First Solo Sail

First Solo Sail

March 6th, 2010  |  by Marilyn  |  Published in Ship's Log  |  1 Comment

We’re having lovely late winter weather – sunny 50ish degree days, and a decent north wind, just like in summer (though its 20-30 F warmer then!)

So finally, after nearly 4 months of boat ownership, we took our boat out for a proper sail – alone. We’ve sailed her two other times, once with the former owner during the sea trial, and the other time when Damien and Luke helped us sail her home on Thanksgiving (as reported earlier in our Ship’s Log). But this time, it was just Capt’n Van and Favorite Mate Marilyn handling the boat alone.

It really wasn’t much of a worry. We know how to sail fairly well (by our protected water standards) from the 12 years we owned our 24’ Dufour. But each boat is a little different, and  that is certainly true when comparing Rainshadow and ‘the Wench” (as the Dufour was affectionately called because her name is French Wench). It’s not just the length difference that’s huge, its also Rainshadow’s full keel vs. the Wench’s fin keel, wheel steering vs. tiller steering, ketch vs. sloop, center cockpit vs. aft cockpit, inboard diesel vs. outboard motor… the list goes on and on. Nevermind – I still think we know how to sail reasonably well in our local waters.

So, off we went. Well, not quite that easily. It was the first time we tried to start the engine in about 10 weeks. The 25 year old solar panels are supposed to be keeping the batteries charged, and they seem to do a pretty good job on the house batteries. But for some reason the engine starter battery was nearly dead – it could only manage cranking the engine for about 5 seconds, which was not enough. So, we turned on the house batteries (which are two 6 volt gulf cart batteries) and tried again. Good battery power, but the diesel was still not starting after cranking about 10 seconds, which seemed an eternity. So we resorted to actually reading the manual (and I used to be a tech writer, ha!) It said it might take as long as 20 seconds of cranking to get her going.  So, using the glow plug one more time, we cranked again and the ole Perkins 4-108 came to life. Hurrah!

So we spent the first couple hours motoring (in very nice wind) to get those batteries charged via the alternator and also to give the engine a good workout. We were heading towards Port Townsend, thinking of going there to pick up a part we need from the local West Marine. But at about 12:30, we decided we wouldn’t make it and have time for a decent sail, so just south of Marrowstone Island, we turned towards Admiralty Inlet, put up the sails and finally turned off that noisy smelly engine. Ah, it’s so nice to move under wind power alone.

We tacked, and jibbed, our way across the shipping lanes and back again. Then we did our favorite loop around “the sea lion buoy”, as we call it, just north of Foul Weather bluff. Then we headed for the Hood Canal and home after about 4 hours of lovely sailing. We learned that even close-hauled doing close to hull-speed, she just doesn’t heel very much at all. That’s what we wanted, a nice stiff boat – and good news, that’s what we got!

When we were just outside our marina channel, we easily started the engine again, and practiced backing up. We were hoping to back into our slip to get her starboard side against the dock, rather than her usual port side, so we could do some work on an above-water thru-hull we want to replace. But Rainshadow doesn’t behave very well when backing up. We decided against trying that fancy maneuver at the end of a long day, and just easily pulled her into the slip as if we had done it a hundred times.

A lovely day. We look forward to many more of the same, with lots of overnights on the boat in between. Now if we can just get that head back together, and put in a heater, and…

Let the cruising season begin!


  1. Jonathan Collins says:

    March 12th, 2010at 2:31 am(#)

    Fantastic ! Can wait to join you as trainee crew. See you in August (fair weather sailors, see ?)

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