Monday, August 29, 2011

2011 Dyneema Experience- The good, the not so good and the awesome.

Challenge 5 has been issued and I have been tasked with summing up our 2011 Dyneema Experience. All of it- the good, the bad and everything in between. Dyneema really seems to want to improve the experience for the next Dyneema Experience Team and are looking for input into what they can do to make that happen. So here goes...

I'm not a negative person. Asked if the glass is half empty or half full, I'm likely to say it has more than I deserve and there is plenty enough to share. So recounting the less than stellar aspects of DET 2011 is a tough one for me but the only way to improve things is to look at things that didn't go as planned.

The concept of the Dyneema Experience was a fantastic one. Choose 40 skippers to test line with Dyneema rigging, write about their experiences with it and have a little competition to win a grand prize- a master class on the PUMA VOR boat. Unfortunately, the logistics of rigging 40 boats was perhaps underestimated. We did not receive our rigging until a couple of weeks ago, long after the sailing season in our area had ended. Now we have 106 degree weather and average wind speeds of 5 mph, not exactly ideal conditions to test rigging unless someone is interested in how the rigging looks on a boat while motor sailing. This really wasn't Dyneema's fault. As  our line supplier New England Ropes kept sending us emails asking us to be patient, saying that the line was out for splicing etc, it became clear that Dyneema was as frustrated at the delays as we were.

Going forward, it would probably help to select the next team in the autumn to allow a lot more time to get the participants their line. It would also probably be good to be certain the line suppliers are really committed to DET. Some of the line suppliers for other boats did a fantastic job of going over technical specifications for line selection, even sending out new ropes when it became clear that the originally selected lines where not suitable for that boats particular use. I never felt that from my supplier. There was some back and forth with New England Ropes to choose the right line and splices for our boat. I spent days going over tech specs for our line, carefully selecting line that would work for our usage and that would offer us a chance to try out some new ideas, like using a smaller diameter line in some instances to allow us to keep our deck hardware sizes. New England Ropes got our finalized line order, thanked us and assured us we would be getting the ordered line soon. Didn't happen that way. We waited months only to receive the line NER had suggested in the first place, never mind all the time spent going over the specs, etc.

Another way the DET could be improved is by increasing the level of communication. It would have been really helpful to have a designated person from Dyneema to answer technical questions. I was new to Dyneema and needed a bit more technical guidance. The lack of this did provide a benefit though. It forced me to engage much more with fellow cruisers.  We as a group tend to share information so I was helped quite a bit by cruisers who have Dyneema on their boats. These Dyneema savvy sailors also reached out to other cruisers who weren't a part of DET but who have been following along with me and answered the many questions that they had about Dyneema lines. So what was an obstacle turned out to be a benefit for the overall effectiveness of DET. Behind the scenes, there was a whole lot of discussion about the benefits of Dyneema cored lines on a cruising yacht. So in the end I did end up with a really solid rigging education, just not from where I expected to get it.

Which brings me to my final point and the thing that will stay with me long after DET 2011 is over. I was hesitant to mention how truly frustrated I was with my line supplier. Not the quality of the line, but their apparent lack of urgency in getting me my line. I was very aware that there were a lot of boats who would have loved to have been selected and rerigged. To complain would have made me seem ungrateful for the benefits I have received and  I am really, really grateful. Grateful to Dyneema for providing rigging that is superior in performance and will serve us well as we take off to cross oceans, grateful for fellow DET competitors who displayed an amazing level of good sportsmanship- helping, encouraging and supporting me when it seemed to be such an uphill slog  and to the international community of cruisers that I am so very pleased to be a part of who supported, encouraged and answered endless questions.

So the quesion is, would I do it again? The answer is an unequivocable yes. Overall, my experience with Dyneema has been a positive one. To be sure there have been frustrations and challenges and I'm not even going to be able to really write about testing Dyneema line for a few months yet but all of this pales in comparasion to what I have gained. So to Dyneema, to my fellow DET members and to you, the amazing community who never fails to rally aournd  to help a fellow cruiser- Thank you. I could not have done it with out you. It has been an amazing experience I will never forget.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Dyneema Experience- GOBSMACKED!

