Sunday, 30 November 2008

8.5 Nautical Miles

Morning (Bft 1/2): Tim came out with me in the morning and we took a southward leg from the club. The wind was very light indeed. Since I'm on the Day Skipper course I was concentrating somewhat on the navigation aids.

We photographed and plotted positions for some of the buoys.

The green starboard buoy for the main harbour is pretty weathered so only a small part is green - the rest a black mucky colour except for the top which is white. The white cap makes the shape appear almost like a can [which is port/red buoy] rather than the conical green/starboard buoy.

Actually its clearer that its a starboard buoy in the photograph than in reality on the water.

The next buoy is yellow - either a mooring buoy for large ships or a oil take off buoy - I'm not sure which. It's big! I wonder if this is what is referred to as a 'super buoy'... it certainly appeared to be over the 5m size for a 'super buoy'.

The light on the top has no solar cells so one assumes the power is coming from the shore line - maybe along the oil pipeline.

The next buoy was topped with cormorants and just a rusty box that is used for mooring.

The cormorants are very nervous and always fly off before we get near.

Next was the floating black pipes. These are the hazard I most fear.

Tim said he had nearly sailed into them as well. With any kind of swell they are almost invisible.

The final buoy was a rusting cylinder. Also used for mooring ships. You can see it was originally yellow, though there is almost nothing of the original paint left.

There are more buoys in that area and I will try to chart and photograph them all over time.

Afternoon (Bft 2/3): The afternoon sail towards the north was sailing single handed. I enjoyed that too... although I prefer a crew.

The wind was higher and we [that is Galini, me and God] were sailing along between 5-6 knots SOG which meant that I could open the bailers and empty the boat of water.

It was enjoyable to see that I am now comfortable sailing her alone in light winds - locking the tiller into shock cord and sorting out the boat as we sail. It would be fun to have a autopilot/windvane to allow me longer away from the tiller, but on a small boat its not really necessary. I cannot seem to balance her to sail with tiller locked for more than 15-30 seconds though, she tends then to bear up into the wind. Balancing her slightly off the wind doesn't help as she then bears off with risk of gybe. I guess with a dinghy everything is so closely balanced than very small changes of wind/rudder make significant changes to the balance.

I took her off the mooring buoy [very small red cylinder nothing like the buoys in the morning!] from the boat and sailed off from the buoy. Enjoyable to see I had mastered everything enough to do that single handed without being blown back onto the shore.

Sunday, 16 November 2008

16 November 2008 - Short Sunday Sail

14 Nautical Miles [approx]

Raed couldn't find the GPS so I assumed that we had left it behind... we found it after lunch! The cyan AM track is through Dead Reckoning and the afternoon Yello track from the GPS.

The morning sail was very quiet - not the predicted Bft 2/3, but more like Bft 1/2. Finding fickle wind when there is almost none is pretty difficult. It was a nice gentle sail.

After lunch we helped Tim do some work on his trimaran - he was replacing the furling jib with a wire so that the jib [which is not UV proof] will not get damaged staying up all the time... the jib will be hoisted when he needs it.

After that we went out for a quick sail as the wind had come up. Still not very much but more than the morning - at least Raed was hiking out which is his preferred sailing position, though likes it even more when the waves are splashing over him too!

As we were coming back there were a couple of lasers and an optimist out sailing too. So... because the sky was picturesque we took pictures. The two lasers sailing together looks really nice. The optimist picture is still good, but somehow doesn't have the poignancy of the lasers.

Saturday, 15 November 2008

Day Skipper Course - Day 2

I was soooo.... tired... I have worked about 70 hours this week and it was showing in the course. Included in what we went through in the morning was the lights on boats. There are many many combinations of lights to mean many different things. You need a copy of the regs in the boat to decipher them! Andreas had a simple guide: Learn the common ones and for the rest... if it looks like a Christmas tree... stay clear!

We dealt with some chart navigation in the afternoon. Because I was so tired i made a silly mistake on LAT/LON misreading the LON scale by a minute. I know LAT/LON and have used it for years even writing translation algorithms for converting DCW into other formats, so I was kicking myself for making such a stupid mistake.

Then we went on to Mag vs True on compass/GPS. Now, I knew the idea and was hoping for some help in understanding exactly how it worked but Andreas likes mnemonics and I don't remember mnemonics so got totally confused till in the break one of the other guys on the course suggested an alternative way of remembering. Though his way isn't really mine, it will help me to work out a way for me to remember it. Actually for me to remember things I need to know how they work, not just remember the mnemonic... so I need to figure out what the chart actually shows in the compass rose and then it will all makes sense.

Next week should be easier at work so I will be less tired on the course.

Monday, 10 November 2008

GPS with Google Earth

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

I use the cheapest, most basic Garmin eTrex 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.

Saturday, 8 November 2008

8 November 2008 - Day Skipper Theory - Day 1

I started the Day Skipper Theory Course today [5 Saturdays] with True North Yachting, which meant I couldn't go sailing today. I had hoped to get out sailing tomorrow, but don't have any crew.

The course is good - Andreas is pretty experienced and explains well. I had been worried that I didn't have enough experience for this course, but that is not so. Some of what we covered today I knew already - like most of the rope-work I had known since I was a teenager, some 35+ years!

But some was new and very useful for filling in holes in my knowledge. One of the topics today was especially interesting - that of anchoring. For instance... what to do when wind and waves are not coming from the same direction... the rule that he who arrives last gives way to those who anchored earlier regardless of the sanity of doing so... if you have to drop your anchor, leave a fender on the line and come back for it later.

