Making the Most of a Minimal Budget. Contact me at: or on Twitter: @skintsailor

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Crook Neck.

This weekend is a washout boat-wise as I've pulled my neck.

I'm in no fit state to do anything, let alone lift the dinghy, row it out to the boat and do anything on it.


Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Sail Evolution

Okay, first off I do have to profess I'm not a life-long sailor (I've only sailed with Jim for the past couple of years), so I may get some of the terms wrong, but I hope that this post clarifies what I've been trying to do with the sails and why.

So, my first thing was to forget I was dealing with a sail and think in terms of reference I could understand. I started by thinking of the sail like an aeroplane wing stuck up on end. An aerofoil shape generates lift by directing the air over the top of it along a longer path than the air under it. A nice chap called Bernoulli found out that if a volume of fluid (air) travels at a higher speed, it has less pressure than a volume of fluid at a lower speed. On an aerofoil, the wind directed over the longer path has to move faster and so there is less pressure over the top of a wing than below. It gets sucked into the air.

In a boat the low pressure effect on a sail makes the boat heel over on its side and if its working efficiently then it generates lots of lift, which propels the boat.

A wing designed for slow speed is very thick. A baggy sail makes an efficient low-speed aerofoil, but at higher wind speeds the air flowing over the sail starts to separate from the surface of it and that causes turbulence at the rear of the sail which causes drag and drag slows you down or counteracts the lift the sail is generating.

If you want to sail in faster wind more efficiently you employ a thinner aerofoil shape with your sail, which causes less drag. A baggy sail works well in light wind, but as soon as you try and sail in higher wind speeds with it, the boat tends to roll over on its side and not go very fast. You get the pressure difference an aerofoil shape generates, which makes the boat heel over, but the drag holds it back. Its this lack of "drive" that I experienced when I first took Sprite out.

Look at the "airfoil" (American spelling...) entry on Wikipedia to see low and high speed aerofoil shapes.

Here's a picture of the sail when I first hauled it up:
First haul of the sail, a little wind, no tension and as baggy as an old sock.
About the only flat area is between the battens. The rest of it is loose and baggy with no tension in it.

Here's another wider picture:
A picture of a hugely baggy sail earlier this year.

This is from the first trip I had out of the harbour this year. The wind was behind us blowing us out of the harbour so I poled out the jib and winged the main sail. Nice and easy because the baggy main caught the wind fine.

However getting back in was a different matter. No matter what we did, when facing anywhere near upwind the boat would just tip over and the sails wouldn't drive the boat. It also generated an alarming tendency to just veer off where it wanted (so-called "weather helm"). In the end we had to resort to motoring back into harbour, such was the poor performance from the sails.

So that's when I started reading up on the internet about improving the performance of the sail, which mainly entailed reducing the bag in it. A few sites pointed to the fact that the sail isn't stretched out enough along the luff, which is the part of the sail that runs along the mast. Suggestions included releasing the bolt rope along the luff, so before I went to that extreme I tried to have a look and see if I could put some more tension into the luff using the down haul. This is where I hit a snag because even if I hauled the sail as high as I could, I couldn't put any tension into the sail via the down haul as the down haul stopped short of any sort of tension. After checking the mast I found a broken slider which stopped me pulling the boom down by an inch. I removed it and at the same time put a shorter shackle in the top or head of the sail, which gave me a couple of inches more travel.

Surely I could put a bit of tension into the sail now... But no, it still looked baggy. If I pulled on the main sheet the boom was higher at the mast and lower at the cockpit. If its set right the boom should be relatively horizontal. So it meant the front bottom corner of the sail, the tack, was too high. If you look back at the second picture you can see the boom is where the cleats are on the side of the mast.

So several more days of thought and a couple of trips out to the boat made me home in on the thing that was stopping the boom move down any more: a pin in the track of the mast. Its there to stop the boom coming down too far, but I assume its only needed when not using the sail. The pin was seized into the mast and it took a couple of days worth of wd40 and persuasion with pliers to release it.

Now I pulled on the down haul and the boom went further towards the bottom of the mast. Although I felt that a bit more tension would flatten the sail even more. That's when I hit on the idea of using smaller pulleys on the down haul, which would give me another inch or so of travel.

The down haul seemed to be sorted but again on the next trip out, the force of the wind bowing out the sail pulled against the kicker. No matter how hard I hauled on the kicker, the boom would not come down to the horizontal position. That's when I had the idea of using multiple pulleys to "gear up" the kicker. I'd have to wait until the next boat jumble to buy them as they are not cheap brand new.

So at the next boat jumble as reported last weekend I bought pulleys and rope and fitted them to the kicker.

Here's a new picture of the new flatter sail shape:
A picture of the same sail transformed, last weekend.

