Thursday, June 28, 2012

Sailing on More than One Hull

There's a saying among boaters: There are two kinds of boaters - those who have run aground and those who will.

If you're in a boat with a keel, you need to know how much you draw. This is a fancy way of saying 'how far down does the keel go in the water?' If you look back at the last post, you can see from the drawing that some keels hang deeper than others. If you're writing about a sailboat, your characters need to know what their boat draws (how deep the keel goes). Otherwise, they're going to be those boaters who WILL run aground.

Running aground can be no big thing, or it can be utterly devastating. During a cruise last summer, my husband and I listened on the VHF as a big power boat struck an unmarked reef (rocks) at high speed. That boat sank within an hour. Everyone made if off the boat and were rescued, but it was a stark reminder that you either have to know the waters were you cruise, or you have to know how to read your charts. Even then, you may not avoid running aground.

Most groundings in sailboats are at low speed and it's the keel that hits first. Not bad, really. Touching bottom with a piece of solid metal may take a bite out of the keel, but it usually doesn't result in a sinking. It's possible to hit hard enough to rip the keel right off the boat, but that's unusual and it does mean sinking. Most of the time, in the Puget Sound region, sailboats go aground in mud, which doesn't damage the boat. The problem is that if you go aground with the tide going out, your boat will settle over on one side until the tide turns and refloats it again. Not a catastrophe, generally, but uncomfortable.

What does this have to do with multihulls? Plenty. Trimarans have three hulls. The middle hull looks a lot like a monohull (most all the other sailboats out there), but it has two hulls out on either side. These boats have no keel at all as the pontoons on either side provide stability. Tris are faster then monohulls and can carry more sail area than a monohull of the same length. Because there's no keel, these boats can sail in much shallower water. It isn't uncommon for a monohull to draw six feet - meaning if the water depth goes to five feet and eleven inches, that boat will be aground. Multihulls without keels can draw as little as two feet. Some are even beachable. The disadvantage is that a trimaran is hard to dock because of it's beam (how wide it is). It can also be difficult to maneuver in tight spaces because of the width. Trimarans usually have a little less living space than similarly sized monohulls because the middle hull is usually the only living space and it's narrower than most monohulls. This one pictured here mitigates that by building the living space up and across all three hulls. This isn't common.

Catamarans have two hulls. Usually, both hulls contain living quarters with more living space built between the two hulls. Catamarans typically don't have keels, either. Instead, they rely on retractable centerboards or daggerboards. This boat pictured is a thirty-four foot Gemini catamaran that has daggerboards - one in either hull. This boat is beachable, though not all cats are. If you opt to put your characters in a catamaran, do a search and look at the different models out there. Most of the dealer sites will tell you whether a boat is beachable, or whether it had daggerboards as opposed to centerboards. Catamarans have a reputation for turtling. This means that while under sail, one hull comes up out of the water and the boat goes all the way over. The width of the boat is supposed to prevent that, but in enough wind, it's all too possible. Another Gemini in our region did flip while out in a squall that blew up 50mph winds. Everyone was fine, but that's what you call a bad day. If you're going to sail a catamaran, you must pay attention to the wind and to the boat. These boats can be fast and very comfortable - cats don't heel. They provide a very stable sailing platform. But you cannot push them when the wind speed starts to climb. Without a heavy keel underneath, once this boat starts going over, it's going over. It's up to the sailor to know enough to prevent it in the first place. That said, these boats are very safe so long as the sailors know when to reef (reduce sail area) and/or when to get the heck out of the weather if they can.

In a catamaran, accommodations go down either hull. In the Gemini, the galley (kitchen) is in the starboard hull. The master cabin is forward where that first row of windows is. In the port hull is the navigation table and the head (forward). Two double cabins are aft in either hull. The settee and table are up between the hulls and the cockpit is in back. You can explore the boat on the builder's website. Again, search on catamarans and you'll find all kinds of them out there in the world. You should be able to find one that suits your story and your characters.

Next Up: Power Boats

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Best Laid Plans

I'd promised a post about multihulls. I'd intended to have that for you on Thursday. Then I got a phone call from my husband. "Hi, hon. First, I'm okay. Second, I was in an accident." He'd been driving home. A petroleum tanker truck changed lanes right into him. Fortunately, it was a low speed accident. They were in the city at a spot where the road goes beneath an underpass. DH had no where to go to escape being hit. No damage to either driver. No damage to the tanker truck. The driver's side of our car? Well. Peeled a good bit of that. It's fixable. But the car is twelve years old. It will likely cost more to fix it than the car is worth. So we started the insurance claim process and began shopping for a replacement car.