And what has become my 'tip of the week' on anchoring... if you really want to make an anchor hold [because of strong winds], shackle your secondary anchor about 10 metres after the main on your anchor chain. That is such a good idea and so simple.

I'm really looking forward to this course and doing the practical course after it in January.

Saturday, 1 November 2008

1 November 2008 - unexpected night sail

3o nautical miles

The day started out with light-to-no-wind-at-all and then a safety hiccup that lost us half an hour. The safety issue was that one of the two hand-held radios had not been charged and was low on battery. Galini was doing a long trip and Blue just pottering around for the morning, so it was important that the fully charged radio was on Galini, but it wasn't... so we had to double back and swap radios.

Since the wind was almost non-existent and I was keen for a longish sea trip we motor-sailed for the first 30 minutes then got enough wind for a gentle sail.

Our first waypoint was Cape Pila. This little Garmin etrex is a wonder. You can interface with Google Earth to put in waypoints [probably frowned upon in navigating circles, but I find it pretty accurate]. And then do ETA, ETE calculations on the fly.

I love it... and all $80 or something like that.

The only thing to remember is that sailing to bearings means using the compass not the GPS as the GPS will steer you round not allowing for sailing leeway, tides, currents etc. But on short hops and keeping in mind the potential problems it's a great tool.

The Volvo Ocean has all those sexy mast-top pictures... using no doubt expensive remote controlled cameras.

So... when the winds are light and the sailing fun but not taxing inventiveness comes into play. I took the camera out of its waterproof case, attached a lanyard, removed the topping lift from the boom and used it as a halyard for the camera. No remote control, just a 10 second timer. Quite a few attempts to get one good picture.

Mentioning the Volvo Ocean cannot go without being amazed by the boat/team I'm following on this race - Ericsson 4 - who this week broke the world record for the greatest number of miles sailed by a monohull in 24 hours. The distances was just over 600 miles, which makes an average speed of 25 knots. I'm doing well if I can keep up 5 knots, so they are sailing 5 times the speed of my Galini. Their boat length is 70 feet which means on a displacement hull their maximum speed would be just over 11 knots... so they must have been planing the hull to get that speed.

As we pass Cape Pila the winds get up. This is the sailing Raed loves, bouncing through the waves with him hiking out holding on by his toes. The waves are steep and choppy and reduce as we get away from the cape. Actually it's not as windy as all that, maybe Bft 3 only. But fun fast sailing at last.

The most dangerous thing is all the fishing stuff... many of the fishermen don't do their buoys very well so you are bound to nearly hit a bamboo cane sticking up form some invisible [black] buoy. Occasionally they might also have a [nearly invisible] black flag on the end of the bamboo cane.

Eventually we reach our destination... well, the backup destination. Had it been Bft 3 all the way we wanted to try to get to Agia Napa, but with light winds we made it to Potamos.

Potamos is a lovely little fishing harbour. We moored in a bay overlooked by a restaurant, which was closed since its out of season.

Yes, I know I should have flaked and lashed the main sail to make it 'Bristol fashion' but we only had time for a very short break to eat half of our lunch as we were running late already. We'd eaten the first half just before the cape.

The entrance to the harbour is very shallow - a MacGregor started to come in then thought better of it and reversed out. He obviously had a depth guage - we don't! We scraped an underwater rock with the end of our centreboard on the way out. Yes, its very shallow!

I set a course that was as close to the cliffs as was safe. Sailing close to the cliffs would mean we had less miles to sail... the shortest possible route. It was interesting to see how the waves had eroded the cliffs so there were caves and overhangs all the way up to the cape.

The wind was dropping as we sailed back to Cape Pila so I had to motor sail the last mile. I hoped as we turned the point I could sail the rest of the way as it should be a direct run and have more speed.

As we turned the point we set the waypoint for the club and the bearing was such that a direct goose-wing run would be ideal. But sadly the wind dropped so we motor sailed. Eventually the wind dropped totally and so we furled the sail, hoisted the boom to the mast to and then lashed it there to get it out of the way an motored back.

What this all meant was that I had misjudged timing and we had the most beautiful sunset over the sea with Larnaca in the background. Yes God does make some really beautiful sights. I'm sure He must enjoy them as much as we do.

What threw me was the hour change from summer to winter time so sunset was an hour earlier than it was the previous week. That having been said, it was still later than I had planned.

But... after sunset... night. So we topped up the engine with fuel while it was still light and got everything ready for a night motor back to the club.

Navigating by night with the etrex is not too difficult. It has a 20 second illumination setting so holding it in your hand you can check your course. And just to make it easier you can set it up to tell you where to steer for the waypoint... Right 7 degrees... Left 4 degrees and so on.

Just in case you are thinking about the stupidity of using flash photography to ruin the helms night vision let me explain the photo. It was taken with flash before it was actually dark. The flash makes the foreground comparatively lighter and the background simulated night. So... no I would not be stupid enough to ruin my night sight for 15 minutes just to get a photo.

You can actually see which lights on the shore are roughly on the correct bearing and then sail for that, just checking with the GPS. In the case of Larnaca Nautical Club there are a number of oil storage tanks about half a mile south and these are very well illuminated so sailing to the club from about 5 miles out is pretty easy.

Night motoring was really fun. It would do it again, but would prepare the boat for it... have torches ready and preferably navigation lights on the mast. But... it was very enjoyable and something I would like to do again.