Thursday, April 24, 2014


Today after trying out patterns made from pizza boxes I gut up the glued up cedar.  I then started to shape it by running the router around the underwater part and then planing, sanding, and rasping the edges.

I will need to do a lot more sanding and shaping but what I have so far seems pretty good.
trying it on for size.
I clamped it on to see how it looks.  It is OK.  I would have preferred that the forward bottom corner had a smaller radius for looks, but I chose to go bigger in case we ground out on something the softer curve might make it all go smoother.  I still haven't decided how low the rudder will hang.  I do want it to hang below the keel to get a better bight in the water, but I am worried about it not being protected and about the difficulties of landing the boat with that thing hanging the extra few inches.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Rudder design

a rudder like this might be nice!
rudder for an Aber which is a Francois Vivier design
This is beautiful and I like the sliding gudgeons/pintle set up.

Skiffing again!

Working on a project for the skiff.  I'd like to add a rudder to her, so, I tried out this one that I made for a fiberglass dinghy. just to see what it looked like.
rudder from another boat just for size.
 It seems pretty close to being about the right size so I decided to glue up some cedar decking on edge to get the width I want.  I will add some horizontal "straps" to  help the glue hold the rudder together.
reclaimed cedar decking being glued up for a rudder.
I'll have to work on the actual shape of the rudder and I may need to weight it to counter the buoyancy of the cedar.  I am thinking that instead of a typical tiller I will use a fore and aft steering stick so as to make it all less cumbersome.
I am sticking with the Gorilla Glue for the adhesive and the cedar decking is already in use on the boat.  I may offset the cedar with yellow pine cheek blocks, or the luan plywood, but I haven't decided yet.  I'd like the cedar to be varnished.
It was extremely pleasant to be working on this boat again and to be in the shop again.  I hope to get the boat out for a row soon, maybe tomorrow.  After the winter dealing only with the Venture I had forgotten how fond I am of these boats that I made with my own hands.  Makes me kind of wonder why I ever bothered to get another fiberglass boat.

Speaking of the Venture, I found some scrap aluminum in the shop today, some plate, some tube.  I think that it might be usable as the joint for the mast so that I don't have to cut down the mast anymore.  If this works out then I will have only lost a foot of mast height, which may mean that I won't have to recut any of the sails.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Sunday on the Pond

First day back out on the water!
Bird box in the distance
I took the pram down to the pond for my first day back out on the water since my bad day in the water.  I was back on the venture in the marina to get it to the ramp and on the trailer, but this was my first day out just to go boating.  It was lovely and different from the last day, very different, and that was good.
I rowed from one end of the pond to the other seeing turtles under the water, being surrounded by the little birds catching the gnats and flying bugs, and threatened with loud honks by the geese as I got to there side of the pond.  I pulled in the oars and let the little bit of breeze push me down wind and then I'd row back up again.
Though the pram is very small, single person size, or maybe 2 small children, it is very nice to row, very peaceful, and the sound of wooden oars on the wooden gunwale and thole pins fit very nicely with the sound of water slowly being pushed by the wooden hull.
I floated and day dreamed of a little boat, like a little cat boat, for the pond.  Dreaming and designing in my head while being in the specific bit of water I am designing for is a wonderful way to be.
The little wooden boat made me less enthusiastic about the work I have to do on the venture 21 to get her back into shape.  Fiberglass is an unpleasant think to work with and a boat made of it can lack any real character if care is not put into the accommodations for the human beings that will inhabit her.  Little outings in my wooden boats, like this might help me to get the job on the Venture 21 done, and then find her a home, so that I can justify building a little cat boat........... or something.

Friday, April 18, 2014

clean cut

Today I cut the rough edges off the mast to begin the repair.   I cut out a 4 in section to experiment with how I might make a sleeve/insert.  After cutting a slot on the back side of the mast I realize that I will need to cut down the diameter of the insert quite a bit in order to get it to fit in the old mast.

Cut off ends and a section to experiment with.
 I have done some looking around online to see what others have done and I think I am narrowing down my approach.  Right now I am thinking that I will cut the insert in half, lengthwise in order to make 2 shaped plates that I can then mechanically attach the 2 mast pieces with.  Since I am planing to reduce the rig anyway I can make the insert/plate about 3 feet long, which should give enough area for the scarf, a foot and a half in each section.
Clean cut ends ready to be joined back together.
Now what?
I am sure the most challenging part will be lining it all up so that the sail slugs run clean in the track.