If you look at the mast at the bottom right of the picture, you can see that incredibly the boom now pulls down a foot or so lower than the cleats on the mast. That's a lot of slack sail taken up! There is almost no effort in pulling the sail down that far, so its possible it can go even further.  This is something I'll looking into trying next. There's a couple more tweaks I can put into the down haul to get maybe another inch or so of travel. Although now with the boom so low headroom above the cockpit is an issue. After this final tweak the only other option would be a longer mast. Or a shorter sail!

Of course with the tack of the sail so much lower, the boom is lower at the front so when I haul on the kicker it pulls the boom into the horizontal position tensioning the whole sail. The downside is you do now have to duck when tacking or gybing, as the boom is not much higher than the cabin roof!

Now the sail works like a thin, high speed wing. The sort of wing fitted to a jet, which is designed to work at higher speeds with less drag. Now I can put the boat into the wind and the sails work with minimal tipping, less drag and a lot more lift, or drive. Of course if the wind drops, I can release the tension and make the sail baggy again.

This weekend's test was only with light winds, but already I can see a difference in the boat's behaviour, hence why I'm so enthusiastic!

In contrast, the jib sail (I suppose its technically a Genoa), has been fairly easy to sort out. The main problem was it was too low on the furling system, so it caught on the pulpit rail. Using a few shackles did that job, but it means that the clew of the sail is higher than it was and the track on the side of the boat is in essence too far forward now.

However there's a fix for that. If I raise the position of the point where the jib sheet is held by the track, it balances everything out. I can do that with a couple of small shackles and a couple of pulleys. Guess what; I have a couple of old dinghy pulleys I got off Freecycle which will do the job nicely. All I need are the small shackles.

So when they're added, all should be rosy when it comes to the sails on Sprite. I just have to take her out in some stiffer breezes and see if the work has been successful. I've already done a bit of work on how I'm going to reef the main sail. in the really windy stuff, but that's for another blog post.

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Sail/Boat Tuning Success.

I took Sprite II out today, just round Langstone again as the tide wasn't particularly high. The wind didn't blow much either, but that's ok as I need to start of with light wind and then work my way up once I get a feel for how Sprite's rig works. The only time I've taken her out in moderate wind, the main sail was so baggy that she just kept getting knocked over rather than driving the boat. Hence the past couple of months working to flatten the main and raising the jib above the pulpit.

Well, the work on the jib is a success. Instead of buying a twised shackle, I just stuck another old shackle I had on the bottom of the pile to turn things through 90 degrees. It lifted everything up another inch which is no bad thing.

The bottom of the Jib is now clear of the pulpit rail. If you look at the bottom of the sail you can see where the pulpit rail used to interfere with the sail.

 As you can see, the lift job on the jib has worked and it now clears the pulpit. It also clears the spreaders and the rigging a lot easier, which is something I didn't expect. Lifting the jib may mean I have to move the tracks on the side of the boat further back, but I'll need to get a bit more sailing in to see if its absolutely necessary.

I've added an old picture that shows the pulpit interfering with the jib:

Regarding the main sail, it looks like the new kicker/vang has done what I needed it to do and allow me to put more tension in the main sail and flatten it.

There are still creases, but the sail performs 100% better

Straight away as I hauled on the kicker you could see it pull the boom down parallel and put that important tension into the sail. Along with the mods to the downhaul I can see a complete difference in the sail from what it was like when I first had a go at sailing Sprite back in April/May.

Now we were comfortably keeping up with the dinghy sailors on the upwind legs although downwind they hauled up their spinnakers and romped away. But the difference in drive from the sails is amazing for such small and relatively cheap changes.

So the plan is now to get used to how the boat handles in higher wind speeds over the next few months.

The other change from previous sails is the amount of space in the cockpit. The shorter tiller made another huge difference and at no time did me and Jim struggle for space.

The rope pockets also made a big difference, keeping the cockpit a lot tidier. I might get another pocket for the transom for the main sheet. The only untidy lines in the cockpit now are the jib sheets, but of course when tacking they get used a whole lot more.

A happy and relaxed sailor.
So all in all the sailing experience has transformed dramatically for a small outlay. The whole thing is a lot more relaxed and less fraught. Its nice to know my efforts are heading in the right direction.

Monday, 18 August 2014

Boat Jumble Day

An early start this morning had me pick Jim up from his house just after 9 and then we both headed up to Fort Purbrook for the boat jumble. I needed a couple of double or triple blocks for the

It started at 10am, but we know to get there before 10 as you have to get there early and get through the gate sharpish in order to get any bargains. By the time we got there around 9:40 there was already a large queue.

Eventually after walking about half the stalls we found a stall with cheap rope. Jim was already bantering "there you go Mark, its cheap rope. The only downside is its got pink on it!" It was marked up at £10 and the guy said I could have it for £5. I offered £4 and he took it. Not a bad start. While I was paying, Jim was already rummaging in the bin of pulleys. "There you go Mark, he's got pulleys too!". And Jim was right, the guy have a couple of small double blocks, one with a becket. Just what I wanted. The guy on the stall asked for £5 for the pair and £2.50 each isn't bad at all. I got the pair for £4.

