Saturday, June 26, 2021

Palm Beach Regatta 2021 - the Race

The 2021 Palm Beach Regatta Race

The headline: We Won our Class! WooHoo!

Friday evening we arrived at Lake Boca and secured the boat at anchor then both of us took a shower - hot water as we motored from just outside the Hillsboro Inlet, into the ICW and then North to Lake Boca, about two hours altogether. Hot water tank was hot! :)

Around 6pm, Larry Geller picked us up in his gorgeous boat to ferry us to the dock where the Pre-race party was being held. We were quickly joined by others that either Larry ferried from their boats or arrived by car. Bob Odell had arrived with the party goods and guests brought plenty of food - as always - nobody would go hungry. 

I asked Michael Duvall to give the racing introduction and he, along with a couple of others, answered the several questions about the start and the finish. Too soon is was time to hitch a ride back to our boats. I say 'Too soon' because we always have such a good time talking to other boat owners and their crews.

After a good night asleep at anchor, we woke to catch the 7:40am Camino Real Bridge so that we could head down to the Hillsboro Inlet, several other boats that could not negotiate the Boca Raton Inlet (too shallow) were in line as we headed South. Our recent bottom paint job and the PropSpeed finish on the Prop and shaft is still showing it's worth. 

Once out of the Inlet, we turned North towards the Start Line - we could see the Beach Committee location, they had setup their big Orange Rectangular Mark on the beach, easy to see from 1/3mile off shore. Lady Gray was the outer mark and we were close to them when they dropped anchor and tried to set, but they were not having a lot of luck and ended up keeping their engines running to hold station.

Prior to the start, I had rolled down the Sail Bag and secured it with the straps that were sewn into the inside of the bag. This did mean that we would have the advantage of the lower 3' of mainsail area working to our advantage rather than just a big bag of canvas that would more likely hinder our progress than improve it. Once the Mainsail was raised, I eased off the Lazy jacks so that they would not misshape the sail. 

There were 5 starts and we were in the 2nd: Gunkhole Class. Jim Wallace on Contrails was working his way up and down the start line during the 1st start and he called over to us advising that this was his start box and we should keep out of his way, we did. However our past races have seen us passing the start line as much as 20 minutes after our start! We learned from those rare events and today we kept close to the start box and kept within it when it was our start. We crossed the start line within 2 minutes of the start time, and we were headed in the right direction. We were stoked at doing so well at the start, can we do better, of course, but compared to previous efforts, this was amazing! Thank Jim for hinting on the best start maneuver.

Just in case you're interested, here's some info on Sailboat Racing starts that I found very useful:

The JAM (Jib and Main) class were 5 minutes ahead of us so we could see where they were headed and that would have been our normal plan - follow everyone in front of us, however we had sailed the route just a week ago for the Memorial Day Cruise and we knew that the Gulf Stream had been apparent in less than 2/3mile offshore. So our plan was to head NE (which happened to be the course that the JAM fleet were headed) until we felt the push North from the Stream and then turn to a more Northerly direction.

 As we were still heading NE, we could see Imagine hoisting their beautiful spinnaker off of our Starboard Quarter. We knew that they would soon overtake us, but they were in the Corinthians class.  

It was a beautiful day to be out on the water and I must admit, I experienced a bit of Sail Envy as Imagine passed us chasing the JAM fleet.

Imagine had a full crew. Eximius was just Peggy & I, but it was an easy sail.

As soon as we saw a consistent increase in our GPS speed over our Through the Water Speed, we started our turn towards the North. Monitoring the speed difference helped us take the maximum advantage of the Gulf Stream's push north. If we saw the difference drop down, we would ease Eastwards a touch. With the wind over the Starboard Quarter, we kept adjusting our sails intent upon using the knowledge we had recently gained from studying sail plans.

