Monday, June 23, 2014

Sailstice 2014 is in the books

Last Saturday was Sailstice 2014 - second only to Christmas for me as a fun celebration day.

Traditional Signing of the flag at the end of the sail.

 Kevin Rhodes, Cheryl Miller, her two nephews Kraig and Kris, and myself were the crew this year.  We broke from the traditional sail around Sauvies Island because we were plagued again by the 300A fuse blowing after trying to start the motor. (PS that's now been sorted as to what the issue was and is fixed).   So we sailed down to the end of Government Island instead, keeping close to home in case of an emergency with the engine.

Here's a few pictures from the day.

Sailing under the 205 bridge

Cheryl at the helm

Kris at the helm

Kevin at the helm

Kevin's selfie - come on man!

Capt Terry showing Kraig how to manage the helm

The crew...

Me at the helm...

Thursday, June 5, 2014

U.S.C.G. Captain's License (How long and what it took).

Growing up in Texas near the Gulf of Mexico I alway wanted to become a ship's captain.  One of the people I admired was Captain Daniel Gregg from the "The Ghost and Mrs. Muir" TV show.

After years of sailing I finally thought it time to count my hours and find out if I made.  By the time I had counted them all I had 670 days at sea and I had travelled over 32,000 nautical miles but only 82 days offshore in the last ten years.

My first step was to find out the latest requirements, which I did through a web search.  It turned out one of the better pages on getting your captain's license was from a man here in Portland.  Dennis Degner runs a company that teaches USCG Approved Courses.  His website is at .  Under the tab on his site for Professional Requirements you'll find all the details.  Back in October 2013, I spoke to my friend Jim Noval about and we decided to take the OUPV course together.  After talking Jim into it, I called up the number on Dennis' website and spoke to Pat, Dennis' wife.  Pat was very helpful and got us both slots in the class being held between right before Christmas.

Between the time I registered for the class and the class actually starting there was a lot to get accomplished to pull the application together.

The first step was filling out the Sea Service Documentation Form 718S.  The sea service needed to be documented to count so I pulled the ship's log's I had for various previously owned boats.  Luckily I kept the registration cards for each boat in the log books so I had documentation going back to 1998.  Each boat required it's own form to be filled out and either proof of ownership or signature from the ship's owner with documentation numbers.  This process of reading and counting took several evenings and brought back some found memories of adventures in the past.

The next step was to prove to the USCG I was not a terrorist or had criminal intentions.  The requirement to prove these facts is to enroll in the Transportation Workers Identification Credentials
program through the Universal Enrollment Services.  I called the Portland UES Office which had moved to Vancouver, Washington and got an appoint a month to the day after the call.  It was the soonest they'd an opening.  The day of the appointment came and I drove over to Vancouver to apply for my TWIC card.  After filling out the application they take $129.75 from you to do the background check.  Then they tell you it will be three to six weeks to get back to you with the TWIC card if you pass the background test.  In order to pick up the card you have to make another appointment with them once they receive the card.  About four weeks later I got a call from the UES office and made another appointment to trek over to Vancouver.  Counting the $34.00 for milage to Vancouver and back twice the total cost of the TWIC card was $163.75.

The next step was to complete the Red Cross' CPR card which is required for the application.  I register for the course and took it at the Portland Red Cross Office downtown.  The cost was $110.00 for the course and $10.57 for milage.

The application requires a physical exam where the physician fills out the Merchant Mariner Physical Exam Form 719K.  I made an appointment with my doctor to fill it out.  Once at the appoint I read a good deal about the 719K on the web and there were horror studies of what the Coast Guard considers in the evaluation of the 719K.  Mariner's complain on the web the rejection of their 719K has limited their ability to make money.  I became so nervous about the physical exam I had driven up my blood pressure.  By the time it was taken it was too high to pass.  I had pass everything else on the form, so the doctor asked that I come back in a week to retake the BP measurement and if it was normal she'd sign off.    A week later I went back and all was normal with the BP so she signed off.   Because of Obama's affordable care act, I now had to pay a higher deductible for my two visits to doctor, so filling out the 719K cost me $292.00 including milage.

