Category: Uncategorized

Makani’s First Singlehanded Race and Second Club Race.

Makani’s First Singlehanded Race and Second Club Race.

Sausalito Yacht Club’s Midwinters, February 5th Race.

The weather looked a little more favorable for this race compared to the first one.  Wind out of the Southwest at 10-15 knots, with a strong ebb at the start.  In preparing to singlehand I went out the week before the race and pre-marked the Choker line and Topping Lift to make it a little easier for me once the race was under way. Of course these were approximate trim markings and still had to be fined tuned out on the course.

With our 174 PHRF rating and the NorCal YRA rule that Nonsuch’s and Wylie Cats have to race in Spinnaker Classes, we were set to start in the Spinnaker Class C.  The other C class boats rated from 120 to 145!

Running the line
Running the Line.

I had my tablet mounted by the wheel with a good Countdown Timer app set up.  I ran the line a couple of times to get my timing down and did a pretty good job of hitting the line when our class flag went up.

The only problem was that I was at the pin end and the current was taking me away from the first mark.

Pin end start.

And as you can see, I’m not pointing nearly as well as the International One Design, one of the boats I’m racing against. Thanks to these very helpful pictures taken by a great photographer on the RC boat, Roxanne Fairbairn, I see that the sail could be sheeted in a little more, maybe drop the Wishbone a touch,  and pull the Choker tighter to get the top batten pointing back more instead of out.

Course 11
SYC Course 11

The Race Committee sent us out on Course 11–one beat across the bay from Angel Island to Crissy Field then a run back to the finish.  The story of the race was losing a lot of ground to the other class boats on the beat due to poorly using the ebb and not pointing well.  But we did make up time on the run back to the finish!

Crossing the Finish Line

A total of five classes were racing, three Spinnaker and two Non-Spinnaker.  25 boats in all were out there, four in our Spinnaker class.  We came in 4th.  However, all the classes raced the same course, so based on corrected time we would have come in 2nd in the appropriate Non-Spinnaker class!

Heading home
Heading home.

I’m still learning a lot about the boat and racing singlehanded was an additional learning experience.  Every race gets me a little sharper on sail trim and tactics, and racing alone is a total immersion experience–complete concentration every second.

My Nonsuch 30U again proved herself to be everything I hoped for and I will definitely race singlehanded again!

Makani’s First San Francisco Race

Makani’s First San Francisco Race

Sausalito Yacht Club’s Chili Midwinters

With a PHRF 0f 174 on San Francisco Bay, the Nonsuch is definitely not a racing boat.  But that doesn’t mean it can’t be raced.  And I’m not talking about as a One Design–that’s a whole other kettle of fish. How would it do in a Handicap race?

Makani is fitted out for cruising.  The biggest drawback to racing is that she has a 35# anchor on her bow and 300′ of chain in the chain locker.  A lot of weight.  If this were a traditional design it would be easier enough to open the chain locker and pull out the chain before a race.  Can’t do that on a Nonsuch.  I could use the windlass and run out the chain on the dock and put it in the dock box, and I may do that in the future, but I didn’t do that for now.

The other drawback is that the YRA here stipulates that Nonsuches and Wylie Cats must race in the Spinnaker class.  Boats in that class are usually more fitted out for racing that cruising.

With all that being taken into consideration, after serving on the Sausalito Yacht Club Race Committee for over ten races, I felt it was time to sail Makani in one of the club’s races.  They have a Spring Series and Summer Series on Tuesday nights and a Midwinter Series on Sundays.  The Spring and Summer are in typical blustery San Francisco Bay conditions.  The Midwinters are in typical Winter SF Bay conditions–unpredictable, usually light, and stronger than usual tides and currents.

I chose to enter the second Midwinter which was on Sunday, December 4. We were in the Spinnaker Class for boats with a PHRF rating over 100. My son Jason agreed to race with me. As promised in the Midwinter’s, at Noon, the time of the first gun, there was no wind.

Jason at Makani’s helm relaxing before the warning signal. Golden Gate Bridge and Marin headlands in background.

