Thursday, July 24, 2008

Lesson 3: River Test and Eling

The day of my third lesson turned out beautifully sunny and warm, but with strong SE and ESE breezes building - rather than gusting - from F4 to F6 while we were out, it also made for some challenging sailing. One thing that I learned today was that it wouldn't be wise to be too cocky about my capabilities following my first singlehanded outing a week or so earlier. More productively, some important pennies finally dropped about sail trim, attack angles and leeway in moderate to strong breezes.

Above: How to sail 22 miles without going anywhere in particular. The battery ran out on the laptop on the way home, and I couldn't be bothered to change it, hence the triangle marking our 'last known position'. Screenshot taken from PassagePlus software (click the image for larger view).

Under the watchful eye of the long-suffering Roger, Arabella and I made a textbook exit from her berth - I finally seem to be getting better at doing that - and motored down river and out into a decidedly choppy Southampton Water. The sea state was puzzling. It looked like wind against tide, but the wind and tide were aligned. We concluded that, with the F4-5 wind blowing pretty much straight up Southampton Water, there was a sufficient fetch to generate the chop.

The conditions wouldn't have made singlehanding easy at all, at least not at my level of (in)experience. The tillerpilot, on which I had relied so heavily last time out, struggled to hold Arabella's head to the wind, now increasing to a steady F5, as I raised the main and put the first reef in. I wouldn't have been very confident had it not been for Roger in the cockpit, ready to take control if the tillerpilot lost the plot. The key seemed to be to increase the revs on the outboard, giving Arabella sufficient forward motion into the wind and chop to allow the rudder to bite; too little, and her bow was simply blown off the wind. Equally, applying sufficient power to generate some forward drive made for a bumpy ride as she gamely tried to force her way through the chop and white horses. It wasn't much fun handling the lines up at the mast while Arabella did a passable imitation of a bucking bronco.

Above: "The tillerpilot...struggled to hold Arabella's head to wind as I raised the main..." Screenshot taken from PassagePlus software.

With Arabella's sails eventually set and the outboard switched off, we headed a little way down Southampton Water. Other than the fact that the waves were smaller, the conditions were a carbon copy of those that had prompted the decision to retire from the RTIR a month earlier. Arabella simply didn't like sailing into the teeth of a stiff breeze. As the main chart above shows, we did make progress, but it was hard won and we had to sail well off the wind, with each tack gaining only a modest amount of ground. And there was leeway to die for - we were pointing much higher into the SE breeze than our ground track suggests.

The only consolation was that it wasn't all Arabella's fault. Others were having similar problems. Once again, we were out almost by ourselves on a beautiful day, continuing to give the lie to the myth about the overcrowded Solent. There were just a few other yachts out. They included a Contessa 26 and another seventies yacht of indeterminate make, both crewed two-up, which had left the river at the same time as us. Not unexpectedly, the Contessa appeared to make less leeway than we did - although she didn't walk away from us either - but eventually she gave up, dropped her sails and continued off down Southampton Water under power. Meanwhile the other yacht surrendered after a couple of tacks and turned back for home.

Roger, as usual, had other ideas.

"Have you been up the River Test yet?", he asked. I hadn't, so we tacked round and ran before the wind up into the Test. It was fascinating. A trip through the heart of a busy port, with commercial shipping - including the 176m Grande Italia, below - coming and going continually, yet with loads of room to sail and keep out of the way.


Roger explained that he used this area on the school boats quite often, especially in frustrating weather conditions, as it is reasonably sheltered but, with drying patches, small boat moorings and plenty of large shipping, challenging enough to present plenty of teaching opportunities.

But the best was still to come. As we rounded a gentle curve to the left, a wide open reach of the river opened out, with the container port to starboard and unspoiled woodland to port. The wind fell off a little, to 12 or 13 knots apparent, and we sailed comfortably along, with the place all to ourselves.

"Right," said Roger, pointing at the chart. "Let's do a little pilotage. Off to port up ahead, there's a drying creek that leads up to Eling Harbour. Let's get the sails down and go and have a look."

