My First Sail on “Fasha’s Dream”

5 Apr 2008

The weekend had been set aside to allow me all the possible time I could handle underway.

Agenda items:

Raise sails as much as I felt comfortable with. Genoa or main.

Gain more familiarity with everything aboard.

As much time as possible underway.

Forecasts predicted a strong front with high winds and rain rolling in on Saturday afternoon and escalating to thunderstorms through Sunday.

That meant any underway time I wanted would have to be first thing on Saturday. So there was the plan. Get underway as early as possible on Lake Tarpon, put up sails, get comfortable and head back in before the front rolls in. Expected arrival for the front was noon to 5 pm.

I was able to enlist the support of an intrepid soul as a first mate. I was completely forthcoming about my lack of experience. She was eager for new experiences so she agreed to meet me early Saturday at John Chestnut Park boat ramp.

I kept my eye on the forecast in hopes it would suddenly be all sunshine and bluebirds, but no such luck. I reviewed the West Wight Potter 19 rigging information and ran through the mental preparation checklists. Then Saturday morning arrived.

By around 8 am I retrieved her from storage and rigged her mostly solo, with minor hiccups here and there from lack of experience. The biggest challenge was ensuring the stays and lines were cleared while raising the mast. A simple twist in a stay or line gets in the way of pinning the forestay (also the roller furling rig). The boom and main went in easily enough.

I bemoaned the dirt lot where my boat is stored. After all rigging was done, she was totally tracked up with footprints from my deck shoes.

Winds were from the South at 10-15 kts with little chop. Skies were overcast, but no threat of rain, yet. With my trusty crew aboard, we departed through the calm channel and in no time passed the bass fishers in the shallows and had the genoa unfurled.

After a minute or two of fudging around I was able to raise the motor. I have to remember to push down first then pull up on the black knobs. Another lesson to remember.

We were moving at a really nice clip under only the Genoa. It was an incredibly relaxing experience idling along, no noise, snacking as we went, basking in the shade of the bimini. My crew treated me to hand fed fruit slices and sweet beverages (non-alcoholic of course). For a couple of single parents with stressful jobs that are flanked by children whose biggest thrill is marathon WOW’ing out on a PC indoors, this was an incredibly welcomed break away.

Eventually we reached the northern end of our trek and began heading south, attempting to close haul under the genoa. We went back and forth a number of times. Yes, we were making headway, only it was arduously slow. We joked that progress was probably 100 feet for every complete circuit of tack. That would put us back at the ramp around Thursday.

So, I had the inspiration to switch to the main. After all, I had gained a lot of confidence under the genoa. Why not? It’s all an adventure anyway, right?

Furling the genoa, I scrambled through the tiny openings of the bimini to reach the mast and send the main up. My poor crew was left on the tiller attempting to keep us luffed long enough for me to finish hoisting. [Yes, I am looking up sailing terms as I write this.] This was a little more challenging than I anticipated. Note to self: skip the bimini while learning.

A little finagling and the main is raised and in no time we’re making progress. During it’s flopping around on the way up I lost a stay.

Up to this point we had been heeling a maximum of 3 degrees or so. We could see the chop increase when under sail. What was a lake filled with dimples earlier was becoming ever covered with white caps.

On our second leg with the main while maintaining a steady heading the wind seemed to gust from a totally different perspective, the boat abruptly heeled another five degrees and the sharp change in attitude startled mes. I did a quick check to confirm the solid steel dagger board/ballast was all the way down (comfort from capsizing) and let loose the tiller and released the main some. We fell off into a much more conservative position but were making no headway.

Realizing this was likely the leading edge of the impending front, I called on a more conservative posture. I dropped and started the outboard and put it in gear. Again my poor crew was abandoned on the tiller to keep us in irons while I scrambled to the mast through the small opening of the bimini to pull in the main. Making that squeeze required the skill and size of a spider monkey which I outweigh by at least 170 pounds. Lacking one of those I made the scramble awkwardly.

Once the main was secured, I dropped back in the cockpit and we headed directly into the wind and chop. No matter what speed we went, it was a wet ride. I attempted adjusting our position relative to the chop so my stalwart crew would suffer less shower time, but alas she couldn’t hide the onslaught of spray.

