A First Daysail Up-River: Lilacs and Purple Martins, but no Bees

May 29: finally, a first sail upriver! Almost no wind, hence only a few maneuvers to test the rig and the rest of the equipment (including a pair of old knees and everything else around them): a pin was found to be getting loose in the IdaSail Rudder and the reefing lines were too short (will have to change them but I doubt I would ever need them). After a few tacks and gybes and different points of sail as wind permitted, I decided to motor to Aylmer Island just to give the Tohatsu a good workout. The motor stalled a couple of times, but this was before I realized that the fuel cock that selects between the internal and the external gas tank was in the wrong position: it was open (vertical) instead of close (horizontal), or was it the other way around? Oh well, one of those… either way, it was clearly in the wrong position because when I switched from one to the other, the stalling ceased. The river water level was still one meter above vertical datum; hence the island had a reduced beach and outline. Anchoring SE of it was flawless with the Belgian Bruce and 50 feet of its rode in a depth of 8 feet (a scope of 4.5:1, estimating a freeboard at the bow of 3 feet). Docking once back in port was less than perfect, but this is expected at the onset of the season…

The lilacs in the Club grounds are in full bloom with so many flowers that it is difficult to see their leaves and twigs, and the migratory purple martins are happily nesting in the two “apartment-buildings” hoisted up two masts within the Club premises. Here is one of them:

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But something was missing in these bucolic surroundings, something that one used to hear before seeing but that it was impossible to miss even if taken for granted: not a single bee was in the lilacs, not a single dragonfly flew over the water. Not even flies, or blackflies, or anything remotely “insect” in nature. Not in the air, not even in the large webs left between spars or docking lines by the hopeful orb-weavers that knitted them the previous night. Is it possibly still too early in the season? or have the insects finally succumbed to the many ways in which for so long we have tried to eliminate them from our proximity? In a long term this could be an immense tragedy of unfathomable proportions. In the short run this may breed trouble for the Purple Martins, strict insectivores as they are and in need of all the energy they can store for their long trans-equatorial journey back to the Atlantic shores of South America.

Hope for some bees, bumblebees and dragonflies at the next visit to the marina… (even some mosquitos may be welcome…).



Mid-Afternoon openings in the 20M Band

With Sunspot 2711 about to circle behind the sun, sunspot 2712 already on sight at the other end of the solar disk and 2710 not yet totally faded close to the center of the solar disk, the sunspot number raised recently to above 30. This may have contributed towards recent mid-afternoon openings in the 20M band:

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“QRP” rides the waves again…

In spite of very poor propagation conditions, due to the sun inching down in its 24th cycle towards a minimum, “QRP” is well and afloat… at the Nepean Sailing Club marina, as Sassy Gaffer’s tender…


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Launching was not totally uneventful, due to rain and to very wet and slippery ramp and docks, but QRP was eventually rowed to the Sassy’s stern and then rolled over on its cockpit to await further instructions before committing itself to the waves… the lake waves, that is…

Why “QRP”…? because “it does more with less”, of course…


Habemus velam…

et mastilis…!

Sunny and bright but windy, with winds from the South gusting at 30-40 kph. Not the best day for rigging a sail in a boat moored almost in a N-S line. Nevertheless, it had to be tried. The mast was open at the hinge and the sail was rigged by threding first the bolted rope to the slot in the gaff, then the slugs for the luff went into the track in the lower portion of the mast (after removing the gaff tack from the mast), and at the end the bolted rope of the foot was eased into the slot in the boom. To avoid entanglements with the many lines and stays, the sail was rigged from the port side leaving all lines to starboard except the port shrowd, which stayed to port. The sail downhaul was rigged on the port side of the luff and the bolts and nuts of the hinge placed back. The anchor light and the windex were reinstalled and the cables for the lights in the mast, connected at the mast hinge. The mast went up at first try and so did the sail. In the picture the sail was not completely hoisted, it still lacked battens and the reefing lines, and the boom was attached to the gallows to prevent accidental gybes: it was just to check for entanglements and for the pics…

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Back afloat…!

