Hey Gilligan

Just sit right back and hear a tale, a tale of a fateful trip.

In this case, this is a tale of ignorance, foolishness, stupidness, and just general “how wrong can I make things go”. And yes, you are more than welcome to laugh at me and whatnot. But before we get to the fun part, we’ll start with Friday.

My car had started rattling in the passenger side rear, likely a shock mount, so I had ordered all new shocks and bits and pieces, in anticipation of a silent ride once more. The rear shock mounts are annoying to a point where, for me, the easiest way to change everything out is to remove the lower subframe bracing to let the control arms drop down, and remove the shock and spring assembly and so on. Instead of getting into the fancy details, just know that my intent was to use a garage space Friday after work (9 PM eastern when I get out), replace those which is about a 3 hour job, and then go home. After about an hour and a half, it became very obvious that using an air gun to reassemble the subframe mounts the last time I did it, was not the smartest move I had made. Unable to make progress, I abandoned the project, and went home.

Saturday morning, waking up at 4:30 after a few hours of sleep, led to a 12 hour work day. I was excited though, because it was going to be boat day! The plan was to go up, motor out into the lake a ways, anchor out, and spend the night there. Then I’d be able to get up Sunday morning and be ready to enjoy myself. I left work, and drove up, getting there as the sun was already down, which I was expecting. But I’ve been out before in the dark in other places, this shouldn’t be any different. I fired up the outboard, and motored out of the marina. I did note that it was a very dark night, but hey, I have my chartplotter on, I’ve got my running lights on, no big deal, right? I know there are some fishing buoys near the channel entrance so I made sure to go out far enough that I wouldn’t find myself into one, while I tried to make out the break in the wall in the dark.

Before I go into the next part, let me just say that in the three years I’ve had the chartplotter, it has never yet been wrong. The GPS accuracy has never wavered, or shown me to be somewhere I wasn’t. So the fact that of all nights, THIS was the night I went “I dunno, it doesn’t seem right to me” should say something about why my brain was broken. It wouldn’t be the only thing by the end of the weekend. I should also mention that I’ve always been pretty religious about watching my depth. I mean, I draft almost five feet, so I’m usually paranoid about it. Saturday night, I never looked ONCE.

As I stare blankly over the bow, I see what appears to be a lighter shade along where the breakwater was, and get it in my brain that it has to be where the channel opening is. The plotter says otherwise. According to it, I’m about 75′ or so too far to the right of the channel. Remember, one of the two parties in this debate has yet to be wrong. And that statement still stands. The collision was quick, and threw me across the cockpit pretty good, spinning the boat starboard and listing quickly to port, 35 degrees or so. I scrambled to the outboard and threw it into neutral initially, trying to see where I had grounded. The crunching from beneath the keel with every swell was causing my stomach to turn a lot more than the fact that I stopped. I tried forward and reverse with the motor, nothing. I was stuck hard aground on something, and couldn’t budge in any direction. I was spinning slightly like a top, but not really moving. Without the ability to turn the outboard, there was no control to try to guide the boat anywhere, since there was no water moving over the rudder.

The boat was lying abeam of the swells, and they would alternate between just a gentle rocking, to a larger wave that would lift the boat up just enough to send it crashing back down against the rock beneath the keel with the sound of impending carnage. My only fear, if it was even a fear, was the keel being pushed so far to the side that it would spit open at the hull, and being an encapsulated keel well, I’d soon be sitting as deep in water inside the boat, as was under the hull. How did I manage to get myself aground in what seemed like three feet of water, with a five foot draft? Looking back, I basically stuck myself fast, and then as the boat turned and heeled over, the waves would push me shallower just enough that there was no moving me. I left the outboard running in forward with the slim hope that maybe, MAYBE I could catch a swell just right while I was heeled over, the keel would relax just enough, and I could inch forward. After ten minutes, that was not to be the case.

The camping stove on the galley flew across the boat, crashing into the port side on the seats. My clothes that were on the quarter berth flew on the floor and slide under the table. Anything that wasn’t in a drawer, was on the floor or the side of the boat. Thankfully my cell phone was in the drawer, and my laptop is in a nice cushioned case so when it slid onto the floor, it didn’t take a beating. However, there was water in the bilge, that due to the heel angle, had seeped up enough that my clothes were now soaking wet in dirt and dirty water. It was quite the tornado that had gone off in the cabin of my meager boat.

