Our First Sail(s)

We had not taken out the Dawn Treader since the purchase due to the fact that we needed to have the standing rigging replaced and the name and striping redone. Well, four weeks and $8,800.00 later (OUCH!), it was time to see what this gorgeous yacht would do under sail.

The first sail was me and the boys, plus our buddy Tony. The day was pretty mellow with 10-12 knots for the most part – but with a big squall moving in. When the front edge of that squall starting pushing in we might have gotten to 15 or a bit over, but I took us in before it really got on us. With this being our first sail on her I didn’t want to push it. There will be plenty of time for that.

That said, we got 7.4 knots SOG in about 12 knots of wind (with SmackTheYounger helming)…and had a freakin’ blast on our new yacht!

A couple of weeks later, over Labor Day, we took some other friends and their kids out in perfect conditions…sunny, 10-15…just awesome. They are now hopelessly hooked.

The boys on the foredeck…

Yours truly helming the inimitable Dawn Treader toward adventure:

On the way out the channel into the bay, we had a serious brush with BFS fame. I look over to port and see a JBoat about 60′ away with the name “Shearwater” on her transom. I recognized the name – but thought “no freakin’ way”. As she raised her gold sail, I knew it was these guys:

Shearwater | sailing + frugality, conservation and adventure

And they definitely know how to BFS:

I really wish I’d gotten to talk with them a bit. They are the epitome of Big Freakin’ Sailors. Hopefully, I’ll get to meet them before the HMR.

It was also a great day in that this was the first time our friends had sailed…and they got the full treatment. Before leaving the dock I walked them through the basics, including what to do in a COB situation, etc. As it turned out, one of the kids had left the boat hook on the side deck and I hadn’t noticed it until we were right in the middle of a tack. The sheet tightened as I was moving forward to try to grab the hook and catapulted it over the lifelines…of course.

Ginger kept her eye on it as we readied the boat to go back around. By the time we tacked we were about 150 yards past the floating hook. I had Steven go below and grab the fishing gaff and be ready on the foredeck. I sailed back below the hook then turned through the wind and hove to about 8′ above it, hoping we’d drift right down onto it. We were just out of range for him to grab it. We gybed back around, sailed back up wind, gybed again and headed back toward it, sheeting everything in tight. We slowly drifted down toward the hook bringing it right along-side where he easily pulled it back aboard. Perfect.

All in all, it took us maybe 10 minutes. It would have been less had we had a hook that was able to swim for that first pass. Lazy freakin’ hook.

THEN, we actually encountered another semi-emergency. Some dude had taken a tumble on a Hobie 16 and was too tired to right it.

The other boat in the pic was assisting, but we came in close and hove-to to stand by. It was obvious the guy was new to the boat…but I could totally feel his pain in that regard remembering my own Fiasco.

The other boat alerted the CG (which I personally thought was a bit unnecessary at this point), then threw him a line. He secured it to his righting line they pulled the cat back up and he struggled back aboard. Everything squared away, we headed back to our beautiful day.

We did see this ketch(?) that was flying a sail between the masts that I’d never seen before. What is that thing called? Is it just an extra sail for a ketch – or is this not a ketch?

My docking was still a little sloppy. We pretty much always have a cross-wind which makes it hard squeezing her into her very tight slip. But we got her in with no crunching, yelling, or cussing. I do need to work on my decision-making skills though. We come in stern-first and since we have new crew, everyone was still on the foredeck. I was coming in just a tad hot and knew they wouldn’t have time to make it back and fend the transom off the dock. So I made sure the boat was in neutral and scrambled to put a foot out and keep us off. Not in time as the swim ladder eased into the dock. Then I remembered…I HAD A FREAKIN’ ENGINE! I’m just so used to having that really weak outboard on the C-27 that I’m so in the habit of handing the boat in instead of relying on the engine. I need to get over that habit. It’s a bad one on such a big boat. Live and learn.

Apart from that, it was absolutely perfect. THIS IS LIVING BABY! However…

[cue the repair and maintenance music]

After we docked there was the strong smell of diesel below. I checked the main bilge, and sure enough there was about a gallon of the stuff in there. I thought we’d solved this one – but obviously not.

On the first sail above, I topped-off our fuel tank for the first time. I had my buddy and two boys down below in different areas looking for any obvious leaks as I did so – just in case. No issues.

When we got back to the dock after running the motor for maybe 2 hours total one of the boys asked why it smelled like paint below. Uh-oh. I went down and sure enough there was a strong smell of diesel. I checked the engine bilge and there was just a bit of water in it. Then I checked the main bilge and there was maybe a gallon of diesel in it – mixed with some water. Damn. I pumped it out with a manual pump then our mini shopvac. We stayed at our buddy’s house for the evening then came back to the boat the next day. No more leak.

Our assumption at that point was that I’d just over-filled the tank and it had a leak somewhere in the filler hose that leaked when we heeled. No big deal – I’d just try to track it down before filling up again.

Now we had exactly the same issue after about 2 hours of motoring. So it doesn’t appear to be an overfill issue. Here’s my troubleshooting thus far:

I checked the engine compartment. The bilge only had a bit of clear water in it (I assume from the stuffing box). There was no diesel and neither of the filters or hoses showed any sign of leakage.

I then pulled the cover in the aft cabin to have a look at the tank and generator. There were signs of slight leakage on the tank – but the odor wasn’t all that strong and I didn’t see anything that would indicated a gallon or more of the stuff spilling over the course of a few hours…

The fuel filter between the tank and the generator seemed to be dry as well.

So a few things are throwing me here:

1. This problem didn’t show up until I’d topped off the tank. The test sail during the survey had us motoring the exact same time and distance. No issues that we saw. How could we still be having overflow if it’s a filler hose issue?

2. I’m not exactly sure how each compartment feeds the main bilge. But how could the tank compartment and the engine bilge not show pools of diesel – with it only ending up in the main bilge? I assume that it’s the tank leaking in the aft compartment and moving through a drain hole directly to the main bilge – bypassing the engine bilge?

3. There just didn’t seem to be enough wetness or smell in the tank compartment to indicate that much leakage. Where else could it come from?

4. The motor is running fine – not missing or sounding starved in any way.

According to some very knowledgeable guys on the forums, the above symptoms point to the return fuel line leaking somewhere as the culprit.

I’ll have to tear into that next! But first, I’ll walk you through the inspection and survey…what it turned up…and what it didn’t…like leaking fuel hoses and water tanks…

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