea Scouts was being documented by the Head Photographer of Boy's Like (Boy Scouts of America magazine). Each of the boats would carry him with TIME MACHINE getting the first honor. The other boats in our flotilla (GRIFFIN and WAR CHANT) were much slower to get organized and due to the congestion in the harbor, we took off out into the lake. Conditions were 12-15 knots of breeze..... right on the nose! We motored slowly for about 1.5 hours and then went to flank-speed for the rest of the trip to Presque Isle bay. We arrived at the bay just as the sun was setting and picked out a nice anchoring spot. The Scouts constructed a tent over the foredeck and we settled down for the night. The day had been filled with getting the scouts time on the tiller, showing the different systems aboard and even a deep water swim.

Thursday morning the fan turned on at 6:14am. It went from calm to 20 knots out of the ESE in about 3 minutes. By the time we got fueled and ready to go, it was 0745 and the waves were already building. We worked our way out of the bay and motored straight into the waves for about an hour to put some distance on the lee-shore. GRIFFIN had set a #3 and was already tacking up the shore. We followed suit with our #3 alone and found that we could sail at about 7 knots. Having the sail up made the boat much more stable, which was a good thing since the waves continued to build. By 1400 hours we saw some of the largest waves of the day, estimated at 12 feet. We crossed paths with the barge/tug combination INNOVATION/SAMUEL de CHAMPLIAN and after talking with them on the radio, they altered course to make the pass safer.... very cool. By about 1730 we were outside the Harrisville harbor and we made the entry without any major problems. It had been a pretty wild day. Two of the sea scouts had gotten very cold and sea sick. Our Scout-Leader had also gotten sick. Feeling a bit overwhelmed, one of our scouts called home and asked to be picked up, we were sorry about this but understood. That evening we invited the other sea scouts and venturers aboard TIME MACHINE for a special event. I had brought the Hanson Medal with me and I talked to them all about what had happened that year. The boat was packed, with about 25 people crammed in down below. The questions and comments were great and given the rough day we had all had, it really hammered home the message about being prepared and alert out on the lakes.

Friday morning, the skippers got together to consult about the weather and we decided to try to sail across Saginaw Bay and make it to Port Sanilac. As we departed the conditions were much improved. We set the #3 and a full Main and started reaching across the bay. Conditions were super!. As the thumb came into view the scouts did an outside-set/inside-douse to change from the #3 to the #2 headsail. We continued to make great time as the breeze settled from 12-14 to 8-10 knots. With the afternoon winding down we were approaching Harbor Beach and we contacted the other boats. They really wanted to do some night sailing and would continue to Port Sanilac. Since we had another day to go beyond Port Huron (their home port), we decided to stop at Harbor Beach and anchor behind the breakwall. Once again the scouts did an anchor watch and we had a restful night.

Saturday we got started at about 0515 and motored on flat seas towards Port Sanilac. As we approached the harbor GRIFFIN popped out and we met up with them. They were going to spend some extra time on the water, so we decided to take our time. We did stop to do another deep-water swim and trained the scouts on using the Life-sling and tackle to retrieve a MOB. After the swim the breeze was building nicely and we set the #2 and full main and sailed close-hauled for several hours with the scouts on the helm. About 10 miles north of the Bluewater Bridges, we tacked to the south leaving GRIFFIN and headed to Port Huron Yacht Club. We fueled up and dropped off our Scout Leader. We were met by one of the scouts parents and all together we had a great dinner at a local pizza/subs restaurant, which was followed by ice-cream cones, much to the consternation of the other ships. Ship 1492 really knows how to have a good time!

Sunday we slipped away from the dock at 0500 hours and motored down the rivers to our home port. The scouts got lots of close up encounters with the freighters and did a great job of getting all the gear on board packed up. When we popped out into Lake Erie from the Livingston Channel we were greeted by the usual 3 foot chop that results when a 15 knot wind opposes the current. We continued to motor home and arrived outside our harbor entrance at about 1715. A quick check of the water levels showed that we could have trouble and as we nosed into the entrance we did indeed run aground. We made 2 attempts and then decided to anchor outside. Everyone except the skipper was put ashore by friends at North Cape. By about 2100 hours the wind had reduced and the water levels had come up a bit. With help from a couple of North Capers,we nosed into the entrance, grazed the bottom a couple times and with great relief pulled into our slip. Alice had been included in a pot-luck dinner by the gang on B-line-docks and we were soon on our way home.

A special thanks to Eric for his tireless crew-work and time with the scouts and for loaning Alice his cellphone on Sunday afternoon. We were very happy to host Jay Montgomery, our Scout Leader, who spent hours working with the Scouts on their certifications. Garth, the photographer from Boy's Life was a terrific sport, especially during the big waves on Thursday and we look forward to seeing the pictures from the two days he spent aboard. A special thanks to Bob Bradley, Jeff Mackay, Bill Pribe, Leslie Hill and the folks on B-line!

The Scouts of Ship#1492 did great and I look forward to having them aboard again next year!

All in all it was a super event. We made some new friends..... Scott and Austin.... we had a good race we renewed contact with our fleet mates in the Level35, we had a great time with scouts..... and we got to sail a lot on the way home!


Robert Gordenker

Skipper, TIME MACHINE Sailing Team

Friday, August 07, 2009

Rescue Complete, what worked and what didn't

TIME MACHINE was fortunate to be able to assist a couple of very lucky dinghy sailors who were in serious trouble on Lake Huron. See the whole story in the next blog entry (OH NO...not again). Many things went right, but as always there were some things that we could have been done better.

  • Keeping a constant watch, even in rough conditions and under power with autopilot
  • Cockpit VHF radio remote allowed for 25W transmissions to Coast Guard from at the helm
  • Quick crew work on dousing and securing the mainsail, enabled us to maneuver as needed
  • Crew followed orders without hesitation, enabled the skipper to think ahead and to anticipate the next steps in the process
  • Taking a pass to assess the victims status, determine what they wanted and to look for floating lines and rigging that could hamper close approaches
  • Patient support from Coast Guard, they monitored the transmissions, acknowledged copy and facilitated by not making requests while we had our hands full
  • Clear and consistent radio protocol. All transmissions from TIME MACHINE were in the format... Station Sarnia - Time Machine (the body of the message) OVER and they responded Time Machine - Station Sarnia (the body of the message) OVER. You always knew who was being called and who was calling.
  • Lack of a boarding ladder. TIME MACHINE has no boarding ladder. In this case the victims had enough strength that they could have used one. We did deploy the loops of dock lines to be used as footholds, but mainly relied on grabbing the victim and hauling them up by brute force.
  • Did not get the cold victims out of wet clothing. In this case getting the victims under blankets and out of the wind was sufficient. However, we should have been prepared to get them dry to speed the warming process.
  • Did not take victims temperature. In this case the lack of uncontrolled shaking and the immediate return of color to lips and cheeks was a pretty good indicator that hypothermia and shock were not a primary concern. However, taking a body temperature reading would have been helpful in the assessment process.
  • Did not maintain contact with the victims after they got to their car. In this case the victims were stable and in the care of a family member. However, we should have gotten a cellphone number, where they were going and probably the make model and plate of the car.
  • Use of rescue gear on the boat. In this case we were able to pull the victims aboard. We have a Lifesling system (on the stern rail) and a lifting tackle system (at the mast) specifically for helping to haul victims aboard. Had we been more practiced with the LifeSling and Hoisting Tackle we would have thought to use it.
  • We were not prepared to have a crew member enter the water if needed. In this case we were fortunate that both victims were conscious and moving. We needed to be prepared for the possibility of a victim in shock, not moving and listless. This could, as a last resort, require sending a crewman over the side. Doing so without endangering the crewman and in a pre-planned manner was not an option. We may have needed to wait for outside assistance.
  • Use of medical books and information. We have several medical references aboard that we could have consulted. In this case we were lucky that the victims symptoms were pretty obvious and quickly cleared up.
The lessons learned from this experience will be used to make sure we are practiced and confident with ALL the tools, resources and gadgets aboard. You just never know when you will need one of them!

Robert Gordenker,
TIME MACHINE Sailing Team.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

OH NO.... Not Again!

Last year TIME MACHINE was involved in a MAYDAY situation (see previous posting). So what are the chances that anything like that would happen again. Slim to none..... NOT SO FAST!

During the transport from Duncan Bay Boat Club to North Cape Yacht Club, TIME MACHINE and her crew were involved in a rescue. TIME MACHINE was crewed by her skipper, Robert Gordenker, a long-time team member, Dennis Maurer and a team member new to boat this year, Dee Adkins.

We had been motor sailing 28 hours, with only a short stop for fuel, ice-cream and pizza at Presque Isle. Conditions were tough with 20-25 knot winds nearly on the nose and lumpy seas. It was just after 1600 hours on Saturday August 1, 2009 and we were approximately 17 miles north of Port Huron, East of Lexington. We were attempting to reach the shelter of the Black River (Port Huron) before a cold-front that was expected that evening came blasting through. We were taking a beating, but were making good progress.

Suddenly, as I looked around, I spotted what looked like a kayak paddle rising and falling. But we were at least 5 miles off shore and in big seas. Anyone out this far was probably in trouble. Right away, I called the other 2 crew (we were only 3 on board) on deck. We dropped the mainsail and turned toward the spot. All of a sudden it became clear what we were seeing. There were two people in the water, clinging to the hull of small sailing boat (a Club Flying Junior) that was just barely afloat. The people in the water were wearing PFDs. There was no mast or sails and they had been waving a short paddle, normally used to paddle up to the dock.

At this point instinct took over.
  1. Contact the Coast Guard. I called to CCG Station Sarnia (thinking were were in Canadian waters) on VHF channel 16. Advised that we thought we had persons in the water and Sarnia should stand by. They answered immediately and did not bother us.

