IntroductionA boat trailer light tester is something trailer sailors need. When preparing for a trip, it is a good idea to prepare in advance by testing the trailer lights. Avoid the hassle of fixing wiring at zero dark thirty at the beginning of a road trip. It is not always a good idea to attach an old boat trailer to a new expensive vehicle. Bad trailer wiring could blow fuses or damage the tow vehicle. A tester could help make preliminary testing and fault diagnosis easier. Most testers on the market cost $150 to $400 USD. That does not include a small engine battery. A new battery runs about $30 more. A battery needs charging to keep it in good operating condition. If you use the tester infrequently, one still needs to charge the battery. Not a good option if the tester is used once a year. A reliable power supply is the wall socket. An old printer power supply can provide power to the trailer tester. For LED trailer lights this tool may be the major option for diagnosis in some cases.
OperationThe tester plugs into 120V AC wall power. It has an AC to DC adapter. It goes into a case that has a switch to emulate truck functions of stop and turn signals. It has a four wire plug used to connect to the trailer. When plugged into an extension cord the box is energized. Make sure the switch is in the off position, dial location #1. Connect the 4 wire trailer pigtail to the tester. Switch to tail lights stop #2. Both tail (Dim) lights should be on. Turn dial to position #2, left tail light should be on. Turn switch to #3, right turn is on. Any deviation from this behavior should be further diagnosed. This tester box can be assembled from parts laying around the junk bin. The case is from an old home router. The power supply is from an old printer. It is an AC adapter that puts out 9VDC at 700 uA.
Position 1 is off.
Position 2 is tail lights
Position 3 is Left Turn Signal
Position 4 is Right Turn Signal.
AssemblyParts are easily available. Assembly is pretty easy. Here is a parts list. Also is a wiring diagram of the project. Below is a wiring diagram of the project.
PartsTrailer pigtail - vehicle side
4 terminal strip - Break out
Switch, Single Pole - 5 throw rotary
Fuse - 2 amp fast blow
Fuse holder - inline
AC -> DC Power supply, 9VDC 700 uA
Home Router project box 6” x 4” x 1”
Vehicle tester - 4 wire flat led
Printed switch selector label
Clear packing tape
EquipmentSoldering iron or gun
Box cutter to strip wires
Get a project box 6” x 4” x 1” will suffice. Attach a 4 terminal strip to be used as a break out. Two small screws will do the job. Take the vehicle side 4 wire pigtail and strip the ends. Screw them to the terminal block in order left to right, white, brown, yellow and green. Cut a small slit in the top of the box to run wires from the terminal strip to the inside of the box. Take a 5” length of 4 wire flat trailer wire and strip both ends about 0.5”. Screw the wires from the short length to terminal block in the same order as the pigtail. Push the wires through the slit. Drill a hole in the center of the box to the size of the rotary switch. Bolt the rotary switch to project box face. Make sure the switch is aligned so the switch is uniform left to right. Drill another hole in the lower right of the face plate. Use a nut and bolt to hold down ground (white) to nut and bolt. Solder short wires from the terminal block to the switch in order. SW1 NC SW2 Brown, SW3 Yellow, SW4 Green. Cut a notch in the side of the face plate for the power supply wires. Take a volt meter and check the polarity of the power supply. Negative gets bolted to the small nut in the face plate. Positive from the power supply goes to the center conductor of the rotary switch, solder it in place . Put the case together. Print the selector label and tape to the face plate. Connect the small led vehicle tester to the pigtail. Plug the AC adapter in. Move the switch to tail light. The tail light led should light up. Rotate the switch to position #3 the left indicator should light. Rotate to #4 The right tail light indicator needs to light. If all passes the tester is assembled correctly.
Now test a trailer. Get an extension cord and plug it in the wall. Plug the test box to the trailer. Rotate the selector knob to off. Plug the ACDC power supply in the extension cord. Rotate the knob to position #2 (tail light). Walk to the back of the trailer. Both of the tail lights should be lit red. Next check the left turn signal. Turn the switch to position #3, the left turn signal should be a little brighter than the tail light test. Finally test the right turn signal. Turn switch to position #4. Check to see if the right turn signal is on.
Trailer problemsBad ground. Ground wires get pulled while coupling the trailer. They rust out internally in the wire. Bolted grounds can vibrate and fall off. Grounds to light assembly get ground off on steep driveways. Blown light bulbs. These can be tested with a multimeter. Corroded light sockets. Shorts from wires vibrating on the frame and cutting insulation. Rusted 4 flat connector. This can be fixed by cleaning and some very fine sandpaper.
