Part One - Part Two - Part Three - Part Four
(aka Let Loose the Rookies!)
1. an athlete playing his or her first season as a member of a professional sports team: The rookie replaced the injured regular at first base.
2. a raw recruit, as in the army or on a police force.
3. a novice; tyro.
The 3rd definition fits me well. Having never sailed anything larger than an old 1960s Sears 15’ish sailboat on a hometown Michigan lake over three decades ago, my sailing experience was limited to r/c sailboats over the past three years. Although the small sailboats gave a passing proficiency in sailing mechanics and tactics, applying those skills to a full size boat is another matter entirely. Hence the obvious Rookie designation.
So how is it that someone with little full-size sailing experience decided to tackle a multi-day long distance sailing event? If you can bear with me, let me tell a story …
Mid-summer in 2013, three model warship combat hobbyists decided to build some low cost Puddle Duck Racers (PDR). While construction proceeded on two PDRs (the third guy who is writing this account procrastinating on building his), the three men traded emails chatting up the builds and places to sail at. The emails ranged in topics to include possibly doing an overnighter like the participants in the Everglades Challenge (EC). Incredibly enough, there was one person who actually sailed a PDR in the EC. He served as inspiration for the three friends to try to do the same thing. Wisely, the three men knew that the EC was too much of a challenge for relatively inexperienced sailors and turned to other possible events such as the Texas 200 and the Florida 120. Emails flowed; plans were made and remade through the fall and into the winter.
As things are wont to happen, real life intruded into the plans. Although two PDRs were built, the owners found themselves short on time and already committed to other events. Yet that third guy in the group, the one that did not build a PDR, suddenly found himself with a bounty of vacation time after a company clerical error was corrected and he was credited with 150 hours of vacation. Ah yes! Suddenly I had time to do more than one event this coming summer.
The dream of doing the Texas 200 was still smoldering in January 2014 and flamed up with the fuel of copious amounts of available vacation time. After finding and reading Matt Schiemer’s magnificent 2013 account on the website, I knew that I had to sail the 2014 Texas 200 one way or the other!
So that is how a Rookie decided to go sailing in what turned out to be an incredible journey of a lifetime.
At this point in the story, let’s switch to a running blog-like account of how it all went starting from the decision to participate to the final reflections after the event. Most of this was written as it happened.
Decision made to participate, I now need a sailboat. The original idea of sailing a PDR in the Texas 200 still sounds like a hoot. Web accounts of other Texas 200 PDRs sounded like fun (if not a challenge!). With the announcement of the 2014 PDR national championship event to be held directly after the Texas 200 at Magnolia Beach area, I was keen on giving a PDR a go and doing both events in one fell swoop.
Yet the PDR idea grounds against reality. The other two PDR guys cannot commit to the trip. Checking web accounts shows a lack of PDRs in recent Texas 200s. That leaves the possibility of sailing the smallest slowest sailboat singlehanded on a long multi-day trip with limited actual sailing experience and without sailing companions close by. I reluctantly concede that a larger sailboat may be needed.
This starts several weeks of online searches for a used sailboat. With an eye on possibly doing the EC in 2015 or 2016, I look for a sailboat between 15’ – 19’ that is lightweight enough to be manually launched from shore, has a shallow draft, a small cabin for keeping out of the weather and/or sleeping at night, and costs less than $2,500. Given that I have a couple months to find a boat the search criterion seems reasonable enough. Little did I know that finding a boat to fit wasn’t so easy.
After a couple weeks I narrow the search down to a handful of boats. There is a Sirocco 15’ up in Kentucky for less than $2K. The boat is capable as proven by a sailor completing the 2013 EC in one. Also on the short list is an old 1964 Mariner 19’ in Texas for $2K even. Finally, there is a Laguna Windrose 19’ way up in Illinois for little over $2K. The Sirocco leads the pack in cost, shortest distance from my home in Mississippi, and fits all of the criteria. The Mariner is also a proven boat as written in Matt’s 2013 Texas 200 account. But the boat is (barely) older than I am and will need some work. The Windrose is a great looking sailboat and fits all the criteria except for weight. It is also a fair drive away if I wanted to personally inspect the boat. What if it turns out to have serious issues that lead to a long trip for nothing?
