Sunday, September 30, 2012

September Sailing

Something magical happens on the Chesapeake after Labor Day. All the kids are back in school, vacations are over and the power boaters begin winterizing their boats; yet the winds start picking up after the August doldrums, the water is still warm enough for swimming and your favorite anchorages remind you of why they became your favorites in the first place. Simply put, September is a wonderful time to be a sailor on the Bay!

Although Phoenix’s interior is by no means finished, we have more than the basic essentials at this point to enjoy some time on the hook. So when my parents decided to come out for a week to celebrate Mom’s birthday, we decided the perfect birthday treat would be a September sail. The past few weeks were a bit cooler and wetter than we had hoped, but we were able to get some sailing in and to share one of our favorite anchorages with them.

We set off on a Sunday afternoon with NW winds at 10-15 knots (generally 10 with some puffs to 15).  We motored out of the creek for a bit to top off the batteries, and with the new MaxProp we installed in August, Phoenix motors like a champ! Once we raised the sails, we sailed on a beam reach for several hours to our chosen destination, hitting mostly 6s and 7s the entire trip. This was one of our first trips with the clean bottom and new prop, and we were much happier with her performance.

Phoenix under sail in light air

We arrived just in time for happy hour, and once the anchor was set, Mom and Bill headed down below to prep the cocktails and appetizers.

Mom and Bill getting ready for happy hour
September’s magic was in full effect and we were the only boat in the anchorage – just us and the bald eagles, blue herons, ospreys and sea gulls. We were treated to a gorgeous sunset, but it was too chilly to stay up top for dinner, so we retired to the main cabin for the rest of the evening’s festivities.

An anchorage to ourselves!

Serenity at its finest!

Our time at anchor was packed with activities: walks on the beach, dinghy rides, swimming, and of course, lots of fun!

Mom and Dad exploring the beach

Ahoy matey!

Pick Me, Squeeze Me, Make Me Wine for more sailing!

Dad hamming it up in the dinghy!

Perfect morning for a swim

Mom checking the anchor
We couldn’t have asked for a better time, though a predicted change in weather (40+ knot winds with a cold front approaching) made us decide to cut the trip short and head back home. We motored most of the way home through some decent chop with 20-25 knot winds (some gusts to 30) on the nose pretty much the entire trip. Despite the headwinds we were still doing 6.5/7 over the bottom at only 1,600 rpm. Like I said the new MaxProp rocks!

On our way back home

Man of War Shoals
Regardless of the weather, we made the most of the trip and are glad we were able to share the memories with Mom and Dad. If only they lived closer; they could experience more of the wonders on the Bay.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Finally Sailing!

It’s been a whirlwind summer for us here on the Chesapeake, Bill announced his retirement so we can start gearing up for cruising, and after many years (the previous owners had the boat up on the hard for more than 10 years), Phoenix had a MAJOR milestone and is sailing again!

We were fortunate enough to have Bruce Bingham and the Wiles join us for her sailing debut and have been able to take her out a handful of times this summer in between projects.

Prior to our guests’ arrival, we pulled Phoenix for a short haul and power wash – new bottom paint was on the to do list but not something we were able to get to before their arrival in June. We had fairly light winds that first sail, but we were so excited to finally have her out, it didn’t matter! She performed respectfully that first sail, close hauled in 5-10 knots until the winds died, then we finally had to motor up and return home.

Heading out on our first sail!

Bruce and Bill discussing the finer points of mainsail trim

Elisa and Bruce trimming the genoa
One thing we learned from this initial sail and from sailing her sister ship Eager Dreamer, the Andromeda design is surprisingly tender and the boat likes to heel, especially when close hauled. Even though she weighs nearly 40,000 lbs, when close hauled she will lay over, even in light winds.

I should also mention that Phoenix’s headsail is a monster – a 140% genoa whose car leads, when close hauled, are almost back into the first ports of the aft cabin – just forward of the mizzen shrouds! This, combined with our new, super-stiff 9 oz main, and she can be a bit of a handful! But I digress…

Bruce trimming the headsail. Notice where the car lead is (WAY behind him)

The new main

After our light air sail, we decided to take her out a few times in somewhat better air: NW winds 10-15 knots – and again playing around close hauled with the main and headsail. Not only was she tender but there was some definite weather helm the closer we pointed upwind. After letting up a bit on the main sheeting, she settled in and started to find her groove (Bruce would have had a fit at the twist we had in the main, but thankfully he was back in Florida at the time). We were a little disappointed in her speeds (5s and just hitting 6) but could definitely tell we had new growth on the bottom causing some drag in addition to  the drag caused by the freewheeling fixed 3 blade prop..

Close hauled

Close up of our Phoenix insignia
Back at home we did a quick inspection and saw she had at least an inch of mussel growth below the waterline! It had been less than a month since our short haul! We later learned we weren’t alone and this has been a particularly bad year for bottom growth throughout the Bay and especially on our creek. Perhaps it was the early warm weather, though others blame the Tall Ships coming in for the 1812 Sailabration; but any way you slice it, the normal barnacle growth was overrun with small mussels and even the marina couldn’t believe the amount of growth we had in the weeks between our short haul and haul out for fresh bottom paint.

We were out of the water for less than two weeks (more about that later), but once back in the water with a clean bottom and new feathering MaxProp and we had a totally different sailing experience. First and foremost, no more annoying freewheeling – drag or noise – while under sail. She also gets up to speed much faster than with the old, fixed prop. Again in NW winds 10-15 knots, but this time at a beam reach, she was comfortably heeling and settling in around 7 knots. We sheeted out the main again a bit to help reduce weather helm, and will incorporate a vang in the future to reduce some twist.

We have A LOT more tinkering to do to really get a feel for Phoenix and to figure out everything she’s capable of. One of the great things about the ketch rig is the numerous sail configurations we’ll have at our disposal, but so far we’ve really only played with the main and genoa. Now that we have her sailing, we’ll be able to play with and tweak the rigging, try different sail configurations and really see what she can do. Stay tuned; you’ve heard about some of the projects, but the sailing/cruising log is just getting started!

Happy Sailing!