Love Me Tender…

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Since last Saturday Sassy’s tender has joined her at the marina.

It will not be new to the habitués of this blog that Sassy has a very special and tiny tender: the Sportyak II. It is a vintage design from the 1960s – a loveable, able and rebel hippie dinghy that loves “happenings”.

The Sportyak II – renamed “Sportyak 213” in its most recent reincarnation (https://store.bicsport.com/boats/bic-boats/sportyak-213-gris-beige.html) – seems to have been manufactured by at least three companies: Dayton Marine Products, Detroit, MI (https://boatbrochure.com/collections/dayton-marine-products-inc/products/dayton-sportyak-ii-brochure), KL Industries, Muskegon, MI (http://www.klindustries.com/products_boats_dinghies.html), and Bic in France (https://dinghy.bicsport.com/boat.html?_ga=2.133674318.1570029750.1497302633-1059136020.1497302633). Sassy’s – of course – is French.

Sassy’s tender advent to Canada was not without some difficulties: at that time the Bic Sportyak II was being imported into the United States, but BicBoats in the US would not export it to Canada. Hence it was delivered to the UPS outlet in Ogdensburg, NY, from where it was fetched by Sassy’s land-auxiliary (the CRD Jeep) and car-topped across the Saint Lawrence River, through Canadian Customs and all the way to Sassy.

It is 7 feet long, 4 feet wide and weights 42 pounds. It is made of HDPE, High Density Polyethylene – a food-grade and recyclable plastic. Its corrugated bottom floor gives its hull its rigidity and its dual-hull design makes it very stable on the water.

However, this does not go to say that the Sportyak II is entirely foolproof. Boarding the dinghy from a dock or the boat can be tricky mainly due to its tendency for disappearing from under human legs. Experience has shown that having the dinghy secured sideways to the side of the boat or the dock greatly improves the chances of a successful transfer. This can be achieved with a single line attached mid-ship of the tender, for which the oarlock hole at its beam comes very handy. Fenders are desirable but not entirely necessary given the material of the dinghy.

For a heavy and not to agile person, experience has also shown that it is better to step down on the dinghy backwards, by placing a first foot mid-ship while still holding ones weight from a line attached to the main ship. In Sassy the mainsheet purchases at the stern of the boat are the preferred holding structures for this operation. The trick then is to try to bring one’s center of gravity as low and as fast as possible, something not always easy for legs and knees that have seen better times. Climbing back to the dock or boat from the Sportyak is just the reverse of this operation.

In the event of a sudden and unexpected water immersion, the Sportyak can be boarded from the water by using the arms to push one of its sides under one’s buttocks while propelling the torso backwards, as it is possible for a person of average weight to sit on the side of the Sportyak II with the legs in the water without the tender being capsized or the gunnel submerged.

As for rowing, this can be done sitting facing astern on a low seat. The original plank seat was never available in Sassy’s Sportyak II. Instead its seat is an “IKEA Försiktig Children’s Stool” that seem to have been designed with the Sportyak II in mind (http://www.ikea.com/us/en/catalog/products/60248418/). The Sportyak II can also be rowed while kneeling on a pad and facing forward or even sculled using the oarlock at the stern while kneeling facing astern.

For all its capabilities and usefulness, it pays to remember that at heart the Sportyak II is just a toy, a Polyethylene toy made of the same material in bathtub ducklings and other floaters in children’s baths. As such, it is difficult not to “love it tender”, but when playing with it one should also be prepared in case it decides to start behaving like the mischievious and joyful toy that it actually is.

First Sail of the Season… Into Her Own Wind

Yesterday, June 8 (quite late by Sassy’s standards), Sassy had her first outing on the river: a leisurely motor-sail up-river to Aylmer Island and back…

The day was perfect, except that no wind was being felt over the water. Sassy’s mainsail, gaff and all, went up and for a little while she was able to sail into her own wind, literally generated by the propeller of her Tohatsu (equivalent yesterday to the apparent wind, since there was no true wind to fill her sail).

Nevertheless, the motor-sail was enough to show that everything in the boat was operational, as well as to take a nice picture of a wake prolonged in the reflection of the clouds:

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and another confirming that Aylmer Island is still without much of its beach (water levels are still over one meter higher than datum):

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Habemus Sail…!

Rigging Sassy’s sail can be a significant chore, particularly in strong crosswinds. The sail needs to be correctly attached to the three spars: the mast, the boom and the gaff. The gaff takes on the slot along its bottom the top third of the luff, the mast received the slugs of the bottom two thirds of the luff and the entire foot of the sail is slid inside the slot at the top of the boom. Here is the detail from last year: https://thewakesileave.wordpress.com/2016/05/21/sassy-got-her-sail/

On windy days and if the boat is cross-winded, the sail risks from being blown in the water. However, the most common mishap is for it to be twisted or tangled with one of the lines in the rigging thus requiring the operation to restart afresh.

