Opportunity, Plans, Cruising, and Troubleshooting

Trip planning can be taken very seriously. Alternatively, plans can be thrown together excitedly, at the very last minute. I have always preferred the thrill of the latter, as there is no other way to take advantage of life and these valuable opportunities.

This plan was formulated with the goal of executing a 45 hour yacht delivery over the weekend, outside business hours. One might point out that between 5:00 on Friday and 8:00 Monday morning there are only 63 hours, and I would say, that is plenty. Add travel, sleep, a small buffer, and things gets tight.

Trip planning began on the stools of the Stamford Yacht Club’s Vineyard Deck, amid a bit of work week decompression. This was followed by a quick provisioning run, and securing the good ship Gryphon (Swan44, MKII) for sea. With a soft northerly and a clear starry sky overhead, we determined this was our opportunity for the taking. For anyone who has been out sailing under a moon and star lit sky, warm breeze and flat seas, this is the pinnacle. Throughout the night the wind blew from the north, then northeast. As the wind clocked, we began losing some boat speed and required some motor assist. We had a target speed of 7 knots to make the tide through the race, and onward through the Cape Cod Canal. As the sun came up, the breeze softened and we needed more engine to keep moving. That is when we realized we had a problem: engine exhaust temperatures spiked, and alarms rang. So much for the plan.

Walking through this, we began to put pieces together in evaluating the genesis of the issue. We had very little exhaust water passing through the transom. We did have white smoke coming out, which we later determined was in fact steam (thanks Neil). Over the summer, it was recalled that the exhaust water flow had slowed, and now was a problematic trickle. The wind headed us off and dropped to 7-10 knots. We were now missing our opportunity through the race with no power to get through an adverse tide (3+ knots). Plans change.

After some reasoning and discussion we headed off south and east through Plum Gut, around Orient Point and into Gardiners Bay, west of Mantauk, Long Island. We took advantage of flat seas and light breeze in Gardiners Bay to work on the issue at hand. Raw water pump impeller disassembled, inspected (ok), but replaced. No improvement. Sea strainer cleaned. No positive results, however, we did notice at this time that the sea strainer was not gushing water while the sea cock and strainer were wide open, well below the water line. Some pictures of the raw water arrangement aboard:


We decided at that point the problem was below the waterline, and it was time for a swim.

Without a working anchor windlass (a whole other issue), we decided to sail in to Sag Harbor for the night, and get to work on a fix. The afternoon sail down Gardiners Bay in to Sag Harbor was excellent, very pretty and done under sail as our engine was intolerant of much exercise. We called the friendly Sag Harbor Harbormaster via cell, secured a mooring for the night, and made it in under reduced power.

The engine aboard Gryphon is a Volvo Penta, Saildrive. The raw water intake on a Saildrive engine actually pulls through the stem, much like a traditional outboard. Rather than a dedicated simple seacock, the raw water intake is internal to the shaft of the Saildrive (shown below [7]).

After identifying some clams lodged in the exterior/interior of the intake, it took a series of dives to scrape out the water inlet and clear established sealife. Optimistically, we tried the engine again; no water flow. We were stumped, but went back to the observation of the sea strainer, below the waterline, but not flowing water when open. We decided to remove all hoses back to the raw water seacock and attempt to snake out the clams, at the risk of bringing volumes of water aboard. Using a plastic coated steel wire and pushing down through the valve, the clams began to swim free! Full water flow achieved through an open seacock…what a relief! Systems reconnected, engine started, full exhaust water flow, back in business baby.

Realizing our window to make it to Maine had all but closed, we set our sights on Newport and enjoyed a flat, but sunny and lovely day on Block Island sound motor sailing past many pleasure craft on our way towards Point Judith.

Around 1700 we were cruising into Naragansett Bay, wing on wing in front of an afternoon southwesterly. We had a wonderfully easy interaction and transaction with the Newport Harbormaster who set us up on a city mooring without issue. We quickly absorbed the beauty of Newport’s inner harbor and all the fine vessels around. Plans were coordinated with a good friend who was able to set up the crew with public transportation and dinner in Providence. A fantastic weekend trip with a sequel to follow!




High Energy - Wednesday Night Racing

Brad has for a while wanted more upwind sailing on Wednesday nights. More adrenaline, more speed, more risk. That's just the type of guy he is.

Well tonight he got it. 25 knots sustained SW with 30 kt gusts and two long upwind legs out on Casco Bay made for a nail biting good time. We had a great start, best yet. The heavier boats were able to point into the breeze far better than our overpowered J22 and jumped ahead. We worked our way up while getting used to the comfort of the windward rail, while watching from high above as the lee rail went underwater.

