Sunday, February 12, 2017

Fixing a leaking Prijon Kayak Day Hatch

S and I have Prijon Marlin HTP blow-moulded sea kayaks. They are comfortable, well-finished kayaks, and all-round pretty good plastic boats. They have a convenient day hatch right in front of the cockpit: a 17cm diameter quick screw lid opens to a neoprene sock that hangs under the deck between the paddler’s legs. Super handy for stuff you want quick and easy access to, for example: snacks, emergency communication equipment, spray jacket/cagoule.
Day hatch in front of cockpit.
A year or two after we bought our Prijons, the day hatches started to occasionally leak. The hatch cover seals with a large O-ring, so we were frequently cleaning and lubing our O-rings hoping to stop the leaking. Over time it got worse and worse, until one day after a very calm paddle we returned to find our neoprene socks with large puddles of water in them. The only source of the water was the drips from our paddles.

Ridiculous. It was time to fix this. Dr. Google was no help at all. But I remembered Old Man Snoady (“The Wisdom” I call him when he is out of earshot - I wouldn’t want to overly inflate his ego) suggesting that maybe the water was getting in under the plastic fitting that holds the threads for the cover, and not, as I had assumed, under the cover and past the O-ring. I have long got used to OMS always being right, so after completely drying the hatch, I got out the hose and gave it a good solid spray. The results were unambiguous: nothing was getting past the O-ring, but water was clearly seeping in under the threaded “fitting”.

I pulled off the hatch cover and the bolted-on fitting with the threads. The top of the neoprene sock was well bonded to deck, but there was no gasket or sealing between the neoprene and the hatch cover fitting. Over time the neoprene had compressed under the pressure from the cover fitting, so that water could easily make egress into the neoprene sock, maybe even getting wicked in.

Day hatch with the cover and threaded fitting removed.
Out came the Sikaflex. I applied a liberal amount of Sikaflex where the threaded fitting bolts to the deck, gently tightened up the bolts, and let it cure for 24 hours. Then I fully tightened the bolts, re-attached the hatch cover and went Eskimo rolling. No leakage for the first time in years!
Finished repair. I should of used black.

A month and many paddles later, my hatch has not leaked once. Fantastic.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Bawley Point to Maloney’s

Shearwaters, whales, wind, and sausages.


wx: partly cloudy, warm, light winds => periods of rain => cloudy, 15+ knot northerly, easing.

Wildey had originally advertised this as a weekend trip, hopefully to the Tathra area. In response to not-so-stellar marine forecast, it was later downgraded to an overnight trip in the Batemans Bay area, but with a forecast for strong winds and rain on Sunday, it eventually went as a Bawley Point to Maloney’s day trip. Sandy was showing uncommon sense and skipped the paddle due to tendinitis in her elbow, so it was just 7 sausages: the usual suspects (John, Mike, Mark, Peter, me) plus Roy Harvey and Guy Reeve from Canberra.
It all started innocently enough (credit: Guy Reeve)
After meeting at Maloney’s at 9:00 (these guys would be terrible alpinists) to leave some vehicles, it was 10:15 before we hit the water. It was partly cloudy, but lovely and warm as we set off. The low southerly swell and light winds made for mellow paddling (if paddling like a madman trying to keep up to these seniors can ever be mellow). Almost immediately whales were spotted offshore which spread the group out, but we regrouped again after passing through the narrows west of Brush Island – navigating through said passage required a bit of care as the bigger sets were breaking most of the way across.

It was a fairly agreeable but uneventful paddle to our lunch stop at Snake Bay – except for the unwelcome rain that had set in making everyone cold as rain gear had seemed superfluous when we launched. The landing at Snake Bay was a piece of cake, and just in time for me, as my Raynaud’s had kicked in big time and I couldn’t feel my hands. Interestingly, during the May – Oct time period I have seen the beach at Snake Bay go from 100% pebbles to 80% sand and then back to 80% pebbles.
Lunch stop (credit: Guy Reeve)
Fortuitously, the rain stopped for our lunch, and everyone was able to warm up. I put on all my clothes, and whilst eating my lunch alternated between drinking my tea and soaking my fingers in it. Near the end of lunch, Wildey was complaining about the absence of the forecast north wind; I, of course, was quietly rejoicing that I had got this far without any near death experiences, and wouldn’t mind one bit if it continued that way for the rest of the day. Then Killer observed that the clouds above us were starting to move, and soon after that the first whitecaps were seen.