Since my doctor wasn't on the approved USCG/DOT list of providers I had to go to another provider for the USCG/DOT Drug Screening Form 719P.   Luckily Dennis' website had several providers that would do it the same the same day.   I found one and got the form filled out after passing the test costing me $122.30 including milage.

December 16th came and it was time for the course.  Dennis was excellent as an instructor and despite my experience, taking ASA sailing courses and reading over 20 books on sailing and navigation I learned so much more in taking the class from him.  Dennis for a long time work as a fishing boat captain/owner, and a tug boat captain/owner in the Pacific Northwest, so he also taught at the local community college.  A nice feature about taking the course from Dennis was he took the time to make the course and exams done with local references.   For example all the navigation problems and examines were based on charts of the Puget Sound.  After taking and passing the OUPV course, I thought that it would be a great idea to take the additional Upgrade OUPV to Master of 100 Gross Tons or Less course.  Jim and I both registered for the additional course for February 17-19th 2014.  The entire 10 day course with again milage cost me $1340.00.  The nice thing is Dennis threw in the Aux. Sailing Test and the Commercial Towing Exam for Free.

Finally I had to get letters of reference from crews I had sailed with in the past.  Additionally I needed to fill out the CG 719B Application Form.   It took me a month to fill out the application and get the three letters back from old crew members.

With all the application together I called the Portland REC office to drop off the application.  They said I could come in the same day to drop off the application, that day was April 1st, 2014.  The fellow behind the counter was great, reviewing the application and sending it off to the  National Maritime Center along with $145 for the evaluation and issuance fees.

April 23rd I received an email from the National Maritime Center that I would be receiving a letter requesting more information about my medical evaluation.  On April 28th I received the letter from the NMC saying that the color blind test section of the physical wasn't completed I needed to complete it, and fax it back to them.  The next day I was in the doctor's office and they did the color blind test for free (actually they'd already charged me just didn't do it.)  Charing faxed the form back the NMC on the 30th of April.  On May 1st I received another email from the NMC saying my Medical Screening Passed and a Medical Certificate was on the way.  Costing me another $8.80 in milage.

Another email came on the 29th of May stating that my Merchant Mariner Credentials were being mailed to my home.  On June 2nd I received my MMC for 50 Ton Self Propelled Vessels including Auxiliary Sailing Master’s License, Deck Officer for Commercial Towing Endorsement, Ordinary Seaman Endorsement, Wiper, and Steward’s Department Endorsement.

How long did it take to get my captain's license?  Well apart from the 13 years it took to gain the sea time needed, it took me 8 months.  If I don't count the cost of the all the boats, and boat repairs to gain the experience needed, since October 2013, I have spent $2213.42 on getting my captain's license, I guess that's the cost of the dream....

So here it is all official:

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Experiences Installing a Harkin Roller Furler

Last March during return from the SIYC anchoring cruise Charing looked at me saying, "This boat isn't as easy to sail as the Catalina 30 we had, why?"  I explained that the boat was bigger, the part were bigger, the loads are bigger, we have banked on sails as opposed to rollers, and the lines all lead to the mast not the cockpit.  From all of that she figured that part of the reason is due to the lack of the roller furler.

A roller curler allows the sail to roll and unroll around the stay to put away and deploy the sail.  The previous owner had taken off the rollers and converted the sails all to hanks.  The problem with that is it requires the crew to go forward to manage the headsails.  On the other hand it's said one scarifies sail performance with furled sails, but one gains safety at sea.

