Sunday, September 21, 2014

Fishing under sail

Do we eat a lot of fish while out sailing? Well the answer is , sometimes a lot but most times only when we want to. Catching fish today in a lot of the worlds oceans is not what it once was for me growing up on the water. The worlds oceans are really under human pressure. I will fish when under way if the weather is good so that my crew will eat the fish I catch and not be too sea sick to take a pass on on it. We sail without refrigeration so what we catch has got to be eaten in 24 hours. I like dried raw fish but going through the process of drying it and then watching me eat it makes most of my crews squirm. When I troll lines astern my method is to put out three lines of three different lengths with the shortest just out 35' and the longest at the end of my bubble stream from the rudder. I like all my lures to be popping out of the water every few feet. This I belive makes them look like scattering flying fish with the bigger fish not having the time to really get a good look at what's up. As a young kid sailing in the Pacific I used to want to catch every thing and the biggest thing I could. Today I just want a fish that we can eat in a day so I use small 20 lb treble hooks that will bend out if a big fish bites. My hooks get bent a lot but those fish will have learned a lesson and live another day. Catching big fish and trying to relaese them is a death sentence to them. Too much trauma and handling.
The biggest fish I have landed on a hand line to date was a 200 lb Blue Marlin while on a delivery trip. We were sailing off the coast of Dominica at daylight when the Blue struck. After an hours time I landed the fish and winched it up the stern of the catamran I was delivering. I then headed into shore and found some Dominicans fishing out of a small canoe and gave them the fish . They were very happy.
We kept 20 lbs to eat. That was the last time I put out a rig that will land just about anything.

Fish on ! Most times we hook a couple at a time as the school goes by.

Skipjack tuna the best for tasting like a steak if broiled right.

A Skipjack tuna as we drift away from the lee of Maderia

The four of us consumed 68 lbs of tuna felays in 18 days sailing to Barbados . 

Schoolie Dolfhin .. Perfect size

Early morning tuna in the Cape Verde islands. We like to have broiled tuna steaks for lunch and dinner. Then pressure cook the rest with it staying sealed in the pressure cooker till the next day and then make the best tuna salad ever. Then we lay off fishing for a few days.

We have extra fish ... Get on the VHF. And see if anyone wants some.

Breakfast , lunch, dinner and a weeks worth of fish jerky for me! I soak the fish in Soy sauce overnight then hang to dry during the day bringing down below at night to stay dry. Takes two days and is then good to go. This I chew on during my watches. No kissing Rachel till this is all eaten though.

A nice little Waho off the Silverbanks enroute from the BVIs to the Bahamas.

Catching Tuna while becalmed using a spinning rod enroute to Bermuda

Baby Barracuda goes back in

Some happy fish mongers in The Cape Verde islands. Blue fin tuna Caught  that day was $ .90 cents a pound so.... Lots of stern Bar B Qing while there.

Sorry ! But you taste so good

Too much carnage in the cockpit. Good thing we have all that water around us to clean up with

And when you get board with fish you can always find some lobsters to noose when at anchor.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

My flats boat early history re posted again!

I have no idea how it disappeared from my blog but my early history posting- story just dissapeared from this blog. Several followers emailed me to ask to share it with their friends so I emailed my daughter to assist me in reposting it. So it's back in its old time slot in June. Here are some photos to go with this story and time frame. 

This is the Sea Witch ketch that I grew up on sailing from California to Florida via the Panama Canal.
We are sailing in the San Blas Islands here. The cost to transit the canal in 1976 was $14.00 !
This boat did not have a winch on her. Every thing was a block and tackle. She really loved the wind in the Carribean sea. Otherwise she was a haystack to sail.

Back then with a wood hull you were always looking to paint your bottom because of ship worms.
The tides in Panama on the Pacific were from 8-24' so this was easy. I'am mixing the paint in the dinghy.

When we were cruising the San Blas islands I talked my dad into letting me sail the islands for 10 days with only a 5 gallon water jug , my spears and some fishing line. I wanted to try and live off the land and sea. I ate a lot of coconuts, lobster, sea urchins, and fish. This little flat bottom Garvey dinghy at 9' long with a loose footed lug sail and a leeboard sailed right along and was very seaworthy with the flair that it had. It rained every night and I would just sleep on the two oars with the sail over me. I'am 17 years old here. The Cuna Indians loved seeing what I was doing.