Incandescent BulbsThe standard brake light on a trailer is the 1156 stoplight. It rates 26.9 W @ 12.8. It has an average life of 1200 hours. Seems like a long life, but boat trailers put added stress by being submersed when used. The resistance changes a lot in a light bulb when heated. Whenever it lights it is heated. Use the heated resistance value when calculating load on the tow vehicle.
Some basic electricity W = V x A, W is watts, V is DC voltage, A is amperage.
26.9 = 12.8 x A => A = 2.1
So for the 1156 incandescent stop light we draw 2.1 amps per bulb that is a lot.
V = I x R, V = 12.8, I = 2.1 => The operating resistance of a stoplight is 6.1 ohms.
LED Tail LightsLED tail lights have many advantages over conventional incandescent bulbs. LEDs are cooler temperature. They use much less power. They don't have rusty sockets. LEDs will blow out if connected with the wrong polarity current. Miswired they will pop and make some plastic fly. Light assemblies have a reverse current diode to prevent damage to the light assembly. A multimeter is of less usefulness if diagnosing LED trailer lights. Because of the protection the multimeter will show No Connection for whatever one measures the resistance. The only definitive way is to power LEDS with the tester, set the rotary switch to a function,and observe the light themselves, walking to the back of the trailer.
SummaryA wall powered box to help diagnose trailer light problems is a useful tool to build. It is a good way to protect the towing vehicle from over current. The cost is minimal. Tests can be done in the driveway without use of a tow vehicle.
Here is a PDF describing how to make a gear bag from Sailrite. It is written to be used with the construction video. It has timestamps to mark progress. If you need a custom bag, order the kit watch the video a couple of time then print out the PDF written instructions.
Have you ever wanted to make your own sail?
If you have looked at some tired old bagged out sails and said I need a new sail, These rags do not respond to changes to my astute knowledge of sail trim, something has to be done. If you do not want to pay es mucho denero for la 3DL, building your own sail is a possible solution. Get a sail kit and do it yourself. It is very satisfying to be cooking along the water and to look up and see your own handy work powering efficiently down the lake.
One can order a kit from Sailrite. It can be a stock kit from known measurements or it can be tailored to your specifications. In this example A Sabot sail is what we needed. Here is the kit as it arrived.
It consists of laser cut Dacron panels. Included is a spool of V69 thread, Nylon webbing, fiberglass battens, Heavy duty V69 thread, needle, basting tape, seamstick tape and grommets. I also bought some numbers and some telltales.
Next it is a good idea to layout the panels and do an inventory of contents. Doing this also gives a overall view of the size of the project.
Cutting and sewing the batten is one of the early steps. This is because manipulating the sail material is much easier when the material is smaller. Sewing full sails is difficult with anything other than a long arm sewing machine. Do the pockets first. In this case the leech will be a double rolled seam. Place the pocket at the seam line. Leave enough of the pocket unsewn to roll the leach under the pocket.
Start basting the panels together is a sequence that makes it easier to assemble the whole sail. A Sabot sail is not as a large factor than a bigger sail. L large sail has difficulity fitting under the throat of the sewing machine. More details on the custom logo in a later article.
The head is the las panel of the sail sewn.
Mark the patch panels with a pencil to guide sewing the corners in place.
Use seamstick double sided tape to stabilize the layers of fabric in place before sewing them down in place.
Arrange the patches in the coeners all three. Sew them to the sail. Use a zig zag stitch to distribute the stresses along the sailcloth.
Fold the leech of the sail to the seam line. Roll over again to make a presentable edge. The fold can be set with mashing down with battens as a seam tool. Magic clamps are useful in keeping everything in place before sewing.
Quality control inspector #2 making sure the foot tape is properly aligned. The 2" tape is folded over and ironed in half. Tape is then clipped in place to reinforce the foot. Magic clips are useful in sewing projects. these are purple. They hold fabric in place prior to stitching. A long 1" x 6" board is a budget substitute for a sail loft.
Sewing th foot down. Big zig zag. Double stitched at the tack and clew.
Inspector #3 checking the quality of the V69 thread. Used with a #16 needle. The industrial needles are different from home machines in that they have round shafts. orientation of the needle must be done by visual inspection.
Cutting the mast sleeve. Take some time to measure the panels and cut them. Cut straight. The instruction are mildly strange. Think them out before cutting.
Some of the tools for sail making. The "Sailmakers Apprentice" shows twine and a palm. In this project no palm was necessary. New tools are a plan, sharp scissors, seamstic, wescott ruler a hand calculator and paper to do measurement calculations. I missed including the granny glasses in the picture because they were on my head.
Seamsticking themastsleeve to the sail. Every seam is set using a batten to push the glue to each side.
