Tuesday, November 30, 2010

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas

DSC_1357 (2)Bella Star is bedecked for the season with glittery snowflakes, colorful garland and, of course, a gorgeous Christmas tree.

We’ve even hung our stockings by the chimney with care. DSC_1364 (2) Our exterior lights are still patiently waiting to be strung, but once our new mainsail is bent on this week (!), Bella Star will be in full holiday mode.  Happy holidays!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Sail Repair Seminar

The five of us sit quietly on little wooden benches in our socks and slippers.  Our eyes are trained intently on our laps, needles in hand, as we carefully pull stitch after stitch through a piece of sail cloth.  We’ve just learned the technique for hand-sewing a brass ring onto a sail, and while our rings certainly don’t look as lovely as our instructor’s do—we have a bit of that unsightly 
“pinwheeling” going on—we’re feeling pretty satisfied with ourselves.

A few times each year, Carol Hasse, along with her crew at Port Townsend Sails, opens the loft to 10 students for a weekend-long seminar on inspecting and repairing sails.  Last weekend, I was lucky enough to attend. IMG_6753The hand-working room with our little benches circled up. Each bench is a mini workstation with mallets, needles, thread… and a Band-Aid (which, yes, I had to use).

One of the aspects of the cruising/living aboard lifestyle that I’ve always found appealing is that of self-sufficiency.  Whether you sail offshore or just off the breakwater, being able to maintain your vessel and all its systems brings a measure of satisfaction, security and independence.

And since sails are arguably the most important system on a sailboat, I figured it was time I learned something about how to keep them in shape, how to make repairs and how not to freak out when a sail tears or a slide rips out or we lose a hank (as is bound to happen).

I showed up at 8:30 AM on Saturday morning not sure what to expect.  After introductions, we broke up into two groups of five and jumped right in.  My group headed off to the hand-working room where we got busy sewing brass rings, hanks, slides and easy reefs onto our sail “sampler.”

Halfway through the day, we moved over to the main loft area for a lecture followed by a hands-on inspection of our sails (each student was encouraged to bring in a sail to inspect).  As I headed up the street to my hotel that night, my head was spinning!  We’d crammed so much into one 9-hour day, and I was feeling slightly overwhelmed.  But after a good night’s sleep and a couple cups of coffee the next morning, we were back at it—and it felt great.

My slipper-clad group of five started out Day Two on the sewing machines.  We added a leech table, poked holes in our sail—and then fixed them in various ways (with Dacron tape or with a “TV Screen Patch”).  We added chafe protection like spreader patches and wings, and I must say, I was having fun.  I’ve done a bit of sewing in the past (fleece coats for Greta and a Santa suit for my brother and sister-in-law’s dog, George), but even Scott who hadn’t touched a sewing machine before picked it right up.  I even had Aaron add a Sailrite machine to his Craigslist search (since I haven’t been a good enough girl this year for Santa to shell out $900 for a new one).IMG_6748The machine room

We found ourselves back in the hand-working room after lunch for another round of needle work, this time sewing on a leather chafe guard and learning a number of different stitches that would come in handy when the boat is tossing around and you can’t go below to use your machine (or if you’re like me and don’t have one).

With my certificate in hand at the end of the day, I truly felt a sense of accomplishment.  The skills I learned in the seminar gave me the confidence I need to feel comfortable addressing the needs of our sail suit—from inspection to preventative care to emergency repairs.  Aaron and I have taken a number of classes over the past year or so, and the feeling of empowerment that comes along with knowledge is something that I never get tired of.

A few examples of what we learned:IMG_6795 My hand-sewn sampler showing: brass ring, slide, hank, easy reef, leather chafe guard and reinforcing webbing.

IMG_6787 Hand-sewn brass ring detail—minimal pinwheeling!

IMG_6794 My sampler showing patches and wings sewn on the machine

IMG_6790 Spreader patch detail

IMG_6750Look!  It’s our new mainsail!

For more information: Port Townsend Sails – Sail Repair Seminars

Monday, November 22, 2010


It’s getting pretty chilly!


Definitely the kind of day that makes us want to sail off into the tropics…

We took a short walk around the marina, then came back and tried to throw snowballs into the cockpit of s/v Hello World across the water from us.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Cookie Recipe

DSC_1246 I’ve gotten a few requests for the Severed Finger cookie recipe from the Halloween post, and I’m happy to share!  They taste a bit like shortbread and are perfect with a cup of coffee.  Enjoy!

Severed Finger Cookies
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon pure vanilla
2 ¾ cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
Slivered almonds (for bones)
Sliced almonds (for nails)
Red icing gel (for blood)

In large bowl, add butter and sift in powdered sugar; beat well. Beat in egg, almond extract and vanilla. Sift in flour, baking powder and salt, mixing to combine (dough will be a little crumbly).  Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes until well chilled (I pat the dough into a disk and wrap in plastic wrap.)

Preheat oven to 325°. Working in small batches and keeping the remaining dough in the refrigerator, roll heaping teaspoonfuls of dough into a finger shape. Smaller is better here, since they puff slightly while baking. Work quickly to form the knuckles. Then use a toothpick to create the wrinkles in the knuckles and add texture to the “severed” end. Press an almond slice firmly into the nail area and stick a slivered almond into the other end.

Once filled, I like to chill the cookie sheet again before baking.

Bake for 20–25 minutes. Let cool on cookie sheet for 3 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack. Immediately remove the nail, squeeze a dollop of red icing gel underneath and replace. Add small amounts of red icing gel to the “severed” end.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Keeping the water out

We’ve had a leak since we got the boat that we were finally able to fix with some helpful insight from another HC33 owner.  Thanks Steve!  The leak was coming from the hole in the deck where our diesel heater’s stove pipe passes through the deck.

To fix it, the first thing I did was remove the charlie noble (boat chimney) to get at the hole.

IMG_6560 (Small)

Next was to remove the fairing block – it was cracked in half so I used epoxy to glue it back together.  For this project I used West System G/Flex due to its greater elasticity.

We could see right where the water was coming in.  


With the fairing block removed I used a Dremel with a sanding cylinder bit to clean out the old sealant and prepare the surface for some epoxy and fiberglass tape.


Then I applied the epoxy and fiberglass tape.


I let that cure overnight and then cut off the excess with the Dremel and a cutoff wheel.  ALL HAIL THE DREMEL!  I also sealed up the holes in the deck where the fairing is screwed down.


Then I taped off the area in preparation for applying the sealant. 


I reattached the newly fixed-up fairing pad and tightened the screws just enough to that the sealant was squishing out.  Then wiped away the excess.  (With sealants you want to wait until it’s cured before you screw down the item tightly.)


I pulled the tape while the sealant was still wet.


I let that cure overnight, then tightened up the screws.

Next was to repeat the tape and sealant process with the charlie noble.


So after we got everything put back together all we had to do was wait for it to rain.  We didn’t have to wait long.  Fortunately the work paid off and the leak is fixed.