I swallowed my pride, and keyed up the VHF. My first intent was to see if there was anyone around the marina. I wasn’t even 1/4 mile away, and they had just finished up a summer bash party about a half hour earlier or so. Unfortunately, wasn’t able to reach anyone. I sent out a Pan-Pan request. Twice, over the space of a few minutes. And received no acknowledgement at all. My channel 16 is set at max power, 25 watts. I’ve never had an issue hearing or being heard. And yes, it was 10:30-something at night but come on, no one’s awake on a Saturday night? I tried searching through my phone for numbers for locals at the marina that I swore I had saved. Nope, nothing there. I called the marina number directly, and got after-hours voicemail. Well, that’s kinda expected, really. Finally I went last resort, probably due to the crunching sound under my keel. I hit the Distress button on my GX2200 radio. My MMSI is programmed correctly, I have GPS, but I will honestly say I hated to push it. I knew I needed help, but I felt that since it wasn’t life-or-death, that I shouldn’t be pushing it. However, I was out of options. And, as I understand it, it’s meant exactly as I used it, a vessel in distress. It’s not on the same level as screaming Mayday, but is meant to alert as a distress signal. Well, I was in distress. I pushed it. And five seconds later, felt guilty, and turned it off.

I was instantly hailed by the Coast Guard.

She had me switch to 22A, and asked my situation, and safety. Was anyone injured, no. Were life jackets on? In the process of. Taking on water? not at this time. Any other response? Not yet. She took my cell phone number, and promised to call every ten minutes at most, and whenever she had an update for me. I thanked her, and held on again. The swells would, every so often, and I don’t know how, but would actually flip me from heeling to port, allll the way over to starboard, and then back. That was probably the weirdest part, because you go from 40 degrees one side, to 40 the other. Makes it hard to just pretend you’re heeled over under sail, that way. Another phone call back, they were dispatching the local fire department with their rescue boat. ETA was 8 minutes. Thinking back, and I never did hear the local alarm go off, which I should’ve based on distance, but hey, maybe they have a hotline. A few minutes later, I saw a guy walking on the breakwater, no doubt to come laugh at me. And that’s when I realized I was only about 30-40′ from hitting the wall head-on, had I not run aground. That might’ve tickled. Another set of lights down the ramp at the state park a hundred yards away or so. I’m thinking well, worst case, if I’m in three feet of water, I can just walk outta here. I see more lights coming up the west shore, including the flashing lights of the department boat at the end of the bay. Their support truck makes their way down the path by the pier, and sets up. I see a couple large lights set up, but nothing completely blinding me exactly.

I get a call from the department itself, asking if I have a flare I can set off as the boat is having a hard time locating me. Ok, I realize it’s dark out, but you seriously can’t see the boat laying almost on it’s side, with lights dancing back and forth on it as the waves grind my keel away? I grab my flares, but without my flashlight handy (and since I’m on my phone, I can’t read the label with the light from it)- I can’t get them lit because I hadn’t looked at them before. Yes, you pull the cap off, but there’s a SECOND little cap on the top of THAT cap that peels off to expose the sandpaper to ignite it with. I did not know this. So I settled for flashing S-O-S on my steaming light on the mast which worked. They now saw me.

At this point, I figured they would come alongside, and send someone hopping aboard to assess, or to toss a rope, etc. But, realizing they weren’t sure how shallow it was, they kept a distance about 40 feet or so. Next thing I know, they have a guy in the water swimming the rope to me. And by rope, this thing was 3/4″, 1″, it was thick stuff. So my first thought was “why not just wade through the water dude?” and the second was “I hope this fits on my cleat..”

I cleat off on the bow, they ask how deep I draft, I tell them five feet and they say no problem, we’ll have you free and back deep in a moment. I turned the outboard off, just so I didn’t start taking off as soon as I was free, and held on. Now, this is where it gets interesting. Not because I started sinking, or anything. But because they pulled me about two feet and poof! Popped upright and completely floating free. I pop the line off the cleat and allow them to pull it in, and start the outboard. Well, once I remembered to put it in Neutral so it would start. Ok, I look in the cabin and see a trickle of water. Oh no… oh wait, it’s just the bilge water draining back. Ok, still not sinking. I make my way back to the dock slowly, the Coast Guard calling to make sure I’m ok, yep. I express my thanks repeatedly, and will be sending the Fire Dept a Thank-You card tomorrow (side note).

Docking the boat, I went to my car and got my handheld flashlight, not that I expected that I’d be able to see anything under the water , but more so I could peek in the boat and make sure I didn’t see anything gurgling around. Satisfied that it wasn’t sinking, at least yet, I shut down and tried to sleep. I was a little on edge and it took a while to fall asleep, since every little noise I heard anywhere in the marina was enough to make me strain for signs that I was about to get very wet.

