Thursday, July 7, 2011

Adjustable Backstay

Note: I started this post on 7/7/2011 but didn't actually finish it until 1/24/2012.

A few races into the season have proven a couple things. First, I know how to cruise my boat but racing is a whole other story. Second, Jep doesn't do all that well when trying to point high into the wind.

One addition I was planning on completing next season but accelerated the purchase TODAY was an adjustable backstay system. Depending on wind and sea conditions, having an adjustable backstay can give you a significant advantage in a variety of situations. Specifically, it aids the boats ability to point.

After studying and playing with a number of backstay systems on various boats I race against, I opted to go with a block and tackle backstay. I purchased a Ronstan Series 50 multipurpose block, a Ronstan Series 40 fiddle block, another Ronstan Series 40 fiddle block with a becket and cam cleat, 5/16" New England Sta-Set line with red fleck and 3/8" New England Sta-Set X double braid. The whole system cost about $200 (including an eye splice).

The system has worked wonders for my ability to point! I was blown away the first race I loaded up the backstay. Boats that I could never hang with were now in reach. If you currently have a fixed backstay system, I highly recommend installing a simple system like mine. See the pictures below.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

The New Main

Today, with the help of Drew, I put my new main sail on Jep! As I have stated in previous posts, the battens on this sail are a bit different from my previous sail in terms of how they secure into the sail. The first batten was a bit of a pain, but once we figured out how to load them it was a snap! Can't wait to fly this thing!!!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Google Jep

Since the weather in Milwaukee has been so unbelievably obnoxious, I haven't been spending too much time down at the slip. When I left work today, mist and 52 wasn't exactly a glowing invitation to sit in the cockpit and have a beer. As such, I got home and started exploring downtown Milwaukee via Google Maps. Just for grins, I scrolled over the river where Jep is docked and there she was! From the looks of things, I estimate that satellite shot was taken in late May or early June of 2010.

It's really not that cool but whatever.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Tohatsu Video

Here's a short video of my new little 5 HP Tohatsu 4-stroke.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

I'm In!!!

Jep was officially launched around 5 PM on Tuesday, May 10th. Everything went relatively smooth. I'm delighted with my new Tohatsu motor (will post video later). Thanks to JY3 for helping me launch and drink some beer on the motor over to the slip! Looking forward to a great season!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

New Noisey Thing!

Well, I finally broke down and did it. I bought a new motor for Jep!

My old motor is (still own it) a 1988 Johnson 4 HP. The Johnson is a 2 stroke, short shaft with only forward and neutral gears. That little motor did well for Jep but it was time for an upgrade.

Jep's new "power plant" is a 2011 Tohatsu 5 HP, 4 stroke long shaft. The motor includes a 3.1 gallon fuel tank and a 3 year warranty. Here are a few advantages of the Tohatsu:

-1 more horse (cinco dragones!)
-No gas / oil mixing
-Quiet operation
-Improved fuel economy (burns .5 gal/hour at WOT)
-REVERSE (no rotating 180 degrees and shifting to forward)
-Aluminum prop vs. plastic prop
-Long vs. short shaft (prop won't come out of the water in rough seas)
-Optional alternator (didn't buy that option as I have shore power and a solar panel)

For the naysayers who scoff at the Tohatsu name, it might interest you to know that Mercury outboards 40 HP and below and ALL Nissan outboards are made by Tohatsu. The Mercury and Nissan's are simply re-branded as "premium" brands. I guess different stickers and a 30% mark up make the motor function WAY better!

On a related note, anyone looking for a deal on a 4 HP Johnson in good running condition?! Make an offer!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Plexiglass Has Arrived

As I stated in my previous post, over the weekend we finally pulled the broken depth gauge from the port side bulkhead. The gauge has never worked since I purchased the boat and the plastic covering the LCD screen was smashed to pieces. It's been an eyesore and has annoyed me every time I stepped onto the boat.

Last week I found a website called They sell standard and custom cut plexiglass, among other products. I ordered four smoked plexiglass sheets. I only need one but they were only $2.50 a piece so I figured what the hell. It's always nice to have extras. I'll be using the plexiglass to turn the vacant gauge hole into a window.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Weekend Projects

This weekend was consumed with working on Jep. Saturday morning, Steph, Drew, Chad and I got down to the barn around 11 AM to get started on the numerous projects I had scheduled to complete.

