Cheap Tricks

This trip turned out to be the mother of invention.

While we were anchored in our new favorite spot this weekend, the sun came out. Yes, yes, I know what you are thinking. So what? Well, that’s what YOU think. There’s no ‘so what’ about it. When the sun comes out two things happen: people get happy, and people need shade. That’s because up here our delicate skin burns to a rosy crispness after only a few minutes of high-latitude sun exposure, even with loads of sunscreen. We are pathetic sunbathing losers, to say the least. Washington state: land of the pale. I wanted to sit in the cockpit and read Bernard Moitessier’s [amazon_link id=”0924486848″ target=”_blank” ]The Long Way[/amazon_link] so I needed some shade. Out came the UMBINI.

Glad you asked! An umbini is one of Mike’s clever little inventions, proving once again that he is the most brilliant man in the universe when it comes to solving problems in a cost-effective way. As I sat in my warm shade reading I had a sudden flash of inspiration that this blog needed a little infusion of energy in the form of our own ‘Practical Sailor’ tricks. Thus the category of ‘Cheap Tricks’ was born. This is the first post!

You have to read the whole post before you get to see the umbini. This photo is of the home of the most terrifying sea cave, a cave so scary and dark and fraught with diving cormorants that I thought I was gonna die. It's behind the rocks.

The umbini is a creation born, as most are, out of necessity and shallow pockets. The year: 2010. The trip: Barkley Sound, Vancouver Island, British Columbia. Three weeks of fabulous. The boat: S/V Moonrise, our intrepid Cal 34. Back in the day, Moonrise didn’t even have a dodger, much less a bimini. And the ‘boat kitty’ had no money for one. So we were faced with a lot of sun and weather exposure on this 3 week cruise. We needed something, anything.

During a trip to Costco, probably loading up on supplies, Mike found a ‘sport umbrella’ for 40$. Basically this is a huge umbrella with little side ‘wings’. It’s meant to be used as a portable shade for sporting or music events, or for laying in the park with your best friend. But he thought he could retrofit it to work on Moonrise. And he did!

Here's a teaser view of the inside.

He cut half of the pole off and attached a loop to the top of the thing so it would hang easily from the backstay. Then I cut the fabric on the back side of the umbrella, reinforced the curve with sunbrella, and hemmed it on the sewing machine.  I attached side relief buckles to hold it closed behind the backstay. We attached webbing with grommets around the bottom of the thing and added small bungee cords. These wrap underneath the safety lines and the stern pulpit to hold the sides down. Voila! The Umbini is born!

It is dead easy to deploy and you can even sail with it up as long as you are going downwind. It has two little windows with mosquito netting on them that allow airflow when unzipped. When motoring in fog or rain, it protects the helmsman from getting wet. And, of course, it offers shade from that fair weather friend, the sun. The icing on the proverbial cake was that the umbrella was exactly the right size for our cockpit. I think we will patent these because they are so cool.

Just sailing on the deep blue sea under his umbini! We're sailing under jib alone. And yes, it is summer, in spite of how it looks.

40$ and and about about 2 hours of work. Not bad for a cheap trick. Stay tuned for more cool ideas for ‘thrifty’ sailors!


10 thoughts on “Cheap Tricks

  1. Love the Cheap Tricks idea. That thing is awesome! Makes me laugh.

    Also that scary cave area looks like it’s out of a harry potter movie. I sometime wish Louisiana had such cool places to explore.

    • Come up here and I will show you a better cave, a loving cave that will protect you and soothe you. This cave is a terrifying cave that will eat you up, swallow you whole, little kayak and all. You don’t want to explore this cave. Just look at it from a safe distance and take in its raw power, then live to see another day. Eagles guard this cave on the outside, cormorants on the inside. Still, it has terrible beauty and whales splash their tales while you watch. So it’s worth being near it.

  2. Necessity is the mother of ………. You need to apply for a patent on your Umbini quick!!! You could write a booklet on crafty inventions for the frugal sailboat owner. You might call it FRUGALITY’S INVENTIONS. The Umbini is really clever,Mike.

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