I finally got inside the boat and got out the water that the tow boats bilge pumps didn't pick up, about 12 gallons.  I also put the port sheet winch back together.  Amazingly, I still have all the pieces to it, even after the sinking and 2 days under water!  I also put some plastic and tape over the holes in the deck that will eventually be repaired so as to keep them from allowing more water in the next time it rains.  I have a feeling this boat will forever smell of the Hudson River.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

mast work

ragged edge where the mast bent/broke.

This morning I started working on the mast from the Venture.  I had to take all the rigging off as well as the wiring for the masthead light and the steaming light.  I then cut it with a hack saw where it had been bent.  Now I have 2 pieces.  Soon I will cut those off clean, minus 2 or 3 feet on the upper portion.  That piece will serve as the inner sleeve to join the 2 pieces together.  I think I will cut or grind away the track and make a cut lengthwise along the front of the sleeve piece.  This will hopefully allow it to fit inside the other 2 pieces.  Then it will all be fastened.  I am sure it will be much more difficult than it sounds.  It will be an interesting experiment

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Venture Damage

Once a bow pulpit was here, but no longer.
The holes left from where the bow pulpit once was add nice light in the forepeak, but they will need to be repaired.  I am still not positive that I am going to fix this boat, but it is more likely than not.   These holes and the ones at the mast step are all the fiberglass work that needs doing.
Rigging will be a bit of work.  I need new stays and shrouds and spreaders.  Oh ya, the mast.  I am not to worried about fixing the mast.  I think it is doable.
The one thing that makes me sigh is the thought of having to re-cut the sails to fit a shortened rig.  Not difficult just a lot of work.
I figure that down below will be very spartan.  I will only repair the accommodations that have anything to do with the structural stability of the hull.  I don't think there is much point to doing more right now.

Friday, April 11, 2014

extremely trailer friendly mast?

broken mast and boom from Venture 21
Trying to get stuff sorted out.  Here is the 24 foot mast now in 13' and 11' sections.  If I keep the boat???? and fix her up I would consider trying to splice the mast back together, in a manner similar to the way  I saw Yves Gelinas do after being dismasted during a round the world trip.  Jean-du-Sud Around the world is a really good movie he made of his trip and in it you can see how he fixed his mast and continued.With Jean du Sud Around the World
With Jean-du-Sud
I think I would prefer a mast of about 20 or 21 feet anyway.  It would be easier to raise and lower when launching and the boat is pretty fast with this sail plan already.  For recreational sailing the loss of sail area doesn't bother me at all.  I have been sailing with a used main from a smaller boat anyway.
At this point it is all just smoke because until I get the boat back home I am not sure that I will be keeping it.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Sail #15 as I remember it.

Ventura sinking April 5, 2014, approximately 7pm off of Haverstraw, NY.
Wind gusts were reported up to about 40 mph.

The forecast that day was for strong winds, but nothing above levels  I had been out in previously, on this boat, until later on in the day and then it was going to be very strong, 30 knots plus.  But it was early in the day and the sun was out and warm.  I figured I had enough time for a quick out and back, or in this case with wind from the west, a quick down river sail to the south end of the bay and back up, all a beam reach.  Having only a week left on my contract with the marina, I suppose I was overly enthusiastic about getting out for a sail if I had the chance.

When I got to the marina I could see the wind was pretty strong but not so much that a small set of sail, or sails couldn't handle it.  I think I hanked on the working jib and lashed it to the deck.  That would mean that I still had a smaller sail to change down to, but more significant to the matter is that it would mean I thought the conditions were not so bad as to begin under the smallest rig.  The truth is I don't remember for sure, but I do have some memory of changing down to the smaller jib later and it wouldn't have made sense that I started out with no capacity for reducing sail knowing that conditions were set to increase in strength.

The tide was coming in, but even so, we made great time down river.  I figured that on the way back, the tide would give a bit of a boost, should I need to beat to windward at all, but with a westerly or even north westerly I might be able to get back in one tack.

The sail down was fast and fun and not at all worrying.  I even shot two video clips, one with dialog, which I usually don't do.  Because I made such good time I figured I could afford to go a little further south than I had planned (mistake #1).  I ended up going about a mile further south.  Because of the shape of the river, a bend to the east, and the land formations, 500 foot cliffs coming straight up out of the water, the wind took on a more northerly direction here.  I noticed that the one other sailboat out was heading south under genny alone and making very good speed. On the eastern side of the river a few fishing boats were out and seemed to be having a lumpy time of it.