Above: Chart detail showing Eling Channel. Interestingly, the GPS plot looks to be a little off - we were definitely closer to the wall on the final (south-westerly) entrance into the harbour, to avoid the shallow patch to port on the way in. Screenshot taken from PassagePlus software (click the image for larger view).

Studying the chart, I saw that the creek, marked by posts, dried to 0.1m and ran through mudbanks that dried to between 2m and 3m on average. It seemed straightfoward, and with high water about an hour ahead, and a tide of nearly 4m, we'd have more than enough depth on a rising tide to go in safely. The beginning of the channel was clear enough to see, with a port and starboard post showing the way. Thereafter, starboard posts described a curve around to the entrance into the harbour.

Believe it or not - and East Coast sailors will be smirking at this point - it was the first time that I had ever entered a drying creek, so the experience was invaluable. I regularly used the height of tide to calculate how far in I could work to the shore, but I'd never previously gone into a creek that had the temerity to vanish at low water. Hugging the starboard posts, I turned smartly into the harbour entrance and kept close to the wall to the right, avoiding the 3-4m drying patch that seemed to fill the left of the narrow channel inbound. The harbour was disarmingly pretty, and I was amazed that I could have been sailing in this area for so so long without knowing about it. Stupidly, I'd left my camera in Italy back at the weekend when visiting SWMBO and the bambini - who have parked themselves there for the whole summer - but the stock shot below probably does a better job than I could of capturing the look and feel of the place.

Above: Eling Harbour at low water. The entrance channel is along the wall beneath the containers, far right background. (Library shot from Flickr, used under commons licence. Copyright Joe Dunkley)

We entered the harbour far enough to have a nose around, and admired the scene. This close to high water, plenty of people were on their moored yachts, while tourists wandered up and down the waterfront, and an air of colourful hustle and bustle prevailed. A fascinating little place that's well worth a visit - you can find out more HERE.

However, time and tide wait for no man, as the old saying goes. We needed to be on our way if we wanted to get back home before the ebb set in. Reversing our course, we headed back out into the River Test. The wind here had backed ESE and was now a sustained 22-25 knots - in other words, pushing towards the top end of F6 territory - which was not exactly what either of us had been hoping for, given that we would be beating back down to the mouth of the river.

Above: Looking ESE out from the Eling Channel to the River Test. Care is needed to not become confused by the sequence of posts. Working from the right, follow the first two green posts, then exit between the left-hand green and the red posts. (Library shot from Flickr, used under commons licence. Copyright Chalkie Colour Circle.)

Roger suggested - given the fun I 'd had raising the mainsail earlier, while trying to use the tillerpilot to hold Arabella's head to wind - that an alternative might be to pick up a convenient mooring buoy under power, raise the sail there, and then sail off. We headed for the moorings shown in the picture above (where the small yacht can be seen moored, beyond the second starboard marker post), and I attempted to manoeuvre Arabella in order to bring her alongside a buoy, level with her cockpit, where I could reach it.

I had no joy at all making an upwind approach to the buoy in forward gear. The wind blew off the bow continually. By turning Arabella around and approaching in reverse, however, all went smoothly. I had already prepared a mooring line leading from the samson post on the foredeck, out through the bow fairlead and aft outside everything to the cockpit. Grabbing the buoy as it came level with the cockpit, I led the mooring line through the eye spliced to the heavy line attached to it, then walked forward to the foredeck and hauled in.

Shortly, Arabella was moored by the heavy line to the buoy and lying docilely head to wind, while I hauled up the mainsail. It was then easy to cast off the mooring and - at least in this deserted river, with plenty of room all around - to walk back to the cockpit as Arabella fell back downwind, trim the main and put her onto a reach while unfurling a portion of the genoa to get her sailing properly.

With the breeze as strong as it was, getting back down the Test was hard work. Despite that, we persisted. The frequent gusts came in handy, providing lift and enabling us to point up a bit on most tacks, but leeway was still an issue.