Sunday morning, I woke up and decided that since it was a now a nice bright shiny day, that I was going to redeem myself and get out in the breeze. I clipped the jib on, and pulled the main cover. Started the outboard, and hopped up to undo the lines. No sooner than I had even reached for the bow line, I hear the outboard idle down, and then..sputter to a stop. I hop down, and pull the cord, since it’s done that before when it’s not warmed up, sometimes at random. Today however, no good. No more sputter, no more spark. I pull the cover, and the spark plugs. They are a little oily, but it’s a 2-stroke after all. I cleaned them off as best as I could, and tried again. Nothing. I drove a half hour to a parts store, bought new ones. Nothing. Disabled the kill-switch. Nothing. I gave up.

So at this point, I just started unloading the boat, pulled the outboard, and rearranged to make room in the trunk for it. I cleaned up the inside of the boat as much as I could, within reason, and took the chartplotter out. Most of the gear from the boat, I brought back with me to the house, and there are few more other things to bring back too, but for now, it’s cleaner. After cleaning the boat out, I took some pictures for when I list her for sale at the end of the week, and went home.

Now, I will clarify the last sentence: This is part of an ongoing plan, the sale of Silent Knight. At no point did this weekend just make me go “oh Hell with it, I quit” and decide to sell right then and there. I’ve been planning on putting her up for sale for a while, and just hadn’t gotten around to cleaning the boat out. Now, that’s done, so I’m going to figure out the engine issue, and list the lot.

Moral of the story: Don’t be dumb.

But a little more, if you have accurate maps and GPS, don’t ignore them. And if you DO ignore them, watch all the other signs. Watch your depth, and if you’re in the dark, use a light to shine your way. I ignored GPS and maps, never looked at my depth, and left my multi-million candlepower spotlight sitting on the shelf below. Lessons learned. On the positive side though, if I hadn’t hit the rock, I would’ve hit the wall. If I hadn’t hit either, there’s a good chance I would’ve ended up on the lake with a dead motor.

Funny world this is.

Forgetfulness

So, many goods, and a couple oops moments. Sounds like a typical guy weekend, right? But first, the week leading to it had some happenings. I was off this past week on vacation (the joy of getting to “sign up” for our vacation at work only eight months or so in advance!). So I decided to take the week, and make the first half a ‘work’ half, and then relax with a weekend on the boat. And that’s more or less what I did. I started out working on the Scow most of it. We did the mast work, wrapping the fiberglass and carbon fiber on it, and so forth. And that failed miserably lol. Ok, maybe not miserably, but it was obviously not going to be strong enough without a lot more layers to it. And I might get around to wrapping more carbon fiber on it, but I may just abandon it at this point. The wooden one has proven to be fine as repaired, with the exception being a spot in the center that needs a bit of gluing together and clamped. That’ll be this week after work sometime, and it should be well up to the task of going out on the water. We’ll see though, because that’s going to happen this 4th of July weekend.

I did manage to get the rudders in place, the rigging straight (though I don’t know for sure how the jib sheets work yet, that should be interesting), and feel more confident going in, than I did before.  Things are painted, the wooden splash guards are back on, and I did find out it’s a Johnson model. Amazing how laying on your back and looking up happens to reveal little hull identification cards you didn’t know existed.

The Yuneec drone arrived Tuesday morning, so that turned into fun in the off times. I still haven’t gone through the original videos, but I have some later in this post.

And then wouldn’t you know it, it was Friday already, and in good time too, I needed a break. And in true manly style, I slept in way too long, and we got started way too late. But better late then never, right? So I did manage to bring a few extra dollars, which turned out to be good. Since you know, I left my container of mixed gas for the outboard, and had to buy a new tank. Oh, and I forgot to bring any sleeping bags, so toss two more of those in the cart again.

When I got to the boat, I did have to re-adjust my spreader repair. I hadn’t really thought of it until I stopped on Tuesday and had lunch with my dad. He mentioned the wire holding the shroud against the spreader, to which I went “hmmm.. I didn’t think of that”. Because as he reminded me, they tend to go slack on a leeward tack. Which I completely am aware of, but hadn’t thought of in my itch to get out last time. Thankfully we never pushed it hard and it was never an issue, but I made sure to climb up the mast, wrap some wire and then electrical tape over everything which should be enough to hold it in place again. Now, admittedly we didn’t hit any high winds pushing us that hard, but it appears to be holding just fine.

