The lesson here is that a sail’s stitching should be repaired before it becomes a tear in the sailcoth.

I just learned that lesson.

I’ve known for the past few sails that there was a section of stitching near the clew of the main that needed re-sewing. Yeah sure, I’ll get to it. Eventually. During a day-sail last week, eventually became immediately, as the foot of the sail tore out around the broken stitches for a length of about 12 inches. I pulled down to the first reef to finish out the sail, and took the sail down the next day to fix it.

I could have done this by hand with my Speedy Stitcher, but I have access to a marina neighbor’s heavy-duty sewing machine. It was time to give it a try.

Forthunately, I’ve watched my wife sew long enough and asked her enough questions to understand what has to happen with the machine – the concept of the locking stitch, what the bobbin does, what effect the tension knob has, and why a sewing machine is threaded the way it is – so I was able to figure out how to thread and adjust the machine, and how to refill the bobbin with a little trial-and-error.

I cut a patch to sew down over the tear, placed over the carefully positioned section for repairing with the help of double-sided sewing tape, and began to carefully feed it through the machine. Four times! This is a straight-stitch-only machine, so I had to make sure I had sewn down all the edges and fully supported the material surrounding the tear.

The machine is made by Thomas - heavy, strong gears and body allow it to punch through many layers of cloth.

The machine is made by Thompson – heavy, strong gears and body allow it to punch through many layers of cloth.

In the photo above you can see the patch applied – it’s to the left of the seam opening – through which daylight is pouring! I repaired this open seam, and inspected the rest of the sail as well. I restitched down the entire length of the leach, as much of the stitching was weak or missing, and reenforced a few other places too.

Here's an image of the repaired sail in use. The repairs aren't beautiful, but the are strong.

Here’s an image of the repaired sail in use. The repairs aren’t beautiful, but they’re strong. And it looks like I need to adjust the wrinkles out of the trim too. . .

I discovered yesterday that I missed one weakened seam just above the first reef point – and it began to open up in the brisk breeze. I dropped the main as soon as I noticed it (see – I’m learning) and finished out the sail on jib alone. Today, I’ll take a closer look at it. This one may be small enough to repair by hand. If not, I’ll bring the machine down to the boat, simply pull the foot of the sail off the outhaul, and repair it right there on deck.

Finally, during a walk today through another marina in my neighborhood, I came across this beautiful lapstrake dinghy and though you would enjoy a photo of it.

Tender to s/v Hesper, featured in this post.

Tender to s/v Hesper, featured in this post.


Although the holiday busyness has put a temporary hold on exploring Rockhold Creek, I did get out on the water earlier in the month, pushing northward on the creek farther than I’ve ever been. It was a beautiful cloudless day with barely a stir in the air, yet it was enough to ghost along for a little while. After half a mile I had to brail up the sail and row, but it was fun, and good excercise too.


Dinghy rig waiting to set up.


Ready to launch.

To brail up the sail, the mast-ends of the sprit and boom fold in opposite directions: the sprit drops down parallel to the leach, and the boom swings up parallel to the leach. Then the two spars are rolled into the sail until they are rolled up next to the mast. I lash them together with the  sheet. It takes about 2 minutes to stow the sail and unship the rudder and centerboard. But. . . I have to move carefully. I keep as much of my weight towards the center of the boat as possible. It would not be difficult to ship water over the transoms by moving all my weight into the ends.

I screwed down a length of firehose over the edge of pier where the dinghy slides into the water to protect the bottom paint from scrapes and gouges. I’ve used various materials through years in different places where we’ve used the dink – an old piece of carpet, or a scrap of foam – but the fire hose permanently installed in this manner is the best.


Sailing rig stowed, ready for rowing.

I safely transitioned from pier to dinghy (hardest part of the whole operation) and glided out of the slip powered by a light breeze.


Looking back over the transom at the launching area in my slip. My house in the background.

Out into the creek, I was the only vessel under way. We headed north toward the bridge, and passed underneath with no problems! When the mast is only 5′ tall, a bridge is never an obstacle. And under the bridge is where sailing ended, as we passed into a more sheltered part of the creek.


Looking back on the bridge.


Bridge resident. I didn’t see any trolls!