We couldn’t help but laugh at the adventure. By the time we reached the channel we were both soaked. In fact, I only remember one instance the entire time that we weren’t smiling and basking in the experience. But knowing things won’t always be perfect is half of the thrill.

After reading challenges with West Wight Potter 19’s and the Pacific Baja trailers, I was especially careful to ensure “Fasha’s Dream” was centered between the trailer wheel wells. No way did I want my bottom paint to be scored by the inside edges of the tires.

Dropping rigging was a breeze made even easier by my eager crews desire to witness and experience it all.

All in all, it was a successful sail. I actually sailed with no major issues, albeit under only one sail at a time. I rigged her for the most part alone. No challenges motoring.

For the future:
1 – Learn and master the reefing of the main, especially underway.
2 – Sail with the main primarily. The genoa is so easy with the roller furling I got lazy.
3 – Master maneuvering around the bimini or don’t use it.
4 – Think ahead to prevent tracking up the decks. Use a welcome mat or change shoes.

Underway but not sailing 20 March 2008

I had the boat for almost a week and decided the day before Good Friday was going to be underway.

Oh yeh, my vessel is currently nameless. I’m debating different names and probably thinking about it too much.

My adventurous daughter was visiting for her spring break and was looking for some time in the Florida sun.

Untarping took little time at all with rolling it up. After doing a once over to ensure everything was secure, we headed out quickly.

I pulled into John Chestnut Park’s boat ramp on Lake Tarpon. Excellent space and ramp facilities. It’s convenient location was perfect for my first time, plus with wind conditions 15 to 25 knots, I felt it would be a safe bet for a preliminary session.

What was my goal? Basic launch, preliminary rigging, motoring for a while and no sails. I know that my skill with a brand new boat will take time to develop and the winds were high and the lake choppy.

Rigging was slow, but expected for the first time. Mast raising uses a second winch with nylon strap strung thru a roller at the top of a long 2×4 inserted in the upright opening on the tongue of the trailer. The free end has a hook attached to the mast sheet. I was hesitant on this with concerns for a twist. It did cause a mild pull to offcenter, but concerns for a mast twist were unfounded.

It took around an hour and I had mast, boom, rudder, roller furling and outboard in proper position and was ready to back into launch. Another 15 minutes and the boat was in the water, tied to a dock with my suv parked.

Once the outboard was started (with the choke on) it took longer to warm up than I expected. I confirmed forward and reverse worked and then let her loose. Unfortunately I misjudged and the lines were let loose before I had things under control. Wind up the channel began to force me into the ramp, so I accelerated into reverse and I began to twist sideways. The chaos continued for another two to three panicked minutes, with my accelerating forward or backward wildly trying to get my bearings with the tiller, avoiding the docks, attempting to head into the wind under throttle until finally I was making forward progress head into the wind.

From that point progress was incremental. I gradually lowered the dagger board not knowing it’s depth. It definitely improved tracking. At one point with the dagger board lowered only a foot and a half motoring direct into the wind we got some splash up the daggerboard trunk. Lowering it took care of that.

It was obvious once we cleared the channel that the winds were too high for my skill. So we motored north enjoying the wind and waves and occasional splash over the focs’l. The return leg had the wind at our backs and we made the channel in excellent condition. With my daughter on the forward line and myself on the stern line we pulled dockside in excellent position with no bangs, scares or panic.

All in all, I met my goals, modest as they were. Hopefully in the near future the winds will be cooperative and I can get underway again for more progress with more modest breezes. I don’t know if my daughter met her goals since the winds were up, the temperatures were down and it wasn’t very tropical.

Pull out was so much easier. Familiarity was obviously a big part of it.

I did have minor hitches.

A combination lock on the outboard screw mounts had become incredibly wedged against the lowering mechanism. I fudged with it for nearly a half hour when I finally agreed to let my intrepid daughter give it a shot. Embarrassingly enough she had it loose in less than five minutes. Grumbling something about big fingers, I was able to raise the outboard for towing in no time.

The return tow to storage, tarp covering and departure went smoothly.

Lessons learned:

1 – Don’t use a lock on the outboard mounting screws. Previous owner had a rope tied through them to prevent them from working loose. Gotta remount the rope.

2 – When lowering the mast, the companionway hatch has to be in the fully closed position. One of the lower fittings on the mast grinds into the hatch if its all the way forward.

3 – Pay close attention to the wind conditions. Even with no sails the winds can be a problem.

