Monday, May 12, 2014

Shake & Bake!

A fastball requirement for business travel this week meant I'd have to find my way from the OBX to DC by late Sunday evening instead of Monday and thus creating an opportunity to finally take S/V SeaSprite out for a sea trial/shakedown cruise. With very short notice a few well placed posts on Facebook and CruisersForum allowed me to link up with some eager and experienced crew and we agreed to rendezvous in the morning at Regent Point Marina.  

Arriving at the marina earlier than expected, I set about preparing the boat to get underway. After removing the sail cover and eising glass covers on the dodger,  I inspected the running rigging and tried to familiarize myself with the various winches and other sailing systems. I then went below to check the raw water strainer, the oil level and opened the seacock that controls raw water intake. After setting the cabin for sea I went back up to the cockpit to start the engine. The 30 year old Universal 18 rumbled to life with no issues and peering over the gunwales I was greeted by that most welcome sight of water gushing from the exhaust. That's when I realized I had no idea how much diesel was in the tank. I couldn't find a gauge and to make matters more complicated I then remembered there is no fuel dock at the marina. "Crap!" So, off I went in pursuit of the precious elixir. 

I found a 5 gallon gas can at the M&M hardware which was not too far away but had to drive all the way to Deltaville to find a gas station that sold diesel. By the time I returned the rest of the crew had already arrived. Frank and Suzanne are a lovely couple who are both licensed USCG Captains.  Currently residing in Urbanna, VA, they are finishing the refit of their Morgan 44' liveabaord in anticipation of casting off for good in the Fall.  

Hauling the diesel aboard we poured 3 to 4 gallons into the tank and after making final checks we cast off  the lines. As with almost anything one does for the first time on a sailboat there was no shortage of "comedy." As we motored slowly out of the slip I found the helm was extremely difficult to turn. I immediately unscrewed the "wheel lock" on the Edson pedestal to no avail. I muscled the wheel over to port, narrowly averting a collision with a beautiful old Vindo on the other side of the fairway. Throwing the transmission into neutral and then reverse I was able to bring the boat to a halt and we set about our first troubleshooting mission of the day. Finally,  Frank found the release lever on the ST4000 Autopilot and that did the trick. We now had full steerage but in the interim the boat had drifted to a point where the stern was facing out to sea. Rather than trying to undertake a multi-point standing turn at the shallow end of the fairway I decided we would just motor out in reverse. After a few zigs and zags I mastered the art of piloting in reverse and we were clear of the docks.

The motor out of Regent Point is tricky. The channel is narrow and shallow and the markers are not necessarily useful. However, with constant reference to my Samsung S4 mini w/ Navionics "chart plotter" and a close eye on the depth gauge we made it clear of the shoals, crab pots and oyster reefs.  

Regent Point Marina

Once we reached deeper water we hoisted the sails in rather gentle conditions (6-8kts WNW) but found this sufficient to push the old girl along nicely. We enjoyed these conditions until about noon when we were becalmed.  As the wind died off we sailed wing-on-wing and even rigged the whisker pole to hold out the jib. After about 30 minutes of very slow progress we were about to call it a day when the wind shifted to the ENE and picked up nicely.  We dropped the whisker pole and turning back towards the wind watched with satisfaction as the main and the jib filled and the sheets went taunt. Soon the wind was blowing a steady 11-13kts and we were heeled over 15 degrees, close hauled making over six knots.   

Close hauled and making 6.6kts

Photo Courtesy of S/V Pequod

We were soon joined by S/V Peqoud, a Pearson 31, also sailing out of Regent Point and the race was on! Peqoud chased us through a number of tacks before finally overtaking and then bearing off on a beam reach and heading towards Stingray Point. During our "race" we registered a top speed of 6.6 knots.  

S/V Pequod

After a few more trips back and forth across the Rappahannock we made the turn for home.  Now with a solid 10-12 knots off our stern we enjoyed the downwind run back towards the Norris Bridge. Sailing wing-on-wing we averaged a steady 5 knots. Then, just as we reached the the outer markers the wind died again so we hoisted the "iron main," dropped the sails, and motored back towards the marina.

Downwind run wing-on-wing

As the marina came into view we noted how low the tide had fallen.  When we left, it had been just past high tide and now, about 5 hours later, we were at the peak of what appeared to be a really, really low tide. The barnacles on the day marker pylons were fully exposed by more than 2 feet and the depth gauge was reading below 4 feet. Now S/V SeaSprite draws 4.5 feet and since I have no idea how the previous owner calibrated the depth gauge I was becoming rather nervous.  

We managed to reach the fairway without running aground and after some deft maneuvers even succeeded in docking "stern in."  Within 15 minutes we had the boat secure, the sail covers on, the trash emptied and said our "goodbyes."  It was a very enjoyable day under sail aboard a noble vessel with great comrades.  

As for the shakedown, the only issues identified were the lack of any apparent means to turn on the autopilot and some of the running rigging, particularly the mainsheet and jib sheets should probably be replaced.  Oh yeah, and I need to install a new stereo!