  2. Get TIME MACHINE ready for a rescue. We disconnected the mainsail from the boom and stuffed it down the companionway hatch. Not elegant, but it got the sail out the way. we could then deployed several dock lines over the side as a make shift ladder.
  3. Check on the victims. We called to them and asked if they need immediate medical assistance... NO, we are just cold came the answer. We called to them and asked if they intended to abandon their vessel.... YES, we are very cold. We called to them and asked them to collect the lines trailing in the water so they would not foul our prop when we made our close approaches.
  4. Make the first approach. As we made the first circle, I advised CCG Station Sarnia that we had 2 people in the water and were attempting to take them on-board. As we came head to wind just next to them, we called for one to swim to us. The younger sailor took several strong strokes and reached the dock lines. The two TIME MACHINE crew grabbed his arms and hauled him up and under the lower life lines.
  5. Make the second approach. We made another turn and advised CCG Station Sarnia that we had one person aboard and one still in the water. As we returned to a position just to windward of the victim he tried to swim, but it was clear that he had no more energy. He also had the paddle and some of the lines in his hands. Having positioned TIME MACHINE to windward, we drifted down to the him and soon he too was lifted through the life lines. There was a moment of concern that TIME MACHINE and the hull of the small boat would crush together with the victim between us, but by carefully motoring forward a few feet, very aware of where the victim was so that he did not get into the prop, he stayed clear.
    Get the location of the hull. As soon as the two sailors were secured in the cockpit, we noted the coordinates from the GPS.
  6. Get the medical condition of the victims. Even before relaying the position of the incident to CCG Station Sarnia, we wrapped them in blankets and did a quick assessment for hypothermia. We knew that they were very weak. Their lips were blue, they were shivering but not shaking, they were talking but not very clearly.
  7. Relay the situation to CCG Station Sarnia. We contacted CCG Station Sarnia and relayed the Lat-Lon of the hull that was now adrift.
    We also relayed our initial medical assessment of the two victims and advised that no immediate medical attention was required at this time, but that we were monitoring them closely.
  8. Move the victims down below and monitor them. We moved them down into the cabin, still wrapped in blankets. The combination of getting out of the wind, the warm cabin and blankets seemed to help a great deal. We were soon able to get their names and a contact phone number. They were a Father and Son.
  9. Decide on where to make landfall. We continued to warm the Father and Son, providing them with small amounts of hot coffee (just sips) and keeping a close eye of them. They requested to return to Lexington Harbor, which was the closest port. However, Lexington is a fairly shallow harbor and there was doubt that TIME MACHINE could make a safe entrance. The cardinal rule of a 1st responder is DO NOT become an additional victim. After several radio contacts with Harbor Lexington and a text message with a local sailor, we determined that we could probably make it.
    Continue to update the Coast Guard. Now that the immediate danger was past, we continued to update CCG Station Sarnia. They requested to know the nationality of vessel TIME MACHINE and as soon as they knew we were US flagged, they transferred control to USCG Station Port Huron.
  10. Make landfall. Very carefully we nosed into the harbor and were able to reach the gas dock without grounding. Once secured in the harbor we advised USCG Station Port Huron of our status.
  11. Releasing the Father and Son. I was not willing to release them on their own. It took several minutes for me to be comfortable that they were not in medical distress. Even then, I was not willing to let them walk to their car alone, so I sent one of the crew along. Communication at this time was hampered by a lack of cell phone coverage. The Father and Son were re-united with the Mother and we lost track of them.
  12. Followup with the authorities. I was soon called to the harbor master's office for a phone call from the Sheriff. A deputy was soon at the boat and I detailed the facts for him. He had other officers already searching for the victims and advised us that a good samaritan had recovered the hull and towed it back to Lexington Harbor. From the registration number he knew the names and address of the family. They matched with the names we had. The deputy congratulated us on a job well done and instructed the harbor master to provide us dockage at no-charge. Soon USCG Sector Detroit was heard hailing us on channel 16 and a full report was made to them by VHF radio.

Listen to the whole sequence of the radio transmissions on VHF16.

Thanks to Dan Burgoyne at USCG Station Fort Lauderdale for assisting in creating the edited recording.

In one of most emotional moments of the whole incident, the Father thanked me for rescuing them and asked if he could do something as a reward. I looked him right in the eye and said, "just seeing you and your son, alive and here aboard TIME MACHINE is the biggest reward I could possible get. Helping you is what sailors do for each other".

TIME MACHINE and her crew of 3 commend the Father and Son for staying with their boat, having the wits to wave the paddle and staying calm during the rescue. We also wish to acknowledge Canadian Coast Guard Station Sarnia for their professional support as information was relayed and US Coast Guard Station Port Huron for their assistance in determining that Harbor Lexington was accessible. We wish to thank the Sanilac County Sheriff and his staff and the Lexington Harbor staff for their support.

2009 Mac Race, We saw it all!

The 2009 Mac Race is in the books. TIME MACHINE was once again a contender for a podium finish, but at the last moment the fickle winds of Northern Lake Huron favored MAJOR DETAIL. Having thrown everything we had into the attack on MAJOR DETAIL, we did not see NIGHT TRAIN sneaking across the line at the pin end. Well, when you have a chance to 'medal', fight for all your worth, and there is no real difference between 4th and 5th.

The race started in fine fashion. We got away from the line in clear air, but soon ended up in a sandwich of J-120's, who started with the J/35 - T/35 fleet. It turned out to be a great photo op and there was a great picture of us in the Port Huron paper the next day as we rolled over the top of the larger and faster J-120. Things settled down as we worked the Southerly winds. Watch schedules were established and everyone made it on deck for the fly-by of the Boat-pix helicopter. Jim kept a close eye of the weather radar as first one storm skirted to our south and then another storm started to work towards us.

Actually, it was coming right at us. Since we could not out run it, there was no real choice but to head directly across the path of the storm. The previous storms had been fairly mild, no warnings were issued and boats that we could see near the storms did not seem to get hit very hard. However, this one was different. The first big gust was a big knock and rounded us up. The wind had gone from 12-15 knots to 25 knots. The spinnaker refilled.... the wind picked up to 35 knots and the spinnaker failed. The clew of the sail tore off and the the sail tore across the foot. Immediately the crew pulled what was now a flag into the boat as the wind increased to 40 and then 50 knots. The greatest concern now was to keep the mainsail intact. With only the main, the boat wanted to head up into wind, which would cause the sail to flog. The flogging in such conditions would disintegrate the sail in seconds. The trick was to hold the boat down just enough to spill most of the wind and yet not flog the sail. The rain and hail was coming horizontally. The wind had actually flattened out the water and TIME MACHINE saw boat speeds of 9.8 knots, unheard of in flat water!

In the midst of all the chaos, Colin and Carol got the #3 rigged and ready to hoist. It was about 12 minutes before the wind speeds reduced to under 30 knots at which point we hoisted the #3 and resumed our course towards Cove Island. It was about another 5 minutes and we set the 'skreacher'. 20 minutes after the first blast, it was as if nothing had happened. Soon marine warnings started to come in over the radio, reporting 50-60 knot gusts. No kidding!

The crew settled in for night and we continued to reach up the lake under spinnaker and full main. As the night progressed, the cold waters of the Lake generated thick fog, making for a real challenge for the drivers. Look away from the compass for 3 seconds and you would drift 20 degrees off course. It was cold. It was wet. But there was wind. Soon dawn arrived and with it the wind started to diminish. By mid morning we found our selves parked very near SNIPE (a T-35). The bubble machine and the cassette tape and all the other light air tricks were deployed as we tried to sniff out where the breeze might be coming from. Somehow we seemed to pick up the scent first and we hopped from puff to puff. In the mid afternoon we spotted BILL'S WILD RIDE and FALCON and NIGHT TRAIN all in our area. The breeze filled in from the Southeast and we all sped towards the Cove Island mark.

Approaching the mark we went through several fog banks and just as got with about 2 miles the fog cleared. We saw that boats were rounding at a point well to the east of where the GPS was pointing us. Well, better to go with what you can see, so we gybed twice and made a nice rounding of the mark just behind SNIPE and ahead of NIGHT TRAIN. Little did we know how lucky we were to be able to see the mark. Just minutes after we rounded, the fog descended again and many boats spent valuable time searching for the mark.

After rounding we were close hauled. Conditions were ideal, 12 knots of steady wind, flat seas and the boat was just flying. TIME MACHINE displayed great boat speed, passing SNIPE and pulling away from NIGHT TRAIN and we flew through the fog. Conditions slowly changed as the evening progressed and by 0100 hours on Monday we were pounding into 3-4 foot waves under the #3. Our couse was taking us into the lee of the Duck Islands, so we made a tack out into the Lake and the back onto port. The wind continued to build and the seas became 4-5 foot. At dawn we made a horrible discovery. The pounding of the waves and the shock loading on the rig had begun to tear the #3 sail apart. At some point the night the check-stay which had been well tensioned, had come loose. The pumping of the rig most likely delivered brutal forces to the sail.

We had to get the #3 down, so we set the #1 and put a reef in the main. Conditions were well above the normal range for the #1, but we were making it work. It took many hours before we made the better choice and put up the #2 and then shook out the reef in the mainsail. Boatspeed improved and the boat was much better balanced. Expecting a wind shift to the North West, we continued to sail on the Northerly route and then tacked out from behind Martin's Reef. In retrospect, it was the wrong move. A long tack back took us to the Eastern tip of Bois Blanc Island and then another series of tacks brought us to a point about 5 miles from the finish.

