Monthly Archives: July 2013

Sprucing up the Trinka

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Sometimes the little projects are the most gratifying.

I brought the Trinka home after our summer trip so I could polish and wax the hull – something I hadn’t had a chance to do before leaving. Once I’d done that, I couldn’t stop myself from adding a covestripe to dress her up a little. And dress her up it did. So, I figured I might as well put some Cetol on the teak to go with the shiny hull and dressy covestripe.

Well, you can’t have a pretty dink that doesn’t have a decent cover, and we’d been talking about how nice it would be to have one to keep rainwater out and to keep her dry during towing, so I contacted my canvas guy (that’s me, by the way), made some measurements, and went to work. By the next day I had a sweet little cover.

And here it is, with step-by-step photos:

Looking pretty with her new covestripe and Cetoled teak.

Looking pretty with her new covestripe and Cetoled teak.

I installed bow bases atop 1/4" Starboard to prevent the bows from gouging the teak.

I installed bow bases atop 1/4″ Starboard to prevent the bows from gouging the teak.

I made Dacron sleeves to hold the bows in place and prevent them from chafing the cover.

I made Dacron sleeves to hold the bows in place and prevent them from chafing the cover.

I repurposed some old Hobie battens as bows.

I repurposed some old Hobie battens as bows.

Insert the bow into the two bases.

Insert the bow into the two bases.

Pull the front of the cover over the bow.

Pull the front of the cover over the bow.

Insert the aft bow in its sleeve.

Insert the aft bow in its sleeve and position bow in sockets.

Pull the back of the cover over the stern.

Pull the back of the cover over the stern.

Slip the edges over the gunwale and into place. Voila!

Slip the edges over the gunwale and into place. Voila!

Enough pitch to shed water and a tight fit.

Enough pitch to shed water and a tight fit.

If you look closely, you can see the stitching for the Dacron sleeve and chafe protection.

If you look closely, you can see the stitching for the Dacron sleeve and chafe protection.

A tie down for the back of the cover.

A tie down for the back of the cover.

I also used a couple pieces of leather I had on hand to replace the old, dried out leather that finished the stern portion of the rub rail.

Old leather removed.

Old leather removed.

 

New leather tacked in place.

New leather tacked in place.

 

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Why Whitehall Rocks

Ok, the fact that the harbormaster took the time to write a letter thanking us for visiting isn’t the only reason why White Lake and the twin-cities of Whitehall and Montague rock, but it certainly illustrates the hospitality and service we’ve experienced during all of our stays at the White Lake Municipal Marina.

White Lake Municipal Marina is a great place for a restful stay.

White Lake Municipal Marina is a great place for a restful stay.

They’ve got a great thing going there, and they don’t have a lot of traffic. If you’re planning a trip along the eastern shore of Lake Michigan, make a stop in White Lake. You’ll enjoy a restful stay in a quiet marina with clean, modern facilities and a helpful staff.

Bringing groceries back from Montague.

Bringing groceries back from Montague.

While you’re there, be sure to walk the pedestrian/bike path from Whitehall into the neighboring town of Montague. Not only can you stock up on groceries, but you can indulge in one of the best chocolate malts at Lipka’s Old-Fashioned Soda Fountain, reportedly one of the oldest continuously operated soda fountains in the state. You’ll get first-class treatment from Peggy, who’s been working there since her teens when her father, a pharmacist, owned the building.

Down the street a couple doors is The Book Nook & Java Shop, a hip little bookstore with a coffee bar, reading area, and a pretty consistent lineup of evening performances. Grab a coffee and hangout in a comfy chair with your iPad or a good book for an hour or two.

Back in Whitehall there are a few shops and eateries along the main street downtown. There’s a hardware store and a Napa Auto Parts if, like us, you need a few odd supplies: denatured alcohol for the stove, vinyl hose for a ruptured water line, or whatever. For a total trip, visit Armstrong’s Bait and Tackle Shop just through the park by the marina. What an experience! The place has been owned by the same family since the 40s – and they’ve been collecting inventory ever since. Inventory of all kinds – radio-controlled cars, boats, and planes; camping and archery gear; boating equipment; oh, and fishing tackle – is stacked floor to ceiling, leaving little hobbit-like paths through the piles.