After one hour and 20 minutes the Postpone signal went down and the first class to race got its warning.  We are the third class to go off (SYC uses rolling starts). Unfortunately for us, there was also a strong flood that pushed us too far away from the line.  Even with the engine on we couldn’t get close enough to the line before our warning and turning off the engine.  We started six minutes late in light air.



VERY SLOW tack to finally cross the Start Line

Big lesson from the first upwind leg: in light air don’t try to point too high.  It seems to be much better to foot off a little for better speed even though you may add distance. It was very disheartening to see a sloop rigged 30 footer with a similar rating blow past us upwind.  But then came the good news: we were great downwind.  We sailed a rhumb line course from the windward mark to the jibe mark at a decent speed. No jibing necessary and sailed the shortest possible course.

Makani in the fleet.

As we made the turn to head back up wind we got a call that my granddaughter, Jason’s daughter, was running a high fever and had to be taken to the doctor.  Called the RC, told them we were withdrawing, motored back to the dock, met the baby at the doctors and everything turn out fine.

It also turned out that most of the boats that stayed in the race didn’t finish — the wind died again.

Take aways:

I don’t think the our Nonsuch, outfitted as it is, will ever sail to its PHRF numbers in a traditional Windward/Leeward race.  HOWEVER, the SYC has a number of untraditional races, e.g., the Twin Island Race Series, which goes from a starting line, to a mark, then your choice for which direction to take around Angel Island and Alcatraz, back to the mark then a finish at the club.  A race like that will have longer offwind and reaching legs.  Perfect for the Nonsuch 30U Makani!



Varnishing The Trim on S/V Makani

Varnishing The Trim on S/V Makani

When we bought Makani, our Nonsuch 30U, all her teak trim was unfinished.  It had weathered to a typical grey which to some is perfectly fine.  No work, no fuss.  My own taste runs to nicely varnished brightwork that rewards the owner for all the work and attention involved.

One of our earlier boats was a Pearson Ensign One Design which among its attractive (to me) design features were Mahogany coamings and seats.  Since this was back on the East Coast, when we stored the boat on the hard for the winter I would remove the coamings and seats to bring home for a nice winter project of refreshing the varnish, keeping it bright and in excellent shape season to season.

Here in San Francisco, there is no winter (at least not like back East), so I planned to varnish as soon as the rainy season was over.  Due to an unusual El Nino this year, that meant I had to wait for the end of April to get large enough blocks of “dry” time.

The first thing I did was replace the rubber cowl vent on the Dorado box with a Stainless Steel vent.  If the box is going to be varnished a rubber cowl sitting on top won’t do.

Old rubber cowl vent on unfinished Dorade box.  Unfinished grab rails and “eyebrow.”

Step 1: The Right Tools

From my experience varnishing the brightwork on my Ensign, I had come to trust and follow closely the directions in Rebecca Wittman’s book “Brightwork, the Art of Finishing Wood.” IMG_1274 I completely recommend this book to anyone interested in finishing wood.  It not only covers varnishing but also oil finshes, too. I won’t repeat everything she has in her book, just add my own experiences.

The main “tools” are varnish, stain, tape, sandpaper, brushes, paint filters, and plastic cups.

I used Schooner Varnish because I’m used to its flow properties, like its slight amber hue, and was always pleased with its UV protection.

I tried three kinds of 3M blue tape and found the Exterior to be the best for coming up cleanly after being on the fiberglass for about a week.  None of the tapes did a great job of preventing varnish or stain from getting under the edge of the tape.

And my preference in brushes is foam, but NOT the super-cheap brushes made in China.  For a few cents more there are foam brushes made in the US that work much better.

Note: the varnish is in a jar because I thought it would store better–nope!  Still got a layer of congealed varnish at the top.


Step 2: Preparing the Wood

As is often stated, the quality of varnishing is only as good as the preparation.

