First Race

The big night! The engine is repaired and running. The crew have had two practices, they must be experts, right? So, out we go to race. Due to the engine problems, we missed the first week of racing. But, everything is a green light for the second night.

As folks begin trickling on to the dock, we start rigging. During practice, we had swapped spin sheets and guys, to get the load on to the main winches. Rigging up, confusion ensued. Then, there was more discussion about the jibs. The first few weeks, I supervised the jib rigging. Tonight, our experienced guy on mast was supervising, and he thought we couldn’t rig because the larger, inner boltrope wouldn’t fit into the track. Eventually, my arguing won out. I looked at my watch…and we needed to leave the dock 15 minutes ago. We do agree to tuck a reef in, because the wind is gusting to 18kts, we have the #1 jib up, and we’re not even certain it’s rigged correctly and may blow the luff tape off.

Now, we’re rushing to get up the river to the start area. Luckily, the wind is on our beam, so we pause, haul up the main, and make tracks. We arrive about 10 minutes before the start of the sequence. As we pull up to the start area, the RC begins reading off the marks over the radio. I’m driving, and I have the radio. I can’t write. In the future, I’ll set the main VHF to RC’s channel 72, and let someone else transcribe.

After a quick swing by RC, we have the course and head off to kill time. Sailing away from RC, we end up missing the horn for the beginning of the 5 minute warning to the start of the 5 minute sequence. At this point, I ask who else has a watch. No one. I hand my watch to Lisa, on jib, and pray she starts it on time.

I sail out for 2 or so minutes, and tack about. As we run the line, and are passing RC, I watch them swap flags, and sound a horn. “Lisa, quick that was our 5 minute!” She’s fast and actually starts the watch directly on time.

I begin to execute the start plan I had imagined all winter long. We’ll head way out on a starboard reach, for half the sequence, come about, head in on port, and then find a gap, tack, and cross just as the gun goes off. It’ll be beautiful.

Two minutes away from RC, I look back, and they look MILES away. OK. Maybe using the full sequence for this maneuver was a bad idea. I come about, and head back. We pass RC 200 yards below them, and we’re halfway along the line, when I hear a horn and the radio crackle to life, “all clear!” But, we have 1 minute left…damn the race started. And we’re nowhere close to the line.

I immediately tack, which no one was prepped for. The boat ends up in irons. It takes us a minute to sort that. We start to accelerate on our starboard tack and now I have to cross B fleet. We make for the committee boat, and 2 lengths away, I realize I’m not going to clear them for a starboard tack start. We flop over to port, cross the line and finally start our race..almost 3 minutes after the gun.

Race 1 Incorrigible Start

After things settle, I replay the start i my mind, and realize I had told Lisa the horn we heard was 5 minutes, but it was actually the 4 minute warning. Damn.

The course ended up being two upwind/downwind legs, with a close reach finish. With the wind gusting to 18, a slow start and a green crew, as we tacked on to our last port tack on the upwind leg, we decided to round the mark before rigging the spin. Once rounded, we decided to skip the spin entirely. Halfway down the leg, the leaders of the B fleet come up on us…and pass us.

Race 1 John

We round the next mark with the B fleet leaders, tangle a bit with them on some of the headers, and hold our own against much slower boats until we round again. This downwind leg is shorter. We decide to rig the spin after the rounding. As we get the spin plugged in finally, I realize we’re at the turning mark. Oh well. We round and head to the line.

Race 1 Pancho John

We crossed. I looked around. I had all my crew aboard. Nothing broke. No protests were filed. All the marks were rounded. I’ll take that as a success.

Race 1 Incorrigible Finish

We ended up finishing in 5th place…out of 5 boats in A fleet. We were 18 minutes off the leader, and 14 minutes off the 4th place boat. We had an awful start, we had a reef in, and we didn’t use a spinnaker. Had we fixed all of those problems, we probably would have ended in 5th place. So, I’ll take a relaxed sail where we all survived.

Only one way to go and that’s up.


Second Practice

After the engine debacle, we were sidelined for a week. Finally, on Saturday, the afternoon before practice, the mechanic got to Incorrigible. I was luckily there, and got to learn the full process to prime an engine. That’s a different post.

