Monthly Archives: January 2015

First time at anchor

One of the milestones of owning a boat is the first time one spends overnight at anchor.  In my case this is a personal first; seeing as I’ve never spent the night at anchor on ANY boat.  For it to be the first time on a boat in which I am co-owner, double down on the awesomeness.  GO ME!!

Other than the pure fun and loveliness of being at anchor, this is also important from an operational aspect. We wanted to see how Serenity behaved on the hook, systems operations, battery life(this was pre-solar panels), anchoring; all that good stuff.

For the weeks leading up to Christmas Tim and I talked a lot about spending a night at anchor.  He had 2 weeks off work during the holidaze so what about spending Baby Jesus Day at anchor?  We chatted with our new friends on Lost Cat, Matt and Kari, about going out.  They’re all about being at anchor so they were happy to shag ass.

We – and by we I mean Tim and Matt – determined Christmas Day would indeed be ideal.  Boat traffic on the river would be light, a nice breeze was forecast so we could actually sail and not motor the whole time, temps ideal(70’s as the high, low in the 60’s), rain chance slim to none.  Christmas Day it shall be.  Great, now what to do about the anchor.

Since we currently do not have a windlass on Serenity being on the hook needed some logistical consideration.  Wait, what exactly is a windlass?  There are 2 types – mechanical or electrical.  They are situated on the bow and their purpose is to raise and lower the anchor in a civilized fashion.  Mechanical, you use arm power to winch that baby up.  Electrical has a motor so you push a button and it does the heavy lifting in raising the anchor.  (Yes, we are planning on a windlass, but we gotta give the bow pulpit and bow sprit some TLC first.)

Of course you can raise and lower the anchor old school – via muscle power, hand over hand – and in our case we have a giant honkin’ Mason Ray 66# and to get that thing on board, tucked away and secured you better be in a We wanna pump, YOU up! frame of mind.  Needless to say, Tim is on anchor duty until the windlass comes to town.

Okay, so Christmas Day dawns beautiful and balmy.  We palaver with Matt and Kari and we decide to get outta the marina first and they’ll catch up.  We hit the river.  I think we see only one other sailboat waaaaayyyy ahead of us.  Ah, there are Matt and Kari, behind us about 1/2 mile.  Doopie doopie doo.  We’re motoring up the river.  It’s nice and quiet.  Serenity is going along nicely.  Cool, the wind is out of the Southwest.  Awright, time to raise the sail!

Since I’m the swabbie of this crew I raise the sail.  Good upper body workout!  We sail into Tampa Bay, and yes, it was awesome!  In the other post I talk about weather helm and Serenity steering herself, which she did admirably.  You could let go of the wheel and Serenity was well balanced and tracking perfectly on course.  I know this won’t happen all the time, but it did this time, and it was fantastic.

Now I’m at the wheel and I have my eyes peeled for crab trap buoy’s.  I spot something different.  Fins?  What’s that weird black splotch on the top of the water?  I call to Tim to check it out.  There!  Are those fins?  We stare and stare and stare.  YES!  Porpoises!!  YAY!!

The scout duo comes over to Serenity.  I guess they deem us safe and swim with us.  What the hell is that?  The things I spotted earlier by the black splotch were indeed fins.  There’s a whole pod of porpoises!  And they’re coming our way!  Holy guacamole, some are hanging out with us!

By now I’m hopping around and squealing like a six year old.  I scramble to find the iPad, barking at Tim the whole time because I can’t find it, because he’s stowed it in a(to me) random secure spot.  Through the hull I can hear the porpoises chatting with one another.  WHERE’S THE DAMN IPAD???!!!  THEREITSFINALLY!  I scramble back on deck, certain they’ve gone away and I’m to suffer another porpoisey heartbreak.  Nope, they took pity on me and stuck around for some video action, which you can see here –  Go ahead, I’ll wait…

Porpoises!  Beyond description so awesome.  With that excitement done we consider our next move.  Sail to Gulfport?  Ummm, no. Because it’s kinda far and also being Christmas the town is probably shut down.  We get on the radio with Lost Cat.  How about anchoring at The Cross?  Also known as DeSoto Point.  Cool, sounds good.  We turn around and head to The Cross.  Tucked into the cove is Lost Cat, already anchored.

Lost Cat at anchor.

Lost Cat at anchor.

Tim consulted the GPS and noticed a sand bank to starboard of Lost Cat, resulting in 3ft. of water. No bueno.  So we circled a couple times and then dropped anchor.  Not the ginormous 66# Mason but our other one.   First try and the anchor holds perfectly.  Sweet.

Serenity at anchor

Serenity at anchor

Serenity at anchor, close up.

Serenity at anchor, close up.  Who stowed that main sail?  What a mess.

We dinghy over to Lost Cat and then all of us dinghy over to DeSoto Point.  We stretch our legs with a hike – actually more like a meander on the path – looking at the historical tidbits along the way.  We muck about on the beach for a bit, then dinghy back to our respective boats.

DeSoto Point - beachin' it, with cocktail of course.

DeSoto Point – beachin’ it, with cocktail of course.  Serenity in the background; the boat to the right.

