Wingssail Home Wingssail Images LogBookPages Map of our travels Index Email Fred & Judy

Friday, October 24, 2008

October 25, 2008-Sail Testing

wingssail image-fredrick roswold
Nice Anchorage, Koh Nakha Yai


Wings lies quietly at anchor off Koh Nakha Yai and Gregorian chants are on the stereo.

The monk’s voices echo though our interior and it takes me back to ‘99 when these chants echoed through Bruno Trouble’s cathedral-like media center in Auckland in the mornings. Good times then when I was there to photograph the America’s Cup and good times now when we are out on Wings for a weekend of sail testing. It’s different but it still gives me a religious feeling.

It is a cool morning; surprising for Phuket. Judy sleeps. Coffee brews. Foulies and shirts swing gently on hangers drying outside under the awning after yesterday’s wet day of sailing. Life is good.

We sailed out of Yacht Haven and down into Phang Nga Bay on Friday and when the breeze filled a little we set the #1 asymmetrical spinnaker. The big new white kite looked good and we threw in a few jibes trying to get that manoeuvre, new to us after years of jibing only symmetrical kites, reliably right. We missed a few but we gradually improved. Then, with the prospect of more breeze, we dropped the spinnker and set the #3. The wind quickly reached 17 knots and it was just what we needed to give that sail a good look. We experimented with positions and leads and I marked the halyard and jib cars and checked out the tacking angles. The sail will be fine.

Then the rain came.

It caught us aback so to speak, in bathing suits and shorts and the big cold drops drenched and chilled us. I grabbed my foul weather gear coat and took the helm so Judy could dash below and get some dry clothes on. We turned downwind, away from the reefs and islands lost in the white squall. We huddled under the dodger.

When it cleared off we turned back upwind and sailed to Koh Nakha Yai looking for a quiet place to drop the hook. The rain stopped and the afternoon turned out nice and we anchored off a white sand beach.

We decided that we’d stay for the night and if the rain stayed away for another day maybe we’ll try out the third new sail on the way to the next anchorage.

That night the rain came back but we didn’t care and we cooked chicken and veggie skewers on the BBQ in the rain and drank a bottle of red wine.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Phuket

Click here to go to wingssail images to see some other shots and some more of this story.

Labels: ,

October 25, 2008-A Day Spent Sailing Hard

“How much wind will that sail take?” A voice from the back of the boat.

The man on the foredeck hears the worry in her voice and he’s irritated. They are sailing downwind on a full main and he’s just about got the kite hooked up. What she’s really asking is, “Do they really have to put this up now?” She is alone at the back, steering, handling the mainsheet and she doesn’t like the looks of the sky. He doesn’t need her to try to talk him out of it now.

“How much wind do they have?”

“Fourteen point five.”

“I won’t put it up in over twenty and I’ll take it down at 25.” Some bravado in that answer but mostly in-your-face refusal to give in to the reality he doesn’t want to admit. But it’s a matter of long standing policy on the boat anyhow, since the 80’s. Hoist if it’s below 20 and take it down if it goes over 25; standard policy.

Anyhow, he’s not giving any slack and she knows it and she doesn’t say anything else but he knows she’d welcome a change in the decision; they don’t have to do this, it’s grey and windy and more wind coming, maybe rain, and the sky is dark and low and there are the rocks of a lonely shore ahead. But he wants to look at this sail. They set out to do this. He doesn’t give in easily.

He judges: We’re OK, we can do it, the wind is not too strong and we have the time.

They hoist. In fifteen knots of wind the kite goes up and fills with a crack of crisp nylon. They trim the sheet and guy and the boat is steady, surging. The woman steers. The man grabs the Nikon and has only time for a couple of shots.

“We’re getting there fast” she says.

He looks ahead; it’s true. He makes a quick mental assessment: Too little time to get set up to do the jibe, no time to get ready for it. Can't do it slow and easy. When the lee shore is coming up fast you can’t relax. Then there is the #3: It’s got to go up next and it is on deck but on the wrong side and not rigged. He decides against the jibe; no need to push into a disaster.

“We’ll drop now and then jibe around under main.”

“How do we do it?” She knows but wants some reassurance. She is still tense.

The wind is twenty.

“Steer down some, let the guy go forward, you give me halyard when I can take it, and I’ll pull the sail down behind the main”; standard procedure if you’re not going around a mark, which they are not.

The sail comes down without problem and he crams it into the forward hatch but wind blowing through the cabin blows the sail back up in his face. He throws the bag on it and that holds it down long enough to slam the hatch.

Now they jibe the main; it bangs over. The wind is strong.