Sunday, 4/17, we made it out for a second practice. We had 8 aboard. This left us with: foredeck, mast, pit, two jib/spin trimmers/grinders/tailers, main trim, helm, and one extra person. For most of the day, that extra person was me. I got to observe, bounce positions, and occasionally help.

Dan Tactician

Like the week before, the forecast of 2kts ended up being closer to 12kts. We got some practice in on jib trimming, as well as hoisting our spinnakers.

John D Foredeck

The crew is starting to settle into a routine. Even if they leave the owner to clean up some of the messes in the forecabin.

Spin dowsed

Finding crew and first practice


Once April rolled around, Incorrigible went back in the water, and we could get out to race. We had 2 weeks to get practice in before the first race.

The crew is shaping up well. We started with a base crew of the two owners, plus 2 friends from the Downtown Sailing Center ( To that we added, a father-daughter set of friends, and a couple of interested but not terrifically committed friends. That didn’t leave us particularly strong. Two weeks before racing started, an acquaintance on Race Committee reached out to see if we had a slot still for a friend of his. We said, “sure”. We also grabbed an unassigned sailor from the crew board. Finally, at the race rules night, two guys walked in, both looking a little lost. I introduced myself and lo and behold, they were looking for a boat. So, they got added to the list.

All told, this ended up meaning the full mailing list is 20. Depending on weather, we can’t leave the dock with less than 6, though 8 is better. And more than 10 starts becoming crowded.

The first day of scheduled practice, we hadn’t swapped the forestay out. They also predicted 65kts gusts. We opted out.

Before the second practice, on 4/10, we had a chance to swap the forestay. The wind prediction was a most less hectic 2kts, so out we went. The new crew showed up, and we spent 2 hours walking through the boat, laying out lines, practicing rigging the spinnaker. Eventually, we got underway.

The  wind was pretty light out on the Patapsco. We motored around, and finally got the main up. It was a bit of a struggle, but we were shaking rust out. The wind was still light.

Eventually, we got the jib up to, and the wind started picking up. Because it was still flukey, and there was commercial traffic, we left the engine running. Over the course of the next hour, the wind built.

As we were coming to a mark to practice a mark rounding, all of the sudden, there was a shudder, and then silence. My eyes immediately went to the depth sounder, but it showed 55′ of water under the keel. As my brain processed that, the buzzer on the engine when it is in ‘on’ but the engine is off came on. Ah ha! The engine died.

Handing the tiller over to Pat, I disappeared below, followed closely by the mechanical engineer, and the naval engineer who happen to be part of the crew. We pull the cover off, and begin discussing options: engine will crank, therefore not battery related. Tank was topped off in November, so we have gas. Oil level is fine. Cooling is fine. I settle on water in the fuel.

I grab a cup, and set about draining water from the fuel separator. Eventually, I get liquid, and it’s 3 TBSB of water. Problem found. I follow the youtube videos for bleeding an engine, and try cranking the engine. Nothing. We try bleeding the second filter and priming. Nothing. We start again. Nothing.

An hour into it, we give up. We call Boat US. We tack across the river for another hour until they arrive. They hook up to us, and start dragging us unceremoniously back to home.


But, first, we get a nice police escort. We ended up timing our return with a cruise ship departure. The police didn’t want us getting too close, so they escorted us to our slip. Nice of them…



Setting up the boat to race

3 weeks ago, the boat finally went in the water. Once it was in the water, we were able to climb the rig, take care of a couple issues, and get out on the water.

The first challenge was swapping out the roller furler for a Schaeffer Tuff Luff foil. Incorrigible came with the foil, we just had to install it.

When we finally had a clear weather window, two of the crew plus me, headed to the boat to sort out the forestay. I belted on my climbing harness, tied in to the main halyard (since I also climb, I prefer to use climbing knots. Contrary to what most sailors would use, I relied on a double figure 8), climbed onto the boom, and proceeded to get hauled up.

Prior to climbing, the starboard jib halyard was run to the bow stemplate, and cinched hard to make a temporary forestay.