I hesitate for a week, undecided and knowing that it is possible that another boat may turn up for sale on the web that might be better than my current options. After all, there are a couple months before I absolutely must commit to the trip.
January 25th, 2014
While talking to my dad, I mention the plans to sail in the Texas 200. He immediately gets excited about it which prompts me to ask if he wants to go. He doesn’t hesitate to answer yes. As I explain the trip, he notes that his wife’s relatives live in southern Texas and this would be a good opportunity to visit before we sail. After chatting for a while longer, we hang up. Both of us are excited now!
This changes things. The 15’ Sirocco is probably going to be too small for both of us. Additionally, the cost for the trip is going to be more now. Dad is retired, in his 70s, and lives in Florida on a social security income. I will have to foot the bill; something I will gladly do to have the chance to spend a week on an adventure with him. We are going to need a larger boat and one that does not need a lot of work (costs) to refurbish.
Within 15 minutes after hanging up with Dad, I am on the phone with the owner of the Laguna Windrose. The Windrose is a nice pocket cruiser with a largish cabin, porta-potty, and room to move with a wide beamy hull. Its weight means it cannot be manually launched from shore as an EC boat. As a Texas 200 cruiser for two grown men it seems to fit the bill perfectly. Unfortunately, the owner informs me that the boat was sold four days earlier.
I hang up and start a new round of web searches.
January 27th, 2014
I find another possible boat listed online at the Sailing Texas website. It is a 1985 Holder 20’ for $2.7K located in Sarasota, FL. Looking up the specs it has a retractable keel, is moderately light weight, and a good sailing reputation. The cost is higher than expected but the boat looks clean. I decide to call the owner tomorrow.
January 28th, 2014
The Holder 20 owner and I talk for about 20 minutes. The boat has some good and not so good things. Good is the condition of the boat. He says it is well maintained, has no soft spots, and new rigging and sails in 2013. He also added stainless metal braces under the chainplates to distribute the shroud loads from the deck to the lower hull bulkhead. The bad is the trailer. The axle, springs, hubs, and practically anything below the frame is extremely rusted to the point that he does not think the trailer will survive a long haul.
Later that day he sends more pictures of the boat. The boat looks sound indeed. The trailer not so much.
I call Dad to get his opinion on available options for possibly repairing the trailer on the spot if I decide to buy the boat. He has decades of experience with power boats and is a well-rounded car restoration guy. He has the knowledge, tools, and skills available that could be used to make the trailer serviceable enough for a long trip back to Mississippi. We decide that it is possible and I make plans to drive to Florida on the 29th. If the boat looks good enough to warrant the cost and the trailer seems repairable, I’ll buy the boat and we will try to fix the trailer at Dad’s house over the weekend.
January 31st, 2014
The drive down yesterday was almost an adventure by itself. The entire South region of the USA was hit with a ice/snow storm front that spread a layer of snow and ice across the states that had little to none snow-removal capability. I bet on the sun and temperatures in the low 40s to melt the snow and ice enough to let me make the trip. As it was, the snow slush and ice slowed traffic and closed I-10 for much of the day turning a 10 hour trip into 12 hours. The ice coated trees around Dothan, AL sparkled in the sun in contrast to the evergreens. A pretty picture all in all.
Today (Friday) Dad and I make the 3h 15m drive to Sarasota to inspect the boat. The morning weatherman indicated spotty rain with the sun breaking out sometime in the afternoon. Of course it is raining when we reached our destination and met up with the boat’s owner, Ron. After brief greetings, we get right to the boat. As promised, the Holder 20 is in great shape. Ron explains the chainplate brace mod and points out two repaired spots on the hull. The sails are new. Much to my surprise, there is a new fiber-reinforced mylar genoa similar to the mylar sails used on r/c sailboats. The boat cabin looks large enough to handle two grown men. The boat is decidedly worth the $2.7K.
