Saturday, May 18, 2019

Evanston: two questions and the man without fingerprints

        Two of the most frequently asked questions are:  Why did I not use a self-steering vane on GANNET?  and, Why did I truck GANNET across Panama?
        I have answered them frequently, most recently in reply to comments to YouTube videos, so I am going to make it easy on myself and answer them here one last time and just refer any future questioners to this post.

        When I began to plan GANNET’s circumnavigation I intended to install a self-steering vane.  I have used them with success on three other boats.  Aries on EGREGIOUS and RESURGAM.  A Monitor on THE HAWKE OF TUONELA.  
        However being an ultra-light GANNET’s transom is thin and needed to be re-enforced to support the considerable strain a vane will create.  Inside GANNET’s stern is an awkward dead space.  I painted back there with considerable discomfort and had no desire to fiberglass there.  One of the advantages of being an old man is that you can pay young ones to do what you don’t want to do.   A boat yard gave me an estimate of $5,000.  Add to that several thousand dollars more for the vane and I thought:  I can buy a lot of tiller pilots for that.  And I have.
        Subsequently I have seen a video of a self-steering vane mounted on a Moore 24 with the support tubes attached to the deck not the transom.
        Almost everything on a  boat is a compromise.  A vane mounted this way blocks the normal outboard bracket.  Fitting an outboard while underway, even one as light as a Torqeedo, to one side would be considerably more difficult than to the centered bracket, and on GANNET the deck mounted tubes would require moving two solar panels which are essential and I don't know where else I could put them.
        I have used sheet to tiller self-steering, which works from a close reach to a broad reach, for a total of more than 50,000 miles on three different boats:  EGREGIOUS, a 37’ cutter; CHIDIOCK TICHBORNE, an 18’ undecked yawl; and now GANNET, a 24’ ultralight sloop.
        Every boat I have owed could be sailed to windward by tying down the tiller.
        Sheet to tiller.  Tying down the tiller.  Tiller pilots.  Heaving to.  Lying ahull.  That is all that is necessary for me to sail anywhere.
        Were I planning GANNET’s voyage again, knowing what I know now, I would still not have a self-steering vane.

        Of the Panama Canal, GANNET presented multiple problems.  Powering fast and far enough was the easiest to solve simply by borrowing or renting a bigger outboard than the Torqeedo.  But GANNET also has no enclosed head, no way to feed and sleep four line handlers, cleats too small for the hawsers used in the locks, no sun protection for the mandatory advisor.  And I did not want to have five other people on the boat with me for parts of two days and one night.
        I do not know if the canal authorities would have permitted another yacht to tow GANNET through the canal.  No offer of a tow was forthcoming.  I did not want to wait and I don’t like to seek favors, so I decided to have the little boat trucked across.  
Even though the cost escalated obscenely beyond my expectation I do not regret that decision.


        Though I have gained back only half of the ten pounds I lost on the passage, I am fully recovered and have been for more than a week.  I am working out regularly, closing the activity circles on my Apple watch daily, and climbing at least twenty floors of stairs daily, again taking them two at a time.
        However I am still a man without fingerprints.  
        The skin has now sloughed off all fingertips and both thumbs and what is left below is not sufficient to be recognized by the sensor on my phone.  Possibly a perfect opportunity to commit a crime, but I have nothing in mind.