Helios 2012 - First Sail

Dropped lines a 0630 from Maine Yacht Center en route to New London, CT. Finally a day without rain which was the status quo for the past 5 days here in Maine. A welcome relief. Sweet shot leaving Portland Harbor:

We planned for 18 hours of cruising to the Cape Cod Canal and to hit a tide turning at 0045 the following morning. We were all stunned by how flat the seas were, we simply could not ask them to lay down any more. That made us pretty fast under power, but along with the calm seas came zip for for breeze. About 15 miles off Cape May we saw our first bit of cool marine life, a humpback off in the distance. Not long after, another, but only 200 yards from the boat, constant bearing, closing distance. He showed his jaw/filter and then dove under the boat at 50 yards making for an exicting show, close call! Next was a shark fin spotted in the distance, necesitating a closer look. Turned out to be a good size basking shark which are very easy to approach without scaring, at least this one. We hung out with him less than a boat away as he casually stroked his powerful tail side to side making less than break away speeds. We tempted a friendship by offering pita chips, no bite. Tried to take a picture to but even a 20' shark looks like nothing with so much water around:

Not long after the fog closed us into a small hole in the big ocean. If you can imagine being on a boat with no land in sight with visibility of 20+ miles and get a disconnected feeling, try thinking about visibility of 100 feet in the middle of a fog bank on the ocean! Very eerie. We felt a SSE breeze with a little thrust. It persisted and we set the genoa and main for the first time since putting on a new Selden aluminum boom. We had 9-10 knots true wind and began cruising at 7 kts, ghosting through the fog. Our apparent wind was washing sweetly through the sails. Killed the engine. Kept cruising and everyone got a chance to helm the boat under sail, not an easy feat with no reference on the horizon. We were all happy about that:

The fog eased, we were pleased. Had a sunset over a glassy horizon east of Boston harbor as we took on Cape Cod Bay.

By 1130 we were into the Canal entrance and checked for traffic. We were early for a favorable tide but forged ahead anyway, about 1.5 hrs ahead of the tide change. I mention this because the time was epic for cruising down Buzzards with favorable current, and then more important, running the current through The Race and into Long Island Sound. We had a nice morning with noticibly warmer air temperatures and not much more than 5 kts of breeze SE.

By 1230 we were tied up the Thames River at Burr's Marina (recommended by the cruising guide) in New London. Lunch, nap time, crew change! New crew arriving from NYC today with plans to finish the trip in Oyster Bay Long Island over the weekend. Heyo!

Charlie Agnew


Lunch and Learn 

As any Mainer knows, the warm months on beautiful Casco Bay do not come easy. It is for this reason that we shed layers prematurely the first time the thermometer hits sixty degrees and the sun is shining. I believe that many Mainers experience a common cabin fever and fantasy as they stare deeply into the fire on a cold January night. It is of course the dream of Summer days past and future. The dream of long sun filled afternoons and the smell of leaves, grass and charcoal hanging in the warm evening air. The taste of a cold beer. The sound of a distant mower.

However, for sailors in the winter months this dream manifests itself in some unique ways. We stare at charts of Casco bay, longing for the perfect summer day to explore that pristine cove we heard about. We buy a sewing machine to stitch the perfect custom dodger for our runabout. For some, the dream means serious maintenance and construction. Building a dory in our basement, or mending fiberglass under a shrink-wrap cover. But patiently we wait. We wait for the ice to thaw and the days to grow long, until we can again test ourselves and our machines against the sea.

When Captain Agnew proposed an educational "lunch and learn" aboard the Phalarope I was immediately excited. Coming from a background of education under sail, I was thrilled to learn that we had two students who were eager to gain knowledge in overnight cruising on a small sail boat. What freedom! I was reminded of motoring around Boothbay Harbor as a boy in my 14 foot carolina skiff. Il never forget my father teaching me to dock the boat and what to do in emergencies. When finally the day came that I was old enough and was "checked off".  For me it was as more rewarding then being handed over the keys to the family car.

My two students were completing their senior year in high school. For their senior project they had chosen to prep the Phalarope for sailing, gain basic knowledge in safety (both already had some sailing background) and complete a series of overnights on Casco bay. We chose a beautiful Monday afternoon to do a sail that would include basic chart reading instruction as well as rules of the road and vessel familiarization. But most of all, it would be a confidence builder and allow the students to get out for a sail and ask any questions they had brewing about their upcoming voyages.

The lesson was a smashing success, hindered only by some deep seeded jealousy on the part of their instructor, (why didnt I do this for MY senior project!) and a 4hp outboard that had seen better days. I recommended some extra equipment and supplies to bring along and emphasized safety. As we struck sail and made our way in to Maine Yacht Center, a cloud covered the warm sun and gave me a chill. I proceeded to launch into a bit of a lecture on Hypothermia and the dangers that cold water can have.

I wanted my students to understand that preparation is so very important. "What if one of you falls overboard?", "What if both of you fall overboard?", "Who do you call if your injured.", "Do you have checkpoints with friends or family established?".

It was questions like these that I felt led to the most active and enlightening dialogue of the lesson. I emphasized how easy it is to become complacent and make bad decisions, especially when panicked and cold.

So although we have all been fighting cabin fever and are eager to get our vessels launched so we can live our adventures, lets take a step back. Lets double check our equipment and think through all of the scenarios. Lets have respect for the power of the sea.