We move to the trailer that the boat is sitting on. As promised, the suspension and axle is in very rough shape. I was hoping it would make it to my Dad’s house 180 miles away where we have access to tools and equipment to make solid repairs. After looking at the extremely corroded springs, axle, and hubs, we decide it is too much of a risk to make the attempt in the rain and without making repairs to one squeaky hub (almost certainly bad bearings). Ron makes an offer to totally replace the bad parts and bring the trailer up to 2000 lb capacity for an additional $550.
We break for lunch to mull options. I decide to buy the boat. After losing the Windrose to procrastination, I want to nail down this one before it gets away. As for the trailer, we decide to take the offer to repair the trailer even if it means that I will not be pulling the boat home after the weekend.
I finalize the deal and transfer the monies via Paypal. Later in the evening Ron sends an email saying that the parts are on order and the boat will be ready for pickup in two weeks.
With no work to do, I have the weekend to spend with Dad.
February 3rd, 2014
The trip home to Mississippi was much easier than the trip out. Though not having the boat behind the truck is a disappointment.
In the evening, I go to the Texas 200 web site and register myself and Dad for the event to include the Shrimp Boil. While clicking the submit button in Paypal, I realize that we are now fully committed to sailing the Texas 200 in June 2014. With a boat secured and the dues paid, the first phase of the adventure is done.
Now we have to prepare.
February 18th, 2014
The seller sends an email with pictures to show that the trailer rebuild is complete. It looks like he did an amazing job with it by replacing everything below the frame, rewiring the trailer, and installing new taillights. He even added in new tires and galvanized wheels.
He also secured the boat for the trip. All I need to do now is drive back down, hitch it to the truck, and haul it back to Mississippi. The first weekend in March is selected for the trip.
Meanwhile, over the past couple weeks I have been looking for a kickup rudder. The Holder 20 comes with a one-piece rudder blade that sticks down nearly as far as the retractable keel. This is not going to work in some of the shallow areas we are planning on sailing into. There seems to be one manufacturer that offers a kickup rudder directly for the Holder 20. It is a well-engineered rudder incorporating a stainless gas strut to control the rudder kick. Raising the blade is simply a matter of giving a cable a firm pull and the gas strut does the rest. Unfortunately it is $600. Somewhat pricy but might be a must buy unless I have time to fabricate one.
Also on the immediate buy list is an outboard motor. The best price found so far is a Chinese made 2 and 3.5 hp motor on eBay. Everything else is running higher, even used motors from 30 – 40 years ago. Although we have seen some sketchy stuff come from China, they have been making small motors for decades. So is it worth taking a chance on a boat that might be sailing unprotected waters? Hmm. Maybe I’ll keep looking.
February 24th, 2014
Still looking for a lightweight low cost outboard motor. So far, the Chinese made motors are running around $280 for a 2HP and $318 for a 3.6HP. Used brand-name motors are 2 – 4 times higher. We still have time to get one so not in a hurry yet. eBay gets a search every few nights.
While on eBay, I start looking at GPS units and VHF radios to fill those gaps in our electronic equipment. The VHF radio is the easiest to find. The GPS is a little tougher mainly because I do not know exactly what I want (or need). The inexpensive units work much like the mil-spec GPS units we had in Iraq with a non-colored screen and a directional compass arrow showing the way to the next waypoint. Yet I long for a color map type GPS made for marine use. They are more expensive of course.
Another option is to buy a marine GPS Navigator app for the cell phone. The initial cost seems much lower than a dedicated GPS unit. The downside is shorter battery life that will require some sort of charging system and the possibility of destroying the phone in salt water. So at the moment a dedicated marine GPS unit seems to be the way to go.
Sent a text to Dad seeing if he will be around this coming weekend when I drive down to Florida to pick up the boat. He texts back a yes.