The title of this image should be "Things I never in a million years ever expected to see". The standings after Challenge 4 of the Dyneema Experience were released on Wednesday. I am in first poition just now. Its taken me a few days to absorb this fact because I am absolutely, utterly shocked. I never thought it would be possible to even be in the hunt for the Grand Prize a trip to Spain.

I have had so many things working against me- I didn't receive my rigging until a few days ago after sailing season had ended, the other top teams  are racers who have competed with their new rigging. They are TEAMS with many contributors- I am just one person juggling Mom duties with boat refit duties and trying to participate in the Dyneema Experience in a meaningful way.  I've got no media group to do my videos. The other teams do beautifully edited, slickly programmed videos while I'm still learning the basics of the most simple editing. The other teams are incredible sailors, I'm still a baby sailor and the book I'd write with all I know about sailing would be a short one, while the book I'd write about all the things I'm trying to learn would rival War and Peace for length. To say I've felt a bit like David versus Goliath would be a huge understatement. So you see, I'm still a bit dazed.

Challenge 5 has been given. We are to talk about our experiences with the Dyneema Experience 2011. How can I write one blog post about something that has been a major focus of my life for 5 months? I can't, there are too many aspects of the whole experience to neatly package it in one post. Ups, downs, discoveries, surprises but mostly- really really good things. Things for which I am grateful and its more than just being grateful for the amazing rigging we have received. I'm opting instead to do a few posts to answer Challenge 5. I hope I can convey what a wild, strange and exhilirating ride it has been so far.

In the mean time, I thought it might be fun to turn the focus on YOUR Dyneema Experience. All of you who have been along with me for the ride, comment please! If you knew about Dyneema previously, tell me what you like about Dyneema. If you had never heard about Dyneema before I entered this, let me know (I am shocked by the number of sailors who never thought about what was inside their rigging). If you've just had fun watching the competition unfold, tell me. I look forward to reading about your Dyneema Experience and I hope you enjoy reading about ours. 

We will be writing a bit next year, long after the 2011 Dyneema Experience is over as to how our rigging is holding up and performing. Until then, I'm signing it over to you while I try to catch my breath...

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Life is Messy

Let me be upfront and forthright- I hate schedules. Following a schedule invariably causes me unnecessary anxiety and stress because I am firm believer in going with the flow. Unfortunately, if you never set a schedule you'll never get anything done so they are a necessary evil. Cruising should suit me perfectly. The only schedule you have to follow is the one set by weather conditions. So why am I suddenly feeling stress from being behind an imaginary, self imposed schedule? Because there are forces beyond my control at work and truthfully, I enjoy the illusion of having some control over my life. HA!

Which brings me to our departure date. Yep, you guessed it- its moving again. There is just no way we will have everything taken care of in the next 3 months. 8 months is more than likely and that puts us squarely in hurricane season. This is not a time to be far from home with 2 little people on board. I don't feel that I need to leave at a certain date in order to appease the opinions of others but I do feel the need to answer to the weather and the little people who count on us to make the right decisions.

Its difficult because in my mind and soul I am ready to be gone NOW. We've been working towards the goal of leaving for 2 years now and admitting that we need to adjust the calendar one more time is a bitter pill to swallow but in the end, it will be good for us. This is the right decision. Its still hard to take though. The pace of boat projects has slowed down because with daily temperatures hitting over 100 Farenheit its just impossible to "pick up the pace" no matter how badly we wish to do so. We slowly continue to crank out those necessary projects and I try to look at the bright side of the situation. 