I rowed in a leisurely fashion for another 20 minutes, passing under another bridge and a large power-boat marina – boats that moor here are low enough to pass under the bridge, eliminating all but the smallest sailboats, and most of the larger motor yachts.

I finally reached the edge of an area devoid of houses, and really wanted to explore further into the marshy area beyond, but I had evening commitments and had to turn around. I reluctantly spun around and pulled steadily towards home for a solid 30 minutes. By this time I had stripped off my sweatshirt and soaked through my shirt with the effort.

Unrigged, Sea Minor upended on the pier, I carried the sailing rig back to the house, moving on to the next thing in the evening.


This is a photo Ruth took about a year ago.

Yesterday was stunning, weather-wise: bright blue sky, moderate temps in the high 40s, a breeze under 10 knots. Perfect for dinghy sailing.

There is a lot of water all around the region of the creek, and dinghy or kayak is the perfect vehicle for exploring because a lot of it is pretty shallow. Dinghy with oars is also the best way to tour a marina: you can go as slowly as you want, maneuvering is easy, you can talk to people and look at the boats at your leisure.

I traveled south on the creek, then cut northwest up Tracy’s Creek and past the west end of the very large Herrington Harbor North marina/boat yard.  I passed under the bridge and into the marsh pool adjacent to the local grass-strip airport. It was absolutely serene sailing that little cockle shell of a boat in the gentle breeze, drifting when the air went light, tacking and jibing as it shifted around and through the creek lowlands. When becalmed I sometimes resorted to oars to pull out of a wind hole, and at one point I brailed up the spritsail and just rowed for a while.


My marina and house in view over the transom. Pretty calm, but not without a stir in the air. I was still moving.


The view forward, and some detail of the boom attachment. The sprit is rigged the same way with a lanyard led through a padeye, then made off to a cleat.


This guy’s doing what I hate. I just don’t like being up there. He’s recently had his rig down for maintenance on his big charter schooner, and now (I think) he’s rigging and adjusting the triadic stay.


I think you can see the details of his bosun’s seat in this photo. It looks like a plank rigged with three-strand and a tool bag at the side. It looks like he’s also wearing a safety harness made up from three-strand. None of this makes me uncomfortable, except that he has shackled – not tied – his seat and harness. I wouldn’t trust a shackle like that. I’ve seen photos of Larry Pardey using a bosun’s seat similar to this one.


Here’s a photo of the boat and rig.


Another schooner yacht at Herrington North. This a fairly new wooden boat, and a fairly new tenant in the marina. I haven’t seen her under sail yet.


Close-up of some detail – deadeye rigging, teak decks. Really beautiful, understated topsides paint color scheme.


s/v Thalia. I would love to have a ride on her.


View at the head of the creek. It gets very shallow (inches, really) up here.

I made it almost to the head of the pool at the end of the creek, but the water became too shallow, even for Sea Minor which only draws a few inches. I had to unship the tiller and center board up here. On the return, a down-wind leg, I unbrailed the sail and let out the sheet, steering with one oar trailing from its oarlock. Even then I stirred up the muddy bottom.  Finally in deeper water again, I shipped the tiller and daggerboard and negotiated the flukey breezes again. After a 160 degree turn back up Rockhold Creek, I tacked 8-10 times to get back to my marina. Fun! Exploring in small boats is so satisfying. It makes me want to build another small sailboat that sails a bit better than  Sea Minor.  She’s got such a short waterline, and her sail area is so small for safety’s sake – it takes a good breeze to get her moving well. Still, she’s the perfect yacht tender for us. As with cruising boats, everything about a dinghy is a trade-off of one sort or another. Sea Minor rows extremely well, is not a bad sailor, puts up with a lot of neglect and abuse, and is fairly stable for a hard dinghy. I’m happy with her as she is.

I finally wrapped up the starboard side eyebrow trim, paring the plugs and coating each plug twice with Cetol. My slip neighbor had a box of teak plugs containing a number of different sizes and I was able to match the two remaining fastener holes with plugs from his collection. Thanks Frank!


Here the plugs are trimmed with a razor-sharp chisel. All you have to do is set the chisel at the base of the plug, leaving enough to sand flush, and touch the end of the chisel with a mallet. The top of the plug splits away cleanly.