One thing really bugged me. The Mainsail had a crease in it, imagine a pleat running from just above the 2nd reef cringle at the luff (close to the mast) and diagonally down to the clew. From our studies, that meant that we would not have laminar flow of air on either side of the sail and that would reduce our speed. I tried easing everything: Halyard, Mainsheet, Reefing lines (which were not being used) Outhaul and the Lazy Jacks, nothing! I could not remove the pleat. But we did improve our speed by adjusting the sails, with the light winds, we needed a bit of twist in the Main and easily accomplished that. 

As expected, it was about a 5 hour ride up to Lake Worth and we had plenty of time to fiddle with the sails - I worked at balancing the sails. The method I used was to put the wheel amidships and see which way the boat steered, it should have a slight tendency to turn upwind (weather helm) but not so much that it required more and a degree or two of helm to correct. I adjusted the Genoa so that it looked full. As were on a very broad reach the tell tales were not too much help to me in identifying when it was correctly trimmed. But we were able to adjust it so that the outer tails were flying straight. Then I adjusted the Mainsheet and Traveller so that the leech tell tails were streaming aft and then adjusted the MainSheet until the wheel was able to keep us on course with the minimum amount of drag from the Rudder.

As we neared the Northern end of the course, we had to turn to the East where the finish line was located. A quick note about the Finish Line.

At the 2021 Palm Beach Regatta, the Finish line was based on the location of the Green #3 Marker just to the south of the Lake Worth Inlet, the virtual line extended from the Mark East for 100 Yards. This meant that we had to leave the Mark on our Port Side and that the mark be less than 100 Yards away from the boat as we passed the mark.

We expected the wind to Veer (move in a clockwise direction) to the West and as we felt it moving further South as the day passed, we started our turn East and eventually the wind did shift not as much as expected but we were South and East of the finish line when we Gybed the sails over to the Port. Very quickly, as the wind veered beyond Southerly, we were on a Beam Reach and sailing hard. The Green Mark was now easily seen and we turned further towards the north, aiming to pass within feet of the mark rather than risk being too far from it. There was a fishing boat hanging around just to the North of the mark so we steered to put us between the mark and the fishing boat. 

As we got near the mark, Peggy brought my cell phone up to the helm. Now it was getting exciting, sailing hard, Wind had increased and we were doing over 6knots through the water, the Mark off our Port Bow, fishing boat ahead, all the while trying to take a picture of our Chartplotter as we crossed the virtual mark.

Seems we did good! We had a corrected time of 3 hours 17 minutes and 43 seconds over a calculated course distance of 25 miles. Our average speed was 5.5 knots (velocity made good over the course) 

What a great race. Hectic at the start and exciting at the finish with a few hours between them. Time for lunch sandwiches. 

Once across the finish line, we left the sails up until we had stabilized our course into the Lake Worth Inlet, then we started to stow them. Before we had the chance to secure the main down into it's sail bag (Cradle) we were at the Eastern end of the inlet channel and could see another boat having a tough time getting their Spinnaker down, it looked like a figure of eight and was flying hard off of their port side. Despite needing to get our own sails down and secured, my primary goal was to stay away from the other boat so as to give them the best chance of getting their sail down and not worry about keeping out of our way.

The wind was picking up as we turned onto the Western side of the ICW and headed South intent on Anchoring on the East side of the ICW but opposite from the Palm Beach Sailing Club. As we held station just to the East of the Palm Beach Sailing Club house, the wind really picked up and it was difficult to hold station, we had to shift up the engine revs to over 1500 in order to be able to steer against the wind. 

On VHF #68, we heard another club member, Jim Wallace (the same guy that we heard from at the start) called us and advised that he was anchored on the East side opposite the PBSC. So we turned across the mooring field of boats and headed over to the otherside of the ICW. We found the anchoring area and dropped anchor letting out plenty of scope to avoid dragging in that heavy wind.

Peace returned to the cockpit and we took a break. A few radio calls and we scheduled a launch ride from Eximius to the PBSC via their very helpful sailing instructor that was acting as ferryman for the evening. We had time for a shower and change into dry clothes before the ferry arrived and were soon safely on the jetty of the sailing club.

