Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Savannah Cup and why we wear life jackets.

This past weekend we raced from Charleston to Savannah in the Charleston Ocean Racing Savannah Cup. The race was both fun and challenging and we were enjoying some great competition. Over the course of the weekend we experienced a wide variety of conditions ranging from dead calm (we actually drifted around in circles) to 25 knot winds and waves around 5-6 feet as we approached Charleston harbor in the pre-dawn hours. We were a crew of five; two Sea Scouts, one younger co-worker and two of us older guys; all are good to strong swimmers.

My life jacket rules are as follows; when on deck a PFD will be worn AT ALL TIMES when underway. I sometimes relax that rule for adults in the cockpit on calm days in protected waters. PFDs may be taken off when in the cabin. Jacklines are run whenever we go outside the harbor. A tether will be worn while offshore and clipped on at night and in rough conditions. The standard is fairly strictly enforced, to the occasional frustration of some of my teenage crew members.

Several times during the race I commented to the crew on the importance of using a tether when we looked off the stern of the boat into the darkness of the white-caps and six foot seas. With the boat sailing at 8-9 knots someone falling from the boat would be gone in seconds. I also spot checked the crew's tether's to ensure that they were properly connected through both of the harness rings not just one side of the vest.

As we were approaching the dock after nearly forty hours of straight sailing we were looking forward to breakfast once we were tied up. The winds were about 12 knots from the North East, there was an ebb current running about 1.5 knots. We had furled the sails, placed fenders and everyone was in their docking positions.

About 150 feet from the marina entrance one of our crewmen lost consciousness and toppled off of the boat into the water. For a brief moment I couldn't believe what I was seeing,  I saw the crewman fall from the boat and yelled Man Overboard! The crew responded smoothly one watching the man overboard (MOB) while another got the boat hook. At first we tried to instruct the MOB to swim to the nearby dock but quickly realized he was unresponsive. We executed our man-overboard  drill; since we were motoring the approach was much less complicated than if we'd been under sail. Once we re-connected with the MOB a crewman hooked his vest strap with the boat-hook and positioned him at the transom near the ladder for recovery. Two of our crew used his tether and harness to slide him up the sloped transom and into the cockpit. Once aboard we treated our MOB for shock, he was conscious but confused. As we returned to our dock the crewman regained awareness putting a happy ending on the too exciting experience.

What we did right:
  • All crew were wearing their PFDs; his PFD absolutely saved this young sailors life.
  • The built in harness in offshore inflatable PFDs makes a huge difference in when trying to recover a MOB
  • Enough of the crew members had discussed or practiced MOB procedures to efficiently recover the MOB.
What we need to fix:
  • Use two legged tethers so that you can be continuously tethered as you move about the boat.
  • The captain needs to be aware of any relevant medical conditions of his crew. 
  • We need to actually practice MOB recovery more often including during poor conditions.
  • Be more consistent and thorough in the pre-sail briefing of MOB procedures.
What we learned:
  • The first (very brief) thought of most of the crew was disbelief that someone had actually gone overboard.
  • Inflatable PFDs work great if they are well maintained and properly worn (most of the crew commented that they'd always wondered about that).
  • The hardest part of the recovery can be getting the person back on the boat.
  • PFD crotch straps matter; we observed that inflatable PFDs ride up around the persons face if they are unconscious.
  • Good health and swimming ability are no substitute for a PFD.
  • God is good; prayers for a safe event were answered in many ways during the weekend. There were many more ways this could have turned out much worse.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Summer sailing Charleston and the Leukemia Cup!

We've had incredible sailing weather this July, only one Wednesday night race was cancelled due to lack of wind; and most of the fleet raced informally anyway. Last year there were several races where we actually could have gone faster if we'd jumped in the water and pushed.

For the second summer series CORA split the non-spinnaker class into two fleets, D and N. The N fleet are the non-spinnaker boats that rate less than 200 phrf. This made for a lot more close racing for us and for a change we weren't the lowest rated boat in the fleet. As the season shaped up our arch rivals this year have been "Fate" and "The Usual Suspects" who we owe 5 seconds and 33 seconds a mile respectively. Unfortunately I was out of town for the first two races so we didn't have enough finishes to be scored in the series, but race 6 was our most successful race, although we finished fourth we finally beat Fate! For more frequent updates visit the S/V Peregrine facebook page.

One of the highlights for me during the second half of the season was the addition of a GoPro camera (birthday present from my adoring children) to the ship's equipment list. I'm still working on the best place to mount it to capture both crew activities and some of the close sailing we're experiencing.

