Sailing by the braille method!

Yesterday I took my 19 year old daughter and her boyfriend sailing. His first time on a big boat.
I was blowing a steady 20 kts with gusts to 25. We spend some time charging and bouncing around the ‘fun zone’ of Haro Strait where the strong ebb tide was against the wind. We had the #3 up and a reef in the main. All was well and they had a great time taking turns and the helm and grinding in the jib.
Wanting to have smoother water to each lunch we headed up into Garrison Bay near English Camp National Historic Park, short tacking around the anchored boats. During the run down into and Wescott Bay we broke out the french bread, salami and manchego cheese. As we were rounding Bell Pt the boat slowly came to a stop, almost like a car at a stop sign. What?! We should have plenty of water here. We pivoted toward the shore, beam on to the wind and stuck fast in the mud.

  • Engine in reverse – no.
  • Sheet in the sails to heel over and slide off – nope
  • Everybody on leeward side – nada.
  • Combination of all the above – zip

It was low tide and the mud was soft so I figured just we’d just have lunch and wait for the tide to come up in an hour of so.

Before we could take our first bites a yachtsman anchored nearby came to try to pull us off in his dinghy. He couldn’t really develop much uumph with his 9.9 HP outboard. I give him my spare spinnaker halyard to try to pull the mast over. Still not enough. I dug out our fortress anchor and 40′ of chain and 250′ of rode, attached the bitter end to the halyard and he motored it downwind and set it. We pulled it in but there was so much slack and stretch in the line that we got to the halyard’s shackle before we could exert any real force. We disconnected the halyard and put the anchor rode on the winch. This was starting to work! Everybody on the low side.

A crowd had gathered to watch on the shore while several other people showed up, a woman in her dinghy who had run aground in this same spot the day before, an older gentleman who had drug anchor that morning in Garrison bay, a tender with guys, wives and kids with a 90 on the back. With their help we spun the boat toward deep water and suddenly popped off!

Now the fun begins! Sails and up and sheeted hard with took off with the bow line still connected to the tender and the anchor rode still on the genoa winch. We quickly started dragging the tender backwards and quickly  burning through the anchor line. We finally untie the bow line and just as the last few feet of anchor line slipped over the side the gentleman in the dinghy grabs our grabs it to prevent our losing the whole kit to the deep.   We drop the jib, and motor into the wind as the kind gentleman brings back our anchor, chain and line.

Profuse thank you ensue.

Then my baseball cap then blows off and the kind gentleman retrieves that also.

With everything except my dignity back on board we motor-sail back to the dock.

In review here are the lessons learned:

  • Review the chart – even though you’ve been here before things are different at low tide.
  • Don’t relax just cause you’re out of the ‘fun zone’.
  • We did the right things trying to heel the boat over and slide off. Waiting an hour for the tide to come up would have helped. We could have also had lunch and skipped the fire drill.
  • Have a plan for when you come off.
  • Tie a fender to the anchor line. That way you can just throw it over and pick it up at your leisure.
  • The kindness and willingness of fellow sailors to help never ceases to amaze me. Thanks to all!

Speed tips?

Some more newbie questions…
1) My boat is equipped for a cutter/staysail (it’s not rigged now) and came with a set of running backstays.  I get they are needed when I rig the staysail but how about without it?  Did the boat originally come with the running backstays and when do you use them?  Is there a way to look at mast bend or backstay pressure and see when you are in the range of needing the backstays?
2) Has anyone shared any go fast tips or tuning experience…any comments about real world vs the polars.
Jim (Sabrina)

Hi Jim,
We have check stays on our boat. These go from the aft corner to about 2/3 the way up the mast. Their function is to stop he mast from ‘pumping’ when going upwind in the chop with the backstay cranked on. In the Pacific Northwest we don’t use them all that much due to lack of wind/chop. It’s easy to watch the mast pump. In 15 knts+ go forward and sight up the front of the mast. Really put your eyeball right on the metal and focus about half way up. Can’t miss it going back and forth. Sort of spooky. A little bit is normal – say an inch or two – but anymore and I’d pull on the check stays. Remember to release them when you tack/gybe! On the check stay we have these EZLock rope clutches that anything but EZ! They defy logic and are a total pain in the ass if you ask me.
2) The polars are pretty close. We don’t seem to be quite that fast upwind but we’re close. The downwind angles seem to be good. My E34 doesn’t like to be pinched upwind. Footing of 5 degrees makes a world of difference to the VMG. That being said, without 5 people on the rail I don’t seem to be able to hang with the more weatherly boats. We do catch them on the downwind leg though…
Controlling weather helm is another big issues. Upwind I have one crew dedicated to working the traveler. In stronger winds the main will often have a large bubble in the luff. Reefing helps but a lot of times I’m just trying to get to the windward mark so I’ll suffer with being overpowered for a bit so I don’t have put in and then take out the reef. Lazy, I know!
The backstay is your friend for flattening the main as the wind picks up. I’m monkeying with mast rake as we speak to find the optimum balance.
Hope this helps
Greg S.
Wailana – Hull #1
Have anything to add? Reply below…