Post Purchase

In preparation for the arrival of my new vessel, I had to go through the typical hoop jumping of any new boat owner.

Insurance for boating and towing, financing, and most importantly a place to keep it.

Insurance and financing are individual items that are so totally unique to every person, I won’t go into that.

However, where to keep your boat is a common issue.

The West Wight Potter 19 can be stored in a large garage if it has a folding tongue or an exceptionally long garage. Even though I’m an apartment dweller, I do have a garage. However, it’s not that spacious.

Since I don’t have a yard I’m left with either marina or storage. Storage won out hands down. Marina berth’s are incredibly expensive and you still have to store the trailer itself somewhere. On top of that it kills the purpose of having a trailer able vessel you can travel with when you have to first pull the boat out. Plus, sitting in salt water builds up gunk on the hull and rusts the daggerboard.

The other option (since I’m a military reservist) is in a local bases Morale Welfare and Recreation storage lot, but no spaces are available, yet.

So, I found a storage area nearby that wouldn’t break the bank. Unfortunately they don’t have covered spots and they have trees and a dirt lot.

What’s that mean? I need to cover my baby.

And since this was spring pollen season the need was immediate. The last thing I needed were leaves and pollen stains ruining the excellent finish of my boat.

Two large tarps and lots of white parachute cord along with the aid of my able bodied kung fu kid and we were able to cover it to the gunwales for nearly the entire length of the boat.

They were already in my hurricane kit so the price was right. Lowe’s has very large tarps which could save you the hassle of stringing two together like I did. I would bet they are more durable than mine. Make sure you get it big enough to go over the main mast resting in the yoke and reach the gunwales on both sides.

Some cover notes: I do not recommend using bungie cords because they maintain a constant pulling pressure on the tarps. Tarps aren’t great for handling constant stress and the sun adds to its deterioration. Use some form of non-elastic tie downs like parachute cord or straps. If your tarp has grommets or you can add some, makes sure they don’t rust against your hull or it will stain.

The other option is to buy the West Wight Potter 19 cover from International Marine. My last check showed the cost at $850. I decided this was too pricey than I wanted for now. Comparative pricing I could buy covers large enough ten times over and still have money to spare.

Since I’m in Florida, hurricanes can be a concern. I intend to investigate trailer and boat tie down options before the season.

Sailboat Prelude and Purchase

Prelude and Purchase

I’ve been enthralled with sailing since high school, when my father arranged a week long charter in the B.V.I.’s.

As life has progressed for the past thirty years I’ve whetted my appetite mostly by day dreaming and living vicariously through others, pouring over plans, occasional day sails, and more recently, joining sail clubs.

As in all things, a change of life circumstance created new opportunities. Like pregnancy, there is no such thing as the perfect time and I decided to jump in and buy my own sail boat.

All the daydreaming helped me formulate a baseline of what I wanted. Still employed, I didn’t need a deep water cruiser, though I did want something that could accommodate two for a number of days. I wanted to trailer it, for storage and mobility. It had to be light enough for my current vehicle (a 2007 Mercury Mariner) to handle. A large volume production base to draw on the experiences of others, accessories and support. A still functioning manufacturer is a plus. Buying it used to save myself the depreciation was another point.

Which got me to the MAC26 (X or M) or West Wight Potter 19.

I finally went with a West Wight Potter 19. Why? Size for ease of storage (7 feet shorter overall). They were less expensive ($6k to 8K for the same model year). Cost of outboards were less expensive (max 5 HP vs 50 HP).

Through constant hunting, I found a WWP19 before it went on the market through members of the West Coast Trailer Sailor Squadron. The previous skipper of the “Minnow” referred me to the skipper of the “Red Tag”. I have to say that from the pictures I saw and the information I was incredibly excited.

A long road trip and only an hour and a half on scene and I committed to purchasing the “Red Tag”. A week later I drove back and took possession of “Red Tag”.

“Red Tag” is a West Wight Potter 19 Premier with a 5HP and Pacific “Baja” trailer. It has a roller furling jib, depth sounder, vhf radio, two gel cell deep discharge 12v batteries, integrated 10 amp battery charger, and a unique hull color that looks blue from a distance and a very dark forest green when close. That only scratched the surface, but was more than enough to convince me.