Lost Cat at Anchor - Sunset.

Lost Cat at Anchor – Sunset.

By now the breeze is picking up a wee bit and we discuss dropping the Mason.  Tim gives a tug on the already set anchor.  Seems to be holding pretty well.  Let’s leave it.  We hang out a bit, then cook some dinner.  The sun is setting and we discuss some more about putting out the Mason.  Better safe than wishing we had done it.

Tim hauls up the smaller anchor, then tosses out the Mason.  I’m at the wheel, maneuvering Serenity in order to set the anchor properly.  So, by now we’ve scooted closer to the shore.  We eyeball the GPS.  Depth looks okay, but we need to be mindful we are now closer to land.

Night falls and time for bed.  The sounds of Serenity at anchor are similar, but different, than when we’re at the marina.  I sleep a grand total of I think 3 hours.  I prairie dogged via the companion way probably every hour; checking our location, making sure we’re not moving.  This, of course, is ridiculous.  The conditions are mild. The Mason is a brute and set very well.  Logically I know we are not moving but I was anxious none the less.  The night was beautiful, so it really wasn’t a hardship to be up and down during the night.  🙂  Tim also did a couple of checks, but being more experienced he wasn’t really concerned, just checking stuff out.  When we got up in the morning we realized the lighter anchor would have done a fine job since it had set very well.  Better safe than sorry, and I did NOT want my first experience at anchor to include dragging the anchor in the wee hours, running aground, or bumping into somebody.

December 26th.  Good morning!  It is beautiful and quiet and the slight breeze is refreshing.

Good morning!  With my blankie in the cockpit.

Good morning! With my blankie in the cockpit.

The sun, so bright!

Me the Lizard.  Yikes!  The sun, so bright!

The morning progresses with coffee and breakfast; eggs, bacon, toast.  Yum!  I don’t know about you, but bacon seems to taste better when at anchor/camping/out in the wilds.  The rest of the morning we fritter away lounging, reading, chatting, spying on people with our binocs.  Wonderful.

We putter over to Lost Cat to see what they’re up to.  They’ve already done some chores on their boat.  So productive our friends!  We skulk on Lost Cat for a bit, then decide to head home.  We need to time our departure from DeSoto Point so we may arrive at Twin Dolphin around 4pm, when it is slack tide.  No need to make docking harder by battling the current.

Tim would like to stay out for another night, but I want this first trip to be 100% successful, ending on a positive note.  Staying out another night feels like tempting fate, and we all know how that ends.

We make a game plan for raising the anchor, which involves me on standby to help hold the brute in place while Tim secures it.  Tim readies himself for hauling up the anchor.  I’m piloting, fingers crossed I don’t screw up.  I’m doing well until I decide to be fancy and reverse Serenity.  I can’t seem to figure out which way to steer.  ARG!  So I give up.  Better to learn another day than do it now, when it’s not required.

By now Tim has the anchor up and neatly tucked into place.  He is a CHAMPION, not needing my help at all.  Bonus points for him not herniating himself, crushing a toe, bleeding everywhere, or going head first into the water.  Bonus points for me for not running us aground or into the little boat that seemed oh so close.

Giddy with success I motor us away from DeSoto Point.  This is what happens when one plans.  No drama.  I don’t run into shit.  Tim doesn’t get hurt.  Win win.

We leisurely motor to the marina.  Tim takes the wheel as we make our approach.  Timing our arrival pays dividends as Tim eases Serenity into the slip.  A perfect 10 for nailing the landing.  We secure the lines, then a celebratory cocktail with Matt and Kari.

Now that we have solar panels(look for a blog about that) and experience manhandling the Mason the next trip is already being schemed.  I can’t wait.

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New canvas and sail covers, a.k.a. The Prettification Continues


Progress on Serenity seems to be in fits and starts.  Seems like nothing happens for a couple months then BOOM, action!  The latest BIG project was the dodger and bimini.  For those non-swabbies reading the blog, basically the dodger and bimini are two separate entities – but connected – which provide protection(wind, sun, rain, snow(not for us!) for the cockpit area.

Our old dodger didn’t really fit right, the top bar interfered with the view forward when at the wheel, and the bimini part was pretty rag tag, plus we wanted sun screens so you could have protection from the sun, but get a nice breeze, which the original configuration was not suited.  Here’s a snapshot of the old dodger, bimini, and sail covers:

Old dodger& bimini

Old dodger and bimini

First off, deciding the color.  As everyone knows, a simple statement fraught with pressure and angst.  White, black, tan, yellow, orange; out.  How about Navy?  Classic, but ummmmm, no.  Hunter green?  Too bright.  I LOVE red but didn’t know how it would fade(splotchy?  pink?  weird?) plus it’s more expensive, red being a difficult color to dye consistently.  Purple?  If it was just me, and I was going for funkadelic, hells yes, but for Serenity, alas, no.  We perused a Sunbrella catalog and I spotted “Fern”.  I was immediately drawn to it, and kept coming back to it.  Why?  It’s an “earthy” color, reminding me of the spruce and pine found in mountain climes which I love, only second to the water.  The color also goes well with the cream color of the boat, it’s a tad on the lighter side so we thought it might be a little cooler during the summer(not so much so, as already discovered), and I thought when it faded it might not be so noticeable.  And last but not least, I haven’t seen another boat with the same color.  Ker-pow!