We launched off the beach, and by the time we were out from the shelter of Clear Point, the seas were whipped up into a confronting frenzy – how could a calm sea become so messy so quickly? It must have been blowing a gale offshore because the 15-20 knots winds we experienced were insufficient to explain the very steep 2m breaking wind waves that had apparently materialized out of nowhere. I rafted up to Peter and reefed my sail down to its “storm sail” size and with great trepidation let ‘er fly. The stock Pacific Action sail is 1 m**2, but our modified storm sail is but a third of that, and was perfect this day – I could not have handled the full sail, and even the middling 0.7 m**2 size could have been too much for me. It’s not that it was so crazy windy, but with the very steep and breaking following sea, everyone was finding conditions exciting – even crusty old Wildey had a near capsize when a big one decided to break on his head. Well that’s not quite true – Peter with his quiet competence, hardly noticed a ripple.

I was feeling solid, but a tad intimidated by the conditions, so asked Peter to keep an eye on me, and after that, bless his heart, he shadowed me like a hungry dog at mealtime. Having Peter standing by to pick up the pieces should I come a cropper made it so much easier to relax and just focus on the paddling, which of course, made the paddling easier.
Bunch of kayakers hidden in the waves (credit: Guy Reeve)
And then came the whales. And I don’t mean the often sighted spout a km away. Large adult whales were launching themselves clear out of the water, and landing with loud BOOMs sounding very much like fired cannons. Over and over again at close range they hurled themselves skyward only to fall back to earth that a thundering boom.

By the time we had got around Point Upright, Roy had had quite enough and declared he was pulling out at Durass North. To my surprise, Killer was happy enough to join him, and when the group elders (Mike, John, Peter) decided we should continue on without our sails raised, Guy also decided to pull the pin so as to not re-injure his shoulder recently damaged in a mountain biking accident.

And so it was just the four us from Point Upright to Maloneys. With affirmations to stick close together and keep the sails safely stored on our decks, we left the comparative shelter of Durras Bay heading for the scary looking sea to our east. In a silent show of hands (behind my back) I was voted most likely to capsize (true enough!), so the three senior members of crew hung back keeping an eye on me waiting to provide assistance. I figured it would be hard to find a more capable and trustworthy trio of paddlers to be watching my back (literally, as it turned out), so I actually felt quite relaxed about heading off into what I feared would be a building gale – very unlike me. Despite being the youngest in the crew, I was also the slowest, so was paddling like a demon trying to stay ahead of my support crew … until I happened to shoulder check on my compatriots to find not one, but three sails deployed and catching a glorious tail wind! So much for that plan! Up went my sail and off we went.

Ironically, since three members of our party had pulled out, the wind slowly began to fade, and the steepness of the waves decreased making this section of trip far less harrowing than the one that preceded it.

We hadn’t gone far before the whales entertained us yet again with impressive feats of aerobatics. At times they came up behind us and given the sea conditions it was tricky to keep an eye on them, so we paddled on listening to the boom, Boom, BOOM getting louder and louder … wondering if we needed to take evasive action.

After the whales finally tired of alternately thrilling and scaring us, we thought the nature show was over, but no, we then paddled and sailed into an area of rafting shearwaters – a huge area where thousands upon thousands of birds, exhausted from their long journey from the north Pacific, were resting on the water. We paddled on and on through an enormous flock of birds who were both bobbing in the water and flying all around us threatening to slam into our sails. They fly very close to the water’s surface and almost give the appearance of water skippers (the really tired ones were in fact water skippers, but I don’t think that was their plan). They make no noise, and the silent swarm of birds skimming across the choppy water gave an eerie other-worldly feel to the experience.

I understand the shearwaters are only in these waters for a very short time en route to their summer holidays in Tasmania. Mike has been paddling these waters for a considerable length of time and never experienced the shearwater flotilla before.

