Thursday, June 30, 2011

Fantastic Evening at Belmont Harbor

I was fortunate enough to be able to spend the evening on Donnybrook Thursday night.  My chores included organizing the lazarettes, running through the Mac Safety Regulations, and putting new Illinois registration stickers on.

Excitement started when a Chicago Fire Department helicopter and all sorts of emergency vehicles--20+ including police and fire by my count--converged on Belmont Harbor.  According to the VHF several sailing school boats were capsized by a storm.  I hope everyone is okay. 

In the past I've witnessed small sailing dinghies such as the Vanguard 420 or Lasers will tip over--which is part of sailing--and well meaning people on shore call 911 to report someone in the water.  The response is quick--fire department at both north and south Belmont harbor, lifeguard, police, and fire boats, and the CFD Helicopter.  It's nice to know help is there when needed.  It's debatable if help is really needed or not.  I hope everyone is okay.  See this Chicago Tribune's article.

A few hours later while talking to Karen at home, the boat began rocking violently.  I real seiche (or storm surge) had hit!  You could see waves washing over the harbor entrance.  Water went up then down nearly 3 feet in about 15 minutes.  This was violent compared to what I wrote about in May.  See May's article here.

Shortly later I witnessed the most incredible lightning I've ever experienced.  I honestly felt the heat on my face as a bolt shot overhead.  I was legitimately scared, but awe inspired.  While below deck on Donnybrook, the hail hit and it was the loudest noise I've heard on a boat.  The hail was dime sized.  I wish I could have taken pictures but it was after dark.  I did a quick YouTube search and it sounded like what you hear in this video.

I had my trusty DSLR camera with me so I'll post some pictures later.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Belmont Harbor Movies In the Park

An attraction at Belmont Harbor this summer is the Chicago Park District's Movies in the Park. The schedule at Belmont Harbor is below. All movies are in the open field south of the Chicago Yacht Club Belmont station.

06/14/11 8:45 PM Movies in the Parks Movies in the Parks - North By Northwest (NR) @ Belmont Harbor FREE
06/21/11 9:00 PM Movies in the Parks Movies in the Parks - Dirty Dancing (PG-13) @ Belmont Harbor FREE
06/28/11 9:00 PM Movies in the Parks Movies in the Parks - The Greatest Show on Earth (NR) @ Belmont Harbor FREE

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Engine Mount Epilogue

This is a follow-up post to Changing Engine Mounts.

It's been over a month since I first ran Donnybrook with new engine mounts under her Universal M25XP and, after some learning and alignment work on my part, the job is done. 

The engine was extremely quiet and smooth on the 6+ hour motor back to Belmont.  The next day I started the engine to show a friend what an improvement the mounts were, and it was--until I put it into gear.  There was some rumble and an occasional knock at low RPM.  It cleared up at higher RPMs.  How could this be so?  It was so smooth the day before!

The next week we went for a short sail and it still wasn't smooth at low RPMs.  Higher RPMs (above about 2000) were fine.  I adjusted the alignment at the coupler but still no luck smoothing the engine out.  I read everything I could find on engine alignment and drive system noise.

Finally, I found the problem:  The drive shaft wasn't centered in the shaft log.  On the hard I visually inspected the shaft at the cutlass bearing and where it enters the hull from the outside and it looked centered.  When I moved the shaft with the coupler disconnected, it clearly wasn't centered but was sitting low.  I raised the engine 1/8" to 1/4" and the engine is now smooth at low RPMs with some vibration over 2500 RPMs.

A few days later I went out again.  It was "okay" but not "kitten smooth" like I wanted.  I talked to a friend and trusted engine mechanic who talked me through alignment.  His advice:  Patience.  Start with the engine a little low to account for the thrust pushing the engine forward.  Take into account the torque of the engine.  Adjust it a little at a time and watch to see what the engine is doing.

It took half a dozen trips up and down the companionway to get the alignment right.  My steps were:
  1. Run the engine in gear and feel the vibration.
  2. Go below.  Loosen the coupler.  Feel the gap between the two coupler halves. 
  3. Adjust the engine up or down until the gap was minimal (use a feeler gauge or finger nail).
  4. Tighten the coupler halves together.
  5. Start the engine and run in gear.  Was the vibration better or worse?
  6. If worse, repeat 2-4 but move it down or up (opposite to what was done in #3).
  7. Repeat until engine runs smooth.
Thankfully my problem was vertical position.  The horizontal position was okay.  Otherwise, you should adjust horizontal (side to side) position first.

I also had a friend run the engine in gear while I observed engine movement.  After almost two hours I'm finally satisfied with the alignment.  She idles smooth at 800 RPMs (based on my tachometer).  There's minor vibration to 1500 RPMs, and smooth to 3000 RPMs (full throttle).  My friend's observation is that Donnybrook is smoother than his boat, which had a yard replace her engine mounts and align this spring.