So I had my kicker sorted for less than a tenner. I did look for a couple of fiddle blocks for the downhaul, but we couldn't see any decent ones of the right size.

While Jim was in the loo I managed to bag a long shackle for the jib.

And that was it. The guy with the cheap paints wasn't there nor was the guy that sells the rope pockets. So there wasn't anything else I needed. There were a couple of old brass portholes, but people were wanting too much for them. I would have liked to buy a decent mooring buoy but again they were too dear.

So, once the tide was right I fitted the new kicker. Here it is:

Now with double blocks I may be able to put some more tension into the sail.

The new shackle has raised the jib about 4 inches:

Hopefully now the jib will clear the pulpit. There's a twist in the strap at the bottom of the jib so I might need to fit a short twisted shackle at the bottom to turn the long shackle through 90 degrees.

Unfurling the jib on the mooring was a bit fraught in today's wind, but its done. I just need to try it all out.

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Busy Weekend.

Today was busy, most of the day taken up with moving my son's boyfriend from Brighton, but I eventually got to the boat, but the wind was a bit too strong to mess with the sails.

I need to do a few jobs on the rigging to see if it makes things better.

The jib needs to be a bit higher so it doesn't catch on the pulpit. I need a longer shackle for the lower part and it needs a pulling up the foil with some tension in it.

The main sail needs help with fine tuning. Hauling the sail up is fine now, but the bits of rigging that pull it down, add tension and flatten it need some work.

So I'm off to Fort Purbrook tomorrow for the Portsmouth boat jumble there. I hope the weather is ok. Lets see how cheap I can source my bits.

Monday, 11 August 2014


The storm which was hurricane Bertha rattled up the channel last night and this morning with high winds, lots of rain and the odd bit of lighting thrown in.

Jim went down to the boats today and texted me everything was ok. 

I was at the boat yesterday and working out some modifications I want to do to the rigging. There's a boat jumble at Fort Purbrook next Sunday (the 17th). I'll hopefully be picking a few bits to help.

It seems strange as that was the boat jumble I bought the chain for Sprite's mooring last year.

The past 12 months have been involved in getting Sprite II to sail again and fix and replace the bits that needed fixing and replacing.

The next 12 months should be involved in doing the actual act of sailing and changes to Sprite to help it sail better and help me sail it more easily.

Sunday, 3 August 2014

12 Months

Yes, time has flown by and I've owned Sprite II now for a whole year!

Its a year by date, but technically yesterday was the day I slipped Sprite from her mooring at the end of Pam's garden and attempted to leave Chichester harbour.

Of course that ended up with me and Jim turning back after getting a taste of the waves from the Chichester bar and a grounding on the winner bank on the way back in.

But still we got her round to Eastney  and rafted up to Jim's boat on the Sunday after an early start to get going before the wind picked up.

Its been a great 12 months.


While I was doing the housekeeping on Thursday, a couple were on board a westerly Nomad in the pond. It had looked a bit sick for a while and looked like it had taken on water.

On Thursday it looked fine, the waterline was where it should be and it looked like the couple were messing with the engine.

Imagine my shock when I went down to the pond today and saw this:

Such a shame. I can only wonder what damage has been done by the total immersion.

This is what it looked like when it first started taking on water:

Friday, 1 August 2014


Now I've got Sprite into sailing trim, the jobs on board have moved subtly towards making life on-board a bit easier.

So yesterday I fitted rope pockets either side of the companionway, to tidy up the rope that ends up all over the cockpit floor. The lines that cone back to the cockpit from the mast don't tend to be messed with much, so they can be tucked in the pockets out of the way while sailing.

I got the pockets cheaply at the Netley Boat jumble. I had to get smaller stainless screws to fit them, because they have to sit recessed into the press-stud to allow the pocket to clip on.

Here they are in place:

After the rope getting everywhere, the other bugbear is how much the tiller intrudes into the cockpit. Me and Jim aren't the smallest of guys and if we both sit on the same side of the cockpit, there's no room to move the tiller. So to free up some space I took six inches off the tiller arm and sculpted and new handle at the end. Not quite as small as the original, but I've taken the sharp edges off. Sitting in the cockpit should now be a bit easier when there's two people.

I also tidied up the wiring for the VHF and the depth sounder as part of the housekeeping effort.

On my way back to shore I checked out the rudder I made for Jim's boat. Its still there:

Its not the best looking thing. After all it was knocked together using scraps of wood and rudimentary tools, but it looks ok.

One thing I'm finding is I get withdrawl when I'm away from the boat for a few days now. I've always been drawn to messing about with boats, but it's the first time I've actually felt compelled to go down to the boat. I'm not sure why, but even like today, just chilling out and doing odd jobs feels theraputic.

I had the VHF on while I was on the boat and its the first time I've heard the mad rush to get in marinas for Cowes week. You could tell it was very busy. A far cry from the relaxed atmosphere of Eastney pond.