The character of the river in this particular area is quite a bit rougher, I think this is due to the bend in the direction of the channel.  I have come to call this area "The Haverstraw Triangle" and have since found it to be known by the locals who use these waters as particularly rough when wind against tide conditions are present.  It is kind of like our own little gulf stream.  In northerly wind the fetch is about 8 miles, which is plenty enough to build up some of the waves that happen there.  They can become almost standing , breaking waves with 4 feet between the tops and the trough, steep enough that boats just drop off them, pounding at the bottom of the wave.  The SeaTow operator I talked to said he knew that area and has had waves coming over the top of his rescue boat there.  He said it made him need to change his shorts!

Because of the shift of the wind, instead of just changing tacks from one beam reach to another, when I began my return I went from going off the wind, which reduces the apparent strength of the wind, to sailing to windward, which increases the apparent wind strength.  Immediately the situation changed from being a fun little sail, to a serious concern, and a lot of work.

This is when I remember spending a bit of time changing down to the small jib, which is actually the staysail for the boat.  But with just a jib up the boat couldn't make any distance to windward and the wind was now blowing directly from where I wanted to go.

I didn't want to raise the main sail as I knew there was too much wind for it, but the problem was, I needed to move the sail plan further aft in order to make any headway.  I tried moving the staysail from the forestay back to the pad eye on the deck were it would have been flown if it was being used as a staysail.  This was rather challenging in these conditions but by leaving the upper most hank on the forestay I was able to raise the sail under some kind of control but still move the sail aft.  This actually worked, so to speak.

With the jib moved aft I found I could hold station, that is not loose ground, but I still couldn't make any headway to home.  During all these maneuvers I had been drifting further and further south.  Because I was west of Nyack state beach and east but also south of Sing Sing Prison, I figure I had lost about 3 more miles.

I used to sail close to Sing Sing prison, thinking that the sight of a sail boat might be something that could cheer the inmates.  I could see them in the yard and hoped it didn't just make them sad wishing that they were out there.  I remember reading Daniel Spurr's book, "Sheltered by the Falling Stars" back when I started sailing. There was a section in that book that spoke of a fellow prison inmate standing on chair, eyes closed, rocking back and forth imagining that he was sailing.  It was a chance for him to feel some kind of freedom, a chance for him to cope with his incarceration.

As I sailed in sight of Sing Sing this time, unable to get away from it much, I was sure that if any body in there was seeing me, out here on the river today, he might not be so eager to trade places just then.  They had there razor wire and armed guard towers, today I had the waves and head wind and felt a bit the prisoner too.

I decided I had to raise the mainsail if I was going to have enough power to make to windward.  Oddly, the wind either died down a notch or I just got used to the constant screaming of it in the rigging.  Either way, I got the main raised with it's one reef set.  I had sewn in that reef after I got the boat, as it had none at all, which is akin to having a car that only goes full throttle or none.

As if setting a trap for me, just after getting the main sail working and starting to make a tiny bit of progress north, sailing as close to the wind as I could, a gust and a shift to the west sent the boom right up against my head. It was hard enough to make me take a moment to check for blood, check to see if my vision was still what it should be and that the rest of what I questioningly call my senses, were still in order.

Deciding that I was well enough, I got the boat on a new heading pointing south of west, away from home, but, closer to the cliffs and that might provide some shelter from the wind.  As I trimmed in the jib sheet for the new heading the port sheet winch failed.  The plastic washers on the main bolt disintegrated after too many years of UV degradation.  I quickly ran the line across the boat to the starboard winch, looking closely at it's cracked and aged washer and wondered how long it would last.

Upon getting close to the western shore and what I had hoped would be the shelter of the 500 foot cliffs I found that instead the cliffs pushed the wind around to the north and accelerated them.  On the bright side, from here I could tack and make run up river with what might be a clear shot of the eastern shore, in the next bay north.

As it turned out I needed to make a few tacks to get past Croton Point, and I had to cross thru the commercial traffic channel in that area, "The Haverstraw Triangle" again.

The entire time sailing thru this area I was just waiting for something to break.  The boat was dropping off the wave tops so hard that I could see the hull flexing inward thru the companionway.  On the starboard side just forward of the shrouds where the boat lands each time it comes off a wave the hull had signs of a repair that was made before I acquired it.  I had no real idea how good the work was and I was very concerned that this beating would let me know.  To add to that worry was my concern that one of the wire stays supporting the mast would eventually give way under the shock of the thudding crashes at the bottom of the wave troughs.  I would listen to the clang of the metal rigging pieces and the clanging of the sail slides in the track, and be glad not to hear the "thwang" sound of wire rope parting violently under strain.  Wire rope can cut right thru a person when it gives way under strain, just like slicing a piece of cheese.  I have heard of it happening to guys towing cars and riggers at construction sites.