February 26, 2014
Finally finished and e-filed my 2013 tax return. I’ve been putting it off half-finished for over a month now in an untypical manner. Usually it is done by the end of January. The reason for procrastinating? An initial calculation was saying that for the first time in my life that I would OWE money instead of getting a refund. Luckily the daughter got her 1098 form from the university which when applied to 2013 taxes changed the negative balance to a positive. Great!
So why is this significant? It gives more available funds to buy stuff for the boat! Perhaps a better outboard motor or more significantly a kick up rudder. There seems to be only one kick up rudder made for the Holder 20. At $600 it is expensive. Luckily, the refund will cover it.
As a side note; I decided to sail in this year’s Florida 120 as a “tune up” for the T200. It is a good opportunity to get some experience on the boat in somewhat similar conditions and event.
As a second side note; Looks like the Ducks are returning to the T200 this year. Remember back at the start of this I said it would have been nice to do the T200 in a PDR (along with the reasons why not to)? Most of those reasons are now defunct with other Duckers in the event. If not for sailing with my Dad now, I would be changing plans and finally building a PDR in the garage to sail with the other Ducks. Ah well. Still, being with Dad has a lot of perks too.
March 4th, 2014
Welp, the Holder 20 is sitting in the driveway safe and sound. The long trip to Florida and back was mostly uneventful. The only issue was worry over the trailer springs which seemed to be either too long or not enough load capacity. The springs rode flat and grounded against the spring brackets and did nothing to absorb the road bumps on the trip. Only the tires gave limited bump absorption.
Yesterday, I contacted the previous owner who had rebuilt/replaced the parts on the trailer. We came to an agreement that the trailer springs, rated at 1500 pounds each, did not carry the load and went flat. Given the boat weighs in at 1200 pounds and the trailer at a guestimated 800 pounds, the total weight should have been well within the 3000 pound total spring capacity. So either the boat gained a “boatload” of weight or the company that provided the springs did not send the correct ones.
I’ll be researching heavier capacity replacement springs for immediate installation.
We finally got to really crawl in and around the Holder 20. The day we initially looked at it was miserable and rainy so we gave the boat a quick look over. Now that it is in our possession, we took the opportunity to really go through it.
The previous owner included most everything needed to go sailing to include the required safety equipment sans wearable PFDs. If we went out and bought PFDs, we could take the boat out for a sail right now. Poking around inside promises more than enough room for storage and sleeping. The boat does not have storage compartments but does have a lot of open space inside the hull to stash supplies. We’ll need some sort of tie down system to control items from sliding around and possibly making their way to the far stern area of the hull where it would be next to impossible to retrieve. There are two long berths on each side where a person can sleep with the lower half of the body under the cockpit seats. The area under the cockpit is quite big enough to prevent someone from feeling confined. In front of the keel box is another area where a small adult or a couple children could possibly sleep.
Some items that need work include the teak boards that the hatch slides into. They are still solid but worn and could use replacement.
The week before taking the trip to recover the boat to Mississippi, I finally settled on a GPS; the cell phone software. At a fraction of the cost of a new or used GPS mapper unit, the software seems a viable alternative. The learning curve was steep in figuring it out. After a few days playing with it I finally got a viable route plotted for the Florida 120 complete with waypoints and route tracking. Flushed with success I went ahead and inputted the gps coords for the various Texas 200 camps and put together a series of waypoints to follow. It should work well. We’ll find out in the Florida 120 and use the lessons learned for the Texas 200.
So on the immediate agenda is: getting new trailer springs, finding wood and replacing the hatch guide boards, and continue researching an outboard motor and kick-up rudder. Oh, and getting the boat registered in Mississippi.
March 6th, 2014
Springs ordered. Ironically enough, they are ordered from the same company that sent the last set of springs to the boat’s seller. They did not have the 2K pound capacity springs I ordered in stock, so the owner called me and suggested a 2.5K pound capacity pair for the same cost. Why not? That would give the trailer a possible 5000 pound capacity suspension.
Also ordered is new wood for the hatch guide boards. Instead of teak, I decided to add a bit of color to the boat by using purpleheart wood. Purpleheart shares most of the same properties as teak and comes in various shades of purple ranging from purplish-brown to violet. As the only wood on the boat, it should stand out.