I quickly made an introduction to Quincy, Commodore of the PBSC, and we sorted out the schedule of the evening - Drinks, Dinner, Awards, Socialize, head back to the boats.

We had a great time meeting with our own club members and those of the PBSC. Their Bartender barely kept us waiting despite the small crowd surrounding the bar, there were some tall ship stories going around about conditions on the course.

The Bartender served our drinks of choice - Pinot Grigio for Peggy and Jack & Ginger for myself. She served my drink is a short glass (no plastic 👍  ) with Ice and two very thin straws. Speaking with a couple that I knew standing next to me I asked "You realize that I'm English, right?" "Yes, they responded" " Then you understand that to put a straw in my drink is odd and normally I inform the bartender, in the nicest way " I'm a big boy now, I don't need a straw with my drink." to which my neighbor replied, " It's just a stirrer" and I replied "But you do realize that I'm English?" "So what they commented, realizing that I was going somewhere with this. "Well, being English, I take my drinks Shaken - Not Stirred!"  Yep, got a laugh out of that one. 😎

Here's a picture showing our route during the weekend, if you click on it, you'll see our route on our Garmin Inreach Explorer chart online.

See you out there on the Water.

2021 Palm Beach Regatta Gunkhole - 1st Place

Friday, June 11, 2021

Expensive Oil change

 Expensive Oil Change - NOT!

In preparation for the Palm Beach Regatta this weekend, our plans included doing an Oil change on Eximius - not really due - we did an oil change last year - didn't record it but barely used the boat.

Anyway... Oil changes on Eximius are actually pretty easy.

The process (there is a point to this, so bare with me.)

  • Warm up the engine for about 10 mins
  • Shut down the engine
  • Insert the Oil Extraction Pump hose into the Dipstick - as low as it will go.
  • 10 to 20 pumps on the extraction unit - 2 mins
  • Wait for a few minutes until the sound of sucking air is heard from the dipstick  - it's clearly audible.
  • Put a couple of Puppy mats beneath the Oil Filter and release the oil filter with the filter wrench
  • Coat the seal surface of the replacement Oil Filter - of course we carry spares.
  • Replace the filter tight by hand
  • Pour in 2 quarts of oil and check the oil level with the dipstick - add more - check again until oil level is correct on the dipstick.
  • Check the other fluid levels, clean up, run the engine for a few minutes, check the level again.
  • Wait till engine cools down and check again (we typically do this the next morning)
See, no big deal. I decant the oil from the pump into an empty laundry detergent bottle and take it to the city recycling center.

The actual oil change may take about 15 minutes. 'Normally'

So, yesterday, we got to the point where we were ready to install the new oil filter I noticed that it was defective. The cylinder that should be inside the threaded hole was clearly bent, totally unusable. Grr.
Not to worry, I keep spares on board, quickly pull one out, apply a coat of oil to the seal and install it. It's a different color from the other spare and original, no big deal. But we now do not have a spare, so we take pics of it in order to ease the purchase of spares.

Then we add the fresh oil, Opp! added to much. This if never a problem as long as it's no so much that it overflows from the Dipstick. Just use the oil extraction pump to suck out some of the excess oil and check with the dipstick again.  As we had to suck out some oil and test with the dipstick multiple times until the level was correct we put a flashlight in the work area of the Stbd side of the engine. Oh Look! There's  the Engine Fuel Filter just astern of the dipstick and look, that number on the side of the filter looks like the number we took a photo of the spare oil filter we just used.

DUH! I had just used a Fuel Filter for the replacement Oil Filter! Huge DUH! As I now had neither a spare Oil filter or Fuel Filter - we have to go get some.

