Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A merry Christmas for Misty...

Well Christmas has come and gone and Misty got everything she asked for.

A thorough cleaning.

An electric blanket.

A Kindle.

Wait... I think those last two might have been for me.

The only problem I'm having now is getting out from under my electric blanket (where I like to read my Kindle) to actually do anything worth blogging about. I'll get on that. After the new year.

Merry Christmas, readers! And a happy new year!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The social life...

Instead of writing about winterizing, like I probably should, I've decided instead to write about life in the marina. I didn't take any pictures of winterizing the engine anyway. I was too busy trying to remember all the steps.

So life in the marina.

Yesterday I was hanging out and running errands with my friend Andrew. He had some days off left to take before the end of the year and so we decided to get together and run errands, see friends, do some boat work and go climbing. We come back to the marina from West Marine and Costco and lunch with Andrew's brother, Mark, of the famous MarkandChristine duo. And what do we see at the marina? Why, two people sitting at the picnic table, smoking cigarettes and having coffee!

I jump out of the car to introduce myself. The marina staff is on a two-week vacation and I'm a little more starved for human interaction than I usually am.

"Hi! Do you live here? I'm Allie. I live in that little boat," I say, pointing. "I've been just dying to meet some of the other liveaboards here. I knew there were some, but I haven't met any yet."

I said this all in one breath.

It took a moment for the new couple to digest what I had just said and get up to shake hands.

They, too, seemed a little starved for company.

We engaged in a discussion about space heaters. They examined the one I had just purchased from the West Marine. We discussed the relative merits of West Marine-brand space heaters versus hardware store space heaters versus propane heaters.

And then, in the truly attention-starved manner of all liveaboards I've ever met in winter, we exchanged phone numbers and a promise to meet up that night over a bottle of rum.

The social norms in a marina are not complex. They are based mostly in a desire to meet someone -- anyone -- other than whomever lives in the boat with you. And liveaboards like me who live alone? Forget about it. We're all dying for discussion with something other than a duck.

People come in and out all the time because they travel the world, or the Bay, or they're visiting for a week. Whatever it is. So you meet someone in the boat yard and just end up hanging out. There was a guy in my marina this summer who has since gone to the Caribbean. I let him borrow my hose and he, in turn, checked on me during storms and invited me over for wine and chips. Never mind that he had a daughter my age. We had a grand time discussing charts and navigation. Then there was another guy over the summer who liked to sit on his deck chair next to my boat and chit-chat about boat prices. Once, when I went to get my mail, an older couple, despairing of their taxi ever arriving asked me for a ride to the Inner Harbor. When I lived in Washington, D.C., there were always people I'd met in the bathroom or the laundry room dropping by for a drink or a chat.

I'm no sociologist, but I think it's something to do with the prospect of getting to talk about something you love -- with someone who hasn't just spent a long period of time confined to a small space with you.

So what I'm trying to say is that inviting someone you just met to your home isn't strange at all and I eagerly accepted.

Around 8, I got the call and went over.

Now, what I have neglected to mention is that one of my main points of attraction to these people, besides companionship, was the fact that they have pets.

Not just any pets.

They have two cats -- and a pet squirrel.

So we sat up until 2 a.m. playing with their pets and drinking tea with rum and eating cake.

Life in the marina? It's really not so bad.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Misty gets naked...

After watching a neighbor's roller-furled jib flog itself to shreds last week, I decided it was time to take my own sails off the boat.

I enlisted the help of my ever-happy-to-help friend Andrew. Hi, Andrew! (He agreed to help AND to let me take pictures for my blog -- what a sport!)

Anyway, I was a little uncertain about taking the sails off by myself. Mostly because it is shockingly difficult to brick up sails (i.e. fold them into brick-like blocks) on the dock by yourself. And by that I mean that I don't think I could do it since the marina is so exposed to wind. It would have to be a really calm day.

Now, where was I? Oh yes. Flogging jib = bad. Taking sails off for winter = good.

