Delivery: S/V Hilarity

Posted on Monday 7 May 2012

Sunday, I helped Dale and his sister-in-law Merry move S/V Hilarity from Fairhaven to Bourne. Dale bought S/V Hilarity at the end of last season and needed to move her from my marina, where she wintered, over to his mooring in Bourne, about 15 nm as the crow flies (shown on the image by the two flags).

Overview of the trip area

Overview of the trip area

However, the trip by boat is much longer, since we’d have to head south out of the harbor and clear Sconticut Neck before turning to the northeast for Bourne. Dale asked me to crew on the trip because he’s fairly new to sailing and this is his first boat.

Detail of the New Bedford-Fairhaven Harbor approach

Detail of the New Bedford-Fairhaven Harbor approach

Dale and Merry met me at my marina after dropping Merry’s car off in Bourne so we’d have ground transportation when we got there. I had packed a bag with my handheld VHF, my Steiner 8×30 binoculars, two handheld SOLAS flares, two SOLAS parachute flares, a horn, a roll of rescue tape, a fleece shirt and fleece jacket, a knit/fleece watch cap, some other gear and some chocolate. The idea is that if you have safety gear, generally you won’t need it–it is a corollary derived to Murphy’s Law–where the only thing that you will need is something you don’t have.

Dale and Merry were packing a cooler full of food and drinks for the trip and had stopped by Dunkin Donuts to get breakfast for all three of us. They brought me two Ellie-style iced coffees for the trip as well. We had a lot of food and drinks and were well provisioned for the daysail over to Bourne.

We unpacked the new anchor rope (150′), shackle and 30′ of chain that Dale had purchased. The 1/2″ nylon portion of the rode is a bit light for a boat the size of Dale’s Irwin 30, but it would do for now. The anchor on the boat was a 12 lb. or so Danforth style fluke anchor. While it isn’t the best anchor in the world, I felt it was necessary to at least have an anchor with a decent length of rode aboard the boat for the trip. I had Merry feed the new anchor rode down the chain pipe into the anchor locker and lead it out the bow pulpit and hung the anchor on the anchor bracket on the starboard side of the bow pulpit.

An anchor is one of the most important pieces of safety gear on a boat in my opinion. In many emergencies, the anchor can give you something that is very precious–time. It can do this by stopping the boat and preventing a problem like a dead engine from becoming even worse. Many boaters, especially powerboaters, don’t seem to realize this and have very undersized ground tackle on their boats. It amazes me that they might have spent $200,000 on the boat, yet don’t see the value in spending $1000 on a good anchor and anchor rode setup for their boat. It is one of the least expensive pieces of insurance you can have aboard the way I see it.

We departed the marina at 0830 to make the 0900 Fairhaven-New Bedford Swing Bridge opening–a necessity for a sailboat starting out north of Pope’s Island. Because of Saturday’s “Super Moon”, the low tide was exceptionally low, and we decided to leave around mid-tide to make sure we’d have enough water to get out of the marina. Many of the marinas on the Acushnet River are in dire need of dredging–which is complicated by the fact that the Acushnet River’s bottom is contaminated from years of industrial pollution with PCBs and needs special permits to allow any dredging.

The weather started out partly cloudy with winds out of the North and the wind was forecast to be 5-10 knots out of the North to Northeast most of the day. Unfortunately, with the winds out of the North-to-Northeast, it was going to be a long day of beating to windward to get to Bourne. The more typical Southwest winds, which usually grace Buzzards Bay, would have made it a far shorter and easier trip. The winds ended up being a bit stronger than forecast and made for some very good sailing, especially later in the day after I had taken care of some of the rigging issues.

Sailflow wind observations from the West Island station for 2012 May 06.

Sailflow wind observations from the West Island station for 2012 May 06.

We passed through the swing bridge and headed out the New Bedford Hurricane Barrier and south past the Butler Flats light when the first issues came up. The engine’s raw water cooling system had a hose pull free. I think the reason the hose pulled free is because the engine’s vibration moves the two pieces that the hose connected and causes the hose to “creep” and work its way off of the one of the two pipes. Hose clamps aren’t really designed to keep hoses from resisting tension forces inline with the hose. It didn’t help that the hose was very old and in need of replacement as we found out later in the day.

As the cooling system was spewing hot water and exhaust into the cabin, since the leak was after the heat exchanger but before the waterlift muffler, we hoisted the main sail and got underway under sail so we could shut down the engine. We knew we could run the engine if we really had to, as we did later in the day, but knew it would fill the cabin with exhaust fumes and the bilge with hot seawater.

