Set­ting Sail

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A true shake­down

This past sum­mer’s short ex­pe­di­tion to Maine was in­tended mostly as a shake­down cruise, a chance to put some se­ri­ous miles on the boat and gauge the ef­fects of the past year’s worth of re­pairs and up­grades. I should, of course, had taken more no­tice of the other dic­tio­nary def­i­ni­tion of “shake­down”—a form of ex­tor­tion. You’d have thought that af­ter so much dili­gent work and ex­pen­di­ture I’d have been re­warded with some stress-free cruis­ing. But no, I re­turned with a punch list con­sid­er­ably longer than the one I’d left with.

Some of this I’d ex­pected, some not. The new sheet winches, for in­stance, are ex­ceed­ingly ef­fec­tive, but their bases are two inches shorter than the ones they re­placed, which I soon dis­cov­ered was enough to change the lead from the sheets and greatly in­crease the risk of an over­ride. The deck lay­out is such that this can only be cured by re­mov­ing them and adding a pair of ris­ers, a project I had not counted on. The new wind­lass worked per­fectly, ex­cept that in the pre-de­par­ture rush I had put off swap­ping out the breaker from its smaller pre­de­ces­sor. The re­sult was that ev­ery time we raised an­chor it popped at the most in­con­ve­nient mo­ment, a real is­sue in some of those tight Maine coves. For­tu­nately the winds were mostly light.

I had thought I had fixed a deck leak above my cabin, un­til the heav­ens opened one day. I put my head down that night with a grate­ful sigh only to find my pil­low was sop­ping wet. Then a few days af­ter that, while we were en­joy­ing a rous­ing breeze across Casco Bay af­ter a long mo­tor­sail, I stuck my head down the hatch to see wa­ter slop­ping over the sole. I hauled the treach­er­ous bilge pump out of its murky trench to find its strum box plugged with a dis­gust­ing mix­ture of what­ever it is that finds its way into bilges. Its lit­tle mo­tor had ex­pired af­ter strug­gling in vain for so long. For­tu­nately the man­ual bilge pump

is both pow­er­ful and eas­ily ac­cessed, for I gave it a se­ri­ous work­out that af­ter­noon. The source of the leak re­mained a mys­tery un­til I hap­pened to check the shaft and cou­pling while we were un­der power. The drip­less shaft seal had looked fine with the shaft locked, but was any­thing but drip­less when the shaft was turn­ing, as some­thing had lodged it­self be­tween the bear­ing faces. An­other one for the list, along with adding a bil­ge­wa­ter alarm.

I had re­placed ev­ery­thing elec­tronic ex­cept for the an­cient Au­to­helm au­topi­lot, which un­til then had be­haved with such im­pec­ca­ble good man­ners that I had hoped I might get away with keep­ing it. Nope. De­part­ing Booth­bay Har­bor, it de­vel­oped a sud­den and al­most fa­tal at­trac­tion to a nav­i­ga­tion mark, turn­ing to­ward it so sud­denly I was nearly thrown off my feet. Had we been any closer we’d be sport­ing green paint on the bow. Luck­ily the crew hit the “standby” but­ton at first stab. From that mo­ment on, its scram­bled elec­tronic brain thought we were go­ing in the op­po­site di­rec­tion to our ac­tual head­ing. Since I refuse to live with­out an AP, that’s a se­ri­ous shake­down—so much for the new main­sail.

There was more, of course, but only the usual things—drawer catches need­ing to be re­placed, lines re-led and whipped, etc. I sup­pose I could have been shaken down for much more than that. s

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