Stronger winds and chop certainly show up the principal weakness of a small twin-keeler. The leeway is manageable, but you do need to be aware of it and to plan your sailing accordingly. If the wind is coming from even slightly to left or right of the rhumbline to your destination, then there will always be a paying tack that will get you there reasonably quickly. If you have to sail right into the teeth of anything from the middle of a F4 upwards, however, be prepared for a long trip, with each tack making relatively modest gains to windward.

One of the things I've never found intuitively obvious about leeway is that it increases the closer to the wind you sail. In other words, leeway is greater when sailing close-hauled than when sailing on a beam reach. On an intellectual level, the best explanation I've found for that is that when the boat heels more, as it will when close-hauled, not only do the keels lose some of their grip on the water, but the effective sail area presented to the wind is reduced, slowing the boat down. And slowing down in turn further increases leeway, because the 'lift' generated by the keels depends for its existence upon boatspeed. No boatspeed, no lift. Whereas, by sailing further off the wind, the sheets can be eased (increasing speed) and heel reduced (increasing the 'bite' of, and lift generated by, the keels), with the result that leeway is minimised.

Above: That a keel produces lift always confused me. After all, unlike an aircraft wing, a keel is symmetrical. Logically it has to be, or the boat would only sail well on one tack. The above diagram, taken from a very interesting website, finally helped me to figure it out. The keel is symmetrical, but its angle of attack is not in line with the direction in which the boat is travelling. The boat's sideways, crabbing motion creates an offset angle. The keel therefore emulates the effect of a classic, asymmetrical wing, in the sense that the water has to travel further around one side of it - the upwind side - than it does around the other. The water travelling around the upwind side has to travel faster than the water on the downwind side and, according to Bernoulli's Principle, the resultant pressure differential constitutes lift. Without needing to be a physicist, it's also easy to see from this diagram that, as the boat (and therefore the keel) is turned more and more to windward, the keel's angle of attack relative to the flow of water will increase to the point at which it 'stalls' in much the same way as an aircraft wing can be made to do. By analogy with an aircraft wing, the slower the boatspeed, the smaller the stall angle will be - the less the boat needs to be pointed up to windward to cause the keel to stall.

Chop and short or breaking waves also increase leeway, partly because they physically push a boat downwind when they slap against her hull and partly because, to the extent they stop or reduce boatspeed, that reduction in speed also contributes to leeway for the reasons just described.

Roger and I experimented with unfurling alternately more and less genoa, and changing the sheet leads accordingly. In these winds, however, unfurling more than about half of the genoa gave diminishing returns. Arabella heeled very impressively and stuck her lee deck underwater, but went absolutely no faster - if anything, she slowed down - and suffered huge leeway. Putting our weight out to windward, racing-style, might have helped to the extent that it brought Arabella more upright.

Whatever, it was gradually becoming clearer to me what the source of Arabella's difficulties in this year's RTIR had been. I couldn't be sure how much of a practical effect all this science malarkey really had. But Arabella's upwind performance could use all the help it could get, no matter how marginal.

The more I played, the more I was making mental connections between otherwise unrelated experiences. I had discovered on my first singlehanded trip that if I went out on to the starboard deck (inducing starboard heel), Arabella turned smartly to port, and vice versa. Now, of course, I could see that if Arabella heeled before the wind, she would inevitably produce weather helm (wanting to turn upwind), with inevitable consequences in terms of leeway. So all the science boiled down to a simple rule of thumb: more heel = more weather helm and more leeway.

The same rule of thumb meant that exploiting the lift generated by gusts - what the racers call "bullets of pressure" - to steal a few yards to windward was something to be done with moderation. Steer up into the gust too enthusiastically, and you'd increase heel, slow the boat, and risk losing through leeway as much ground as you gained via the little burst of lift.

I'd learned some valuable lessons today - not all of which sank in until after I got on the late train home and had an enforced two hours in which to mull them over - about how Arabella behaved in stronger winds and chop, and about developing a helming and trimming strategy to cope with such conditions. I didn't yet feel ready to go out alone in such conditions, but at least my experience and knowledge was building up, layer by layer.