March 12th, 2014
In an odd twist to replacing the springs …
Last night FedEx sent an email stating they could not deliver the springs. The springs were due to be delivered on the 11th. This morning at work some co-workers was talking about a FedEx truck that had an accident less than 6 miles from my house. Yup, apparently the replacement springs was on that truck.
March 18th, 2014
Much has happened in the last week.
We installed the new springs this past weekend and discovered a side issue that flattened the stock springs. Sometime during the short trip from Sarasota to Dad’s house, the boat had hit a bump hard enough to compress the leaf springs flat and cause the shackle to “over-center” on the mounting bracket, thus locking the spring flat. The trailer should have had rubber bump stops to prevent the shackle from locking over center. There is no evidence that the trailer ever had the bump stops to begin with. Even so, the stronger springs should prevent it from happening again.
Deciding that the boat needed a good cleaning and buffing to remove the light oxidation on the hull and deck, we picked up some two-in-one compound from the local boat shop. After giving the boat a good washing, we started hand buffing the hull only to find out it was a lot more work than originally intended. So for the moment the buffing is on hold until I purchase a buffer and for warmer weather.
While at the boat shop, I also picked up a VHF handheld radio they had on sale. Although it does not take dry cell batteries, it does have a rechargeable pack that can be solar cell recharged.
Speaking of solar charging, some time was spent researching a solar cell charger. Out of the many many chargers on the market I finally settled on a 14watt folding soft-case system that got very good reviews and seemed to be able to charge most anything even under partly sunny skies. We’ll find out how it does when the charger arrives.
For an additional power supply, the plan is to adapt an on-hand four cell Lithium Iron Phosphate 20 amp hour battery pack for backup power. The battery is from an earlier hobby project and only weighs 16 pounds total. As a sealed type of cell there is no worry about submersion.
Finally, the kick-up rudder was ordered last night. Not without some effort though. While checking out the ordering page on the company’s web site, I noticed that the price of the rudder jumped up to $869 from $600 … that is a 31% price increase!
After getting over the sticker shock, I sent off an email to the company to inquire about the price increase. The company’s reply was amazingly cooperative and patiently explained what drove the price increase. Come to find out, they now make two sizes of rudders for the Holder 20 and had the larger performance oriented one listed on the website. We traded pleasant emails to determine which rudder would be best for the type of sailing I intend to do (non-racing, no spinnaker, daysailing) and decided on the original B model rudder. The correct rudder was placed on order for the original $600 price.
Kudos to RudderCraft for the excellent customer service and willingness to work out the best solution for the customer. I expect the rudder will be just as professional as the company.
April 7th, 2014
With buffer in hand, we completed buffing the boat using plenty of buffing compound. Frankly, it didn’t seem much of an improvement … until we went over the hull with a boat wax. That helped make it look a bit better and shinier at least.
The new hatch board guide pieces are shaped and getting finished with urethane spar varnish. Boy that Purpleheart wood looks amazing. The Chinese 3.5hp outboard motor arrived safe and sound. It is even assembled! A quick check of the bolts and screws found everything tight. It is good to check things like that for quality control in China can be sketchy at best.
The instructions were the typical “interesting” English translation type. Well detailed but reading it took a few passes to ensure the correct meaning.
The RudderCraft kick up rudder arrived. Oh man it looks good! It is very well crafted with a gorgeous unfinished 48” ash and mahogany wood tiller. I finished it with a half dozen coats of urethane spar varnish. The rudder assembly itself is heavy. No surprise there with a stainless steel rudder head and gas strut.
After finishing the tiller I installed a cam style tiller lock. It looks good in polished chrome and brass.
Finally, the boat registration numbers and sticker are applied. For some reason, I feel like the boat is finally “ours” after seeing the numbers on the boat.
April 14th, 2014
Taking advantage of a nice mild sunny day, we sailed the new boat for the first time since purchasing it. 10 MPH average winds, a sunny day with mid 70s temperatures made for some nice relaxed sailing and working bugs out of the boat.