Then..... the wind died! We were dead in the water. MAJOR DETAIL came sailing up to a point about 50 yard off our starboard side and they too parked. So now it was game on. We knew from listening to the radio that BILL'S WILD RIDE and FALCON had already finished. If we could get moving before MAJOR DETAIL we could still get on the podium. All but Bill and Colin and Jeff sat below on the keel-bolts. We worked and worked for any advantage, but there was none to be had. Suddenly from the right side, cat's paws appeared on the water and the zephyr filled MAJOR DETAIL's spinnaker. 20 seconds later our sail filled. Now 3 boat lengths behind, we went into full attack mode. We pointed higher, they pointed higher, we went low, they went low, we faked a big turn higher and then dove lower, they matched it. This went on for 4.75 miles until we were within a 0.25 miles of the finish. Once again the wind died and we struggled to make way and to stay out of the current. At the last moment MAJOR DETAIL caught the slightest of breezes and was able to drift across the line, just as we pushed a bit too hard and ended up caught in the current. When we got going again, we saw NIGHT TRAIN drifting across the line at the opposite end of the line. BANG... was it us.... keep sailing.... BANG.... was it us.... keep sailing..... BANG.... well one of those had to be us.

As it turns out, we finished overlapped with NIGHT TRAIN in 5th. MAJOR DETAIL's crew paid us a great complement by commenting that they had not been attacked as hard or with such imagination as we had done. They did a great job of holding the advantage that the wind god's had given them.

We hope that all our fans and followers had a great time watching the tracking of the race.

The TIME MACHINE crew, for the second year in a row had an 'Old Goat' and a 'Newbie' aboard. Shawn was doing his 26th race and Colin was on his first. The sailing-crew of Robert, Bill, Rick, Fred, Jeff, Carol, Jim and Dennis were supported by a great ground-crew.

Robert Gordenker,
Skipper, TIME MACHINE Sailing Team.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Care and Feeding of Instruments

On TIME MACHINE the quality and precision of the crew-work has reached the point where instruments are the best way to tell if we are sailing at our full potential. Of course a 2 or 3 boat development program with evenly matched boats and crews would be best, but it's just not realistic or practical. So we have invested in technology to measure and report on our progress around the course. In order to benefit from the feedback provided by wind-sensor, the boat-speed sensor, flux-gate compass and the GPS, the crew needs to trust and have faith in the correctness of the numbers. This trust is hard to earn and easy to squander....

Some thoughts on ways to build confidence in your instruments
  1. Feed your sailing program with instruments that can be adjusted and calibrated with many factors. Do you have a heel sensor? Can your boatspeed be adjusted to account for an off center sensor? Can your boatspeed use different calibration factors based on the tack your on? Is your wind sensor up out of as much of the turbulence from the sails as possible?
  2. Care for your instruments by installing them in dry areas and running wiring properly. If you are not extremely confident, get some professional help. Avoiding ground loops, radiated noise from radio transmitters, alternator noise and interference with other electronics is key. The physical routing of cables, the length of service loops, leaving drip-loops and keeping cables out of the bilge are just as important. Don't forget to apply liberal amounts of 'connector grease' to seal moisture out of the connector pins.
  3. Feed your instruments all the latest versions of software supplied by your vendor. Controlling your instruments and getting the best possible feedback relys on software. If you don't keep a PC connected, make sure that the 'brain box' is totally up to date. If you are running a connection to a PC, the latest versions of software will allow you to work with all the features possible. Make sure to run your system with the PC on occasion to assure that calibration factors are defaulting the right numbers. The PC is probably less reliable than the instruments.
  4. Write down the calibrations and settings that seem to be working. Keep a log of your changes. Write it down, even if it does not make sense. Keep copies of log files and any eMails that fly back and forth to your technical support team. Write down all the switch settings and adjustments that you make. This can help to explain weird numbers when they come up.
  5. Get to know the technical staff who support your instruments. Listen with great care and ask lots of questions. They have probably heard it before, but if you are not clear on something.... ask! A good tech support person knows that there is no such thing as a dumb question.... just a dumb answer! Check on their website for new information.
  6. Clean your sensors often. Spider webs in the anemometer or wind vane can appear in just one evening. Bottom scum will grow on sensors fast, since they are not painted with anti-fouling finishes. Mounting brackets at the top of the mast take a huge beating and must be secured with loctite on the screws. When you are up there cleaning the spider webs, give the wand a wiggle to check that's it's still just as tight as last time. Check your cabling and wiring connections at the first sign of intermittent operation.
  7. Learn about wind shear and how it affects the readings you see out on the water. Wind shear is present more often than you might think. Wind shear WILL make your wind instruments tell you numbers that seem just plain wrong. Understanding its effects on your numbers will keep you sailing in the right direction. Taking advantage of shear in your sailtrim can make for huge gains on boats who don't recognize it.
  8. Get confident in your numbers. Work on sailing to target numbers. Sail for 10 minutes at the same true wind angle while the trimmers experiment with the sail settings. Sail for 10 minutes at the same boatspeed and watch what angles you read as the breeze builds and lulls. Put the VPP (polar targets) up on a display and challenge the whole boat to hit the number.
TIME MACHINE sails and races with some of the best of the J/35 class. FALCON is the 2 time National Champion and Mr. BILL'S WILD RIDE is the current national champion. When we are on the course with them, it's easy to measure our performance..... are we doing better or worse than they are. Don't need any fancy instruments, just a hand bearing compass and a good set of eye-balls. But when we get away from the fleet on distance races or when we are sailing PHRF, it's a whole different story. Now we need some trusted feedback to stay on top of our game.... Instruments that we can trust are part of the answer.

TIME MACHINE has the following instrument setup:
    • Processor - 001
    • Mast Displays - 005 (4x)
    • Cockpit Display - Matryx (1)
    • PC Interface - 050
    • GPS Interface - 041
    • Masthead/Speed/Compass Interface - T2
    • Depth/Seatemp Interface - 028
    • NEMA tap - 042

  • Software
    • OCKAM OS 4 (Version 4.07)
    • RaceCourse
    • Vport
    • Stripchart
    • EYE
    • DeWiggler
    • XM Weather
  • Sensors
    • Airys 42" Aluminum Masthead Wand
    • Airmar CS4599 Sonic boatspeed sensor
    • KVH AC103 fluxgate compass
    • Garmin GPS
  • PC
    • IBM thinkpad X40, 1G RAM (requires 1.2A @12V)
    • Passive 3 port USB expander
    • Linksys WiFi access point (active only when using EYE)
    • DC-DC converter to power the PC from 12V source

Saturday, July 19, 2008

2008 MAC, what a race!

The 2008 BYC Port Huron to Mac race is in the books. Anyone who told me that we could leave Port Huron at 1:00pm on Saturday and get to the Island before it got dark on Sunday would have been laughed off the dock. IMPOSSIBLE.... a 35 foot boat simply can't go that fast! Well.....

TIME MACHINE: 2nd place in the J/35 & T/35 class. Elapsed time: 31:32:06 Average speed: ~8.0 knots

North Cape Yacht Club: 1st place in the Doyle Yacht Club Challenge. LYNX (26), TIME MACHINE (28), VIVA LAS VEGAS (14) for a total of 68 points.

So what was it like.....

The race started out with the usual chaos. A quick trip to the top of the mast confirmed that spiders had been busy making a web around the wind instruments. All the webs were cleared from the rigging and all the fittings were checked. The crew did a great job of stowing and organizing the gear down below and as we drifted down the Black River the last of the new blocks were installed (no minute like the last minute). The skippers sea-sickness patch was attached and the boat rigged. The XM weather showed a large complex of storms that were going to move right through the starting area. Sure enough, at about noon, hard rain and a couple of 35-40 knot blasts of wind rolled through. A one point the visibility was so poor that the starting boats could not see the orange markers on the committee boats. It was not a time to push up close to the line.

Just as we were getting ready to hoist sails, the wind calmed to about 10 knots and the rain stopped. We set a full main and #3, anticipating a spinnaker start on port tack. The start was a combined fleet of J/120 and J/35 and T/35. As usual, there was a great deal of jockeying for position and some close racing. BANG! All clear! We were off.

BIG RED (0.6 oz chute) rockets to the masthead, the #3 is down on the deck in seconds and the boatspeed is over 7 knots. What a great feeling! The next 3 hours saw a steady breeze from a TWA of 140 with occasional 10 degree shifts. Just as things seemed to be getting boring.... WOW, look at those boats close to shore... they are parked. Where should we go? The brain trust figured we might sneak around the hole by going out further into the lake... At first it seemed to work in our favor, but soon we too were in the soft stuff and then we watched the wind fill back in from in-shore. Those boats inside of us simply took off and it was another 10 minutes before our sails filled too. So much for leading MR. BILL'S WILD RIDE and FALCON.

The new breeze was from South West and over the next 6 hours it built in strength and shifted to the West. Before sundown we peeled from BIG RED to BIG BLUE (1.5 oz chute). It was a good move as the wind was starting to blow harder. Boat speeds were now regularly in the 9 and spiking into the 10 knot range. The watch system was now in full force and crew was rotating below for rest. The sound of the water surging past the hull was almost enough to drown out the almost continuous rasp of the spinnaker-sheet winch as the trimmers worked to keep the kite at full power.

In the late evening the wind had shifted more on the nose and increased even more, we changed to the #3.

At 12:30AM..... MAYDAY! See the post at July 17th for details. We suspended racing to rush to the aid of a fellow competitor. However, we were soon released by them to resume racing.

Still on port tack... the wind was up, the seas were large and quartering. The boat was simply flying. Other boats were all around us. The clouds had dissipated and we could sail using the stars as guides. If I stood in just the right spot, the end of the big dipper would line up with the tip of the first spreader. How Cool!

Still on port tack.... Wind has gone a bit left and the pressure is down, but only slightly. Time to put the kite back up! Seas are now getting really big. Steering in them takes great concentration. If you don't start a turn down at just the right time, the weather helm will spin the boat right up and the kite deflates. Pull the tiller at just the right instant and you are rewarded with a mini-surf at 11 knots followed by a 10 foot elevator ride UP and OVER.