I had just ordered a new stay sail so I called the local representative here Cliff from Lee Sails, and asked him to change the order to a furled stay sail over a banked on one as I had originally ordered.   A battery of questions followed that I wasn't ready for from Cliff.  These included:

  • what is the make of the curler you plan to use?
  • what luff tape do they recommend?
  • what is the color of the UV protectant?
  • which way does it roll up, CCW or CW?
  • what is the stay diameter?
Well I hadn't bought the furler yet so I didn't know.  I went through Practical Sailor's magazine and they rated the Harkin MKIV very high as a cruising rig.  Harkin makes five different versions of the MKIV, so I wasn't certain which one to buy.  I went to Columbia Marine Exchange to speak to Kim about which one to buy and why?  Kim spoke to the guy at Harkin and they recommended the MKIV Unit 2.  All looked good so I ordered it. 

I went home and watched Charlotte Taylor's youtube video on the Harkin MKIV.   (  In the video she says she had installed one herself with the help of a few friends.  After reading the manual for it online, I thought we'd likely have the ability to do it ourselves.

By the first week in April I had emailed Cliff and given him all the details on the furling system I purchased and the intended rolling direction of the sail.  

Two weeks after ordering the MKIV kit from Kim it arrived.  I went through the box contents several times thinking I didn't have all the parts.   There was no way to terminate the furler at the bottom of the stay, it just seemed wrong.  Originally I wanted to keep the quick release on the staysail stay to make it movable with the furler on it.  After asking around this turns out to be a bad idea because of the amount of tension needed to support the stay tension with the added weight.  I called Harkin asking about this and the represented laughed and said no, that can't be done.   I then asked about recommendations on termination of the system at the deck.  The Harkin rep replied he couldn't help me and hung up.  So much for the technical support for their products. 

I received an email from Cliff two weeks ago saying the sail had come in.  A week ago he delivered it to the boat.  

I called "Fingers" Rhodes on Friday asking if he'd be interested in helping to install the sail and furler on Saturday.   

We got to the boat about 10 am on Saturday.  The first step was to lower the inner stay to the dock to install the MKIV.  We set up a 6:1 purchase on a halyard with the other end on the boatswain chair.  I lifted Kevin up to the clevis and pin of the stay to release it to the deck.

Once the stay was on the deck we used the cable cutters to cut off the Sta-lok terminal on the mast terminated side of the stay.   Sta-lok terminals act by forced friction of a wedge inserted in he inner wired of the stay, then forced around the outer wire of the stay as it act upon a bolt containing the wedge.

Next the aluminum foils were pieced together over the stay joining them with inner plastic bushings with aluminum couplings.  Two set screws hold the aluminum coupling together inside the foils.  These screws are held in place by Loctite and epoxy that is applied between the two set screws on each side the a hole in the foil and troughs for the epoxy in the coupler.  Soon all the pieces of the foil were together and we added the set terminal on the mast side.  This set terminal was a capped bushing on the top of the foil.  We backed off the eye on the lower side of the stay and ran the end through the halyard lift, and the roller spool.

By now it was 2:30pm and I took off to get lunch and a new turnbuckle from WestMarine.  When I got to WestMarine I expressed my frustration with the Harkin lack of customer support.  The WestMarine sales person was very surprised saying he'd always had good support from Harkin.  The sales person at WestMarine took a look at the old Sta-Loc  terminal we cut off and when through the Harkin catalogue to locate the right terminal part we needed for the lower stay.  I purchased the new turnbuckle and lunch heading back to the boat.

Once back at the boat we installed the Sta-loc fittings, and the new turnbuckle.  Next we attached a halyard to the stay and lifted it up to stay tang to fit the pin. Once again Kevin was hoisted up the mast to fit the pin.

Kevin was lowered again and we fitted the two alternating eye jaw toggles to the deck plate for the stay sail stay.  On these two alternating eye jaw toggles we added the turnbuckle and lower the furler over it.  Placing the staysail luff tape into the tracks on the foil we raised the staysail and attached the sheets.  We then tied off the furling line on the drum, then hand wrapped the stay sail around the foil.  

Next week when the final piece comes into WestMarine we will add it to the rig and the thing should work properly.  Right now there a locking bolt holding the drum up off the turnbuckle waiting for the new part.

Many thanks to Kevin for sticking with it.  We finally finished the work around 6:00pm taking us eight hours to put it all together.