Because the wood had not been protected, the grain was very uneven and “ridged” so I started with 80 grit paper and worked up to 320 grit. The paper used was red 3M and I stored in accordion style file folder for convenience

I always wrapped the paper around a sanding sponge or used a Mouse palm sander, depending on the shape of the surface.  Of course, sand with the grain!  After each sanding I vacuumed the wood then wiped it down with Mineral Spirits to remove all residue before going to the next grit.

Step 3: Staining the Wood

This is a step I probably could have skipped, but the wood was very light (with grey streaks I couldn’t sand out) and I wanted the finished look to be on the darker side, so I erred on the side of staining.  I couldn’t find a stain with a Teak color so I used the Varathane Golden Mahogany. I first used the regular blue tape which was very hard to remove after being on the fiberglass for a few days.

Step 4: Sealing the Wood

Following the directions in “Brightwork” I sealed the wood before varnishing by wet sanding with Tung Oil.  It was a multi-step process clearly explained in the book.  I chose to use the wet sanding method to level out the grain as much as possible.

Step 5: Applying the Varnish, or, Go With The Flow

Never varnish straight from the can! If your brush picks up any dust it will contaminate the entire can of varnish.  I pour a small amount of varnish through a paint filter into a plastic cup then begin with a foam brush (store in a plastic bag to minimize any dirt or dust getting on the unused brush).  Again, follow the book’s instructions for cutting the first few coats of varnish and for the sanding schedule between coats. Throw out the brush after each coat!

Once you’re actually applying the varnish the most important technique, for me, is to find the “pace” of the varnish.  This is not painting!  You want to put on a coat that is thinner rather than thicker.  Do not rush the varnish!  It leaves the brush and goes onto the wood at its own pace, which is usually slower than you want it to.  I have to keep saying to myself, slow down.  This is one of the reasons I use Schooner, which has less solids than Epifanes.  To my touch, the Schooner flows on a little quicker, so I like it a little better.

In the end, I applied 8 coats of varnish.  There is a complete sanding and application schedule in the book.  It works well for me.

Step 6: Ahhh

Below are the before and after results, which I’m very pleased with.  No, I’m not getting canvas covers for the grab rails.  I’d rather enjoy seeing them glisten as I approach the boat and recoat sooner than shroud my work with Sunbrella.

One final note:  I chose not to varnish the washboards, just the frame.  I knew it would drive me crazy trying to not scratch them every time I take them out.  I also didn’t varnish the “eyebrow ” because it’s a lot of work and there were a lot of gaps that would allow moisture in and raise the varnish. So the washboards and eyebrow trim were sanded, stained, and wet-sand sealed.


Step 7: Cleanup

There was a residue left by the blue tape in many spots.  To remove this I used Goof Off wipes from the hardware store.  They worked very well!



Step 8:  Oil, not Varnish

For the teak on the bowsprit  by the anchor roller I chose to sand, stain, and oil–not varnish–because the idea of the chain and anchor possibly scratching the finished wood was not acceptable to me.  Here’s how that looks.



Makani shows her mettle on San Francisco Bay

I took Makani our for a sail yesterday with one other crew on board, Al (who has an Islander 30 two slips down).  We left the dock at noon with a bright, blue sky, 60 degree temperature and the wind out of the West at 15 knots.  It was slack low tide, with a flood for the rest of the afternoon.  The wind was predicted to build to 18 knots.  This being April the westerly was not a result of East Bay thermals but part of a front in the Pacific moving in.

After motoring out of Richardson Bay, I set a single reef in the sail and headed out into the “slot.”  The wind immediately built to 20 knots, but Makani handled it beautifuly with about 10 degrees of heel and tracking straight on a beam reach.  We continued across the bay to the Bay Bridge with the wind and chop building.  The wind was now a steady 25 with gusts up to 30 knots, but to my extreme pleasure, Makani took them well with her mast bending with each gust to dump off the wind.  We never had a rail in the water or experienced extreme heeling. And I never had to let out the main.

The Coast Guard broadcast a Small Craft Warning (not unusual for SF in the summer, but this is still Spring) so we tacked around (piece of cake) and headed back to Sausalito.  Now we were taking the chop on the forward quarter of the boat and even with a dodger up plenty of spray was coming into the cockpit.

