Tuesday, 28 October 2008

28 October 2008 - following the offshore racing

14 nautical miles

I set out in the opposite direction today - south rather than north or east. The wind was light - very light - Bft 2 much of the day.

Almost nobody from the nautical club was out sailing. As we arrived the kayaks were just coming in, but it looks like we were the only people out sailing today. We... that is Raed was my crew again today.

Going south from the nautical club always concerns me somewhat as there are a couple of plastic pipes floating in the water among the buoys for taking off oil/gas/petrol. The pipes do have marker buoys, but the pipes are black and not very visible so I am always concerned that I will miss it and sail into one of them. I'm not sure if I will do Galini or the pipes more damage. Either way I don't want to find out. If the pipes were white or orange they would be much clearer to see and less dangerous.

As we passed the port entrance light to the commercial harbour I noticed that the port light was protected by an inordinate amount of barbed wire, yet the starboard light appeared almost unprotected.

Changing the bulb for the port entrance light would be a major task - getting over all that barbed wire.

Passing the harbour breakwater I remarked how many yachts there were out sailing today.

The wind was pushing us along at about 3 knots... not exactly exciting sailing, but the water was smooth and it looked like it would be a very enjoyable sail. We swapped helming back and forth so it was good experience for Raed. I remember a couple of years back - what you need is just many many hours of helming.

Coming alongside the first yacht [which was obviously the back of the fleet] we found that there was a race for the Larnaca Offshore Sailing Club... 'We're number one', they told us. So we tagged along to see where they were going.

Strange... we overtook them with no trouble, yet they are a much bigger boat than us, but Galini has always sailed well in light winds. Now I see she sails faster than yachts double her size.

Leaving 'Number One' in the distance we caught up with Summer Wine, a Moody 38. Now this is a beautiful yacht. Modern, but classic.

She wasn't quite as easy to pass, but we did and then for the next few miles it was interesting watching where she tacked and where we tacked to stay clear of the airport. We were slowly pulling away from her.

Looking at the waypoints on the GPS I wondered if we would get to Cape Kiti - we got to about 4.5 miles from the cape but the wind was so light it would have taken us nearly two hours to sail there... two hours back and...

Over the airport a dark cloud base was forming. I thought I heard a murmur of thunder, but it could have been a jet taking off. I keep a careful eye on the clouds.

I get a phone call from a friend at the airport saying that he had driving though showers coming up to Larnaca from Limassol and wondered if we had any rain yet. No, not yet...

We head on south taking a big tack out to see if we can get a line down to the cape.

We are overtaken by our first yacht - a Beneteau First 31 - another terrific looking yacht. Small and sleek. That is something about the size I would like.

As we tack in towards the coast we see the clouds creating an amazing stripe effect with the sun over a dredger working at the southern end of the airport. Today is 'Ohi Day' - a public holiday so its slightly strange to see people working today.

On the tack back out I start the Japanese assistant - we have not had enough speed for the self-bailers to take the water out. So I motor sail for about 10 minutes to get up enough speed to clear the water out from the bilges. I think I could do with a manual bilge pump for next year.

We'd heard all the race chat on channel 72, but since neither of us speak any Greek it was all incomprehensible... the only words understood being 'committee boat... committee boat...'.

But, we spot the marker buoy they are all turning around so guess what is happening from that.

Don't ask me why the yacht on the right is sailing so far past the buoy! I know there is a penalty for hitting the buoy, but that is being a bit over careful.

A ketch motors up to past the buoy - getting closer to us than I would like - we're sailing, they're motoring, we have right of way! The skipper [sailing solo with no crew] yells something about playing with the other yachts and gets his jib up, but a few minutes later takes it down again and motors back.

The other yacht launches its spinnaker. I'm not sure how experienced they were with spinnakers - it collapses many times and the pole doesn't look set right - but I cannot talk I have never sailed with a spinnaker!

Sea Quest on the other hand has a beautifully set spinnaker. However, goosewinged we overtake her. Time to put on a waterproof as I sense rain might be on its way and its easier to put it on under the buoyancy aid while the sea is calm and sailing easy.

I phone Roy [who has a flat on the sea just north of Mackenzie Beach] and Raed waves to him. He goes for his binoculars and then tells me I need a shave!

In the middle of the call, the wind changes, backing the genoa which is goosewinged, so I quickly close the call and tend to the boat.

We hear a thunder clap and see lightning over the airport. Definitely time to make for home. No, we didn't manage to catch the lightning in the photo. And no, it didn't hit the plane!

The Beneteau is also goosewinging it back - I kind of like their idea for holding the boom out to stop an accidental gybe... but I'm not sure how safe it is! I would have thought a line from the end of the boom to the pulpit would be safer.

