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Friday 23 March 2007 Kyle - Hand over sail and Journey Home

Since the boat was so close to being ready on the 18th we were secretly hoping that we would get a call the next afternoon from PCI saying the boat was ready. I was hoping for a Wednesday hand over sail, which would have allowed us to make the sail starting Thursday when the winds were supposed to be most favorable.

By Tuesday afternoon, PCI had still not called, and we were starting to get a bit antsy, particularly because if this weather window closed, that would only leave me one remaining chance for the whole of April (due to work commitments), and we might be stuck there for weeks, possibly even having to incur dockage fees.

On Tuesday afternoon, I finally could not take it any more, and called Peter Kennedy to find out if he knew anything (without bothering PCI). He said he had a couple of last minute jobs, and should be done Wednesday, or Thursday morning at the latest (but could always mail us the remaining part). Wednesday was forecast to be heavy rain, so I had my doubts that anybody would be wanting to be outside working on the boat then - we would lose another day. I called Maryanne and asked if she would write PCI, and very gingerly ask if they had an estimate for a hand over date. (We had both spent all day waiting for each others phone call with news from PCI, to no avail). Maryanne called me a little while later and said that just as she pressed send on her e-mail, she received a call from Sue, explaining that the hand over sail would be Friday. Maryanne tried to persuade Sue to schedule for earlier, but Sue would not budge, but indicated it would only take about half a day, we requested an early start, and were advised that 8am was the planned meet time.

I checked the weather again, and found that if we were able to leave on Friday afternoon, and we sailed straight through, we should be able to make it by Monday morning. (I had to work on Tuesday). Even though this was shaving it a little close, it seemed like a viable option.

On the Wednesday I was out running errands, getting everything ready, etc, when I noticed that our car was making a terrible clunking noise going over bumps. After I got back to the marina, I grabbed the right front wheel and shook it back and forth, finding about 2" of play. The CV joint was shot. The car would not be safe to drive to Annapolis, particularly with the load it had to carry. We started researching other options, Maryanne searched for one way car rentals, but was turned down by most companies, and others wanted to charge several hundred dollars. We were right on the brink of thinking we had no option other than to drive our car (very slowly and carefully). Maryanne insisted I take the car to a mechanic and get their opinion (possibly even a fix before Friday). The opinion was not good - no fix possible in time - but on the way I passed a U-Haul center, and I realized here was our one-way rental opportunity. I went inside and talked to the staff - they also wanted a lot, but not as much as the car, even considering the fuel costs - so we rented a 14' moving van. On the way to dropping off the car at the shop the next day, I unloaded its contents into the truck using about 5% of its volume, dropped off the car, walked back to U-Haul and drove the truck home. We were all set to go.

The next day, or was it later that day (?), we got up just after Midnight to drive to Annapolis, setting off about 2:30am. We arrived just before 8am, and the boat looked just beautiful. They had done a really nice job of cleaning up everything. Peter Kennedy had finished all of his work, and everything was working as it should. Will came down to the boat, and was all smiles as usual. He explained that we would be doing our hand over sail with another owner whose boat was being delivered to Ohio, and so giving him a chance to learn the systems before delivery. Maryanne and I were a little disappointed with this (having to share our first sail with strangers) - but the owner and his son were very nice, and we were happy to give them the chance to learn the boat. Will went through the boat with us, very methodically and patiently explaining each system, in some cases multiple times so each of us can see him in the cramped quarters. We got through everything pretty quickly and were ready to go sailing by 11am. We went out into the Chesapeake Bay and Will demonstrated the various sails and controls, we practiced a few tacks and jibes giving everyone a chance to get familiar with the boat, and then we headed back in. Just before getting back to PCI we paused again to give everybody a chance to get used to how the boat handles under power and practiced "docking" by maneuvering up to and around pilings in the water. The actual final docking was saved for me, and I was very pleased that the boat has much more straight forward and predictable handling characteristics than Prydwen, and seemed almost as easy to back up as a car.