The wind and seas continued to ease as made our way to The Bay. Except for a bit of rebound as we approached North Head, rounding into Batemans Bay proved no drama. Once past North Head my support crew decided that against all odds I was going to keep the slippery side down, so pulled up their sea anchors and left me in their spray. Just as I was thinking I had actually made it and could relax, the three of them went through a gap at the end of the reef off of Three Isle Point … my heart sank. I knew how this was going to end. I am an incredible rogue wave magnet, and despite seeing the Three Musketeers sail through the gap unmolested, I knew in my heart that my passage would not be so easy. As I approach the narrowest part of the gap, there was a loud sucking sound, and a huge rock reared up out of the water directly in my path. It is a good thing my mother wasn’t around to hear my Tourette’s flare up. I madly back-paddled and against all odds slowed my progress just long enough for the next wave to catch me and cover the rock literally in the nick of time. But the fun was only just starting: I heard a roar behind me and quickly shoulder-checked: the predicted tsunami of white death was rising high above me with clear plans to make me pay for a lifetime of past sins. I paddled like my life depended upon it (it didn’t) and prayed for an inner strength to save me from the ignominy of screaming like a girl. Fortuitously the wave broke before reaching me, so I was only left with side-surfing the foam through the gap … and I was done. And in more ways than one, as I was starting to feel a bit weary.

A quick flat water paddle into the teeth of a much re-invigorated north wind deposited us onto Maloneys beach, 28km and 6:15 after we started.

An amazing paddle I won’t soon forget.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Rain, beautiful rain

Having spent the first five decades of my life in Canada, I have became on very close terms with rain at a young age. Lots and lots of rain. Recreating in the mountains of Western Canada was my thing, and in Canada, summer or winter, that is all about the weather. I feel comfortable in saying I have suffered at the hands of the Canadian climate. Oh, how I have suffered. Rain and I are not good friends.
Rain, responsible for foot rot ... and life.
Like most mountaineers and skiers in Canada, I became an enthusiast amateur meteorologist. The Internet traffic from just the ski touring community in western Canada has been known to bring down the Environment Canada web servers when the BC snow machine is getting fired up. I developed some heuristics in attempt to simplify the interpretation of the weather situation, and since moving to Australia, have had to modify those. I have found there is one simple rule that explains 80% of observed weather in both countries:

Canada: absence of a high pressure system = bad weather

Australia: absence of a storm = good weather.

While those two rules may seem the same rule expressed differently, the difference is profound. In Canada, the weather typically sucks; in Australia, is is typically pretty good.

My intense dislike of rain has needed some refinement down under. Australia’s most famous rock climbing area is Mt Arapiles in the Wimmera district of east-central Victoria. It is justifiably famous with loads of fantastic climbing, and over the past two years, we have spent about four months in the area. The Wimmera is grazing and wheat country. And it is dry – most years the agriculture must be very marginal. 

Over the past couple years, as is the way in Australia, the Wimmera has been experiencing drought. In our time there, it rarely rained, and when it did, it was typically only a couple mm or less, which evaporated before it had a chance to even properly wet the ground. The place looked parched. The grounds of our favourite camping area was mostly dirt as the grass had died and was then beaten to nothing by the traffic of the few campers who come through. The lake is dry. I found it depressing, year after year, to see the poor farmer’s fields wilting and dying under the relentless sun as the spring temperatures approached 40C.

When I listened carefully, I almost expected to hear the land crying out for water … but all I heard was the buzz of the loathsome fly.

Much of the coastal areas of Australia are actually reasonably well watered, and in your average year the landscape is green for much of the year. On the flip side, much of the interior is desert, which makes for a stark landscape, but it is beautiful in its own way, with the land and its inhabitants seeming to have come to terms with the consistent lack of water. It is the areas that lie on the margin that bring the life-giving nature of water into clear focus: in the lands bordering the deserts, enough rain falls some years that trees try to grow, lakes try to form, creeks try to run, and farmers try to farm. But inevitably, and frequently, the rains don’t come, the land suffers, and it is a depressing sight. You can almost feel the land's pain.

And then one day at Arapiles this year, it rained. For real. Water, pure life-giving water, was literally falling out of the sky. What the farmers and the natural landscape so desperately needed, but couldn’t get for love nor money, was freely falling. At that moment I had a bit of an epiphany: what I had come to so dread, actually made the difference between life and death. And sometimes it just fell out of the sky.