After the repair, we decided to get the party started, but not before I re-calibrated the drone for the new location – something that is recommended whenever you’re in a new area away from home, and as that area is a ways from the house, I thought it a good idea. I had run to the restroom, and came back to Jordan holding a conversation with a nice couple from, I think, one of the campers at the grounds. They had spotted him carrying it to the flat of the driveway and had asked him about it, and I was volunteered to give a demonstration. It was a little breezier than I had hoped for, since it would be the first time I was flying anywhere near water, but I pretended like everything was totally fine, and took off to show the guy what it was about, and a brief showing of the features. Maybe a little out of their price range, from what it sounded like, but it did seem like it took some of the mystery out of it. Once landed, we packed up the boat, and away we go.

We waited until out of the channel before hoisting sail, as the wind was coming directly in, and seemed silly to flog the sails all over for a hundred yards. Afterwards, we settled into a slow pace, most of the time averaging around 3 knots, with some dips down to 2, and a couple brief 4 knot peaks. During one of the lulls though, I decided to get daring. I fashioned some pontoons out of a pool noodle (my prior drone post), lowered the solar panel to horizontal to use as a launch platform, took a VERY deep breath, and…

If you read the description of the video, I am fully aware that there’s a visible green blob in the corner. But it was there to act as my safety net. Not saying that it would’ve landed and stayed upright, had I gone down into the water, but it might have at least floated long enough for me to recover my failure. Fortunately, that didn’t happen, and while landing it was a challenge – because Jordan was on the tiller while I tried to guide the drone back with one hand (two joysticks, um…. how does this work again?) and catch it by the landing gear with the other hand – in the end, was totally worth it. The first 30 seconds or so was using the Follow-Me feature of the drone, and then I decided to try some manual flying as well.

We intended to make it well past Oswego for the night and aim for Sackets Harbor the next day, but the lack of wind meant we fell a few miles short of Oswego before the sun started dropping far. I might have considered continuing, but I doubted the wind would last, and I didn’t want to get stuck out in front in the middle of the night and have to motor farther just to get to anchor, so we picked a spot SW of town, and anchored there instead. Which gave us this viewing chance:

I should mention, both of these videos were shot in 4K, so if you are able to view such things, let me know how the quality looks on your end. I haven’t yet upgraded to a 4K television yet, so I’m limited to whatever my computer monitor will show me.

We got up in the morning, sailed up to Oswego where we saw an AIS-displaying Tug and managed to actually catch it first hand. It appeared they were doing some dredging, and the tug was moving barges in and out. Was kinda neat to see something other than fishing and sail boats out there. I have a picture somewhere, I’ll add it in here when I find it.

Winds lacking though, we decided to come back early. We knew we wouldn’t make it to the islands by nightfall, and what would we get? We’d get there after midnight if we were lucky, anchor, and then be faced with potentially an 8-hour motor all the way back to the marina the next day, with no real enjoyment up there. So we turned early, and made our way out and back. Coast Guard flew by us and didn’t stop us this time, they were looking for a fuel spill, according to chatter on channel 16.

We arrived back to the marina around 6:30ish or so, motored the last 8 miles, give or take. The wind picked up decent with about a mile to go, but we just motored in, instead of stopping to hoist all the sails for what would’ve just been 10-15 minutes. We packed up, and headed home.

I got here, and hey, guess what, I left my 24″ TV on the boat. You know, the one that I use as my primary computer monitor? Well, glad I didn’t use THAT very often… I guess that gives me a reason to go back up sooner, than later.

Higher and higher

Have you ever found yourself watching YouTube videos of cruisers out and about, or at anchorage, and found yourself staring in awe at the magnificent flyover and fly-by video clips? I’m sure many of us have, and most of us have an idea that they were most likely filmed using a Drone-type aircraft. (Technically, they’re not a drone, but a multi-rotor unmanned craft. I guess Drone is supposed to mean autonomous. Whatever. We’ll say Drone anyway). I mean, it’s not like many of us have a helicopter pilot in our back pockets and a camera crew. Take this quick clip example from the Tube of You:

Now, I don’t know about you, but that sure looks fun! Another, from my current stomping grounds – last year’s starting of the Ontario 300:

So, I decided that I needed this in my life. I’ve been working a lot of overtime at work, and one of the advantages to working so much, is the ability to splurge a little here and there and reward myself for the trade-off of not being on the boat every weekend. I had purchased a Parrot AR Drone 2.0 a couple years ago, which is controlled via phone or tablet, and did ok for what it was. It takes some getting used to, as you have virtual joysticks on the screen for you to try to slide in certain ways to make it move. Keeping in mind this was a couple years ago when this was a relatively new hobby, it offered (and still does) 720p @ 30fps video recording, saved directly to your device, a removable foam “hull”, and so on. I don’t remember the range it had, but I did have fun flying it around the parking lot at work on my lunch breaks. So now we’ll fast-forward to present day. Or Memorial Day, to be more precise, as it wasn’t really on my mind until we saw a DJI Phantom flying over the parade down town. That sparked me into research mode.

