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Cold Sailing

10 December 2010 | Lake Ontario, New York
Dawn along the southern shore of Lake Ontario.

After several days of shovelling snow while waiting for a favorable wind, the forecast indicated the break in the weather I needed was coming. The wind would not be favorable for long, so I left at night, just after the strong headwind died down, before it was to pick up from the south.

I motored out of Rochester harbor, then anchored immediately outside the harbor to fix some engine problems. After a couple of hours, I was underway again, motoring with some sails up.

The temperature was staying below freezing all night, but forecast to steadily rise as I went west along the shore as the southerly wind picked up. I had put salt over the deck to help melt the snow and ice that was on it. The salt helped, but the deck was still slippery in many places. I normally am attached to the boat at all times at sea via a safety harness that connects to a rope (jackline) that runs along the deck on each side of the boat. The trouble with this system in cold weather is that the rope running along the deck froze into the deck, and couldn't be used.

While I've done a fair amount of daysailing in winter with other boats, this was the first time I had gone sailing in below freezing conditions with Issuma. It was a learning experience. The rope clutches (which hold the ropes after you tighten them with a winch, so one winch can be used for multiple ropes) don't really work with frozen ropes, as the rope diameter gets bigger, so it jams when trying to get it through the rope clutch. This could somewhat be worked around by using smaller ropes than what the rope clutch is designed for, but that means that in non-freezing conditions, the rope clutch will not hold as well (because the rope is too small for it). I hadn't realilzed that when I installed the rope clutches.
Vessel Name: Issuma
Vessel Make/Model: Damien II, 15m/50' steel staysail schooner with lifting keel
Extra: Designed for Antarctica. Built in France by META in 1981. Draft 1.3m/4.5' with keel up, 3.2m/10.5' with keel down. More details at
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Survey pictures taken of Shekin V
14 Photos
Created 29 April 2008