Friday, December 15, 2006

Foggy, Windless Day on the Gulf

Deer Island barely visible in the fog

Out in the sound near West Ship Island

Yesterday was not a good day for sailing, but I couldn't stand it any longer and had to get out on Element after being sick for nearly a week with cold and flu-like symptoms. The forecast was for a light north wind, up to 10 knots, but the wind wasn't there, and instead when I got to the marina what I found was dead calm.

Well, the new outboard needed breaking in anyway, so I took this as an opportunity to do so and to check fuel consumption and cruising speed under power. I kept it at half throttle or slightly under half while heading out the West Biloxi Channel into the sound, averaging 5-5.5 knots. There was some fog and haziness in the air, but with the sun trying to burn through, I thought it would all be gone by late morning. As it turned out, when I got out to the ICW crossing in the sound, almost to West Ship Island, the fog was still hanging around. Well clear of the channel, I shut down the engine and drifted while I ate lunch and made coffee. With the fog starting to increase, I decided not to go on to the barrier islands, as I had not planned on staying overnight on this trip and didn't want to get socked in until sometime the next day.

The engine ran perfectly, and on the way back in I ran it part of the time at more than half throttle, and tried it wide open. 6 knots was easy to maintain, and 7 was attained at full throttle. Even though a 4hp, 4-stroke is more than enough power for a Tiki 21, it's hard to get much more speed under power, as a lot of the extra thrust is wasted. Running at half throttle or less though is incredibly efficient, with more than enough reserve for headwinds and strong currents. The total distance motored was 20.7 nautical miles, averaging 5.5 knots, and burning a whole gallon of gas from my 3-gallon tank! I can't complain about that. I am looking forward to some decent wind, however, as I know this boat will be much faster under sail than under power, just like my Hitia 17 was.

On the way back in I was approached by a U.S. Coast Guard patrol in a stealthy, small boat that was right up on me before I realized it. They were nice though, just commenting on the danger of the fog as they came alongside, and looking at my unusual craft.

I stopped on Deer Island, running the bows up to the beach so I could try to sort out the main halyard problem that made raising the mainsail difficult the day we launched the boat and first sailed. It seemed to be the throat halyard that was the problem, and thinking it was somehow twisted or jammed. I decided to drop the mast to check it, even though I was alone. I had done this many times when the boat was in the yard, so I was confident I could get it back up without help. Other than the fact that the deck was wet and slippery, it proved to be no problem. I couldn't find a reason for the jamming, but after re-stepping the mast and finding the gaff would still not go up very well, I decided to pull the halyards outside of the sail sleeve pocket. This did the trick, and the sail is now easy to raise. Although the halyards are supposed to be inside the pocket to clean up the airflow around the sail, I think this is hardly beneficial enough to be worth the hassel of a sail that's hard to raise.

By the time all this was done, the fog had gotten worse to the point of being dangerous. I could no longer see the Biloxi channel and could barely see 100 yards from Deer Island. With many large commercial fishing vessels going to and fro in this channel, getting back to Point Cadet could be dangerous. But the shallow draft advantage of a catamaran decreased this somewhat, allowing me to closely follow the shore of Deer Island to the east through an area of 2-3 depths until I was adjacent to the marina. This way I only had to cross the channel briefly at a 90 degree angle, minimizing the time in water deep enough for large vessels.


tsunamichaser said...

Hey Scott,

Nice to see that you've been out getting some water under the keels. Running thr halyards outside of the luff pocket may ease raising the sail but what about chaffe? Maybe there's a case for a hollow mast with internal halyards. Nice to here the Nissan performed well. said...

You are using your halyards the way I use them on my Tiki 21. I have found no problem with chaffe. Actually in my opinion you would have more chaffe running the halyards in the pocket because of the friction between the sail and the mast.

I am not in a position to go sailing these days and I miss it. Looking at your pictures I was reminded that a bad day at sea is better than a good day at work.

Scott B. Williams said...


You are right about that. Any kind of sailing beats the heck out of work. I hope you are able to get back on the water soon.


I don't think it will make much difference in regards to chafe whether the halyards are inside or outside of the luff sleeve. I do plan to put them back in after I get a chance to drop the mast again and change out the double block I'm using for both halyards to two single blocks. I think the problem is the double block is twisting, creating friction against the halyard, making it difficult to raise.