Monday, 28 April 2014

Making Serenity Self-Steering

Sailboats, after the initial investment to buy, repair, upgrade, and improve, are relatively inexpensive things to operate. By using the wind, you save a lot of money in fuel. The downside is that you don't have a motor running all the time to provide power for electronics and electrics, and keeping the batteries charged up.

You can use things like solar panels, wind generators, and so on, but regardless of which method you use to keep your boat's batteries topped up, electricity is almost always in short supply. This means that sailors are always looking for ways of doing thing without power, as they would have in centuries past.

An electronic autopilot is very handy when you are sailing alone, or even with a small crew. There are times when you need to let go of the tiller to take care of something. An autopilot is like having another crew member aboard, but one that requires a constant supply of electricity. It is also expensive to buy and install. So, what are the alternatives?

Those who follow Dylan Winter on his voyage around the UK in a small boat will probably have seen his video showing what he is experimenting with aboard his Westerly Centaur, Harmony. His method requires using a small jib rigged like a cutter rig's staysail, but used for steering, not driving the boat.

I don't have an extra sail of appropriate size kicking around, so I have something else in mind. This method uses a line attached to the boom. To me, this looks like a much simpler way to do it, and has less friction in the system. Everything is also in the cockpit, where you can more easily keep an eye on all the parts.

This video show one boom to tiller design in action:

Serenity already has a TillerTmer, but this device just locks the rudder in place, and does not compensate for wind gusts and waves. When sailing alone, I use it while raising the sails to keep the boat head to wind, and it is also good for heaving to. It does not work as an autopilot in anything but the most ideal conditions, and not for very long.

Serenity tending itself while I relax at the mast for a minute or two. 2013-08-02

Since I will usually be sailing alone, a good form of self steering would come in quite handy. This will be an interesting thing to experiment with this coming summer. I'll report back on my progress. Use the comments to let me know what you use.

Friday, 4 April 2014

Neverending Winter

Over the past couple of decades, the winters here have been getting shorter and warmer, but every now and then we have an "old fashioned" winter. This is where it is cold, and snow is covering the ground in November, and it feels like it will never end. Even with a major melt in January where almost all the snow was gone, here we are in April with lots on the ground.

Serenity on March 1, 2014

March 1, 2014 looking at the back of the driveway.

As the weeks have gone by since the middle of March, however, the height of the snowbanks have shrunk. Most of the snowfalls lately have been light, and more has melted than fell. We are seeing more days above freezing than below, and even the occasional warm night. The snow's days are numbered.

April 4, 2014, Serenity begins shedding the winter coat.

So, on April 4, with the sun shining, and a high of about 6ÂșC,  I started taking the winter cover off Serenity. It is only just the cockpit, but now I have easier access to the boat, and can start doing some things aboard to get the boat ready for the summer, which now looks more likely. Yes, the winter that seemed like it was never going to end, is ending. - I hope!