Moving the date a bit allows us to work at a humanly possible pace with the knowledge that cooler weather will soon be here bringing with it a much more comfortable working/sailing environment. Mark's job was supposed to have been completed almost a year ago. He continues to work part time which is a very good thing as we have tripled our inital refit budget. He keeps showing up and they keep paying him for which we are actually very, very grateful. So half the week at the office, half the week on the boat and save, save, save those pennies. Maura really wants to complete one last year at the public school. A much as I want to homeschool her now  the best way to prevent her from being wistful about missing public school while cruising is to let her endure the fun that is being a sixth grade girl. Junior high school is the pits, you know it and I know it but she needs to discover this for herself. Kitty is still a wee thing, barely 20 pounds at our last checkup so waiting a bit will mean she is steadier on her feet, stronger and hopefully sleeping through the night (please). We have friends who are hoping to cast off for the Bahamas and points south from the East Coast next fall so by waiting we will have playmates for the kids and since they have a much larger catamaran, a place to stash our wine collection (and some fun peeps to share it with!) These are all great and valid reasons to relax and go with the flow. I still want to leave yesterday though. I've been stationary for too long and when that happens, I get itchy feet.

Wanderlust (n): strong longing for or impulse towards wandering, an ache for distance
Yes, that is the diagnosis.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Electrical work continues...

It is hot. Stupid hot. Working on the boat just now is something a bit less than fun. I think our failure to move the boat to Maine during the summer months was a big mistake on our part. We are in the midst of a drought and with daily temperatures hitting 100+ Farenheit regularly, we are definitely earning our DIY in adverse conditions merit badge.

Mark continues to work on his electrical lay out. He's  moved some things around in order to prevent voltage loss- namely the charging inverter. He's moved it to the end of our quarter berth. We lose about 5-6 inches of foot space but since it will now be able to actually do its job since it no longer has 20 feet of cable running to and fro for no good reason when 3 feet would work nicely and since we aren't a tall family, it works.

During the hottest part of the day, Mark retired to the ac in the house to work on his control panel. Ceol Mor had no handly control panel with which to monitor various systems. This short coming is being recitified. The panel will be installed just behind the companionway steps and will have an engine and bettery selection switch, running hours meter, generator control, alarms for low battery alternator and bilge water level as well as indicators for the navlights, bilge pumps, generator control and charger monitoring. He's done an absolutely brilliant job on the rather time consuming task of ensuring everything fits and is easy to read. As soon as we get the panel ordered and installed, I'll post photos of it. From the diagram Mark created, its looks like it will be the business.

Meanwhile I try to keep up with the girls, manage our Dyneema Experience campaign (who knew that would turn into an almost full time job?), order parts, etc, etc. Maura is keen to master as many knots as possible. She some how managed to escape my all thumbs gene and is not only working on the basics, like bowlines and half hitches and reefing knots but is challenging herself to master trickier knots like the butterfly and the highwayman's. Kitty is busy doing baby stuff- climbing everything, putting on everyone's shoes and waving and saying "HI!" to people on the street below, or squirrels passing by or dogs...whatever/whomever happens to be handy.

I added a shot of me because a reader commented that photos of me are few and far between. That is because I am usually behind the lens. This is a late addition because I had to edit out the heat induced oil slick on my face. Before anyone gets all "oh, you retouched the photo of you because you are vain" I would like to point out that Heidi Klum gets retouched. Heidi Freaking Super Model Klum. If SHE has to be retouched what chance do we mere mortals have? And yeah, I own my vanity. Anyway, here is proof that I do in fact exist.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Dyneema Experience Chapter 4- in which we finally get our rigging and explain what all the fuss is about.

Is that not the loveliest thing you have seen in a while? It is to me. That my friends is a box full of the long awaited, much desired Dyneema cored running rigging from New England Ropes. I've worked harder for that rigging than I imagined and am thrilled to finally have it in hand, ready to be rigged.

In the latest Dyneema Experience Challenge, we are supposed to convince you to use Dyneema. Huh. I'm not one for a heavy handed sales pitch for products but in this case, we can tell you honestly why we so wanted Dyneema rigging for our boat. If that convinces you to try Dyneema- great, but truthfully we do believe in the superiority of Dyneema so I am able to write this with out feeling like I've sold out the blog and my dignity( or what's left of my dignity. Learning to sail is great for increasing humility).