When goosewinging I try to keep it so that the main is held out solid and the genoa is on the edge, so I watch the genoa for any signs of luffing as an indicator to bear off very slightly.

We overhaul them slowly. Of course I have an advantage - I have pulled up my centreboard, which they cannot do with their keel.

The light is really strange by now - thunder and rain on one side, light overcast where we are and sunshine in the distance.

The rain eventually catches us and out come the waterproofs on the yachts. With the rain, we get an increase in the wind and suddenly we're doing 5 knots or more... goosewinged... gusting and the whole rig rattles with each gust... back through the plastic pipes which are now very close to invisible in the darkening sea!

I must find out what to do with gusts when you are sailing goosewinged. You cannot easily bear into the wind or spill wind...

All in all it was a very enjoyable sail.

Saturday, 25 October 2008

25 October 2008 - Larnaka -> Dhekelia -> Pila -> Larnaka

25 nautical miles

Wind... what wind? It started off with almost no wind so... sunbathing on a sailboat weather. The water was almost like glass, with just the faintest ripples on the surface.

We motored out for about half a mile to get clear of the kayaks that were practicing at the club and then... while I slept with my hand on the tiller... Raed sat on the foredeck and took pictures.

Actually we tried sailing without a rudder as this is something I wanted to try... we failed...

We just went round and round in circles... and then sailed backwards! When we got back I talked with Nikos about this - apparently you need to put more weight on the leeward side to come up to the wind and more weight on the windward side to bear away from the wind.

When the wind did come up a little we sailed off towards Dhekelia sailing club. Raed was helming most of the way - he helmed about one third of the sail today. We did about three knots on the way over there, and it was really enjoyable sailing.

But almost nobody was out sailing from Dhekelia Club save one lone bosun. We really liked the bright blue sails of the Bosun...

Apparently the Bosun dinghies were designed for the British navy. The crew sailing her explained this and said they were very heavy. Heavy means sturdy and sturdy means the navy probably cannot break it!

Heavy? Well... without much difficulty we could sail around it.

As the wind was increasing we then sailed off towards Pila - my target had been to get round Cape Pila and into Potomas. But the wind was too light for that.

Since the wind was light and Raed was helming I played with the GPS and learnt how to set complete routes - not just navigation to waypoints. Also to set the fields to display things that are more helpful for sailing than the default fields.

En route we passed an absolutely massive mooring buoy for the tankers that come in to the power station.

We saw PILA 1 buoy in the distance and it looked like it was close to Cape Pila, but in fact its at least a mile or more from the Cape.

There are three PILA buoys in a line on the southern side of the cape. I would like to have a chart so that I can see what they are supposed to indicate.

We passed Cape Pila and could see Agia Napa in the distance. It was about 5 nautical miles, so on a day with good wind it would be just about possible to sail to Agia Napa and back in a day.

But time was against us today [it being after 2pm] so we turned and made for home, passing PILA 2 buoy on the way back.

I wonder what the little entrance is for. Could someone sleep on the buoy?

Memo to self... remember to clean the lens of the camera case with fresh water. The salt water smears are what makes some parts of these photos less than pin sharp.

Whenever I am out on the water I am inspired by the beauty of it. I think God must really like water - two thirds of the earth surface is water.

I look at the sun glistening off the water and my mind is taken to the Son who created it all. God you are amazing!

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

22 October 2008 - Happy Birthday Raed

6 nautical miles

It was Raed's birthday today, so I decided to take him out for a sail in the afternoon. The birthday lunch went on a bit so we only got there about 3pm but got about two and half hours sailing. Raed has been mainly crewing, but the wind was light so I gave him a helming lesson.

I say the wind was light - it was - but because of the thunder storm in the morning the surf on the beach was quite high. I ended up using the Japanese assistant to help us get through the surf before sailing.

We kind of pottered around a bit - giving Raed a feel for the wind and then saw a Hobbie in the distance, so with a longish downwind run, which we goose-winged, we gave chase.

I took over the helm as goose-wining is a still a bit tricky and probably not for a beginner. Actually in very light winds with a fair swell it was a little difficult for me not to be pushed around by the waves.

The Hobbie had four people on board, which meant that we had speed over them - normally it would be the other way around!

We found out they were from Finland and said they were beginners at sailing... so [they said] keep clear, they couldn't guarantee where they would be!

The Hobbie had come out from one of the hotels and was not in a very good state of repair - there was a rip in the sail and the masthead buoyancy was hanging from the top of the mast - not secured as it should be.

We sailed back along the coast - strangely this is not something I had done before - seeing Hotels like the Palm Beach from the sea.

Getting back in through the surf was interesting. A new experience.

All in all a very enjoyable sail.