Since this morning at 10:30am, Sassy is back in her slip at the NSC marina…

Water levels were still very high (59.72m at the gauge at Britannia, i.e., 1.82m above datum) with the edge of the water at the ramp reaching the road at the limit of the cement blocks:


A precarious plank had been added for accessing one of the side docks (see picture), which were still far from the ramp and of difficult access.  Hence the two-people launching technique was the one preferred: one person on the boat and another one backing the car and trailer into the water and releasing the boat once afloat. Here is the process in pictures:




‘E quindi uscimmo a riveder le stelle *

* “And then we emerged to see the stars again.”
Dante Aligieri (1265–1321),
Divina Comedia, Inferno, Canto XXXIV, 139.





With some luck she will be returning soon to the marina “Purgatory”… and then to blue beyond…

And the magic of the Tohatsu is working too…


However, launching will be better not done single-handed since water levels are still high (59.7m at Britannia on May 7 2018 & 5:35pm EDT, 1.8m above datum) and the docks, though attached to the ramp, will remain of difficult access until the plates sitting on top of them can be installed reaching the end of the ramp:


The plan is to launch in duo (i.e., without docking at the ramp) this Saturday… Keep tuned!

Ice in the Bay…

Today I went to check the dock at the NSC marina and installed three fenders to facilitate docking in crossed winds. The fenders were hanged from butterfly knots along a line spanning the entire length of the dock (yes, I still remember how to make these knots – they are particularly useful since they can be easily made without access to the ends of the line, to produce mid-line loops from which to attach items and prevent their slippage).

Water levels in the Ottawa River are only half a meter above datum, which is a major improvement with respect to what it was a year ago. However, there is still a thin layer of floating ice covering the water everywhere around the docks. Also, the two docks at the end of the ramp (seen in the background in the middle of the picture) are still anchored away from the ramp. Still some time before launching is made possible!


Remote Automatic Tuner: with Balun, Unun or Nothing at All?

BL2 Elecraft balun

The multiband wire antenna in my QTH is an end-fed wire thrown up a Maple tree in the backyard. The wire is about sixteen meters long with the shape of a long “S” (with an open hook at the bottom and a closer one at the top). It is complemented by a single set of counterpoise quarter-wave length wires (cut for about mid-band range frequency) for each of the HF bands (80m to 10m). These counterpoise wires make a horizontal “L” elevated about one meter from the ground and running around the fence that encloses the yard. (the 20-meter long wire used for the 80m band is folded at its end back on itself for about five meters). The antenna and the counterpoise set are fed via a short 50 Ohm coaxial (about 30 cm), going through the wall. Inside it connects with theLDG RT-100 tuner, itself connected to the transceiver via a 5-meter coaxial, an Elecraft WII wattmeter and the RC-100 remote controller Bias/T that provides power to the RT-100 via the coaxial.

The short coaxial connecting the RT-100 to the antenna is a compromise for keeping the tuner inside the house (actually, in-between walls) protected from the elements. This tuner was chosen for being both able to operate QRP and QRO. This was important because, although the antenna is mostly powered by an Icom 703+ operating QRP, mainly for SSB and net participation, it is often connected to an ICOM 706MKIIG operating at 50-80 Watts.

The LDG RT-100 is a very reliable remote auto-tuner, initiating a tuning cycle whenever the SWR exceeds a preset limit (usually beyond 2.5:1). However, a push button in the RC-100 Bias/T allows to trigger a new tuning cycle when required.  The Elecraft WII meter is a good visual improvement over the meters in the ICOM radios for determining when minimum SWR has been reached.

As many other users have also found, the LDG RT-100 tends to stop at SWR values close to 2.0:1. This does not seem to significantly affect the output power. Nevertheless, it is puzzling to see it reach lower levels as it tunes, but then settle on a higher value closer to 2.0:1.  One way to influence this is via the use of a balum or an unum.

