Category Archives: Madsu

A River Runs Through It

There’s something magic about living in Vancouver, and it’s easy to forget what an amazing place this is.

This morning I got up and took transit from North Vancouver to Richmond. One transfer and an hour later, I was sitting on the deck of Madsu at Skyline Marina on the Fraser River in Richmond.

I spent the next few hours motoring down the North Arm of the Fraser – enjoying a completely different aspect of Vancouver – one you forget is there when sitting in city traffic.

By the time I was off the river and into English Bay the sun decided to show up – and my trip over to Howe Sound and Horseshoe Bay was a delight.

So many different aspects to the city in one short day. From sitting on a bus in rush hour traffic to watching a bald eagle feast on a salmon. Gotta love BC.

Casino Sailing

We finally put Madsu in the water yesterday and sailed from West Vancouver’s Fisherman’s Cove over to the North Arm of the Fraser, and then up river to Skyline Marina.

We had about 20 minutes to kill while we waiting for the Midarm swing bridge to be available for a swing so we stopped by the River Rock Casino to check things out.

You gotta love having a casino within a short sail away…

Looking forward to exploring the river and making friends with all the working boats.

Turn That Thing Down

I’m putting the hardware back on Madsu’s spars after stripping and painting them. I’m super impressed with the results. The mast and boom are now a crisp and clean white –

Here’s a shot of the wiring just above the spreaders where it exits for the steaming light. The new conduit works like a charm. The duplex on the right continues up to the masthead for the anchor light.

Madsu Upgrades Slide Show

After taking a lot of bits and pieces apart, I’m finally reassembling Madsu and we’re just days away from getting her back in the water for the summer.

In celebration, I put together this little slide show.

  • Use the + and – buttons to go forward or back, or jump using the thumbnail images
  • Your keyboard page forward and page back buttons will also work
  • Mouse over the image to see if I’d added any notes…

Masthead Good to Go

Another crappy weather day, so no painting today, but I did work inside on bits and pieces of Madsu’s gear.

The masthead is done and ready to go. Yesterday I discovered that the new sheaves I got to replace the old wire sheaves didn’t actually fit.

I spent a bit of quality time with my Makita sander and the aluminum plate that acts as a spacer between the port and starboard pair of sheaves.

In the photo you can see the aft pair of sheaves – and the arrow points to the spacer that runs fore and aft and keeps the starboard side sheaves apart from the port side.

I didn’t want to sand too much since the sheaves just run free – there’s no bearings – the plastic sheave just runs on the pin – so I don’t want too much play in there.

The fit is perfect now – amazing what a little sandpaper on aluminum can do

With a new spin crane, a ridiculously expensive block for the spinnaker halyard, new anchor light post, Windex, and new sheaves for the all line halyards, Madsu’s sad little masthead has been transformed.

To keep me inspired while I’m working on this stuff, I’m reading There By No Dragons: How to Cross a Big Ocean in a Small Sailboat by Reese Palley.

(if you’re wondering what the hell that thing is sticking out of the TOP of the windvane, it’s the new ‘bird spike’ meant to keep freeloaders of the avian variety off the vane).

I should say that we sailed all last summer without the benefit of a masthead Windex. Instead we used Newport shroud telltales which were great, and we’ll keep them on board again this year.

Madsu Masthead

A lot of rain kept me from getting top coat on Madsu’s spars today. So I turned my attention to the masthead, where I’m adding an anchor light and a windvane.

Since I was installing a post for the light, which means tapping 2 holes in the mast head, I figured there must be a way to use the same machine screws to attach a bracket of some sort on which I’ll mount the shaft of the windvane. I had ordered a ‘special’ bracket from Catalina Direct that uses the upper shroud tang, but like a few things I’ve ordered, it doesn’t actually fit the hardware on my mast. When a boat’s 30 years old, who knows what kind of mods have been one to the rig, so it’s not a huge surprise, but a little disappointing since I can’t return it ;-(

After cutting a short length of aluminum plate, I bent it into a bracket using a vice and a ballpeen hammer – low tech but it worked out ok. It’s too long but I’ll cut and soften up the edges now that I know it’s all going to fit together.

I’ll drop in 4 new sheaves for the main and jib halyards as soon as I shave down the spacing plate (the new sheaves from Catalina Direct are a bit too wide – easy fix if I trim the spacer a bit), I’m switching to all-line from line/wire. And of course, the new spin crane looks very inviting !

Mast Conduit and Primed

One last thing to do before I can paint Madsu’s mast, and that’s installing conduit for wiring inside the mast.

Madsu had no steaming or anchor light, and last season I got by with a portable LED that I’d hoist when needed. It worked ok but wasn’t great. When I redid the electrical system last month I installed enough circuits to incude a steaming light and masthead anchor light.