Still on port tack.... The sun is up and a quick check of the GPS shows that we will arrive a the turning mark before 8:00am. Looks like it will be a close reach after the turn. Wind is out of the WSW and trying to turn to the W. It feels like about 20-25 knots. As we approach the turn we put a reef in the mainsail and then hoist the #1. The kite comes down and around we go. TWA is 52-55 degrees. Boat speed is great. We are even making ground on PENDRAGON (a 43 footer) who is just ahead.

Still on port tack.... The plan to stay at the 52-55 degree wind angle and let the boat run. This takes a lot of patience, especially since we expect and soon find that the wind is clocking to the right. We are getting pushed further and further to the North side of the rumbline. But the boat speed is great and who knows what will happen ahead. The wind continues to clock and build. Soon it's time to peel to the #3. We see boats all around us that seem to be struggling. The boats with full mains are flogging badly, the boats with large headsails are getting pushed sideways and are not really that fast, we even see a few #4 and storm jibs deployed.

Still on port tack.... Conditions are getting pretty wild. It's too lumpy for some of the crew to go down below. The combination of high speed and the big waves means that we are getting soaked. Boat speeds are still in 7.5-8.0 knot range and TIME MACHINE is handling the seas well. We are now about 50 miles away from the finish. It doesn't look like we will have time to get another shift in the wind, so we crank things in and go close-hauled.

Still on port tack... These are the conditions that try the crew the most. Seas are 3-4 feet with sets of big waves that are running 8-10 feet. The big sets are three waves together. They are large enough and the wavelength is long enough that we can sail up the front, down the back and not slam.... most of the time. About every 4th set, the waves are really steep. TIME MACHINE comes up off the first wave, pivots on the top, the bow then slams down into the face of the second wave with a bone crunching WHAM. And then there are deck washers.... about every 10th wave set is huge. We climb the first wave, glide down the back and up the face of the second wave, we then power down the back and... there is a 5 footer at the bottom of the trough. There is nothing to do but go right through the wave.... the crew on the rail is up to their shoulders in solid water and the boat is washed stem to stern.

Still on port tack.... It has been about 4 hours of this and everyone is getting tired and COLD. However, the wind has slackened a bit, but not enough to come off the #3. We are able to see the markers for Spectacle Reef and soon the top of the Island pokes up over the horizon. It's time to plan the end game.

Still on port tack.... we are getting lifted toward the island! Pressure is still really good. Still on the #3, but now a full Main. Not a lot of boats in the area. We are closing in on a reef that is just North East of the Island. It looks like there is great pressure and possible a huge lift to be had along Bois Blanc Island. We have to tack anyway, so over we go. As expected, we pick up a huge knock on Starboard and when we flop over to Port again, we are headed right towards the island. But then things change....

A nasty little rain shower comes along and changes the wind patterns all over the place. What looked like a great plan is not in the toilet (head). We are out of phase with the shifts. The wind has dropped and we are under canvased. Up comes the #1 and we do a tacking change. I think we are now is synch with the shifts. We are coming in along the island and then we see ROWDY flying in on Starboard tack from the north. They are close to the island. We need to make a tack out on Port and make it too long. It puts us in the teeth of the current, while ROWDY slices along in the slacker water. BANG.... BANG.... BANG..... 3 boats finish within 20 seconds of each other. A Beneteau, ROWDY and TIME MACHINE.

The headsail comes down..... The Mainsail comes down.... The skipper tries to start the engine and NOTHING.... In the meantime BURDEN IV has finished down by the pin and they come over to provide us with a tow. We coast into the harbor and are soon moored in slip right next to our team-mates LYNX.

The crew gets busy cleaning up the boat and getting stuff up on deck to dry. The skipper and Dennis head to Mission Point to turn in our finish card and to file for redress. There is a time limit on the filing of the form, and with the engine trouble we are under some pressure. The form is accepted within the time limit and we head back to the dock with a fist full of drink tickets and party stickers.

WOW.... it's only Sunday. Someone thought to call the hotels and we got 2 rooms at the WINDEMERE (probably the last 2 rooms on the island). At least we will have a dry place to sleep. Good thing that we had the de-humidifier brought to the island. It was run a full blast and made a huge difference down below.

TIME MACHINE has made it to the island in record time. Her crew is safe. Nothing was broken. The results are great. On Tuesday when we are up on stage acknowledging the cheers of the crowd, the cold and the wet and discomforts are a memory and it all seems worth it.

Skipper, TIME MACHINE Sailing Team.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

How would you react when you hear...MAYDAY

The TIME MACHINE Sailing Team was faced with a particularly difficult challenge during this year's Port Huron to Mackinac race. As you read this post, please think about how you would react under similar conditions.

It's 12:30 in the morning, the skipper is half asleep down below. The VHF radio in the cockpit comes alive with calls from a vessel to the Coast Guard. It's really hard to hear on deck as the wind has piped up into the low 20 knot range and the boat is flying through water at 9 - 10 knots. Down below, the crew recognizes the voice on the radio... it's our friends on NIGHT TRAIN.

The skipper moves up on deck and turns the radio volume all the way up. Crouching down over the radio, he hears... "We have a man in the water"...."He is attached the boat".... "He's in the spinnaker"..."We have no engine".... USCG asks for the position. The skipper yells... write it down! The navigator, who was asleep was rousted and told to enter the waypoint, but he's too sleepy...the backup comes in off the rail and enters the point. The LAT LON has been changing during this time, as NIGHT TRAIN is still moving at a pretty good pace.

The DSC all stations alarm is triggered by the USCG. They send a MAYDAY relay and request assistance from all boats in the vicinity.

Within minutes we hear..."We are firing a flare" and all the crew on deck are told to watch all around the boat. We soon see, low on the horizon a flare, it's dead down wind of us. The GPS entry is made and for the first time we are pretty sure we know where NIGHT TRAIN is.... 2 miles downwind, we can get there in about 15 minutes.

So what's a skipper to do.....

The order is issued.... WRITE DOWN THE TIME.... STEER TO THE WAYPOINT... WE ARE SUSPENDING RACING! The helmsman pulls the tiller over and the boat surges through a heavy air gybe. We settle onto the new course. During a break in the radio transmissions, the skipper transmits..."NIGHT TRAIN, NIGHT TRAIN this is TIME MACHINE, we are 2 miles upwind and have diverted, we are coming!".... The transmissions from NIGHT TRAIN continue... "We have recovered the man"...."He is down below and we are trying to warm him"..."We have no engine"...."The MOB is conscious"... "We need a tow"....

So now what.... in these conditions, a J/35 under power struggles to make progress into the wind. the prop and engine are simply too small to consider towing the T/35. The USCG has scrambled a helicopter and the cutter BISCAYNE BAY. The ETA for the cutter is under an hour.

Skipper radios to NIGHT TRAIN...."NIGHT TRAIN, we are still coming. We don't think that we can assist you with a tow. We will keep coming unless you release us to continue racing". There is a short pause in the radio traffic as the NIGHT TRAIN crew considers the situation and then...."TIME MACHINE, resume racing... THANK YOU THANK YOU".

TIME MACHINE executes a "Chicken Gybe" and settles down on the course to the mark. The time is noted. We continue to monitor the radio traffic as the helicopter tries and fails to get a swimmer on-board NIGHT TRAIN. The cutter BISCAYNE BAY arrives and gets an EMT aboard. The MOB is transferred to the cutter and then lifted to the helicopter and transferred to the hospital. The initial medical evaluation is good. There are no serious injuries.

Upon finishing the race, TIME MACHINE files for redress. The international judges at the hearing ask to hear the facts of the situation. They then ask, "How much time are you asking for".... I am stunned! There is only one correct response..."I have provided you with the facts of the situation as accurately as I can. It's up to you the jury to determine the appropriate redress". The skipper is dismissed as the jury deliberates and the called back. The redress is granted and we are awarded 11:00 minutes. The jury also makes another comment which still rings in my head....

'What TIME MACHINE did should serve as an example to the whole sailing community. You are to be commended".

So what would you do????

RG, Skipper of the TIME MACHINE Sailing Team.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

2007, A season to remember...

The 2007 season is drawing to a close, and what a summer it has been. TIME MACHINE and her crew have been physically tested, mentally tested and had to press on through marathon activities.

This year has seen the melding of crew's from TIME MACHINE and WIZARD, with great success. The athletic level of the crew has been ratcheted up several notches. Considering the ferocious conditions we saw at the North American's, we would have been retiring instead of competing had we not been physically up to the task. We have also seen the crew concentrate and work for every 1/4 boatlength, whether it was on the distance races like the Mac or a short windward-leewards at the NOODS or T-o-L or N'As. At the top of the J35 fleet, that's what it takes to stay with the big dogs.

In addition to the tremendous commitment and skill of the crew, the boat has improved. This spring we made a significant adjustment to the rig tuning and we were able to try out the sails which had been recut and re-shaped over the winter. At the NOODS we showed much better boatspeed, both up and downwind. This carried forward through the whole season, and was even noticed at the NCYC midweek races where TIME MACHINE started showing up in the top 10 overall-corrected. Thanks to our sailmaker at Quantum, Wally Cross for his work on the sails. The biggest test of TIME MACHINE was the last regatta, the North Americans. The boat was tested by 30 knot winds and large seas. Except for a torn #3, all the systems worked and we did not suffer any major breakdowns.