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Above: Where we went today - the Google Earth version

A further bonus was that, once Arabella lay safely back at her pontoon, Roger had the courage to do something I had so far chickened out of. He unscrewed the Airmar through-hull paddlewheel transducer for the ST60+ speed instrument, which had become fouled once again, so that I could clean it. It turned out that the through-hull fitting has a small flap inside, which closes once the transducer unit is fully unscrewed and removed, so the fountain of sea water which I was fearfully expecting never materialised. A sponge and bucket was all that was needed to clean up the modest amount of water that entered. After shaking out all the little marine creepie crawlies, and ensuring the paddlewheel span freely, I removed the temporary bung, replaced the transducer and screwed back the retaining cap without drama. Another annoying little personal demon had been exorcised.

Little by little, I was getting better at this game. It was only a shame that, on this day of hot sunshine and strong breezes, I'd foolishly neglected to consider skin protection. My lobster-pink face gave my fellow passengers plenty to gawp at on the train back to London. First task when I got home was to help myself to copious quantities of the face cream that Luisa conveniently forgot to pack when departing for Italy. It was one of those horrendously expensive beauty products that make you resent using them, given that you're effectively smearing large sums of money all over your face. But I do feel visibly younger now, as well as a little bit wiser.


Conditions: SE backing ESE, F4 building steadily to F6, mainly sunny. Sea state: short chop.
Distance covered (GPS over ground): 21.8 NM
Total distance covered to date (2008): 98.8 NM
Engine hours: 2.1 (total for 2008: 9.8 hours)

Sunday, July 13, 2008

First time singlehanded

This weekend, I finally managed my first singlehanded trip out in Arabella. The Jester Challenge it wasn't, but it was a major step forward for me and a huge confidence booster.

The forecasts for Sunday had promised a much-needed break in the weather, but after a fine start to the morning, the clouds rolled in again.

I wasn't too bothered. I needed to clean up the mess left behind after our abortive attempt at the Round The Island Race two weeks earlier, and there were a host of other little jobs that needed to be seen to. I emptied Arabella's contents out onto the marina pontoon - it never fails to amaze me just how much stuff gets shoehorned into such a small boat - and got stuck in with a vengeance.

Note to self: ban potato crisps for next year's race. You wouldn't believe the places I found them in.

The forecasts said it shouldn't rain, so of course it did, in the mid-afternoon. By that time, I had managed to remove from Arabella's interior all of the powdery silt that had been left behind by the Solent mud-waters that found their way below decks during the race. And removed the dried salt spots. From the headlining. And managed to reload all of her kit back on board, but not before undertaking some drastic dejunking and consigning certain items to the marina skip.

Sheltering in the dry, below decks, I considered my options. Last night, I'd kind of, sort of, convinced myself that if the weather was kind, I might have a go at singlehanding today. But in the cold light of morning I'd had an attack of cold feet - or was that realism? I'd never yet managed to get through a lesson with Roger without cocking something up - usually something pretty basic - and now I thought I was capable of going out alone? There had been times when merely reversing Arabella out of her berth had been difficult - and she is a very small boat.

The uninspiring weather conveniently added another reason not to go. I probably ought to have called it a day then and gone home, but the rain relented, though the dark clouds remained overhead. Reminding myself that life doesn't often give me the chance to come down to the boat, and I should make the most of it, I stuck around and attacked the next item on the to-do list - how to get the lead right on the genoa furling line. That took a while, fiddling around with various lead angles, but finally I had it cracked, I thought, and suddenly it was 6.00pm and the sun came out.

Peering up, surprised, I saw that there was actually quite a lot of sunshine. A big patch of blue sky was sweeping in from the west, punctuated only by light cloud.

Damn. I was all out of excuses. Now I would have to go. I couldn't face jumping on the train back to London in fair weather, having not having at least tried. I'd never be able to live with myself. The tide was flooding, and there were maybe two hours to go until "first" high water, perhaps another hour or so of the stand - which was less pronounced on neaps - by which time it would be dark anyway. The wind was falling off as evening came on. I could get maybe three hours out on the water, in near-perfect beginner's conditions.