Peregrine's new light air spinnaker
We've recovered from our spinnaker disaster in the Sheriff's Cup to Bohicket race where we completely blew out our only spinnaker shortly after turning South outside of the jetty. Our replacements include a light weight symmetrical from Bacon Sails and a Gennaker picked up on eBay.

Our next race will be an ocean race, the Savannah Cup and we'll be back in C Class. Hopefully the weather will cooperate and we'll have an incredible night sail down the coast.

We've also started fund raising for the Leukemia Cup; this is a two day regatta that takes place in September. As a ship our goal is to raise $10,000 for the Leukemia Lymphoma Society, in addition to funding research they also provide financial support to patients. If you are able to support our team send me a note or go to our fund raising page at:  http://www.leukemiacup.org/pages/sc/char14/TVienneau

Your contributions of any amount are greatly appreciated!!

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Summer Sailing in Charleston

The first half of summer has brought great sailing weather in Charleston this year. After the lighter than normal winds for Race Week, we've had plenty throughout the first half of the season. We're continuing to enjoy racing with the Charleston Ocean Racing Association (CORA) The offshore races were a blast - literally on the way to Bohicket we blew out our spinnaker which put a little bit of a damper on the rest of the weekend but we still had a great time. Several other boats offered us their spare spinnaker for the trip home but we declined; at that point I was a little risk averse. The trip home was a light air day but we did see a huge pod of dolphins just off of Folly Beach.

Summer Series I has been windy and we have started about half of the races with a reef in the main. We've been sailing better as the season has progressed and we ended up in 9th place in a fleet of 21 boats. The crew has become a little more stable and we're all more comfortable with the boat. I'm still trying how to keep boat speed up when heading downwind and I'd like to get us to point a little higher (doesn't everyone).

We've done some fun sailing as well; although we raced the Summer Sailstice race it was mostly a family crew (as our results demonstrated) and it was a beautiful night for a sail.

Maintenance and upgrades have been a major part of the summer. I finally found a solution I like to make the propane locker ABYC compliant. After looking at boatyard proposals and reading a lot of blogs I ended up making the modifications myself.

I ended up putting in an access hatch on the deck and sealing the old hatch so that the locker no longer opens to the bilge. The hardest part for me was starting to cut a hole in a perfectly good deck! This went against every instinct I have.

I started by drilling a couple holes up from the inside of the locker to locate the hatch position on the deck. As you can see by the picture, it was snug fit. Any larger hatch would have required cutting into the coaming and entailed considerably more work. I started down that route initially but thought better of it before actually making any cuts. I ended up with room for a 10" hatch which will accommodate a 4.25 lb (9.1 inch diameter tank).  Initially I wanted to be able to have a larger tank but on reflection decided that several of the smaller tanks would be easier to manage.

After cutting the hole and drilling out all of the screw points, I glassed around the edge of the hole of the balsa cored deck with West System epoxy to prevent any moisture getting into the core. I also enlarged each of the screw holes and filled them with thickened West System epoxy.

Final fitting of the hatch required a little sanding of the hole and trimming some of the flange of the port where it came against the coaming. Aside from safety the biggest benefit is that I no longer have to crawl into the aft lazerette to turn on the propane!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Charleston Race Week 2014

Wow!! - We had a blast this year at Charleston Race Week (we had a blast last year as well). We raced in the Pursuit Non-Spinnaker Class again this year which grew from four to twelve boats. I like racing in the pursuit class because it gives us a chance to recover from small errors and it gives us an opportunity to enjoy a nice sail on the ocean and get back to the marina relatively early in the day (if the wind is good). We were wonderfully blessed this year to have great weather and wonderful people to enjoy God's creation!

In the pursuit class each boat has it's own start time based on it's rating. If everyone sails to their rating we should all finish together so you actually know where you placed when you finish (if the Race Committee doesn't shorten the course).

The wind was variable all three days. Friday was the most consistent and we sailed the long course and finished in fourth place - I was pretty happy that we finished in the top half of the fleet. We had a rough start as a result of a couple of inbound ships that made excellent wind blocks of the light winds in the first few miles. By the time we made it to the channel we were doing better and continued to catch boats as we worked our way around the rest of the course. After the race we grilled burgers and had a little party on the boat so I never even made it to the party at the marina.

On Saturday the race was changed to the short course.  We were off to a better start and we made good progress out to just past G25 where there was a calm spot that caused the whole fleet to bunch up. This hurt the slower boats and helped the faster boats since we essentially caught the fleet. Once the wind filled in we quickly passed several boats and ended up chasing Waterlily, the only faster boat in the fleet, back in the channel. We ended up finishing third behind Waterlily and Direction.