So what were some of the highlights....
  • NOODS - beating BILL'S WILD RIDE
  • MILLS TROPHY - holding the boat together in a 30-35 knot run down the lake with a shorthanded crew
  • MAC - coming from mid fleet to take a podium finish, ahead of FALCON
  • T-o-L - just plain great racing, even though we couldn't put together 4 flawless legs (hummers)
  • Transport home from Cheboygan - A fun time with BILL'S WILD RIDE and FALCON for Heather and Carol
  • SUMMER SERIES - stuffing JBIRD, 3-niner at the pin end of the line one Wednesday
  • FALL SERIES - Great results both in fleet and overall
  • Transport to Toronto - Tough conditions for Heather and Robert, but we made it safely to Erie. A great, if long ride through the Welland to EYC
  • The NA's - A best ever result in the toughest conditions we have sailed in!
  • Transport home from Toronto - Perfect ride up the Welland with Paul and Dennis. Picture perfect ride to Erie. All night sail and record time from Erie to NCYC with Jeff.
A special thanks to all the crew and families, both the regulars and occasional folks. You all contributed and I hope had fun! In no particular order.... Alice, Bill & Heather, Fred & Wendy, Shawn & Carol, Dennis & Cathy, Paul & Doreen, Igor, Jon, Jim & Marcie, Dale & Sheri, Tim & Julie, Jeff & Marilyn, Jeff & Beth.... and all the guests and friends who we got to know along the way.

Thanks to our supporters... Wally Cross (Quantum), Todd Jones (Thomas Hardware), Richard McCurdy (Ockam Instruments), Winston Beckett (UK Toronto), Rob Cornelius (Etobicoke Yacht Club), Lester Lashaway (Toledo Beach Marina).... and many more.

Fair winds, comfortable seas, good health and happy times!!!!!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

NA Championships, the transport home...

After loading a small mountain of stuff back on board and attending the awards ceremony. It was time to say farewell to Etobicoke Yacht Club (EYC) and the crew that was driving back. Paul, Dennis and I pulled our lines aboard and headed out into the lake. It's about 25 nautical miles from EYC to the mouth of the Welland Canal at Port Weller. Of course, the wind was directly on the nose or at just enough of an angle that it didn't seem worth the effort to set the mainsail. It was a pretty good pounding!

When we were about 2 1/2 hours out, we heard RITUAL, another J35, call in to Seaway Welland control advising that they were 90 minutes out. Paul and I were afraid that RITUAL and SISTER, who had left a big earlier then RITUAL, would enter the canal before we got there. This could result in quite a delay since we would be alone. So the plan was to call in to Seaway Welland at a point when RITUAL was 20 minutes out to announce our ETA. The plan worked great. When we arrived at the small boat dock, there were the other 2 J35s. I purchased our ticket and called into the control room from the shore-side phone. There was a tug-barge in Lock #1 and we were next. While I was taking care of the ticket and call-in, BLUE WATER, a large power boat came in. They were able to join the 3 racers for the trip up the canal.

The tug-barge came slowly out of the lock and we got the green light. In we went with fenders and fender boards fully deployed. SISTER and RITUAL were rafted together and we were alone, with BLUE WATER behind us. As the lower gate closed we got the signal "Going Up" from lock attendants. The rush of water started and we were slammed up against the wall. The fenders and board groaned and squealed, but did the job. With Paul on the bow hauling on the bow line and Dennis fending off as needed and Robert hauling on the stern line and controlling the throttle, we were soon up 50 feet up from where we started. Only 6 more to go.....

Did I mention that a COLD FRONT had come through. It was really starting to get cold! It's a short 2 mile motor from Lock #1 to Lock #2 where we were able to pull right in. Again the force of the water pulling at the keel was impressive, but this time we had confidence in our fendering setup. Now it was a really short transit to the bottom of Lock #3. We shifted our fendering system to the port-side and as we approached the lock were asked to moor on the wall, since another tug-barge combination was in the lock. After about 30 minutes, we were able to enter the lock and ride the frothing water to the top. The ticket and transit form was given to the lock-master and we were on out way to the bottom of Lock #4/5/6. This is a step lock where the top of 4 is the bottom of 5. We had to wait again for about 30 minutes for the boat ahead to lock through 4 and 5, so that 5 could be refilled to provide us with the water needed to fill 4. Soon we were able to enter and rode by turbulence to the top. As we got to the top, one of the deckhands advised us that they would hold us at the top of 4 rather than the bottom of 5, again due to the delay in getting the leading motor vessel through. It was now the wee hours of the morning and bitterly cold.

One treat while waited was to see the FONTENAC creep out of Lock 5 into Lock 4 next to us. All 222 meters of her slid by and then lowered away, until only the top of her stack was visible. The rumble of her 9,600 B.H.P engines was impressive. And then it was our turn to fire up the 27 B.H.P power plant and move into Lock #5 and #6. By now it had become fairly routine.

After leaving Lock #6 I warned Paul and Dennis not to get too comfortable. Lock #7 is the oldest and roughest. The walls are not as smooth and there are sluice openings about 2/3 the way up that roar as the water enters from above. The sluice openings in the wall are about 3 feet across and 6 feet tall, just the right size for the fenders and the edge of the boat to slide into. This would be a disaster of epic proportions and was to be avoided at all costs. So when our lines were set, I looked up and we were directly aligned with one of these dreaded openings. Once again we heard "GOING UP" and the roaring started. Each lock has its own characteristic water flow. The first 6 had started off with a moderate lift rate and then a big surge in the center of the lock. Lock 7 started with water surging from everywhere and the boat seemed to fly up the first 30 feet of the wall. Now we were approaching the sluice opening. I engaged the engine and it required full throttle to slide forward along the wall so that we could clear the opening. As soon as we cleared, we drifted back and the keel got caught in the flow coming out the same opening. It took a huge haul to keep from getting pushed far off the wall.

Did I mention that it was cold!!!! As we left Lock 6 the fog was coming up off the relatively warmer water. Soon we had patches of zero visibility, which combined with a nasty breeze to make things really frigid. It's a 14 knot run from Lock 7 to 8. With about 3 miles to go, the engine started to act up. It was air in the fuel lines again. Paul and Dennis opened things up and bled the lines which got us going again. We never lost the engine completely. As we approached lock #8 we had to wait about 15 minutes for SISTER and then we were put through.

The small boat dock is right off the top of Lock #8 just beyond Bridge#21 and we quickly tied off. It was 6 AM!..... After getting 3 hours of much needed sleep, we used Dennis' car to drive to SAMBO's cafe for a hearty breakfast and then back to TIME MACHINE where Paul and I bid farewell to Dennis. We slipped our lines and headed out into Lake Erie for the 60 mile transit to Erie. To start, the wind was moderate and on the nose, but within about an hour had shifted enough to the South that we could set sail. As the morning wore on cushions were brought up and we alternated getting in cat naps. about 4 hours out from Erie the winds shifted to the East and picked up in strength. The waves were getting larger and TIME MACHINE was starting to surf. We saw regular 8-9 knot surfs in the last hour or so.

Jeff had driven the Passat from his house to Erie and called to confirm the location of the customs video-phone. We eased in and tied up at 19:30, half an hour ahead of schedule. We dropped off Paul, cleared customs, loaded on Jeff and his gear and dumped 5 gallons of fuel in the tank. By 20:10 we were off again, next stop North Cape Yacht Club.

Once around the headland that protects the bay, we hoisted the main and turned to our course. The wind was from directly aft and the mainsail would not settle down as the the boat was tossed by the waves, so we settled for sailing a bit more to the South, anticipating a shift to the South. As things were now more controlled, I went down for a sleep.

When I awoke at just before midnight, Jeff was just shutting off the engine. He had set the #3 jib. The wind was at 140 degrees angle and blowing at 16-20 knots. The boat was flying with surfs to 9 knots. These are the conditions that every sailor hopes for on a transport. A reaching wind and an open sea! Jeff went below for a sleep and I kept watch for the next 30 miles. There wasn't much to do, the autopilot was tracking nicely and the wind was very steady. At about 03:30 I went down below and brewed a pot of coffee. I think the smell woke up Jeff, who gratefully accept a cup.

We both stayed up for a few more hours as the wind started to slacken and soon we had to restart the engine. I went down for a sleep and must have been really tired, because I did not notice the engine having air problems again. When I did come up, Jeff told me there was trouble and right on cue,.....rrrr.....rr..r.....rrr....rrrrrr, the RPMs dipped. I got the tools out and opened the engine cover and did the bleeding, this time at full RPMs. Right away things were better and we continued on.

As we came through the Pelee Passage, the foredeck was dry enough to drop the #3 and pack it without getting wet and we dragged up the #1 (Frankenstein) and set it. There is a special feeling about passing into home waters. Something about being in familiar territory. As we skirted past the Hens & Chickens and passed between the North Harbor Reef and North Harbor Island we could see Middle Sister Island and the plumes off the Fermi nuke plant. ETA was 17:30. With very minimal cell phone service we setup to have Dale meet us at NCYC.

The closer we got the NCYC, the more breeze we saw. We took the #1 down and stowed it and as we passed the West Mark we rounded up and flaked the Main on the boom for the last time. A short run and we came through the entrance without touching bottom. A quick pumpout of the holding tank and we were in our slip at 1745. Dale arrived at 1810 and we dropped off Jeff at his house before proceeding to Dale's house where the skipper got a much needed shower and a wonderful dinner. Dale then brought me home to Ann Arbor.

The next day, Wednesday, Paul picked me up at home, we stopped for pint at the Leopold Brothers (mostly to let the rush hour traffic settle) and then went to Paul's house to pick up the Passat. It was the last piece in the puzzle.

Great weekends are measured by the stories we tell. This was a weekend which will be talked about for many years.

Thanks to the whole crew of TIME MACHINE. Everyone did a part...

NA Championships, Day #3

What a difference a day makes. Winds were a pedestrian 10-15 knots with moderate chop on the water. Perfect conditions for the #1. The RC got us started right on time and we crossed with the fleet as everyone setup for the last rush to the starting line. With about 40 seconds to go we tacked over to Starboard and headed for the line. We were a bit late. All of a sudden all I see in front of us is SHORTHANDED crossing on port-tack. Jeff give a mighty pull on the tiller and utter a few choice words. Suddenly, SHORTHANDED tacks and is now sitting right on our air. Not only did they foul us, but then they hurt us by covering. Should have pulled the Red Flag (protest). We tacked out to clear our air and started to work towards the top mark. Something was not right and our boatspeed was not up to par. Coming up on Starboard towards the port layline, there is SHORTHANDED again. They look like they are going to try to cross, but they won't make it, They tack, but a bit too late. We need to alter course to avoid smacking them. Another possible foul. As we approached the starboard layline we had MAJOR DETAIL sitting right on our weather hip. We couldn't tack until they did. They pushed us about 3 boatlengths past the layline. We finally could tack and spent the rest of the race playing catchup. Finishing position was 14th, not good.