Spinnaker questions

From Jim H. on Sabrina. Please feel free to reply!

Hi…so I’m coming up on my first distance race…47 miles of the St Mary’s Governors Cup. Only flown the chute a couple of times and the previous owner didn’t use it so I didn’t get any pass down.

1. The downhaul for the bridle has two lines that run to both sides of the cockpit. Are both lines attached to the bridle? When reaching it seems like you really need a downhaul at the end of the pole to keep the leech tight…so maybe one of those lines can go to the pole end when reaching? Curious what the original intent was.2. Any experience with end to end vs pole dip jibing.

3. There were no twings provided…if anyone is using them how are they rigged?



From Greg S. on Wailana

Hi Jim,
Sounds like a fun race!
1. On Wailana the two down-haul (foreguy) lines for the spinnaker run through pulleys in the middle of the foredeck and then attach to a block attached to the central point on the pole’s bridle. This is so you can adjust the downhaul from either side of the cockpit. See pics.
2. I tried dip pole jibing once on my boat and found that it was too cumbersome; too many lines and required too many crew who knew what they were doing. It was more complexity than I wanted to deal with. Of course I’m a chickens**t and don’t fly my chute in much over 16 kts. It might be a different story if I was the bowman trying to clip the sheet in 25 kts on a pitching foredeck!
3. I’ve got twings of 3/16″ line that just clip on with small carabineers and are run through small blocks on the rail near the widest point of the beam. They attach to small cam cleats on the cabin top.  I use them when it’s gets breezy to ‘slow my roll’ and help with gybing.
Do you have a reaching strut? It’s sometimes called a jockey pole and comes in handy when hard on the wind with the spinnaker. It holds the afterguy off the stanchion/lifelines.
I’ll post this to the website and see if anyone responds.
Good luck!
Greg S. – Wailana Hull #1

Anybody want my old Martec prop?

For the cost of shipping you can have my old Martec 16″ X 10″ RH folding prop. Fits a 1″ shaft.

It needs to be refurbished by Martec; cost = ~$300. This was the standard equipment I believe and would work well with the standard 18 HP engine. I would not recommend it with a larger engine.


Greg S. – Wailana Hull #1

Is the Express 34 a classic?

Think about this – the Express 34 is thirty years old.
Does that make it a classic? What makes a boat a classic? Speed? Popularity? Longevity?

Whisper in the rainbow

On the short list of fiberglass boats that define a classic plastic from the 1980’s, here’s what I came up with:

  • J-35
  • Express 27 & 37
  • Olson 30, 911s
  • Santa Cruz 27, 50
  • Frers 33
  • Others?

While the Alsberg Brothers produced the 34 in nowhere near the numbers of the more popular 27 and 37, the Express speed, strength and versatility DNA is still deeply embeded. No doubt it’s a better cruising boat than either of her sisters.
Of course I’m biased, but I’m calling the Express 34 a ‘Classic Sleeper’. What do you think?


Greg S. – Wailana – Hull #1


Props to Wailana

So I finally bit the bullet and bought a new prop for Wailana. A folding Martec elliptical 16″ x 12″ RH.

This means that it’s 16″ diameter with a 12″ pitch (the distance traveled forward in one rotation) – right hand turning.

The old one was 16″ x 10″ and when they replaced the engine with a more powerful one they didn’t re-prop so I could never get much past 5.5 kts. I’m now getting 7 kts easily at 3,000 RPM. I couldn’t be happier! Price with tax was about one boat unit = $1,000.

Installation was straight forward.etting the old prop off was the hard part. Luckily the yard had a special tool that looks like a giant ‘C’ clamp and it popped off with a bang.

Martec 16″ X 12″ RH