Here it is sanded flush and coated twice with Cetal.

I also cleared Cay of Sea of all the stuff that should come off for winter storage ashore – bed linens, pillows, foodstuffs, liquid soap and shaving kits, sleeping bags – and schlepped it up to the house. I managed to choose the dock cart with a flat tire, but couldn’t tell, of course, until it was loaded. I used it anyway.


Bags of stuff to come ashore.

I left the by-products of oil changing (two seasons’ worth) on the galley counter so I would remember to empty them into recycled oil drum at the boat yard. There is also a special bin for old oil filters and absorbing pads.


Waste-oil products for disposal, and a gallon of pink stuff the last bit of winterizing after haulout.

I brought down the winter storage hatches from my shed and removed the the varnished drop boards and fore hatch for stowage below, out of the rain, ice and snow for the next four months. These old hatches still keep the weather out, but aren’t serviceable for daily use. They are ugly, broken, and worn, but can be left out in the weather without consequence.



These didn’t get their fall re-coat of varnish and now it’s too cold. They won’t suffer, though, being inside the boat. Next spring I need to strip and completely refinish the board with vents in it. Water has gotten under one side and begun to turn black.

I removed the headsail and its bag, which needs repairing over the cold months (the bag, that is). It’s old and the stitching is giving way. New stitching will put it good as new, though.

I also brought the dinghy gear ashore. I’ve been inspired lately by Dylan Winter’s video blog KeepTurningLeft that chronicles his love of small boats and his gradual, multi-seasonal circumnavigation of England and Scotland. He posts delicious, beautifully edited videos of his experiences in boats as large as a Westerly Centaur, and as small as a duck punt. So inspired by Dylan this winter, I’m going to sail Sea Minor on nice days as far as time and inclination allow.

I delivered Cay of Sea to the boat yard across the the creek today and left her beside the travel lift slip. She’ll wait patiently through the winter as I plan and execute another slate of maintenance and improvement projects.  A tentative list includes servicing the prop shaft coupling, replacing cockpit drain hoses, inspecting/replacing any engine hoses that need it, neatening up the engine compartment, rebuilding raw water pump (it’s beginning to leak), replacing circulator (coolant) engine pump (it’s leaked ever since the engine was installed new!), re-bedding fasteners in cockpit sole.

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Here she is waiting for high water to haul out for the winter.

This also may be the year that I open up the side decks and recore as necessary, which, of course, will occasion the beginning of repainting the deck. Repainting the deck will be a multi-year project, as I’ll just do sections at a time. I don’t want to have the boat out of commission for an entire season. So we’ll see how far I get next year. I still have a few projects I didn’t get to from last spring!

Most difficult day on the water I can remember. Weather conditions, while not benign, were definitely the most favorable we ever had for a trip south. Rain with winds out of the NE at 10-15 mph.  Big following seas, which made steering an active struggle at times. But the conditions themselves weren’t the problem. It started when I assumed towing the dink would be no problem. It turned out to be a significant problem. After 8-10 miles of great sailing (if not a little cool and damp), the dink was pooped by a breaking swell, and gained 10 (or so) gallons of movable ballast. We were immediately in an untenable situation. Now the dink plowed under tow, bow high, transom low, inviting another boarding sea to swamp her. The only thing to do was get her on deck, which was so difficult, and so dangerous. We managed it, with a few scrapes and bruises, but I never want to do that again. After 11 years of towing the dink everywhere, this is the first time we’ve had a problem. Maybe we’ve just been lucky.

It took a half hour to do this, and we were exhausted by the effort, and freaked out by the safety hazards it presented. While landing the dink on the foredeck, I managed to break the plexiglass window in the forehatch. Fortunately, rain doesn’t come through, because the dink covers it. Having the dinghy in the foredeck complicates sail handling and anchor operations, so that was a struggle today as well.

We finally anchored at Solomons, after having our usual fun getting an anchor to set in the St Mary’s river. I relaunched the dink to set a second one, and just couldn’t get it positioned correctly, or set satisfactory. Retrieving the dink allowed me to reposition bow-forward, and that improved working space at the bow. My final blunder of the day was to deeply cut my right thumb while trying to unlock a knot in a line. I used the wrong tool, and of course it slipped and cut me just about the time I recognized the risk. I bled all over the deck, the line, the dink – while finishing my tasks, and finally went below and took care of it. . . but what a day of fun on the water.