The most critical part is the insertion of the luff slugs in the bottom stump of the mast after the hinge has been entirely opened by removing the screws linking both parts of the mast, and the glider piece that attaches the tack of the gaff to the mast has been entirely removed from the bottom of the mast (i.e., the luff slugs need to be below the gaff tack).

Two new things were successfully tried this time:

Last year, while removing the sail from the rigging, the mast suddenly slipped forward which caused the anchor light to hit the gallows and break with the sequel that was the object of the previous posting. To prevent this from happening, I decided that the top of the mast ought to be attached to the gallows before the hinge is opened.

Also, I decided to start threading the sail into the bottom of the gaff and top of the boom with the hinge intact, the mast upright and all the lines collected at the back of the hinge. This prevents any line from getting tangled with the sail and also facilitates the control of the sail on deck in a windy day, particularly if the boat is cross-winded at the dock. Then, after the top third of the luff and the bottom of the sail have been attached to the gaff and the boom, the mast can be dropped aft to lay on the gallows, attached to it as indicated in the above paragraph, the hinge undone, and the top portion of the mast brought to one side. Then, the metal glider of the gaff tack is removed from the mast track and the slugs of the sail luff are inserted in the bottom stub of the mast in the proper orientation. Once this operation is finished, all that remains to do is to reinsert the gaff glider above the slugs and put back in place the two bolts that allow the two parts of the mast to pivot at the hinge.

Once the clues of the sail at the boom and the gaff were properly attached, and the reefing lines and the downhaul were rigged in position, the sail was ready for its first hoist of the season:

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CQ WW RTTY SOQRP 15m First, and CX & CQ Zone Record

Last September, CX7RT (alias VA3PCJ, alias VE3DTI) participated in the CQ World Wide RTTY Contest from Piriápolis Uruguay (Grid Loc. GF25id). He operated his KX3 at 5W with a ~7-meter wire rigged as 15m-band end-fed dipole deployed in an inverted-Vee configuration from inside a fourth-floor balcony. W1HKJ’s Fldigi running in a MacBook Pro provided for digital RTTY interpretation and real-time logging.

With a score of 351, CX7RT was First “SOQRP 15m” for Uruguay, 2nd in South America, 16th in the World and also captured the contest all-time record for Uruguay and CQ Zone 13, in that mode, band and category:

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Can’t ask much more from just 5W and a short wire…

 

Replacing the Anchor Light – So Simple, and Yet…

At the end of last season, the sail was being removed for proper storage. This operation requires the two bolts at the Mastendr® hinge (http://www.com-pacyachts.com/mastendr-mastraising.html) to be undone and the mast brought to one side of the rigging.

Suddenly, the mast shifted forward, gliding off the gallows. The anchor light at the top of the mast hit the wood hard, and the plastic housing broke away. The plastic locking pieces that latched the housing to mirror notches at the base of the housing had broken off. The housing fell on deck but the smaller pieces fell to the water. There was no repair possible, the casing of the anchor light would have to be replaced.

The original anchor light was an “Aqua Signal Series 25, All-round White Optic, Black Housing, Model Nr. 3513012000″. The housing alone was not available as replacement part on its own, but a complete 3513012000 was available at the local chandlery (http://www.thechandleryonline.com/product_info.php?cPath=8_250_244&products_id=1229). Then, on a first approach, all that was needed was to buy it, discard the base and the metal parts, keep only the clear plastic housing and gently lock it on the base of the light at the top of the mast.

This was not meant to be: the new Aqua Signal 3513012000, albeit sporting the same part number as the original one – for some obscure reason known only to the Aqua designers – has new positions for the notches that latch the clear housing in place, and the new housing could not be fitted to the old base. Hence, the old base would also have to be removed and replaced with the new one. This would also require the wires to be threaded out from the old base and passed through the center hole of the new one, for which the crimpled end-connectors would have to be cut off and replaced with new ones.

Back to the shack to fetch new terminal connectors and appropriate tools for the job. And back again to the boat.

Two screws attached the base of the light to the aluminum block topping the mast. Upon removing the screws it came clear that they had been held with nuts on the inside of the mast, which upon removing the screws quickly went loose, swallowed into the guts of the mast, likely all the way to the keel via the mast stub that emerges through the deck.

Replacing the nuts would now require the aluminum block at the top of the mast to be pried open. The task seemed daunting but a quick consultation with the makers of the boat (many thanks, Gerry!) put things in perspective: the top aluminum piece was held attached to the mast only via the through-bolt that also holds the top bail where the gaffer halyard and the topping lift are attached. After removing the bolt and the bail, the aluminum block was easy to pry out. The nuts that had held the two screws attaching the base of the light to the mast were nowhere in sight. Hence, a second visit to the local chandlery secured two new stainless-steel pressure nuts of the appropriate size.

