Lake Pepin Sleigh Rides

Despite a slow start to summer sailing, had some fun time on the water to close out the season.  For the first time, having my own garage made boat repair much easier and more enjoyable, but it still takes time.  After several years of outdoor storage, the exposed wood got a few fresh coats of varnish to make her look new again.

After only sailing at only one nearby lake, I decided to try a larger sampling of Minnesota’s 10,000+ lakes.  First to Lake Beebe, after some fishermen kindly recommended me not put my “beautiful” boat in the lake I had planned to visit as it looked great from google maps.  Apparently the shallow lake had been further drained the last couple years, and there are “trackers” just below the water and plenty of others debris for the unwary boater to crash into.  Beebe provided some deep waters, the rare fish allowing themselves to be caught from the boat, and quiet waters for reading at anchor behind an island.

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Having a free weekend ahead, I had planned for a while for a weekend cruise to Lake Pepin.  After much time checking out the area on the internet and getting the boat and gear ready, I drove to Lake City to launch in the city marina.  Plenty of friendly fellow sailors there to help launch “Garage Sail”, something I am certainly not used to in any other lake in the area.  Headed out on the water with some solid tailwinds of 13-20+ kts, which I had sailed in before, but never single handed.  After a bit of trial and error, realized despite the reefed main, it was certainly challenging to keep a steady course while providing spirited sailing (surfing at up to 7 kts).  A lot of rudder was needed to keep straight – so much that I was afraid the tiller might snap.  What was much easier, was sailing with the jib alone, with only a small loss in speed of 1-2 kts.  Along the way, saw a variety of boats including a long and short river barge charging upstream.

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The forecast held true, resulting in a calm night despite the windy days.  With the heavy rains in the past weeks, the Chippewa River delta was plenty deep to allow the shallow sailboat to tuck into a side channel with ~270 degree tree coverage blocking the winds.  The two bow anchors set apart from each other,  a steady river current, and light winds made for a very quiet and still boat all night.  Like others, I have have found that the boat sways considerably in any moderate wind when at anchor (perhaps due to the large cabin and offset anchor due to bowsprit?) – would love to hear if anyone has found a better anchor/sail/etc arrangement when at anchor. Nice to sleep with the sounds of the river, insects and birds.  Tried adding a tarp over the boom/gaff to add a bit more darkness in the morning and keeping the dew in check for half the cockpit.  Also tried a bungee cord to the tiller, which wasn’t a problem this time, but is typically is a bit noisy if locked or if let free allow it to bang side to side.

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After a slow morning, time to head back.  Luckily, once again, the weather forecast held true and the winds shifted allowing for a easy beam reach for all of the 10+ miles back once I got back into the main lake.  Tried a bit more fishing, but in my time in MN so far, the Mississippi River is never cooperative in providing fish.  So just as well, as the winds were to increase in ferocity as the afternoon progressed.  For the return ride, a reefed main + jib was again a bit much, so processed with main alone.  I had always thought that the jib was important to windward progress, and perhaps this is so, but with main alone I had no trouble keeping to windward without the need to tack once.    The wind was enough for the “angle-o-meter” to hit up to 45 degrees allowing for a nice quad workout keeping myself in place with one hand on the side rail and the other on the tiller. There was also a bit of wind swell/chop on the lake giving just enough spray to add to the fun, but was glad for the significant bow volume to ride over much of the waves.  Once out of the water, walked out the small downtown of Lake City which was full of stalls of some sort street festival battling the blowing wind.

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Summer Sailing

To all those building, or still contemplating building a PocketShip, and following the various blog out there, the thought must frequently come to mind, “what happens after the build is finished?”.  While building, you have frequent progress.  Add a new bulkhead, painted, etc.  Great!  Take a picture and add it to the blog!

Once you start the sailing phase, it is hard to come across a new photo.  Sure, you can post another photo of the same shot you’ve already posted a hundred times, off to the side with the boat and sail framing the shot.  And in the thrill of sailing, it seems totally new, and you keep taking pictures!  But once you look at them afterwards, it just looks like more of the same.  And since us non-super-literate boat builder blogs are really more about the photos than our intellectual writing, we really don’t have much to blog about anymore.

But sometime you have a sailing experience that just makes you feel totally alive again.  It has been a busy summer, with the whole house buying moving process of looking, negotiating, packing, moving, unpacking… you get the idea.  So the boat has been sitting idle a bit, and last weekend was hot and windy.  Just perfect for sailing.

Went out earlier in the summer, but one of those days where things just didn’t all go right.  For example, half the dock space was closed due to invasive species clean-up, making it  hard to launch and head back-in, etc.  This time though, everything just went smoothly.  Was relaxing, fun, and all done single handed.  As one of the earlier Pocketships launched, I had come up with my own way of raising the mast, docking, etc.  After watching John’s (from CLC) set-up video, I tried out some of his recommendations for the first time, and got to say, they really made it that much easier!   Partially encouraged from Jon’s launching without the use of the outboard, but really due to the fact that somehow the oil had drained out of the outboard during the winter, I also practiced without the use of the outboard.   Once you get the hang of it, it is so much more relaxing and pleasant not to deal with it.  It is now only the starting, but also the raising back up, closing off the vent cap, etc.  Even had to reef down a step – having the boat lean-to as he does in the video, worked out really well.

Anyhow, enough of this writing, here are some pictures.  Okay, one more thing… that shallow draft really comes in handy on this lake (Lake Independence, MN).   This allows you to sail around the island, in relative peace.  The keel did hit something once (first time I have ever heard it).  Heard a subtle hitting sound, accompanied by the sound of air passing through the hole the keel line runs through.  The keel lifted up, and dropped right back down, as intended.  Found a nice quiet area out of the wind, that led to some cool trails around the island, as well as some peaceful reading and music listening aboard.

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Winter Hibernation

While picking up my kayak from storage, I saw Garage Sail for the first time in over 6 months.  All winter long, during every blustery winter day, I wondered if that was the gust that will shred my cheap tarp and send the various ropes and bungee cords flapping away.

Alas, after all the worrying, it was just fine.  All intact, and only the thinnest of the bungee cords were stretched out.

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Of their many benefits, the cover’s main purpose to keep the sun’s rays from attaching the boat.  Just like missing an area of your shoulders with sunscreen, the cover had settled and pulled back from covering the upper end of the mast (again).  That area is now has a rough texture due to damage of the epoxy/protective varnish.  Wrapped some scrap sail cover material around the mast for now – got some epoxy repair in my future.

Now with May flying by it is time to get the sails back on and her out on the water!

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