Lipka's Old-Fashioned soda fountain serves up traditional treats.

Lipka’s Old-Fashioned soda fountain serves up traditional treats.

We spent a few days in White Lake this summer and indulged in more than a couple delicious chocolate malts from Lipka’s, walked the path between Whitehall and Montague several times, and wandered in and out of the downtown shops. We also stocked up on worms for the boys, who put them to good use catching scores of bluegill, perch, sunfish, and even a couple bass.

White Lake is just south of Little Sable Point.

White Lake is just south of Little Sable Point.

 

Whitehall is one of our standard stops on our trips along the coast. It’s located just south of Little Sable Point and 11nm north of Muskegon. If you’re headed by, stop in for a day at least. If anchoring is more your style, there is good holding in most areas.

Ariel anchored in front of an old leather factory on White Lake back in '08. The factory has been torn down.

Ariel anchored in front of an old leather factory on White Lake back in ’08. The factory has been torn down.

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Whitehall has planted gorgeous wild flowers surrounding a park adjacent to the marina.

Whitehall has planted gorgeous wild flowers surrounding a park adjacent to the marina.

White Lake lighthouse in a fog during our departure.

White Lake lighthouse in a fog during our departure.

Anchoring Techniques: The Kellet

When sailors get together and talk boats, the topic invariably shifts to anchoring. What follows is a steady stream of stories about lousy anchorages, types of tackle, techniques, close calls, chain versus nylon, and so on.

Sailors live with the nagging fear that their best plans might not be good enough or, worse, will be undermined by someone else without the right gear or knowhow – or both. Too many times we have arrived early at an anchorage, sought out a secluded and secure spot, and dug in Ariel’s anchor only to have some Johnny-come-lately zip into the harbor (often at hull speed) and drop his hook and a pile of rode on top of it, without bothering to consider scope, swing radius, or backing on the anchor.

Since there’s not much we can do about the other guy, we experimented with a new technique during our month-long summer cruise of 2010 to make our anchoring more secure and efficient. The technique, well-known in cruising circles, is an easy way to gain better holding and decrease the swing radius (in light to moderate winds) without using an all-chain rode or a heavier anchor. The secret is a kellet, or sentinel. Whatever you want to call it, it’s a heavy hunk of something – chain, lead, or steel – that rides down the rode controlled by its own messenger line.

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Our kellet is an inexpensive plastic-coated mushroom anchor that is shackled to the rode and deployed with a messenger line.

The theory is that the kellet increases the catenary, or curve, of the rode. This decreases the upward pull on the anchor and increases the lateral pull, providing better holding. The effect is the same as if you increased the scope. The catenary effect is more pronounced in a heavy chain rode than a rope rode, which is why many sailors prefer chain (in addition to its abrasion resistance). The added strain on the back is also more evident, however, with an all-chain rode, especially if you don’t have a windlass. The kellet mimics the characteristics of an all-chain rode but without requiring you to heave three times as much weight aboard. The handy messenger line allows quick retrieval of just the kellet. Once it’s aboard, you then haul in the rode and anchor.

There are several purpose-built kellets on the market. One is the Anchor Buddy, which is made in 20- and 30-pound weights and sells for $350. I have no experience with the system, but it appears to be well designed. Preferring a cheaper alternative, we picked up a 20-pound plastic-coated mushroom anchor from a local marine store for less than $20. With a couple of shackles and a length of line we had on board, we were ready to go.

Adding the kellet to your anchoring system doesn’t require you to modify your standard anchoring technique, nor does it require any further specialized (or expensive) equipment. Simply anchor as usual – properly digging in the anchor – shackle the kellet to the rode, let it slide down the rode until it’s halfway to the anchor, and cleat its retrieval line on deck.

A variation involves sliding the kellet down the rode only until it rests on the bottom, rather than sending it halfway to the anchor. In moderate conditions this approach keeps the boat sitting over the kellet, further reducing swing radius. Once the wind picks up, however, the boat will stretch the rode and swing within her full radius. The kellet will dampen swinging and bouncing when the wind and waves increase.