All Al had to say was that he was glad we were on the Nonsuch instead of his Islander 30–a very nice boat but much “wetter.”

When we returned to Sausalito Channel in Richardson Bay we headed into the wind, let the halyard fly and watched the main fall into the cradle.  This was the strongest wind I’ve had Makani out in and was delighted with all aspects of her sailing.  Another big confirmation that getting a Nonsuch 30U was the perfect decision for SF Bay.

Family and Friends on board Makani

Family and Friends on board Makani

A key reason for getting the Nonsuch 30 was the large, deep, comfortable cockpit.  It’s very welcoming for all who come on board whether they’re experienced sailors or on the water for the first time.  And in the summer on San Francisco Bay, it’s very important that guests feel comfortable and safe.  Here are some photos of family and friends that we’ve been lucky to have on board Makani.


Covering the wheel with leather

Covering the wheel with leather

There is nothing wrong with the stainless steel wheel.  But there is nothing exceptional about it either.  At first I wanted to replace the metal wheel with a teak one, but the cost was ridiculous.  And, I would have to do the varnishing.

Next option was to cover the wheel with leather, an attractive and very comfortable alternative.  My research took me to Boatleather, a company in Seattle with a good selection and reasonable prices.  This happened when there was a boat show in Oakland and Boatleather had a booth there so I could see the product, the colors, and feel the difference it makes.

I chose a dark teak color and opted for the foam padding to get an extra comfortable grip.  They sent everything I needed to install the cover and their website,, has a link to very helpful video instructions. Here’s the progression of the project:


It took one full day to complete.  My right hand was cramped for a few days after completion, but it was worth it.  The only problem was a section where the pre-punched eyes in the leather ripped when I pulled the thread tight.


I called Tom at Boatleather and his explanation was that real leather can have weak spots and unfortunately I got one.  He didn’t recall this happening before.  I wasn’t about to ask for a new cover and start over so I went back and “overstitched” the torn punch holes.

Not perfect, but if I don’t point it out, no one notices (except me).


I’ve had the leather on for a few months now and  can say that from an appearance and handling perspective I am very happy with the results.  Here’s Rhonda with a “good grip” on the wheel:



Motorsailing and the tachometer reads zero.

Motorsailing and the tachometer reads zero.

The first cruise we took on Makani was from Sausalito to Benicia.  The Sausalito Yacht Club sponsored the cruise for members so they arranged for slips in Benicia and dinner at the Benicia Yacht Club.  Normally, it’s a nice 3 to 4 hour downwind sail north through San Pablo Bay.

Of course, the wind disappeared and we ended up motorsailing the entire way.  After going for about two hours at around 2500 rpm our tachometer dropped to zero.  Not having any idea what to do, I shut down the diesel and ghosted along under sail.  Eventually we approached the Carquinez Bridge which is around a dogleg to starboard.  With the wind almost nonexistent and a lot of commercial shipping in the area, we decided to fire up the diesel. Started right up and the tach was reading perfectly.

We returned to Sausalito on Sunday, again having to motorsail all the back, because now the wind was right on our nose at 20-25 knots.  Again after about two hours of motorsailing the tach dropped to zero, but this time we ignored it and continued home without incident.

Monday, I spoke to Hans List at List Marine and he explained the situation.  On the Westerbeke, and other makes, the tachometer is run through the alternator.  When running for a few hours the batteries were completely topped off, which caused the tachometer to read “zero.”  We could have ignored it, or turned on some equipment that would have put a drain on the battery which would create charging and the tachometer reading in a normal fashion.

Interesting explanation, but not one I would have expected.


The Engine in Makani, Nonsuch 30U #278

The Engine in Makani, Nonsuch 30U #278

Makani was built in 1985 and is powered with a Westerbeke 27 of the same year.  As noted earlier, the engine was surveyed prior to purchase and the previous owner did a good job of maintaining the power plant.

