Sailing Sunshine: Let the cruising begin

heading out under power

After completing our latest major repair (replacing the stuffing box) we couldn’t wait to get out on the water. Unfortunately, as soon as the project was over I was hit by a virus. Made worse by my overenthusiastic celebration of the finished job.

Going for our first sail with a sore throat, queasy stomach and fatigue seemed like a bigger adventure than I was up for. I wimped out and we opted instead to take a leisurely motor cruise, with our planned destination Peddocks Island, roughly four miles away.  We’d get to check out how the new stuffing box was doing, learn the channel and perhaps try anchoring.

The sky was cloudy and the wind no more than five mph. The forecast was good, with the first showers of the northern edge of Tropical Storm Andrea not due for several hours.

Our dock leaving left something to be desired. We’ve always moored out and have no experience with docking a boat except as crew. We missed untying a line, due to miscommunication, (wow, imagine that) and I had to scramble to get aboard while Tom tried another new maneuver. Thanks to me, someone probably has some pretty funny videos to upload to YouTube.

Next came the issue of judging the boat’s drift as we squeezed between the bowsprits of two expensive vessels. From the look of the ends of some nearby finger piers, we’re not the first crew to be challenged with getting a boat into and out of a slip. So far we haven’t added our own dings to the infrastructure, but no doubt we will eventually.

Once out into the channel we merrily motored along, reading the chart, locating buoys and generally getting our bearings. I checked the stuffing box now and then and found it blissfully dry and we grinned at how well Sunshine handled the wake from passing lobster boats, ferries and pleasure craft. We were the only sailboat out, which wasn’t surprising with the wind so light.

In the channel past wessagusset

This was just my speed. Exactly what I was up for. Good medicine. We’d just about reached Red #10, which marked our turn into West Gut, the approach to Peddocks Island and Portuguese Cove, when Tom asked me to take the wheel so that he could see the endryment for himself.

chart peddocks island

Never let a man look at an engine, he just wants to find something wrong with it.

Tom decided that the engine was vibrating more than he liked. I rolled my eyes, if felt fine to me. But he put in another call to the wonder that is Jason. Who surprised me by saying there should be next to no vibration and that it sounded like something was out of alignment and that we should slow down and not overtax the engine. Tom decided to head back to port and signaled for me to swing her around, then to slow down. After a few minutes, he announced he’d rather put up the sails and not use the engine until we had to for docking.

This may have been a ploy to get me to agree to sail before I was ready. The motion of the water was already a slight stress on my tender stomach. But surely it’s preferable to risk sea sickness than to blow an engine? I suggested we try the little jib. Tom patiently pointed out that on a Freedom the main is the source of power and the jib would do little by itself. So I turned us into the wind and Tom hoisted the main.

sunshines sail at work

Sunshine heading back to port under sail

The sail back was a mixed bag for me. There’s no denying it felt wonderful to finally have Sunshine under sail. The wind was light enough to be quite comfortable most of the time, but my ideal vision of what our first time sailing her would be like did not include me feeling like crap. I wanted to be strong and happy, instead I was see-sawing between happy and upheaval with each change in the wind. Not helping things was the fact that, since we only planned on motoring, we’d not adequately stowed things. When Sunshine heeled I could hear pens, reading glasses and books sliding around. Something fell into the sink.

I stayed at the helm past Wessagusset Beach (the site of our original trouble with the stuffing box), around Germantown Point, and up Town River. I asked Tom to take over when we were hit with some gusts that I didn’t feel up to managing. They were all of about 9 mph. As I said, I wimped out.

Tom finally sailing Sunshine

The plan was to sail up river as far as we could before starting the engine. All went perfectly, we sailed past our marina, then turned into the wind to douse the sail. And somewhere in that turn Sunshine found a point of sail she really liked. She heeled over and took off like she’d been shot from a cannon – toward shore. This time stuff hit the floor. Tito, likewise, shot out the companionway in full fight or flight mode, and headed for the bow. Finding no one to fight and no place to flee, she stood in a crouch on the foredeck, panting. We felt bad for laughing.

Tom wished aloud that we could just let the boat go like this and head back down the river, but then handed me the wheel and brought down the sail, fast. Lazy jacks are wonderful, they gathered in that enormous main without a hitch. I swung Sunshine back down river, away from the lovely granite monoliths that line every inch of Quincy streets and shore.

Back in the marina we stressed anew about hitting those big boats, but Tom did well. I on the other hand was over cautious. In order to get on the dock to fend us off as  fast as possible, I grabbed the bow line and leaped over to the finger pier – forgetting in my haste that they are very bouncy. The pier bucked like a diving board and I had to go into a Spiderman crouch to avoid being flung into the next slip. I scrambled up in time to hook the bowline over the cleat and arrest Sunshine’s forward motion, but it wasn’t pretty.

I really need docking practice.

The next day Tom looked the engine over and found the source of the shimmy. A motor mount has given way. We pick up the part tomorrow and it’s a simple fix. So we’ll soon be on to the next voyage.

And next time out, motoring or sailing, complete stowing happens first. I may have been sick, slammed and scared stiff at the sight of all that stone coming at me, but Tito would have slept on if it weren’t for the sky falling on her.

















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  1. At long last You (all crew) and Sunshine are ready to change ports as the wind takes you. We will take lots of pictures when I show up for a ride on Friday! Makesure there is no rain! No sniffles

  2. Nancy, I’m sorry your first try was marked by an ailing tummy . . . definitely not fun! Still, Sunshine looks very pretty underway. I imagine that she is as eager to get going as both of you. I still have your stainless cup; all sorts of obstacles to returning it have popped up. Let’s make a plan.

  3. This all sounds pretty normal to me, Nancy. Docking is never elegant, but if some day you luck into it a smooth performance you’ll receive applause. The hardest part is leaping from your boat to the dock without falling in. That’s why the guys always want to be at the helm. Sunshine looks beautiful with the sails up and Lazy Jacks sound fantastic. I hope you feel better soon.

    1. Sunshine looks great under sail. As to a “dry bilge” it seems like an impossible dream. Consider something like a “Bilge Absorber”. It will suck up any oil and muck that might get down there, and let your bilge pump just pump out clean water. We loved them.

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