Sewing the mast head in place. Nine inches folded on the leech with double zigzag stitching.
Setting grommets. A new tool has a lot of grease. Make sure it is washed before uased on a nice white sail.
Cutting a logo for the sail made out of sticky backed insignia cloth. A patter was traced from a factory sail ant transferred to Dacron then cut with an xacto knife.
Would have liked to have the lucky side of sabot logo to be pointing forward. Nice shape of the sail. Number s conform to direction of US Sailing. Numbers are not us sailing compliant. Who cares for sabots at lake mead.
Due to circumstances beyond anybody's control, I cannot test this sail in the immediate future. Lake Mead is closed due to COVD-19 concerns. However I am looking forward to having some impromptu races at the marina as soon as time permits.
by Timothy Ehrlich
What an amazing year for the Nevada Yacht Club. We have had two of our largest sail training sessions, a fantastic growth in our A fleet class, new energy surrounding the Temple Bar and the Nancy Cox Races and a new youth training program. This is entirely due to the involvement of our members, yes thanks to all of you for making 2018 such a fantastic year.
As 2019 gets started we look forward to the expansion of these programs and others and will require even more member participation. I had a wonderful meeting with the incoming Commodore Bobby Kawamura and can tell you, he is enthusiastic towards meeting the needs of all the members; racers, cruisers, social members and yet to be new members. To that end, I know the biggest challenge is finding people to dedicate just a couple hours a month towards committees and this is where we need your help the most.
Heading or sitting on a committee is the best way to get involved with any organization. Find something you are passionate about and raise your hand. Currently, there are two committees needing assistance; Clay is putting together a committee to review our current PHRF rules and there is a committee needed to add absentee voting to our bylaws. In regards to other programs that are coming, Bobby will communicate more information in the coming months. I encourage you to find a place to help and this club will continue to grow and meet the needs of the sailing community in 2019.
I want to personally thank the Board and all the members for allowing me to be serve as Commodore in 2018. It was an awesome experience, and it could not have been done without all the volunteers that stepped up and led the way while I was out of town. I hope you all have a wonderful Holiday Season and make 2019 the best year ever out on the lake.
report by Sheree Wilson " Little Rascal" Catalina 27 This Temple Bar / Ostrom Regatta will not be forgotten! Our lake racing was just that... UGH... Day one races were called mid race due to lack of wind. Day two we saw some very heavy winds as well as very light ones. We did get off three races on the second day and Little Rascal was all over the place; strained muscles on the first race, finishing first on the second race and barely making it to the finish line on our way home.
Day 1: After an enjoyable long day of mostly motoring, the fleet arrived at Temple Bar Marina, ready for cocktail and food. Before, I could get through my first cocktail, I suddenly found myself in the lake, sandwiched between our boat and the dock! Thank you to Mike of Blew By You for being there in time, and for pulling me out safety! Needless to say, the unintentional dunk put a damper on the rest of the evening. Meanwhile, Roger of Ghost was busy on his boat getting ready to have his first cocktail of the evening when he slipped down the companionway on and badly bruised his back. Jay (also on Ghost) lost his glasses overboard at some point around the same time.
Overnight, it rained complete with thunder and lightning. Everyone was concerned for Bobby of El Cucuy knowing that he was sleeping on deck. I’m sure that endeavor was short lived!
Day 2: We all got up the next morning, took care of all ofour wet laundry and made our way to the restaurant and had a great breakfast. Not sure how Roger made it, but I could barely breathe, (pretty sure I’ve broken a couple ribs). Maraya also of Ghost stepped up and took a frigid dip to try to find Jay’s glasses but the water was too murky. As always, we all got ourselves together, headed out and had another fun day of “Lake” racing as we headed for home.
Thank you as always to our Race Committee, Clay Ostrom!
photos contributed by Sheree, Roger, Bobby and Mike
report by Sheree Wilson - Little Rascal Fall Series 2018 was fairly typical of lake sailing. Day one, NO wind...but a lot of sailors playing in the water, chatting and having cocktails. The weather was outstanding and the water was warm.
Two weeks later was Fall Series 2, with the forecast of wind in the afternoon. Race Committee had already warned us that we were going to hold out and wait for wind as long as possible. So, we waited and waited, then just as predicted the wind came up and the racing began! We got off two races thanks to Clay Ostrom, our amazing race committee. “A” fleet had a good showing with more boats than the B fleet... a rare occurrence. Winsornaut, in “B” fleet experienced some breakage and headed back to the dock just prior to the beginning of the race. The rest of the fleet sailed on and had two really exciting races.