I started out looking at the Phantoms, simply because they are the more “common” ones. They’re the bigger name, the most well-known. And since they now sell the Phantom 3 at Walmart, well, that says something. DJI has also revealed their new Phantom 4, but I wanted to keep myself under a certain price point, in this case, under $1000. The Phantom 3 comes in a few flavors: Standard, Advanced, Professional, and a 4k model. The Standard has a range of about 2/3 of a mile, the others up to 3.1 miles (yikes!). The 4k is basically the Standard model, but with an upgraded camera featuring 4k video resolution. With the Phantom series, you use a controller that is included, and pair that to either a smartphone or tablet for the display for videos and so forth.

Phantoms

I actually hadn’t even looked at anything else, and had just told myself that I wanted the Phantom Advanced, and that was that. I was looking on ebay, and craigslist, and trying to decide on what I wanted. In the middle of my searching, Jordan sends me a link and goes “did you see the new Typhoon drone at Best Buy?”. So my first thought was “gotta be junk.” Seriously, I’m not that big on Big Box store products most of the time. Take computers for example. Most of the time, a store-bought computer will come with pre-installed software that will end up driving costs up slightly over a comparably-equipped model without it. And there are other things that turn me off to them – sometimes it’s simply cost related. Many times you can purchase the same item online directly for less than the retail you’ll pay in a store. Sometimes it’s service related, and I tend to be turned off by bad experiences in certain stores. That isn’t to say I have anything really against Best Buy, and I’ve purchased plenty of things from there in the past. I think my old laptop actually came from there (even with my aversion to computer purchases I’ve mentioned). Even with reluctance, I thought I’d at least peek.

The first thing I see, is the company’s name: Yuneec. A play on the word ‘unique’ but with spelling that made me think 8th grader terminology these days. And the company is Chinese, which is something that a lot of people will hesitate to consider. But I’ll admit that it doesn’t turn me off quite as much as some. With proper investigation into the products, it’s fairly easy to minimize the risk of buying junk. I have an Everlast inverter-based welder that works just fine, for example. And Yuneec is actually a Chinese aircraft manufacturer, and they even sell electric planes under the GreenWing International brand here in the US. So time to take a look at this Typhoon.

The Yuneec Typhoon Q500+ was what I was peeking at. There have been three versions, the Q500, the Q500+, and the newest, theTyphoon 4K. the Q500 has since been retired, but the Q500+ was the first I saw. It has a range of about 1/2 mile, and will shoot 1080p video at up to 60 fps. The 4K model bumps it up to 4k at 30fps, and you can even run 1080p at 120fps for some really great slow motion shots. Now here’s what set it apart from the Phantom series for me.

The Yuneec drones come with a controller that has a built in, 5.5″ android-powered display (bascially think of it as a phone built into the controller that only runs the drone app full-time). This means I don’t have to use my own phone as a display, or go out and buy another tablet or anything to use. It also means that since it’s developed specifically for this, there’s a much smaller risk of compatibility issues between the app and a zillion different models of phones and tablets, like you would have with the Phantom. A quick search of the DJI forums will find plenty of people with different devices, with many reports of lost connections and app crashes and so forth. Not entirely confidence-inspiring when you’re flying around an aircraft with ten Ben Franklins inside it. Are there plenty of happy customers? Of course. But I’m all about minimizing my risks.

Another great addition, is the included Steady Grip that comes with the Typhoon. This is a handheld grip, that you actually remove the camera from the drone and install it on the grip. Powered by 8 AA batteries, you now have a hand-held mount that actively uses the gimbal in the camera to give nice steady, level video. It’s the same camera, the same 4k video, and all done via an app on your phone. I’m perfectly ok with that, because lets say the app DOES crash… I’m not airborne. I don’t have to worry that I’m losing some sort of connection and risking the drone flying away on me, or crashing. But still, very cool. Having a gimballed steady-cam is a cool bonus, and a mount for a go-pro like that, isn’t cheap anyway.

