Friday, October 25, 2013

A lesson in proper vessel command

I have had to learn to give up control of our 52' Nauticat if I want the smooth professional docking experience.

It has been a counter-intuitive lesson.  I have studied the many docking situations, I know in theory how the dock lines should be worked with the prop and I have studied the wind, tide and current impacts on boats during dockings.  I plan for every docking including how to abort and how to handle emergency situations such as throttle or engine failure.  I have Visio diagrams of dockings for our boat to share with crew.  I am the "man" on the boat which society has ingrained into my head that I should be in charge.

BUT, that doesn't work if I want our boat to lightly touch against the inside docks at the exact proper point after maneuvering in tight quarters between other expensive yachts. 

At this point I want to yell out to my father and mother in-law and to other relatives asking "do you REALIZE that Mary Beth routinely docks a 55,000 lb boat at over 60' in length?  This is a massive sailboat with a single prop and NO docking aids?  In strong currents, she very lightly touches the docks and knows how to play the dock lines and engine to move the stern or bow in and out???  I challenge anyone else in the Fowler or Meinberg households to attempt this feat like she continuously proves that she can do."  She is a great role model for our young girls.  I hope our young girls can learn these skills.

Early on, we decided that it made much more sense for me to be a dockhand and her to be the captain when going close to shore, anchoring, or catching moorings.  I am taller and I have more reach.  I can pull a little harder on the lines.  I feel bad when I watch all the other boats with the man at the helm and the women being yelled at while they reach over and try to correct mooring problems caused by too much throttle.

What works for us is if my wife is captain and helmsman, and I limit my comments to distances and speeds.  My job is to plan with her our approach beforehand and then I must focus on catching the dock with proper lines, catching the mooring ball, or dropping anchor when my wife tells me the depth and position is good.  My wife IS the captain and SHE decides when to apply throttle, when to turn the rudder, and when / if to abort.  (Since I have learned my role, we have never had to abort and our dockings have impressed everyone who watches.) 

On our initial voyage from Rhode Island, I (we) had yet to learn that my role must be limited.  We attempted to approach a simple side-pier docking on the Hudson and I kept yelling commands at her.  The result was that we actually missed the dock.  We looked very silly.

In my mind, I wasn't just trying to catch the dock, but I was also judging currents, wind, etc. for a very large boat and trying to help my wife in the pilothouse.  I felt responsible for the whole activity.  I couldn't let go and let her perform her task as the captain of such a large boat.  (It is actually 62' with the dinghy on the back davits.)

Then, on our next docking, something happened and I bit my tongue and my wife place the boat neatly along side the dock without my telling her when and how to throttle/steer.  She planted the boat exactly where it needed to be.  This pattern has repeated itself over and over again in the last few months at dockings, moorings, etc.  If I help her plan ahead of time, and then I limit my comments to how far we are from dock or the mooring ball, and I limit my comments to how fast we are moving relative to the destination, then we end up exactly where we need to be. 

Today was a perfect example.  As we approached an unfamiliar marina for an inside dock, a passenger commented that we might not fit between the expensive boats.  That passenger and I kept the fenders ready and we kept our concerns to ourselves.  Basically, we stuck to our role as deckhands who should provide distance/speed data and who should be ready with fenders in case we came too close to another boat.  It was my wife's choice if she wanted to abort.  She did not.  She slowly moved us past the expensive boats, turned us to starboard, gave us a nice reverse kick to walk the stern into the dock, and made our family look like 30 year professionals.  We threw the dock lines to hands on the dock who quickly secured us to pilings.  (My wife showed me how to properly coil and throw lines for very long distances if I ever needed to do that.  I have not needed that skill since I let her control the boat.)  

There is some bragging right to our not having bow thrusters or other docking aids with this large a boat.  All the expensive boats we are docked next to have expensive docking aids.  What we have is a woman who told me she can "feel" the prop under the 55,000 lbs of displacement and "feels when the prop is in neutral."   (Sometimes, our neutral isn't easy to find...  I should fix that, but it isn't really a problem given that she can feel the prop and the boat move.)

After docking today, I felt really good.  It is fun when everyone else walks away thinking "the Fowlers really know what they are doing with that large boat.  They are obviously experienced at docking and must be very, very experienced large boat sailors."  Everyone walks away feeling they had fun and feeling they had a very safe outing on the boat.  All of this occurs because I learned to keep my big mouth shut in the last few months.  My job is chief deckhand.  My job is handling the anchor, fenders, and lines.  It hasn't been an easy lesson for me to learn.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Fortuitous Log Book that can be Printed

Here is a link to the Excel workbook with all the logs (templates)...

Fortuitous Logbook Template

Basically, you can download and modify the logs for your own purpose.  You can print a bunch of copies of various workbooks and put them in a bound folder such as a photo album if you want it to look good.