I debated whether it was worth the trouble of running conduit up the mast – but figure if I don’t I’ll be regretting it the first night an anchor as the wires clang away inside the mast.

I opted for 3/4 inch PVC conduit that will have more than enough room for the 3 wires I need to run – plus room for VHF coaxial should I decide to add a masthead antennae later. I got a laugh when I saw the label on the conduit – C22 for a C22. Nice.

Of course the conduit has to be secured, or it will bang around. This is easier said than done.

The conduit is riveted in place using a technique I read about online somewhere. Starting at the base of the mast I was able to hold the conduit in place while I drilled a hole in the mast and the conduit and popped in a rivet.

From there it’s a matter of drilling a hole 6 inches or so along, using a small Allen key to hook the conduit through the hole (in order to hold it in place), then drill another hole a further six inches along and pop a rivet in. After I was done, I filled all the extra holes and was ready to etch, condition and prime.

The mast got it’s first layer of base coat this afternoon – the boom got its 3rd and final coat of base. I should be able to get a couple more coats of base on the mast tomorrow, then on to the topcoat in a couple of days, assuming the weather holds.

Madsu’s mast

With the boom primed and ready for topcoat, I’v opted to prep the mast so I can paint both spars together.

With the experience of working on the boom under my belt, things are going much quicker on the mast. Madsu’s stick is 25 feet 2 inches long.

After filling some old screw holes I sanded the entire mast down to bare metal. Tomorrow I’ll etch, condition and prime.

As with the boom, the hardest work was in getting the hardware off the mast. I was pretty luck and got most of the fittings off with little trouble. I did have to drill out 3 of the 9 screws used to fasten a 1 inch T-track on the forward end of the mast. You can see the corrosion on the machine screws in the photo below, as well as the remains of the screws I drilled out.

Madsu’s standing rigging is now taking a break – I guess it’s ‘sitting rigging’ for now.

I’m replacing the rope to wire halyards with all rope low stretch line. I’ve got a bit of work to do on the mast head fitting – there’s a new anchor light and windvane to attach, as well as swapping out the sheaves for the new halyards.

Naked Boom Gets Primed

I sanded Madsu’s boom down to bare metal yesterday as I get ready to paint it.

After removing all the hardware I sited all the new/changed hardware and drilled and tapped the holes. I’ll use stainless machine screws instead of the self-tapping screws the previous owner loved. I’ve filled all the old holes with Star Brite aluminum epoxy.

The spar’s in great shape. I used a rotary sander to get the mast stripped down then use my Makita sander with 220 paper to prep it.

I used PPG DX 533 to etch the boom, then quickly followed up with PPG DX 503 conditioner. I got both at my local Lordco auto parts store – way cheaper than trying to find the marine version of same.

Once the DX 503 was rinsed and the boom dried, I immediately got the first coat of primer on. You can’t let the aluminum sit for any length of time after treatment because of oxidization (so I’m told).

I’ve opted for the tried-but-true-but-messy-and-smelly 2 part primer.

The Interlux 2 part is a lot more trouble – it’s really 3 part because even after you mix the 404 base with the 413 reactor, you still have to thin it 20 to 25%.

I wasn’t really sure how to work with the base – it’s the consistency of pudding – and you can’t pour it. I just stuck a mixing stick into the can and pulled it out, about an ounce or so stuck to the stick and I was able to use this ‘honey stick’ method to measure out what I needed.

I first tired a small foam roller – that was useless. Next I tried a disposable foam brush – that worked better. But a regular paint brush works best of all – the paint is thick and spreads beautifully, and there’s no worry about brush strokes showing up.

(boom after 1st coat of primer)

I left it overnight and sanded with 220 paper and got a 2nd coat on this morning. The weather’s been cold and I’d prefer it was a bit warmer to make sure the primer is really baked – I’ll give it a couple of days then do a 3rd base coat.

Now that I’m confident with is all going to work (!), I’ll strip the mast and get it primed, then I’ll topcoat both the boom and the main at the same time. I’m using Interlux Perfection, another 2 part, for the topcoat.

A quick survey of my mast hardware turned up a few issues. I was hoping to replace the spreader brackets, so last fall I ordered a stainless set from Catalina Direct.

Turns out my spreaders are 1 1/8th inch in diameter but the new brackets are 1 inch. Ugh. I’m thinking I’ll either leave the old brackets (which Catalina Direct claims are prone to unexpected breakage) or visit my new best friends at the metal store and pick up some 1 inch aluminum tubing and make my own ‘new’ spreaders.

Outhaul Exit Tweak

I’ve finally finished tweaking Madsu’s boom for the new internal outhaul system I mentioned a few days ago.

In order to make sure the outhaul doesn’t bind when pulling on the main, I figure I have to get the exit block at the end of the boom up as high as possible – which actually means mounting it in the sail track.