Saturday morning, during an all too brief sunny patch, DH and I took the cats out on the dock. They wandered and rolled and sniffed the warm air. And then, Erie, our 17 year old, deaf gal fell off the dock into the water. We've had a cat fall in once before. He popped right back up, head above water and swam. Not Eratosthenes. She hit the water and panicked. She began spinning, unable to tell which way was up. She sank fast. DH sprinted to her, threw himself down on the dock and could only barely reach her. He grabbed her by the tail and hauled her up.

I got there in time to gather her up in my arms, and realize she'd inhaled some sea water. Instantly, I switched my hold on her - her butt up near my shoulder and her head hanging down at my waist. Water drained out of her lungs through her nose.

We rushed her inside and wrapped her in towels while we heated fresh water. Puget Sound water temperatures run about 50 degrees. We knew we had to get the cat warmed up, so DH filled the kettle and put it on the stove. It takes very little time to warm water to a comfortable bath temperature. As I was already soaked through with sea water, I took the cat and the kettle into the head for a warming, freshwater rinse down.

Erie wasn't at all impressed with the need to rinse the saltwater out of her fur, never mind that the water was warm. I bundled her up in a fresh towel to begin drying her off, but by this time, she'd recovered enough and had gotten mad enough that she wanted nothing more to do with me. She stomped off, her fur standing out in stiff spikes, and found a secluded location where she could lick herself dry. We tried to help by applying the blowdryer, but that merely offended her further.

For anyone writing about boats, falling into the water is one of the dangers. Most boaters are very good about wearing life jackets while the boat is moving. Few of us wear life jackets just walking around the docks or while working on our boats while at dock. Yet, according to the paramedics who responded when my dad fell in (that's another story for the post specifically about lifejackets) said that 90% of all accidental 'in the water' incidents happen at dock. A number of pet companies make life preservers for dogs. These are jackets with big loop handles on the back, so you can grab hold and lift the animal out. No one seems to make them for cats - assuming you could convince a cat to wear one anyway.

Madam Erie will no longer go out on the dock without a halter and leash. If I could find or make a little kitty-sized life preserver, she'd never go out without that on, either.

Really. Next time. I promise you some info about multihulls.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Working in 1376

Taking a break from sailing jargon, I'm over at the Word-Whores today (again, safe for work and totally PG-13 this week) talking about the weirdest job I've had. Let's just say it was in 1376.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Love While Ye May

Madam Erie had a bath yesterday. She wasn't impressed. In fact, no matter where you are in the United States, you might have heard her opinion on the matter. I wouldn't have subjected her to the indignity except that she's old, arthritic, and we've just learned, heading into chronic renal failure. Her coat was greasy, dirty and matted. With her kidneys challenged, her skin needs to be kept clean so it can assist in detoxing her system to some small degree. We switched on the onboard water heater, and snuck around gathering the towels and soap while debating the potential retributions the cat might visit upon us after the deed was done.

As with many things, gathering my courage was harder than the actual activity. No blood was shed. That isn't to say that the wet, soapy, slippery cat didn't try to make a dash for it at every opportunity. She did. But I prevailed. A much cleaner, sweeter smelling and totally PISSED OFF Eratosthenes emerged to be wrapped in towels and fussed over. She wasn't buying what we were selling. It took most of the day for her double coat to dry - double coat means she has layers, the guard hairs you see and a shorter, denser undercoat. She wanted DOWN and far away from anything on two legs.

I was loathed for an entire two hours.

She forgave me when I showed her a sunny spot for her snoozing pleasure. And today, the entire thing is a bad memory. It's clear she feels better now that her coat is cleaner.  Of course, it won't be the last bath. It can't be. Her disease is a process. Caring for her is also a process, one that's lasted thus far for seventeen years. As a friend once said, "You love 'em while you've got 'em,  then you give them back to Bast." That's our plan.

As for retribution? Erie spent a few hours last night howling, just to be certain we comprehended the depths of her post bathtime despair. Bribes eventually satisfied her thirst for vengenace, however, and we arrived at detente in time for lights out.

That's when the cat snuck around and left a ginormous hairball right in the middle of the hallway for me to step on in the middle of the night.