This last weekend we wrapped up the Fall Series with some very nice weather a little bit of rain/drizzle a nice little breeze and a lot of great sailing. The big surprise was that Nohri the beautiful J92, in A fleet, showed up for the race! Skipper Larry Folsom along with his amazing crew haven’t sailed with us in forever, so it was GREAT to have them back! Also in A Fleet for their first time in a Series was the Tartan "Gammon"! Welcome!
And FYI - out of five races in the Fall Series, in “B” fleet Little Rascal finished first in all five. Can’t help it... I had to toot our own horn a little bit. :) Final results for both fleets are at the end of the blog. Lots of fun all 'round!
Checkout the facebook report below from Tim (Lake Mead Tim) on the Santana 20:
"At the end of race three last Saturday, my boat had a man overboard event. Crew's vest inflated and he was very quickly grabbed by a helpful citizen on a wave runner. We didn't think we could get him back on board our boat or the committee boat. Crew asked to be taken to the beach, and it turns out those folks drove him back to the Marina. Clay ran me in to the visitor dock, and I eventually found our crew. He seemed okay, did not appear to be shaken up too much. Good work from everyone, and a reminder to wear your pfd."
Checkout The Race Results HERE
It has been an amazing year! Our club has nearly doubled in size for last year, both our sail training programs have been completely full and a new youth program is taking hold. It is now time to vote in the board that will continue on the great momentum that has been building the last two years.
The process of selecting a board is the responsibility of the Rear Commodore, Jim Rosaschi. Jim brought to our meeting the following slate to be considered by the membership at our October Business Meeting on the 25th. Which we accepted through the regular process.
Commodore - Jason Kipp
Vice Commodore - Rich Faber
Fleet Captain - Clay Ostrom
Treasurer - Lydia Brown
Secretary - Bobby Kuwimara
Cruising Captain - Naomi Emmerson
Past Commodore - Timothy Ehrlich
After the board accepted the slate, Naomi Emmerson announced that she would be running opposed to Jason Kipp as Commodore. When there are two candidates for president this is the normal process. Jim selects the candidate for the nominated list, then anyone who would like to run opposed would announce their candidacy. The next step is that each person will present themselves at the meeting in October and we will need to have a Quorum and a vote for the Commodore. We will have two votes if there are no further changes. The first vote will be for Commodore, then the second vote will be to accept the rest of the board as presented to the members. Should Naomi receive the winning vote we will have an open position for Cruising Captain.
It is very important that members do their best to attend the meeting this October, either in person or by proxy. Currently, the club has no provisions for a digital proxy. That is being proposed at the next board meeting and will also likely be voted upon at the October meeting.
It has been a great pleasure serving the Nevada Yacht Club over the past two years. If my personal circumstances were different I would continue on indefinitely, but the wind has changed and I must adjust my sails. When our trip is over Kari and I will be returning to California, I still have business interests in Vegas and will return often and hope to see many of you frequently.
Nevada Yacht Club
The Meeting will be Thursday, Nov. 1st 2018 at The Boulevard Bar & Grill 9860 S Las Vegas Blvd,
Las Vegas, NV 89183 come at 6pm for dinner or just come for the meeting and club business at 7pm. YOU MUST BE PRESENT TO VOTE. Or you may send a proxy voter in your place with advance notice to email@example.com
Report from Olivia & Erik
Family Tides - Chrysler 22
This is quoted with permission from their facebook post in the NYC Group page.
What a day! Erik and I did a “24 hour” sailing race!
Started off a bit rough, being completely new to sail racing, didn’t know where the starting line was (oops, go back around!) and then blew a fuse during the very first radio check. Erik fixed it on the fly getting all out electronics back, including the charger for the iPad containing all our charts. 5 boats total, we brought up the back of the pack through the whole day. Everyone else’s butts looked great sailing out over the horizon 😂
This was one of the most fun challenging sailing days we’ve ever had! Heavy winds, to light winds through the narrows, back to heavy, gusty, and lumpy water. I rounded up once with a heavy gust I wasn’t prepared for during a gybe. More sail changes than I care to remember and we could have easily done more! (Can I have a furler for my bday pleeeease!)
The leg from surprise reef, heading south out of Overton Arm was the best sailing we’ve ever done in the Chrysler. The gusts quit and we had a consistent wind while close hauling and watching the sunset and moon rise. Then in the space of an hour the wind died completely, then got gnarly, then died again 🤔 Lake Mead can be an asshole. Went from the genoa to heaving to with a storm sail and reefed main and then back to the genoa! Around the same time we heard that Ghost, the leader in the race had run aground and needed to be pulled off a sandbar. We hope the boat came away from that unscathed!