Checking online - Walmart was nearest - no good - no equivalents.
Checking on google - West marine was pretty near, they'll have them for sure. 20 mins later - no they don't. 'But' the helpful guy at West Marine said - They're Napa Filters and their store is on the other side of the road.
Quick drive and into Napa - WooHoo! They have them $16 and $10 each. Not so bad, I'll take two of each. Surprise! The $52 dropped to $26 - at that price I'll take more! Always need spare filters on the boat.
I walked away with 15 filters and two Gallons of Engine Oil for $116 that's crazy! Sorry if you got to the store after me, but I cleaned out their stock on Thursday.

Back to the boat, prepped the new oil filter (double checked I had the right one), installed. Checked the oil lever, ran the engine for 5 mins and checked again. Time to wait overnight.

Friday morning, we're at the boat loading it for today's trip, 1st thing: Check the oil level - spot on!

So we're good to go.

We motored from our dock to the Ocean, put the sails out, headed out to the 3 mile limit, did a dump, turned up towards Hillsboro Inlet, Sailed to within a half mile, then ran the engine for the two hours it took from the Inlet up to Lake Boca. We're sat at anchor right now. Taking a break before the skipper's meeting this evening and the Regatta start at 10:05 Saturday (tomorrow)

See you on the Water.

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Palm Beach Regatta 2021

Palm Beach Regatta 2021

Let's get real - We're Not Racers! Eximius probably has several hundred pounds of tools and spares onboard, plus we carry 10 gallons of Diesel on deck as well as 10 gallons of Gas and 24 gallons of fresh water, that's roughly 44 gallons of fluid, guestimate about 8lbs per gallon = 352 lbs, equivalent of 2 additional crew but they just sit there on the rail. So, as stated, we're not racers. However the Palm Beach Regatta is such a fun event we couldn't resist.

To be fair, we did race in 2019 and scored a trophy - we didn't finish, same as everyone in our class, but we did tell the best story and scored the 1st place trophy.

This year there are 15 boats in five different classes, only two of us in Gunkhole, us and another Catalina but at 36, just a bit bigger than our 34. Only one of us will get a trophy this year as it requires at least 3 boats in a class to result in trophies going to 1st, 2nd and third. So the challenge is on!


Most of the preparation has been in getting the race setup, the pre-race party and skippers meeting, there's not much for us to do to our boat, it's going as is, but we are doing a bit or normal servicing and trip preparation:
  • Oil Change
  • Water tank flush and fill
  • Non-perishables
  • Drinks
  • Bedding (we'll be staying aboard while anchored in Lake Boca on Friday, West Palm Beach Saturday and Sunrise Bay Sunday)
  • Our serviced PFD's (we service them every year)
  • Charting our anticipated course (we're expecting very light winds, so we'll head ENE from the start line until we feel the Gulf Stream pushing us North.)
  • Loading all of our Electronics on board - including our inReach (here's the link) satellite tracking service.
  • Clothing for 5 days, including attire for the Awards Party at the Palm Beach Sailing Club on Saturday evening.
Ok, that's easily done, we do have one other thing to do:
We'll be mounting Rail Boards to the Stanchions on both sides of the boat forward of the Shrouds in order to attach the fuel/gas/water cans. The boards will be 4" White UV Plastic boards from Lowes and Stainless Steel U-bolts. The cans will get secured to the rail boards with Webbing Straps and Buckles.

Of course, we'll need some fresh baked bread, but no time on Thursday, so here's today's results
Two Loaves of Wholemeal Bread

So, the boat will be ready by Thursday afternoon.
Friday morning we'll take the perishables down to the boat and put them in the fridge. Stow our clothing, get the boat set for sailing and then pull away from the dock around 10am and head out to Port Everglades. Heading East we'll go for the 3 mile limit and pump out, then head up to Hillsboro Inlet. We hope to get some practice on setting up for the start line before going inside the Inlet and up to Lake Boca where we'll anchor overnight. We'll leave the anchorage at 6:50 in the morning so that we can catch the 7am Camino Real Bridge, the 7:30 Hillsboro Blvd Bridge and get out of the inlet around 8:45 and head up to the start line about 1.5nm North of the Inlet.