Once the lines were attached to the dock, the hand over sail complete, everybody wished us well on our new boat, and then the race was on. We needed to get ready to depart. We backed the U-Haul up to the dock (knowing the Smiths could see us from their office - what must they be thinking), and unloaded onto the boat. Since the truck was mostly empty, this only took a few minutes, but it immediately made the boat look full. We took a break for lunch (Mexican cafe again, big surprise) and then I left Maryanne to start sorting out the boat while I returned the truck. We had originally planned to return the truck to a U-Haul center about 5 miles away, but were advised this lot was full, and U-Haul sent me to another 15 miles away (No chance of walking that one). After returning the truck I called a cab, and had to wait nearly an hour for it to arrive, then got stuck in traffic on the way back to PCI. I finally pulled up to the boat in the cab at about 4:15pm - knowing that the fuel dock down the river closed at 5pm (PCI provides us with 5 gallons of diesel, but we had probably used 2 on the test sail and needed to fill up for the journey back to Portsmouth). Fortunately Maryanne had been very busy stowing things, and the boat was pretty much ready to go. We bid a quick farewell to everybody and left in short order, arriving at the fuel dock about 20 minutes before it closed.

After fueling we asked if we could stay at the fuel dock for a short while (I had not yet had chance to check the latest NOAA weather update). The winds forecast were much more favorable than we had expected - if we were lucky we would be able to break the journey for a nights rest at anchor along the way). We departed the fuel dock at about 5:30. Our first order of business was to calibrate the electronic compass so that the instruments would stop saying we were going sideways everywhere. Finally we were on our way in earnest. The winds were light out of the north and we were able to track pretty much down our course using the screecher (giant light downwind sail). Since I drove the U-Haul in the morning, I was getting very tired and went off watch (once Maryanne had had a chance to sail the boat for a while, and felt comfortable). My first impression of the bed was although the mattress is very firm it is extremely comfortable (level and with room to move). I don't have to wedge myself into a corner to prevent myself from being rolled out, or flopped on the other side, and the motion was very tolerable. Also the big windows allowed me to keep an eye on the sails as they worked to pull us down the bay.

At 1am, I awoke to my alarm from a restful sleep - it was my watch. We were enshrouded in fog, Maryanne gave me a quick briefing and was just about to go off watch when we noticed the fog signal of a nearby ship, getting closer. We started sounding our fog signal, and turned on the radar. At about the same time a call came from a freighter for the southbound sail boat near buoy 77A (he only would have know we were a sailboat by our fog signal) {Maryanne: More likely our slow speed!}. We picked up and tracked 3 different vessels on the radar, all predicted to pass quite close to us. We coordinated over the radio a course change that would steer us out of everybody's way, and kept track of them as they passed. The closest vessel, probably an 1/8 mile long, passed a 1/4 mile away from us, leaving a HUGE radar return, and sounding a loud fog signal appearing to come from above us - we peered into the fog and could see no hint of another vessel! We were very grateful for both our radar and our automatic fog horn. Scary enough, it would have been much worse if we were also wondering where everyone else was, and how close we might be. Once the commotion had passed, Maryanne went off watch until 7am, it got very cold during the night, probably just above freezing, and the wind increased to about 15 knots. I rolled up the screecher and unrolled the smaller genoa. By the time Maryanne got up, I was very cold, and she made me a nice warm cup of cocoa which helped out tremendously. We had breakfast and I went back to bed - and slept like a log until 1pm when Maryanne scared the hell out of me by poking her head in and waking me up (I was dreaming so deeply, I forgot I was even on a boat).

We had sailed all night and were now within five miles of one of our favorite anchorages - Mill Creek (off the Great Wicomico). The wind died down to nothing and we motored to the anchorage in flat seas. We set the anchor at about 2pm, right as the clouds started to clear, and the sun came out to reveal a lovely day. Maryanne made dinner, while I watched TV (the battery monitor) to see how the new solar panels were doing with the sun. As the sun set we toasted our anchorage and our first whole day on our new boat with a bottle of wine I had kept hidden as a surprise for Maryanne.

Anchor At Mill Creek

Anchor At Mill Creek

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