We have determined to make tomorrow’s leg south better than today’s.

The benefits of being married to an artist! Without Ruth, I’d have resorted to buying the stick-on letters from the hardware store to put the name on the transom. With respect to handwriting, or any eye-hand coordination that involves writing of any sort, I’m a hopeless klutz. And drawing something that you can recognize? Forget it. Ruth, on the other hand, does this sort of thing as easy as breathing.  Here are a few photos of her talent in action.

Hmmm. . . drawing a straight line.  That skill alone would eliminate me.

Hmmm. . . drawing a straight line. That skill alone would eliminate me.

She lightly penciled a grid for the letters – about 3 inches high – and marked spacing for them with a ruler. After that, she sketched the letters in pencil, then picked up a paint brush and free-hand filled in the letter outlines. She used the same one-part polyurethane paint that’s on the sheer stripe.

I got distracted pulling weeds in the garden. Next thing I knew, she was nearly done.

I got distracted pulling weeds in the garden. Next thing I knew, she was nearly done.

The finished product.

The finished product.

Transom and Cockpit

Just a photo to let you see the how the style matches the yacht’s name.

“Refit my dinghy” is so easy to say, but represents a deceptively large effort. This always surprises me: the boat is only 8 feet long, after all. I’ve been doing dinghy refit things for a month now – I began on 30 April, and I finished yesterday – 30 May – so every day for a month that I’ve had time, weather, and inclination converge on the same day, I’ve worked through necessary steps. Since my last post I’ve painted the shear stripe (twice – 2 coats), reinstalled the hardware (oar locks, pintles and gudgeons, bow ring) and lashed on the firehose rub rail. I did anticipate that lashing on the firehose would take a while, but forgot just how long (about 2 hours). Amazing really – such simple task, yet so time consuming to get it to look right and lash down tightly.


The sheer stripe turned out a little wider this time. For some reason I felt like the stripe needed to be as wide as the joint at the bow transom. Now I’m not so sure.

Firmly pressing down the tape, it turns out, is really important. . .

Firmly pressing down the tape, it turns out, is really important. . .

. . . and here's why. This one-part polyurethane tends to be very thin, and easily gets under any imperfection in the tape seal.

. . . and here’s why. This one-part polyurethane paint is very thin, and easily gets under any imperfection in the tape seal. I did go around the boat one last time to press down the tape firmly. Fortunately, with a wooden boat there is always “next time” so next time I’ll use a better grade of tape.

But from 6-8 feet away it's difficult to notice the imperfections.  That's fine. My goal isn't perfection here, it's preservation, functionality, and general respectability.

But from 6-8 feet away it’s difficult to notice the imperfections. That’s fine. My goal isn’t perfection here, it’s preservation, functionality, and general respectability. Perfection takes a lot more time and effort than I’m willing to give.

Lashing the firehose.  Part of what takes so long is pulling 50 feet of line through each hole.

Lashing the firehose. Part of what takes so long is pulling 50 feet of line through each hole.

Binding the hose tightly and neatly is the challenge.

Binding the hose tightly and neatly is the challenge.

Once done, though, there is no better rub rail in the world. This covers and cushions everything, and the hose casing cleans up really well. These sections of hose have lived outside at least ten years, and they easily scrubbed up bright again.

Once done, though, there is no better rub rail in the world. This covers and cushions everything, and the hose casing cleans up really well. These sections of hose have lived outside at least ten years, and they easily scrubbed up bright again.

I like how well the hose covers the corners. Extra protection is needed at the corners because of point loading - as the hose turns the corner, extra material gathers and provides that extra cushion.

I like how well the hose covers the corners. Extra protection is needed at the corners because of point loading – as the hose turns the corner, extra material gathers and provides that extra cushion.

I didn’t anticipate uncured green paint in a few of the lashing holes. That left traces of green on the cord and hose. My final task for the day was sanding the seats and applying varnish (first coat of many to come) to protect the epoxy sealant from UV damage. She’s now ready for Ruth to paint the name on the transom

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