That's the plan!

See you on the water.

Friday, June 4, 2021

Memorial Day Weekend Cruise to West Palm Beach Pt. 4

West Palm Beach to Fort Lauderdale

Returning from West Palm Beach.

We had pulled the dink onto the deck on Sunday night after having dinner ashore with a dozen other club members. I had also planned our departure and release from the raftup with Jeff & Hector. Alarm was set for 06:00 and we had a good night's sleep excepting for a 20 minute rain shower. Once that was past we reopened the V-berth hatch and slept well.

Monday morning while we had Cereal and Toast for breakfast, I explained the Peggy the process for parting from the raftup: Because of the tide at that time and because Jeff had a Stern Anchor out, we could reduce the lines between the two boats and pretty much stay in position. I would then start to haul in the 275feet of anchor rode. The first 175' was triple stranded 1" rope which was then shackled to 100' of 5/16" chain. 

When hauling in Chain, it just falls down into the anchor locker, but when hauling in triple stranded rope, it's quite stiff and so does not just fall into the locker, but has to be pushed down. So, I anticipated it would take a little longer to haul in the rope so we would have to be ready to put the boat in reverse in order to prevent us over-riding the anchor rode and risk having line in the area of the prop.

07:00 we started releasing the lines by the time Jeff was up and ready to let go of the stern line. Once the lines were free, I started hauling in the anchor line, had to work pretty quick as I was worried that our stern would catch the bow of Affection, that would not be a happy event. Once clear of the rafted boats, I worked at pulling the rest of the 3 strand line and treading it down into the anchor locker. Once the line was in, it was then easy to haul in the Chain and to snug the anchor up to the anchor roller.

As soon as the anchor was clear of the water, I gave the signal to Peggy that we could head out to the channel that crossed from the East side of the ICW to the West side. The bridges in WPB are on the West side of the ICW.

Once we were through the short channel we turned North towards the Flagler Memorial Bridge. We made much better time that expected and had 15 minutes to spare for the bridge's 7:45 opening. Mike & Brenda on Imagine were also heading North to the Lake Worth Inlet and was also in a holding pattern just South of us. As soon as the bridge spans were open, I pushed ahead at 2,000 rpm making over 7 knots over the water, but the tide was already turning and we were only doing just over 6 knots GPS speed. Anticipating that the tide would get stronger the longer we were in the ICW, so we motored on. Imagine likes to get their sails up when chance occurs. The wind was light and we communicated that we would probably be under motor for the first couple of hours when we turned South from the Lake Worth Inlet.

We could not make it to our dock before the falling tide later that day, so we planned to anchor overnight in Sunrise Bay, we motored most of the morning and hoisted the main around 10am. Life was good until about 12am when it got cloudy, we saw a storm cloud in the North East on our Radar, at first it didn't seem a threat, we also saw Imaging closing up on our stern rapidly under sail.

Shortly after Imagine passed us on our Stbd Side, we put in a reef just in case the weather worsened. 

Within minutes, Mike called on VHF suggesting the storm was approaching, it was. So we put in a 2nd reef then decided to pull the sail down. Just in time, winds picked up and the seas got very lumpy, nothing we haven't dealt with before, but safety first. we were only about 2/3 of a mile from the shore, didn't want to be under canvas on a lee shore just then. Imagine turned to windward and doused their sails too.

Now we're motoring all sails stowed, it's lumpy, frequent rolls dipping the rails. Then, all of a sudden, the fuel gauge read nearly empty! What !! We're about an half hour or more from our entry into Hillsboro Inlet, on a Lee shore, sails down and the engine fuel gauge is touching zero. 

This is not a good place to be ! If the engine stops, there's barely time to drop anchor and stop the boat getting into shallow water - not a pleasant scenario.