So the challenge here was how to mount the Harken thru-deck turning block in what is essentially the sail track. I also want the block to be rock-solid.

Working on the farm with my dad and uncles, they’d often have to tweak some piece of machinery – and in French they’d call that tweak a “patent”. Cleary, that’s what’s called for here.

All I really want to do is bolt the block in place, but there isn’t room for me to get a lock nut on the forward end of the block. I probably could rivet it in place, but I’m not convinced that’s going to work.

So, I figured I’d make an aluminum plate that will slide inside track, under the block. I’ll drill and tap for fasteners and it should all work ! The photo below shows how I want the block to sit, tight up against the slot in the boom.

I’m not really equipped to be machining parts, but I figured with my jig saw and a bench grinder, I should be able to make something that would work.

It isn’t pretty, but it’ll be out of sight anyway. Not the simplest thing to cut with a jig saw, I’ll say that much…

Here’s my “patent” when I slide it into the sail track.

The idea is that the thru-deck block is now sandwiched between my “patent” and the top of the sail track.

All I need to do now is drop in a stainless steel machine screw, tighten it up, and my exit thru-deck block is rock solid (I’ve left off the block cover so you can see the detail a bit better).

This was the last bit of detail I needed to finish on the boom before painting.

I’ve now drilled and tapped holes for all the boom hardware, including cheek-blocks for reefing lines, the outhaul exit block and cleat, and a few more bits of hardware for line management.

I’ve opted to simplify the reefing system quite a bit, just going to use a hook at the tack. For the clew, I’ll just use a single line attached to boom, up through the through the ‘new’ clew, down to a cheek-block on the other side of the boom, and forward to a cleat near the front of the boom.

Last season I was using a single line reefing system, with the line brought back to the cockpit. This was the set-up from the previous owner, and it was a nuisance.

For one, I was always going to the mast to lower the main halyard anyway, so having the reefing line in the cockpit was unhelpful. When not in use, the long line was always getting in the way no matter how often I stowed it, and when we dropped the main, it was even more in the way.

My new North Sails main has 2 reef points, so I’ve got 2 identical lines set up at the clew end. From their cheeck blocks they go forward along the boom, lead through beckets to the cleat.

The boom is stripped of all the hardware now, all the holes are drilled and tapped, so if the weather improved a bit I’ll try etching and painting the boom in the next few days

Madsu Boom Mod

I’m getting set to paint the mast and boom on Madsu before putting her in the water this year.

But before I get there, I’ve got a few modifications to make, so I’ve commandeered the picnic table and set up for some serious mucking-about-time.

I started with the boom, stripping all the hardware so I can replace the self-tapping screws with tapped versions.

I’m also fixing the outhaul – the previous owner seemed to think a piece of line wrapped around a becket at the end of the boom was a proper outhaul. It drove me crazy last season, but since the main was pretty bagged, I put up with it.

Since I’ve got a brand new North Sail main for this season, and I was stripping the boom down anyway, I thought it was worth the trouble of making an internal outhaul system based on Gene Ferguson’s excellent 1997 design. Using Gene’s diagram, I ad-libbed a bit, using Harken 225 and 226 microblocks and New England V-100 1/4″ braid and sticking with wire for the 2nd block and exit out the thru-deck at the aft end of the boom to the clew.

Since the exit at the boom-end is wire, the thru-deck block is nice and small, and through the magic of the Dremel tool I’ve managed to cut a nice slot for the block. It sits in the foot channel and is just big enough to reach into the main section of the boom where the guts of the outhaul are hidden. Having a swaging tool makes working with wire a breeze – I picked up a hand tool at West Marine last year and have used it a lot more than I thought I would.

I’ll have more pictures soon – the outhaul is rigged and sitting in my cupboard with the new sail.

Madsu’s New Andersen Winches

Madsu’s still on the trailer in the driveway. It puts a crimp on sailing, but is handy for doing upgrades.

I’ve just finished replacing the electrical I didn’t get to last year, pics on that soon.

Today I finally got the new self-tailing winches installed. As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I pulled the old Lewmar winches off the cowling along with the cleat –


I managed to get the fiberglass fairly clean, filled the old holes, and drilled six new holes for the new Andersen winches –

I picked up some 1/4 inch aluminum plate from Express Metal supply in Burnaby and cut & drilled some backing plates –

With some help from Garnet and Matthew, bolted the new winches down, and they look downright lovely – even if they are on a boat in the front yard !

New Winches for Madsu

As I blogged about last year, I picked up 2 new Andersen winches for Madsu, and they’ve been in their nice boxes since I bought them at Steveston Marine.

I spent most of this afternoon removing the old Lewmar winches and jam cleats from Madsu’s cockpit coaming. The Lewmars were attached with 4 bolts, and I was by myself so it was a bit of challenge.