Apparently, when Dale was re-commissioning the boat this spring, he forgot to check quite a few of the systems thoroughly and one of the things that was missing were the genoa fairlead blocks. The tracks and fairlead cars were there, but the blocks were clearly missing in action.

Without the fairlead blocks, the genny sheets couldn’t be used on the winches, since the lead angle would be too high and it would guarantee that the sheets would cause overriding loops on the winch drums and jam up. To fix this for the trip to Bourne, I asked Dale for a couple short pieces of line. He gave me about six feet of 3/8″ doublebraid. I cut two 15″ sections and rigged makeshift fairleads from the line by passing the line through the padeye on the fairlead cars three times and tying them off with a zeppelin bend. This gave me a three-loop fairlead that I passed the genoa sheet through and allowed it to lead fair to the genoa sheet winches. While the makeshift fairleads created a fair bit of friction and chafe–they did allow us to sail instead of having to call TowBoat US.

The furling system for the genny was jamming, probably due to the line on the drum being improperly tensioned when unfurling or furling the drum previously, and causing an over-ride–so we were limited to about an 80% jib initially. As the day progressed and we worked with the furler, we managed to free up the over riding loops and eventually were sailing on almost the complete genny–which looked like a 140% genoa or so.

In any case, we were able to sail, but the boat was having trouble pointing. I think it was because the standing rigging was not tensioned properly, as was later confirmed…but we’ll get to that. The broad reach out of the New Bedford harbor approach and turning to a close reach across Buzzards Bay towards Nashuon Island was the first long leg of the trip to windward.

When we tacked to make northwards progress off of Nashuon Island, I noticed the boat was having trouble pointing higher than 55-60 degrees apparent. This was going to really hamper our progress towards Bourne and make for a much longer trip. We sailed for about four hours and decided to try and motor sail for a while. We double checked the hoses and tightened up on the hose clamps and fired up the iron genny… only to have to cooling system spring leaks due to the host rupturing. I tried to patch the hose with Rescue Tape.

Rescue Tape is a brand of silicone self-fusing temperature and pressure resistant tape that every sailor should have aboard the boat. On a friend’s boat, during his annual summer cruise two years ago, I used it to seal the engine’s freshwater cooling system where a tapcock had disintegrated due to old age. I filled the hole the tapcock valve was supposed to be in with a cut-down piece of pencil and then lashed it into place with a few turns of Rescue Tape. This reduced the coolant leak to a few drips per second and allowed us to use the engine to motor into Milford Harbor after we sailed up to the harbor entrance.

On Dale’s boat, I used the tape to seal the rupture in the hose…but the repair was foiled when the hose burst in another location. The hose was so old that it began to rot out and had burst in four or five places before the end of the trip. Well, the engine is an auxiliary and the primary propulsion is the sails…so we sailed.

We had lunch. Lunch, at least for me and Merry, was really delicious lobster rolls that Dale had picked up the night before. Dale had one of the sandwiches that Merry had made up for the trip. Apparently, Dale’s not a huge lobster fan…that’s okay, Merry and I made up for that.

After lunch, Merry went down below to try and take a nap. While we were sailing I noticed that the port lower shroud was now loose, even though we were on port tack, so I went forward to check what was going on. It was worrying because it hadn’t been loose earlier in the day. I found that there were no cotter pins in the turnbuckle and the turnbuckle had slowly been working its way loose as the day progressed.

Unfortunately, Dale didn’t have any cotter pins aboard. Fortunately, last week, Dale had asked me to go out and put together a tool kit for his boat, and we went shopping at Sears Hardware and picked up a fairly comprehensive set of tools to keep on the boat. So, I tightened up the port lower shroud. I remembered that we had a piece of residential Romex cable aboard that Dale had been using to fish wires with. I went down below and cut a few inches of the Romex free and used it to secure the turnbuckle.

I decided to check the rest of the standing rigging to see what was going on with it and found two other shrouds that were not secured with cotter pins or cotter rings. I used some more Romex to lock them down after tightening the shrouds. I was tensioning the rigging based on feel, and Dale shouted that we we had gained speed over ground as I had been tightening the rigging and that we were now able to point much higher–about 15 degrees higher on each tack.

After adjusting the rigging, we were able to get Hilarity up to six knots for almost half-an-hour before we had to tack and made our way up to the approach to the Cape Cod Canal. Phinneys Harbor, where the Monument Beach Marina is located, is tucked up just to the east of the Cape Cod Canal channel and is the last harbor on the eastern shore before you get to the canal entrance.