But then they sail into the wind shadow of Koh Sup and the wind stops. The tall rocky island which they picked as a mark for the day’s sail blocks the wind entirely.

The boat is coasting, mainsail slack.

He shoots a couple more shots with the Nikon, then they come out on port tack and the wind hits them hard again; the waves are big. They’re heeled well over with just the main. He decides to reef. No argument from her but there is no reef line on the sail. He’ll climb up and run it through the first reef cringle.

“Only with your harness on!” her tone indicates she’ll brook no discussion, and he knows she is right.

She heads below “I'll get it!” He waits.

She comes up with two harnesses and they both hook up. He climbs up on the boom and runs the reef line, then jumps down. It's a risky move, but he lands OK.

With the reef line led they work together to reef the main, as they have so many times before, and it goes smoothly, quickly.

Now the man decides that he doesn’t want the #3 headsail. It’s too big, and if they have a problem they could damage the new sail. He calls for the #4.

The woman notices something else: “The hydraulics have blown!” He looks at pool of red in the aft cockpit which tells the whole story. There is a serious leak, one which has been there before but they have not been able to find it. Some is running down into the main cockpit, spreading.

“Keep your feet out of it.” He yells, and he drops the pressure then ducks below to get a roll of paper towels and some tools. He mops up the oil and checks the fittings where the oil is coming from but can’t tell for sure in the moving boat, having to duck his head as she steers and the tiller swings over his left ear and there’s water flying around, but he think it is the vang, not the backstay, so they can still use the backstay, they can still put the pressure on the backstay they need to go upwind. He makes some adjustments and tells her, “I think it’s Ok, I’m going forward to put up the #4”.

“Will the hydraulics hold?”

“I think they will. Can you come up on the foredeck and help me get the #4 up through the hatch.”

“OK.” She engages the autohelm and he ducks down below again.

From below he pushes the heavy sail up the hatch and she is there on the foredeck above his head and she pulls the sailbag on deck. Then he runs aft and up the ladder onto the deck and he goes forward to hook up the smaller sail. She is steering again.

Immediately he gets drenched by several waves which sweep over the foredeck. But the sail is rigged and they hoist. The boat settles down with two sails driving it forward. The speed goes up. They trim in. They look around to see where they are; they need to tack.

But he decides he wants the #3 down below, off the deck. He tells her this and she agrees and he starts to push it down the hatch; water pours out of the bag into the boat as the end of the bag enters the hatch.

“Can you go down and move the spinnaker out of the way to keep it from getting soaked?”


He waits on deck until she finishes, and then he dumps the wet sail below.

A glance at the shoreline off to leeward.

“Let’s tack!”

The woman gets back on the helm and says “Ready about!” It is the command, not the question.


She puts the helm down and he works the sheets, the runners, anything else that needs it. The tack is sloppy; the bow stays into the wind too long. He yells, “Hey, don’t go back!”

“Sorry, I tripped.”

The man looks back and sees she is trying to regain her footing while steering the boat back onto the course. She succeeds and the sails fill.

Now they are on starboard tack and working to weather. They start to think about the course ahead; ten miles upwind to the next anchorage. They discuss options. Stop back at Nakha Island or carry on to Laem Khat, or go the small island where they have been before?

They decide to carry on but leave the final decision between Laem Khat or the island open; they can decide later.

The boat is moving well upwind. They begin to enjoy the sail. Up till now it’s been a lot of work but now they can just sail easily. They drink water. They tack a few more times, he steering between tacks but trading jobs with her on the tacks so he can work the jib sheets while she steers. The tacks are better.

The tension of the morning slips away, now it’s just an easy slog to weather.

At 17:00 they enter the protected area behind Laem Khat. It is calm. They haven’t been there before but it looks good. They drop the anchor and they are tired. It’s been a long day of hard sailing. They sit down and have a cold beer. They feel their muscles aching. They wait for a while but they have to get moving again to fold the sails and clean up below; all part of a hard day’s sailing.

That night as they have their meal they wonder if they can work this hard any more; are they getting too old?

But, they will cross that bridge when they come to it.

Labels: ,

Saturday, October 11, 2008

October 9, 2008-Bangkok not Dangerous

Bangkok Street Scene

Bangkok not Dangerous?

Been a lot in the news about the protests in Bangkok and there’s been some violence. People have been hurt; and even some deaths have occurred. The news coverage has been graphic and in fact it has touched me in a way that few other news stories have. I’m watching the TV:

There is a protestor on her knees praying in the street. Then I see she is not praying. The protestor is kneeling motionless on the pavement and bent over with her forehead on her knees but she is not praying; there is blood. For all I can see she might be dying in this strange position of prayer or already dead. I think she is alive, but she is not moving or screaming or crying out or even turning her head to look for help and I sense she is facing her pain and shock completely alone and dealing with it inwardly, fighting by herself to reconcile this disaster which has occurred to her body as in the end we all must. At this moment the world outside of her pain does not exist.