After a few hours, I am not sure how many, but then again, I was only supposed to be out for a few hours total, I found that I had made my way north enough to be just about even with the marina, but 2 miles to the east of it on the Westchester shore.  I figured I could tack and get close enough to the marina, before I lost too much northing, and be able to drop sail and motor in.  I was very concerned that I shouldn't be out of range of the marina for the fuel I had onboard.  The entrance to the marina was dead to windward from the river and with out the outboard I wouldn't be able to get in.

It was well into the afternoon now, I had planned to be finished sailing by noon.  I began to bring the boat about and start my tack for home.  As usual, before putting the helm over, I checked behind me then ahead, that is when I saw the tug pushing the barge down the river.  OK,  bummer, but no big deal I'll just hold this course a little longer until I run out of room and then I will short tack on this side of the channel until the tug is down river and clear of my path.  He was still up the river a ways but there was no way I was going to put my boat in his path, especially in these conditions, especially when the boat was suffering and could break further and limit my control of steering.

When he got far enough along that I thought I could start my new heading I noticed that behind him was another barge and tug.  They looked identical, twins.  OK, shit, I'd have to wait a bit longer but now I was out of room and was starting to loose a little ground, I was making leeway south, and the wind had come back up a notch.  I was beginning to worry that I'd lose most of my hard won distance north while waiting for these two tugs to pass.  That's just about when I saw the third barge and tug right in line behind the second.  Triplets, they all looked identical.

In novels you may have read of mariners who are being tossed about by the sea, beaten down by waves, headed by the wind, and swept up by the tides.  They turn their sun and wind burned faces skyward and curse the gods.  I don't really believe in deities who would toy with us in the same sadistic way a cat bats around a mouse, but I literally turned my face to the windward sky and swore at the deity, who I didn't believe was there.  I even said,  "I don't believe you are there or listening, but if you are then it is surely within your power to just bury me under this water or lie this boat flat.  So this would all be proof that you are sadistic and from you I would not beg for mercy.  Fuck you, I will not quit, I will not beg, I am just fine with this.  So I guess we'll just keep doing it."  Actually The only part of those words that were spoken out loud, intelligibly, were the "Fuck you ", the rest were spoken in my head.

By the time the tugs had cleared and I started my tack to the west it seemed that  I could barely make west and by the time I got to the western shore I was 4 or 5 miles from the marina entrance which was dead to windward.  The water seemed rougher over here, probably because of the long fetch.  The light had changed enough to make me think about how much more time I had before sunset.  The forecast this morning said that the wind would get stronger as the day ended.  It was time to start thinking of how and where I might be able to tie up, anchor or even run aground and give up the idea of getting back today.  (Mistake #2 was not deciding this hours earlier.)

I decided to try and use the outboard to make a run for some safety because the only headings I could get under sail would take me south toward the rocky coast of the state park on the starboard tack, or back out across the river on the port tack.  The rocky shore was a bad option, and I didn't think I had enough time to make more tacks to the east, and I wasn't sure my anchor would hold in these conditions.  I might have enough fuel to get to the marina  but running out of fuel while under way would be miserable and really limit my options.

Trying to get the boat to motor dead to windward in these big waves ran the risk of the outboard coming out of the water and then shearing the pin on the prop when it suddenly met with the resistance of the water again.  Just getting the sails down while trying to motor was really tough but it was necessary as the wind shifts would fill the sails and pull the boat off coarse.  Even with the sails down the wind was strong enough to push the boat off coarse in the gusts.  I decided to winch up the centerboard in order to get the most fuel efficiency and to keep it form being an issue if we got into shallow water.  (mistake #3)

Each time I got to a part of the shore line that might offer me some safety I reasoned that I still had fuel and could get to a haven that might be a bit better.  I was worried over the marinas all being closed up or blocked up because it was still off season.  I was also worried that in this weather I might have to come in a bit fast and with less control than I'd like, I was sure the boat would suffer, but thought that the docks might too.  I really didn't want to piss anybody off, so, I kept going. (mistake #4)

I should have just tried for any shelter I could get.  There were 4 or 5 marinas or landings that might have served and one or 2 bits of beach that I could just make a "hard landing" at.  I kept going.  I hadn't eaten or drank a thing since my morning coffee and toast.  I hadn't the means to get to my thermos of coffee that was below.  I had pissed twice right in the cockpit when I could hold it no longer.  The waves that came over the lee side flushed it all away before I could close up my pants.  I wanted to be done, off the boat.

This was supposed to be fun, and in another boat it might have been, but probably not.  I thought to myself,  I really don't need to go out when it is other than ideal anymore.  I have sailed offshore, I have been thru storms I needed to prove nothing to myself, I am getting older and it is time I should just take it easy.   I would when I get back, if I get back.  I never assume, especially today.

