Archive for May, 2011

May 24

Dock lines

The first item to replace on the new boat will be dock lines.  The existing ‘lines’ are made up of scraps that are barely able to keep their physical shape without turning into dust so I have done my research and here is what I learned.

There are a variety of materials, line types and sizes.  Yacht clubs have special requirements that are not mandated in many other marinas.  Here are the relevant points

Material:  Choose nylon rope because it has more stretch in it.  Some claim 30% stretch, as opposed to 15% or less for other types of material.  You want the stretch to ease the motion of the boat and absorb shocks from waves and surge.

Line type:  Choose 3-strand line over braid.  Braid is the common material sold as “docking line” in major marine shops, mostly because it is comfortable to touch and easier to coil.  However, 3-strand line less expensive by 25-50% and is much easier to splice.  Splicing a thimble into the end of your line is a requirement by many yacht clubs and the added cost of doing that professionally just doesn’t make sense so be sure you are comfortable with splicing the type of line you choose.

Size:  On marine shop recommended 5/8″ line to be used on my 26′ Contessa.  Every other opinion I have solicited said that 5/8″ is incredible overkill, 1/2″ line is overkill as well and 3/8″ line is sufficient.

My choice was Canadian made, 1/2″, 3-strand nylon rope in bulk at $0.50/foot.  In bulk, I could reduce that price to $0.45/foot and online you can get similar line as low as $0.28/foot.

I made this choice because:

1.  The yacht club requires a minimum of 1/2″ line, I have no choice.

2.  The yacht club requires thimbles spliced into the ends, I can do this myself with 3-strand.

3.  I think nylon is the best choice because of the stretch characteristics.


May 24


A first post of a journal is always the most difficult and particularly so for those of us who are not inclined to write; This is no exception.

I have decided to share the log of my adventures on my first sail boat; I suppose this first post is premature since I do not, yet, own my first sail boat.  However, we are reasonably close to finalizing the purchase of a 1983 Contessa 26, hull #312, who should be ours within the week.  Perhaps I should back up to give you a bit of background of how we got to this point.

Years ago I was asked to work on an ‘emergency’ project in the British Virgin Islands (BVI) and due to the awkward timing of my flights, I was “stuck” in Road Town, Tortola, for a weekend with nothing to do but sit on the beach or at the bar and watch beautiful sail boats come and go from the harbour.  I have travelled extensively before this trip and spent quite a bit of time on the water doing things like fishing, canoeing and spending time at beaches and so on but I hadn’t ever given much thought to boats before that trip.  During my time in BVI I really relaxed and began to see the beauty in sail boats themselves, I had never sailed, but something about the vessels struck a chord with me and I just knew they were going to be my next great passion.

From that day on I have spent incredible amounts of time absorbing ‘all things nautical’; I’ve read the great novels, biographies, visited maritime museums and even began following yacht races on tv.  The immediate, and logical, thought dawned on me that if I was ever going to own a sail boat then I would need to learn how to sail.  Simple as that.  I continued absorbing information, including texts on the theory and practice of sailing as well as began my search for practical experience.  I absorbed the basic dinghy course, keelboat course, obtained my certifications for boating, licence for operating in Toronto and operating a maritime radio in Canada and joined the yacht club so that I could crew on race boats whenever possible.  I jumped at the chance to sail whatever I could, whenever I could;  I think the list goes something like this now, Laser, Albacore, J22, Shark, J24, Farr 30 (Mumm 30), Beneteau, 36.7, IMX 38 and at least another dozen types that I don’t remember off the top of my head.  I tried different types of sailing, from dinghy sailing in St. Lucia, catamarans in Cuba, small and large keel boats in the Great Lakes before finally deciding that I should, and would, be a boat owner myself.  Believe me, that was no easy decision; To convince myself that it was a financially reasonable decision and to get consent and commitment from both Feng and our dog Valentina Rossi were our largest challenges.

The search for a boat was long.  Perhaps not difficult, but long.  You see, there are a great many types of boats on the market today and no shortage from which to choose.  Feng and I narrowed our decision down to a few base requirements;  We were going to cruise, not race, so we needed a boat we are both comfortable in handling.  Our experience told us this was in the 28-30ft range, although I lean towards smaller boats.  Feng required life lines and a marine head – easy enough.  My requirements were more difficult; I wanted a boat that had to look like a boat – remember, I originally fell in love with boats, not sailing – so the boat not only had to be rigorously  functional but also beautiful.  My first loves were the Nonsuch 30 and the Contessa 26 but we soon added the Alberg 30, anything that was a ketch or double-ender and even a 36′ Herreshoff designed, wooden ketch by the name of ‘Diddikai’ (A beautiful boat built in Africa in 1956, it even comes with its own post card).  From my reading, I liked the idea of “sailing small” and at a certain point, I just decided that a 30ft boat was a luxury and well beyond what Feng and I actually needed.  I kept returning to the Contessa 26; All of my research, reading and gut feeling reinforced this decision.  So the physical search began…

The physical search for our Contessa ranged all over Ontario but on the Internet, I searched as far as the United Kingdom.  Feng and I have spent the last 3 years visiting advertised Contessa’s and burrowing deep inside to see if we had found ‘the one’.  We met some fantastic people in Blind River who were kind enough to take us in for the night and who wanted to sell their loved Contessa, we met some shady people in Penetanguishene, we met some dreamers who were selling boats in horrendous condition.  None of which met our standards for a good, solid hull and engine.  Mostly, there were problems with rotting decks and really poor electrical work – we even saw one boat with a household, open junction box that opened on to the back of the toilet!  It was shocking.

In December 2010 we responded to an advertisement of a fellow selling his wife’s boat.  Peter tells us their story about how Peter, Nelleke and their two daughters crossed the ocean to Canada in a Westsail 32.  Nelleke thought it was such a fantastic experience that she decided to cross from Canada to Africa by herself.  For those that don’t know, this is an extremely brave and difficult thing to do.  They sold their Westsail 32 and purchased the Contessa 26, outfitted it for an ocean crossing and after much planning, Nelleke left her job for a year’s sabbatical.  Her journey ended in tears, only 1.5 days out of New York;  A wave knocked over the little boat in 35+knot winds causing Nelleke to scald herself with boiling water.  The electrical system was damaged and she was left in the dark, by herself, in the open ocean.  She immediately turned back and called it quits.  The boat has been a sore point for her since then; I assume because she did not reach her goal or dream and now doesn’t want anything to do with the boat.  Feng and I visited the boat in January 2011 – it was the boat for us.  We made an offer and it was accepted.

Winters in Canada, are not a great time to buy a boat.  It is too cold to check the hull for moisture, the boats sit on cradle’s above the water so engines cannot be checked, the sails and rigging are stripped from the boat and stored off-site so they cannot be viewed until spring.  So we waited.  And waited.  Until finally we helped Peter launch and rig the boat this past weekend.  So here we are today, we have two more inspections left to go before finalizing the payment for our boat.  I suspect all will go well.

That’s the background to our story and now the adventure begins.  I will attempt to document our adventures through pictures and text for the sake of history.