Around 1:30am, and still with the whole narrows in front of us and no wind, we turned on the motor and got moving home. Motor-sailed the whole way home and passed Boulder Island at about 5:05am.
To everyone involved, thank you sooo much!! This was an amazing experience and it was so incredible to be a part of it. Clay and the Race Committee were there lending support the whole way. We learned a metric shit ton and can’t wait to put that new knowledge to use. Thank you again everyone!
Slip to slip stats:
76.5 nautical miles covered
20 hours 47 min elapsed time
Max sailing speed 6.5 kts
2 fist sized bruises acquired
Report from Rand & Sheree Wilson
Little Rascal (Catalina 27)
This is quoted with permission from their facebook post in the NYC Group page.
Little Rascal had a great time on the Ron Darling race, it was a tad bit grueling, but we finished at 3:40 a.m., exhausted! This was one of the tougher RD’s we’ve been on. The water was very choppy, the winds were high but not steady, and it felt like forever trying to get out of Echo Bay and into the Narrows on the way home.
We had a good turnout, 5 boats, and great start ...first over the line, with Ghost right behind us and passing us before we got to the first buoy. Randdid an amazing job going through the Narrows at night, and for me the tacking was intense, but we made a lot of ground on Ghost who was ~1/2 hour ahead. We came out of the Narrows just behind ghost by seven minutes rounding the Callville buoy. Our only events on Little Rascal were losing our whisker pole overboard, doing a quick man overboard drill and saving the pole! (It was brand new) Less than a 3 minute event... I had a big gust at one point and rounded up losing my hat 🧢... (on that one it was blowing way too hard to even think about saving it, plus we were racing and it was a freebie). Once we finally made it into the Narrows Rand kicked ass and we jammed! Once through the Narrows, Ghost rounded the Callville buoy, we rounded just after and took a left turn, Ghost took the coastal route and ran aground on a sand bar... after just about two hours, Race Committee Clay Ostrom, was able to assist and pull them off of the sandbar. Yay!!!! Also, thank you to Steve on Winsornaut for checking in with his expert advice!
As it happens once we were able to get back in the race the wind had died! We got back in the race at 12:54 and finished at 3:40, delirious and begging for wind. This race is always an experience and usually our favorite, this year it was a little too grueling... special mentions... We were the only veteran RD sailors, the other four boats were sailors new to our lake, new to the club, and at least one was new to sailing! I am pretty sure 3 of the 4 boats are new to Lake Mead! To take on this race, and this year ESPECIALLY this one, hats off to all who attended! 19 hours & 83 miles on the water!
Slip to slip stats-
83.6 nautical miles covered
18 hours 54 min elapsed time
Max sailing speed 5.7 kts
2 fist sized bruises acquired
Report from a collaboration from Helmswoman, Maraya's Garmin summary and Trimmer, Naomi's experiential account.
Sovorel 33 GHOST - Skipper Roger Morse
We were late to the start line, but soon overtook Little rascal reaching close to 8 knots on! Winds eased in Boulder Canyon and we shook out the reef and installed the 150. We sailed in Virgin Basin and a windline was clear! We quickly installed the 100 until the chop and gusts got uncomfortable so we reefed the Main again. Winds speeds averaged about 24 knots in Virgin Basin and Overton Arm with peak gusts about 35 knots. But it was consistently from the SE and SSE so we were either screeming along on a broad reach or close reach. In heading for the marker in Overton Arm we clocked over 10 knots hull speed as we were riding the waves and on a broad reach.
The track above is only the first two thirds of the course before the battery gave out. Our track was remarkably different from Family Tides' due to a veering of the wind!
The little "glitch" in the Temple Basin exit was due to having to deal with an headsail's baton caught on the upper forestay which required us to take it down, untwist it and hoist it back up again all in 30 knot gusts! We lost a checkstay early on, so had to keep a close eye on backstay tension and mast pumping. At sunset, around 1900hrs, winds near the entrance of The Narrows from Virgin Basin blackened and became very switchy (must have been that shift that helped Family Tides beam reach it out of the Arm!). Estimated 30 tacks through The Narrows and another 50+ tacks (under the light of the full moon) to get through Boulder Canyon to the other side (Boulder Basin). One gust took us almost clear around 360 degrees before changing back! It's an ominous experience seeing those glowing moonlit cliffs and trying to judge how close they are and decide whether to tack earlier than later just in case the wind decides to shift or die before you hit!