There are a whole slew of Dyneema Experience participants who are racers and therefore very familiar with what makes Dyneema such a fantastic product for their application. But I'm not a racer. Never will be, that requires too much hurrying and scurrying and I like to take things easy. I'm most definitely in the cruiser camp and so what qualities Dyneema posesses that we will value are different. Cruisers haven't really embraced Dyneema as much as the racers. I think this is in large part because...well...cruisers  tend to be cheap ( I might be only speaking of us so don't be offended!) and a Dyneema core ups the cost of the line.When you are balancing a budget with the goal of running your boat year round every little bit of extra cash outlayed matters, so that extra expense has to add value.

Mark at the office with some serious Dyneema line.
It is used to anchor the Perdido platform he works
on to the ocean floor. It withstands hurricanes.
They are not playing around...Impressive!
I can truthfully say that had we not won a complete rerigging of our boat, we would have splashed out on Dyneema line at the expense of  some equipment that we would like to have that falls in the "Be Nice" category. The main reason for this is that Dyneema is the strongest fiber available. We want rigging that is strong and so less likely to fail. There are some trade offs we have to make in order to accommodate the increased strength- i.e. shackles and block size, etc. but for our application we want the strength and the increased longevity of the rigging that comes with it. Rigging with a longer life span is definitely added value.

There are some quirks we've noticed on our newly delivered as yet to be installed Sta Set X lines. Namely, this is some pretty slick and slippy rope. I'm not certain how we are going to deal with this but we will figure it out and let you know what we find. I do know that gloves are mandatory with Dyneema lines so if you are dead set against wearing sailing gloves, its probably not the line for you, unless you happen to like shredded hands. I suppose torn up hands would look "salty" and make you look kinda tough ( maybe even salty enough that you could get away with wearing a twee white skipper's cap without being laughed at) but again, I am into being comfortable so gloves it shall be.

One of the things we were most looking forward to was decreasing the diameter of our lines (which you can do with careful research into load capacities because of the strength of Dyneema). Unfortunately, New England Ropes either ignored our carefully researched line order or they just lost it. Either way, we have the manufacturers suggested diameter and not what we requested so we can't tell you if in fact going down in line size affects longevity or performance. I suppose we could send the line back and ask for replacement but I'm pretty sure we'd end up with Maura in college before we get the replacement.

There are many rigging manufacturers who use Dyneema core and if you are going to be paying the extra 
The line trolley Mark made from left over marine plywood is
no longer looking sad and forlorn with no line on it. Please note,
we did not request "green vomit" colored rope. That was
a surprise from our line supplier. :)
dosh for Dyneema, it makes sense to check with the manufacturer's site to find the right line for your  application. Some folks buy the wrong size line and then complain about Dyneema not living up to the manufacturers claims. The fault ddoesn't lie with the rope but with putting the wrong rope in the wrong application, so choose carefully.

We'll have more about the line later. This will be the first time we have ever rigged a boat by ourselves so not only should I have some illuminating information about rigging a boat with Dyneema but with the way I bumble through life I mean sailing it ,should provide some amusement as well. I think I'll make Mark climb the mast though...

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Tired of Refit Photos?

Yeah. Me too. If you would prefer to have beautiful photos of an exotic location as well as photos of a boat doing a bit more than sitting at the dock having her guts ripped out, you can make that happen. While we still haven't gotten our Dyneema rigging yet ( I suspect is being woven from the tail hairs of a unicorn by magical elves in an enchanted forest which has lousy postal service) we are still in it to win it. You can make photos of Spain magically appear on this blog by following this link Yes, I am bored of refit photos too!. Click on the Follow Me tab and fill er out (No spam, honest!). Our content is counting on you.
An oldie, but at least its not another refit pic!