Eventually, the wire terminal connectors were cut off, the wires threaded through the center of the new base, new connectors were crimpled at the end of both cables and affixed with screws to the corresponding holes in the base. Then the base was affixed to the top aluminum block using the newly acquired nuts, the block was repositioned at the top of the mast and the bail and bolt were also fastened back in position. The bulb was then replaced and the new casing securely fastened to its base with a small twist. It fitted the base perfectly. And finally, the mast was raised and, once again, there was light at the top.

The following picture shows a few of the stages of the work (and some of the storm clouds that loomed over it):

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Epilogue (added June 2, 2017) –

The wires at the mast hinge were reconnected and so did the batteries, but at the top of the mast the LED 39/44 bulb could not be installed: LED bulb packageThe new Aqua Signal had one last surprise up its sleeve: it required the two 44mm Pointed Caps that came with the bulb to be attached at each of the bulb ends. However, the old Aqua Signal had required it to have the Dimpled Caps, which – of course – were those still attached to the bulb.

The 44mm Pointed Caps cannot be bought separately, and a new bulb package costs over $50.00. So, back to the home garage in search for the original package. Found it! and within it the two 44mm Pointed Caps! Back to the boat, after changing the caps and determining proper polarity (LED lights are diodes), light finally returned to the top of the mast.

 

 

 

 

Sassy is back afloat…

Since 9:00AM today (May 27, 2017), “Sassy” is moored back at her slip in the marina of the Nepean Sailing Club:

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The floating docks at the ramp had been installed the day before. Nevertheless, she was launched without making use of them, by a crew of two – the same one that sailed Vándor upriver sixteen years ago : https://thewakesileave.wordpress.com/2015/11/11/sail-cruising-the-ottawa-river-between-lac-deschenes-and-chat-falls-in-the-early-2000s/.

 

 

“QRP x 1” #101 SKCC Award (with All-band x2 and 40M Endorsements)

This posting reports the announcement of the 101th “QRP x 1 Award” of the Straight Key Century Club (SKCC) (http://www.skccgroup.com/operating_awards/qrp_awards/qrp_x1_roster.php)

On June 2, 2006, immediately after the ARRL Straight Key Night, Tom KC9ECI created the Straight Key Century Club (http://www.skccgroup.com/member_services/club_history/). To date the Club has assigned over 17.000 membership numbers.

The SKCC is not exclusively QRP. However, it does include the opportunity for members to participate using different levels of power. VE3DTI became a member in August 2010 and started participating in SKCC sprints in 2013. Since then 680 QSOs were made with SKCC members, 662 of which were operating QRP. Of these, 252 were duplicate QSOs (i.e., same member contacted in the same band) leaving a total of 410 QRP QSOs with different members in a giving band.

The SKCC rewards QRP participation with two QRP Awards: “QRP x 1 Award” and “QRP x 2 Award” (http://www.skccgroup.com/operating_awards/qrp_awards/). For the QRP x 1 Award only the applicant member ought to have operated with an output of 5 watts or less, while for the QRP x 2 Award both members must have been using QRP power. These awards are based on points, given to each QSO according to the band used for the contact: 160m: 4 points, 80m & 10m: 3 points, 60m, 40m & 30m: 2 points, 20m, 17m, 15m & 12m: 1 point and 6m & 2m: 0.5 point.

The QRP x 1 Award requires a minimum of 300 points collected in QRP QSOs with unique SKCC members in any given band. Having sent the corresponding documentation to the QRP x 1/x 2 Awards Manager: Fred VE3FAL, he promptly announced VE3DTI as “QRP x 1 #101 x2 Award (with QRP x 1 Endorsement 40M x2”) and made available the corresponding certificate:

VE3DTI

Thank you Fred, and all the SKCC members who struggled to decode my QRP Straight Key CW signal!

Ramp Launching in High Waters: Solo or With a Crew of Two?

It is mid-May and “Sassy” is still in the yard.

Recently, I visited Dick Bell Park to check on the ramp that gives direct access to the marina. Water levels are still very high but the ramp is accessible and it would be possible to use it to launch the SunCat. However, not likely single-handed.

Usually, I launch “Sassy” by myself. A smooth and quick solo-launch requires that at least one of two floating docks be attached at the end of the ramp. This dock is needed to leave the boat moored while removing the trailer from the ramp and then being able to board the boat, start the outboard and undock towards the slip.

Installation of these docks is prevented in high waters by the fact that the ramp structures that support the tilting planks giving access to each dock are several feet under water. Also, anchoring the far end of each dock in waters this deep would require longer chain rodes, which would cause the ramps to drift away from position once the waters subside.