So Andrew comes over and we start with the jib, also known as "that little sail on the bow of the boat." On Misty Rose, the jib is roller-furled, which means that it has a mechanism that rolls the sail around the a line that runs from the top of the mast to the deck so that you don't have to fold it every time you use it. Therefore, the sail must be unfurled from the forestay, dropped with the halyard, unclipped at the tack and the head, and the sheets must be untied and coiled.


I unfurled the jib and released the halyard. We then discovered a need for pliers to get all the shackles undone. Is it just me? Or does the rest of the world have the same shackle woes as I? I pulled out my giant tool bag, which, someday, I shall photograph the contents of for you all. Tool kits of sailboats are truly strange things filled with everything from electrical tape to plumbers' wrenches to sailcloth needles and joker valves. After much rummaging, I found a suitable pair of pliers and we set about removing the sail. At this point I also remembered to take pictures.

I found some line and tied the roller furling mechanism to the base of the forestay so that, in a storm, the car attached to the halyard wouldn't work its way up to the top of the forestay. I am not actually sure if that's possible (wouldn't it just slide back down?) but the charter boat captain I work for does it on his boat, so I figure it's a solid bet.

We carried the sail off the boat to brick it up. Misty's jib is easy to brick because it has no battens (fiberglass sticks sewn into one side to help the sail stay flat).

Luckily, the marina has a very wide dock, so we were able to flake and brick on the dock and we didn't have to carry the sail to the parking lot. Andrew took the head (top) of the sail and carried it up the dock, while I stretched out the foot (bottom) of the sail.

Then we flaked it. To flake a sail, two people get on each side of the sail and pull folds of the sail toward the foot until it looks just like this:

Then you simply fold it into a brick. Misty's jib will spend the winter in the dock box.

The main sail was a little harder to handle. Since the main has battens, you have to be very careful when you flake it so be sure that the battens are exactly parallel. This is how we accomplished that:

The main is much heavier than the jib and doesn't fold up as small (battens don't bend), so we tied a neat little handle to it. I used sailor knots. Andrew insisted his were climbing knots, though I think they closely resemble sailing knots...

And voila! The finished product:

And now Misty Rose is shockingly nude... Hope she's not too cold!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Winter's quiet night...

There's something I love about the marina at night in the wintertime. There's no one around -- no one I can see anyway. If anyone is here, they're hiding inside their boats, snug against the early winter breeze that takes your breath away. It's still and silent save the usual evening sounds.

There's the bell-like ringing of lines. The rhythmic thumping of halyards and the hollow echo of masts. The gurgle of water slapping the sides of the boats, the groan of compressed fenders and the ever-so quiet noise of lines stretching against their cleats. The quiet humming of rigging in the wind is louder than the traffic of the city half a mile away.

Then there's the noise of a working port. The occasional whistle of a tug or blast of a ship's horn as she prepares to leave port. That's the comforting promise that everything is running as it should, ticking away reliably in the background, bringing salt for the snowstorms, bananas and cars and potash and a million other things.

Of course there's also the long, almost harmonious, purr of rail cars blowing horns as they carry goods away from Baltimore. It is quiet and it's nice.

There's something quiet and comforting about the marina at night -- but it's most comforting from the warm, comfortable inside of a boat that has weathered more winters in her life than I...

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Tying up...

To preface this post, I would like to state that I am not a self-righteous boater. I don't care if you sail with your fenders in the water. It doesn't bother me if you don't trim your sails exactly right. I think sailing is a learning process. You should be able to make mistakes and learn from them with impunity. I know I make boating mistakes all the time -- and I think everyone else should have the same latitude.

That said, there are some things that are plainly unsafe for your boat that, given any basic sailing instruction, you should know not to do.

As you may or may not have gathered from my Wordless Wednesday post, there was a horrific storm Tuesday night, extending into Wednesday morning. I don't think I am exaggerating when I say that I think it was the worst storm I have ever weathered aboard Misty Rose. I didn't sleep more than 45 minutes all night -- even after I took Dramamine. To put the storm in perspective, one of the guys who works in the boatyard expressed surprise that I didn't go and sit in the bathhouse or sleep in my car to get out of the storm. We're talking 35 mph winds with gusts and flash flooding, here.