Detail of the northeast end of Buzzards Bay with Phinneys Harbor and the channel leading to the Cape Cod Canal

Detail of the northeast end of Buzzards Bay with Phinneys Harbor and the channel leading to the Cape Cod Canal

When we got to just south of Mashnee Island, which is the western edge of Phinneys Harbor, we decided to fire up the engine and motor the last half mile or so to the docks. We knew doing is meant that the cabin would fill with exhaust and the bilge would get a fair amount of hot seawater from the heat exchanger dumped into it, but the bilge pump was up to the task of keeping the water levels manageable, and it was only for a few minutes.

We tied up to a slip and Dale went off to get the dinghy and bring it over to Hilarity. We also unloaded the boat and put the stuff in the car rather than having to ferry it in the dinghy. This turned out to be a very good idea, as Dale forgot the drain plug for the dinghy and we had about two inches of water in the bottom of the dinghy for the trip back from the boat.

Merry Flynn and Dale Shadbegian alongside s/v Hilarity at Monument Beach Marina in Bourne, Mass.

Merry Flynn and Dale Shadbegian alongside s/v Hilarity at Monument Beach Marina in Bourne, Mass.

Once we had the dinghy tied up to the stern of Hilarity, we fired up the engine one last time and went off to find Dale’s mooring. The mooring was fairly easy to find despite the mooring balls only being marked in one spot with their number. You’d think that they’d put the number on both sides or better mark it three times with the number, but that was not the case. The mooring ball had two really nasty, slimy, barnacled pendants hanging off of it, which we used to secure S/V Hilarity to her summer home. The pendants really need to have a buoy attached to make retrieving them simpler.

Dale and I had just enough light to get out to the mooring and back before twilight set in. The sunset was amazing and was the perfect thing to top off of pretty good day of sailing. Even with the issues we had during the trip from Fairhaven, the sailing itself was just amazing. S/V Hilarity handled herself quite well and the 10-15 knots of wind and 1-2′ seas were very pleasant conditions for making the voyage, though it would have been nice if the wind had clocked around to the west and helped us out–but you can’t have everything.

Sunset from the Monument Beach Marina looking west, across Phinneys Harbor.

Sunset from the Monument Beach Marina looking west, across Phinneys Harbor.

A few observations about S/V Hilarity and this trip.

I really should have done a pre-trip inspection with Dale and gone over the boat with a fine-toothed comb. My Boat Inspection Trip Tips checklist would have helped enormously and would probably have caught the issues with the rigging and the engine hose.

Dale had told me the boat had been surveyed, and these are issues that the surveyor should have caught. However, the mast apparently was unstepped at some point after the purchase and re-stepped by the sounds of what Dale had said, and whoever stepped the mast didn’t really know enough about sailboats to handle the very basic rigging issues that were left unaddressed.

Also, I should have known that the engine hoses were going to be an issue based on what I saw the day we splashed S/V Hilarity.

On the day Hilarity was put in the water, the bilge was filling with water because the engine’s cooling system raw water seacock was left open and the hose wasn’t connected to the engine. When we used the bilge pump to drain the bilge after closing the seacock and connecting the hose, I noticed the bilge pump was really a mickey-mouse setup. The pump wasn’t wired to a switch and needed to be connected to the batteries directly in order to be used. The wiring on the bilge pump was basically twisted together–not taped, or butt spliced or even wire-nutted, but just twisted and left bare.

To top it off, the hose from the bilge pump runs into another hose and is not connected to the discharge through hull. The slightly larger hose the hose coming from the bilge pump was run into is connected to the through-hull. The previous owner didn’t even bother to tape where the smaller hose runs into the larger one, so about half the water the bilge pump was pumping up out of the bilge would just flow back into the bilge.

I would say that at a minimum, Dale needs to replace all of the wiring on the boat and all of the hoses on the boat and have someone go over the rigging with a fine-tooth comb and tune it. Aside from the cooling system issues, which is really just due to neglect and old-age, the engine seems to run very nicely and the boat sails very well. Considering what Dale bought the boat for, he’s got some good solid bones to work with. The boat just needs some tender loving care and refurbishing to become a pretty decent place for Dale and his family to spend the summer on.

Replacing the engine hoses, the head hoses–which are badly permeated, the head LBA, re-wiring the boat and tuning the rigging and replacing the running rigging, the boat should be in very good shape. He also needs a sailmaker to take a look at the sails. They may be okay, but given their apparent age, I would say he might want to buy new sails for the boat rather than invest in repairing the ones he has.

I’ll also be putting together a checklist for Dale to use for when he gets to the boat and when he’s about to leave the boat.

S/V Hilarity is an Irwin 30. She is powered by an Atomic 4, four-cylinder gasoline inboard.

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