Between races there was a big discussion about what to change to get our speed back. The biggest key seems to be getting our nose out in clear air. Jon and Jeff worked on some different mainsail settings. We had a bit of a delay as the RC relocated our racing area out of the way of the CC-99/115 course. They got the line set and soon we were in the 5 minute sequence again. This time we made our final tack at just the right spot and we defended our hole to leeward. At 5 seconds we were moving really fast and ready to turn up to close hauled. BANG, it's the last start and all but two of the boats is on the line. BILL'S WILD RIDE did not sail, since they had locked up their 1st place finish and SOCIABLE had the forestay explode just as they made the final tack onto starboard. The sound of 0.325" stainless steel snapping is hard to miss even in the chaos of the start.

Our boat speed seemed better as we worked up the course. There were a few close crosses and we lee-bowed a couple of boats. At the top mark the crew work was stellar and we picked off 1 boat. Heading down we debated going to the #3, as the wind was picking up, but it was decided to stay on the #1. There was a pack of boats that all looked like they were setting up to round the right end of the gate. We decided to stay out of the fracas and set up for a gybe drop around the left end. Good thing. As we rounded I looked back and there was 5 or 6 boats all together with two boats joined by a blue spinnaker at the tops of the masts. BLUE MAGIC had gotten hooked on the kite from SISTER and was getting slingshot around. It didn't take long for the kite to shred and BLUE MAGIC was left with a long blue flag off the mast. SISTER retired.

There wasn't much time to look at things outside the boat. We had work to do. Picking the shifts, making perfect tacks, driving fast, hiking hard..... As we approached the top mark we lee-bowed a trio of boats and held them off. It's nice what you can do with good speed. The set was perfect and launched down wind for the last time. The 3 boats behind were all pushing hard, but we positioned ourselves between them and the finish line while managing to stay out of their wind shadows. It was textbook one-design sailing. Final result was 7th and it felt good.

The final standings are to be found here We finished in 8th place out of 17 boats. The racing was so close and the ability of the crews so good that pretty much any of the top 10 boats could have won the regatta. Congratulations to Bill Wildner and his crew on BILL'S WILD RIDE for a masterful performance. We will see everyone again next year at North Star Sailing Club, the site of the 2008 NAC.

NA Championships, Day #2

The cold front that caused all the big breeze out of the South West passed overhead just as we were pulling into the slip on Day #1. It brought a minor shower and more importantly a windshift to the North West and even more pressure. As we prepared to head out onto the lake, XM weather was forecasting 15-25 knot winds. It was that and more.

The morning started with a bit of angst and running around as the #3 jib had not come back from the repair loft. At about 0915, Winston Beckett delivered the sail along with the news that it had required the combined efforts of several people and 5 hours to completely rebuild the head of the sail. "We did a proper job of it", he said, "should be stronger than before". So, armed with our weapon of choice, we slipped our lines and motored out of the harbor. Instantly, you could tell that the conditions would be rough and tumble. Even though the wind was 'off-shore', by the time we got to the race course area, waves were running 2-3 feet. The instruments were showing a steady 25-28 knots with gusts to 31 knots. Doing our usual pre-start spinnaker hoist did not seem prudent.

The Race Committee (RC) boat was in the area, but something was not right. She was abeam to the waves and rolling quite violently. Soon word came over the VHF that they could not get the anchor to hold in the 150 foot depth. They soon dropped the biggest anchor they had along with 900 pounds of chain and got that to hold. During the 60 minutes that it took to establish the RC boat position, the fleet was reaching back and forth. Did I mention that it was COLD FRONT.... Air temperatures were 15C lower that on day #1. It felt like the wind chill was below freezing.

RC called all the boats into the area and with a loud canon shot, they hoisted the class flag to start the 5 minute sequence. The start was wild. Boats flying this way and that. Bowmen hanging onto pulpits and getting launched into the air as the boats dove into the troughs of the waves. Our start was off just a hair, which in this fleet means we got spat out the back. A quick tack and we were off on Port tack looking for clear air. There were 5-8 degree shifts in the puffs that were blasting us. It was hard to get in synch and keep the boat moving. At the top mark we put up the 1.5 oz kite, in order to preserve Big-Red (0.6 oz). It was a white knuckle run to the leeward gate, where the douse was perfect. We had confidence that we could handle the big breeze, now we had to sail faster. The second downwind leg saw MAJOR DETAIL roll under us and a 12th place finish. Not the way we wanted to start the day.

Race 2 was delayed a bit as one of the boats finished under jib and main. Soon we were back in sequence. Wind conditions were just as strong as in the first race, but the gusts did not seem to have the same power. On the start we make our last turn onto Starboard and held up most of the fleet, leaving ourselves what looked like a huge hole that we could dive into. And dive we did, but the extra speed that resulted from the stiff breeze meant that we closed the hole too soon and when we turned up towards the line, there was Paul in the bow calling us on the line with 2 seconds to go. The starting gun fired and we heard the dreaded words.... #16 over early. So back we go....This time we settled down and really worked to catch the shifts. We caught several boats on the first windward leg in part by coming in on the Port layline and spinning at the mark just a couple of feet from the oncoming starboard parade. The runs were controlled and the douses were textbook. On the second windward leg we tacked on almost every shift and made small gains each time. Again, on the downwind leg we got passed by a boat, SOCIABLE. We started dead last and still pulled an 8th place finish.

Race 3 saw lots of boats changing to #1 or #2 genoas. There was a spirited discussion on TIME MACHINE about us changing also. However, I had noted that there was significantly more pressure at the top of the course than at the bottom and we stuck with the #3. Our start was again poor and we had to tack off behind most of the fleet to clear our air. The boat was under canvased for the first 1/3 of the leg, but as we got closer to shore our boatspeed improved as compared to the boats with big headsails. By the time we got to the weather mark, I was really happy that we chose to stay with the #3. We did switch to Big-Red for the run, and there was a dramatic improvement in boatspeed. It was neat how 20 knots of breeze felt almost sedate. Rounding the leeward mark we set our sights on picking of a couple of boats, but only managed to hold our position. On the downwing leg, BATTLEWAGON managed to sneak inside us when we were delayed in executing a gybe. We sailed neck and neck with them to the finish only to see them catch the last surf and nip us by what must have been inches. It was One Design racing at it's best!

Coming back to the club we took care of the boat. She had done a wonderful job of taking care of us. The crew was spent. The RC radioed that they might still be out there in the morning, given that the primary windlass was dead and they had to haul in 900 pounds of anchor and chain. Kudos for them to even get the races run.

We had just completed 3 windward leeward races in the biggest and toughest conditions ever. We left the dock with 90 fingers and toes, and returned with 90 fingers and toes. Yes there were lots of bumps and bruises and certainly there was a feeling that we could have done better.

NA Championships, Day 1

Weather forecast.... Southwest winds 10-15 building to 15-25 in front of a very strong cold-front that should be over the area at 1700.

We head out to the course at 0930 and the lake is very lumpy. The wind has been out of the South and Southwest for the whole night. In preparation for the first race we sail a bit to weather on the #1 and down on Big-RED. The boat feels solid and the crew work is flawless. It really helps to have the 9th man.

We gather at the starting area but find that the RC is not quite ready. The AP is hoisted and we wait. About 30 minutes later the AP is dropped, only to be rehoisted as some boats had sailed too far away. Finally, the class flag is hoisted and we are in our 5 minute sequence. Jeff works to get us in a good starting position, but doesn't have a feel for how aggressive the fleet is and we are all confused by a last minute shift in the wind. It works out to be a poor start. Heading up wind we battle and cross with the tail end of the fleet and pick up a few positions on each leg, mostly due to brilliant crew work at the roundings. Final result is a disappointing 13 out of 17.

For Race 2 I call the tactics on the start. We port approach and make our last tack to Starboard with11 or 12 of the fleet above us. We defend our hole very aggressively, turn down to reach for speed and then at 4 seconds up we go and launch off the line. GENERAL RECALL! It proved to be our best start of the regatta and all for naught. We restart and pull just about the same sequence, launching off the line with good speed, just not quite as good as just previously. The winds have piped up by now and we are working hard at the top end of the #1. Puffs are up in 18-19 range. At the top mark we round in 5th or 6th place. Setting of Big-Red and then gybing right away gives us clear air and we hold even with the leaders all the down. As we proceed down, we see the wind pick up even more. The #3 comes up on deck and we stuff the #1 in the cabin. The rounding is around the right side of the gate (leeward drop) and we sheet in the #3 and start blasting upwind. Dennis is taking readings on the other boats (almost all of them with #1's or #2's) and we are smoking all of them. Better point and better speed! We get to the top mark and pull off another perfect set just in front of FALCON and hold our position to the finish. It's a 4th and everyone is feeling good.

Now it's really starting to HONK. Winds are up in the solid 22-26 range. The rest of the fleet is busy changing to their blades. Soon we are setting up for the start again. Still working the port approach, we are a bit late making the last turn and end up too close to pin. At the gun it sure looks like we have boats over early on both sides of us. Then the call comes in.... Over early #,#,16,#,#,#. How could they see us? Anyway, back we go to get behind the line. We are last boat to clear the line. The boat is still very lively and we work really hard to pick the shifts. As we approach the top mark we have already passed 4-5 boats. The set is perfect and charge down the course. By sailing deep in the puffs and up in the lulls and by gybing early we picked off some more boats. We do another leeward takedown and sprint back upwind picking off another 2 boats on the way up. At the top mark, it's a quick gybe just behind FALCON and a run to the finish. We hold off a charge from a group of boats behind and take a 6th place. Not bad for starting DFL!!!!!

