Prior to this weekend, we’d attempted to sail to Beach Haven with the Windjammers three times, with mixed results. Actually, we only had one unmitigated success. Last year, it was blowing 40kts and we bailed out, and the year before that our engine quit with the wind on our nose and we “sailed” backwards through the wrong opening of a bridge, eventually getting towed to our destination. This year, however, we’re sporting a new boat, and the club’s annual shakedown cruise would be a good chance for us to get to know her a little better.
In our last log entry, I was whining that I don’t know how boats work. I was completely unable to adjust my stuffing box, and I somehow killed everything on my electrical panel while replacing the batteries. This was eating a huge hole in my available brain power all week, knowing that we were supposed to sail 50 miles and spend 3 nights on the boat. Fortunately, Val bailed us out once again, and fixed both of these things. I don’t know if the WD40 worked any magic after a couple days of soaking or if he’s just stronger than I am [likely], but he was able to get the locking nut off of our stuffing box and adjust the packing nut, and he and the marina guru found my electrical problem in under 10 seconds…I somehow missed the black wire to the panel (I have no idea).
We were scheduled to leave for Beach Haven at 0800 on Saturday to make slack water at Beach Haven Yacht Club around 1300. Since our new boat is distinctly NOT kept on a trailer, we can easily just go sleep on it, which means that we wouldn’t have to get up a zero dark thirty to drive to the shore and could leave well rested and relaxed, even early in the morning. We arrived around 2200 or so on Friday and loaded in, and had a nice evening on the boat in the marina.
On Saturday, we just had a couple things to take care of before leaving.
Since the previous owner removed our registration numbers, I had to put them back on (the same ones, since registration numbers are associated with boats and not boat owners). I’m kind of meticulous about this sort of thing, and did a pretty good job on the 22, but I did that on land. Doing it on a floating boat is another matter, however, and I dropped the first set into the water, ruining them. Oh well…we’ll try to keep law enforcement agents to starboard.
The other thing was that we had to fill the water tank. This seemed like a simple prospect. We actually did this once, just prior to the delivery, but we didn’t do a great job of getting all of the winterizing agents out of there, so we pumped it dry and tried again to rinse it out. I was on the dock manning the spigot, and Jen was on the deck handling the business end of the hose. Time passed. A lot of time. We figured that it must be full. While I was coiling the hose, Jen jumped out of the cabin and notified me that the bilge cover was floating. Apparently, when the tank is full and you keep shooting water in to it, it comes out the vents and eventually overflows your bilge.
The bilge pump got it all, but it was a surprisingly slow process. Our manual pump doesn’t go deep enough to do anything until you’re half sunk (#1 on the to-do list) and the automatic pump isn’t exactly a powerhouse, so we thought it might be a good idea to grab the portable manual pump off of the 22 before embarking on this trip, just to be safe. Jen went to do that while I puttered around. She got it, but while she was climbing off of the boat, the blocks of wood that were supporting the stern fell over, and the trailer started to tip up, so she jumped off and cut her hand on the rocks.
Doing great so far.
Other boats had been leaving for some time. Although we’ve been on lots of trips with the Windjammers, we’ve never left from their (now our) marina, so I was imagining that there would be more ceremony. No one sounded the ram’s horn or huddled up to give a pre-cruise pep talk. Despite the inauspicious morning, we cast off around 0930, well after everyone else had quietly departed.
The sky was initially overcast but clearing to the south, with unusual light winds from the north. We motorsailed for a bit to try to make up time (and to confirm that our stuffing box was dialed-in, which it was), but I started getting nervous about how much fuel we actually had remaining from our delivery. We switched over to entirely sail power once we got down past BI and saw for sure that we’d be able to make the initial zigzag in the channel without requiring the engine.
Under sail, jibing from broad reach to broad reach with occasional stints of wing and wing to follow the meandering channel, the boat handled marvelously. With the light wind, I thought it was a good time for Jen to get some positive time in at the tiller, and she wound up sailing all the way through the Route 72 Causeway without any problem.
Dark clouds had been gathering in our path, and as soon as we made it through the bridge we furled up the jib, put a reef in the main, and fired up the engine, not knowing if we were going to get caught in a squall or a shower.
We got pelted with some pretty hard rain for a short time, but it was a small and fast-moving patch of weather. The winds remained manageable, and things calmed down as quickly as they heated up. The sky following the storm was almost worth getting soaked.
At BHYC, the club was on hand to help us dock, including the crew of Stormy Petrel, our club’s full-time cruisers who came up from the Carolinas to meet us. We docked without much drama, considering we missed slack water and that this was docking experience #2 overall with an inboard. Everyone was excited to see our new boat and wanted to know all about it. We were anxious to get out of our wet clothes though, so we went up to take showers as soon as we had the boat put away. We then hung out with Windjammers and talked late into the evening about all manner of sailing things.
Sunday was our day of shore leave. We forgot our stove(s), so it was mostly food gathering. This wasn’t terribly exciting stuff, but I’ll include some highlights:
- Breakfast at a diner. Classic NJ.
- Another trip to the New Jersey Maritime Museum, which Jen now refers to exclusively as The Shipwreck Museum.