After three years in Australia, I looked out at the pouring rain, and thought “what a beautiful thing, a gift.”

Perspective is everything.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Marketing Greek Yogurt

Have you ever thought about how much Greek Yogurt packaging tells us about humans? Oh dear, what am I going to go on about now? Time for a good Boxing Day froth, me thinks.

Somewhere along the way, "pot set" yogurt became fashionable. "Pot set" yogurt is "is allowed to set in the pot in which it was sold, so has a firmer texture than other yogurts". This also allows for more precise control over the fermentation process, and in theory, a better probiotic content. Always willing to sell their soul to the highest bidder, marketers jumped on this and starting labeling all manner of yogurts (and likely dish detergents as well) as "pot set".

More recently, "Greek yogurt" has become all the rage. Greek yogurt is yogurt "which has been strained to remove its whey, resulting in a relatively thick consistency". Almost all of the recent growth in the yogurt market has been in strained yogurts. Marketer: "Greek is popular, Greek sells, let's say our yogurt is Greek so we sell more". Sadly, "there is no legal definition of Greek yogurt, and yogurt thickened with thickening agents may also be sold as 'Greek yogurt'", so they have tacked on the "Greek" label to anything white, potentially edible, and thicker than distilled water.

So, one day, Yogurt Marketer, Senior Grade, thinks to herself "Hmm ... pot set yogurt is good, Greek yogurt is even better. Now pot set Greek yogurt would be a killer product!"

And thus, we now are inundated with pot set Greek yogurt. I can't help wondering how they are straining yogurt that is set in the container it is sold in. Maybe they set it in a container, empty it out, strain it, and put it back in the container? That would definitely be disingenuous and not in the spirit of the definition even if it was within the letter, but they don't do that – it is obvious by looking at the "pot set Greek yogurt" that it is not strained. So, basically, they are lying to us. I trust you are not surprised.

Just to be clear: you can't have pot set Greek yogurt. You can't strain yogurt before it is yogurt, and you can't strain it after it is set in the pot it will be sold in. It can be one or the other, but not both.

Marketers may be evil, but they aren't stupid. If putting these labels on the containers didn't sell more product, they wouldn't put them there. So yogurt makers are selling more yogurt because they are making nonsensical claims on the containers.

Now I can write off marketers as a genetically inferior group of sociopaths. But what about the people who are influenced by these labels? Do they think "Wow, pot set and Greek, how great is that? Let's buy a 2kg tub instead our usual 1kg!" Maybe these are sort of people impressed by "gluten free" apples? What if they slapped on a "No herbicides were harmed in the manufacturing of this yogurt" label on? Would that impress the yogurt shoppers too?

What does it mean that people are so easily fooled/manipulated? I suppose it isn't much different than someone snapping up a new point and shoot camera with a 550 Gigapixels sensor – yeah, good luck with your low light shots with that one mate. When people are so easily tricked by a ploy your average cricket would see right through, what happens when folk are faced with a complicated decision? Like what politician to vote for. Oh, that's right, I guess I already know the answer to that one.

It will be obvious to my readers (both of you) by now that I'm always up for a good froth. But getting all spun up over yogurt labeling? You're thinking that perhaps I need to find a hobby or two, aren't you? Even S, who is usually totally into a froth over just about anything, thinks I need to up my meds this time. This marketing BS annoys me for a couple reasons: 1) it insults my intelligence to have to buy "pot set Greek yogurt" because there is no alternative, and 2) consumers aren't taking even a couple seconds to think about what they are buying, so we are all eating some crappy yogurt thickened with shredded old shoe leather instead of some decent strained yogurt.

I'd like to be able cruise through an unfamiliar town, drop into Woolies, and pick up some decent Greek yogurt. But no, I have take what I can get, and join the queue of all the other shoppers who are stoked to have picked up their 2kg tub of pot set Greek yogurt.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Nowhere Else on Earth

It was a stunning setting: the warm afternoon sun was still high above the sheer cliffs that sheltered Maria Island's Riedel Bay from wind and swell, and the incredibly turquoise waters of the Tasman Sea splashed onto the crescent of sand that stretched from our camp all the way south to the towering sea cliffs at the foot of Mt Perpendicular. As I strolled down the deserted beach, my usual anxiety at being camped on such an exposed coast was strangely abscent, and I felt a sense of overpowering contentment ...