We got moving quickly. Since there were four of us, I opted to divide and conquer. I put Drew on bottom duty. When we completed the bottom last year, I noticed a blister on the port side stern after we applied the VC-17. I made a mental note and decided I would address the following season. Drew went around the bottom to see if there were any other blisters I had missed. Luckily there was only one other small blister on the keel. After marking the areas that needed to be sanded and re-barrier coated, he scuff sanded the entire bottom.

While Drew was making the bottom fast, I had Chad working on the companionway. The fiberglass behind the wood was pretty nasty. Since Chad has the most experience doing body work, he was best suited for the job. I bought some fiberglass filler at West Marine and had Chad go to town. He laid the filler on Saturday and sanded and painted on Sunday. In addition to doing the fiberglass, we fabricated an aluminum kick plate as the fiberglass at the bottom of the companionway had a large chunk out of it. The "repair" job looked as if someone took about 6 shots of Jack Daniels and squirted epoxy on the exposed fiberglass. We didn't finish installing the kick plate but plan to do that next weekend. That should dramatically improve the look and finish of the companionway opening.

Steph and I got to work installing my new winch and rope clutch for the main. Steph helped me last year install the deck organizers and genoa track so we were pretty seasoned on installing deck hardware. The installation went pretty quick. I tied a line to the halyard organizer plate and ran it through the deck organizer to aid in placing the hardware. I first mounted the rope clutch. Once the clutch was in place I was able to position the winch. Of course, I applied plenty of silicone to ensure the deck stays water tight. Done.

After finishing that installation, Steph and I got working on the rudder and rudder bracket. I had her sand the rudder down and wipe with mineral spirits to prep it for VC-17. While she was prepping the rudder, I repainted the rudder bracket. As the bracket gets splashed by the water in the river frequently, it gets a lovely coat algae and other marine growth. I opted to paint the bracket two tone: the top with Rustoleum (same stuff I used before) and the bottom with VC-17. I think it looks sharp.

This morning (Sunday) I met Chad down at the boat to finish up the projects we started on Saturday. Chad got back to work on the companionway while I sanded down the blisters identified by Drew. I also applied barrier coat to the bottom edge of the stern as I am going to paint part of the stern with VC-17. Like the bottom of the rudder bracket, the bottom edge of the stern got the said marine coating last year from getting splashed by our crystal clear river water. I had to scrub the sludge from the river off every couple weeks. That got old fast. Hopefully the VC will solve that problem.

While I waited for the barrier coat to dry I got working on rigging my boom so that I can route my outhaul to the cockpit. This was a pretty easy task. I installed a new Ronstan block at the back end of the boom so the outhaul line attached to the sail can can route forward. I then installed Harken cheek blocks at both ends of the boom. Pictures describe the system I installed far better than I can with words so take a look. As I stated in previous posts, my new main has a loose foot and having an adjustable outhaul will be critical in achieving proper sail shape.

The final project took all of 10 seconds. When I bought Jep, there was a depth gauge installed on the port side bulkhead that never worked. Additionally, the glass covering the gauge was broken. It looked terrible and made the boat look old (I also got sick of people asking what it was and why it was broken). While Chad was taking a break and having a beer, he popped the gauge out and I did something I've wanted to do for 3 years - I tossed that POS in the trash. I bought some smoked plexigass and will install that as a makeshift window next weekend.

All we have left is to reinstall the exterior wood, installed the kick plate, plexiglass window and paint the bottom! Then we'll clean and wax the hull and Jep will be ready for launch!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

It's Five O'Clock Somewhere!

Thinking of warmer times on this sorry excuse for a spring day.

Monday, March 14, 2011

#1 Getting Draft Stripes and Sail Numbers

As I posted in late February, Jep will be sailing in MAST on Friday nights this summer. While I do not have the most robust head sail inventory, making due with my current rags is the only option I have. In a perfect world I'd buy a roller furler and pop for a new #1 (155% genoa) but I'm afraid that will have to wait until 2012.

Jep has 2 head sails: a #1 made of nylon (very light) and a #3 (105%) made of dacron. Neither sail has numbers or draft stripes. Both sails hank (clip) onto the forestay.

Surprisingly, when it comes to local sail lofts, the Milwaukee market is quite limited. I had heard of S Lee Sails in Port Washington, but when I attempted to contact them, the listed number had been disconnected. Bad sign. The North Sails loft in downtown Milwaukee is over priced and last time I had some simple work done they took forever. That left me with Nielson Sailmakers in Racine.