So now I’m comparing the two. At first glance, I really did like the extra range of a Phantom – 3 miles! But.. it did occur to me. 3 miles is a ways. Now, these higher class drone devices have smart technology in them that can tell you when you need to come back, in order to make it before the battery dies. But what if? Or what if you crash or something and you’re that far away? You just got yourself a 6 mile round trip walk through whatever terrain to retrieve your toy. That could be bad. And really, am I seriously in need of trying to video myself on a boat from THREE miles out? So between the controller and screen and things, and the fact that I could get the Yuneec 4K for less than the price of the Phantom Advanced, and it came with the extras, I ended my research. You can buy the Yuneec drones as a basic package, or opt for a deluxe version which includes a 2nd battery, and a hard case. I’ve found alternative case options for half the cost of the Yuneec one, and batteries similar, so I decided basic would be fine for me, and I’d add extras as I went. Fully prepared to give Amazon my money, I stumbled across a Craiglist listing for one that was brand new in the box, never flown. While I was told it had a 2nd battery, it didn’t, but I was still paying less than new anyway, so in the end I settled for it. And it sure do is pretty.

20160623_225653

Some other features on this drone, include three modes. Smart Mode, Angle (which is bascially full manual mode) and Home. Angle mode gives you traditional control over the unit with the joysticks, just as you would with a model airplane, or such. Home mode is a Return-to-Home switch. Wherever you have it, if you flick that switch, the drone will automatically return to the place it started from. Very handy if you lose visual sight (bright daylight for example) and if you have a hard time orienting yourself on the on-screen viewfinder. Smart Mode though, opens quite a few fun things. First, it makes it very simple to fly if you’re a beginner and not used to the controls. The right stick, controls your roll left/right, and your pitch forward and back. So if you press it forward, the aircraft goes forward. Easy enough. However, if you turn the aircraft around, now you’re reversed. So while a beginner might think they have to pull it back, to come back to themselves, it’s the opposite. Harder to explain, I suppose. But regardless, Smart Mode takes that out of the equation. It means that whatever direction you move that stick, it’s going to move it that direction no matter what way the aircraft is facing. If you want to go away from you, you push away. Come back, pull it towards you. Doesn’t matter what way the craft is facing in reality, that’s what it’ll do for you. But that’s only the beginning.

Watch Me! No, Follow Me! Both! If you’ve ever seen clips where someone is say, driving down the road, and it looks like the camera is flying beside them the whole time, that’s what these do. In Smart Mode with a good GPS lock, you can actually put it at whatever height and distance, and then just let go of the sticks, and start moving. It will automatically go into “Follow Me” mode and start actually tracking you. Well, it’s tracking the controller, but we’re assuming you have the controller on you. Watch Me mode can be toggled from there, and that will attempt to keep the aircraft turned to keep the camera trained on your location, regardless of where you move it. So those shots where a camera pans around in a circle around someone, keeping them in frame? That kinda thing. Obviously, Follow Me mode seems quite nice for a sailboat video! Put it out there off the side, frame the video, and sail away. Hopefully I’ll get to do that this weekend.

I have taken a few videos and so forth but nothing I would say amazing work yet. But here’s a simple picture taken from about 400′ up in the air (the FAA’s maximum limit for altitude for sUAS – Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems), looking down over the hills from above the house. Go ahead and click it, it gets bigger. Or for even more fun, right-click and Open Image In New Tab. Fun times indeed.

Upstate NY at 400'

There are plenty of accessories that you can tie into these, too. There’s software you can use in conjunction with editing, that will overlay all the flight data to your videos, like height, speed, distances, etc. There are GPS and even cellular-based tracking devices and services so you don’t ever lose your drone. You can even buy insurance on them for loss and such. Extra batteries, long-lasting ones, there are range-boosting devices, carbon fiber propellers, sticker skins for changing the look, and much more. Fast chargers, the whole lot. Yuneec does offer other controllers too, and they can be paired to their different models. So if I spent the money on their new Typhoon H (which is REALLY slick looking, 6 props, the works), I could actually use that controller for either model, and so on.

But the first real accessory I’m adding? A Pool Noodle mod.

noodles

Holy scow

Not too long ago, I posted about an M16-Scow that I had picked up, and since this week is my “vacation” from work, it was time to put some more into it. Fire up the music.