As we motor back to the club, we notice that the panel at the head of the #3 has simply exploded. We knew that the stressed were big and we can't pinpoint what may have overstressed the sail. Immediately the cellphone starts working to find someone to repair it. When we get back to the dock I see Andrew Kooiman (Regatta chairperson) and he puts me in contact with the local UK loft. Dennis ends up driving to East Toronto with our #3 and Andrew's #1 (poked spreader tips through the sail). The initial word is "can't fix this", followed by "OK, we can rebuild it". It requires 5 hours of labor and the sail is brought back to us in the morning by Winston Beckett. As you will see in the posting for Race Day 2, we needed it!

Pre-Regatta Activities

The drive from Ann Arbor to EYC was not too bad. Some poor soul got on the 401 highway going the wrong way which caused a 2 1/2 hour delay for me, but I wasn't on any kind of deadline and so there was no need to get impatient.

Tuesday night a storm came through and blasted the harbor. TIME MACHINE was heeled over 10 degrees at the dock and the wind instruments showed 50 knots. It was an omen of things to come.

Wednesday morning and the phone calls start coming in. Dennis and Paul are on the way, but get delayed just enough that they will be late picking up Jon at the airport. I hop into the Passat and make the run to the airport. When we get back to EYC, Paul and Dennis are there. Bill and Heather are checked into the hotel and soon Jeff and Dale appear.

It's really nice to have the whole team. Loads of stuff are placed in the cars and taken to the hotel or just plain packed away. We spend hours going over every fastener, bolt, nut, split ring and screw. Things look pretty good. The spinnaker blocks from WIZARD are installed and the regatta mainsail is bent-on.

Even though we are still concerned about our crew weight, we all gather at the motel and decide to hunt down an Indian Restaurant. We end up at a really nice authentic place and have a great meal.

Thursday is weigh in and measurement day. First thing in the morning we hop on the scale. We are doing good, but there is one last person to go. We get the last few items off the boat, check the float lines one more time, replace almost all the bungee cord on the boat. The Main, #1 and the 3 kites are brought up to the lawn and all measure in OK. There is a bit of scare when the roach of the main proves to be "absolutely max", quoting Winston. The measurers come by with the hull templates and verify our float line positions and then later in the afternoon they measure the black band on the boom and the spinnaker pole length. We are official!

The skippers meeting is held and we decide to head out on the Lake where the race committee for that night will run a J35 start. The way they run courses is totally confusing so we end up just sailing with the other 2 J35s up to windward and then down to a mark and back up wind. It's a good time to get our sea legs and get a feel for Lake Ontario chop.

Since the weigh in was complete, we hunted down what looked like a Mexican place, but it turned out to be Italian. Fred turned on the charm and asked Joe (our server) if he was Italian. NO, I'm Sicilian! was the reply.... It's like asking someone if they are American and they reply, NO, I'm a Texan. Funny how it's all the same all over the world. It was a great dinner and we all turned in early to be prepared for the early boat call.

See the next posting about the actual regatta!

Getting to the North American's

TIME MACHINE is safely in a slip at EYC in Toronto. But not without a story.....

Heather and I decided to delay the commencement of the transport until first light on Friday. The prospect of rough conditions in the dark was a bit daunting and the forecast was for moderating conditions. As we left the shelter of NCYC (did not touch bottom) we were greeted by a 15-18 knot wind at a True Wind Angle (TWA) of 75-80,. perfect for motor sailing. So up went the mainsail and we were off. The whole Western Erie basin seemed to be a giant washing machine. Big sets of waves from the North East. Moderate sets from the North and occasional waves from the North West. It made for some spectacular submarining and washing of the foredeck. As we approached Point Pelee and Pelee Passage light the winds kicked up to 20-25 knots and went forward to a TWA of 20-30 degrees. The main was still providing some stability, but no drive. Eventually we had to sail a course below our rumbline in order to keep the main from flogging. By about 3 pm the wind had started to slacken and continued to turn to the East, so we struck the mainsail and continued on a direct course to Erie Yacht Club. The evening saw a super moonrise and also a freshening breeze (on the nose of course). Our ETA at the clearing mark of Presque Isle Bay was at dawn, and sure enough, as we approached the sky lightened and we were in full morning light as we tied up at Erie.

Because of the unbalance sailplan and the confused seas, autopilot was not able to hold course. I ended up hand steering for most of the first 8 hours. I got a bit dehydrated, which set off a chain reaction or headache and mal-de-mer. It's hard to hold down water, when the sips just hit pure stomach acid and come boiling right back up....

Anyway, while we were pushing towards Erie, Bill had his own story.... He had purchased a Greyhound ticket and when he got to the bus station they told him that the bus would be 10-15 minutes late. No problem.... 30 minutes later, he asked "where's the bus". Oh, it just frove right by without stopping because it's full, was the rely..... If you can get to the Howard Street bus station in 45 minutes, you can get a bus there to Erie, otherwise we can't help you.... I never heard of such a thing! So Bill talks his workmate into a highspeed run to Detroit and just barely makes the connection. He gets to Erie and there are no taxis and no phonebook to look up a number, but fortunately there is someone with the number in their cellphone memory. So he gets a cab to the motel and gets some sleep. At 7:30, he get my NEXTEL alert that we are in and comes down to the yacht club to meet us.

We top off the diesel tank and set off for Port Colburn. It should be a 9 hour ride. Winds are 18-20 RIGHT ON THE NOSE and the seas are a very short 4 foot mess. The boat gets slammed pretty hard, knocking the wedges out of the partners. It takes the better part of 3 hours to cover the first 10 miles. After about 4 hours, things do quite down, first the seas lay down, indicating that there is lighter wind ahead and then the breeze moderates to a zephyr. We are once again making good time to the head of the canal. As we approach Port Colburn, I am getting a bit worried about the number of freighters that we are seeing. Just as one goes over the horizon in front of us, another one appears from behind us. We get to the small boat dock and phone in to the Welland Seaway control room. They explain that there are currently 10 vessels in the canal, 8 on anchor in Lake Ontario and 3 waiting in Lake Erie. It's going to take a while. Initially they think we might go through at 2300, then they say 0200 with a tallship, then the tallship doesn't show up and it becomes 0400, then 2 large motor cruisers arrive and it becomes 0730. The last statement was the most telling... "If we don't get you in the canal in the next hour, it be a really long time!" WOW.... Anyway, the last upbound vessel clips the arresting gate in Lock 8 (the top lock), which takes it out of service for the freighter, but it's still OK for pleasure craft and the 3 boats, TIME MACHINE, LeRoi, and the blue boat (can't remember the name) enter the canal.... It has been 11 and a half hours of waiting!

At Lock 8 the hands explain that they have never seem things so congested. They put us through and an hour later we arrive at the top of Lock 7. There is a boat in the lock, upbound, a boat on the wall, MARINE TRADER, and another group of pleasure craft upbound. It takes 2 hours to cycle the lock 3 times and then it's our turn. We quickly figure out a good way to control the boat and Bill and Heather see what a 55 foot drop really looks like. Then it's off to the triple step... We come into Lock 6 with no delay, but they don't close to top gate for 20 minutes. The water from 6 is used to fill 5 and MARINE TRADER has not cleared 5 yet... Soon they are ready and again we drop. The lower gate opens and we slide into 5. Once again, we wait for 4 to clear so that we can fill 4 with the water from 5. We then drop to 4 and make the short run to 3. The toll is collected and they flush us down. We make a short run to 2 and just as the doors at the lower end start to open, the engine sputters and quits. It won't start. We are drifting back toward the Blue Boat and across the lock. LeRoi backs down and takes a tow line and soon we are under control and moving towards 1. It was a good thing that we all got to know each other at the top of lock 7, during the delay... Bill and Heather bleed the fuel lines and we find lots of foam and air in both the filter (low pressure) and the High pressure pump.... The engine fires up again right away and seems OK. However I don't want to push it, so I ask LeRoi to take us in raft and take us through lock 1. As we get to the bottom of 1 I refire the engine and we steam out of the lock at full throttle. Yanny is purring like a new kitten. We get most of the way to the Lake Ontario entrance and I decide to put 5 gallons of fuel in. Our fuel consumption is hard to know, because of all the idling. We then turn back toward Lock 1 and motor back at full throttle. We turn around at the small boat dock and since yanny seems fine we head for the Lake. It has taken 9 and a half hours to transit the canal!!!!

As we come out into Lake Ontario we see 8-10 freighters sitting at anchor waiting to head up the canal. When the Welland Seaway said it could be a 'Long Time', they were not kidding. The CN tower is clearly visible so I point Time Machine just west of the tower and go below to lay in the last leg on the Garmin. ETA is 1930. Winds are from the SouthWest at 6-7 knots, not quite strong enough to blow all the exhaust fumes into the boat. We hoist the #3 to dry it and check the battens. None are broken. Bill and I repair and replace the wedges around the mast at the partners and we get the boat cleaned up. I am a bit worried about things at EYC. I did not get any replies from them and I don't know if they will let us stay. If they don't, I have no backup plan. We get to EYC and tie up at the guest wall. I head for the gazebo bar and ask the bartender if there is someone there who can help.... It turns out that the Director.Facilities.Water is standing right there. He claims to have never gotten my eMail.... After checking things on the board in the office, he tells me to pull into the slip next to his own boat (XTC) since he knows that it will be empty for at least a few days. I give them permission to move the boat as needed. We then move the boat and get her properly moored in the slip. We head back up the bar for some drinks and order chinese takeout, delivered right to the bar. Soon, bellies full and sufficiently lit, we turn in for a good night's sleep. Tomorrow we need to get the morning train....

