Saturday, September 6, 2014

Single-handed sailing

Whispering Jesse at her CGSC mooring with Cradle Cover installed (Click for large version)
The two issues that came up when we finally took the boat out sailing after finishing the installation of the Cradle Cover--the engine fuel leak and the marine growth on the hull--have been resolved. 

At Ralph's suggestion, I bought a set of tube, or flare, wrenches and used one to tighten the nut on the injector tube, but it didn't stop the leak. Our friend Pompeii, who has many years of diesel engine experience, tried his hand at it and couldn't stop it either. He recommended replacing the injector tube and told me I could order one from Tradewinds Power, a local Perkins diesel engine supplier. I was a little dubious, but the part was not so expensive that I didn't want to give it a try. Well, it was like doing a complex Chinese puzzle inside an overheated sauna to get the old tube out and the new one in, but it worked. There are no more leaks. But I somehow managed to interfere a little with the free running of the plunger cable that chokes the engine to shut it off, not so much that it doesn't slide the way it should, but now it's a little grabby. I will dig into that more when the weather cools down some.

Patrick, the water taxi driver at the Coconut Grove Sailing Club, gave me the business card of Mary Anne, a local woman who runs a hull cleaning operation. She coordinated getting one of her people to clean all the accumulated marine growth off the hull and install two new zincs on the propeller shaft. What a difference having a sleek hull again has made! Heading out the Dinner Key channel now, the boat is at least two knots faster at the same engine RPMs.

Nan took the two-day US Sailing basic keelboat class at CGSC a couple of weekends ago, so she wasn't available to join me for a sail. I talked her into letting me go sailing by myself instead by convincing her that I could leave and return to our mooring safely. I had researched ways to cast off a mooring from the cockpit and purchased a length of Floatline from to help me facilitate a clever technique. The trick is to release one of the mooring pennants, tie the Floatline to the freed-up cleat, run it across the deck and through the other pennant's loop and then along the outside of the boat all the way back to a fitting on the rail at the cockpit. In this way, a very long bridle is created that holds the boat in place after the second pennant is released. This gives the single-handed sailor time to get back to the cockpit safely to make a controlled departure by simply releasing the Floatline and engaging the engine. The floating line prevents any propeller snags, and it's a simple matter to retrieve the line later with the autopilot engaged.

The autopilot really is the key to single-handed sailing on a larger sailboat. With it, one can head reliably into the wind while raising the mainsail and steer a straight course while attending to whatever else needs to be done. I did just that after motoring out into Biscayne Bay and soon was sailing a nice close reach southward in ten knots of wind. I came about after a half-hour and headed back the way I had come. Nothing to it!

The trick with the line can be done in reverse, picking up the mooring with a boat hook from the cockpit, slipping the line through the pennant loop and then tying off the line to the rail fitting. The wind will back the boat up and cause the pennant loop to slide up the line to the bow, where it will hold the boat until one can get forward to secure both pennants. I would try this, but we are so close to the boat ahead of us in the mooring field that we would run into him before I could pick up the mooring from the cockpit. Still, it's a good trick to know about in the event of strong winds or a heavy current.