After clearing the last Callville mark at 2245hrs, still ahead of the rest of the fleet, we waited too long to tack and ran aground on a sandbar (N 36 09.079 W 114 33.003). This sandbar is not on the NOAA chart date 13th Ed, only RK (rock). In fact that land mass under the word Callville on the google satellite is 5 feet under the water surface on our chart! Whoops! Little Rascal's nav lights were visible exiting the Canyon, (how did they catch up to us so fast?!!) After unsuccessfully connecting via VHF with the Race Committee boat (Clay), LR stuck around and kept watch (check out her track below!). With audio help from ashore (Steve with Winsornaut) we attempted everything to get her free but she was dug in deep! Race Committee arrived on the scene around 1245hr. The solution in the end was a tether on Ghost's stern and a lot of juice from Committee!
N 36 09.079 W 114 33.003
GIVE THIS AREA LOTS OF ROOM!! (H for Hazard, RK for Rocks)
When we were floating again, Clay escorted us to deeper waters and with our engines now running (no longer in the race) we motored home arriving in our slip, bruised both in body and spirit at around 0235hrs. It was both challenging physically and mentally, but would not have changed a thing in regards to wind force, direction and air temperature. Just perfect for such a unique, one-of-a-kind lake race which, when all is said and done, after tacks and zig zags, is closer to 100 miles than 77!
Slip to slip stats:
70.07 plus sailing miles covered (garmin stopped)
14:30 hours (approx) elapsed time sailing (slipped at 0235hrs)
Av speed 5.9 kts
Max sailing speed 10.86 kts
1 fist sized bruise and multiple grape sizes all over
Lil' Bit - Santana 22 Frank and Anthony
Report by Frank via text message - Yes, we did finished! it was a lot of fun and learned much. Lil' Bit was amazing. We did about eight sail changes, and She faced all the conditions like a champ. Skipper and crew are starting to get her figured out but there's a long way to go (especially with flying the shoot). We broached pretty hard a couple of times and broke the spin pole, we would have been better off not flying the shoot but I insisted. It was fun while it lasted. Also, we tore the main but got it repaired without much delay. Sorry no pictures, my phone died early on and crew didn't want to play photographer. We finished under sail at 0348hrs. We ran the motor briefly at the end of narrows to get away from the rocks when the wind stopped. We heard the radio comms as ghost was getting unstuck. Had nice light wind sail the entire Boulder basin to the finish. Lil' Bit kept us busy most of the time, especially the return through the Narrows. That was the most challenging part of the race. Thanks for a great event, especially thank you to Clay for watching over us and running the race.
Relative Wind - Catalina 27
Report via text from Skipper Keith with Crew Anthony - We tried to enter the Narrows at night four times but poor Dennis was so tired I had to trim the jib and main sail myself so we had to start the motor. We sailed again at the other side albeit at 0.9 Knots! We moored at the Marina at 0550hrs under the power of the jib as we had no power to start the engine.
by Leslie Godfrey
This story takes us back to Spring, circa 2009. Beginning sailors, Andrew and I were still learning the art of sailing our 1976 O’Day 27, Windchime II in good conditions, let alone on blustery days. We had recently been caught in an unpredicted blow while cruising The Narrows of Lake Mead, Nevada. Unable to get the boat under control by sail, we turned on the motor and headed back in.
The best way I know to recover from a fall is to get back on the horse. My family came to visit not long thereafter and my Dad and sister suggested we head out to Lake Mead for a sail. "Sure, let's do it!" I say, forgetting our uncomfortable experience just a few weeks prior. We pack our trusty wheelie-cooler full of cocktails, then head out to the lake.
The wind is great. We are sailing in an easy fifteen knots, and we're all having fun dipping Winnie's rail in the water. Then, the weather pipes up, again. Downwind from the marina, we decide we should turn back. Rounding up into the wind to turn around, we find the wind too strong for both the main and the jib. Intimidated by the idea of reefing the main underway, we decide to take down the jib and try to sail under main alone.
During the process of dropping our foresail, there is much flapping and splashing. I'm on the helm. Andrew goes to the bow to yank the thing down. My sister is down below, too cold to stay on deck, and my Dad is ... let's just say he's judging.
Pretty soon we have things under control on a port tack, but we are running out of "sea room.” We need to change tacks to avoid the islands. "Ready about!" I call. I remind my Dad to keep his head down. There isn't much for Andrew to do because the main will tack on its own.
"Coming about!" I push the tiller across the cockpit and Windchime rounds up into the wind.
"Uuugghh!" I swear I can hear her grunt with effort. Then, her bow catches a gust and falls away unable to make the tack. I give Andrew the side-eye, trying to silently communicate: "That didn't work," without my Dad noticing. Andrew shrugs. My Dad isn't a sailor, but he isn't stupid either. It's pretty obvious we are still sailing toward the island that is in our way.