So the boat itself, I have no idea how old it is. All I know it’s it’s an M16, the “paperwork” which is more a.. half-manual more than anything, said Melges, and it’s rough. But I’m hoping a minor gemstone in that rough. The mast is wooden, there are two booms that were present, and two boxes of random rigging and bits. So to give you the rundown as to what I’m looking at:

MAST:

The mast, wooden, had split down most of it’s seams, which made it all floppy and unimpressive. The gooseneck had the slide for the boom, but neither boom had the corresponding hardware to match up. There were no… scratch that, there were some maybe a halyard pieces? It appears the jib halyard was present, at least the wire portion. The main, however, no go. There was one that seemed to look like it was the right style, but the WAY wrong size. It wouldn’t wrap around the groove in the top of the mast, it wasn’t a large enough diameter. If you haven’t seen these, it’s wire rigging halfway, but then you would hook your rope halyard to it until the sail is raised. So the wire would be what’s actually locked in place, the rope is strictly for raising and lowering. So this will work for the jib, but there’s no correct main set. And since they changed the design and construction of the rigging on these somewhere soon after mine was constructed, finding the right pieces is darn near impossible if you don’t find a used one (for example there’s a used mast setup on e-bay for $250 bucks. But I’d still have to go get it, etc).

So for the mast, the decisions were split between a few options. One, I could repair (maybe) the original wooden mast. Two, I could purchase a replacement aluminum mast, and fit my own rigging to it. Option 2B would be purchasing a “new” aluminum mast specific to the boat direct from Melges, but the cost to that is 5-6 times more than one from say, Dwyer. And then option three, would be to build my own out of.. not wood. So that’s what I decided to do. I decided to make a hybrid fiberglass and carbon fiber mast. Now, there are issues with this, which I will completely address.

First, you aren’t supposed to mix fiberglass and carbon fiber for load-bearing pieces. It’s one thing to make a flat piece like say, a car hood, out of fiberglass and then put a layer of carbon fiber on top for appearances. But mixing two different strength materials that are subject to loads like they are in a mast, that’s a no-no. The reason for this, is that say the mast is being bent to the side. The fiberglass being the weaker material, would crack inside the carbon fiber. Basically, only as strong as your weakest link. I’ll get to that in a bit.

Second, is that I have zero setup when it comes to making a mast. This mast is almost twenty three feet long. On a sixteen foot boat. Pause there.

When making something out of fiberglass or any composite like that, you would usually make a mold of the appropriate size and shape. For a tube structure, for example, you would take a solid rod of some sort, wood, metal, etc. Then you would put a coating on the mold, so that when the composite is cured, it can be slid off the mold. My problem, is that I have no such mold. I don’t have a twenty-some foot long solid tube of an appropriate diameter. So how do we make this work.. I had to think of something that would be about two and a half inches in diameter, as that was the width of the original wooden mast, so the bracket for the forestay and shrouds would then fit on it. I had thought about perhaps PVC pipe, but I came back to the problem that you can’t very well string together that length and not having it bow or bend in the middle when it’s supported from end to end, which would be needed since you don’t want to have fresh fiberglass laying across sawhorses. So I came across a forum and post somewhere that a gentleman had used a rope strung up, and used that as his mold. I modified this technique. I used some foam pool noodles that happened to be hey, two and a half inches in diameter, and strung a bunch of pieces together on a rope tied between my brother’s construction trailer and the door frame of a car, pulled tight.

I had ordered a bunch of supplies from many places, US Composites, Elite Motoring, and some others. Among the orders, were a fiberglass sleeve, a carbon fiber sleeve, and a bunch of 4″ wide fiberglass tape rolls. Not adhesive, just strips, it’s just labeled as tape. I dunno, I don’t make the rules. So the first thing I did, was slide the fiberglass sleeve over the pool noodles, and epoxy it down. I didn’t bother putting a release agent inside, because I figure that well first, they’re made to float, so if/when I capsize the boat, I’ll have some built-in flotation. And they don’t weigh much to start with, so it’s not like it’s going to cost me anything. The whole mast should still be lighter than the wooden one it replaces. The initial sleeve wasn’t QUITE long enough but I had some mat that I used to make up the last foot or so. That cured easily enough, but certainly wasn’t enough to be strong enough to move. A single thin layer does not a sailboat mast, make.

Today, I went out and wrapped a bunch of wraps of the 4″ tape end to end, criss-crossing each layer. Afterwards, I then slide the carbon fiber sleeve over the entire assembly, and proceeded to drench it in epoxy. Wrap that in peel-ply, and then shrink wrap the heck out of it. That squeezes the excess epoxy out of the layers which the peel ply soaks up. In theory, we’ll see how that goes when I unwrap it in a couple days. Now, since the rope stretching still isn’t perfect and enough to actually hold this thing dead straight, we’ll pause and back up a week.