With the color decided we chose Island Nautical to do the stainless and canvas work.  They are based in St. Petersburg, FL and have a reputation for high quality work.  Are they expensive?  Yes.  However, in the end I feel we got a bargain considering all the work put in.  More on that below…

Interesting fact, St. Petersburg here in FL was co-founded by a guy named Peter Demens, who spent time in St. Petersburg, Russia and he loved the city, thus the town was named St. Petersburg.  That’s on a historical plaque in St. Pete, FL.  You’re welcome.

Back to the project…  We worked with Jim the Canvas Guy.  No, I don’t know his last name.  To me he’s Jim the Canvas Guy.   A few challenges facing Jim: how to get the dodger tall but not too tall = good sightlines but not so tall as to inadvertently be a wind catcher, easy ingress/egress from the cockpit, get the bimini to work with the arch(HUGE!), bimini tall enough we can stand under it without cricking our necks, boom to not hit the dodger/bimini frame, visual access points to the wind vane at the top of the mast, easy access to the dinghy and dinghy motor, and the most treacherous part of all… me standing there going “what about this”? On repeat about a dozen times.  For this project, brains and creative thinking required.

Yeah, Jim is a total rock star.  He came out numerous times, discussed with us, measured, pondered, measured again, discussed more with us, brought out the stainless guy, made patterns, more discussions; basically worked his BUTT off.   I cannot tell you the amount of hours Jim put into this project.  Stuff that looked good to us, he would go, umm, no, I don’t like that, lemme see how I can make it better.  It was all about form, function, AND looks.   The level of expertise, the quality of work, it was worth EVERY CENT.  I would like to think Jim enjoyed working on Serenity, stretching his brain to come up with elegant solutions to some sticky wickets.  In my opinion, the end product is near perfection; just short of a work of art.

Dodger assembly, just starting

Dodger assembly, just starting

Dodger assembly, further along.  Also, the boom looking nakid sans sail!

That’s Jim the Canvas Guy. Dodger assembly, further along. The main sail boom looking nekkid without the sail!

Dodger and bimini - done!

Dodger and bimini – done! Windows to keep tabs on the wind direction, plus let some light in. Ahhhh, sail back on. New sail cover – whoo hoo!!

Port side of dodger with sun shade affixed.

Starboard side of dodger with sun shade affixed. Center window rolled up, letting in a delicious East breeze.

View of mast through cockpit window.

View of mast through cockpit window.

Strut for bimini.  The aluminum tubing arches over the cockpit and affixes to the other side.

Strut for bimini, affixed via brackets to the arch. Notice the lacing – bimini tubing runs through there, spanning the width of the cockpit.

Sun shade, zipped in.   The black ties hanging down, they snap the rolled up shade in place.

Sun shades, zipped in. The black straps hanging down, those are to secure the rolled up shades in place.

Aft view, canvas rolled up and open.

The very back of the cockpit. The long sun shades rolled up and secured.

Down and zipped up. Nice and cozy.

Here are a few close ups of the details:

Track for dodger canvas. This is affixed to the cabin roof. We decided on track versus connectors(next pic) for a more secure fit, plus a little bit of water deflection.

Connector close up.  Many times these are used to affix the dodger canvas to the roof.  We decided on track instead.

Connector close up. Many times these are used to affix the dodger canvas to the roof. We decided on track instead.

Cut out in the window to accommodate the control line for the traveler.

Buckle detail. A total of 22 buckles used for keeping the sun shades down and secured to the railings.

Another important piece of this project was the shortening of the main sail boom, and with that the main sail. Many Tayana’s suffer from what’s called weather helm.  Basically what that means is the boat has a tendency to sashay itself into the wind.  It’s an annoyance since if you’re not paying attention next thing you know, forward progress has stalled and the sails are flapping.  The fix?  Shortening the boom by 18″.  Yikes.  That seems like a lot to me, however 18″ isn’t an arbitrary number.  Bob Perry, who is the designer of our boat(and many other wonderful boats), and other Tayana owners, using careful consideration and what I can only assume is math, landed upon 18″ being the ideal length to shorten. DISCLAIMER:  This is for a 37′ boat.  Other boat lengths, please consult a professional regarding shortening.

Some action pics of The Shortening happening:

Boom being shortened. Sawz-All is a magical tool. The thing dangling off the end? The reefing lines(utilized in dicey weather to reduce the size of the main sail when under sail), and the topping lift(the very end). When not under sail It holds up the heavy ass boom so it doesn’t smoosh your head.

The end cap being put back on. That’s Jim the Canvas Guy.

Ta-da! Shortened boom, with a better view of the topping lift.

So, after all this, we went sailing, on Christmas day, and the weather helm had 99.9% vanished.  Now Serenity practically drives herself.  Sweet.

The sail covers, dodger and bimini done.  Serenity in all her fern-y glory.  Life is good!

Serenity in her fern-y goodness.


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