During the survey, the steaming light was noted to be burned out. I stopped to check it out, and learned I would need to dissassemble it to fix it. Hindsight being 20/20, I need to pull it off entirely.

Up I went. At the mast head, what I discovered was that the J/35 has two sheaves integrated into the mast. These are for jib halyards. There are also two aluminum arms, or wings, jutting outboard and forward about a foot, with a block suspended from each. These blocks are for the spinnaker halyards. All of the 1980s guides to rigging your J/35 recommend doing away with the starboard halyard.

I suppose the logic is that 85% of the time, you set after a port-side rounding. So, you set the spin on your port side. Assuming you use the port jib halyard, the port spin halyard is outboard of it. But, should you need to do a gybe set, you still have the starboard jib halyard, so clear the clutter and remove the starboard spin halyard.

Anyway, the block is still there. The block on the port spin halyard is trash. 30 years of UV and vinyl for the sheave don’t play nicely. A project for another day.

Swapping the forestay was easy. The cotter was missing from the pin holding the roller forestay in. Oops. Pulling the pin, the forestay was ready to be lowered. I dropped that on the other jib halyard, and had the tuff luff stay raised. I set the pin, bent on a new cotter, and watching the clouds for the next front approaching, I opted to skip taping up the cotter, since I had left it below.

I’ll tape the cotter when I go up to sort the spin halyard.

Cunningham replacement

One afternoon, stumbling about the topsides, looking things over and daydreaming about getting the boat off the hard and into the water, I stopped in my tracks by the mast. Something was missing. The cunningham. How, or why, a cunningham goes missing, I don’t know. But it wasn’t there.

I immediately googled “Cunningham J35″ and came up fairly short-handed. It appears the boat originally had a 6-to-1 advantage setup with 20′ of line, but I can’t find images anywhere.

Concurrently, my most visited store, West Marine, was having their spring commissioning sale, with triple member points (which means it adds up to 15% off when you get the voucher back, instead of the typical 5%). Looking around, I found a Ronstan 50mm fiddle block both with and without a cleat. I ordered them (plus another $100 of other stuff, because boats).

Picking them up, I also got some 3/8” dacron line (20′, as recommended by the Chesapeake J/35 fleet webpage available here.). The blocks and the line have a Breaking Load just north of 3,000lbs.


Once I had everything, I laced them all together. I ended up tying a bowline around the beckett on the fiddle block that has the cleat.

On the boat, I found a convenient pad-eye bolted to the deck with four large bolts on the SB side of the mast. The build-in shackle on the block unscrews, so it was a simple matter to attach it to the pad-eye.

When I have 5 free minutes, I spend some time whipping the ends of the line.

The assembled cunningham

Bypassing the Y valve

During the pre-purchase survey, one of the few major problems identified was that the head’s y-valve handle had broken off. Allegedly, it was also stuck so the head would only discharge overboard, and not into the holding tank. Since we only intend to sail on the Chesapeake, where there is no legal dumping, that wouldn’t work. So, repairing the head became a critical winter project.

My first plan was to repair the y-valve. There were a handful of screws on the faceplate. I removed them, only to find they literally just held the faceplate to the valve, and the valve to the fascia under the counter. The valve was one, unserviceable unit.

Next plan, remove the offending valve and replace it. I did a little shopping and saw they run about $60 to replace. Not terrible, given the price of things, but, is it really necessary? I never intend to get beyond Norfolk. If I replace it, I need to secure it to holding tank only mode, to stay legal. I opted to bypass it entirely based on what happened next.

Back on the boat, I was able to get the valve freed up from the fiberglass fascia that hangs below the sink. Now, to just remove the hoses (which are original, 30 year old hoses)…

Those two exposed hose ends used to be one continuous hose…

Trying to get the old hose off the barbed end at the base of the head, below the pump, I succeeded in tearing the hose. Now, the whole thing had to come off. And I sliced my finger on one of the worm screw collars.