We used the kellet every time we anchored during our month-long summer cruise. We also tried it in different configurations: located halfway along the rode; located 15 feet from the anchor; resting on the bottom at a distance roughly equal to the depth. We found that the most difficult configuration to handle was when the kellet was placed 15 feet from the anchor, because this required hauling up that much chain, the 20-pound kellet, and the 44-pound Bruce anchor together.

Although we’ve never had issues with the Bruce (claw) anchor dragging, we certainly sleep more soundly knowing that any movement will be more likely to dig the anchor deeper than it would without the kellet. It is a small price for a lot of peace of mind.

(This article, written by yours truly, originally appeared in the Sep/Oct 2011 issue of Good Old Boat Magazine. Visit their site and subscribe to one of the best boating magazines out there!)

Some Anchoring 101

Back in 2010 I blogged about the frustrations of sharing an anchorage with inexperienced and/or inconsiderate boaters (read about it here). After a couple of similar experiences this summer, I was prepared to write a basic anchoring how-to for inexperienced sailors who want to anchor like a pro.

Well, before going to the trouble to write up my own guide, I did a quick search of the internet and – surprise! – found more than a few anchoring how-to’s. So, if you’re new to boating or an experienced sailor without much practice in anchoring, here are a few sites to check out. And yes, there will be a pass/fail on-the-water quiz!

Successful Anchoring: Tips from Captain Jack

How to Anchor a Sailboat – About.com

Boating Safety Course – Anchoring Your Boat

The West Advisor: Anchoring Techniques

Oh, and Lake Michigan sailors, given the lack of tides, strong currents, and widely varying bottom conditions, anchoring on Lake Michigan is pretty simple stuff. Let’s do it right.

A Few Observations about the Trinka 10

Last fall we acquired a used but cared for 2000 Trinka 10 sailing dinghy (which you can read about here) and immediately splashed it in the water for a sail. Sadly, the shakedown did not go without incident: the mast step broke loose from its resinous base in a moderate breeze, allowing the mast to tip forward and aft precariously. That was the end of the Trinka fun for the fall. I brought the boat home and put it away for the winter.

This spring, as soon as the temperatures were suitable for fiberglass work, I set the PVC pipe insert that supports the mast in a bed of thickened epoxy and then wrapped the pipe with two pieces of biaxial cloth to secure it fore and aft well onto the hull. Here’s a slightly blurry picture of the repair. Working through a small inspection port made the job a tad difficult and getting a decent picture tough.

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For a dinghy touted as “The best rowing/sailing dinghy in the world,” I was a bit disappointed by the marginal installation that led to the break. So, here are a few of my observations on the Trinka 10 – the good and the bad – for those who have one or might be thinking about buying one:

1. The Mast Step: Wrapping the base of the PVC pipe step in fiberglass cloth is an easy and inexpensive job. I recommend doing it. Additionally, I believe that water ingress into the advertised “airtight…oil and gasoline-tight” chamber also contributed to the failure during freeze/thaw cycles, so keep that chamber dry, which leads to the second point…

2. Inspection Ports: The Trinka came to us with a standard screw-in inspection port in the stern floatation chamber, but the bow chamber opening was sealed and covered with a piece of what looked like hull material. I removed that and installed a screw-in inspection port to match the one in the stern. During our recent summer cruise, both chambers, initially dry, had water in them. They are not air or water-tight – at least not anymore – and it isn’t due to the new inspection port. Water leaks into the forward chamber through the mast step and into the stern chamber through either the self-bailer or the wood reinforcement on the transom. Of course, it’s entirely possible that water finds its way in around the screws that secure the stainless rub strips to the forefoot and the rear skeg.

3. Hull Construction: This item is related to #2. It appears that Trinkas are constructed in two parts: an outer hull and an inner liner that are glued together. This makes for a nicely finished interior, but it isn’t the most durable, in my opinion. Such construction makes it possible for there to be voids between the two pieces. Water will invariably find its way into any voids. Water will then be trapped in those voids. In northern climates subject to freezing temperatures, that water will freeze and potentially cause damage. Laying the boats up with solid fiberglass might not be as pretty, but it’s more durable.

