May 11, 2009
Today’s journey was 54 nm from Rockport to Plymouth. I was a little nervous about crossing the shipping lanes into Boston. Visions of armadas of super-sized container ships barreling down on my little boat filled my head. I was also a little nervous about being 25 miles from land, which we would be in the middle of our leg.
Grant and I were up at dawn—5:00 AM. We hurried to get ready, cast off, and motored out of the harbor into the beautiful brightening morning. The Rockport harbor is small, and the entrance is narrow and bordered with solid looking rocks. We were just past the rocks when the chug-a-lug of our single cylinder Yanmar suddenly silenced to deafening quiet. The breeze was a gentle 7 or 8 knots out of the east, and I leapt to raise the main. Grant’s instincts were to head for the engine compartment, but I got him to help me raise the main and we were under sail in no time. I figured the only thing to do was to continue sailing. If worse came to worse, we could sail down to the harbor entrance at Plymouth and call for a tow in.
So, we rained the genoa, and sure enough, there’s a small tear just about 2 feet above the tack. So, here we are, two newbies with a dead engine and a torn sail at 5:20 AM. However, fortune was on our side, and we had sail thread and a needle on board courtesy of the previous owner (lesson learned, don’t leave home without it, or maybe some sail tape.)
I quickly got out my sailing basics textbook and looked up sail repair. In about 20 minutes the sail was sewn up with a rather crude looking cross stitch, and we could focus on the dead engine.
Once more, fortune was on our side because Grant used to be a diesel mechanic. That was a long time ago, in his youth, but he still could figure out Yanmar. Soon enough I was on the helm, sailing on a pleasant beam reach towards Plymouth as Grant started messing with the engine.
Turns out that we had let air in the fuel system when we changed the fuel filter. I guess we didn’t now about bleeding the fuel lines. Well, Grant was figuring all that out down below, with the low pressure and high pressure bleed ports and diesel fuel pumping all over the place. He was having me crank the engine while he figured out how to bleed the system. So I’m cranking and cranking and cranking and wondering how long the batteries are going to last. What I don’t know is that Grant is sort of figuring out the system by trial and error. So he has me crank and crank, and the batteries sound weaker and weaker and I’m getting more and more nervous. Finally, the engine sputters and chugs into life. We both breath sighs of relief and the engine quits again. Back to the cranking and bleeding, and when it finally seems like the batteries are on their last crank, the engine coughs and sputters into life. This time it keeps running.
Grant does his best to clean up the diesel fuel and wash up, and we keep the engine running to charge the batteries. Much to our chagrin, we don’t figure out that we can put the engine in gear and motorsail until about 20 minutes later. Now with both the engine and the wonderful breeze across our beam, we are making almost 8 knots of ground speed. We motorsail for another hour or so to charge up the batteries.
The sun is shining, Boston is glistening in the distance off our starboard beam, the seas are a gentle swell behind our port quarter, and my feared armadas of threatening container ships fail to appear. We see a few fishing boats and some sort of large anchored something that we have to alter course a few degrees to avoid. Grant says that he prefers this kind of sailing to the beating of the first day.
Before we know it, we’re at the entrance to Plymouth harbor and are taking the sails down and starting the engine (fires up right away). I take the helm and we motor in to Brewer’s Yacht Yard. I guess it is beginner’s luck, combined with gentle conditions, but I guide us into the slip like a pro. Two minutes after we ties up, a guy in a 45 foot trawler almost wipes out the dock as he tries to come in along side us. Lots of yelling and cursing. Makes me look really good.
It’s only 3:30PM, so Grant and I headed off to see Plymouth Rock and explore the town. Later we have dinner at the restaurant at the marina and settled in for the night feeling pretty good about how the day turned out.