If I dithered any longer, time would run out and I wouldn't go. Forcing myself to act, I started the outboard, got togged up in lifejacket and harness. Removed the sail cover, unhooked the bungees from the halyards. Dug out one of the two tillerpilots. Switched on the instuments, hooked up the laptop, fired up the chartplotting software and activated the attached GPS. Went back out onto the pontoon, slipped the bow line from the dock, threw it on board. Holding Arabella to the pontoon, walked aft and did the same with the stern line.

Arabella was free. The tidal current running through the pontoons was pulling her gently but inexorably out of her berth. All I was doing now was keeping her close to the finger berth as she backed out, nothing more. If I didn't go with her, she would still be leaving. I stayed put on the end of the pontoon, keeping Arabella lined up. Too late it occurred to me that, with the current taking her like this, I could have - should have - used a slip line as a spring off the starboard quarter to help her swing around.

I stepped aboard, shifted the outboard into reverse. We had to get some sternway through the water if I wanted the rudder to bite so that we could swing round between the rows of berths. But I had already left it too late. Arabella politely but firmly declined to turn the way I wanted her to and continued heading for the boats berthed across the way.

Not good. With tiller still hard over, I clunked the outboard into forward gear. Arabella obediently began to swing, but of course, in forward gear, she swung the wrong way, pointing into - not out of - the lane to the river between the two lines of berths.

Further note to self: in future, try not to forget to put the tiller across when switching gear. Another beginner's mistake. Still, I'd settle for what I'd been given. Clunking the engine back into reverse, and increasing the revs, I got some stern way on and just kept on reversing Arabella all the way out into the river.

And that was really the worst moment of it all. After that, everything went fine, as the utterly boring movie below shows. Mind, it's boring for you, because nothing exciting happens. It wasn't boring for me - my heart was in my mouth for much of the time.



(to view all Arabella's vids, go to Arabella's Movie Gallery)

About a half-an-hour in, I finally unclenched my but-hocks and starting enjoying myself. In the process, I found out a few useful things through trial and error.

Once out in the river, it turned out not to be feasible to do what Roger had taught me on my last lesson, which was to sort out the fenders, lines and mainsail just bobbing around outside the marina. The reason for that was that the wind and the flood tide were aligned, and Arabella wanted to drift upriver at a rate that was too fast for comfort. Clearly, Roger's technique needed less wind, less tide or - ideally - for the two to be in opposition.

Instead, I headed off down river to see what I could do with the Tiller-Tamer. Using it to lock off the tiller was a solution of sorts, but as on previous occasions, Arabella wandered off track pretty rapidly once her balance was upset, for example as soon as I left the cockpit to collect in the fenders. The direction in which she headed correlated inversely to which side I stepped up on to - every time I went up on to the starboard deck, for example, she'd head off to port. This tendency was manageable, but annoying, and I wasn't sure how I could risk enough time to go up to the foredeck and recover the forward mooring line, even if I could attack the fenders one at a time before heading back to the tiller to restore Arabella's course.



Above: My new best friend - the Tillerpilot. In fact, I'm so fond of it, I secured it to the pushpit with a spare piece of cord...just in case. The image also shows the Tiller-Tamer fitted to the tiller.


It may be that the balance of a small boat like Arabella is simply too easily upset for the Tiller-Tamer to be of much help, and it may work better on a larger boat. As far as Arabella is concerned, however, it really requires that you stay in the cockpit so that you can tend to it - good for locking off the tiller while you tidy up lines or grab the flask of coffee, say, but not much else.

Frustrated by that, I turned my attention to the tillerpilot. I'd rigged it before leaving, assuming that at some point I would use it, but uncertain just how much. The tillerpilot was a revelation. At the cost of some battery drain, it was utterly unflappable. Provided I kept an eye out for traffic and watched where Arabella was heading, the tillerpilot kept Arabella to the required course no matter how much I wandered around the deck. It was easy to gather in the fenders and lines, and then to raise the mainsail, as we motored gently down river. By the time we reached Southampton Water, we were ready to sail.