At 0400 hours. WHOOP, WHOOP, WHOOP.... It's the damn VHF radio. I had turned down the volume, but the DSC alarm is not affected. We probably woke up half the harbor! At first I didn't know what it was, 2 seconds later I am getting untangled from the sleeping bag, forcing my way through the garbage bag and sailties and I kill the power to the VHF. Bill says, "that's one hell of an alarm clock".... funny guy. We get another 75 minutes of sleep and then it's really time to get up. We finish the last minute packing, set up the dehumidifier, double check that the batteries are charging and that everything is OK. The CANPASS number is posted in the porthole and my name and cellphone number are posted. We shoulder our bags and make the trek through the 'friendship gate' to Mimico yacht club and to the main gate there where there is a pedestrian gate. The cab is there 4 minutes early and we are on the way to Union Station.

Tickets are bought, the train leaves at 0750 exactly and we are only 10 minutes late arriving in Windsor. Dennis is the man! He saw quite a backup at the tunnel, so he takes us over the bridge. It's Bill and my first time over the river. We always took the tunnel. On the initial approach to the bridge, the cars are stopped. Soon the problem clears and we make good speed across to the customs. We are passed through, pay the toll and soon Dennis drops me off at home, and then drops of Bill and Heather.


Sunday, July 23, 2006

How did TIME MACHINE really do this year?

The party is over, the traditional dinner at the Woods has been enjoyed, TIME MACHINE is securely moored at Duncan Bay Boat Club, the crew has returned to work and vacation homes and the skipper is visiting with Bill and Heather at the cottage on Traverse Bay. It's a quiet morning with a light rain shower and a moderate on-shore breeze.... perfect for reflecting on this years race!

Consider what it takes to compete with the Level-35 fleet. These are boats and crews who are experienced and tuned to perfection. Performance is kept at the maximum, no matter what the conditions are. The winner will come from the group of boats that can keep up with boatspeed. The winner will be the one who is smart/lucky enough to be in the right place on the lake when conditions get soft.

The evidence for this analysis is in the rounding and finish times. The leaders at the NGS were the boats that stayed right on the first leg. Even so, the separation only resulted in less than an hour lead after 18 hours of racing. The second leg saw very few position changes. The most notable was NIGHT TRAIN moving up to take the lead and hold off WILD RIDE for the last 1 miles to take 1st place. TIME MACHINE was able to move up 2 spots to beat FALCON.

Here are some of the highlights from the race. On Saturday afternoon the fleet split with TIME MACHINE (TM), FALCON(F), MAJOR DETAIL(MD), SNIPE(S) followed the breeze to the left as many of the others stayed with NIGHT TRAIN, WILD RIDE, SCANDAL and ROWDY on the right side. In the late afternoon the trio of TM, F, MD with S trailing a bit behind were reaching in light south-easterly breezes The TM was trailing the trio, but started to work the boat really hard. The staysail went up, crew weight was shifted, mainsail trim was changed and soon we were even with MD. Now it was MDs turn to work on trimming the boat and soon their boatspeed was equal, but not faster. Now TM and MD were closing on F. We were getting close enough to see their eyes as they looked back to see their lead diminish. This duel of the boatspeed continued for 3 to 4 hours into the evening hours. As the sun set it was F leading TM and MD with S still within sight of the leader.

Approaching the NGS bouy, winds were building and at the turn the chute came down and we shifted gears to a breezy close reach. The wind speeds continues to increase all morning as we charged across the lake at speeds between 8 and 9 knots. By 1400 hours conditions were tough. Sail area had been reduced gradually from a #1 Genoa with full mainsail to the unique combination of #1 and a reefed main, to the more traditional #3 and a full main and finally to a #3 and a reefed mainsail. Wind speeds in excess of 30 knots were sweeping across the lake and seastate was horrendous. There was a 4-6 foot swell coming from the beam with a 2-3 foot swell coming on the bow. The results was a very wet ride. In keeping with the competativeness of the fleet, TM's watch system was suspended and everyone rode the rail. At 1830 conditions changes again as the breeze went from 18 knots to 4 knots in a matter of 8 minutes. It was time for crew to get dry, get sleep, and eat a warm meal.

Sunday night saw flat conditions with no wind at the surface. As skipper, I can't tell you what happened exactly, since I had gone down for a long sleep. I can reconstruct from the log that the crew kept the boat moving, using the staysail as a windseeker and taking advantage of wind aloft. At about midnight when I did come on deck, there was not a ripple on the water and yet TM was making 3 knots of boatspeed with the Big White chute. Soon we were back to boatspeeds of 6 to 7 knots under a tightly sheeted Big Red chute.

As usual, the finish was upwind, with a great breeze. We were able to fetch the finishline without tacking and were safely moored in the yacht basin when the wind shifted to dead on the nose at 30 knots for the remaining boats on the course. It was several hours after we had settled in at the dock when we were visited by the Inspection Committee. They were able to determine that everything was in order and that TIME MACHINE passed muster.

The final results are 5th of 12 in the Level 35 Class, 31 out of 100 in the IRC South Hampton class.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Why do we sail the Mac...

Time Machine Sailing Team
It's 1000 hours. Everyone is tired from sailing hard through the night. The boat is on a close reaching course with the #1 and one reef in the main. It's blowing 20-25 knots with a crossing sea, 4-5 foot waves on the beam and 3 foot waves coming in on the bow.

The whole crew is lined up on the rail helping to keep the boat flat. Every 4th or 5th wave creates a wall of spray which washes over the crew, the deck and back to the cockpit. The boat is flying with speeds of 8 to 9 knots.

The grumbling starts.... "I'm wet", "I'm cold", "Damn this is uncomfortable","When is that helmsman going to steer a more comfortable course", "When can we get off the rail and get below?".....

Now it's about 12 hours later. The lake is completely changed. The moon is up and there is no wind on the surface of the lake. Most of the crew has been able to get below for some much needed sleep and the crew on deck is taking full advantage of the wind aloft to keep us moving at 2-3 knots. It's a really neat feeling to move through the water on no wind! There is time to dry out the foul weather gear and just sit and chat....

So why do we do it? I think it's partly the challenge of making it through the rough conditions and partly the reward of a beautiful nighttime light air sail. The reward for the rough stuff is the pleasure of the light stuff.

The efforts of the TIME MACHINE crew resulted in a 5th place finish in class and 31st out of 100 in the overall rankings. This might be our best performance yet.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

It's a match race...

Last night was our first Wednesday evening series race. Things did not look promising as a thunderstorm rolled through from 5:15 till about 6:15, but the skies started to clear and we were able to rig the boat without getting wet. The crew for the evening consisted of 8 of the 10 Mac race crew, so it was also a great chance to work together.

Conditions were very soft with 5-9 knots of breeze that shifted through about 80 degrees in direction during the race.

The other J-35 JUBILATE DEO (JD) came out to race too and we turned it into a matchrace!!! JD dropped a bundle on some new sails and has brought 2 or 3 very experienced sailors on-board. During the Spring Series they showed significant improvement over past years. It would be a good test!

The start was a tight reach on starboard tack. We positioned ourselves closer to the line than JD and stalled until about 20 seconds to go. We turned down to head for the line about 5 seconds before they did and even though we were both late to the line, we crossed about 4 boatlengths in the lead.

The initial sail selection was the screecher and we had a great set, which extended the lead another boatlength. However as we worked out towards the East mark the wind shifted 70 degrees so we ended up sailing almost by the lee. JD was able to close to within 1 boatlength at the turning mark, having carried an AP chute. A good clean windward douse helped our cause, but we had to contend with NATURAL HIGH who took away our high lane. JD however opted to sail low and fast, so we matched their course and showed superior boatspeed at a slightly higher angle.

It soon became apparent that we would need to tack to South mark, so we waited to see what JD would do. About a 1/4 mile from the layline they tacked.... we tacked..... they tacked again.... we covered.... 4 tacks later, JD was 6 boatlengths further back than when they started!!!! We came up to the layline and tacked on the perfect layline. The True Wind Angle read 46-47 degrees all the way to the mark. JD tacked on the same line and had to pinch up badly to make the mark. Another 2 boatlengths further into the lead.

The last leg was a 75-80 degree TWA reach. We worked the trim really hard, adding a 'bullshitter' (barberhauler) and crossed the line still about 6 boatlengths in the lead.

Yeah team.... Shawn and Bill on the primaries, Dennis on the main, Jim navigating and hotbox, Bob and Heather at the mast and Carol at the bow.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Sailors do have a heart....

This past weekend TIME MACHINE participated in the Sail for Hope regatta, a fund raising event that benefits the American Cancer Society. Four of the regular crew, Bill H., Bob C., Jim S. and the skipper welcomed our sponsors from Schroder IT on board and had a wonderful afternoon out on the water.

Conditions were perfect. Not a cloud in the sky. Low humidity. A gentle 6-8 knot breeze and calm seas.

The race was a blast. Being short handed, we had to improvise and make the best of things. The course was W-S-N-W and the breeze was from the SouthEast. We had a great start and quickly moved out in front of the fleet in clear air, beating towards the South Mark. RED CLOUD was able to remain fairly close and probably saved her time on this first leg. Coming around the mark the wind angle was a bit too tight to carry the chute, but after about 10 minutes it shifted a bit aft and we set BIG RED. The lead on the trailing boats got bigger! As we approached the North mark we needed to jibe, so Bob took the helm and the skipper went forward to do the bow, ALONE. It was an adventure, but Bill kept the chute full and we soon settled down for a very close reach to the finish.

As we approached the finish the breeze helped out by moving slightly aft and freshening. The Race Committee reported that we were "really steaming along". Getting the cannon was an awesome feeling and then waiting around to see if we saved out time on the other boats was fun.

Our sponsors had a great time and were able to be part of the awards ceremony, where they presented TIME MACHINE with the blue flag we had earn together.