Getting the bolts out meant having to crawl into the cockpit lockers to clamp a pair of locking pliers to the nut, jam it up against the hull, then back up into the cockpit to unscrew the bolt until the nut dropped off.

Its not exactly roomy in there so each trip was a bit of a contortionist act. By the time I got the starboard winch off I came up with a better plan for port side; 4 pairs of locking pliers, one for each bolt, reducing the number of tight squeeze tricks to one.

I’ll fill the old holes, clean up the coaming, and site the new winches over the next couple of days.

The old Lewmars still have some life in them, so I’m going to service them and see if anyone wants to buy them. I don’t know how old they are, but they’ve been around a while. For their size their really well made and that English steel must be a fairly high grade as they still look pretty good. You can see from the picture of the coaming that the old winch and cleat have been on for a good long time.

The Andersen winches really are gorgeous. Sitting on the kitchen counter next to the Lewmar you can see the added heft of the Andersen winch, the larger drum will make a big difference when hauling in the 150 – I can’t wait to get them on the boat. Having the self-tailers is going to make a huge difference for me since I’m solo sailing a lot of the time. And the cockpit will be a little neater too, I never did like the placement of the cleat.


I am so ready for the weather

from Environment Canada for Greater Vancouver
11:54 AM PDT Thursday 18 October 2007
Wind warning for Greater Vancouver continued

East or southeast winds 50 to 70 km/h expected for today then shifting to west or southwest 50 to 90 km/h along parts of the southern mainland coast and southern Vancouver Island late this afternoon and early this evening.

This is a warning that potentially damaging winds are expected or occurring in these regions. Monitor weather conditions..Listen for updated statements.

An intense low pressure centre approaching the coast will move across southern Vancouver Island later this afternoon and early this evening. Ahead of the low strong southeasterly winds have developed over the southern sections of the south coast with wind speeds reaching 50 to 70 km/h. As the low moves east of the region very strong west or southwest winds will follow the system especially near southern Vancouver Island with speeds up to 90 km/h forecast in Victoria near the strait of Juan de Fuca. Winds will quickly ease over all areas this evening.

This storm will also bring moderate to heavy rain with general rainfall amounts are expected between 30 to 50 mm over southern Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland. Howe Sound will receive up to 60 mm. The rain will taper off tonight as the storm moves inland.

Old Dogs, New Tricks

old dog in howe sound

My mom and dad are both in their eighties and grew up on the prairies. Even though they live in an area where there are lots of lakes and rivers, my family heritage is not water based.

Definitely flat landers.

Aside from a short and wet ride once on a Laser, my dad’s never been on a sailboat. My mom is super uncomfortable in anything smaller than a BC Ferry.

So, I really wasn’t sure how they’d take to Madsu, our 22 foot Catalina sailboat.

Both of them totally loved it. I couldn’t get my dad off the tiller, and my mom actually claimed to be relaxed, even when the boat heeled in the puffs. The latter is a feat of immense proportion.

I have an old sailing text book in my nautical library (a corner of the shelf in the living room) and dad feverishly devoured every page in the evenings. Out on the boat, he quickly got the hang of things. Like any beginner we had lots of snake wake, but I was surprised at how fast he got the feel for the boat. It’s no rocket ship, but the little Catalina 22 is certainly forgiving and a perfect little boat for the old dogs (and me).

Watching my 80 plus year old dad head up to the fore deck to change the head sail made me both nervous and proud all at the same time. And the fact that my mom, deathly afraid of small boats, actually pestered me to go out “look, the sun is shining, we can go sailing now” is something else.

All I can hope is that when I’m in my 80’s I’ll still be game to try something new.

Another Crappy Day in Paradise


On board Madsu on a sunny and windy Saturday afternoon in Howe Sound heading out to the Straight of Georgia. We’re beating to windward doing about 5 knots and heeled about 12 degrees. Britannia is outbound from Squamish to Vancouver. The foredeck was packed with young girls yelling hello. In the foreground, clamped to my BBQ mount is our solar battery charger – it works like a charm.


EB’s on the tiller doing a respectable 5.2 knots SMG – got to like that GPS.


Meanwhile, the boys were up on the weather rail cooling off with a little toe dip in the salt chuck.

rail meat

Madsu Speed

Our little sailboat is no speed demon. For one thing, Madsu is a few decades old and of fairly conservative design. She’s also a swing keel with not a lot of aerodynamics at play down at that end of things.
And with 7 weeks to wait for our new 150% genoa, we’re stuck with a tired 100% foresail.

All that said, we’ve had some really fun nights the last few days, playing with the inflow and/or outflows of Howe Sound – sometimes both over the course of an evening.

We use our handheld GPS in lieu of a knotmeter – here’s a shot of our respectful 5.2 knots on a beam reach heading towards Bowen Island. Fun.
Madsu at 5.2 knots