Grey Fox Emerges From Hibernation

(I have no idea if foxes hibernate.  Probably not.   I could just ask google, but then I might have to change the title of this post, so I won’t).

Winters in the Northeast are long.  While sitting on its trailer in the driveway in early November, Grey Fox got 5 inches of heavy wet snow on it.  This weekend, I retrieved the boat from its safekeeping spot in a borrowed garage, figuring it was safe from further snow events, and heard from my wife’s relatives in Syracuse that it was snowing there.  On April 27th  😦  Thankfully, while it was kind of cold here in the NYC area, it was warm enough that the stuff falling from the sky was wet, not white.

The November snow caused two of the battens holding up its cover to switch from being convex (from the perspective of a snowflake or raindrop) to concave.  Which in turn caused several of the wooden sockets that the battens seat into to split into pieces.  Not to mention tons of water and snow collecting in the oversized birdbath. So I added making new sockets to the winter fix-it list.  And I started thinking about looking for a place to store the boat indoors, as surely more snow would come. 

The storage solution soon presented itself, as the tenants in a house that we own and rent out announced their early departure midway through a 2-year lease.  We found ourselves in December with a large, vacant, cash-sucking property on our hands and poor prospects of getting it rented again before June.  At least I could use its empty 2-car garage for Grey Fox…  I “borrowed” it from myself.  I’m sure it was the most expensive boat storage I could have found.  Thankfully a new tenant appeared in March and plans to move in next week, so it was time to get Grey Fox back from its hibernation.

I spent almost this entire weekend getting ready for the sailing season, between cleanup day on Saturday at our little boat club – which opens next weekend – and installing a few little tweaks to Grey Fox to address minor issues that cropped up last season.  Warning:  If you’re not a boatbuilder geek, stop reading now. This is boring stuff.  But for true geeks, here goes:

Tweak #1:  New batten sockets.   I made the original ones out of philippine mahogany.  I’ve found that this wood splits easily.  The new ones are made out of true mahogany.  I think it’s tougher stuff.  We’ll see. 

Tweak #2: Putting more arc into the battens that hold up the boat cover –to make it more Conestoga wagon-like — should make it shed water better.  So I made a longer and stronger oak batten to replace the longest of the fiberglass battens, then turned each of those glass battens into a longer version of the next-shorter batten.

Tweak #3:  The lazarette hatch didn’t have a means of latching it down.  During last September’s capsize drill, stuff tried to float out of the lazarette.  Not any more.  A couple of brass pins that go through the bulkhead into some wood blocks glued to the underside of the hatch cover hold it tight, without adding any hardware to clutter up the top of the hatch.

Pin slots into this block attached to the hatch

Tweak #4: Also in the last capsize drill, the mizzen mast worked its way out of its step.  It was only held in by gravity.   Gravity works differently when “down” becomes “sideways”.   Now a bungee from the deck hooks onto the downhaul cleat and keeps its seated.

To prevent a case of jumping mast

Tweak #5:  As long as the mainsail is up, the downhaul holds the mainmast firmly in its step.  But it’s possible that in a capsize, I would need to lower the mainsail.   So I installed a little knob on the mast that will be flush up against the bottom of the mast gate.  It won’t be able to jump out of its socket in any future right-angle gravity deviation event. (A lot of capsize-proofing going on here…)

Tweak #6:  An improved rowing footrest, now held more-or-less immobile by 3-point anchoring with webbing straps with quick-release buckles.  When it’s not in use, I can just stow it out of the way.

The fun of building your own boat out of an easily workable material (wood) is that you can customize it as you figure things out.   I’m sure I’ll get some more tweak-ideas as the season progresses!

Author: Larchmont Jim

A 50-something investment banker from Larchmont, New York (about 15 miles from midtown Manhattan). Amateur small boat sailer, boatbuilder, kayaker, musician. I grew up spending summers sailing the New England coast on my grandfather’s beautiful 47’ 1952 Sparkman & Stevens wooden yawl. I’ve lived in Larchmont, a major and historic sailing center on Long Island Sound, for 25 years, but career and family obligations kept me off the water for all of my 30s and 40s, and only about 7 years ago did I get back on the water, first in sea kayaks, and then in small boats.

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