Winter sail in Kachemak Bay

Kachemak sail

February 9th.  A beautiful Saturday in Homer.  Temperatures hovering around 40, light winds, and scattered clouds.  Almost like spring.  It’d be a perfect day for a sail – if the boat wasn’t all winterized.  Ah, well.  Maybe next time.  I pondered the thought, while I sat on the snow-free deck, drank a beer, and enjoyed the pretense that it wasn’t really the dead of winter in Alaska.

Sunday dawned.  No change in the weather.  How could I *not* take advantage of this rare break?  I shook off my amazement, and my winter lassitude, and headed to my storage trailer, where I dug out the mainsail from under a growing stack of winter oddities.

The mainsail re-rigged, I dug out and remounted the depth finder, the wind instrument, and the portable chartplotter.  Unwrapped and bolted on the carefully stowed tiller.  Set aside the tiller pilot at the ready.  Do I really need all this stuff just to go out for an afternoon? These cruising boats are so complicated.  I checked the thru-hull for the water cooling, and was finally rewarded by the sound of the engine jumping eagerly to life at the first touch of the starter button.

Early afternoon.  Anticipation building.  I stared doubtfully at the small flotillas of ice still swirling about the harbor.  I tried to repress my worries, as I backed out the slip, and then slowly eased forward towards the mouth of the harbor.  I had the harbor to myself.  Slowly proceeding through the narrow Z-neck of the entrance at low tide, I emerged into the open bay, only to find myself encircled by long, dense swaths of ice chunks, bobbing in the otherwise calm sea.  I wondered if I should just turn around and call it a day.  However, I had already made it too far, at least mentally, to be so easily deterred.  I slowly edged towards the first band of ice, and very gently nudged against the first few chunks, pushing them reluctantly aside as I nervously adjusted the engine RPMs to the lowest possible forward speed.  They did say that these older fiberglass boats were overbuilt, right?  I kept my fingers crossed and hoped.

Some nerve racking minutes later, the ice chunks began to thin.  Past a few last dwindling chunks, I emerged at last into clear water.  The blue horizon beckoned.  I turned into the wind, and raised the mainsail.  Falling off towards a close reach towards Cook Inlet, I finally relaxed.  I was sailing!

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Frozen in

Here’s Wing Song in the Homer Harbor.  Temperatures dropped down into the low teens, and stayed that way for a few days.  At first, only a thin sheen of slush appeared on the surface – but then the wind kicked up.  It didn’t take long before larger chunks of ice blew into the harbor, and the water between them quickly gelled.

Of course, I had to test the solidity of the ensuing mass.


Status updates from the Past



Here’s some of what’s happened in the past:


Wing Song is still alive and well in Whittier. We made several forays into Prince William Sound this last summer.  For the latest on trip photos, please see my online Picasa gallery.

A lot of stuff done so far this month, including:

  • Finished rewiring electrical system with new CB switch panel, a dual-battery switch, and battery isolator.
  • Wired in a 10W solar panel and charge controller for trickle-charging the system
  • Painted the companionway slide
  • Sanded and cleaned most of the V-Berth, in prep for new paint.

New cushions are at home waiting to be put in.Arriving at the slip Saturday morning, I found that I had been towed by the harbormaster to the end of the dock and rafted to two other boats, a large, dilapidated fishing trawler, and another sailboat. This is apparently where they like to put peoples’ “works in progress” to keep them out of the way of their more mobile clientele. I was disappointed to note that once again, the marine service had not managed to break free any time to work on the engine control cables or exhaust system. However, this seeming setback was apparently the motivation I needed to get myself to the point where I realized that I really could do it myself. The previous owner, Art (by my standards a mechanical whiz – he can get anything chugging along again, although it often doesn’t look pretty in the end) came by to look at it, and share his advice. My new neighbor, the grizzled owner of the trawler rafted up next to me, currently in the midst of a battery project, also stuck his head in and helped trace problems. By the end of the day, I had a surge of new confidence. Diesel engines really aren’t as complicated as they looked at first! Armed with their advice, I drew up a plan of attack, as well as a list of parts. So, I’ll be part-hunting this week, and with any luck at all I could actually be operational by this weekend! Keep your fingers crossed for me…

Took over folding table for the setee. Marie sanded, painted, and removed all the old aluminum bubble-wrap insulation from the interior. Replaced bicolor bow light with LED navigation lights, with oak wood backing. Put my climbing harness to good use by jumaring all the way up the spinnaker halyard (with the tail end well secured, of course!!), belayed by Marie using the jib halyard. This was the first time I had gone to the top of the mast, and I was happy to see that all was in good shape, except for needing one of the limit indicator vanes for the Windex wind vane.

Hooked up mainsail, with help of Marie. Had to replace some of the sliders, which were bent. Installed a new mounting bracket for the horseshoe-style Type IV PFD.

First time back to see the boat since we put in on the 22nd. Bilges full, nearly overflowing, and batteries dead (!!!!!) Learned the importance of properly setting the below-water through-hulls, and the the critical functionality of the anti-siphon loop in the bilge pump hose.

Wing Song is finally back in the water! It was an exciting day. Arriving in the morning well before the lift was scheduled to occur, I carefully checked the hull for any possible leaks, security of the propeller and shaft, and closed all the through-hulls. Engine still needs the exhaust to be connected and to be hooked up to the engine controls.

The sunny weather continues to hold! Added the second layer of bottom paint.

Wing Song is finally back in the water! The week of May 16th dawned cold, grey, and drizzly in Whittier. I was beginning to get a bit stressed, as the harbor needed the boat moved by the end of the week, and weather over the past couple of weeks had continued to be cold and drizzly, not conducive at all to painting the hull. I began to check the Whittier-cam every day, looking for a break. Finally, just before noon on the 19th, in defiance of the day’s forecast, the break I was looking for – the temperature rose above 50F and blue breaks appeared in the clouds. I threw all the paint and tools into the truck and raced right over. By the time I got there, the sun was shining, and sleepy- eyed locals were emerging from their caves, distrustfully eyeing the strange bright globe in the sky. I wiped down the previously-sanded hull with acetone, using lots of rags in the process. By the time evening arrived, I had managed to put on a complete coat of sky-blue paint. I headed back home, fingers crossed.

Wing Song is still out of the water, “on the hard”. I spent a day in Whittier sanding the old bottom paint off, along with my friend Richard, who very graciously volunteered to help. At the end of the day, we both looked rather smurf-like, covered from head to toe in blue paint dust. A bit of hand-sanding in some of the hidden corners, and she will be ready for the bottom paint. The engine (25 hp Universal diesel) is back in and mounted. It still needs to be wired up and attached to all the controls. I expect Wing Song to be back in the water by May 20th!