I wait, letting Windchime gain some speed and momentum again. I fall off the wind to give her more oomph, then say "One more time." I heave the tiller over hard, hoping to swing her through the wind faster this time. "Uuh..uhhh....uuuuggghhh." Rejected again. Windchime just can't get through the wind. I reach down and turn on the engine and smile. "No matter, we'll just give her a little extra oomph with the motor." We fall off, gain speed, attempt the tack again, and I give her some forward just as she comes through the wind.
As expected, the mainsail fills with wind from the other side, Windchime levels and then tips over to her other hip, and we start sailing the direction we want to go. I leave the engine in neutral until the next tack, then use the engine to cheat again. "See, Dad? It's all under control!" I don't say this, but I leave it hanging in the air. Fake it until you make it, people.
While Andrew boldly declared our mutual intention to go to sea a while ago, my Dad seemed to be ignoring him, assuming these to be the insane ramblings of youth. I suspect it was only the combination of my nerves of steel, big smile, and the fact that he never thought we would really go anywhere at sea that saved the Oddgodfreys from a Paternal Safety-At-Sea Intervention. Dad is pictured here on board for a much less blustery day on Lake Mead.
Two days later, we stand in our driveway waving as my parents and little sister drive away. As soon as they are out of earshot, I turn to Andrew and say, "Let's go back out to the sailboat." We hop in the car. "I have an idea." I say, as though this is the most brilliant plan ever hatched. I pause for effect. "Why aren't we reefing the mainsail and keeping the jib up? She needs power on her bow to get her around the tacks."
Back out at Lake Mead the wind is still up. We get Windchime successfully out of her slip and into open water. We put up the mainsail, stopping when it is only half way up. We tie down the series of little ropes called "reef points" used to tie the extra fluff of the sail together and keep it from catching wind. It makes the mainsail smaller, and therefore, less powerful. Now, we put up the little forward sail - the jib. I turn off the engine and sit in the cockpit with the tiller in my hands. Windchime builds speed: 5, 6, 7 knots. "Whhheeeeww!" I cheer, feeling pretty good. Winnie dips her rail in the water and flies. I'm feeling like a genius, until a gust of wind slams across the lake and into our sails. Windchime heels over harder, I pull the tiller harder, but she doesn't respond because she is tipped so far on her side that her rudder is no longer making purchase.
My stomach turns to a boulder, and my heart leaps to my throat. "Whoa, whoa!" Andrew says.
"Release the jib! Release the jib!" I say, asking Andrew to let out his sail. I grab the mainsail sheet. I yank it out of the cleat and let the wind take it out of my hand.
"zzzzzziiyyiiyyyippp!" The mainsail widens its stance on Winnie's deck, the sheet comes loose, Andrew releases his sail, and Windchime bobs upright. We lose all our speed, but now I don't feel like we are going to flip upside down. Andrew and I look at each other, and I grumble. Then, I really do hear Windchime. "It's okay. Let's try again."
"Windchime?" I ask.
"Yeah! Let's try again." She says. Her voice is soft and playful, but she's not mocking.
"Okay," I think. "If you're game..." She answers my thoughts, "I'm fine. All you have to do is balance my sails. You almost have it."
"Yeah, but the wind gusts!" I think.
"Right, I know. What if you keep the main sheet in your hand and just let it out a little bit when you feel a wind gust coming? I swear, it will work."
I tell Andrew Windchime says we should try again. He starts cranking in the jib to trim for speed. I tug the mainsail back into place and Windchime rocks onto her hip again. With just the right sail trim, the tiller is easy to hold. There is no yanking from the rudder one way or the other. I can almost let go and let Windchime sail herself. Balance.
But then, I can see it. A gust of wind is ripping across the lake, ruffling the water into a series of white capped ridges. "Puff coming!" Andrew says, getting ready to take the jib off. "No!" I say, "Leave it. I'll let off the main." Andrew seems uncertain, but he can always throw his line off if we are feeling too tipsy again. As the gust approaches, I click the mainsail sheet out of its cleat and hold tension. The gust hits us and Windchime starts to lean.
"There, now, let out just a liiittttllee bit..." Windchime whispers in my ear as I let a few inches of line slide across my gloved palm. I pull the tiller toward me, gently. Windchime stays balanced. The gust goes past us, and she rolls off her hip to sit like a duck in the water. We lose speed. "Now, tighten back in." She says. I pull the mainsail back in the few inches I released. We resume speed and tip toward her comfortable heel. "Great! See? Now, next time as the puff leaves, draw my mainsail back in. Don't wait until we slow down and go flat," Windchime tells me.