We had a punch list of items to take care of based on the survey and my own wish to try and stay ahead of any maintenance issues.  The boat was brought to List Marine in Sausalito where Hans List and his crew took care of everything.  Besides replacing hoses, belts, and filters, we also replaced the Exhaust Elbowa and manifold gaskets.  This should be done every 3-5 years and there was no record when it was done last.  Hans also recommended that the engine feb repainted with primer and corrosion resistant paint, which was done.  The result is an engine that looks as good as new.

In the Nonsuch 30U the engine has a V-Drive so it is actually mounted “backwards.”  But there is plenty of room to get to all the sides of the engine either from the cabin or through the cockpit lazarettes. Even me at  6′ and 220 lb can get down there!

Down Below S/V Makani, Nonsuch 30U

Down Below S/V Makani, Nonsuch 30U

When we started looking for a Nonsuch 30 we thought we wanted the Classic cabin layout with the saloon all the way forward.  Our reasoning was that we were going to be daysailing exclusively so we didn’t need the separate sleeping cabin and the extra cost of the Ultra layout.  But when we started looking at some Classics with our family we all felt the forward saloon and rear sleeping cabin with the “Pullman” style berth was more spacious and comfortable.  The deciding factor was that our 6’5″ son, who has headroom down below, had trouble fitting his legs under the dining table in the forward area of the Classic.  In the Ultra he was very comfortable in the forward saloon.

As you can see, the Ultra has settees on port and starboard with a dining table to starboard.

The dining table folds out to include seating from both settees.  The table also folds down and allows the starboard settee to be converted into a double berth, which came in very handy when we sailed to Benicia for a Sausalito Yacht Club sponsored weekend cruise.

Moving forward from the saloon is the galley to port with a propane oven and stove, 12v refrigeration, and deep SS sink.  There is adequate stowage for our weekend cruising needs.

To starboard is an enclosed head and shower, with a separate doorway from the forward cabin.  Hot water is provided by a 110 hot water heater that replaced the original propane water heater mounted over the sink.  Every surveyor we spoke to said the original propane heater is now considered unsafe.

The forward cabin has a large double berth to port with a vanity to starboard and a closet at the head of the cabin.  Because of the Nonsuch design the headroom is carried all the way forward and the mast is behind the forward cabinet out of the way

S/V Makani, a Nonsuch 30U comes to Sausalito

S/V Makani, a Nonsuch 30U comes to Sausalito

Having decided to truck, rather than sail, Makani to San Francisco from Seattle we contracted with Piazza and Sons trucking.  They came recommended and were in the Seattle area looking for a load to take back to the Bay area, so we agreed to a very fair price.

Nonsuch 30 U Makani on the hard at KKMI Sausalito after trucking down from Seattle.

Makani was to be delivered to the KKMI boat yard in Sausalito since we were going to dock Makani at Clipper Yacht Harbor where KKMI Sausalito was located.

KKMI did the re-rigging which included servicing our electric halyard winch and manual mainsheet winch, replacing the wooden mast wedges with new plastic ones purchased from Mike Quill, replacing the VHF antenna and getting new lights. Upon inspecting the mast the rigger found we needed a new mast bolt, which was really a good thing.

The project manager was Zander Hyde, who along with everyone else at KKMI, did a great job.  Even though the bottom was painted within the past year (with a hard paint), since it was out of the water for a total of two weeks we had the bottom re-painted and the hull polished.

While the boat was still on the hard we had the transom stripped of the old name and hailing port and re-named her Makani out of Sausalito, CA.


The name was selected from 11 other possibilities by a vote of the family.  I thought Makani was Hawaiian for “wind.”  Our son Jason has a friend in Hawaii whom he called to confirm this.  The friend said the dictionary meaning was “wind” but the colloquial meaning was “passing wind.” Once my sons learned this there was no way we could choose any other name.

The final step was stepping the mast, which again the skilled personnel at KKMI did without a hitch. After that it was motoring down the fairway to our slip in Basin 3 of Clipper Yacht Harbor.

We have a 30′ slip with a width of 13′ which makes a tight fit for the beamy Nonsuch 30U.