A week or three later, I came back with a pair of nippers. I ended up clipping the rubber tips of the old hose off the barbed male end of the head. Tracing the hose’s length, I did the same at the tank, which is on the SB side of the boat, opposite the head. The hose runs through the lockers under the V-berth. Once the hose was freed up, I had to snip the zip ties that were holding the hose, and the speedometer cable, to the bulkhead. I slid the hose out, and remembered I had a third hose: the attachment to the thru-hull. I removed that with the nippers as well. That hose attached to a reinforced hose that rose from the thru-hull to a U above the water line. I left that in place, and made sure the thru-hull is closed. Even if the thru-hull opens, the raised U should keep water out.

After measuring the old hose, I went to my local West Marine, and…found out they were out of the 1.5″ inner diameter sanitation hose I needed. I ended up ordering 13′ of it online from

When it arrived, I went back to the boat. While at West Marine, they suggested warming the hose, and possibly using soap as a lubricant on the inside to get it fitted to the snug male end of the head and tank. I got there, and tried it out to see if I could fit them by hand on a 45 degree day…and they slid right on. I struggled to get them back off again to get the worm screw collars on first. Since I had removed 3 old hoses, I had 4 collars spare, so I doubled up the collars on the head and the tank. I had to use a hacksaw to remove about a foot of hose (this stuff is steel-wire reinforced), as only about 12′ fit. I slid the hoses on, cinched them down, and ticked the project off the list.

Installing the Name, Part 2

This weekend, the weather was just warm enough to get the vinyl letters installed on the boat. Just in time, too, as we’re planning on having the boat in the water next weekend.

For the lettering, we went to US Boat. As members, we get 10% off and they typically do a good job. When the lettering arrived, I noticed that we had only received one set of registration numbers, not the pair advertised. A quick call to customer service, and another pair, plus the missing one, was delivered 48 hours later. So, if nothing else, we had a spare pair of registration numbers if we screwed up the install.

On Thursday evening, when it was a beautiful 70 degrees (with 20kts winds), I went down to the boat. After temporarily hanging the lettering, I taped off a work area about 15% larger, and rolled the letters back up. I attached the wax with a bottle of xylene and a rag. As I was working on the transom, the twilight was just right that I could see the ‘before’ and the ‘after’ with the xylene was essentially the same. After I finished up, I grabbed a hose and sprayed the transom…and watched water sheet up across the whole surface. Not a ton of wax is left on much of anywhere.

Registration numbers temporarily attached.

On Saturday, we headed back to the boat. The weather was less windy, but down in the 60s. After a quick review of the directions, I opted for the “wet” method. I luckily had a spare spray bottle.

The process is straightforward: clean the area with glass cleaner. Line up the entire decal where you want it. For the registration stickers, I centered them on the tip of the boot-stripe. For the name and hailing port, I centered them on the back stay. Measure to a constant line (rail, the row of scupper vents, etc) to make sure it’s level relative to the rest of the boat. Mark where the corners of the paper the vinyl is mounted on comes to with painters’ tape.

Once it’s in place, take the decal away for a second. Spray the area you are mounting it to with a generous amount of water with a couple drops of soup added to it. Then, on the decal, slowly peel back the wax paper under the letters, spraying the vinyl letters with more water as you go. Once the vinyl is good and wet, and the paper is off, align the decals back up on the boat, and use the spatula they included to smooth the letters down. Press hard. Don’t worry about getting the bubbles out of the paper. Just focus on the vinyl. Try to run the spatula the length of each letter, starting from the middle (so middle up, and then middle down to the edge). That will keep from moving the letter or lifting a corner.

Once all the water is squeezed out, step back, and let it sit for an hour (longer if it’s cold, I discovered).

The transom with the name fully installed, and the hailing port curing. Notice the cover paper is still attached, and has a ton of bubbles.

When you feel it’s sat long enough, find a corner of the paper, and slowly pull it off, at a 45 degree angle to the transom. Keep the spatula handy, to press down edges that might not have stuck fully (more of a problem when it’s cold.). Once the paper is fully off, run the spatula over the letters again. And then, you’re done!

For the hailing port, since the paper would have covered the letters of the name, we ended up doing them as two steps, a day apart. On Sunday, it was down in the 50s and 1 hours wasn’t quite long enough for the letters to stick, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed they will cure.

I’m going to go back and wax over the letters once I think they have fully cured.