Nov 27, 2013

Cockpit tent – are we getting old?

We have had the cockpit tent for one summer now, so I decided to make a blog post about our experiences after the first season. After it was delivered in June, we have been using the cockpit tent – often referred as 'Pappateltta' (Old man's tent) in Finland or 'Supstuga' (Drink cabin) in Sweden – basically every day, when on the boat. Thus, I am not quite sure, if its nickname especially in Finnish is very telling or felicitous; I definitely think that it is something of which also younger sailors can greatly benefit from!

We really should have ordered this tent three years ago before the rainy seasons of 2011 & 2012, since the last summer was one of the best in terms of weather – I am not complaining though! All in all, I think that the greatest benefit from the fully enclosed cockpit tent is achieved in rainy weather, when the oilskins, sailing jackets, life vests etc. can be left to dry under the tent and one does not have to take them down below. This is especially handy in a small boat, which is always short of room and doesn't have double heads/toilets or wet locker for hanging foul-weather gear.

On the other hand, the cockpit tent is also useful in good weather. We often raise it for the night to keep the moisture away, so we can leave stuff like cockpit seat cushions, dishes, life vests etc. outside for the night. This also helps to keep the interiors more organized.

In general, I think that the fully enclosed tent, which keeps also the wind away, gives an extra cabin to a small boat. Thus, I would consider it as the most valuable 'comfort equipment' that we have onboard. Furthermore, I think that the tent can be a wise investment in the way that it may even reduce the need to change to a bigger boat due to the shortage of room.

During the summer months, we ate basically all the evening dinners and breakfasts in the cockpit, which gave the nice feeling of eating outside and being close to the nature even if the weather was chilly or windy. Furthermore, this also helped to keep those new light-coloured saloon settees clean. However, during the late September/October when the temperature dropped below 10 degrees, we spent less time in the cockpit, since heating the tent is not very efficient. After all, there are pretty large holes for the winches, tiller and stern rail in the tent. I guess that in the spring or early summer – when the Sun is up longer – the tent works better, since it acts like a greenhouse.

Some things to consider, when buying or making a cockpit tent:
  • Where do you store the tent, so that it is not on the way or damaged when not in use? 
  • Is the tent easy and fast to install from the storage?
  • Make/order the tent with large windows, so you get more light inside and better views outside
  • Make all the three sides/sleeves rollable or detachable, so that the tent can be used as a bimini in good weather. 
  • It may be a good idea to have the canvas fastened to the arch with zippers, especially if it needs to be removed frequently.
Here is more information and photos on our cockpit tent, made by Juha Lahtonen Oy from Turku.

The cockpit tent in Bimini mode

Nov 19, 2013

Summer of Sunsets and Sunrises

During perhaps the most depressing month of the year, going through old summer photos offers a good escape. Compared to the greyness and darkness of November, especially colourful mid-summer sunset and sunrise photos present a vast contrast. Therefore, I decided to make a blog post on the subject of sunset/sunrise photography.

Last summer offered many beautiful sunsets and sunrises due to the mostly sunny and clear weather. One can certainly appreciate this after a rainy summer of 2012, when the horizon tend to be blocked by heavy clouds during most of the evenings. Among my favourite sailing moments are the offshore sunsets and sunrises, when one can see – if the horizon is clear – the ball rising from or setting to the sea. Especially, after a sleepless night at sea, a beautiful sunrise always boosts the spirit.

Sunrise from the sea

The setting sun is perhaps the most photographed, or in other words one the most worn-out subjects that one can come up with. Consequently, the problem is that it is hard to be very unique when taking a sunset photo. A boat sailing into the sunset is hardly an original subject, but with a different camera angle one can turn this to an interesting photo. Sometimes if the clouds are particularly colourful or interestingly shaped, just capturing the view of the sea horizon can be what is needed to get a good image. Also using large zoom can reveal interesting details and boost the colours. However, getting a sharp image may be difficult at the sea due to the rolling boat. Normally, when shooting the setting sun I use the tripod, but obviously one cannot use that in a boat.