The jumpy video is shot as a camera man runs up to her with the aid workers and the camera closes in to show her as it comes up from behind and it catches a bit of her bare back and white panties above the waistline of her jeans and this is disturbingly intimate.

The aid workers reach her and roll her onto a stretcher and you see some more blood and she still isn’t moving and she is rolled away, long black wavy hair and one arm draped over the side of the gurney.

The whole thing takes less than 10 seconds but the image stays with me.

But most of Bangkok goes on without the least acknowledgement that people are dying nearby. The Parliament Building where this has happened is not far from our apartment. I can see the area from my office building but I can’t see anything happening. Traffic is normal on the streets, trains are on time, stores are open, people go about their business. We get notices at work to stay away from that area of town but there is not even much discussion in the office. Strange.

And during the last two weeks there has also been a big festival going on in Thailand. The Buddhist Vegetarian Festival is famous for vegetarian diets and bizarre body piercing rituals. Some cruisers ventured out into Phuket Town to see young Thai men poke sticks through their cheeks. Judy and I stayed away.

But we did encounter the festival on the last night quite by accident: coming home from Thai lesson we find Sathorn Road blocked by pedestrians, food stalls, Buddhists alters, and people are every where, sitting on the street. There is incense burning and bright lights and smoke drifts upward. Strange music comes from somewhere and our cab is blocked. We exit the taxi and walk through the crowd. It is 11:00PM but people are arriving by foot from every direction and there is a buzz. I shoot some shots with my phone and we make our way home and from our apartment we can hear the music and crowd far into the night. By morning however it is all dispersed and the streets are completely clean.

I wonder how many of the festival goers are thinking about the protestors over by parliament house.

Fred & Judy, Bangkok

I don't have the video of the injured girl from the protest but click here to see the video of the Festival

Labels: ,

Thursday, October 09, 2008

October 5, 2008-Survey Trip

Launching the Avon

I’m not the first Roswold ready to survey a harbor himself if the charts are lacking. Grandpa Alfred drew mud maps of Anchorage, Juneau, and Sitka before the war when, as an Alaska Steamship pilot, he had to take vessels into those ports and the charts just plain lacked sufficient detail to pilot a ship safely in. I found his carefully drawn charts, in smudged pencil on plain vellum, folded into his Useful Tables book which my father passed down to me many years ago along with Grandpa’s 1899 German-made sextant. That was the first tangible evidence I had to the kind of sea captain he was. Looking at those charts I could visualize him on the bridge of his vessel with basic equipment such as compass and rangefinders taking sights and getting soundings from the deck, and with this information, back in the pilot house, he could draw his basic charts.

Our own first survey was Denerau in the Fiji Islands when we picked our way in with Wings in 2000. The new port wasn’t on any available chart so we drew our own chart and later passed out printed versions to other cruisers who wanted to go there.

In San Fernando in the Philippines in 2006, with our dingy, we surveyed a tortuous route through the reef system to deep water only to find when we tried to take Wings to sea following that route that a second reef system farther out still blocked our path. We had not surveyed a route for that second reef and we had no time to do it, so that survey expedition wasn’t fruitful, but we had fun doing it.

Today we took Wings’ dingy out onto the bay at Laem Phrau and with a plumb line checked depths all over the area in front of Yacht Haven. We knew there were sand bars and mud flats out there, and maybe even some deep water, but the charts didn’t seem to be that trustworthy. For one thing, according to the chart we were right on top of the sand bank at the mouth of the marina. So we conducted a basic survey, just like Alfred might have done 80 years ago.

You can see a video of this trip here.

But the survey was just an excuse. It was a nice day and we needed to get out on the water. In fact we could have had a great sail today if we’d gone sailing instead but Wings is in storage these days (since we leave it for two or three weeks at a time when we are in Bangkok at work). The sails are off, a full cover is on; everything is put away. When faced with all the work to get the boat ready for sailing and go out and then come back in and put it all away it just seemed like too much for us today. Still, a nice day, lots of sunshine; not to be wasted and if we couldn’t go sailing then a dingy trip to do some surveying seemed like a good second choice. An additional benefit is that we would get a chance to inspect and test the dingy and motor. They’ve also been in storage for 9 months.

Survey Results

The new chart is the result.

It was a nice day on the water, and we accomplished both goals of completing the survey and testing the dingy.

Click here to see the video.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Phuket


NEXT Page (More) , or... GO BACK to Previous Page