Sunday, 19 October 2008

18 October 2008 - Divers hazard

17 nautical miles
My Crew today was Peter. He's apparently pretty cool sail boarder, has swum the English channel and normally prefers catamarans. But we had a really great sail, despite the fact the wind was extremely light.

I've moved the bridle for the mainsheet back and that was certainly a better place for it.

We sailed to a different part of the coast on the north side of Larnaca bay today. It was interesting to find out exactly where Romanzas is [labelled the Fishing Harbour waypoint on the Google Earth map].

One hazard I had not seen before was free swimming divers. Well, actually they seem to have had motorized swimmers, but what I mean is that there were not boats around to give warning. They did have little tiny flags and floats that they towed, but they were very small and I am not sure how easily a power boat going at speed would have seen them.

There were three of them all together, but had there only been one I am not sure how easily I would have noticed them.

Neil and Paula kept company with Blue. At times the wind was so light we used the motor. At one stage we even furled the main sail - it was good having the topping lift as this made it easier.

All in all a very enjoyable sail.

Saturday, 11 October 2008

11 October 2007 - Not quite what was expected!

11.5 nautical miles

One of the things that I have wanted to do is to make it so that I can 'cruise' with the outboard attached and not get the main sheet tangled in the outboard. So I added an extra line about 15 cm back from the front of the rear buoyancy tank which would take the end block for the main sheet... as per the photo. This would also have the added advantage of allowing us to point slightly better without having to move the car on the rear traveler rail. That worked well.

The line is not what we will use eventually, as its not 'pre-stretched' in other words feels a little bouncy on the main sheet. I changed the mast head buoyancy halyard to cheaper line so will change this to better quality line this week.

We did find one problem with this arrangement though, and that was the tiller extension kept getting caught in the line. So I will move it further back by maybe another 30 cm. That should be a good compromise position.

Moving the outboard to a cruising position mounted permanently on the back of the boat will give us more space in the boat.

The aim of today was to see if we [Tim and I] could sail round cape Pila into Potamos. Sadly we were thwarted by two problems. The first was that as we started sailing at about 11am the wind was either very light or non-existent. The wind came from almost every direction imaginable... well... not quite but within a 90 degree range! When it dropped totally we used what Tim called 'Japanese Assistance' ie the outboard.

Neil and Paula, who were also out sailing towards the cape looked like for some of the time they had better wind than us as they were closer in to the shore. At one time sitting becalmed we saw them racing along the shore. They don't have an outboard so couldn't resort to extra help. They turned back to be with James for lunch - we had our on board.

As we got to about 6 nautical miles out from the cape we were greeted by a dark cloud which then started thundering and lightning. The lightning was about a mile and half away from us. Lightning isn't fun on a boat with a tall metal mast, so we decided to turn and run for home.

It was a long beat back across the bay. But a really enjoyable one. The wind came up and sailing was glorious. The forecast came on from 'Cyprus Radio' - the Larnaca coastguard, saying the the wind would be force 3 gusting 5. It wasn't as bad as that - more like 3 gusting 4. But that meant the sailing was really fun. The sea was pretty smooth so the wind just carried us across the bay. Tim takes over the helm to see if he can get us to plane since that would be good fun.

Then the rain came and we were pelted with rain. I haven't sailed in rain before and it was really enjoyable to see how the rain drops created thousands... no millions... of tiny holes in the sea as they hit it. It was really beautiful.

The approach to the club is sighted by a big round white gas tank just to south of the club. There is a second gas tank slightly more south still of that one, but its silver not white. In the rain its not so easy to see exactly where it is, but can be sighted nevertheless.

Just as we are about to get back to the club the wind drops and starts to be fickle again. We go about to tack up... you can see how excited Tim is with the fickle wind! As we tack again the wind drops totally again, so we resort to the Japanese Assistance again to get back.

As we arrive... the sun pops out.

Sunday, 5 October 2008

5 October 2008 - the skipper is still the skipper!

9.7 nautical miles
Had a wonderful 11 nautical mile sail with Tim today. Tim was helming almost all of it. It was gentle breeze [Bft 2] and nice to sit there, enjoy the sea and occasionally sort out the genoa halyard or the whisker pole.

When we came in to the club Tim called for a small amount of centreboard to help with the final turn into the wind. Which I duly provided... then leapt out of the boat to hold her.

The club were off racing today in Limassol so we used my 4-wheel drive to pull her in. Half way up the slip ramp I noticed... the centreboard was still down and was now beautifully planed flat on the bottom and gouged into the axle on the other side.

So... as skipper I should have gone through my normal checklist coming into shore and then bringing her up the ramp. One part of that checklist is... 'centreboard up and cleated'. So whoever is helming... the skipper is still the skipper and responsible for all checks etc. Oh well... we live and learn.