Everything was in excellent shape and I couldn’t have asked for a better turn key purchase.

Dave was “Red Tag’s” owner and gave me the inside track on how to arrange an AC unit, the basic operation of things to keep in mind, key things that can make life easier for prolonged cruising, along with a healthy encouragement to join the West Coast Trailer Sailer Squadron. He handed me original documentation, instructions, and even a small solar panel for trickle charge of batteries.

In no time I was on I-75 traveling home with the foundation of a dream that’s been percolating for over thirty years. I couldn’t help but glance back in the mirror, think of all the things I needed to do and daydream a bit about where to go.

By that evening I had her nicely nestled into her storage spot. Then I realized she was under trees.

Financial Recovery for Me

As a recently single person I’ve established complete control over my budget. In the past I always compromised based on whatever was going on in a marriage or it’s fallout. Now that I look back at a cumulative total of nearly eighteen years of marriage I realize I’ve blown MILLION$$ on nonsense.

Some spent on “therapeutic” vacations meant to mend a troubled relationship. A lot spent litigating over important things and sometimes over nothing at all. The rest on homes over sized for the balance between our life goals and our budget.

Coming out of this last marriage, I developed a budget and a financial plan. I felt validated when I listened to Dave Ramsey’s “Total Money Makeover”. Much of what he recommends I had already integrated in my plan, however key elements for his order of priority and focus made excellent sense for me to refine and improve my plan. It’s not a get rich quick scheme. It’s a definitive get rich plan if you follow it and live it.

I won’t cover it in detail since there is so much out there as far in reviews and critiques.

I will say that I personally HIGHLY RECOMMEND this book for anyone and everyone. I bought the CD’s and listened to them several times, taking notes with a different focus each time.

We ALL use and need money. For something so important to all of our lives we do ourselves harm when we don’t take the time to learn. At the very least check it out at a local library.

Lenovo Ideapad Y510 Review

My model came with 2GB Ram and 250 Gb hard drive. The laptop has a 15.4 WXGA TFT with integrated camera AntiGlare widescreen driven by NVIDIA GeForce Go 8600M GTS 256MB for excellent images. The laptop is a slim format with a brush texture on the top lid. There is no latching mechanism.

Power up shows a neat graphic making you aware of Lenovo’s Veriface facial recognition software is installed. It’s intended to give you the added feeling of security and that added whiz bang.

Windows Vista Home Premium is installed and powers up easily enough. More on that later.

I focused first on examining the architecture and hardware. The laptop has an integrated web cam over the screen. On the left 2 USB ports, an Ethernet port, 1 firewire, 1 vga port a mini pci slot and the power port. On the right 1 USB port, a PS2 mouse port, a mic jack, a speaker/headset jack, the Dual Layer DVD burner, phone line jack and a slot for a laptop lock. The rear edge is slimmed and has ports. The front edge has two very tiny holes at the corners for integrated microphones, an IR lens/port, a memory card clot, three indicator lights (power, battery and stereo sound indicator), and a small micro slide switch for turning off the wireless adaptor. The top side has a volume control that’s orange, with surface level media buttons that highlight interchangeably when a circular button was depressed, a surface level mute button, a user defineable surface button, and media button that calls up media settings.

I found the wifi switch comforting when in unsecure areas. It’s nice to be able easily and quickly flip a switch to prevent wifi access instead of working through the menus to shut things down.

The hard drive configuration was irritating. My 250 Gb hard drive was partitioned into 29 Gb system, 188 Gb for anything, and the rest is in a hidden partition for system backups, although I have no idea when or how to use it. I had to use Vista’s ability to redefine the default documents folder and everything else to be on the unspecified partition.

The Veriface software seems to work okay, however it can be annoying when trying to log on in low lighting or when you don’t want to wait for authentication which takes a few seconds. I found that to use the webcam with messengers I had to disable the Veriface software. I’ve since tried re-enabling Veriface and haven’t been successful.

Lenovo also loads Shuttle Center II in their build. However I don’t get the sense of a media package that steals the entire functionality of such a powerful machine when most people want to multitask while listening to music.

I won’t take up a lot more time to go through more of the software. I do have one rant. Why in the world would Vista not have a fax function? I thank goodness I have Windows XP and Linux to keep me operating. The details of my Vista experience will come in another post.