It was difficult getting the boat on the water. It took nearly three hours to rig the boat due to being unfamiliar with the rigging with little more than the manual as guidance. As it was, we raise and lower the mast four times before we finally get the rigging straightened out. Even so, I’m close to giving up and going back home especially after the main halyard got pulled halfway up inside the mast with no means at the park ramp to pull it back through the mast. With encouragement from my daughter I find a way to run the halyard on the outside of the mast by using a spare pulley block attached to the top of the masthead. Guess that was the first lesson for the Texas 200: emergency repairs as needed.
After a pleasant few hours on the lake sailing and teaching my daughter how to operate a sailboat, putting the boat back on the trailer and taking down the rig goes smoothly. The conversation on the short trip home is filled with how cool it is to sail.
The sailing session highlighted many things, both good and bad. The low-cost Chinese made 3.5hp long shaft outboard motor worked very well once it was started. Starting was relatively easy once the motor was braced to use the pull starter. All in all I’m pleased with its performance in view of the low price.
The downside to the outboard motor is not the motor itself but the angled boat transom (about 30’ish degrees) that tilts the motor back and kicked up a half decent roster tail from the prop. I’ll have to find or devise a new mounting method that lets the motor clamp on vertically.
Another major issue is the main halyard. Somehow, I have to fish that line back through inside the mast. That will involve taking the masthead off at least. At least it is pop riveted which are easily replaced. Additionally, the mast foot pulled off from the mast itself. It was pop riveted on but apparently all but one of the rivets was missing or failed. While trying to rig the boat and lowering the mast for the third time, the foot popped off. Again, an easy fix. At least I don’t have to spend time taking it off to run the main halyard.
The RudderCraft kick-up rudder is amazing. It uses a stainless gas strut to control the kickup and hold the rudder blade down and up. Lifting the blade is an easy tug on a single line on the rudder head. The blade itself swings fully up 180 degrees to keep the blade tucked neatly out of harm’s way.
We skipped using the stock rudder for the RudderCraft rudder so really cannot compare the two. Yet based on reports of Holder 20s with consistently somewhat poor weather helm, our boat sailed perfectly with minimal weather helm. And that is with a poorly tuned sail rig too. The tiller is fingertip light in load. When coupled with the tiller lock, just the friction of the line going through the lock was enough to hold course.
Yeah, the RudderCraft kick-up rudder might cost a bit but it is worth every penny. I may keep it if we ever sell the Holder 20 in the future.
We took nothing to drink with us. Even before finally launching I was thirsty and dry mouthed. That reinforced the admonishments of T200 vets to bring lots of water. So even if we are sailing locally we will always bring water. For the FL200 and T200 one gallon a day per person.
It is just over one month until the Florida 120 with a lot left to get ready. I am pretty sure that there will be plenty to do on the boat after the FL120 to get ready for the Texas 200.
April 21st, 2014
Worked on the identified boat issues this past weekend.
Fishing the main halyard through the mast turned out to be much easier than expected. After scrounging around in the garage, I found some string and a heavy fishing weight to tie on the end of it. The weight is dropped into the end of the mast and one end of the mast lifted by standing on the boat. It took some shaking to get that weight past the internal obstructions. At the bottom of the mast my daughter tied the end of the rope to the string and we pulled it back up the mast. After fishing the halyard through the mast head pulley, the masthead and foot got pop riveted back into place.
Remember the previous trailer spring issue? Apparently getting heavier springs did not solve the over center problem when the springs are compressed going over a bump. They were locked up again. It took jacking up each side off the ground before the springs would pop back down in their normal position. Even so, the spring shackles are angled around 45 degrees from the normally suggested vertical.
Initially, the idea was to add rubber bump stops to the frame to limit total spring compression. But one of the mechanics at work suggested lengthening the spring shackles instead to give more spring travel when compressed. New longer shackles are on order.
We also replaced the trailer winch strap. The original is fraying and the hook rusted and bent. A new strap complete with stronger hook was installed.