- Obligatory trip to the chandlery, window shopping.
- Napping. (Awesome.)
- Dinner at some BYO place where we failed to BOO. It was overpriced, but ok. Al fresco with a view of the bay, but with tons of gnats. Flowers as garnish, but cheesy plastic cups for drinks. An odd mix.
- Most boating accidents involve alcohol, so it’s important to take all possible precautions.
- On the way to the distant mini golf place, the club found a wallet, and, as a club, we took it to the police station. I was hoping that all 25 of us could speak to the cop in unison, but our commodore handled it personally. This detour made us walk directly past the close mini golf place, but we went to the now-more-distant place anyway. I somehow won our foursome through a mix of blind luck and manicured nonchalance.
- Fantastic sunset.
On Memorial Day proper, I woke up early enough to catch the sun rising over the island.
…and then immediately went back to bed.
We eventually got up and started preparing the boat for the sail home. Jen converted the interior to sailing mode while I tried to figure out how to fill our fuel tank without filling our bilge with fuel as we’d done with the water. One of the nice things about Beach Haven Yacht Club is that they have incredibly long fuel hoses, so they come to you in your slip. Filling up with diesel was pretty straightforward, and we got ready to go.
I was a little nervous about departing. We were docked with Sunset in a huge slip that must have been 70′ long. The tide was still ebbing, and we needed to back out with enough authority to overcome the current and not crash into Sunset’s dinghy. Stormy Petrel had given us some advice the night before though, and we just made sure that we backed up far enough to allow us time to turn without getting pushed back into the pilings or boats.
It was warm, sunny, and the wind had shifted around to the southwest, promising more downwind sailing. We were the first boat out, leaving about 20 minutes before the fleet. The winds were inconsistent, around 10kts, gusting up to 18k, so we motored for a bit before hoisting a reefed main and unfurling the 135. We might have been overpowered if it wasn’t all downwind, but as it was, we were making great time. We could see sails behind us as we worked our way through the islands behind Brant Beach, but we sailed hard and the markers ticked by. We were routinely hitting 6.8kts on the GPS, with a standing quarter wave cresting at our transom. We were hauling.
As the second smallest boat among the cruisers (only Stormy had less LWL, I think) we were surprised to still be in the lead as we approached Harvey Cedars. At marker 49, we needed to come close hauled to navigate the channel, and since we’re still not 100% sure what our new boat will do, we reefed in the jib a bit before hardening up on the wind. The gustiness of the wind was more apparent on that point of sail, and I was concerned that we wouldn’t even be able to stay in deep water—we were riding the lifts to try to gain ground, but in the lulls we had to bear off toward the flats. We were heeling pretty good even with one reef still in the main and a partially furled headsail, but we weren’t really all that fast on that leg. By the time we got to 42 there were boats on our heels, and that’s when the real race to the finish began.
In this photo, taken around 49, the fleet can just barely be seen under our stern rail.
I could hear the two Catalina 375s chatting on the VHF, and I thought that they would have been the boats behind us, but it was Arpeggio, our commodore’s Hunter Cherubini 33, that was closing the gap as we tore off onto a beam reach up the bay. We unfurled the jib again and began tweaking everything to try to wring out as much speed as we could. Jen was grinding the jib sheet winches along with the changes in apparent wind as I tried to figure out how to read our main and adjust the traveler and vang for maximum performance. We were easily jogging past the 30+ footers lollygagging around on just a headsail, but I could barely enjoy it knowing that Arpeggio was back there gunning for us. It took her 4 more miles, but she did eventually pass us somewhere between BB and 40. I think we sailed well, but it’s tough to overcome a waterline deficit of 6ft. As it turned out Arpeggio was the only Windjammer that caught up with us all day. We did leave early and motor for part of the trip, but we did it in about 4 and half hours, averaging around 5.5kts—ridiculously fast for us, especially sailing point-to-point through a winding channel on a new boat.
As soon as Arpeggio cleared the mouth of Cedar Creek, they were hit by an enormous gust of wind and suffered a knockdown. We’ve seen the creek funnel a westerly wind before (we saw it on last year’s failed trip to Beach Haven, in fact) so we immediately dumped everything, furled in the headsail, and fired up the engine. We milled around a bit to make sure that Arpeggio was ok. They didn’t respond to our hails on the VHF, but I eventually got a thumbs-up from the skipper and continued on. We later found out that they’d gone over so far that some items floated out of their cockpit, including their handheld radio, but thankfully no one was hurt and nothing was broken.
We motored up the creek and put an exclamation point on the trip by sticking the landing, smoothly gliding into our slip even with a bit of a crosswind.
Despite the early setbacks, this was a great cruise. I don’t think that we ever spent three consecutive nights on the 22, but even after two nights and a decent sail, I’d be physically exhausted from getting pounded by wakes and crawling around in a cabin with 4ft of headroom. On the 27, we were comfortable, both at the slip and on the water. Somehow, I also expected that there would be more of a learning curve in handling a significantly larger boat, but we never felt out of control and our skills seemed to transfer seamlessly. We were fast, and Jen and I worked well as a team. We’re looking forward to the adventures ahead.
More photos are in the gallery here: /gallery-beach-haven-2014