When we arrived in Florida in 1976 I got a job at Stamas Boats. I worked there for six months and saved enough to buy a nice bycycle and go on a 3,800 mike bike trek through the Pacific Northwest for a summer. This is near the Columbia Ice Fields in Alberta Canada.

On my bike tour I got this Big horn to eat my dried apples out of my hand. I asked him if he would like to have his head on my future house wall and he said not today! I'am 18 years old here. The white things around my ankles are plastic bags that I would wear over my socks to stay warm. It snowed that night. I did this trip averaging 75 miles a day for the trip and living off a $3.00 a day budget. Oh for the good old days!

While working at Stamas boats I bought this French designed and built Corsair sloop for $750.00.
This boat which was built out of plywood I then sailed through out the Exumas and as far south as Long Island in the Bahamas and then out to Conception ,Cat island, Eleuthera,the bight of Abaco, and the east side too coming back to Florida in West palm. My next trip over she hit something at 8:00 at night 18 miles out of Key largo in the Gulf Stream and sank in 10 minutes . Because I had no dinghy I ended up swimming for 20 hours making it back to Biscayne Bay. 
All my boats have been very strong since this episode.
She's sailing in George Town harbor in the Exumas in 1977 with only 12 boats at anchor in the peak of the season. At the time I was 19 years old and was having the time of my life. I have spent the my time since then trying to recapture the simplicity of that era.

After my little sloop sank I got a job at Glander Boat Works in Key Largo and built myself one of his Prudence hulls from the mold he had. Lawanda and I did most of the building in the water at Lews Marina in Islamorada.

This little sloop was a nice sailor. We did several trips to the Bahamas in her before I got into building flats skiffs. We lived aboard in what is called Little Basin in Islamorada right out front of what is now Bass Pro world Extravaganza whatever. Only 4 other sailboats then and maybe 6 guides.

Sailing in the Bahamas with my dad on his Alben Vega catching up to us.
This is a little bit of what was going on before I met Hal Chittum and got into the flats boat world.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Hogfish and Alert

 Jim Melcher was a good freind and a great sailor. I first met him by being asked to help carry his main mast for the Alert from the shed he had been repairing it in to the Alert to be raised in its own tabernacle. This mast weighed more than the hollow mainmast of the gaff rigged ketch that I had grown up on and had sailed from California on. This was in Key largo in the early 80s.
He invited me to go for a sail in a couple of days. The Alert is a Phil Bolger Manatee design that Jim had built and slightly modified by raising the main cabin height to give headroom. At the time I was living aboard my own slightly modified Prudence sloop built by my ex Lawanda and I. The Prudence is a 23' sloop. Jim was a very thin wiry guy with tons of energy. He was anchored in 3' of water on a lee shore with barly enough room to get away on a clean tack. Jim hoisted the huge single leg o mutton or sprit boom mainsail and let it luff. The mizzen was sheeted in flat. I stood in the bow well and pulled in the anchor road as we slowly made way up on the anchor road. The leeboards of this design were lowered to just even with the bottom of the hull, about 20". When the anchor started to break loose I said to Jim we were on the wrong tack as we fell off to the lee shore. Jim just said no worrys. As we made a boat length to the impending shore Jim sheeted in the mizzen let out the main sheet and pushed the tiller over hard to port. The boat headed up into the wind, the hull 2" above the bottom and as we came into the wind he let go the mizzen completely and we fell off on the next tack heading offshore. Once underway the lee leeboard was lowered ,the mizzen sheeted in a bit to draw and away we went. I fell in love with real shallow draft boats then and there. The Alert was a very radical design to me at the time as I had just built an old school Herrshoff Prudence sloop with all the right bronze hardware. This boat had a mizzen mast off center and a very weird hull shape, but sailed in shallow water well. Jim had sailed it down from New England. We became fast friends. Jim went on to sail this boat by my guess about 40,000 offshore miles with two Atlantic crossings by him. A fantastic seaman.
Here we are In the Bahamas chasing each other around just after I launched the Hogfish in her original state. 