I was alone with my beautiful and amazing life partner, in a place of staggering beauty. We had just finished a day of paddling down the spectacular east coast of Maria Island on Tasmania's East Coast - an exposed journey in a sea kayak that had taxed us both physically and mentally. Our trip had required skill, courage, and careful planning ... staying safe relied on lessons learned over a lifetime of adventures. The commitment required to get here was part of why I found this secluded spot so enchanting.

 At that moment, there was literally nowhere else on Earth I would rather be.

I have learned that moments like this are so powerful, so poignant, so moving, that they stay with me forever. In fact, I find some experiences, representing mere fleeting moments, vanishingly short in the context of my lifespan, receive unreasonably large allocations in my memory of my life. The red-point of that sport climb I thought was beyond me, success in style on that mountaineering route that had so scared me, that epic paddle to isles unknown, that remote vista so impossibly beautiful that it can't be real: these experiences never leave me. That afternoon on the Maria Isthmus will surely be one of those moments.
Sometimes life feels like a treasure hunt of euphoric moments. These activities I do and the adventures I chase are clearly pointless from any sensible perspective, but at the same time they are what fills my life with joy and provides me with a sense of purpose. There is always some scheming to be done, some training required, an objective to be worked toward. Always working towards the next big adventure.

I like to think of myself as a bit of a thinking man. Not too deep, mind you, but I do like to think about things. I carefully consider life decisions and always have a goal in mind, I enjoy figuring out how things work, I like creating new things, I like to find fault with conventional wisdom (fertile hunting there!), and resist social norms when they are silly (and sometimes just because it is fun). Consequently, it comes as somewhat of a surprise to me that virtually all of the most powerful memories of my life involve physical adventure. My adventures typically involve equal parts physical and mental challenge, but still, no cerebral accomplishments on my life's CV? I am much closer to the leading edge in my work than my play, but it is the hard-earned mountain peak that sticks with me.
Why is that? A known unknown I expect, and that is OK; it is enough to know that is the way it is. I am a compulsive goal setter, and physical adventure in wild and beautiful places really floats my boat. I can't image a life that isn't full of challenges. Otherwise, what's the point?

Carpe diem. I can't believe I am quoting something I picked up from a Hollywood movie, but nonetheless, words to live by, if, perhaps, not quite literally.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Gram This

I am pretty tech savvy, having made my living, such as it is, in IT for the last 20 years or so. I had a front row seat to the commercial explosion of the Internet, working as a software developer in the early 90s. The Web was cool and I wanted to a part of it – even going so far as founding a dot-com.

But when it comes to technology, I am not always, as it turns out, an early adopter. You see, I am pretty cheap, and buying first versions of consumer electronics is not a good way to optimize the household cash flows. Nor is buying the latest hot product when you're old one works just fine. Following the same logic, I would rather put hot pins in my eyes than buy an Apple product – just the fact they are super trendy and garner the highest profit margins of any legal product devised by man is enough to put me off for good. Yeah, I am a bit of a curmudgeon too.

In addition to being pretty savvy, and pretty cheap, I'm also pretty old, so can be pretty late to the party with whatever is the latest uber hip thing. I resisted Facebook for a long time (and sometimes still rue the day I caved), but now have admit it is great for keeping up with friends and family scattered around the globe. And, OK, it does offer a new and interesting perspective of a news feed.

However, for the longest time I just didn't "get" Twitter. In fact, I still don't get Twitter. What's with the 120 characters thing? Need more than 120 characters? Easy, type it into a Word document, take a picture, and tweet the image of your essay. Twitter is stuffed with such photos. Stupid. Or do eight 118 character tweets in quick succession, which are really just one long tweet. Also stupid.

Much to my annoyance, more and more bloggers in the business/investment world have started do their thing on Twitter. So now I have a Twitter account. But really, it is because this specific community happened to congregate there, and Twitter is just a really awkward way to apply a filter to my news and social feeds -  it has nothing to do with Twitter's technology,  and in fact the technology gets in the way more than it helps, hence all the tweets of pictures of text.