By the way, the strap is essentially the same material and construction as a car seat belt. They are made to take heavy shock loads without breaking as long as the belt itself is not frayed. So if your car seatbelts are starting to fray along the edges look to replacing it soon. Consider the safety aspect of a failed seatbelt (or winch strap).
April 29th, 2014
We sailed again last Thursday in 10 – 13 mph winds. Putting up the rig went far faster now that we know what to do. A new motor mount corrected the backward tilt to the outboard and let it easily motor us out away from shore. About 5 minutes later we were under sail.
The Holder 20 really sails well. The sail rig is much closer to tuned and the boat makes good speed even in light to moderate wind. We lost our hats three times overboard which prompted sailing hijinks for recovery. There was also one scary moment when we got hit by a heavy gust which heeled the boat enough so that 6” of the gunwale was under water before I could release the main sheet.
We also managed to run aground by sailing too close to a shallow shoreline. The boat simply slowed sharply to a stop. After winching up the keel briefly to free us, we continued sailing without further incidents.
I cannot say enough about the Ruddercraft kickup rudder. There is virtually no effort to keeping the boat straight. The boat turns effortlessly with a light touch. I have no doubt the rudder purchase was well worth the cost.
As like the first sailing session, a few things were noted for fixing. For some reason the halyards are routed out on the wrong side of the mast foot where no cam cleats are available on the cabin. The mast foot will have to come off (again) and the lines routed through to the correct sides.
The mainsail reef points are there but do not have the ties to tie up the reefed foot. Some will be added.
The two lines I made for mainsail and headsail downhauls ended up too short for either application. Time to buy more (longer) rope and try again.
Preparation for the Texas 200 moves apace.
One big issue was sleeping arraignments. The boat did not come with cushions for sleeping on board and the fiberglass is notably hard. So we paid the Walmart camping section a visit to see what could be done.
For sleeping on the narrow cockpit benches or inside berths, we found some cot-sized inflatable beds to fit the bill.
Figuring we may sleep on shore, a compact 7’ x 7’ square tent that should work perfectly to keep the weather and bugs off us while sleeping.
Although the weather is expected to be warm in the evenings, there is a chance of cooler weather. Walmart came through again with a cool weather sleeping bag that only weighs around 2 – 3 pounds each and rolls into a very compact 7”ish x 16” roll. We’ll supplement with space blankets if needed and/or sleep in the boat.
We also started looking at food cooking options. That amazing Walmart store had a sweet little cook set composed of a small lidded pot, a cutting board, two bowls w/ lids, and various utensils. For our purposes it seems ideal.
We also looked at a couple compact cooking burners. One that stood out is basically a gas burner that screws on top of a propane bottle that slips into a wide base. Very compact and light.
Since it was my birthday, I splurged on two sets of lightweight ripstop nylon pants and shirts. Made for fishing, the clothing should be well suited (pun!) for sailing as well. The pants had a neat feature; the pant legs could be unzipped to make shorts. The shirts are airy light and thin yet still have SPF 30 protection. Best part was each set cost less than a pair of jeans and a polo shirt.
The lightweight clothing will be for sailing. I’ll change into camp clothing when we reach camp.
Lastly, Dad and I started ironing out travel plans and dates. Since he is driving from Florida and I from Mississippi, our paths will cross around New Orleans. Instead of parking and riding with me, he wants to continue to Magnolia Beach, leave his truck there for the return trip, and ride with me for the remainder down to Port Mansfield.
I also made our hotel reservations today at the Sunset House in Port Mansfield. With the potential heat that time of year, I feel more comfortable with giving Dad a cool place to go while I am making the round trip up to Magnolia Beach on Sunday. Oh, and a good restful sleep will be nice also before our Texas 200 odyssey.
June 2, 2014
I haven’t been keeping up with this very well lately so there is a lot of cover.
There is only 5 days until we leave for the Tx200. Travel plans are nearly finalized, meeting places set, and boat/equipment nearly done. It has been an interesting month to say the least.