I spoke with Micky Nielson regarding the work I wanted on the sail. She informed me that in PHRF races, numbers are not required on #3 head sails. With that in mind, I opted to leave my #3 alone and only add numbers and stripes to my #1.

This past Saturday morning I made the 30 minute commute to Racine to drop off the sail. Upon a quick inspection, Chris Nielson told me that the bolt rope on the luff of the sail was too short and he would reset the rope at no cost. Awesome! With a longer, reset bolt rope we should not have to tension the halyard quite as much. I'm hoping this will also improve the overall sail shape.

The sail should be done by this weekend.

UPDATE 3/26/2011: I picked up the sail this weekend. Not only did they reset the bolt rope at no cost, they also added a tell tale window! Chris said that if he were using the sail, he'd want a tell tale window, so he installed one!

To those of you who read this and need work done to your existing sail inventory, I highly recommend taking your sail to the Nielson loft. The staff is courtious and knowledgable. They also design and build new sails.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Louie's 12th Last Regatta - A Few Months Later...

"Okay, Charlie - why on earth are you writing about Louie's 12th Last Regatta like 5 months later?" Because I want to, so shut up and read.

If you have followed my blog to any degree, you'll realize that I have a complete lack of consistency when it comes to posting on my blog, so when I'm in the mood to write (like I have been this week), tap-tap-tap goes the keyboard.

Before I begin, you poor saps reading this should know that I am sipping on a home brew stout in order to bring the "Hemingway" out. Okay, maybe not.

What was I writing about again?

Ah yes, Louie's 12th Last Regatta! What an event. I searched back through the blog to see if I had ever written about one of my favorite weekends of the year (and by "search back through the blog" I mean "thought about if I had for 5 seconds and couldn't remember"). If a description of the regatta has graced the wonders of my blog in posts prior, oh well. Here goes again...

Louie's Last Regatta started back in 1999 by a small group of sailors here in Milwaukee looking for one last blast before putting their beloved boats on the hard. The regatta is a charity event benefiting Children's Hospital of Wisconsin that takes place in the Milwaukee Bay on the last weekend in September. The past few years have seen anywhere between 120 and 150 boats and have raised upwards of $150K for the hospital each year. All of the degeneracy aside, it makes the event that much more fun to know you're supporting a worthy cause.

2010 in particular was a special year. It was the first year the regatta had seen a scrappy little boat named Yep, It's Jep fighting the Lake Michigan seas with the big boys! Now you'll have to forgive me if I cannot recall every little detail about the day since it was, you know, 5 months ago. The day also started with a bloody Mary bar at McKinley. Is there really any other way to get a race day started? No way there is!

We sailed Louie's with a light crew consisting of myself, Drew, and James Young III, henceforth known as JY3. The day started out sunny but rather chilly. If my memory serves me correctly, the temperature was in the 50s with 3 to 5 foot seas and North or North-northwest winds blowing maybe 10 to 15 knots. How did I remember the wind direction you might ask? Simple - I'm full of it. Actually, I remember because we were headed south on our downwind run. It also got cloudy and the temperature definitely did not increase.

We were in the last group to start the race. What's unique about Louie's is that every boat is technically in their own "division" so you're assured to take first! The name of our division was Here Comes the Judge.

When the race started I can tell you this: the Judge was not coming or going anywhere because the Judge started off in the wrong direction and had no idea where the hell he was going. Luckily we were not the only clueless sailors out there, but it was certainly frustrating. When we finally figured out where the hell the first mark was, it was game on!

Drew and I were the "experienced" sailors on the boat. While JY3 was and is still quite green, he held his own and did as he was told. Even though our start was, to put it lightly, brutal, our tacks were crisp and quick once we were dialed in. We also managed to hit every mark without over or under shooting.

That's what she said! Sorry, I just had a Michael Scott moment. Moving on...

The second to last leg of the "beer can" course was a downwind run. One thing I figured out this summer was when running down wind, pull up your swing keel (if you have one)! It honestly gave us .5 to .8 knots of boat speed!

When we finally heard the toot of the air horn indicating we had finished, it was time for a celebratory beer! Unfortunately as the seas were 3 to 5 feet, both JY3 and I were getting a little queasy after bobbing around for a couple hours. Nevertheless, once we made it inside the break wall our "lumpy" stomachs had subsided enough for a fizzy cold beverage.

We got the boat all buttoned up at the slip and walked over to the Milwaukee Ale House for the post race festivities. We bumped into some friends we met earlier in the summer, had some beers with random sailors and generally enjoyed the atmosphere of the event.