The Ideapad is really a fantastic machine. I question some of the default build choices, but have no regrets. Definitely more than enough machine for everything I need and lots of horsepower and storage to spare.

Ubuntu 6 – Install Review

If you’re familiar with this blog, you’re aware that I’ve reviewed Ubuntu before. I’ve decided to break the total Ubuntu 6 review in multiple parts to allow for detail and clarity.

These installs are documented in the order I remember them, not in a true chronological order.

The Installs:
#1 – I fired up my test bed platform with it’s version of Ubuntu 5 after being shelved for a while. After performing all the prompted updates it automatically integrated a feature on the update tool that allows you to initiate automatic upgrades to the latest version of Ubuntu. With a few checks of documentation, I started the upgrade.

My test bed (at that time) was a Compaq Presario with an AMD k6/450 mhz cpu and 184 meg of ram and 8 meg of that used as shared for video and 7200 rpm 40gb HD. Certainly NOT a speed demon.

The upgrade took many hours. I lost track being involved with many other things at the time, but think it was somewhere around 6 to 8 hours that it completed. Then there was the reboot, which took quite a long time with all the module changes, kernel over writes and package updates.

As soon as I booted up with the Ubuntu 6 that was downloaded, it prompted me to do more updates. Makes sense. Again with more updates and a few more hours of recycling and package building. I occasionally monitored the messages and saw strings of errors. Whether they were serious remained to be seen.

Eventually the desktop appeared in what I thought was the Ubuntu 6 desktop, although later learned a few things weren’t quite right. Comparing this desktop to a full install of Ubuntu 6 [upgrade vs cd install] I noticed the packages from Ubuntu 5 were still intact for the most part. However, the default toolbar at the top of the desktop in Ubuntu 6 has a little red icon all the way to the right for shutdown and it was missing on my install.

Overall, understanding the age of the test-bed, it went fairly well.

#2 – I also performed a load from scratch on another PC. 1 GB AMD Athlon with 256M Ram, 40 GB hard drive, 64 M PCI video card, and an atheros wifi card using the Ubuntu 6 latest install CD.

As expected, this went swimmingly fast in comparison. A couple hours to build from scratch on CD. The messages showed no errors and the desktop appeared very sweet and smooth. I installed a nic card and the update process went very smoothly with all packages. Still no errors. I had enough horse power left over to easily search the documentation for advice on Wifi while the updates were loading.

Documentation steered me to a wonderful tool called Wifi Manager. I am using an atheros wifi card which is already integrated with the kernel level I have. Wifi manager made it very sweet to configure and utilize. Some awkwardness with this is the prompting for a password for a Gnome Key…. I didn’t want to fool with it, but on the surface there didn’t appear to be any way around it.

Once I got it installed and configured for my wifi network (802.11g with WPA TKIP) everything connected easily. While connecting a nice little icon shows up with two spots and graphic that moves between them as the card talks to the network. The spots turn green as the authentication process moves forward. Once the connection is successful, the icon is replaced with color coded bars to indicate strength of the signal.

This definitely beats having to play the entire manual configuration game I’ve had to perform in the past.

# 3 – Install to the test bed again from scratch with Ubuntu 6 install CD. (The very same test bed used in #1 above with 384 M ram and a 5400rpm 20gb HD.) In summary this install was much smoother and the desktop appeared correct and true to the default as designed. However, the install took a little less time since I didn’t have to perform the upgrade from scratch. I was still prompted through updates after the initial reboot.

#4 – Identical to the system used in #2, only loaded from scratch with Ubuntu 5, then upgraded to version 6 and then updated through the default tools. I received multiple errors in the install process.

The why and wherefore were ignored. I ran across the desktop default discrepancy previously mentioned in install #1. There also seemed to be package problems, synaptic package and update packages challenges.

I did get it to the point of loading the wifi manager and making connections. However, the continued errors caused me frustrations so I gave up, wiped the drive and moved on to install #2.

In summary:

Overall the installs went pretty well. Especially with the install from CD’s.

In upgrading, it appears that residual links, packages or something creates discrepancies that may cause as much frustration as I ran into.

If you have a choice, I would recommend installing from scratch with the Ubuntu install CD rather than upgrades, especially on older systems.

When upgrading between levels in this case or with any OS, I would ensure you back up your data (which all good techies should do periodically anyway) prior to committing your system.