Our adventure with the Strange Bird Snipe came to and end 5 years to the day it started in 2016. The bird flew to North Carolina to be with a new owner and hopefully be sailing on Kerr Lake in 2022. Refurbishing the bird was a fun project over the years and Jess and I had some fun sailing it together at Fishing Bay Yacht Club. Hopefully the bird will see a little more use with a new owner!
Snipe sailboat and Snipe sailing
We had a bit of everything for FBYC’s 4th of July Long Distance race in the Strange Bird Snipe. This was the first time sailing the boat since fall of 2019 while we rebuilt the mast step in 2020. We were sailing with 10 other boats including Flying Scots, Thistle, San Juan 21, Weta and it was our first time sailing against another snipe.
The first leg started out in the Piankantank near Godfrey Bay and we headed east towards Gwynn’s island near 8. With the wind from the south east – we were almost upwind and we were one of the more southerly boats hoping to catch the puffs sooner.
As we got to that mark and headed North to our next mark, the wind went more south making this the only downwind of the course. Some of the spinnaker boats started to get ahead. We rounded and sailed back south to the Piankatank on a relatively close-hauled course and then tacked to sail back to the finish in Godfrey Bay. All in all, because of the way the wind shifted, there was a lot of upwind – this worked in our favor not having a spinnaker and we were able to finish 4th. This also favored the San Juan 21 who finished just ahead of us and corrected over everyone to win it.
We were able to complete the race, but when we got back to the dock we realized the blew out the block at the base of the mast, the same part we broke back in 2018, and this will require some repairs before our next outing.
In Spring of 2020 we took a socially distanced trip to Deltaville to take the Snipe out for a day of practice and to get out on the water for the first time that year. We rigged the boat and sailed some reaches back and forth in front of the club in the 8-10 knot north wind for about 20 minutes. With everything going well we decided to sail downwind out into the river and into the stronger winds further south. Downwind was fine, but just a minute after turning to go upwind with the boat fully powered up we heard a bang and the shrouds all went slack. The mast stayed vertical, but it had fallen through the mast step and was sitting on the bottom hull of the boat 4″ lower than it was supposed to be. We hobbled back to the club and took the boat home for repairs.
The boat is a 1986 Phoenix Snipe and had a wood mast step. It had likely been cracked for some time as the boat took on some water in the parking lot when rainwater would run down the mast. It wouldn’t get water in it when we were sailing or when it was stored covered with the mast down. So began some research to figure out how best to repair the step and make the boat sailable again. On the advice of a snipe-sailing friend I posted a note in the Snipe Sailing Facebook Group asking for suggestions. I knew rebuilding the structure that was there was going to be hard and was hoping someone had some experience with this. Marcus Ward suggested rather than repairing what was there, to just put a fiberglass plate over the hole with a new mast step and shortening the mast.
We started by getting a Selden mast step. The existing mast base was just a little too wide to fit in it so we needed to grind down the sides a bit to make it fit.
Next a 12×12″x1/4″ G10 fiberglass board was acquired and we used cardboard and later a piece of wood to make a template of the fiberglass board that we were going to cut for it.
To cut the G10 fiberglass plate we got a saw blade, used for cutting tile, to use on the table saw.
To mount the plate in the boat we used West G/Flex Expoxy 655. The floor of the boat it was mounted to wasn’t flat and so this product has some filler and would bridge the gap and create a solid bond. Then screws were used to mount the mast step into the board.
With the mast step in place, I needed to cut the mast down as far as I could so it would be the same height as it was. The challenge was the jib halyard block at the bottom of the mast. We would need to make the mast base fit around the block if we were going to shorten the mast as much as we could. The mast base was milled and ground down to fit the mast.
The next step was actually cutting down the mast. I used a 200-tooth aluminum and plastic blade on a miter saw to get a clean and square cut on the mast.
The final step was mounting the vang blocks to the plate near the base of the mast and then actually re-rigging everything that had been taken apart.
With the mast being .75″ taller than it was, I’m sure it needs to be re-measured and adjusted. The mast collar had to be adjusted just a bit so it hit the boat in the right spot. We’re just happy to be able to sail it and to extend the life of the boat a little bit longer.