We carry 10 gallons of Diesel in 2 tanks on deck - secured to the Port side just forwards of midships. Now, I was pretty sure that we had not used all of the fuel in the 23 gallon tank, but we had been pushing the engine since 7:45 this morning. Typically we use about 1/2 to 3/4 gallons an hour. I should have somewhere between 5 and 10 gallons in the tank calculated by usage, so the gauge should have been reading at least 1/4 full, so it was probably a gauge error.

The Gauge is powered by the resistance in the fuel gauge sending unit, there's a float with a magnet that can move up and down a central tube which makes/breaks reed switches, those reed switches change the resistance of the circuit to the gauge and thus the gauge is basically a volt meter but just displays the tank level in 1/8 segments as there are 8 reed switches in the sender.

So, pretty confident that we had plenty of fuel, now was not the time to gamble. I asked Peggy to take the helm in order that I could go outside of the cockpit to get the tank of diesel and add it to the fuel tank. Peggy was not certain that she could handle the boat in the rough conditions, the Auto Pilot certainly could not, but the risk of running out of fuel and heading to the shore in the storm was just not an option. 

Peggy took the wheel - I was pretty confident she could handle it, and I was right. I hooked my tether onto the Port Side Jack line (a nylon webbing strap that runs from the stern to the bow acting as a safety line when needed) an climbed out of the cockpit. The three principles of a good knot is that it has to do it's job, has to be easy to undo and look pretty. I had tied the fuel tanks to the stanchions with a couple of clove hitches, so easy to undo with one hand while I used the other to keep hold of the boat. 

Once back in the cockpit with the diesel can, I secured it to the rail on the Port quarter just aft of the Diesel Fuel Filler point. Then I pulled our 'Fuel Kit' out of the cockpit locker. That kit contains a fuel filler syphon, fuel filler cap key and fuel additives. I didn't worry about the additives and just used the syphon to empty the can into the fuel tank. Once complete I took over at the helm and congratulated Peggy on doing a great job of keeping us on course while worked on the fuel issue. 

Knowing there were now at least 4 gallons of fuel in the tank the tension eased and we focused on dealing with the rough water. As always, the storm began to pass and shortly Mike and Brenda on Imagine were back on our tail under sail.

We continued together in tandem as we turned into the Hillsboro Inlet channel. Called the bridge for their next opening (13:45) and we held station waiting the 10 minutes before it rose.  Both of us turned South once inside the inlet bridge and eased back on the throttle as we would arrive at 14th street bridge too early, neither of us wanted to deal with the bundle of boats that would be waiting just North of the bridge.

Tom Garvey on Ohana was already waiting with the crowd at the bridge, so all three of us passed under the bridge, once open, we headed South. Imagine didn't have far to go and Ohana not much more, while we headed down to Sunrise Bay which meant passing Atlantic Blvd Bridge, Commercial Blvd Bridge and Oakland Park Blvd Bridge.

Expecting a large, Memorial Day Weekend, crowd at the Bay, we were surprised to see less than twenty boats at anchor or rafted. We anchored easily but a bit too close to a nearby boat, so we (I) pulled it up and we repositioned a hundred feat further back from the ICW. 

Both tired, we had dinner, a glass of wine and a tot of Rum, and prepared for our early night. Breakfast on Tuesday Morning was Salmon and Guacamole, mini tomatoes and some fried bread (skillet toast) and, of course, some Hot Coffee.

We motored easily back to the dock. There was a train crossing at the FEC Bridge but we slowed down so we would not get to 3rd Avenue bridge before the FEC Bridge opened. 

Back at the dock, we unloaded, washed the boat down, checked everything was set for us to leave the boat and head home.

This was a great weekend, not only did we enjoy the sail up to Lake Boca and then the sail up to Lake Worth, but a great time spent in the West Palm Beach Anchorage. The trip home was just another lesson on how to handle the boat in slightly adverse conditions. Every time we experience a bit of difficulty we learn a lot and this weekend was no exception. 

I would give this weekend a full 5 Stars.

See you on the water.