Tuesday, June 22, 2010

New Dinghy!

For anything except moving between marinas, a dinghy is pretty much an essential item for a cruising boat.  In the past, I've sailed around Puget Sound without one, and have spent many fine nights at anchor in wonderful anchorages.  However I couldn't get to shore.  Or set crab pots.  Or visit my neighbors.  Or head into town without docking the boat at a marina.  Buying a dinghy has long been on my list of things-to-do.

Doing research on which dinghy to buy lead to a lot of confusion.  The choice of motor also was also not a clear cut decision.  I wanted a dinghy made of hypalon, so that it would survive strong sun.  Beyond that, there are arguments for buying the biggest dinghy you can fit on the boat, or buying a RIB which has a rigid fiberglass floor but that doesn't roll up, or buying a wood floor, or not buying a motor but rather buying a dinghy you can row more easily, or buying a large motor that will speed the dinghy along, or buying a small motor which is light and fuel efficient.

In the end, I bought an Achilles LSI-260.  It has a high pressure inflatable floor, which means I can deflate the thing and roll it up into the size of a duffle bag.  This will be useful for offshore passages where I can store it below in the cabin.  Its 8' 6" and weights 66 lbs.  The motor is a Tohatsu 3.5 hp 4 stroke.  It weights 41 lbs.

I bought it at Ballard Inflatable Boats, in Ballard.  I always prefer to spend my money locally, and they gave me good service and advice.  They are recommended.  They will also talk you through the technique for affixing the registration letters/numbers onto the dinghy, which was useful.

Here's the dinghy in Echo Bay on Sucia Island.  I've been in this bay three times, but this is the first time I've been to shore.  The Island is wonderful, there is a lot of good walking, lots of camping sites, fire pits.  Being able to get to shore totally changed the visit this time.

The dinghy is also a perfect fit for Luckness.  The dinghy fits perfectly in front of the mast and behind the staysail stay.

Getting the dinghy up on deck is easily done using one of the spare halyards, the spinnaker halyard works well.  Attach the halyard, winch it up using one of the winches at the mast, flip it over and tie it down.  The side decks are free so I can still walk up and down both sides of the boat stern to bow.

After my visit to shore in Echo Bay I was returning to the boat in perfectly calm water.  I went out toward the mouth of the bay where there were no boats around and wanted to see how fast I could get the dinghy going.  I found that in perfectly calm water, with one person aboard, if I opened the engine up to wide-open-throttle, then shifted my weight forward as much as possible I could just get the dinghy up out of the hole it was in and onto plane.  Once the dinghy was planing it hit 10.7 knots!  That yielded big wide grins!  If there are any ripples or waves on the water at all, it won't plane.  But it gets around pretty well, going 5 to 6 knots.  Its a rockin little tender.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Memorial sailing

Saturday I left for Quartermaster harbor. It was a grey morning and I didn't get away from the dock until 11:30. There was a decent wind - S10 and so I started sailing upwind. It was pretty slow progress and as I made my way past Alki point at 3pm I was wondering when I would need to turn the engine on and motor to the harbor. I kept on trying and at around 5 the wind improved toward the south end of Vashon Island and I started making better progress. By 8:30 I was approx 5 miles from the anchorage and I brought in my genoa and started motoring. I set the anchor at 9:30, just as it was starting to really get dark. The moon was almost full on Saturday - but it didn't rise until later that night.  The clouds had been clearing for the previous few hours and I made dinner and ate beneath the stars in an anchorage where my anchor light was the only one visible.

Sunday's VHF weather report was not encouraging. The stations they list describing the current conditions progress from north to south in the Sound. Seattle was 5 knots, Alki Point was 0.8 and Point Robertson reported 'winds calm.' This didn't change and I decided to stay at Quartermaster rather than motoring to some other anchorage. So I read for a while, worked on a few projects, read some more, worked on the boat some more. It would rain off and on all day.  It was a pretty productive and relaxing day.

Monday morning I woke at 6am to dead calm in the anchorage, so I went back to sleep. Woke at 8, no wind, slept again. Finally got up at 9:30 and left by 10:30. The wind reports for the south sound were light - 6 knots at Point Robertson when I left but there was stronger winds up north - 13 knots at West Point where I was going. As I left the anchorage and turned a corner toward the sound the winds strengthened and I was able to leave the harbor under sail. That lasted for about an hour at which point it died and I motored up Calvos passage on the west side of Vashon for an hour or so. Suddenly - the wind started to arrive. Within the span of a few minutes I had what seemed like 10 - 15 knots of south wind. I brought out the Genoa, shut down the motor and was able to sail the rest of the way back to Shilshole. The grey and cold of the morning was replaced with blue skies and warmth.

Another beautiful weekend of sailing. I'm looking forward to picking up the dinghy this week - for one thing it will make taking pictures of Luckness much easier.