Sailing into the sunset
Sailing into the sunset. I like the colours of the sunset, but the composition is less original

Sunset in Visby
A sail boat approaching Visby at sunset. Photo taken with a large zoom and a tripod.
Normally when photographing for example the setting sun from the boat, I try to include the boat somehow or some detail from the equipment for example to convey to the image the freedom of sailing and being close to the sea. However, finding different and new shooting positions after many years becomes more and more challenging.

Sunrise_sailing in the Baltic Sea
Photographing on the deck usually gives more action to the photo. However, taking the system camera on the fore deck is not always the wisest thing to do. 
Sunset near Öja/Landsort
The Sun setting behind the Öja/Landsort island
The waterproof action camera, that we have been using this year, brings many new possibilities for shooting. However, when photographing in the lesser light of the setting or rising sun, obviously the camera of a size of a match box cannot match the quality of a large system camera, but it clearly has many other benefits.

All the photos are taken last summer. I also edited a short video of Sunsets and Sunrises of the Northern Baltic Sea in 2013.

Sunset in Lickershamn
Sunset in Lickershamn, Gotland
Small boat in Lickershamn
A small boat in Lickershamn
Sunset in Bothnian Sea
Sunset in Kustavi
Kaskis island at Airisto
Sunset in Kaskis island

Nov 15, 2013

The renewed mattresses

I blogged last spring about our plans of renewing the mattresses for this year. However, I just realized that we have not yet posted any images of the outcome. So here they are, a couple of photos of Dolphin Dance's new light coloured mattresses, which to be exact, are not that new anymore, since they were delivered in the spring, just in time for the first sail of the season

Our old light blue mattresses started to be a bit worn out, and especially the colour of the saloon settees was partly washed-out. The old cushions were original and thus had served for over twenty years. The moist conditions in a boat can be challenging for fabrics, and there were some mold spots in the backside of the old mattresses. Thus, also due to my allergies, we decided to renew all the mattresses for this season.

With the new cushions, we wanted to take the opportunity to modernize and brighten the looks of the interiors. Therefore we opted for a similar natural white colour, that we had used earlier in the curtains, which were renewed in 2012. We bought the mattresses from Kangas- ja patjatalo, a local family-owned company specializing in mattresses.

When planning to order the new cushions, we got a lot of advice that it might be difficult to keep the light coloured ones clean. However so far, we have not had problems with that. Maybe we have just been extra careful during the first year. Furthermore, especially when sailing or dining, we tend to use additional blankets to cover the settees. 

Mattresses were treated with furniture protector

The fabric is similar to Alcantara. The new mattresses are buttonless. 

The striped white/black blanket is normally used on the settees.  

The mattresses in the forepeak...

...are normally covered with v-shaped pillowtop mattress, also made by Kangas- ja Patjatalo. 

We chose the colour that matches the curtains. 

Nov 9, 2013

Building the winter cover frame

This week, building the winter cover frame and installing the plastic tarpaulin were on the agenda. For a moment, my father and I were actually planning to build a completely new frame from aluminum tubes, but decided to use our old wooden frame instead, because it was still in pretty good condition. Also, two years ago we had marked the positions of different parts, so we did not have to start from zero, when assembling the frame.

DD's winter cover frame is definitely not an architectural masterpiece – compared to some of the 'boat houses' in the yard – but it has served its job pretty well during the two winters (2010/2011 & 2011/2012) and also through the Dagmar storm in 2011. On the other hand, our berth at the boat yard is pretty sheltered, so more windy location might need sturdier winter cover frame. For this year, we made some improvements by adding support planks from the ground to the deck frame, which makes it easier to tie the plastic tarpaulin and keeps the tarpaulin away from the topsides. This improves ventilation and also keeps the topsides cleaner.

There is enough height under the tarpaulin, so that one can still work on the deck.