Having an open dialogue about what could go wrong is not always the kind of talk associated with a beautiful afternoon sail. But having a deep understanding and appreciation for the elements is what makes us Sailors, and it is also what makes us Mainers.

Safe Sailing!

Capt. Charlie Orne
Thursday, May 24th


Helios 2012 - Launch Video

Helios Launch Video

Charlie's Yacht Services (CYS) handled the splash of Swan44 "Helios" at the Royal River Boat Yard (RRBY) in Yarmouth, Maine today. After three years out of the water a little cold water on the underside was a refreshing feeling! The RRBY did an excellent and professional job handling the lift and stepping the mast without any issue. Charlie's Yacht Services now has some fine tuning of the cabin (cleaning), and preparation for commissioning engine and water systems tomorrow. The rig is tuned for cruising, decks are getting their first proper washing, and everything has checked out well so far! Looking forward to sea trials and getting out on the water since it has been a very nice past few days here in Maine, perfect weather to start off. As soon as the engine is commissioned, we are headed down to Portland and Maine Yacht Center for a more work and preparation for the season. CYS handles all logistics for this yacht owner making sailing easy and the owner able to maximize time on the water. Check back for updates on progress!


Helios 2012 - Keel Repair - Fairing, filling, and paint

Keel Repair - Fairing, filling, and paint

Prior to launch this coming Monday, some cosmetic keel damage sustained in the Intercoastal Waterway of Florida was to get repaired. The lower keel section is solid lead with some epoxy fairing of varying thickness giving it an even and smooth finish. The leading edge of the keel has clearly been damaged and repaired in the past.

 In order to get this work done, we had to have the boat in the lift slings and suspended to allow access to the bottom of the keel. The damaged portions of both the keel and rudder were identified and first prepped by cleaning out growth, removing loose material and a light sanding. We chose to use Interlux Watertite Epoxy Filler which turned out to be very easy to work with. This is a two part epoxy that mixes 50/50 and is immediatly ready for use and at a workable consistency that allows easy spackeling on vertical and even upside down surfaces without sagging or drooping.


After allowing the watertite epoxy to dry overnight, we sanded the prepared spots until smooth and consistent with the shape of the keel giving it a nice even and smooth finish. We then wiped this down with solvent and added bottom paint directly over the finished spots. Ready to go!



Gryphon 2012

Sailing vessel (S/V) Gryphon is a 1999 Nautor Swan built, Germain Frers Swan44 MK II currently sailing seasonal waters between Maine and Connecticut in true cruising style. This spring she was launched by our friends at Maine Yacht Center (MYC) in Portland Maine, where she was fit with some nice new amenities over the winter.

CYS pulled a sea-ready crew together to run the trip from Maine down to CT, making final preparations at Maine Yacht Center and dropping lines Thursday at 1300. Although we were able to do a quick sea trial on our way out of Casco Bay, no commissioning goes without a hitch! As we prepared to raise sail, we realized none of the electric winches or hydraulic headsail furler was working. Now some traditional sailors may question why we would need these modern conveniences to sail this yacht. The simple answer around here is that having it any other way would be, uncivilized! After a fair bit of head scratching and investigation into the lack of power to our main deck systems, we found the culprit in the "emergency stop" button which is installed in the cockpit to de-power these systems in an emergency. This button is at a convenient knee level and was likely mistakenly depressed as someone passed through the cockpit! Problem solved.

Sails were set and we were off, on course for the Cape Cod Canal with a NE breeze 10-12 kts. Shortly after we saw a few isolated rain showers coming on both the radar and satellite weather and dressed accordingly. Winds gusted to 30 kts on the leading edge of the rain showers and so we reefed the genoa. The boat moved nicely in these conditions and after the breeze steadied and the rain passed, we were brisk but comfortably situated and on pace to hit the ebb tide through the canal.

Just before daybreak we hit the canal entrance and cruised through with a favorable current and a top SOG reported at 10.5 kts. Once through the canal, we were slapped in the face with 15-20 kts on the nose. This made for slow going towards The Race and it appeared we would miss the tide flooding into Long Island Sound. Just afternoon we decided to tuck into Point Judith, rest up and recharge once the current turned favorable. Tied up at the Point Judith Marina, we kicked back and relaxed enjoying the even keel of the Gryph. The skipper cooked up a fine gnocci and pesto dish with roasted chicken and we all ate in the cockpit as the sun went down. Just before dark we cast lines and headed back out, fully fed and refreshed. This strategy worked out well as we lost only a little time getting in and out of the marina, and when we hit the race about three hours later, we had about 2 kts of favorable current south of Fisher’s Island and cruised through The Race under a crisp starry sky. Our last night under way was quite pleasant, flat seas on the sound but the 15-20 kts of W breeze not quite enough to get by without the engine.

At 0900 Saturday morning we made our way in to Stamford harbor with the sun shining and the crew in great spirits! We pulled up our mooring at the Stamford Yacht Club as the harbor buzzed with fellow yachtsmen prepping their ships for the club’s opening day. This big commissioning event was what lured the Gryphon crew to town, along with promises of free cocktails, feasting, and fanfare! The club put on a fantastic party and the Gryphon crew was the last standing when the bar closed that night. A grand trip completed by a fitting celebration!


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