Finally came the awards ceremony. The MC of the event shocked me! Before announcing our 34th place finish (out of 60 or 65), he gave a shout out to my humble little blog! After all was said and done I found him in the hall and asked how on earth he stumbled upon my blog (I also wanted to make sure the poor man had a life since he actually read this drivel). As he told it, they were out sailing one day and sailed by a boat with a very interesting name. He thought with a name like Yep, It's Jep, there had to be a story. Smart guy!

Monday, March 7, 2011

2011 Spring Planning and Projects

It's funny how after enduring snow, cold, and generally crappy weather, your mind eagerly awaits spring planning for the upcoming sailing season. While I'm always brainstorming improvements for Jep, I generally try to put off my spring planning until early March for a simple reason: planning too early will drive me insane!

In my own twisted way, I equate spring planning to vacation planning. When it all boils down, Jep is my little 24 foot vacation home on the river, so I guess it's not too crazy!

Luckily all of the hard work was completed last year. If you review previous posts, you will realize the extensive man hours that went into my spring preparation in 2010. From barrier coating to installing genoa track, Jep began to transform from a bare bones cruiser to a racer with some creature comforts.

Not to take away from this season's spring festivities, but I do not envision logging nearly the number of hours as I (and Drew) did last year.

So what's in store for this year? Glad you asked!

Most importantly, Jep has a new main! I've posted quite extensively on the new main. I finally took the sail out of the bag and unfolded it partially. What a difference between the old bed sheet I had been flying and the new sail! The material is unquestionably denser and stiffer with noticeable improvements in workmanship. The most striking difference I found was the difference in batten length (among numerous others). As the new main has 2 full battens, one of them is approximately 5'7" long. I believe the longest batten in my old main was maybe 30".

Since the new main has a loose foot (no bolt rope that travels through the boom), having an adjustable outhaul is essential. The outhaul system I am installing is quite simple. It consists of a regular block that attaches to the back of the boom and two cheek blocks (only one pictured) that will be placed at each end of the boom. I purchased 3/16" New England Sta-Set line to complete the system. The outhaul will route back to the cockpit.

Another improvement due to the new main is the addition of a rope clutch and winch. Previously we would use our brute strength to hoist the main and add the desired tension to the luff of the sail. This worked to a certain degree in lighter air, but in heavy air, we never had the halyard tension required for the conditions. Having a new sail coupled with racing this season, being able to properly adjust halyard and luff tension is essential. Pictured are the new additions: Spinlock XAS rope clutch and a Forespar Marelon #6 self lubricating winch.

At some point I will be modifying my backstay to make it adjustable. I have yet to purchase the necessary hardware but I know exactly what I want and need to make that a reality.

There you have it! Besides adding all of my fun new toys, I'll be doing some simple cosmetic work in various areas in addition to my usual bottom and wood work.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

New Mainsail FINISHED!

After sorting through the ludicrous amount of junk mail I receive on a daily basis last night, I came across an envelope with the Doyle Sailmakers logo where one would find the return address. I opened the envelope immediately when I got into my place to find the envelope contained the final amount due for the sail. First thing I thought was, " sail must be done!"

Today over lunch I shot a quick email to the Doyle loft in Chicago to confirm my suspicions. I received a response in 4 minutes stating, "The sail is all done just need to do a final check...will E-mail you some photos." JACKPOT! A couple hours later there was an email in my inbox with some pictures attached. SAH-weet! I'm hoping the sail gets here by the weekend!

UPDATE 2/28/2011: The sail has arrived! Behold!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Jep Has Officially Joined MAST

Today I finally sent in my membership application and check so that I may race in MAST for the 2011 sailing season. According to the MAST website:

"MAST was organized by a group of trailer sailors who shared interests in sailing. "MAST" is an acronym for Mid America Sail and Trail. As MAST enters 2011, it celebrates its thirty-sixth year. The club provides its members with many social events throughout the year, as well as a variety of sailboat cruises, regattas and competitive racing. While boat ownership is a goal of most of its members, it is not a requirement and many members were introduced to sailing through participation in MAST activities."

I've sailed in MAST for the past three years on s/v Blue Pearl, a 40.5 foot Beneteau First 405. It was a true pleasure sailing for Jim Kerlin on s/v Blue Pearl. Making the decision to "jump ship" and sail exclusivly on Jep was by no means an easy decision to make. However, as my skill level and boat get more advanced, my desire to go out on my own only grows stronger.

Here's to the 2011 season!