OK, so I've got a Twitter feed for finance, and Crackbook stream for friends and cat videos. But it never ends. I hear Instagram is trending well, and everybody who is anybody is on Snapchat. I definitely do not get Instagram, and don't even get me started on Snapchat. How is Instagram really any different/better than Flickr/Facebook/Twitter? I do not have an Instagram account, but I'm sure the answer is "it's not". Except all the really cool people are there. And apparently dedicating frightening amounts of time and money in the pursuit of the perfect selfie that will "trend" well and get them all sorts of new Instafriends. Can human culture get any sadder?
Shutterstock/Aleksandar Stojkovic
Keeping up with this madness means staggering from one site to another, each with their own special shtick tailored to self-obsessed narcissists (is there any other sort of narcissist?). What goes without saying, but I'll say anyway, is that by the time most of the wannabe hipsters have Gram accounts, all the cool people will have moved on to Vacupost, Narcissite, or Selfies-r-us, which are all seeing their traffic volumes explode. No doubt they'll all be unicorns by next year.

In life, there comes a time when you have to accept that things must change for you, and you can't go back. In my twenties, I avowed to never drink to excess again. In my thirties it was never work to in an office again. In my forties ... well mostly I just skied a lot and didn't bother with life-changing resolutions. So it is high time to put my foot down.

I just say "no" to Instagram and the long line of putrid, vapid, narcissistic, and pointless web-based social pits that are sure to follow.

Gram that!

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Smug Doug Productions “Storm Action” Sail System

In the Antipodean autumn of 2013, after a chance encounter on coral-fringed Kent Island off the north Queensland coast, we hooked up with a fantastic group of sea kayakers in Cairns. They foolishly invited us, virtually sight unseen, to join them on their upcoming epic paddle from Cooktown to Lizard Island.

The trade winds on the north Queensland coast blow pretty reliably, and at times quite strongly, from the southeast. Most paddlers use this to their advantage by doing one-way trips from south to north with sails mounted to the front decks of their yaks.
Sailing to Rattlesnake Island
Taking the old saw “when in Rome ...” to heart, Sandy and I borrowed Pacific Action sails for the trip to Lizard. The very far north Queensland coast is famous for its strong winds, and seeing as our trip had lots of big crossings, we were lucky to have light to moderate winds all the way from Cooktown to the tranquility of the Lizard Island lagoon. We had minimal problems managing the sails in the modest winds, and even managed to the keep our boats slippery side down the whole way.

Having crossed to the Dark Side, there was no turning back – much to our surprise, any delusions about reverting to "pure" paddlers quickly fell by the wayside, as we had to admit kayak sailing could be an awful lot of fun, and added a whole new dimension to the sport. But the fun really starts when the winds push north of 20 knots. We have pretty tippy boats (Prijon Marlins) and being sea kayaks, they are without keel or even dagger-board. The heeling force generated by even a 1 square metre sail can be hard to handle, especially with a lightly loaded boat in heavy seas. And even more for a couple of aged mountaineers recently transplanted from The Frozen North. We have sailed in winds gusting over 30 knots, but it is pretty much hang on for dear life, and once the sail is up, I've got Buckley's of getting it back down without capsizing. At that point, it is clearly a bit too much of a good thing.
Sailing to Lizard. PC:SM
Our sails, made by Pacific Action in Sydney, Australia, are a well made two-masted sail designed specifically for kayaks. The two-masted design works well, allows sailing a moderate amount into the wind, and means you don't have to worry about the boom swinging back and forth clocking you on the side of the head.

I have, however, found there to be a couple weak points in the Pacific Action design:

  1. The shape of the sail puts the widest part of the sail on top, which maximizes the heeling force for a given wind speed.
  2. I find the sail very difficult to pull down in high winds/heavy seas. In hairy conditions I can't let go of the paddle with both hands, and pulling the sail down with one hand is almost impossible. If you do manage to start pulling the sail down, the first thing that typically happens is the sail catches the wind in a more beam wind orientation, thus dramatically increasing the heeling force – and it is time for a cooling dip in the drink.
  3. The sail can not be reefed, so depending on conditions, becomes generally too much to comfortably handle above 15-20 knots, depending on boat and sea conditions.

I like fiddling with my gear and making it better, so I took this as a challenge. I made a couple of key modifications to our sails.

Dedicated sail pull-down line.