Saturday, 4 October 2008

4 October 2008 - Optimist racing in Limassol

14 nautical miles
Today was national Optimist racing in Cyprus taking place at Limassol, just off the Famagusta sailing club. James [my old crew from last year] was taking part so I chatted to Chrysis and we took his Congor down to watch.

The wind was very very light to start off with, so we used the outboard to get out from where he moors it, and then slowly started tacking down to where the racing was taking part. OK, so it was going to take forever, so we cheated and used the outboard again for a little while and then, of course, turned it off so we could sail into the club - couldn't bear to be seen motoring in after all!

Then Chrysis gave me the helm and I took out Neil and Paula to do a photoshoot of the racing. Now... I had changed the batteries on my camera last weekend. But they had run flat. So, that's what comes of buying very cheap batteries. Waste of time. Neil and Paula fared slightly better in that their batteries lasted a little longer than mine. Oh, well... next time buy reputable make batteries from a decent shop!

We tacked back and forth at the start line, but being there we were going to get in the way so we tacked up to the turn buoy and then tacked in to the shore, went about and went into 'hove to' so we gently drifted back to the turn buoy and could both eat lunch and watch the boats. We did that three times and one time we sailed along the tack line of the racing fleet and back again... taking photos as we went. Neil will let me have some to upload later.

The wind was light. The chart opposite is from Acrotiri which is just up the coast, but slightly more exposed than Limassol.

You can see that sailing up in the morning, the wind was barely Bft 2 and it claimed to reach Bft 4 late afternoon. It didn't feel like that to me. Felt more like Bft 2 ish most of the afternoon. Chrysis was asking about the Beaufort scale... which I thought was invented by Beaufort but standardized by someone else. Wikipedia says this:

The scale was created in 1805 by Sir Francis Beaufort, an Irish admiral and hydrographer. The scale that carries Beaufort's name had a long and complex evolution, from the previous work of others, to when Beaufort was a top administrator in the Royal Navy in the 1830s. In the early 19th Century naval officers made regular weather observations, but there was no standard scale and so they could be very subjective - one man's "stiff breeze" might be another's "soft breeze". Beaufort succeeded in getting things standardized.

The initial scale of thirteen classes (zero to twelve) did not reference wind speed numbers, but related qualitative wind conditions to effects on the sails of a man of war, then the main ship of the Royal Navy, from "just sufficient to give steerage" to "that which no canvas sails could withstand." At zero, all his sails would be up; at six, half of his sails would have been taken down; and at twelve, all sails would be stowed away.
The scale itself [courtesy of the WIT site] is shown below. From the 'Description of sea' column it would have been Bft 2 most of the afternoon.

One good thing for me to learn was that while 'hove to' the boat will yaw, but self correct. You can see the yawing on the track at the bottom left. I have put my Wayfarer into 'hove to' a few times before but always been wanting to correct when it started yawing. This time with Neil telling me it was normal I just lashed the tiller and got on with eating lunch and trying to see if I had any batteries for the camera and... well whatever you want to do hove to... like chatting to Nicos when he came over in the rescue boat.

Eventually we sailed back to Famagusta club when I dropped off Neil and Paula and picked up Chrysis and sailed back to the Limassol Sail Board Club where he moors his boat. A really wonderful day. Thanks Chrysis.

Oh and Chrysis said they will start the Day Skipper course in Limassol within the next month so I will try to sign up for that to do this winter.

How to... make the Google Earth images on this site

I've had a couple of people ask about how I made the Google Earth images used on this site.

I use the cheapest, most basic Garmin eTrek GPS unit which I bought in Singapore for not very much. I gather this is now discontinued, but there are other Garmin cheap replacements which will work. Image courtesy of the Garmin website. I also got the serial port cable that goes with it. I gather there might now be a USB port cable, but I'm using the older serial port cable. I use a mac iBook G4 computer... and though it's a brilliant computer, there is no software I have found that runs on it to download the data. So I use my wifes Windows 2000 machine.

The software I use is DNR Garmin which is written by the Department of Natural Resources at Minnesota University in the USA. Download and install this using the link above.

Connect your eTrex or other GPS unit to the computer using serial or USB cable and then start the DNS Garmin program. By doing it this way round DNS Garmin should automatically find your GPS unit. Then select track and download. With a little bit of luck the program should start downloading all the track data from your GPS.

It can take quite a bit of time to download the data if you are using the serial cable as the transfer is only 9600 baud. So be patient, especially if there is a lot of data to download.

When its all downloaded select save to Google Earth. The option you need is 'Line', not point or polygon. Wait for a while and it will eventually say its saved to 'My places'. The in Google Earth open and, if you want, edit the track. Simple as that... but remember to clear the track data from your GPS otherwise next time it will downlaod the track again.

You can also export points from Google Earth and import into DNR Garmin as Waypoints... which I use. But I'll let you experiment doing that yourself.