During my research I found this excellent article called Drive System Alignment by David Pascoe at http://www.yachtsurvey.com/.  It helped me to understand what is happening with the drive train.  An excerpt from the article:

Lessons Learned
The Nature of Inboard Drive Systems It is a common belief that engines and shaft couplings have to be aligned to tolerances of a few thousandths. There is some misunderstanding about this. Yes, the shaft coupling to transmission coupling needs to fit within several thousandths, but what were talking here is the coupling fit, not the shaft alignment. This is an important distinction that is often confused. I'll explain why.
 A conventional shafting system is essentially a free-floating, semi self-aligning system. How's that? Well, because the engine is mounted on rubber mounts, and the shaft is mounted in rubber bearings. Of course rubber being soft, that means that both the engine and shaft can and do move. See my point here? Since neither the shaft nor the engine is held rigidly in place, there's not much point in attempting to perfectly align the shaft with the engine, is there? No, because if everything is approximately aligned, the shaft will tend to self-center as a result of centrifugal force. The fact is that conventional shafting systems will tolerate a great deal of intolerance because of these factors.
The truth is that it is virtually impossible to correctly align engine and shaft with the methods that are commonly used. Because of the rubber mounts, the engine will not be in the same position when running as it is when stopped, when the alignment is made. Propeller thrust and engine torque will cause the engine to change position. And since the weight of the shaft sitting on rubber cutless bearings causes the rubber to compress, the shaft is not in alignment with the bearings anyway. When the boat is running and the propeller spinning, the shaft will align itself (but not if the basic alignment is out).

  1. I made sure the shaft was centered at the cutless bearing and where it entered the hull.  I didn't check it at the stuffing box.  Next time I'll remove the stuffing box hose to verify the shaft is centered.
  2. The hull really flexes!  The boat ran smooth the day the boat went into the water but not the next day.
  3. It takes two people to do the job.  One to run the engine and the other to observe what the motor and shaft are doing down below.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Chicago Yacht Club’s Verve Cup Distance Race

UPDATE:  The 2012 Verve Distance Race is Saturday, August 11.  See this article for information, or visit www.vervecup.com.

During my time sailing on Lake Michigan, I’ve realized I’m a cruising sailor at heart. I enjoy racing, however the Catalina 34 isn’t as fast and competitive as I’d like her to be for weekend buoy racing. I don’t think she’d even qualify for the NOOD buoy races based on her rating.

I enjoy distance races but they involve a quick turn-around (sail all day, party, sail back early the next morning) and essentially a full weekend commitment. Before kids that was fine. Now they’re really too young to take. Maybe in a few years.

I enjoy racing on friends’ boats, but there are only a finite number of weekends in Chicago’s summer and every day on a race boat is a day from Donnybrook, the family, or both.

I’m excited that this year there’s a distance racing series. A distance race is roughly a 20 mile race (shorter if conditions are light) to a point and back. To me it’s the perfect way to race a cruising boat. The race organizers offer three classes (depending on number of entries):
  • Jib and main
  • ORR Cruising (Mac race rules allowing only a cruising spinnaker)
  • Racing
A distance race is a less intense way to race. I’d be more comfortable bringing family or friends who haven’t raced before. There’s typically not as much tacking (think about the workout doing 30+ tacks during a day of buoy races) and there’s not as much stress to a novice racer due to mark roundings. There will be more reaching which is the fastest and most comfortable point of sail for Donnybrook and a lot of other cruising boats.

The Verve Cup Distance Race is August 20 with a 10:00 start near the Wilson Crib. The entry fee is only $2.50 per boat foot (through August 5) which gives you:
  • Race entry including a world class Race Committee.
  • Access to three days of social events at the Chicago Yacht Club Monroe station, including skipper’s meeting with professional weather briefing, live music and a Mount Gay rum pour.
  • A skipper’s bag with sponsor’s gifts (think sailor’s equivalent of a VIP gift bag).
  • Dockage at Monroe Harbor (with restrictions, see the Notice of Race)
  • The fun and excitement of competing with like sailors on beautiful Lake Michigan with the Chicago skyline and the Air and Water show as a back drop!
The Verve Cup Committee, which I’m a member of, is making it easy for boats to enter. Go to the the Verve's Yacht Scoring Site and select Online Entry Form / Application. You’re register for the Verve Offshore and when prompted for your Racing Course/Class, select ORR Saturday Distance Race ONLY.

You’ll also find at the Yacht Scoring Site the Notice of Race (a race’s rules and logistics), a scratch sheet showing entries, and other information. If you don’t have a rating certificate or sail number, the Verve Cup Committee can work with you to obtain the certificate and sail number.

Other distance races are the Nood Distance Race Saturday, June 11 and the Color’s Regatta Saturday, June 4. Donnybrook won’t be able to sail in either (Family commitments for the NOOD and out of town for the Color’s Regatta) but both promise to be fantastic events.

As of this writing there are already 65 boats registered for the Verve.  Six of which, including Donnybrook, are registered for the Verve Distance Race! The more boats, the more fun. If this type of event appeals to you. Please consider participating!
  • If you’re interested in sailboat racing, this is the perfect way to get your feet wet!
  • If you want to try out a distance race to prepare for the Mac Race, this is the perfect opportunity!
  • If you used to race and miss it due to some of the reasons I don't race, this is an opportunity to get back into it!
  • If you are looking for something more to do than sail around the cribs on an August Saturday, this is  the perfect event!
If you have any questions about the Verve Distance Race, contact me (leave a comment on this blog or email me (kyle@saildonnybrook.com) and I’ll help or put you in contact with the people who can help.

Again, more information is available at the Verve's Yacht Scoring Site or the Verve Cup's Official Site.

Update:  See Cruisers--Can You Go the Distance?  Verve Distance Race!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

A picture can't describe...

...what a beautiful night it was to sail on Lake Michigan. Roxray brought his friend, Louis, out. We put the main sail and Lazy Cradle on. It was a bit of a puzzle since it only goes one once a year burt overall no problems.

The temperature was perfect with alternating warm land breezes (west wind) and cool lake air. It was never hot or cold. The water was flat. The wind in the low teens.

There's nothing more to say but that it was a perfect night.