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.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Years of Fascination with Wharram Catamarans

Segundo Vez: Hitia 17

As I've noted here before, Element is not the first Wharram catamaran I've owned, nor will it be the last. I've been fascinated with these designs since I first came across them back in 1997.

Just last week, I sold the first Wharram cat that I built and owned, the Hitia 17, Segundo Vez.

On my other blog, Island Time Online, I've posted a brief summary of how I came to build my first Wharram, why I got into monohull sailing for awhile, the purchasing and rebuilding of this Tiki 21 that has been rechristened, Element, and my future plans for building my next Wharram. Read it more here:

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Ready at the Dock

Element's new home on the Gulf Coast

I haven't sailed Element since the launching last week. When we docked on Thursday morning in the new slip the tide was up, so I drove back down on Saturday morning to make sure there was enough slack in the lines at low tide, which was at 6:25 am. One can never be too carefull tying a 12-foot wide boat up in a slip that is just barely over 13-feet wide, especially when the docks are concrete.

It was barely above freezing when I was there Saturday morning, with a north wind over 20 knots, so I decided to hold off on sailing until I could get better conditions for a good shake-down cruise. There are some minor details with the running rigging to work out, such as getting the main halyards to run free. I also need a better system for cleating the mainsheet and I need to replace the horn cleat I used on the front of the mast to hold down the tack of the main with a smooth fairlead that can't snag the jib sheets when coming about. I've also got to make stronger cockpit seats for to fit over the hatch coamings, as the originals were too lightly built. These are all simple details that can probably be worked out in short order.

The forecast is looking good for the upcoming weekend, with the northerly winds shifting back to east on Saturday and then southeast on Sunday, with warmer daytime temps. I plan to take an overnight cruise out to the barrier islands, which one doesn't matter, I'll just head for the one that is on the most favorable beam reach.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

More Launching Photos

Loading all the parts on the trailer

Ready for the road

On the beach at Biloxi

Afloat at last, Bill and Houston Barker in the
background (photo by Artie Vaughn)

At anchor off Deer Island the next morning

Friday, December 01, 2006

Element is Afloat!

Element at anchor off Deer Island, Biloxi, Mississippi

The launching of Element finally happened Wednesday, after a much longer than anticipated refit. The whole thing, from trailering to the Gulf coast to offloading the hulls, assembly, rigging and sea trials went smoother than I ever expected. To this I owe thanks to all the great help I had from my good friend Artie Vaughn, of the sailing vessel Halcyon, and to Bill Barker and his son Houston, who traveled all the way from Colorado to participate in this launching and to buy my Hitia 17, Segundo Vez.

We arrived at the beach in Biloxi shortly before 9:00am and took our time to carefully move the hulls to the water's edge and assemble the boat and stow all the gear. Since I don't intend trailering this Tiki 21 except to bring it home for maintenance, I was more concerned with taking great care to get everything right than to try and see how fast I could get the boat from the trailer to sailing. We enjoyed conversation as we worked and took a break for lunch, but by 2:58pm, all gear was on board for an overnight excursion and vehicles and trailer were shuttled to the parking lot of the marina where the boat will be docked. We then shoved off and motored upwind to get away from the broken pilings of the many hurricane damaged piers along the beach before raising the main and jib and bearing away on a beam reach. Other than some issues with the main and jib halyards not working smoothly inside the mainsail sleeve, the boat performed as expected and felt much like sailing the smaller Segundo Vez.