I had also decided to take some epoxy, thicken it with silica slightly, and use it to glue the mast back together to see if it would sturdy itself back up. Two reasons; First so I could raise the mast on the boat and get an idea of what rigging I had or needed. And two, as a backup plan just in case my homemade doesn’t work out, at least I’ll have SOMETHING that I can use. I’m going to use more of the fiberglass strips to epoxy over the seams as extra strength.

So with the wooden mast mostly solid again and not saggy and floppy, I took the wrapped composite mast and lashed it to the wooden one on some stands. This way I could tape it straight, and at least give myself a fighting chance to have a straighter spar. I am fully prepared for it to fail in epic fashion. I don’t know if I have enough cloth to keep it as strong as it needs to be, but we’ll see. If not, I’ll use the wooden one and order another couple carbon fiber sleeves to build up more. So for now, we wait for it to cure.

HULL:

The hull itself has a few issues. First, was the trailer bunks that go sideways across the hull. Based on the few pictures I’ve seen of others, this seems to be original. But there’s so much weight hanging off the rear bunk, that over the years as the hull weakened, it actually started to crack some of the interior fiberglass. The rudder tubes had also deteriorated. There were no ways to hook the tillers to the rudder top. There was no visible mainsheet setup. The bilge boards work fine up and down, but the way they’re set up is baffling, so I can’t imagine that it was the way it is supposed to be rigged. That has to be fixed. Bailers are out, but I think I can easily fix that, with correct screws and butyl tape.

I did make a new rudder tube and glass that in place, though there’s some more that has to go into that. I also used some 1708 biaxial cloth to glass the hell out of the floor to repair the cracks and give it all some strength. I’m also going to change the bunks on the trailer from sideways, to lengthwise for better support there too.

I’m going to add two new cam cleats on the front of the cockpit to raise and lower the bilge boards more efficiently. Another cam cleat to adjust the jib downhaul, which I FINALLY figured out how to work. The mast will either have a cleat on it, or a block at the bottom to route to another cleat there. Two cam cleats on the sides that will be used to lock the main sheet if needed. That goes to the center of the cockpit floor where there will be a swivel block. From there up to a pulley on the boom, back to another pulley at the aft end of the boom, down to another pulley on the traveler track.

Going to just use some simple strap mounts to hook the tiller handles to the tops of the rudders, and use an aluminum bar to join the two handles together so they work in tandem properly. If I get fancy, even tiller extensions!

At least the trailer works fine (or will once I replace the light that I busted to bits when I flipped the hull upside right, after getting it home).

Not many pictures, but that’s probably because I don’t figure I’ll take too many pictures of impending failure. But if I succeed, there’ll be many thousands of words-worth.

 

2016 First outing

 

So, Memorial Day, 2016. What a perfect day to kick off the season, even if my perfect plans never work perfectly.

The day started simply enough, watching the local Memorial Day parade and then driving up to the lake. We stopped along the way in Fulton, when I started clearing over a boat that was working it’s way through the locks. Was a few dollars more than mine.

We straightened out the rigging, and with some help from Schyler, we had the mast up in no time at all. And so after we mounted, the solar panel, I was getting excited to get out! And then I realized the port spreader boot was… weird looking. Huh, must’ve gotten tweaked a little off kilter when I was straightening things out. No worries, I’ll just grab my boat hook and nudge it back into place. There, that works, good. So then I set about tightening down the shrouds. And then my upper port shroud got a whole lot looser. What the heck. I look up, and it’s no longer on the spreader, at all. So apparently when I adjusted the spreader boot while the shroud was still loose, it popped it right out of the groove. My first thought, was that we weren’t going out after all. Then I got the bright idea that, since the spreaders do have a swivel bolt at the mast, I could try to get it back in by standing up on the boom and mast winch. And be darned if it didn’t sound like someone was cheering me on from the shore. So even though I did get it back into place, and tightened up, it’s boot-less. But! We can sail! It didn’t take long to get the running rigging squared away, sails in place, and pushed off. We didn’t really sail much, maybe an hour or so, just out into the lake a bit and then back. We played with the GoPro wannabe camera (An ActiveOn CX camera that was 1/3rd the cost, and works just wonderfully) and then sailed back in the channel and called it good.

But the important part, is she’s ready to go again at a moment’s notice (which will be this upcoming weekend)