It was as good as deserted. Yet again. It always is when I go out. For all I knew, it might have been the maritime equivalent of the M25 out here earlier on, but at 7.15pm on an acceptably pleasant Sunday evening, with the sun already low in the sky, everyone had gone home and left the whole place to me. I had a private practice area of more square miles than I could possibly need.

I put Arabella onto a reach and unfurled the genoa. With the breeze only reaching F3 at most, I unfurled it all, even if that was not strictly sensible on my first singlehanded sail. Arabella accelerated smoothly to 4 knots or so, and I cut the engine before reconnecting the tillerpilot so that I could start trimming the sails. At this angle of attack, the sheets could be eased for speed. That suited me just fine. I had absolutely zero desire to go sailing Arabella around on her ear on my first time out alone. My stomach was just about returning to its normal place, and I forced myself to put out of my mind all the iterations I would have to deal with later on and to relax, concentrate on what I was doing right now. I'd done my thinking ahead, just as the books say you must, and prepared everything I could for singlehanding. There was nothing further I could do right now, except enjoy the moment.

Above and below: Look - no hands! The orange lines, by the way, are just to stop the outboard from vibrating itself to port or starboard.



In these light breezes, the tillerpilot continued to be a Godsend. I'm not sure whether I'd have been quite so relaxed about surrendering control to it in stronger winds, but for now I made good use of it. At one point, with virtually no traffic in sight except for a large container vessel inbound in the main channel, well off to the right, I even went and sat on the foredeck and just drank in the scene, as Arabella sailed steadily and serenely on by herself.

If the tillerpilot was now my new best friend, the laptop/chartplotter came a very close second. Admittedly I was sailing in familiar waters, but our course took us over some shallow patches. With the laptop I could see at a glance where I was, what the charted depth was, and add the expected height of tide to that with a quick mental calculation, and do all that from the helm. I had the charts out on the nav table below decks, as a backup, but I doubt that I would have been able to handle much paper chartwork, as well as singlehanding, at least not at my stage of development. It would have been easier to head out into deeper water beside the main shipping channel instead, and simply buoy-hop. With the aid of the chartplotter, however, I could keep well inshore and stay out of trouble and anyone else's way. The only traffic that came anywhere near me was a solitary dinghy heading in to shore at Netley.


Above: My other best friend - the laptop chartplotter saves frantic dashes to the nav station and makes pilotage easy. Note how we just shaved the side of the drying patch.

Above: where I went today. Screenshot taken from PassagePlus software (click the image for larger view).

I glanced at the time. It wasn't far off 8.00pm. High tide was at 8.15pm, and by 9.00pm it would be almost dark. Ideally I wanted just enough gloaming to see by as I made my way back up the river. As it was, it was already time to switch on the masthead tri-light. I should be heading back.

I disconnected the tillerpilot, and executed my first-ever singlehanded tack. In such light airs, the manoeuvre went smoothly, and I was able to trim in the genoa sheet by hand, without resorting to the winch. Staying put in the cockpit, I found the Tiller-Tamer more useful than it had been earlier, as I could lock off the tiller, trim the genoa, then release the tiller and steer by hand to get the best performance out of Arabella. I didn't want to be hanging around now.

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Above: Where I went today - the Google Earth tour version (to find out how to do this on a budget, see the note at the end of this post)

The wind was falling off, but by sailing more proactively and working the gentle gusts for speed rather than pointing up, I arrived back at the entrance to the river very quickly. My earlier tinkering with the genoa furling line paid off now, and the foresail furled away easily. Under main alone, Arabella ghosted into the river and I got the engine started and glanced over my shoulder.

I had been keeping an eye on Icap Leopard for the last ten minutes or so, as she came barrelling up Southampton Water under full sail, catching Arabella hand over fist; now she overtook us under power, making for Ocean Village. About ten crew, in smart black matching outfits, were busying themselves tidying Leopard's mainsail and lines while I worked at Arabella's mast, stowing the main and coiling away. I gave them a nonchalant wave - seasoned, veteran, solo sailor that I was. They in turn ignored me totally.

