Docking on our own – and an engine decision.

The forecast for Memorial Day weekend promised more of the same that we’ve been experiencing this month – below normal temperatures, clouds, and rain, with the added bonus of little to no wind.  It’s getting really old.  Regardless, a weekend on the boat is better than a weekend anywhere else, so we drove down to Shenny bright and early on Saturday morning.

After stopping at Jan Electronics to pick up some terminals that we needed to replace for our wind instrument, we arrived at Pegu Club ready to finish rigging her.  Chuck from Sound Rigging had driven down during the week to reattach the forgotten block so now we were ready to put on the sails – hooray!

The mainsail went on easily, but we still need to put in the reefing lines.  We forgot to bring the pictures that we took last year so we decided to wait until next weekend for that.  Besides, it’s not like we were going to need to reef with only 5 knots of wind forecasted for the weekend.

The jib went on much more easily than in prior years thanks to our decision to get rid of our furler and switch to hank ons.  After we attached it to the forestay it took a bit of fiddling to figure out the best way to put it in the foredeck bag, but eventually we prevailed.  With virtually no wind, Pegu Club was officially all dressed up with nowhere to go, so we spent the rest of the day doing various boat chores and then finished it off with our first improptu social gathering with our fellow E dock boaters.

Sunday was calling for only 5-7 knot winds, but we were determined to get out for a sail.  At the very least, we needed to get away from the dock.  We hadn’t left since we splashed last weekend and I was anxious to give it a go without instructions from our friends. I was worried that if we didn’t do it on Sunday I would just continue to get more and more nervous about it, so we decided that even if there wasn’t any wind we would head out.  But first, a few more boat chores.

We still needed to adjust the stuffing box that we had repacked last winter.  From what we had read it needed to drip every 10 seconds or so when the propeller was turning.  This was one situation where the advantage of a dock over a mooring was clear.  Tied into our slip, I was able to put the boat in and out of gear at a very low RPM while Jeff made adjustments in the lazarette.  If we had been on a mooring we would have had to head out onto the Sound to do this task, which would have been a bit more bumpy than staying in the slip.  Thumper cranked right up, and after approximately half an hour Jeff was finished.  We shut her down, and peace and quiet resumed on E dock.

Now that the stuffing box was adjusted we were ready to go, but at the last minute some Shenny friends were able to get squeezed in for their splash which had been delayed due to a leaking thruhull.  This is their first year with a boat and we had previously offered to help, so before we could sail we went down to the lift well to lend a hand.  They have a lovely 38 foot boat, but not for the first time we were glad that we have our 29.9.  A bigger boat mean everything else is also bigger – their mast, the number of chainplates, their rigging, etc.  It was interesting to get a glimpse of what actually having a bigger boat entails, and after they were successfully in their slip we happily scurried down to our Pegu Club, ready to go on our maiden voyage for the 2017 season.

I was a bit nervous about leaving the dock (and coming back), but we couldn’t have asked for easier conditions given the light wind.  We left the slip without a hitch, motored down the fairway, and headed out into the Sound.  We cheered when we raised the sails and shut Thumper off, and then proceeded to have a peaceful sail ghosting around aimlessly.  We always seem to forget how to do the little things over the winter, but soon we were back in our groove, content.

Jeff at the helm for this year’s maiden voyage.

Unfortunately it wasn’t a very long sail.  With cool temperatures and even cooler water (55 degrees), we started getting chilled and reluctantly decided to head in.  After taking advantage of the wide open space to practice maneuvering her under power in reverse, Jeff took the helm and we headed in.

Backing into our slip was, shall we say, interesting.  Jeff was doing well but we were having a difficult time getting the angle right.  Then I couldn’t really get ahold of the lines with the boat hook, so we switched and I took the helm.  We were trying to pivot against the piling but she wasn’t really moving backwards very well (we later decided I needed to increase the throttle next time), but eventually we made it in.  Our dock neighbor behind us was keeping an eye on our progress, and when we finally made it around the piling he came over to toss us our stern lines.  He was very encouraging, telling us that it’s difficult with a single propeller and we were doing just fine.  He was probably lying through his teeth, but I’ll take it!

Jeff and I high-fived each other over our first successful docking on our own, tidied up the boat, and broke out the cocktails.  I wasn’t nearly as nervous as I thought I would be (although with higher winds it might have been different), and now I’m starting to believe that I’ll be a lot more comfortable with docking by the middle of the season.  Jeff said it won’t even take that long.  Hopefully not!

In addition to spending the weekend on Pegu Club, we also decided last week to pull the trigger on getting a new engine this winter.  We had been going back and forth on it for awhile, but what clinched it was the realization that if we didn’t buy a new one it’s not as if we’d suddenly have a ton of extra money to spend on other things.  Instead, with a 40 year old engine, we’d simply be setting the money aside to use for the likely inevitable time that we would need to buy a new one.  Getting it now meant that we could do it on our schedule at a marina with a sterling reputation, instead of potentially in an inconvenient time or place.  The new engine would be much quieter, lighter, more fuel efficient, and it would take away the nagging worry that we have a 40 year old raw water cooled engine with an unknown number of hours on it.

We had been looking at the Beta engines for the past several years and were impressed with their simplicity and reliability.  Basically a marinized tractor engine, people that have them seem to love them and the parts are easily available world-wide.  Their customer service is top-notch and they have conveniently put all of the routine maintenance items in the front where they are easy to access.  Joe from Sound Marine Diesel has a great reputation and had patiently answered all of our questions when we saw him at a few boat shows.  After meeting with him a few more times last week, our decision was made.  Pegu Club will get a new engine this winter – we’ve put a deposit on a Beta 16 with an upgraded 75 amp alternator.  Now we just need Thumper to stay as reliable as it has been for one more season!

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