My oldest girl used leather and created a bound "captains logbook" for me for Christmas.  I absolutely love it.  I wouldn't trade that logbook for a new engine.  I know that every hour she spent locked in her room creating that book, she was thinking about me.  I found out she spent hours upon hours researching how to bind books on youtube and then buying supplies, cutting, gluing, etc, to make the book.

Both my daughters figured out early how to tie my heart into a stopper knot.  It is for them I bought Fortuitous.  Every time they ask to climb the mast, I stop what I am doing and help them aloft.  Once we set sail, it is all about them and Mary Beth.

Still inspired - I think I will post my homemade log books and boat manuals

I was inspired to post the cushion videos, but I have more...

I created my own "log books" for Fortuitous and a boat manual for the Nauticat 52 - Fortuitous.

Much of the manual is specific to Fortuitous, so it is not worth posting.  It is based on the original manual and a lot of information on sailing a Ketch.  It has a lot of information on the systems specific to Fortuitous...  Much of it is for guests.  For instance, we have pictures of how we dock Fortuitous in various situations, so that guests can understand the procedure if they want to assist as crew.  Fortuitous is a fairly heavy boat with a counter-clockwise prop and it is important to us that guests understand the rules and plan before we approach a dock...

However, the log books are word documents that I created to print out and put into a binder.  I found very little assistance on the Internet, and frankly, I like my log book pages better than anyone else's I found.  They would be easy for people to modify and print for themselves.  They include the following:

  • Radio Log
  • Trip Summary
  • Watch Log
  • Daily Checklist
  • Monthly Checklist
  • 6 Month Checklist
  • Yearly Checklist
  • Safety Checklist
  • Safety Equipment
  • Parts List
  • Repair Log
  • Needed Repairs
  • Fuel Record
  • Fish Log
  • Guest Register
I know that I must seem a bit OCD, but it was cheaper to make these myself and print / bind them myself.  Over the winter, I couldn't sail, so I spent my time on things I could do.  I keep them in a binder on the helm station and edit them frequently.  It helps me avoid simple errors.  The "needed repairs" log has been the most used and it has really helped organize the repairs.  All the major and/or quality of life issues were not forgotten and quickly repaired.  The kids have learned to simply put an entry in the log if they want it fixed.

In the meantime, I am becoming pretty good on everything from the engines to the heads.  For instance, I (and my wife as she leads or assists with all repairs) know exactly how to repair (and thus operate) the two automatic and manual bilge pumps.  We know how the engine is cooled and have sucked water through the exhaust hose to prime the system (that was fun.)  We know the radio, we know the heads and holding tank.  EVERY light works - not many 30 year old boats can say that.  I am currently inspecting every electric wire and removing anything that could be a danger / hazard before we set out on our trip.  My wife is re-bedding the portals.  And so on, and so on...  Fortuitous is looking good.

Final layout of cushions

We are done with the first six.  We selected a teal for the cushion backs.

The spare material was used by my kids to create throw pillows.  We found a patterned fabric for the throw pillows that contained the colors of the back and bottom cushions.  That was a nice touch.

I don't have a picture with me, but the pilot house and saloon look very nice with the new cushions.

Now, we have to stain and work on the wood in the interior to make it also look new.

Turning the cushion outside out

This is always fun.  We turn the cushion outside out and we inspect the corners.  If we find a flaw, we fix it now before putting the cushion in.  The cushion will add pressure to all the fabric.

When turning the cushion outside out, you push the corners out.  At this point, it is good to have already clipped the excess fabric from the corners.

Of course, everything looks good at this point.  It isn't until the foam is inserted that you realize how well you did.

Since I just thought of it, let me provide a word on "batting."

Basically, the foam has "batting" which is like the stuffing of a pillow put all around it.  This will make the cushion cover smaller than the foam and batting which are inserted into the cushion.  This provides stiffness.

So, we size the cover to exactly match the foam.  We add batting around the foam (already added in our case since we reused foam+batting).  The batting adds to cushion comfort and it smooths the edges of the foam so that the edges are not visible through the fabric.  The batting is glued to the foam.  There are videos on Sailrite about batting.

Rounding a cushion corner (sewing)

Here we are rounding a corner.  It isn't that hard.

You can sew back and forth a few times in each step to reinforce the stitch, but I didn't want to do that with this fabric and as mentioned before the thread is very strong.

The corners were looking good in any case.

Note that we hand cranked around the corners and we would put the needle down before we raised the foot of the sewing machine.

Clipping excess fabric off the inside

Another short video showing the inside of the cushion fabric being prepped.  At this stage it feels good to be so close to being done with a cushion.

Little did we know that we were only 1/3 the way done with the cushions.