Hence, the docks remain near-by in front of the ramp, floating out of reach – so close and yet so far:

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A third possibility, albeit more time consuming, would be to back the boat to the ramp up to the point where it starts to float on its own while still on the trailer. Then row the tender to the stern of the boat and board it. Drop down the outboard, start it and back the boat from the trailer and anchor it near-by while the trailer is still at the ramp. Then row the tender back to the ramp, drive the trailer away and park it. Walk back to the ramp and row the tender to the boat. Weigh anchor and take her to her slip. Definitely a possibility provided that the ramp is not busy.

Alternatively, the launching may need to be conducted by a crew of two: one sailor launches inside the cockpit of the boat while the other backs the trailer to the ramp. I do know of a sailor who could be perfectly entrusted with either of these responsibilities: the same adventure companion of sixteen years ago (https://thewakesileave.wordpress.com/2015/11/11/sail-cruising-the-ottawa-river-between-lac-deschenes-and-chat-falls-in-the-early-2000s/). However, he is now a successful professional with a very busy life and work schedule.

Hence, more likely, launching would have to wait until water levels return to normal and those small floating docks are properly installed at both sides of the ramp. The water level at the Britannia Station is still 7 feet above datum. However, last week it dropped 2 feet, which means that in three more weeks the docks may be already attached to the ramp.

Here is a picture of that same ramp taken exactly three years ago, with one of the docks in position and “Sassy” on her way to her slip – hopefully an image that will soon repeat itself :

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Brave Ottawa River Valley

The height of the water in the Ottawa River is monitored in several stations along the river. One of them is at Britannia. The average low level at Britannia used by the Canadian Hydrographic Service as vertical datum for the development of nautical charts of the area is of 57.9 meters. On May 7, 2017 at 9:35 AM EDT the level in Britannia reached a maximum record measured at 60.52m (2.62m or 8.60 feet above datum), 28 cm. above its historical maximum of 60.24m in May 1979 (http://www.ottawariver.ca/ottawa-river-britannia.php)

On August 22, 2015 I rowed a Sevylor Rio from the little beach at the end of Massey Lane off Blair Road, to Upper Duck Island where I operated QRP/portable and made the required radio contacts to successfully “qualify” it as “ON-296” for the VE-Islanders’ Canada Islands Activators program (https://thewakesileave.wordpress.com/2015/08/25/upper-duck-island-on-296/). On that occasion, after arrival to the ramp I took a picture of the Jeep parked near the launching site with the Sevylor still inside its bag (see first picture of the composite). The level of the water at Britannia then was around 57.8 meters.

Yesterday (May 10, 2017) at 1:00 PM EDT, albeit from a different angle and from a position further removed from the shore, my friend and colleague Bob VA3QV took another picture of the same beach (see second picture of the composite). The water level at that time in Britannia was of 60.34m (2.54m above what it had been when the first picture was taken).

In spite of the nearly 2-year period between both pictures and the different vertical and horizontal angles and resulting parallax errors, the trees on the left of both pictures may have preserved enough their shape and characteristics as to permit a rough and tentative superposition of both images (see bottom picture in the composite). By the time one corrects for the different vertical angles and imagines both horizons at the same level, the Jeep becomes totally submerged, as would have been the photographer while taking the first picture.

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Here is the same composite with yellow lines indicating on each picture the level of the water at the trees on May 10, 2017:

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The tree seen in the distance slightly towards the right at the center of the picture marks the submerged western tip of Upper Duck Island and was used in August 2015 to support the PAR EndFedZ tribander antenna.

This blog salutes the brave individuals and communities that struggled and continue to do so against the high water levels that recently flooded parts of Canada, and in particular those in the Ottawa River Valley.

QRP ‘Spell’ of “FLORIDA SUN” 45.37º N

The weekend at 45.37ºN (& 075.60ºW) was cold and wet, quite appropriate for a few hours of shack-time contacting stations in warmer, sunnier latitudes. Propagation conditions were poor, but early in the afternoon the 20m band did open enough for even a challenged QRP signal to be heard from the Gulf of Mexico. Coincidentally, the Florida QSO Party (FQP) (http://floridaqsoparty.org) was taking place during the weekend, and they were celebrating their 20th anniversary. With the Icom 703 at 5W and the 50+ Ft. end-fed wire, VA3PCJ tried to participate S&P as Single-OP MIXED QRP (non-assisted). In the end, 26 QSO’s were logged (19 CW, 7 SSB) with 22 Multipliers (15 CW, 7 SSB):

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It was a better result than last year, when VE3DTI, as Single-OP MIXED LOW (with the Icom 706MKIIG) logged a similar number of contacts.

But the FQP has an additional twist: the “FQP Spelling Bee Special Event” – a number of Florida stations participate with special callsigns with single-letter suffixes with which to spell “FLORIDA SUN” and receive a colourful certificate. This is VE3DTI’s from last year:

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As for this year, VA3PCJ almost spelled it twice:

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