When I got to the county park and ramp I thought to myself I should just put in there and then walk to the marina where there was a gallon of fuel in the back of my truck.  I saw all the people along the shore and was concerned about what was sure to be an ugly landing, if not downright alarming.  I didn't know if the ramp was even open and suspected it might not be so early in the year.  Would the Ranger give me a hard time about using, possibly bashing into the docks?  The marina was just over there, not far, a few thousand feet.  Surely I wouldn't run out of fuel in that short distance, not on top of all the bad turns I had gone thru today, then I thought, but I might especially after all the bad turns I've had today.  But I kept going.(mistake #5)

There is a restaurant right before the entrance to the marina.  It is between this restaurant and the entrance that I usually start the outboard, lower sails, and make ready for docking.  This is were the fuel ran out and the motor stopped.  The marina entrance was a couple hundred feet away, directly to windward.

There isn't enough room to tack thru the marina entrance or in the marina.  With the wind as strong as it was, by the time I jumped forward and pulled the gasket off the jib, jumped back to the cockpit and hauled up the sail and got steerage, I was out of range to make a tack in any way.

I was loosing ground.  I decided to raise the main so I could get the best windward heading possible, but even so I was making leeway.  Exasperated and dejected, I resolved to beach the boat.  In thinking thru this choice and what I needed to do, I realized that the centerboard was still raised and that it had probably kept me from making to windward.  It didn't matter as I couldn't get in the entrance under sail even if I could reach it.  Besides I wanted it up if I was going to go for the shore and try and get the boat as close as possible or even on the beach.  I made a pass at the shore just to check to see if I had a decent spot to ditch.  When I came about and then tried to return to that spot I realized that I was making to much leeway to get back to the same spot.  My concern was that a half a mile to leeward was the big Power plant dock. It was high enough out of the water that I couldn't reach anything to tie up to but not so high that my mast could pass under it.  I needed to act fast or I might not get clear of it.  The dock sticks out into the river about 800 feet maybe farther.

I took two more passes at the shore to try and pick the least worst place to run the boat aground.  I decided that at this point it didn't matter any more, this pass was it or I would not be able to get clear the commercial dock should I need to.  I took note of where my lines were and my anchor bag so that when I hit I could secure the boat quickly and not loose it completely to drift down river and possibly cause harm to somebody else.  I look at the old broken pilings that are just visible above the water and thinking that this is probably going to destroy the boat, but was resigned to it.

This is when a gust pushes the boat onto it's port rail.  I am releasing the mainsheet and trying to reach the jib sheet and thinking that it is about time that the boat should start to come up when instead the gust redoubles and the boat goes the rest of the way over.

I see the sails in the water.  I see that the boat is floating with the companionway just above the new waterline.  As I am trying to find something to hold on to in order not to go in the water I look aft and notice that the lazarette, the aft locker, is also floating just above the new waterline, and I wonder if the designer had worked this out.

At this point time becomes a bit weird.  I spot my ditch bag/dry bag, while also reminding myself of the temperature of the water, while also noting that the sun is just at the horizon and I can't see detail on the shore, which is several hundred feet away.  I think to myself that I can't depend on anybody having seen the boat go over.  I look at the position and try to guess the drift of the boat.  I remember that it might be better to stay with the boat but looking into the cabin I see the port side window leaking water.  I realize I don't trust the boat to stay floating and if it doesn't I might just expire from the cold water before anybody gets to me, if any body comes for me, and it's going to be dark soon.

The decision to go in the water and try to make the shore came quickly but not with much relish.  The wind and waves were moving us quickly south and east.  I had no real idea how the cold water would affect me.  I reached into the cabin and grabbed my dry bag I noticed a float cushion and grabbed that too.

Earlier that day, before things went sideways, I had pulled a yellow float cushion out of the river.  The river is always swapping things from one owner to another.  During a gust, not long after I scored the float cushion, a 30 foot docking line got washed overboard.  It ended up being a good trade.

While looking around the boat to see what I was taking with me I thought to set the anchor to keep the boat from just going out into the channel.  The anchor gear was all the way forward in the cabin. I looked at the water coming in the port side window the thought of the boat rolling or going down while I was inside and then getting trapped. The floatation of my pfd might keep me from being able to swim down and out of the boat, this made me decide not to risk it.  I knew I didnt have much time.

 I did try to let the centerboard out in hopes of standing on it and righting the boat, but I couldn't climb up over the hull to get to the centerboard.  Even if I could it was now almost upside down and it weighs about 400 lbs., there would be little hope of moving it out of it's slot.