- Selden Heavy Duty Mast Step $52
- 12″ x 12″ G10 Fiberglass Board $50
- 10″ Super Thin Diamond Saw Blade for Cutting Porcelain Tile Granite Marble Ceramic Tile $9
- West System 655-8 G/flex Epoxy Adhesive, two 4.5 fl oz., White $29
- IVY Classic 35056 Swift Cut 10″ 200 Tooth Aluminum & Plastic Cutting Circular Saw Blade with 5/8″ Arbor, 1/Card$24
This year on the Snipe we’ve had a goal all summer to: finish all of the races in a regatta, Jess driving, and not breaking anything. We finally had the perfect day to do it. ‘Jess Wind’ if you will that’s just enough to be challenging, but not so much that we’re overpowered. We had a 3-boat Portsmouth class sailing against Lee’s FrontRunner and Mike’s San Juan 21. The wind was 8-10 out of the North East and the RC set a course between areas A and B.
In the first race we had a good start and sailed well, but didn’t have the boat tuned as well as we could. We focused on reading the wind and keeping the boat moving and sailed a solid race finishing behind the other boats and taking a 3rd after the handicap was calculated.
For the second race we had the boat going a little better and made some good tactical decisions. We were the first boat to the first weather mark, but were overtaken by the Front Runner downwind and the San Juan was still able to correct over us.
In the 3rd race the wind was as far right as it had been all day – knowing it would go back left we banged the left corner while the rest of the fleet went right. Sure enough it came back and we had very solid lead at the first weather mark that we were able to hold the rest of the way around the course and got the bullet. Jess’s first as a driver.
In the 4th race we again had a good weather leg leading the other boats to the first weather mark, but didn’t have enough separation and still finished 2nd.
Jess sailed great. She’s learned a ton about the boat and being a driver and we’re both making the boat go better and improving our maneuvers. We wore out a few parts that need fixing, but nothing that was unexpected and nothing that prevented us from sailing.
This year for Fishing Bay Yacht Club’s Open House Regatta – Jess and I finally got the Snipe out for this event. This was a progressive start race and we just barely made our start time. The wind started out good out of the west and we had more of it to work with as one of the first boats to start.
By the time we round Piankatank 8 we had passed the boats ahead of us and had a few shining moments in the lead before the big boats rolled us. We got through 80% of the course and were just off Stove Point when the wind shut off again. At the prospect of sitting out there for a while and missing the raft up – we dropped out and took a tow in.
The raft up was fun as ever and we got to cruise on Mad Hatter for ride back around afterward.
We got Jess’s snipe back in the water for the first time this year. We made some upgrades – mainly new halyards and halyard turning blocks in the mast.
We got to FBYC early for the One Design Spring Series #2 event – Jess towed the boat behind the jeep for the first time – and we got everything rigged and in the water. We were a little late to the start of racing and caught the 3rd race. We were in the Portsmouth class with two San Juan 21s.
We were about halfway up the first leg when the halyard that we had just installed broke – putting our jib in the water. We attempted to sail under main alone, but got stuck in irons and so far behind we gave up on that race. For the next race I drove under main alone around the short 2 lap windward leeward. We still managed to beat the San Juan 21s around the course, but one of them corrected on time to tie with us so we got a 1.5 for the one race we finished.
We started the Memorial Day Weekend by hosting a Young Adult Member cookout at FBYC. We had a great turnout of nearly 40 people and beautiful weather for a party that apparently went well into the night.
Jess and I spent Saturday morning putting the Snipe together for the first time since Labor Day of last year. We fixed a few things along the way including some trouble with the main halyard that kept jumping the sheave at the top of the mast. Eventually we made it onto the water and sailing pretty good in the 10-14 knots of wind. About 20 minutes into our sail we heard a pop, saw the jib come down a little bit and realized that we blew out a block at the bottom of the mast for the jib halyard. We sailed in and ended our hopes to sail the boat again tomorrow.
With the Strange Bird Snipe restored it was time to take it for a sail. Jess, Laurie and I rigged it and went for the first sale on what turned into a gorgeous Monday of Labor Day Weekend. Even better – she floats! We took turns sailing while figuring out how everything is rigged and what still needs some work.