Sunday was another light day race, the fleet stalled just past the end of the jetty's in four foot swells and light wind. Two of our crew fell victim to sea sickness while we were in the swells. We worked our way North to some wind we saw in the distance and were able to get some speed and make it to the G13 and head South to the mark. We passed several boats on the way South and ended up finishing Second behind Direction when they shortened the course by half, ending at the midpoint mark. Along the way to the mark we were passed by a large leatherback sea turtle - you can tell the winds are light when you get passed by a turtle.

Thank you crew for working really hard to keep the boat moving its fastest all weekend. We all learned a couple of things.

  1. Having a clean bottom makes a huge Huge difference in boat speed. (We were pretty foul for the Frostbite Series races and it showed)
  2. We can be competitive in light wind, we had convinced ourselves that we needed heavy wind to be successful and this simply not the case.
  3. Keeping the sails well trimmed is a continuous process and requires constant attention of the trimmers and tactician.
  4. The driver needs to focus on driving the boat. Every distraction (like sea turtles or a conversation) costs time.
The weekend was a lot of fun - getting some hardware made it extra special.

Friday, March 21, 2014

The start of Peregrine's 2014 Offshore Racing Season

Last Saturday kicked off the 2014 Offshore Series in Charleston and it was an incredible day to spend on the water. It was still a little chilly but with our move up to C class anyone working the spinnaker stayed warm enough. We had several new crew members aboard as well as many of our regulars from last season. The winds were a little light but perfect for learning to deploy and trim the spinnaker. The tidal currents were favorable for both the inbound and outbound legs of the race which made the trip go a little quicker.

We were still shaking the cobwebs out from winter so we weren't as quick as I'd hoped but we did have a great day out on the water and are looking forward to the next race.

Some interesting history on the name Peregrine:

Peregrine - Wandering, traveling, migratory. Not native to a region or country; foreign; alien.
Extrinsic or from without; exotic.
From - PeregrÄ“ - foreign (to or from abroad)

In 1620, Pilgrims William and Susanna White chose the name Peregrine for their son, the first English child born in the New World. Peregrine was born aboard the Mayflower while it was harbored in Provincetown. (At the Pilgrim Hall Museum in Plymouth, Massachusetts and you can still see his cradle!)
  • Emperor Commodus sent the first Saint Peregrine to his death in the late 192 AD. His relics now reside in St. John’s Abbey in Minnesota;
  • In the late 200s, another Peregrine set out for Gaul, converted the locals to Christianity and built a cathedral in Auxerre, before meeting his fate during the Diocletian persecutions;
  • The sixth century Italian bishop Saint Cetteus is also known as Peregrinus;
  • The thirteenth century Saint Peregrine Laziosi gave up his wild youthful ways following a vision, became a monk and is now considered the patron saint for cancer and AIDS patients.

Saturday, March 1, 2014


So far the 2014 racing season has not been kind to Peregrine,  for the CORA frostbite series we decided to move up to C class, which is with spinnaker. We were all set for the first race, but it was cancelled due to lack of wind. Unfortunately we also managed to clog the fuel filter so ended up drifting down the channel and finally anchoring while the intrepid crew changed the fuel filter and purged the fuel system. In the mean time a fog bank rolled in and we stationed a crewman to ring our fog bell since we were anchored at the edge of a channel. After about two hours we were able to fire the engine and motor back through the fog to the marina.

Race two was also a challenge and this time there was more wind than we were comfortable flying the spinnaker in. This was a good safety decision but didn't help our finishing position; we decided to withdraw when it appeared we were going to be lapped. The third race Peregrine stayed at the dock. David crewed on the J-24 Dirty White Bouy and I worked with the race committee at the start/finish line. It ended up being another drifter and was fun to watch from the Carolina YC dock. The fourth race was looking good but when we got to the marina wind was gusting to 30 knots and I decided it was too risky to try to get out of the marina with that much cross wind, most of the other skippers agreed with me and only a few boats started that race. The B fleet actually decided to defer a day and race Sunday instead.

This brings us to the final race of the series, scheduled for tomorrow. Last weekend when we were readying for a pleasure sale we discovered a crab pot float had fouled our propeller. I was hoping to clear it today but the cold weather deterred me and Peregrine will remain at the dock until the weather warms up. We did manage to get a picture of the offender and it doesn't look pretty.

With any luck the weather will warm up so I can get in the water and clear the prop and inspect the running gear. Hopefully this is not an indicator for the season.