Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Crazy Canuck Christening Chronicle

Air temperature: 9 degrees, chance of rain : 70 %, water temperature: let's just say the lake isn't frozen over yet. Perfect day for a boat christening!

October 19, 2009 --- The Christening Adventure

The Curtis Pocketship emerged from her garage cocoon of the last 7 months on Saturday, and after 2 full days of final rigging, was ready to head out to the lake on Monday, October 19 for her maiden voyage.
We left at around 10 A.M. full of excitement and some trepidation not quite expecting some of the problems that were about to befall us on this adventure.

It started while still in the city with a lady frantically waving and yelling at us from the car beside us. We quickly realized that it was not a case of road rage but that she was trying to signal us that our boat was about to fly off of the trailer. Luckily, it wasn't that drastic but the tie down straps had come loose and one of the bunks had slipped down slightly. A stop at Canadian Tire and an hour later the bunks were adjusted, new ratchet tie downs were installed and we proceeded to the lake with no further problems.

After opening up the cottage and turning on the heat we drove the trailer to the dock and ramp a kilometer away.

The lake was calm with only a slight breeze, perfect we thought for our first voyage.

The five minute rigging for sailing and launching on the ramp dragged out to 2 hours as we struggled to put up the mast. The gaff insisted on getting tangled in ropes or trapped under the boom gallows when we tried to raise the mast. Finally I undid all the lashings and completely removed the main sail. After several abortive attempts my first mate found the spot where she could help push up the mast enough so I could get that final bit of leverage to get the mast in to the tabernacle and tighten the jib halyard.

Slowly I installed the main sail, re-did the lashing, only to find that the pin for the throat halyard just wouldn't close because the shackle was too far bent apart. Did a temporary lashing, hoisted the gaff, only to find that the boom gooseneck I custom ordered from Racelite doesn't have a shackle for the tack grommet on the main sail.

Another temporary lashing and were finally ready to put the trailer on the boat ramp. Boat launching hint: don't remove the tie down straps before putting up the mast. With the tie down straps the boat is steady as a rock but without them there is a slight distracting rocking back and forth on the bunks as you work on doing the rigging.

Launching the boat is not as easy as our 18 foot powerboat which you can just drive off the trailer. With a bit of experimentation we realized the first mate would have to hold a long painter while I backed the trailer into the water and stop slightly suddenly to let inertia drift the boat off the trailer.

After some careful maneuvering to the dock being careful not to scratch the hull since I forgot to pack a fender bumper I tried to install the rudder. I cannot install it while the boat is on the trailer because the keel trough is too long; something I will correct in the spring. Lake Winnipeg is a sand bottom so the water is quite murky and it was a hit and miss affair trying to get the bottom pintle in to the bottom gudgeon when you are doing it blind.

With the auxiliary power trolling motor in place we slowly cruised out of the harbor past the breakwater. Remember the calm water I described when we first arrived at the dock hours before, well the wind had now shifted from the north to 20-25 kph and the swells and chop was starting to pick up. No problem, let's put down the centerboard and start some sailing. The centerboard wouldn't move and when I opened up the inspection ports on the centerboard trunk I could only push it down about half way without having a stick to get it the rest of the way down.

The wind was picking up some more so we decided discretion was the better part of valour on our maiden voyage, doused the sail, and headed directly into the wind and waves back to the safety of the harbour using our little trolling motor. By now, we were both a little colder, and it was time to attempt to re-trailer the boat without having to step into the water at the dock. That was easier said than done but I managed to tightrope along the trailer, connect the fully extended winch strap and jump to the dock. I could only crank up the boat most of the way so that I could remove the tightly fit rudder which would not lift off while in the water.

Putting down the mast went smoothly but it was now 5:30 ( we had expected to be home by mid-afternoon) and we still had to tarp and pack up "So True" for her winter hibernation.

Despite sounding like a series of misadventures on are her maiden voyage we were thoroughly thrilled with how the boat looks and handles on the water. Talking to our son later, he reassured us that the first few times out will be a learning experience and to look at the positive side. No one got hurt, no one got wet, nothing got broke, and nothing was lost.
Overall, it WAS a successful first sail despite some minor setbacks.

Here are some more photos and comments from our most excellent day:
How do you keep that darn gaff from flopping all around before you completely hoist the peak halyard?

I look like I am praying here back actually I am following the trajectory of the cork from the champagne bottle barely visible in my hands.

"So True" gets her official champagne shower with lots of extra going into the lake so as not offend Neptune.

You can see the prototype trolling motor mount necessary to get the motor prop low enough in the water. A newer version or at least giving this one a makeover will be another spring project.

Finally, a picture of my first mate of 35 years, and photographer for our first time on the water. You can tell that it is now colder and even in the shelter of the harbor the water conditions have changed from when we first arrived at the dock.

A closer look of how nice and stable Pocketship floats. A world of difference between her and the International 420 dinghy we took sailing lessons on in the spring. Pocketship barely rocks when you step in to her from the dock and walk around. On the 420 just putting the rudder in you always felt you were about to tumble in to the water.

"So True" all wrapped up for her 6 month winter sleep.

Next post: A slideshow of a Pocketship from a pile of plywood to floating on the water in less than 3 minutes.


John C. Harris said...

Congratulations! Looks great.

Some thoughts:

1. My rudder lives in place, on the stern. I've only had it off once, to repair a ding. It's a hassle to mount it every time you go sailing.

2. A pair of knee boots is essential for launching and retrieval. I keep mine in the tow vehicle. I'll bet that 19 out of 20 PocketShip launches I've done solo: immerse the trailer as much as possible, put vehicle in park, wade in, give the bow a good push, and you're launched. I smashed a boat once using the method you described!

3. You'll get the rigging sorted out so that hoisting the mast becomes tangle-free. It's something that can be practiced in the driveway. I try to have 100% of the rigging done before I head down the ramp, to minimize the time spent fending off the dock. Just hoist the mainsail and go.

4. Using peak and throat halyards, the gaff should always be kept horizontal during hoisting and dousing. It slides most easily in the track in that attitude, and it's less of a tangle.

Look forward to sailing updates next spring! We're hoping to get ours to the Upper Midwest this summer, so a fleet sail isn't impossible.

Dave C. said...

1. Once I shorten my keel trough I will leave the rudder attached.

2. Boots are a great idea, usually the water temp is fine for wading in even in the spring (of course, after a long winter we are a little anxious to get on the water)

3. We were rigged before going down the ramp and luckily there was no other traffic near the ramp. I'm sure practice will make things go smoother.

4. I stumbled upon that solution when trying to lower the sail. If the gaff is not horizontal it pulls down on the gooseneck just as you have outlined and the gooseneck will not move easily. Once horizontal everything slid fine.

I have more than appreciated your technical support and overall encouragement during my first boat build. It would be great to meet Pocketship's designer; we just have get some sailing experience now that the boat building itself is done.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations! I have been reading your blog from the start. I feel alittle like I fisnished a good book ,and now alittle sad that it's over. Now what m going to read? You should consider writing articles for Hobby building magazines, you have a good voice. That blue paint makes the boat! It shouts I,m no out of the box plastic boat.

Dave C. said...

Thanks for the compliments, and don't despair there are a few blog entries still left in me.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing your experience with use.
Sydney Australia

Ron Paro said...

Congratulations Dave, very nice job you did there!

Hugh, Wellington, New Zealand said...

A great looking example of a stunning little boat, congratulations!

Dave C. said...

Thanks, Hugh. I'm looking forward to being down under on the Gold Coast for February and March. When I get back it won't be too long before the ice is off the lake and I can get "So True" back on the water.