Touching bottom

Today I took Odyssey out for another spin and it was even better than last time, not that I thought that was possible. The weather was gorgeous with a pleasant easterly breeze and a flat calm sea reflecting the blue of the sky above. Once out of the harbour I got the mizzen up first, and was pleased to see that it safely clears my newly-lowered flagpole. With the main and genoa up as well we soon settled down onto a fine reach at a very respectable pace of 4.5 knots in only 7 knots of apparent wind. She may be heavy but this girl is no slouch!

Once I had the sails trimmed nicely I went aft and fiddled with the Monitor windvane, which I didn’t get around to trying last time. It took ages to figure out why the water paddle kept bobbing up to the surface every time we drifted off course, but I eventually realised that it was simply not locked in the down position so I just had to raise it and drop it quickly to pop into place. I then trimmed the vane to be facing into the wind so it was upright, and engaged the drive unit on the wheel. Nothing much happened, and we carried on sailing merrily up the coast. As I watched the wheel I realised that the Monitor was actually steering, but so subtly that I barely noticed. As soon as we went even slightly off course the vane corrected it with a very small movement of the lines, with the result that it was steering a far straighter course than I could. Fabulous – it does exactly what is claimed by the manufacturers!

At this point I felt very smug indeed. Not only was my vessel being propelled gently forward by the light breeze, but it was also being steered by the wind, and extremely accurately at that. A glance aloft confirmed that the wind generator was happily spinning away, pumping enough electricity into the system to power my instruments. I wonder if anyone else remembers that wonderful old Thomas Dolby song from the 80’s, “Windpower”? How apt, I thought to myself.

After a very pleasant hour or so during which I let Odyssey do her thing while I ate my lunch and topped up my tan on the poop deck I decided to test out the ground tackle. Earlier in the week I bought a second anchor and another 200′ of chain, so I’ve now got a 45lb CQR with 200′ of chain and 150′ of rode for the bow, and a 35lb Danforth with 120′ of chain and 80′ of rode for the stern, or as a backup for the CQR. So, dropping the main I drifted in towards the beach under genoa and mizzen until it got to around 5m. Quickly furling the genoa I came around into the wind and went up forward to lower the anchor into the crystal clear water. It set quickly and we fell back on 20m of chain, with the mizzen keeping us pointing nicely into the wind. Another advantage of a ketch!

After diving down to check the anchor had dug in properly (which it had) I took a well-deserved break and lolled around in the sun for an hour or so till around 3.30, then reluctantly fired up the engine and went back to the bow to raise the anchor. The windlass seemed OK at first but soon started slipping the clutch, and even after I tightened it as far as it would go it still slipped every now and then. That’s another thing to add to my list of things to fix before I go. Anyway, I finally got it up and headed back into port.

Now, in case you were wondering whether the title of today’s post refers to my behaviour at the Coliseum I can set your mind at rest that it’s all far more innocent. Once inside the first bridge I spotted a filling station on the dockside and decided to take the chance to fill my tanks, so I left the boat on autopilot heading into a clear patch of water while putting out my fenders and warps. I’d nearly finished when a small RIB approached and a guy shouted out that I’d run aground if I carried on. Just as I looked up I felt the unmistakable lurch and shudder of the keel getting closer to the seabed than one would normally like, so rushed back to the helm as we came to a gentle stop with a slight list to port.

Luckily I’d only been going slowly so hoped I wasn’t too hard aground but the tide was ebbing fast and I really didn’t want to be stuck there in the middle of the harbour for all to see so I slammed the gearshift into reverse and shoved the throttle open. Murky water spewed up from the stern and bubbled down the sides but nothing happened for a while until eventually I felt something give and we gradually slipped backwards out of the mud. Phew! Wasting no more time I motored round to the fuelling dock where luckily they’d all been too busy too notice my slight excursion, or perhaps they were just too polite to mention it.

Now comes some more good news regarding my tankage. You may remember earlier in the week I was pleasantly surprised to find that my water capacity of 275 US gallons is higher than I expected, and now I found that the same applied to the fuel. All the specs say that the Gulfstar 50 carries 100 US gallons of diesel, but I found that it took 42 gallons to fill a supposedly three-quarters full tank according to the gauge. The previous owner said he’d replaced the tank but didn’t know the capacity, so according to my calculations it could be around 150-160 gallons, which is excellent.

Once full of fuel I headed off up the canals, only to come to a shuddering halt again. Whoops – two bottom touching incidents in one day is a little excessive even for me! This time it was for real, and no amount of revs would get me off. Luckily by now the tide was rising so I just sat and got out a sandwich and apple and pretended I had intended to stop for a picnic, although sitting in the middle of a canal right on a corner might seem an odd place.

Twenty pleasant minutes passed in the warm evening sunshine until enough water had risen for me to grind my way off the obstruction, and I was off again. Five minutes later I arrived back at the dock and for once managed to come in elegantly to an audience as the owner of the complex was there chatting to one of the other boat owners, and they both looked suitably impressed. Gold star for moi!

So, that’s my second and final test sail complete, and now there are just a couple of things to do (like the windlass) before I can set off for real, hopefully around next Wednesday. However, there’s another tropical storm (Franklin) heading up from the Bahamas towards Bermuda, which is exactly the route I plan to take, so I’ll keep my beady eye on it. Meanwhile there’s a whole weekend ahead of me and we all know what that means 😉

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