Jim has hoisted a small jib on his anchor roller to try and get more speed to keep up with Hogfish.
We are sailing through his lee here.

Hogfish here dropping off friends on the beach

Hogfish sailing out of Cruise Bay in St. John's Virgin Islands with a 68' mast to carry to St Croix for a friends boat project. 

Thursday, September 18, 2014

The " Red Baron" project

I move around a lot sailing from one project- job to the next. Right now a front is coming through here and it is raining so will sit down and share this story with you. Four years ago my friend Phil emails me a picture of an unfinished Ian Farrier 32 AX trimaran bare hull and some parts that is for sale in Oregon state. This is Phil's dream boat. The man that started it has died of a heart attack , the boat and parts are for sale by his young son-24 and his surviving sister. They are not sailors. Would I hop on a plane and go out and look at it and if it's worth finishing buy it and get it to Florida for me to Finnish the build? Sure why not I need to settle into a routine and be a normal dad for my youngest daughter as she finishes high school. This will be a good job. I was in the Bahamas working on building my house but this could be good. 
My wife and daughter were renting a small place in St Augustine fl. As they have good schools there. My wife was running a used antique book store. I sail on up. 
The first thing I do is look up this tris hull sections for me to see if I can get it into a freight box. I have 3" to spare if it is built to plans and I can get it in sideways. The place where the boat is being built is in the middle of no where in a garage. I will need to fly to Oregon drive 350 miles to the boat,look the boat over ,find a crane rental, line up a trucking company, meet with the son, make an offer and if accepted start the process of getting out and into the container all ASAP. 
The gentalman that started his dream project was an engineer at the nucular war head site in this town. His name was Charley Brown. Charles Brown. He was very detailed in building what he had done so far. The boat was being built in Systems Three Epoxy , Core Cell foam core with some modifications to the design aft cabin deck height. Smart move as it is way too low as designed unless you are an earth worm that likes to wiggle your way in and around and out of that coffin like aft cabin.
His work was perfect so far. He had gotten the two hull halves together, the outer Amas built , the daggerboard case and board. Some tools were there . Lots of supplies but all a long ways to go. 
I am always amazed at people that take on projects like this when they have retired. This design build is a huge under taking by anyone . Tons of hours to build. Nothing romantic about the whole project as it is all about glass work and fairing. No wood in site except for the plug work. Pretty much a thankless job unless you are getting paid to build it. It is by no means cheap to build on your own as the materials still cost a bundle. Labor still costs, but it will take you at least 3,500 + hours of yours so it's a part of your life. When done you will not make your money back unless you have a buyer waiting. It is way better in the long run to buy a used boat now and enjoy your life. But if you are like me you will take great joy and pride in creating your own flying carpet to explore the world. Forget the itch, the dust, smell, endless hours inside a shed with only a peak of the out side world waiting. Let's get going and see how this contraption sails.
The son and his Aunt wanted a lot of $ for the bare hull and parts. My offer was this; the boat as it sits is pretty much not worth anything till built. Does not matter what was spent to date , the boat must be in the water to have real value. They had several offers. I offered them way less than the others but said
 " Iam  the only one that will have the boat built in a little over a year from now. The others will not be doing this if at all. If you want to see Charley's boat sailing I will be be the one to do it". Seeing the boat finished was worth more to them than a bit more cash. 
I took working alone 13 months to finish building Charley's dream boat and making it into Phil's. My deal with Phil was I would charge $25.00 an hour for labor and would get all the materials at cost or better and pass the savings on to him. He would cover all expenses. I am very good at finding deals as I have been around for awhile. The finished boat cost $226,000.00 with my labor at just under $40,000.00. 
A friend was building one in Canada in a professional shop with the cost going out the door at over $350,000.00. So we were ahead of it a bit.
This was a good project . I lived in a house for this period , and kinda acted like a regular guy during this time. As soon as the sea trials were over Rachel and I sailed back to the Bahamas. Our daughter Lillian had been awarded a full scholarship to finish her 11 th and 12 th grade schooling in an IB program in the UWC in Duino Italy during this time.She escaped before we did.