I should also note that I found a few areas on the exterior hull where the gel coat seemed to be poorly adhered. I’ve seen this before on other boats, and they are little round cracks that will shed a small piece of gel coat if picked at, leaving laminate exposed. I’m not sure what causes this, but a couple spots came loose when I pressure washed the bottom. Perhaps that’s to be expected on a 13-year-old boat. I don’t know.

4. Towing Eyes: There are two standard towing eyes, one high and the other low near to the waterline. They are well secured and stout. The upper eye, however, is inaccessible from inside without drilling through the inner hull liner. The lower eye is accessible through the forward floatation chamber, but not without some difficulty – or a really long arm. This may not be an issue, but such an important piece of hardware should be easy to access and replace.

5.Skeg: The Trinka 10 does not have a full skeg. She has a skeg in her forefoot and skeg in her stern, but she is flat on the bottom in her middle section. We discovered this summer while using her as a tender that the bow has a tendency to dig in, sending her off to port or starboard. The addition of a full skeg would mean better, straighter rowing and towing. All things considered, however, she does row and tow very well. But she could do both better with a full skeg.

6. Automatic Bailer: These things are very helpful – pop it open when towing or hanging the dinghy on davits, and it will purge shipped water  – but my goodness are they painful, especially when you’re using her as a sailing dinghy and sitting in the hull. It would have been nice if Trinka had built a small well to contain the bailer. As is, a cushion is the best option for avoiding scrapes and cuts from the sharp corners and protruding screw heads.

7. Gunwale Fender: These things are great! It’s so nice to have a soft gunwale to protect the mothership’s gel coat, especially when kids or inexperienced crew are at the oars. The fender is a definite plus.

IMG_80418. Sailing Rig: Why anyone would buy a Trinka without the sailing rig is beyond me. Towing a tender is necessary at times, but rarely fun. Adding a sailing rig to your tender actually makes it fun. The rig is well designed, easy to set up, and functional. The sail even has cringles for reefing. The only criticism I have is that there is no provision for retaining the mast in the event of capsize if you don’t have a boom vang rigged – and a boom vang is just too much unnecessary hardware for this boat. I’ve taken to rigging a retaining line through a block at the base of the mast and through the cam cleat on the forward floatation chamber.

9. Rowing: My two boys learned how to row this summer aboard the Trinka and had a blast. She’s easy to row and well behaved. The addition of a skeg would be nice, but she’s fine as is. We loaded two men and two small boys in the dinghy and rowed to and from shore several times. We stayed dry, had enough room, and looked good in the process!

10. Buoyancy/Stability: As far as attractively designed fiberglass/rigid dinghies go, this one is fairly stable. Of course a flatter bottom and broader ends would mean more stability, but they would also mean an uglier dink. For a pretty dinghy, this one has good stability. I was able to haul myself (157 lbs) aboard amidship over the gunwale without taking on much water. And I could just about stand on the outboard edge of the middle seat without shipping water or flipping the dink. Her bow is plenty buoyant, but very unstable. I stepped from the breasthook to Ariel’s transom several times, but I had to be very careful about maintaining balance lest the dinghy tip precariously.

IMG_826911. Towing: We’ve towed the Trinka over 300 miles without incident. She tows well, provided enough painter (tow rope) and proper placement for the sea conditions. When approaching harbor we haul her in close to Ariel’s transom where she sits very happily. Offshore we tow her at least 20-30′ astern. In following seas we towed her farther astern to keep her from surfing down waves and into the boat. She stays relatively dry while towing, although I think her daggerboard slot tends to ship water at higher speeds.

Overall, she’s a great little dinghy that performs her tasks well and attractively. I loved having her along on our summer cruise, and my boys loved rowing and sailing her around harbor. She also proved to be a good little fishing boat for two young boys.

Would I buy another Trinka? Yes, but not at full price. She’s a good dinghy, but perhaps not the only (or best) option out there for the cruising sailor. A Lyle Hess-designed Fatty Knees is another option, and perhaps a better one. Finding one at an affordable price might be tough, however. As always, it’s about compromise. Even towing a dinghy is a compromise between easy sailing and more convenient access to shore. But that’s a topic for another post.

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