Now that we've set the stage, let's talk about the reason for this post: the proper way to tie your boat to a floating dock.

I have noticed that a startling number of boats are tied up in the marina like this:

This disturbs me, readers, as it should you. Things wrong with that illustration: There are no fenders to keep the boat from banging into the dock. There is no spring line. All of the lines are tied so tightly that there is absolutely no slack in them at all.

But why is this wrong?

Well. Let me tell you about laying in bed around 4:30 a.m. and hearing an incredibly loud flapping noise. I was out of bed faster than you can say, "Jack Robinson." I thought my roller furler had come undone and my sail was flapping away. I flung open the hatch and discovered that the noise was coming not from my boat, but a boat across the dock from mine.

I was fuzzy from not sleeping all night. Should I do something? Their sail was already starting to rip. Confused, I texted my father, knowing he'd be up at 5 a.m. Five minutes later, he called, frantic that something was wrong. I explained what was happening.

His response?

"Well, if it was Misty, wouldn't you want whoever saw it to at least try?"

Of course I would.

I pulled on my trusty faux Uggs over my PJ pants and got on my pink Henri Lloyd jacket and an old hat of my dad's I'd found on the boat. I grabbed the sturdiest winch handle I could find and a length of line and set out across the dock.

I was soaked through in seconds. The other boat, tied up like the bad example picture, was bucking violently against the dock. I was a little scared to step aboard in the storm with no lifejacket, but I decided to go for it. The jib sheets must have come undone and wrapped themselves about midway up the sail so that the sail was in a figure eight. I uncleated the furling line and winched it in as tight as it would go, wrapping up the bottom of the sail. Now for the top. I cleated the furling line and uncoiled my line to try and at least tie down the maniacally flogging sail. Unfortunately, the boat was slamming the dock so hard I was afraid to go forward of the mast where there was nothing to hold onto. In the wind, I couldn't do anything for the sail.

Well, I reasoned, the marina staff would be in at 7 a.m. They'd have a solution. I got back into the boat, stripped off my soaked clothing and put on the night's second pair of pajamas.

I heard the guys outside around 7 a.m. retying boats and trying to get the shredded sail tied up. They also failed, but they did tie the boat up properly and they found some fenders.

This leads me to this post.

Things to think about when tying up your boat:
1. Buy good-quality nylon docklines.
2. Buy fenders. Put them between the boat and the dock.
3. Use your boat's cleats. If you don't have cleats, use the toe rail. It's not a good idea to tie up using the stanchions or the shrouds. Too much stress on either of these is not good (i.e. if your shrouds break or the line rubs the cotter pin out, your mast could fall or you could break a stanchion.)

Now. When I tie up my boat, I try to take any stress off the bow line because I can hear it rubbing in the chock and it keeps me awake. That in mind, the first picture I posted is my ideal way to tie up to a floating dock at a t-head (which is how my boat is docked). For the record, you should almost always tie your sailboat up so that the fattest part of the boat, also known as the beam, is the only thing touching the dock. You then put a fender there between the boat and the dock. Voila! No slamming.

It is just a bad idea to tie up any boat with only a bow line and a stern line. I have horrific nightmares about my lines breaking after the time I discovered my bow line worn through to a single fiber. To avoid this, I use a bow line, a stern line, a forward spring and an aft spring. I do not have two bow lines like that picture shows because I don't have a cleat close enough. In an ideal world, I would have that second bow line.

For Misty Rose, I like a bow line with lots of slack, a tight stern line, a tight aft spring and a little bit of slack in the forward spring.

I put fenders anywhere the boat might hit the dock if a wave were to make the boat fishtail.

Above all else, lines should be checked regularly for wear. My lines tend to wear most at the chock on the bowline, so I use a short piece of old garden hose to insulate the line in the chock.

And now you know how to tie up your boat to best keep her steady -- whether it's going to storm or not.