The most eventful time this month was participating in the Florida 120 in mid-May. Acknowledged as the toughest FL120 to date, it was both scary and eye opening sailing trip. I learned a huge amount about sailing the Holder in high winds, faced steep challenges, and even managed to injure myself (albeit just a cut finger). Boat, equipment, and I were tested in rough conditions on the first day. Happily, we survived. It was one of the most physically demanding things I have done in the last 10 years. Guess the wife is right; I need to get back into shape.
Suffice to say that the FL120 trip is another story best told at another time. This account is for the Texas 200.
Lessons learned from the FL120 include:
- Drink more water. Sailing was so rough the first day that I drank (or ate) next to nothing while on the water and paid for it with dehydration sickness that evening.
- Never ever beach on the lee shore
- The rigging is just about perfect and only needs two lines rerouted to prevent crossing over each other
- Try running jib only in winds higher than 20 mph. The reefed mainsail (without headsail) was overpowered during the 25 – 30 mph gusts on the first day.
- That cheap Chinese outboard motor did not miss a beat the entire weekend.
- Sailing is fun!
The steady moderate winds on the third day really let the boat get up and move out without requiring constant minding. Far far more relaxing and the type of sailing I was looking for.
After a week to recover, I start working on the boat again to fix the small issues. Taking cues from the three other Holders in the FL120, the boom vang was moved to the correct anchor spot at the base of the mast. Funny how I didn’t see it before. The fiberglass stick inside the boat that I took for a spare batten turned out to be a masthead extension to keep the backstay clear of the mainsail leech. It was installed. One of the winches had started binding badly. It was rebuilt. While at it, I rebuilt the other winch too.
One major item from the FL120 is the need to make reefing easier. I knew about how it was done, but failed when it came time to put it in practice. That is when I cut my finger trying to free a fouled line while tied up next to the windward side of a dock in high winds with the sail raised, keel retracted, boat heeling, and trying to reef. Ahem. It was tough.
Anyway, the ties for the reef are in place now as well as the method to secure the front reef point to the mast. I practiced reefing a couple times to make sure there are no surprises this time around.
The GPS Nav app on the phone did not do well at all. It was small and difficult to read not to mention impossible to use during the first FL20 day when all attention was needed to keep the boat upright. After searching apps, I find another nav app with a bigger easier to read display. It has a large compass and waypoint direction arrow that is easy to see. Like the first app, the learning curve is steep. Yet it has more features and more intuitive. A nice feature is the import/export routes to Skydrive where I can download to the desktop and import into Google Earth to check the waypoints, route, tracks, etc. Which I did. Which turned out to be a good thing because most of my waypoints bought over from the 1st nav app turned out to be significantly off. I know this because all of the waypoints that came from the T200 people were spot on. A few hours is all it took to reset the bad waypoints, run a new route, and export back to Skydrive to import back into the phone.
The downside to the new nav app is it does not use sea maps with water depths. We’ll rely on the paper maps and the old nav app as references.
Pehr made an offer on the T200 facebook page that we could not refuse. He and a couple others decided to rent a Port Mansfield house for the pre-trip weekend. He had a couple bunks left in the place which Dad and I gladly took. With the house rental is docking space in the port. This alleviated an issue with trying to find a place to put the Holder when all the slips were taken up by boats for two fishing tourneys. Even cooler, the Mansfield Bait and Harbor store is literally across the street from the house for easy last minute purchases. The Sunset House reservation was canceled.
So with a handful of days to go, the list of things to do is short. I still have to go shopping for another inflatable mattress and sleeping bag, as well as food. The truck needs a straight receiver hitch to replace the drop neck version (to level out the sailboat while towed). And on Thursday a final packing of boat and truck for the trip.
Dad plans on getting on the road at 3 am Friday morning. Myself at 6 am. We will cross paths and meet up in New Orleans where he will park his truck at a friend’s house and we will continue in my truck for the final 9 hours of the trip.
Friends, we are nearly there. Months of planning, sailing, fixing, buying, and more planning is done in anticipation of this adventure. We are so looking forward to it!