I started building a John Welsford Pathfinder in July 2008. The boat was completed in Oct, 2010.

This blog now records our use of the boat, but documentation of building the boat can be found in the archives.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Texas 200

No, I didn't do the TX 200 this year, but we did take a little sailing/beach trip down to the coast at the same time.  I've been wanting to get more experience sailing in the area (Laguna Madre in this case) and also thought it would be fun to see the boats going by since I've followed them on the internet since before I built this boat.  We camped at Bird Island Basin, a well known spot for wind surfers and also close to one of the camps for the TX 200 guys.  We arrived and setup camp the day before they would come through.

The next morning I set up the boat and my daughter and I sailed it from the ramp upwind a mile or so then back across to our camp.

We had a really good spot right on the water.  No one else was around so we had the whole area to ourselves.  Our giant Walmart tent wasn't really up to the wind that we would experience, so I tied it off to the picnic shelter the best I could.

Our first family sail turned out to be the only one of the trip.  It was nice, winds about 15mph, I had one reef in the main to be safe.  We sailed out a couple of miles and anchored to fish.  We caught and released a few small catfish before we ran out of bait, then headed back.  I was looking forward to the next sail to do a little more exploring of the area. 

While we were fishing, we began to see the first of the Texas 200 fleet passing through.  With a pair of binoculars, I could identify a few of the boats including Mike Monies' Red Scamp (Welsford design) I'm pretty sure.  Unfortunately these were all too far away to make any pictures possible.

The next day we were up early to watch a sea turtle release at Malaquite beach which the kids really enjoyed.  After that, I was ready for more sailing but the wind was coming up pretty fast so I offered to go out for a "test" sail to see what the conditions were like and my daughter wanted to come with me, so we were off.  

Out of an abundance of caution, I didn't set the mainsail.  I'm not sure the conditions really warranted that, and I found pretty quickly that I couldn't point upwind very well like this.  The situation there is complicated by the fact that the laguna madre is on average very shallow and that in many places, particularly when close to shore, we had to raise the centerboard enough to avoid dragging and the rudder comes up as well.

At one point, I suggested to my daughter that I might not be able to get back to the camp (because I wasn't getting upwind enough) and that I might need to use the motor.  Her response was "what?, we're already going back?"  She enjoys the sailing and isn't rattled easily.

According to the wind log from the area, the wind at this point was on average 20mph with gusts to 25.  Under those conditions the boat was still very easy to handle with no mainsail up and I eventually was able to get it to point high enough to get upwind of our camp and sail back with no assistance from the motor.  One of the reasons I wanted to "spy" on the TX 200 was to get a feel for the area and the conditions during the event so this was helpful.  Sailing downwind or on a reach, as most of the TX 200 route is, would have been very nice and just the two sails provided plenty of power for the boat, but since I had to be able to come back to where I started in this case, the upwind sailing was a bit tricky for me.

Here are a few pictures of us during the "test" sail.  One really nice thing about this area for sailing is that the wind is not able to build up much chop in the Laguna Madre on the east shore  (I understand the bays are a different story).  In the pictures, you can see how calm the surface is.  With this kind of wind on our inland lakes, the chop become quite significant very quickly.

Unfortunately, after that, the wind only increased for the duration of our stay, culminating with 30mph with gusts to 35 (from the weather station data) at 2am on our last night.  Definitely too much wind for me to consider sailing in.   The boat sat just off the shore of our camp for the rest of the time, posing for pictures with the water making the scene look much more placid than it was..

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Summer Sailing

We finally got a decent sail in since Sail Oklahoma despite two unsuccessful attempts.

In April we went out in some high winds and learned where the limits for family sailing should be set.  We had some gusts up to 30 mph and even with only the jib and mizzen up the boat heeled during some gusts more than I've experienced so far.  The Pathfinder performed well in these conditions, but it was really too rough to be taking kids out in.  I believe if we had anyone fall out of the boat in those conditions, it would have been pretty scary given the closely spaced chop that builds up in our rock-shored lakes.  In addition, the jib's connection to it's wire luff failed during a gust, leaving me with an un-furlable headsail and given that the wire luff is also the forestay, it couldn't be taken down and is very difficult to douse in those conditions.  After a white-knuckled motoring back to dock with a wildly flogging half doused jib, I decided that I don't want to have sail that can't be taken down any more.

The result is that now I have made a new wire forestay and sewed up a new jib using a Sailrite kit that is hanked on.   I have been wanting to try out sail making for awhile and used this as an excuse to try it on a small sail.  I found the kit to be really excellent and the new sail performs well.  I will repair my old sail and may try hoisting it with the furler using the separate forestay to see how it does like that although I've heard it is difficult to get correct tension on the luff of the sail with that method.  In any case, I'll have a spare jib and will be able to decide which setup I like better.  As long as I can take the sail down if I need, I'll be happy.

Our next failure was not quite so catastrophic, but annoying.  We tried to sail on the Sunday before memorial day, and literally could not find a place to launch because of the overwhelming crowds of boaters and we went home without ever setting the boat up.

Finally, we got to the lake on my kids' first day of summer vacation and enjoyed some excellent sailing weather with light but steady wind.  It really takes the slightest of breezes to get the Pathfinder up to speed.

Here is a picture showing the new jib:

These guys are enormously happy to be in the water again.

This one is too.

We stopped on our favorite island and found it covered with wildflowers.  You can't see all of the colors in the photo, but it was quite stunning in person.

Given our experience with high winds last month, we used this outing to practice a few things.  First, we tried out reboarding the boat with a crude rope ladder that I've always carried around with us.  It was difficult at first to use, but I think we figured out a good method for boarding with it that isn't too hard...we'll need to practice it again next time.  I also had my wife and daughter practice getting the boat back to a man-overboard using the outboard.  And, winds were light enough that my wife agreed to sail some this time....here is the proof.