Friday, May 25, 2007

Changing Halyard Blocks on the Beach

I've had difficulty raising the mainsail ever since I re-launched Element after the refit. The problem is that there are two halyards for the main, one for the peak of the gaff and one for the throat. In the Wharram plans for the Tiki 21, Tiki 26 and Tiki 30, maybe other sizes as well, a side-by-side double block is shown hanging on a penant from the masthead for the purpose of handling these two halyards. The problem is, the double block wants to twist and bind, even if you try to keep equal pressure on both halyards when hoisting the sail. This is especially true in stronger winds when singlehanding and it's difficult to keep the boat headed upwind when raising and lowering sail.

From reading of other Tiki owner's experiences on the forums, I determined that it would be best to do away with the double halyard block arrangement and replace it with two separate single blocks, one for each halyard. I put this off long enough, so during my 4-day sailing trip last weekend, I decided it was time to remedy the problem. I didn't have any extra single blocks on board, so I decided to "borrow" two from the mainsheet traveler arrangement. The winds were near calm this past Sunday morning when I woke up at anchor off Horn Island, so I moved the boat as close to the beach as possible, set my main anchor off the bow and pulled the stern to the beach until the rudders were stuck in the sand. I set another anchor off the aft beam, carried ashore onto the beach to hold this position, and lowered the mast so the masthead was hanging over the beach to make changing the blocks easy.

Element backed up the beach with stern anchor set and mast lowered.

The new separate single halyard blocks. These are hung from the masthead on Dacron lanyards. The throat halyard block is positioned slightly lower than the peak halyard block, to prevent them from binding each other. This job only took a few minutes and the soon the mast was back up and I found the mainsail was easy to raise and lower, without any binding or hanging up whatsoever.

Here's a shot of the masthead showing the new halyard block arrangement, (Click on the photo to view full sized). This completely corrected the problem, and made me glad I had a boat small and simple enough to lower and re-raise the mast on my own, on a remote beach.
You will also notice the halyards are outside the mainsail luff pocket. I will put them back inside next time I remove the sail from the mast. I had pulled them outside the pocket due to the sail raising difficulties, but now know that this didn't have anything to do with the problem.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Gulf Islands National Seashore

Here are a few images from my sailing trip on Element last weekend. I left Biloxi and first sailed to East Ship Island, where I anchored for the first night. The next day I sailed over to West Ship Island and went ashore to visit a friend who is one of the captains of the Ship Island Excursion boats. West Ship is the only island in the Gulf Islands National Seashore with regular excursion boat service, and as a consequence it is usually crowded with sunbathers and beachgoers this time of year. I didn't stay long before pulling up the anchor and sailing to Horn Island, where I spent the next two nights sleeping aboard at anchor. Horn Island is the centerpiece of the Gulf Islands National Seashore. It is a designated wilderness area, over 12 miles long and approximately 1 mile wide in most parts. It is superb wildlife habitat with forests, marshes, interior lagoons, dunes and beaches, and is home to such creatures as alligators, raccoons, otters, rabbits, ospreys and many species of wading birds. The photo below is from the north shore of the island, about half way between the east and west ends.

Horn Island offers miles of usually deserted white sand beaches and pine forests

Marshes like this are found throughout the interior of the island, making it difficult to hike across the island except in a few places.

Here's a shot of the "galley" on Element, a two-burner propane stove on deck. This worked great even in the 15-20 knot winds I experienced the first night anchored out, due to the windscreen formed by the stove's lid. Dishes were easily done in a bucket of seawater, followed by a fresh water rinse. Stainless steel cookware is the way to go.

Every night of the trip I had perfect sunsets like this. I anchored far enough out to avoid the mosquitoes that are thick at night on the beaches, so at night I burned a white L.E.D. anchor light just in case any powerboaters cruised through the area. This portable L.E.D. light was great. I burned it all night for three nights without having to replace the AA batteries. When I get to the point of outfitting Element II for cruising, all navigation and interior lighting will be L.E.D.

The water can be quite clear around the barrier islands, such a contrast to the murky waters off the mainland coast in Mississippi. This photo was taken just off the beach at East Ship Island. The next day while sailing across the same area of shallows on the way to Horn Island, I saw a large shark, approximately 10 feet long cross my path just ahead of my bows.

Element anchored off Horn Island.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Approaching Horn Island

Here I'm returning to the north shore of Horn Island to find a place to anchor for the night after a full afternoon of great sailing. I spent the last two nights of the trip anchored off these beaches, and Sunday night after the weekend crowd left there was not another boat in sight and I had the island to myself.

Reaching in a Good Breeze

Here's a clip from a fine afternoon of sailing in the Mississippi Sound just north of the coast of Horn Island. In this southeast breeze, I was maintaining a steady 9 knots. It starts getting fun at this point. The spray was just beginning to fly a bit, and I could tell the boat would really pick up and go if the wind would just increase another 5 knots or so.

Broad Reaching along Horn Island

What's great about multihulls is the ability to sail in shallow water. This is particularly true of Wharram catamarans, which have no underwater appendages like daggerboards or centerboards to worry about. On this trip I enjoyed a lot of sailing like this, cruising along the beach in 2-3 feet of water just as I would normally do in my sea kayak. The shallows extend so far out from these barrier islands that I could never get anywhere near this close in my deep draft monohull.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Four Days of Beachcruising

I just got back yesterday from a four day trip on Element. I went to the barrier islands off the Mississippi coast, in the Gulf Islands National Seashore. It was a great trip with near-perfect weather and good wind for sailing. I slept and cooked aboard the boat, and only made brief visits ashore at East and West Ship Islands, and Horn Island. I have lots of photos and some videos from the trip that I will post in the next day or two, so check back here soon.