The Minimalist Sailor

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Sailing on a Harvest Moon


Tanker traffic in the Houston Ship Channel


This time of year, the weather can be hit or miss.  October is my favorite month in Texas, typically found with clear air, light wind, and cool temps.  This year wasn’t so typical.  For months, I prepared for the 2015 Harvest Moon Regatta, an offshore sailing race of over 150 nautical miles from Galveston to Port Aransas, TX.  While sailing amongst the “yachties” really isn’t my cup o’ tea, I cherish any bit of offshore experience I can get.

Back in March and April, I crewed two times on s/v Providence, my friend Julian’s Lancer 38 (see “My First Offshore Passage” and “How Did I get Here?“).  This year, Julian intended to enter the regatta, and he graciously asked if I would crew with him once more. I still consider myself a novice sailor, so I was honored to accept.  I bought my foul weather and safety gear required for the race, signed the waivers, and kept a keen eye on the weather.

A few days before the race, the hosting yacht club held a skippers’ meeting, to which Julian invited me to attend.  While the meeting itself was not all that informative – mostly just a rum drinking party for old folk that can’t shut up during a speech – I realized that I didn’t quite fit in with that crowd.  The Kemah area is bustling with shiny new Benneteau’s and Jenneau’s, Catalina’s and Hunter’s.  It’s a rich man’s port.  To each his own, I suppose.  Just not my style.

Anyway, the day before the race, I headed from down to Galveston, about an hour and half from my house.  I picked up our first crew from the airport on the way down.  If there’s one thing I’ve really come to appreciate about this whole sailing community, is that I’ve really come out of my shell.  I like to think that I have grown exponentially more outgoing, easily meeting and making friends with a common interest.  So the crew member and I headed down to Providence, chatting the entire way.  Upon our arrival, the skipper had a nice little list of things to be done before the race.

For a week up to this point, we had all been watching the weather very closely.  There was a “tropical low” blowing up from the Yucatan, and a converging high coming down from the northwest.  This would make for some really dicey weather for the race.  They were predicted winds up to 30kts and heavy seas. So as matter of course, the regatta committee cancelled the race with less than twenty-four hours left before the start.


Windy, Rainy, and Swell-y

While we were all quite let down, it turned out for the best.  After the disappointing news, I headed back up to the airport to retrieve our final crew member.  Aboard 
, we all had a long talk about what we were going to do.  We all wanted to do some sailing, but where to?  It was agreed that the next day, we would take a peek offshore to see what the seas looked like.  The forecast was calling for 6-8ft seas, so we figured it was manageable.

Upon clearing the jetties, we quickly found that 6-8ft seas was optimistic.  As the sun advanced overhead, and the wind increased from the east, so did the swell.  We made it about ten miles down Galveston Island, when a few of our crew began to take sick.  While I wanted to keep going, the skipper held a democratic vote to turn back.  On our way back, we saw some waves over twelve feet, and I swear one or two over fifteen.  On a forty-foot boat, looking up at an oncoming wave is somewhat unnerving, though I did not fear for our safety.

And we made our southwesterly turn back towards the bay, providing for a beautiful beam reach all the way in, escorted by a pod of dolphins.


The following day, one of our crew needed to catch a flight out of Houston, so we sailed up to Kemah to drop him off.  We docked up at a cool place, had a few beers and some lunch, and headed back to the island.  In stark contrast to the previous day, it was a nice easy going sail, with nothing more than a little bay chop and some tanker ships to contend with.

Though the trip didn’t turn out as planned, I still had an excellent time and learned much.

In the Lorilee project realm, I have only two things to report. This last weekend, I completed the slab reefing rigging by added a set of padeyes and bronze jam cleats for the luff reefing cringles.  For non-sailors, “reefing” is done when the total sail area needs to be reduced in the event of high winds, or just simply to stand up the boat in a heel.  On Lorilee, this is accomplished by tightening two lines that run through reefing holes or “cringles” at the leech (back) of the mainsail, and tightening two lines running through cringles at the luff (front) of the sail.   Once this is accomplished, the mainsail can be trimmed down to a fraction of its full size, thus reducing surface area.


Luff reefing line padeyes


reefing line jam cleats















Vang attachment

Vang attachment


And I also added a boom bail to the mast tabernacle as a connection point for a future boom vang. A boom vang is a block and tackle (or on some boats, a rigid hydraulic pole) that is tightened to exert downward force on the boom.  This helps take some of the “twist” out of the mainsail, providing for a more desired trim, especially when the wind is abaft of the beam.

I’m really thinking about adding a stern arch on Lorilee. I need to resolve the issue of sheeting the main, and I’d like to add some railing in the process.  The arch would give me more “real estate for solar” as Alex put it, however much I dislike stainless.  Anyway, perhaps that’ll be a new toy for Christmas.


Until next time,

– Ryan





Published in Ryan Bradfield
Updated: November 4, 2015 — 12:43

1 Comment

  1. You can laminate an arch out of wood. Alternating layers of differently colored wood would look very nice, and some pieces of bronze could be added for reinforcement.

    Of course, nothing beats stainless for forget-about-it reliability…

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