As is our custom, we had a particularly hairy and tight turn around the windward mark before settling in and absolutely crushing a downwind leg. Check it out:

Another hairy turn around the downwind mark followed by another beat and team High Energy was high fiving across the finish line. We were finally able to take a picture at this point with out risk of going overboard or destroying photography hardware:

The team immediately moved into a local pub to celebrate our success by blowing the froth off a couple cold ones. A new favorite local dish was discovered in the lobster salad topped hamburger at RiRa. Whaaat? Ya betta try it.


Sailing a Mason 44' Cutter - Bristol RI to Portland ME

This was the first time sailing on a Mason 44; a 1985 vintage Taiwanese (Ta Shing Yachts) built cutter rig designed by Alvin Mason. The mission was to fetch and return this newly aqcuired vessel along with the owner, back to Portland. A proper shakedown sail!

We arrived in Bristol RI on a Friday afternoon and loaded this no-named yacht with new gear. Quickly became familiar with the below deck comforts afforded by this ship; excellent overhead, off-centerline companionway, mounted captain's chair at the nav station, lots of stowage space, and excellent light below. The Mason 44 has her engine mounted below the soul boards midship, giving her a low center of gravity and providing good access to this machinery. The 55hp Yanmar performed very nice.

We loaded on the main sail in short order and cast mooring lines to get moving towards the Cape Cod Canal. The trip down Naragansett bay was a run out front of a nice NE breeze. Always fun to see all the activity in and around Newport and Jamestown as we passed. Rounding Brentons Reef we found ourselves close hauled and motorsailed towards Buzzards Bay with the main sail only.

Provisioning was done by the Portland Pottery Cafe, and we were treated extremely well in that regard!  Good food can make any sailing voyage one of great enjoyment and discovery. Many thanks to Amanda!

Our trip timing put us on the very tail end of a favorable tide as we passed up through the canal. We started with a knot favorable, and were spit out on the other side with a knot of current against. By the skin of our teeth! It was 0200 as we came out to Cape Cod Bay into a light NE breeze. We set a course for Cape Elizabeth and hunkered down into a rotating watch for the night.

It was a fairly uneventful trip through the day, we passed a few commercial vessels and lots of sport fishers on Jeffries Ledge and Stellwagen Bank. Later in the day we did pass within a few hundred yards of a 25' finback whale out for a cruise. A few seals and a variety of birds rounded out the wildlife sightings.

Ironic and laughable was the favorable breeze we encountered as we rounded Cape Elizabeth. Too late to gain anything, but it made for a nice final leg into Maine Yacht Center.

We were greeted at the dock in fine fashion with libations and snacks, the shoreside crew delivered! A few champagne bubbles were poured over the bow in ceremony, the remainder enjoyed by the crew. 

All said, a fantastic trip and congratulations to the new owners!


Impromptu Swan 44 Racing

I should clarify it was really more a benchmarking of speed than a race. We were lucky enough to bring two Swan44's out after lunch in Oyster Bay for a speed check, setting the stage for some future racing on the sound! Significant differences in these two vessels should be pointed out. Helios being a Sparkman & Stephens design, 1973 build, with modified fin keel. Gryphon the challenger in Cold Harbor NY waters, a German Frers design, 1998 build, with a fin and bulb keel.

Conditions were sweet: 15-17 kts from the SW, light seas, sunny skies.

The first meeting was on a reaching leg and Helios had the speed advantage with impeccable trim and diligent helmsmanship. We hit the planned mark, tacked, and trimmed for a windward leg which gave the advantage to Gryphon. This was a fun leg and although not truly upwind, made for an exciting time with the rails down and adrenaline up! Gryphon held the lead going up to the turn and proved her worth once back to the reaching leg. Still, there remains much to prove for both yachts, more trials are in order!




Ideal Maine Coastal Cruising - Portland to Georgetown

Had a nice sail today on an Allied Princess ketch, 36' from Maine Yacht Center in Portland, up to Georgetown Maine. I had never sailed or even run across this build before, but there is no question this is a stable and solid coastal cruising yacht. Designed by Arthur Edmunds, about 140 of them were built along the Hudson in Catskill NY between 1972 and 1981. This one happens to now cruise the lovely waters of coastal Maine :)

We had nice conditions, light SW breeze, favorable for a reach up the coast. The dramatic coastline and dynamic nature of the ocean leave never a dull moment. We sailed, we motored, we ran from storm clouds, saw seals and a variety of birds, had sun and rain, passed the mouth of the Kennebec and New Meadows rivers, and went up the Sheepscot river to the final destination: Robinhood Marina in Georgetown. Read through the Maine Island Trails book and really want to make a visit to Seguin Island to check out the harbor, museum, wooden tramway, and George Washington era light house.

Another great day sailing a new boat, meeting the owners (some great folks from NH!), and spending time with my maternal crew. Yup that's my momma!