This is when I decided to get in the water.  I swam around the stern to look at the centerboard once more to see if there was any hope of righting the boat.  I simultaneously decided that there was no hope of this and noticed that the temperature of the water was going to be a very big factor in how long I had before my body started to fail.

On the swim back around to grab my dry bag and the float cushion my foot got slightly tangled in the back stay rigging and the main sheet.  I had to force myself to slow down, get untangled and then carefully get my stuff and start swimming.  The tangle could have been a very bad turn. I told myself that I had to be very smart about every choice, every move at this point.

As I swam away from the boat, on my back, cushion in my left arm, dry bag in my right, I focused on breathing while thinking what a strange thing to be doing, swimming away from a boat in water that is about 40'f as the sun goes down.  I didn't feel the cold of the water in an emotional way but certainly was aware of how it was affecting my body.  I noticed that my dry bag came right out of my arm even though I was trying to hold on to it.  My body was already starting to shut down.  I eventually got the bag further up my arm but was reluctant to make it to secure to me because it seemed heavier and I suspected it was filling with water.  I didn't want it to pull me under.

With my back to the shore I just kicked and kicked and kicked trying to beat the current that was working against me.  I dared a look toward shore and noted that the current seemed faster as I got closer.  As I spun around a wave washed over me and I swallowed a big gulp of the Hudson.  I felt the cold on my head as my watch cap became soaked.  I realized it was entirely possible that before I reached the shore the current would carry me south and under the dock where the land then went away to the west and the current turned eastward.  In that same instant I felt a level of fatigue set in.  I thought I might make it if I really swam harder.

I thought that if I didn't make the shore before the dock then I would probably not make shore on my own at all, that it was getting dark, it was suppose to be around freezing tonight and that I was probably not going to be able to stay conscience for very long after that.

Still kicking, I thought to myself, I'm OK with this.  No I didn't want to die right now, but then if I went while sailing while trying my hardest, then I was OK with it.  I hoped my family would be.  these thoughts relaxed me a bit and I found that I still had a bit fight left in me. I turned again to judge the distance and as I decided that my better chance might be to swim east, away from shore and try to land one of the pilings of the dock I saw the flashing lights of an emergency vehicle.  Suddenly I noticed the sound of sirens, when before all I could hear before was my own labored breathing, it was what I was focused on.  I now knew I had to try,  other people were going to put themselves at risk to help me.  I kept kicking.

A man in uniform ran out to the eastern end of the dock.  He was trying get a life ring free from it's bindings. The eastern part of the dock was the only place that I might be able to climb out of the water or where they might be able to reach down to me.  I decided to try to get there.  It was hard to make myself change direction and swim away from shore, but all the help was out there.  The officer had got the life ring free by the time I swam under the dock and he dropped it down to me.  I forced my arms to hug it and was able to rest for a moment.  I grabbed onto some ropes hanging down from the dock tested them to hold me then let go the life ring so they could move it to the other side of the dock where they could get close to water level.  I looked north and saw a rescue swimmer, in a red dry suit, drop into the water.  As they dropped the ring back into the water the rescue diver approached me.  Just a round circle of his face was exposed from his dry suit.  We both put our arms thru the life ring as it was dropped down to us, then we drifted and swam down to the dock.

The diver led me around to the eastern side where we both stood on a ledge.  Now only about thigh down was in the water.  I was no longer adrift, no longer at the mercy of the wind and tide.  I felt exhausted.  My foulies and my boots were filled with water but even if they weren't I doubt I could have lifted my self up and off that ledge.  I think three guys up top and the diver from below got me up on to the dock.  Not only could I not move my legs very well but I could barely talk.  While in the water I was able to muster an answer to the officer with the life ring and told him I was alone, nobody else on the boat, but now I could not say much of anything.

At some point I looked out and noticed that the boat was south of the dock and further away from shore, and that now it was almost under water.  Just the starboard side was visible.  As the rescue people started trying to get the heavy wet gear off of me I noticed that I was shaking violently and uncontrollably.  I had the strongest desire to walk the length of the dock to the ambulance to move my muscles to warm up, but they put me into a gurney and under blankets.  The hot packs that they placed in my hands, under my arms and on my crotch and chest felt unbelievably hot.

The boat sank that night as the SeaTow boat tried to recover it.  It was looked for the next day but didn't turn up for two days, about 12 miles down river, south of the Tappan Zee Bridge, off of Ardsley.  The mast was broken, the bow pulpit ripped from the deck but when they found it it was floating by the stern.  The only thing that I can say is missing from the cabin is a ski glove that I wear on cold days and a sponge.  Even the hatch board was in place, I had slid it in place hoping it would slow the water coming in.