Here is a table showing the SWR minimum values at which the LDG RT-100 stops cycling for mid-range frequencies in the CW portion of each HF band, when using different balums, unums or nothing at all (minimum values are shown in italics):

Freq. Unun Balun None
10:1 4:1 4:1 1:1
28.0250 1.5:1 1.5:1 1.7:1 1.7:1 1.5:1
24.9100 2.0:1 1.7:1 1.7:1 1.5:1 1.7:1
21.0250 1.7:1 2.0:1 1.5:1 1.7:1 2.0:1
18.0800 2.0:1 2.0:1 1.7:1 1.7:1 2.0:1
14.0250 2.5:1 2.5:1 2.0:1 2.5:1 2.5:1
10.1150 2.5:1 2.5:1 2.5:1 2.0:1 2.5:1
7.0250 1.7:1 2.0:1 1.4:1 2.0:1 2.0:1
3.5250 2.0:1 1.7:1 1.5:1 1.7:1 1.7:1

Although the differences do not appear to be too significant, the use of a 4:1 balun seems to offer to the RT-100 the best matching opportunities for the antenna described above. Furthermore, the possibility of using a Elecraft BL-2 wideband balun switchable between 4:1 and 1:1 (see image at the top) seems to offer the best possible arrangement (even if the antenna can hardly be described as “balanced”).

Hovering over Mount Olympus…

Seventeen years ago, I bought “Vándor” and created the “Alberg 22 Site”. The site has been long gone, but recently I was able to find a short text I wrote about the Alberg 22, likely around that same time. I forgot the occasion, but it seems that I was trying to explain how well an Alberg 22 can sail using some kind of semi-humorous philosophical style while still meaning every word I wrote. There is a clear reference to the theory of relativity but at least I refrained from making any allusion to “Alberg Einstein” (oops! I think I just did…). I found the article posted in a Google site created by a fellow sailor, Peter Deppisch, whom I thank for having saved my writing during all this time: https://sites.google.com/site/peterdeppisch/alberg22_1. Here it is:


“A boat sails as the result of dynamic forces imposed on its structure by water, air and gravity, all distributed along the line-forces in the hull according to her design. This permits her to remain afloat while changing space-time coordinates in a predictable and pleasurable manner.

As such the forces on a boat are largely determined by the sun, the rotation of the earth and gravity itself, all forces that humans may aspire to use, but have less hope of ever being ever able to control or even completely understand. Hence, the only way in which humans can exert some degree of control over the behaviour of a boat is via the design and construction, and perhaps to some extent, through the abilities of her crew, which in a way are also highly relative to the design and the construction of the vessel.

Thus, the design and structure of a boat are central to her ability to sail, and particularly to her ability to sail in a way as to elicit positive endorphins in the basal nuclei of the brain of all those on board as well as in those watching from outside the boat. Now, this is an interesting scenario, clearly analogous to the one that at the beginning of the 20th century triggered some important changes in the way humans understood reality, and more particularly space and time.

Similar, but with clear differences, as the actual scenario used in those momentous studies involved a train and an embankment rather than a boat and a landmark, a rather unfortunate choice as it led to ignore the relativity of the pleasure derived from sailing: i.e., whether a person inside an Alberg 22 sailing at 7 knots while heeling at 30 degrees in a steady breeze of 15 knots can feel the same or distinct pleasure from another person observing the boat from a nearby fixed landmark (or for that matter from another boat, provided that such boat is not an Alberg…).

Here we will argue that such pleasure is indeed relative to the position of the observer, as the pleasure in the bystander can only be derived from its visual perception and imagination, while the person in the boat feels in its own flesh and bones (sometimes more that it might have wished to bargain for) the same forces being imposed on the structure of the vessel by the mysterious, cosmic sources indicated in the beginning.

This narrative version of the special relativity of boat enjoyment is the result of years of Alberg experimentation, a design permitting those forces to be felt amplified through their dynamic integration and subsequent decomposition along the lines of the boat design and structure to which the crew is momentarily invited to be part thereof while on board.

Not having been designed or built for performance or endurance, and neither for comfort or for aesthetics alone, but for a balanced blend of all those parameters, an Alberg is probably the quintessential representation of equilibrium in boat design and construction, an equilibrium which is readily experienced both by the boat and the crew and which results in an explosion of pleasure for the boater on board.

This pleasure is not only an inner reflection of the equilibrium attained, but also a response to the indirect feeling of the cosmic forces at play, a feeling made even more intimate by the fact that those forces remain and are likely to always be beyond human control and comprehension.

How does an Alberg sail? Any sailboat can sail, but an Alberg, she hovers over Mount Olympus!

 (“Vándor”, Alberg 22 #284, 1986).”