 Arriving from Oregon ready to lift out . I built the cradle there and loaded the boat and parts in myself. The truck driver being an American weighed at least 350 lbs and could barely breath. He made it though across the states.

I think everyone should have a machine like this , so much fun. Never used one before this project but you can rent for very little and learn on the job or poke a hole in something.

Nothing like a strong light weight hull.

Everything is cored so you just make up these sheets and start putting the puzzle together. I still have to glass everything in here and then fair.

The folding system that Ian Farrier has designed is complicated but works beautifull when done. You only have 3 mm of play to work with so have to have a secure level boat and pay attention to all the details. Kinda like building a plane.

Daggerboard rudder before glassing.

Interior shot after Awlgripping. I use a full face mask. Your eye balls are an open skin membrane so if they are protected from the fumes then you can work and paint away. If not you drop dead. This was a total bitch and nightmare to fair and paint. The shop at this point was at mid summer about 100 degrees so I sweated up a storm but I am used to this being in the tropics my whole life.

A detail of the stern and the daggerboard rudder. I like these as you just lift the rudder up an can still sail. With a kick up rudder you tremendous weather helm. 

This is not Bondo but the System Three fairing putty they sell. Since this was all epoxy no fumes and plenty of working time.

My home made fairing rig. Works like a charm but you have to cover your eyes and like to work in a dust storm. I was renting a small storage bay so could not blow the dust out the door. Had to do all this with the door shut. I like to wear all cotton shirts and jeans even though it is 100 degrees plus in here my sweat cools me off. The fan provides a breeze but because the door is closed the dust storm will be about for a bit. I then Vacume out the whole shop.

The boat had a beam of 25' and the shop was 20' wide . I just built one Ama  and Aka at a time and then slid the boat over to the other side. Saved a ton on rent. Rent was $750.00 a month. The building was metal and the inside was sheet rock nothing else. I had to buy insurance to rent . My landlord said to insure for $100,00.00. The insurance company's said they would only insure for a minimum of $500,00.00. Crooks. The custom trailer people are about to arrive.

The Epoxy that the boat was being built out of had to be cured to 120 degrees for 4 hours taking up to ten hours to slowly cure this type of epoxy resin. I built this shed over the boat with all parts inside , renting a propane furnace heater . I installed 10 thermometers around the box . Took a day to build , a day to cure and a day to remove. I had no need for the wood and all that good insulation and offered it to the guy in the next bay. He said a friend was building a shed and would get it in the morning. He shows up with his Fire Marshall uniform on , looks at the furnace and me and says " I don't want to know what you were up to". To this date with a bright red hull no print through.

Stern with a custom engine mount .

Rachel posing like the bikini girls on my walls. Getting ready to put the bling on the boat.

Only an inch at the door. Ian Farriers plans are very detailed but kind of scattered with the info. 

Tied up along side the Hogfish. I knew the Hogfish would not be jealous of me spending so much time with this sexy new boat. Although lean light and super fast this red thing could only carry a six pack of beer and you could poke a hole through her sides in an instant. Nothing like the battle horse you know and love.

Calvert sails, wing mast, 18 knots in 12 . 


The end of a good project with a happy owner. 

Monday, September 15, 2014

Scrapping , being cheap or Eco friendly

Building our place over here in the Bahamas can be very expensive if you cannot do all the work yourself. We have done 98% of the work here with only short term day help with a concrete pour or when plastering. The most fun thing for me is collecting drift wood from along the shore line as we go about exploring . This wood is all in pretty good shape. What we do is flip the board over to use it's old hidden side and give it a new life. The bonus is most boards come with their own nails !
All this costs us is some labor a little gas and some imagination to where it will all go.
A $30.00 new board or the same thing with a little history behind it for free? What would you do?

Our dinghy can hold up to 1,500 lbs easily. So it's just a matter of stacking and the sea state getting back home.

Ok ... Now we need some to go here and over there.

This walk way all  from the shore line.

We collected all the rocks to cover the outside of our house. The dark rocks are from the Azores to the Cape Verde islands from their beaches.
Remember ! All this wood was once floating in the ocean so you better have a strong boat.
Will be looking for you out there scrapping.