I spent the ambulance ride to the hospital focused on breathing and shivering.  It was like long distance running but without a choice.    At the hospital my temperature was so low that the oral thermometer wouldn't register.  Two female nurses that looked fresh out of high school, were charged with getting my temperature reading from my back side. One told me to relax, which was funny considering that I had no control over my muscles at the time.  They got their reading and never returned.  I was at 93'f, but that was after being out of the water for a while and being heated up by the paramedics on the way over.  I was in the ER for about 4 hours.  Everything else was OK.  We just made it to the pizza shop before it closed and my wife got me a pie.  The pizza felt almost as good warming up my lap as it did going down my throat on the ride home.

After I rested most of the next day we went to the marina to get my truck.  It was a beautiful day out, but I was worried how I'd feel about seeing the river again.  I was worried about a sort of PTSD reaction.  Across the river close to the eastern shore, I could see a small white triangle.  Somebody was out having a nice sail.  I felt calm and wanted to sit by the water and watch the little boat.  It was a beautiful evening, warm air, a light wind, the calm after the storm. I thought about how different things would have been had I stayed home yesterday and then gone out today instead.

I'd be lying if I said that I don't think that this has changed my attitude.  I'd be stupid of it didn't at least make me think about what happened and what I might have done differently.  But this is not the first time in my life that thru adventuring I have had to consider possibly not finishing the day alive.  I'd love to think it is my las time of having to consider this, but none of us can know what is in our future.

I will get the boat home and see what to do next.  As soon as that is done and my few slight wounds heal, when the boat was recovered the winch for the centerboard let go and tried to slice off my finger, I will try and get out in the skiff.  Maybe that will be enough, but I suspect that if I choose not to continue on with this boat, I will find something a little bit easier to launch from a trailer and that I won't be so easily tempted to be out in during strong weather.  Maybe I'll just get WANEESHEE back in the water.  She would have handled all this much better and I probably would have been content to just drop the hook and ride out a rough night.  But I am sure that I will be happily back out on the water soon.

I must say thanks to all those people who helped me.  I am not proud or happy about having to put these people who risk their lives on our behalf, further into harms way, especially just while trying to have a little fun.  They were all very helpful and comforting.  Even if I had gotten to shore I don't know how great the affects of hypothermia would have incapacitated me, greatly I suspect and I may not have been able to get to help.  So those people did save me and I am grateful.  I hope to never cause them to flip on their flashing lights and sound their sirens,  to dodge thru traffic in order to come to my aid.  Thank you, and again, Thank you.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

sailing atittude

So in light of recent events I have come up with a new standard by which to judge conditions and wether or not I even go out on a given day.  It is very simple actually.
If I imagine that on every sail I have a cargo, or, rather, passengers aboard, who are those that I love most in the world and would want to keep from harm and then make decisions and judgements like wether to go out or not, when to reef, when to cut losses and seek some kind of safety........Those imagined passengers would not be available as crew, just as precious cargo.
As I age and am ever more less in need of the thrills that once entertained me in my youth, I think that it is wise to try to moderate my levels of adventure to some degree.  I know that even moderated, my ideas of "fun" and my comfort zones will not match everybody's, but they never have, nor do I feel that they need to.
In truth the welfare of those I care about is always onboard, in that if I come to harm, they too would surely suffer in some way.

A bit of fiction to relieve the tension

Just watched the movie "All is Lost" because it had a sailboat in it, and one of my favorite actors , Robert Redford.  If you include the ocean, and a shipping container, then these are all of the 4 characters in the movie, only one that is human.  Unfortunately this is not a sailor's movie, unless you wanted to do a "Mystery Science Theater 3000" event, or a beer drinking game.  Further to my disappointment is that this isn't even a good drama.
I do not place any of the blame on Mr. Redford, other than not stepping in as a Director to resolve what J. Chandor failed miserably at, if for no other reason than to protect his reputation and history of high quality entertainment.
 In listening to the special features of the DVD that I watched I get the sense that the production was all to focused on the technical aspects of the movie and failed in the most primary of concerns, which is to have a story worth telling.  What is almost offensive is that while the production staff pat's themselves on the back for the achievements of scale such as using 3 different but identical real boats, and clean matching of real life footage to CGI footage, filming style choices like not having dialog, it makes such basic errors such as waves coming over the boat that look like stage hands, just off camera, with buckets are throwing them from every direction instead of the more regular patterns and directions that actually occur.  The producers claims to realism are dahsed to piece when we see how effortlessly our 70 year old sailor pulls himself easily up and down a 50 foot mast, and hoe the mast has almost no sway at the top, or how he pulls himself out of the water after being washed overboard, at the bow, and shows no real great affect of utter exhaustion from his effort to save himself.  The list could go on and I think that that is better left as a drinking game for real sailors who might have to take a shot every time something happens on screen that makes no sense to anyone who has offshore experience.  But be warned, you'd be drowned in drink long before anybody on screen is.
Development of a flawed character might have revealed why some of these inconsistencies might exist, but I get the sense that there was no back story to who the main character was or where he was coming from.  This is basic writing stuff and Redford deserves more.  It was good to see him on screen again, good to see the sea, and a boat, but the film is overall not one of the many sea films I would ever want to view again.
The real tragedy for me is that at an age where any movie project might be his last Mr. Redford's career record is being dragged down by the Director's lack of effort to vet his script thru an experienced maritime consultant and to have failed to have given us a real and complete character, story, film. 

