Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Anatomy of a Shakedown Cruise

Day 1:  Put the boat in the water at Arzal, with typical last-minute crises.  Electrician diagnoses problem with auto-pilot computer.  Sends it off to be fixed, installs a temporary one for our cruise.  Diagnoses potential problem with GPS.  Suggests repositioning the antenna so that it is not sitting below the out-board motor.

Day 2:  Winds force 5-6 from east but no swell; Head 30 miles west to the port of Crouesty for meeting with the sail maker.  Discover that mast is not 11.8 meters as documented but 13.40 meters !  Will have to reposition 3rd reef cleat and pulley on the boom for new sail, and reposition the “stop” in the mast track for the mainsail slides.  **addendum:  the sail maker came back a week later to re-measure when he realized that our mast was significantly different from the standard Dehler 34.  The luff length (P) is 12.4 meters, where the normal length is 11.8 meters.  The mast height from the top of the mast to the deck is 13.4 meters.  Normally, the idea that someone has fiddled with aspects that upset carefully calculated stabilitiy ratios would bother me. Suprisingly, though, this news comforts me.  I've been whining since we bought the boat that she's simply too physical for me... it's very difficult to hoist the mainsail alone and we have to reef pretty early in the game to avoid excessive heel.  Now I know why.  This extra 60 centimeters gives us 1 square meter more of sail area than the standard Dehler (mainsail area = P * E / 1.8 where P is luff length and E is foot length of 4.10 meters).  This is great news for light winds sailing (whatever the hell THAT means when you live and sail in Brittany).  At least I no longer feel like a whimp for reefing early.

Day 3:  Head to Port Louis 35 miles west to pick up Guru Bob.  25 knots of wind on a broad reach.  Test 1st then 2nd reefs and genoa furler.  Head door breaks a hinge after being (accidently) left open at the precise moment that a big swell hits the boat.  Temporary auto-pilot seems to work okay.  Hear message over the VHF that the military will be firing into the sea in an area loosely defined by a mysterious polygon vaguely marked on our charts.  Whatever it is, we seem to be in the middle of it just as the wind dies.  Motor out of the polygon at a determined-yet-dignified clip and head to port.

Day 4:  Motoring out of Port Louis with me at the helm, wishing to make a gracious arc to position the boat perfectly between the channel markers, Spray lurches to a halt.  Stuck in the mud.  Test full reverse (worked) and head out in light winds to a small mooring area called Port St Nicholas no more than a gap in the cliffs on the south side of Groix island.  Test windlass and anchor. Test cockpit table and corkscrew.  Bob and Patrick fix head door. Test masthead mooring lights. 

St Nicolas Port, Groix Island.  Cockpit table and corkscrew work beautifully.

Port St Nicolas, Groix Island.
Day 5:  Winds force 4-5 on a beam reach (re-test 1st reef) for 27 miles to Houat Island.  Auto-pilot does not work when motor is on.  Moor at Beg Salus beach (re-test windlass and anchor).  Inflate boat tender and test out-board motor (sputters to life after 10 minutes of cord yanking and air/fuel adjustments).  One oar blade is missing a button for the spring latch that connects it to the aluminium poles.  Houat is beautiful as always.  Neighbouring boat badly anchored with no one aboard drags its anchor and comes to rest at Spray’s side.  Fenders deployed.  Test righteous indignation when owners return.

The Grand Plage, Houat Island.

The port at Houat (nice, but not deep enough for us...).

Scenes from Houat.

Scenes from Houat.

Scenes from Houat.

Day 6:  Meet up with our sailing association for a 2-day rally; head back to Port Louis for the evening.  Light winds.  Test sailing wing-and-wing with poled-out genoa. 

Sailing wing and wing with poled-out genoa.

Day 7:  Rally moves to Concarneau, 30 miles west.  Winds vary from nil to force 5.  Race against new RM 12.60 for 3.5 hours; even match.  (We’ll get ‘em with our new mainsail the next time…).  Notice small leaks in front cabin coming from worn-off silicone seals at the base of two stanchions.  Temporary fix.

Headed to the Rally briefing at Concarneau (wine cups in hand).  Merci pour la photo, Ginette !

Day 8:  Light winds; afternoon sail to the Glenans Archipelago.  Tentative mooring on the east side of Penfret Island but a badly-placed steel mooring buoy blocks the protected near-shore area.  Moored north of Saint Nicolas Island.

Temporary mooring at Penfret island, waiting for a wind direction change that never came.

Catching up with family while moored at Penfret.
Day 9:  Head back to Lorient area, Port Locmiquelic to drop off Bob.  Light winds.  Test spinnaker !  (Dang!  Wondered what colour that thing was…).  Missing swivel shackle for one of the spinnaker sheets.

White and blue.  Who knew?

Day 10:  Two days of very light winds forecast.  Pick up a new crew member, Jacko, and head to Port Tudy on Groix island.  Run out of cooking gas; change bottle. 

Day 11:  Day ashore; rent scooters and visit the island. 

South coast of Groix Island.

Patrick and Jacko at the Hell Hole cliff, south coast of Groix Island.

Vroom! Vroom!

Day 12:  Special weather bulletin announces strong gales for the next 2-3 days.  Decide to head into the Morbihan gulf about 40 miles away to hunker down at Ile aux Moines for the duration.  Winds moderate for the trip over.  Problems with GPS:  it takes more than 1 hour for first fix.  VHF not turned on until GPS gets a fix, since a very annoying alarm goes off when the vhf doesn’t get position information from the GPS.  Whilst re-crossing the infamous military polygon of this area, we notice a boat with a siren speeding towards us.  He pulls up beside us to tell us that we need to change our route to head south of the Birvideaux lighthouse to get out of the firing zone.  He was very kind about it… I’m sure they had been trying to contact us on the VHF.  Hear explosions and are buzzed by fighter jets all afternoon.  Dock on floating pontoons at Ile aux Moines in the gulf.  Jacko decides to take the ferry to shore to sit out the gale at home.  

Security Boat for Gavres Firing Range
Day 13:  Day at dock.  35 knots of sustained wind with 47 knot gusts.  (As a salty friend says, “It’s blowin like a whore house on pay day !”)  We’re relatively protected on the pontoon docks but it’s still howling out there.

Day 14:  Gale warnings extended.  2nd day at dock.  Reading, cleaning, small repair jobs, low bandwidth internet.

Day 15:  Jacko rejoins the boat and we head back to home port of Arzal.  Winds down to force 5 with gusts to 6.  Coastal water is a lovely jade green after the storms.  Passed the lock at 4 pm, offloaded the boat, then Spray is pulled out of the water at 5 pm and settled onto her cradle for the next 2 weeks.  All’s well below (except for the blasted tell-tale mud clinging stubbornly to the base of the keel from my Day 4 misadventure…) 

Heading home, post-gale.