I have run an extra line from one mast's mid-point D-shackle through a carabiner clipped to the other mast's D-shackle (acts like a pulley), and then through a cam cleat mounted on the kayak deck just in front of the cockpit. This line is used exclusively to pull the sail down.
Anchor point of pull-down line.
Carabiner "pulley".
Full pull-down including cam cleat.
This pull-down has a few advantages:

  1. When I pull on the line, the first thing that happens is the two masts get pulled together, taking the wind out of the sail. Long before I've got the sail down, most of the heeling force is gone.
  2. As this line doesn't go through an intermediate clip like the trimming line, I have better leverage to pull the sail down quickly.
  3. As this pull-down line runs through the cam cleat, I can easily pull the sail down one-handed. I generally get the sail completely down in 2 to 3 good pulls, and if I need to throw in a brace part way, no problem, I can let go of the pull-down cord and the sail stays partially stowed and mostly not catching the wind.
  4. Once the sail is fully pulled down, the pull-down cord through the cam cleat keeps the sail more-or-less stowed on the deck so if things are really hairy, I can focus on staying upright and wait until I've stopped wetting myself before properly stowing the sail.

A reefable sail

Modification #1 notwithstanding, I find a 1 m2 sail too large to comfortably handle with a beam wind > 15 knots; with > 20-25 knots from any direction, or a confused sea, the odds of a capsize start to become uncomfortably high.

With a key suggestion from a shady character in the paddling world, who goes only by the moniker "Kev Kayaker", I came up with a design to allow the sail to be reefed. It is effectively three sails for the price of one.

The stock “1 square metre” sail is 129cm tall, 22cm wide at the bottom, and 126cm wide at the top; by my calculations it is about 0.95 m2. It slides onto the two masts with sleeves on each side of the sail.

The Smug Doug “reefable” 3-piece sail system is comprised of three separate sails that “stack” onto the masts. The storm sail is 70cm tall which makes it about 0.35 cm2. The sail has full-height (129 cm) sleeves on each side so it slides onto the masts the usual way but the main area of the sail is at the bottom. The sail is secured to the bottom of the masts by a bungee, just like the stock sail.

Storm sail (clear).
The next size up is a sail section 38cm tall which slides onto the masts and “stacks” on top of the storm sail. A horizontal strip of Velcro along the top of the storm sail matches a strip on the bottom of the middle sail that secures the middle sail to the bottom sail. This makes for a sail of about 0.7 m2.
Middle sail.
Middle sail installed.
Finally, the third sail stacks on top of the middle sail in a similar manner to bring the sail area back up the stock 0.95 m2.
Full sail.
After completing the design, I simply handed the drawings off to Sandy and said “Make it so”. With some assistance from Gary at Pacific Action and Mick at Flat Earth Sails, and a few prototypes that gallantly made the ultimate sacrifice, my seamstress skillfully produced some reefable sails.

We have been very happy with the performance of our reefable sails, and haven't used the stock sails since trying out our new ones. Once the wind is 20 knots or better, we find it is considerably less effort to sail with the 0.7 sail (less bracing, easier to keep on track), and we go just as fast (straighter, more efficient track and/or approaching hull speed). The sail area is reduced by about 26%, but it feels like the heeling force is reduced by at least double that – presumably because the sail area is lower, making for less leverage.

If the wind picks up some more, or if the seas are large or messy, we drop down to the 0.3 sail which still works amazingly well in strong winds. The sail area is reduced by about 63%, but again the heeling force is reduced by much, much more than that.

The only drawback to the reefable system is that it does not sail into the wind quite as well as the stock sail. The Velcro joins are much stiffer than the sail fabric, so the sail doesn't fill out to the optimal airfoil shape as well. Also, the smaller the sail, the narrower it is, and the storm sail is too narrow to properly fill out the ideal shape, so again, less optimal sail shape results. But in practice, by the time we're down to the storm sail, we wouldn't have any sail at all if were using the stock 1 m2 sail, so it seems like a pretty fair trade-off.

Overall, these two mods have made a huge difference in our enjoyment of these sails.

I'd like to thank Gary Housley at Pacific Action sail systems who provided a factory “second” sail for our project, and Mick MacRobb at Flat earth kayak sails who sold us some quality sail making materials at a very reasonable price.