Monday, April 7, 2014

#15 longest sail of the season but not in a good way!

Sail #15 should have brought the per sail cost of sailing almost down to $30/sail, instead it has raised the price to a figure I am unsure of yet, as I am waiting for the bills to come in.  I may detail it in a later post but let's just say that I am here to wrote about it, and I am satisfied with that.
The boat is thru sailing for the season, maybe for good, but that is yet to be decided.  Now I just have to get it out of the marina, on the trailer and back home, the rest can be decided later.
It is good to be here to write these words and I have added another experience to my history that will remain in my mind for some time, and that has taught me a thing or two or ten!
As most will be starting their sailing season in the next few weeks and months I am now ending mine for a minute, at least in the Venture.  I hope to be back out on the water in the skiff on the next fair day that I have at my leisure.  Best wishes to all who row or sail for their fun and entertainment and sanity.  Be careful out there.  Reef as soon as you think about it, seek a safe harbor at the earliest point when the conditions begin to build.  Those are words to live by, literally.

Thursday, April 3, 2014


It was just to nice out not to sail a little bit.  The wind was very light.  The water surface only riffled in patches and the current was still coming in.  I figured even if I just sat there for a while at least I will have come out and done all the business of leaving the slip and motoring out of the marina and raising sail, as well as the return and reverse of it all.  After all, it is the working of a sailboat that is enjoyable to me, and even though I love being on a long tack and just feeling the wind on my face, it is actually all the pulling of lines, setting of sail that is interesting and part of the game of figuring out how to trick the wind into taking me where I want to go.
As it turned out I was able to sail, and even make distance to windward and against the tide.  I forget that this boat is much more slippery because of the underbody.  It has so much less wetted surface area than I am used to having on my boats.
With all the sail up that we could muster, the genny and the full main, we coaxed a gurgle out of the wake that the boat cut.  Kind of hard for me to believe really.  On the leg, upwind and across the current we kept the sails just filled but the illusion was as if there was no wind at all.  Still, we made our distance.
I sheeted in the genny just about as far as I could and then before I sheeted in the main I took a line and used it as a cunningham to tighten up the luff and pull out some of the belly of the very blown out sail.  This seemed to work very well and actually gave a pretty good shape.  The telltales on the jib were streaming out horizontally, like they were painted on and the sound of the wake picked up a note.  Pretty good for a 44 year old boat with a used, old, and mis sized mainsail.
Even though it was only an hour or so of sailing it was quite pleasant to not have to wear foulies and gloves and I even took to the shadow of the sail a few times to avoid the sunshine.  That was unfamiliar and made me smile.
We are down to $35 a sail now and the quality of each sail seems to be on the increase!
The marina is starting to get active.  The power boaters have begun to return.  Why do they always seem to have such mundane, jejune, names on their boats?  Anyway, soon my time in the slip will be up and it will be just as well as I will start to be unhappy when going to the marina at the thought of the people who will be showing up in increasing number.
I suppose I should go over the trailer soon and make sure it made it thru the winter alright.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014


Got out early today to take advantage of the wind that was blowing.  On days like these it seems normal for the breeze to die away as the sun warms up everything around, and that is just what it did today.  I did get to go thru a range of sail combinations.  I started out with the working jib only and ended up with full mains'l and the genny.
With today's sail I have got my costs down under $40/sail.  With 14 days left till the end of my winter contract I think I can get that down a bit more.
Though it is warm out, the high 50's f and sunny, the river banks still have that depressed winter look to them with the trees all brown and grey and no visible grass yet.  Even so, the birds are plentiful and talkative and the sun is bright in a brilliantly blue sky, so it all feels hopeful and good.