As Arabella putt-putted back up river, the sun finally set. Even the industrialised lower reaches of the Itchen can look nice in conditions like this, and I let the tillerpilot take the strain while I grabbed a coffee from the flask and admired the display. Then, after sorting out the fenders and lines, I rigged a midships spring leading aft outside everything to the cockpit, with a large loop tied in the end with a bowline. Fingers crossed, that would stop Arabella when we came alongside her finger berth.


Berthing singlehanded seems to be the one thing I have been able to execute without trouble so far, and so it turned out to be tonight. Once we had entered between the two rows of berths, I put the outboard into neutral, swung the tiller and Arabella turned obediently into her slot. I dropped the loop of the spring over the end cleat on the pontoon as it came abeam, put the outboard into forward gear and locked the tiller hard over towards the dock. Arabella came to a perfect halt and stayed there while I sorted out the other mooring lines. It was 9.35pm, almost exactly three hours after I had set out.


I tidied up Arabella quickly in the darkness before running for the last train back to London. It was the horrible slow one, the stopping service that collects the waifs and strays from all the little stations. I could see it was going to take till the small hours for me to get back.

The three hours spent out on the water had been worth every minute of the train ride home. I'd barely covered seven miles singlehanded, in the most benign conditions imaginable. At best it was the first step on a very long road, something that other boatowners might think nothing of doing. But the point was that I had taken that step. It was a taste of total freedom and independence; it was like a drug. I was already craving the next fix.


Conditions: WSW F2-3 Sunny intervals. Sea state smooth.
Distance covered (GPS over ground): 6.9 NM
Total distance covered to date (2008): 77 NM
Engine hours: 1.5 (total for 2008: 7.7 hours)


Techie Postscript - Google Earth Movie: If you want to create a Google Earth movie like the one shown in this post , there are a number of options.

First, Google Earth Pro has a movie capture facility - if, that is, you don't mind forking out US$400 for the licence to upgrade to Google Earth Pro. No, that's not a typo.


Back in the real world, the quick and cheap way to do it (on a Mac, at any rate) is as follows:
  • download the basic level version of Google Earth for free from HERE

  • invest US$20 (about £10 at today's exchange rate) in IShowU, which can be downloaded from HERE

  • open both programs and, in Google Earth, create a "tour" that corresponds to the route that you sailed - check out Google Earth's help file for details on how to do this. It's a bit fiddly the first time, but very easy once you've figured it out. The tour can then be played automatically onscreen and, using IShowU, you can capture it in variety of formats, such as Quicktime or MPEG4.
You can practice it for free, using the trial version of IShowU, before you invest your tenner in registering the software.

The image quality of the streaming version that Blogger displays here is a bit squint-inducing, but that's Blogger's fault.
I'm neither a YouTube user nor well-acquainted with video codecs, but Dylan Winter seems to be doing something similar to the Google Earth tour in his Keep Turning Left movies, and the quality of the streaming video there is somewhat better than here on Blogger.

The original version created by IShowU is large, sharp and high quality, with no pixellation. It looks professional and can be saved to your desktop, or imported and played in Quicktime. You can use Quicktime Pro to edit it. Alternatively you can import it as a clip directly into iMovie (it works with both iMovieHD and iMovie 08), where you can edit it and add a voice commentary - a nice finishing touch if you like to produce quality movies of your sailing.

If posting a copy to Blogger, good results can obtained by using iMovie 08 and exporting (via the Share menu) as a Small (480 x 360) or Medium (640 x 480) movie in MPEG 4 format. The Google Earth tour shown in the above post was exported in Small; that shown in the next post (Lesson 3) was exported in Medium. I think Medium works lightly better. In addition, iMovie 08 tends to 'wash out' colour slightly, so it's not a bad idea to increase the color saturation by a small amount before exporting.