“That makes sense, I think. I can't wait for the next gust to try it again. We sail and sail, building up speed. 5, 6, 7… Andrew has his handheld GPS out and now he's counting off our speed. Another gust comes. "Let's see if we can break 8!" I exclaim. Windchime and I work together. As the puff hits, I let a little mainsail off and we fly! Comfortably. We don't feel like we are tipping over. We don't get waves washing over her deck. She remains balanced right on that edge where the water rushes just below her toe rail, with white foam and clear gurgles.
"EIGHT POINT TWO!" Andrew calls out.
"WHOOOHOOOOO!" Windchime and I cheer in unison. The puff stays with us for a few seconds and then starts to pressure off. I pull the main sail back in and Windchime stays on her edge, keeps her speed. It's like she and I are dancing together.
I'll let her take the lead.
Leslie Godfrey and her husband Andrew, residents of Henderson, Nevada, learned to sail on Lake Mead on their 1976 O’Day 27, Windchime II. They are now sailing the waters of Indonesia, 15,000 miles and two years into their first bid to circumnavigate in their Valiant 40, Sonrisa. Follow their journey at www.oddgodfrey.com and join us at the Whitney Library on April 9, 2018 for a presentation and Q&A regarding their experiences at sea.
Look at all those cliffs! Look at all those rocks! Look how deep it is! These were some of the thoughts going through my head as I contemplated heading out for the first time to find somewhere on Lake Mead to overnight - to “boat-camp”! I asked around. I heard Secret Cove, Middle Point, Castle Cove. They all sounded very exotic and good candidates, but they certainly did not show up on the very rudimentary, dated map that was on the boat my husband and I were now members.
I love maps! I discovered this trait early on when I was 9 years old sailing with my family on Lake Champlain in New York State. I can read and study a map longer and with more interest and enjoyment than I can reading a book. So, the first order of business was to get an updated chart of Lake Mead, which I happily found online from American Nautical Services
But we were impatient and wanted to start exploring before the map would be delivered, so, I thought I would keep prying the natives for specifics. “So where are these coves, anyway. They’re not on this map?” I would ask showing them the basic red and blue fishing map provided by Park Services. “Oh, you don’t need a map!” the veteran Meaders quipped. “It’s just over there, next to that hill.” You mean the hill that looks like ALL THE OTHER HILLS? I was on my own.
The weather was warming, and before it got too hot, we wanted our night beneath the stars! Find a cove, anchor up? How hard could it be? We had been told that most boaters just “beach” and raft up with their anchors on shore! I told my husband, “I guess, we’ll just know what to do, when we see it.” So, we packed up the cooler, some water, the hammock and some steaks and headed in the general direction of The Narrows (which I later found out is the name of just one portion of Boulder Canyon), completely “guessing” where the opening was. Binoculars and following where other boaters are appearing and disappearing are the key!
Entrance to Boulder Canyon (Boulder Basin side) 36deg 7' 42" N 114deg 39' 34" W
The stark beauty of the rocks as they towered and narrowed above us was gloriously – colors and shadows shifting as the sun sunk lower in the sky. We started to get anxious as darkness approached and there was no obvious way to “moor up” or anchor. Do we set up fenders and attach ourselves to the cliffs? What?! That can’t be right. We pressed on. What about that cove? Way too narrow. Let's try that one! No, better not...who knows if there’s a beach at the end of it. Plus, this wasn’t our boat. I did not feel comfortable beaching someone else’s boat without them being there to show me how to do it.
We got through the Narrows and I peeked desperately into yet another cove. This time I spied a faint white "something" poking out of the water. Is that a no wake marker? Why would there be one of those in there, if not for boats travelling in and out of the cove. I got out the binoculars and sure enough, I could see some kind of structure floating deep in the cove. A raft?
We cautiously headed in and discovered our very first boat pumpout station! "What the heck is that?" I exclaimed. It's a Park serviced dock with toilet facilities and a sink for cleaning out fish. It was peacefully floating and rotating in the shadows, inviting us to spend a perfect night on water so calm, the peaks were upside down.
That night would be our first night attaching our lines to what we now call "a poop dock"! We re-visited Boulder Wash Cove two more times that year (we discovered the name when I finally received my Map!). We also discovered two other docks last year: Hideaway Cove and Rufus Cove. The Lake Meaders laugh at us for docking on these, but we like the convenience and safety of these docks. They swing with the wind, which can come up quite violently and unexpectedly during the night, and the off board head is pretty convenient, especially in the morning!
Boulder Wash Cove 36deg 09' 52.7" N 114 deg 33' 00" W