Family Sailing Adventures

Family Sailing Adventures

August 17th, 2011  |  by Marilyn  |  Published in Ship's Log

My Dad, the Midwest farmer, just visited for 2 weeks. We had lots of adventures associated with Rainshadow.

He flew out with my sister-in-law Carmen. The day after they arrived, we took them for their first sail. There was a lovely 15 knot wind, and we had a nice active sail. Dad sat on the starboard side, so while we were close hauled, he was happiest when we were on a port tack and he had a back rest. When we were on a starboard tack, he gripped the seat tightly to avoid feeling like he was sliding off. (Click here to view a 31 MB video of sailing on a starboard tack.) They both came back raving about the experience, and marveling at all the activity required to sail. I guess Hollywood makes sailing seem more relaxing and simple.

The next day, while Dad and I drove Carmen towards her sister’s place, Van discovered the fuel injection pump was dripping fuel from the throttle control rod. So we started on that week long repair. The fact that Dad’s owned diesel tractors all his life meant he had some very useful words of wisdom. (We’ll report in full on that repair in another posting.)

Van finally got the the engine running again the day before my sister Carol arrived for the weekend. Hurrah! Though she’d never been on a sailboat before, she said that as a kid she used to read sailing adventure books, and was very much looking forward to going out. Unfortunately, our summer weather has been rotten, so there was not a lick of wind for the first 2 days of her short visit.

Finally, on their last full day of their visit, there was a good 10 knot wind so we set off midday. We motored out of the bay, raised the sails and set off. Fantastic! Big smiles all around.

Then Van spotted the approaching Trident Submarine and its escort detail. Van and I knew what that meant. Sure enough, when the Sub was a couple miles away, the Coast Guard zoomed towards us in their zodiac boat, complete with deck mounted gun, to ask about our intentions. We had a nice exchange about where we were going (answer, Port Ludlow) and how they were enforcing a 1000 yard safety perimeter around the approaching sub. We assured them we would stay out of the way. Below, you can see the nice photos Carol took of that little encounter.

We planned to fill the diesel tank in Port Ludlow, so we sailed close to the fuel dock and then I tried to start the engine. For the first time in our ownership, the diesel failed to start. Wow! Hmm. What now? Carol and Dad scurried below to get out of the way. Van and Dad looked at the engine and poked a few things – no change. It seemed like it wasn’t getting any fuel.

Fortunately, there was a nice gentle wind and a convenient place to anchor nearby. So that’s what we did. Once safely anchored, we could think a little clearer about what to do next. Van started bleeding the fuel lines – maybe there was an air bubble left in the lines from the recent repair. As he bled the vent on the anti-stall device, sadly the screw sheared off as he tightened it. It must have already been cracked, because he said the difficult access means he couldn’t put much force on it. At any rate, further cranking of the engine showed fuel spewing from the failed screw area – so that’s it, no more engine without parts. No worries, I said. We’ll call Vessel Assist, and we have insurance to pay for the tow.

Vessel Assist was nearby, in fact, just north of Foulweather bluff. If we had looked, we probably could have seen them already towing another vessel towards Shilshole Marina, which is a long ways away. They predicted they could get back to us in probably 5 hours. It was 5PM. We needed to get up early in the morning to get to the airport for their midday flight. Yikes! Everyone is still calm, but not too happy about the situation.

I said, “This is a sailboat, there is a decent wind – let’s sail towards home and see how we do!” After a prudent check of the charts and tides, we decided it was safe to haul anchor and set off. Once we tediously tacked our way out of the bay under light winds and against the current, we made good progress towards home on a beam reach in the 8-10 knot winds (and with the current helping in this direction). Underway, we made a call to a good neighbor in our marina, who kindly offered to tow us in if needed. That was an extremely nice security blanket to have! But the winds were holding and it was approaching high tide, so we decided to sail in. We could always drop anchor if we got into trouble in the narrow entrance channel. And we had practiced sailing to our slip before – twice in fact. So we had gained experience about how to do it right when their was no engine to rescue a failed attempt at docking. (For both those practices, I got Van to the dock under sail, but both times I used the engine to help us stop and stay at the right position while Van tied the docking lines.)

I’m happy to say – those earlier experiences at docking under sail paid off. We knew when to haul in the sails so we could coast into our slip with just the right speed and Van could still easily use the docking lines to stop her and tie up. Carol and Dad gave us a round of applause and big smiles! Quite the adventure indeed! We made it home by 8PM, had a nice dinner, packed their bags and got to bed by 10PM. Very nice.

Next day, I drove Carol and Dad to the airport while Van started looking for replacement parts. He found them right away, and Keith the helpful mechanic suggested that Van should check the stop control to make sure the lack of fuel wasn’t because the fuel supply was shut off. You know, sort of the “is it plugged in?” question that’s first in the troubleshooting list for electrical appliances.

As I sit here writing this, Van just called me from the boat. The stop control handle is still in the out position, which means the engine didn’t start because we had the fuel supply shut off. During the fuel pump repair last week, he had to disconnect the stop control. For some reason, now the spring is not pulling the stop control back again. I can assure you, we will never fail the “is it plugged in, silly?” test again.

All’s well that ends well. If that vent screw sheared off so easily, it was time to replace it anyway. We should get the part in less than a week, and then we’ll try again to set off on our “go North” big summer adventure. Sadly, stores are already advertising “end of summer” sales. Here in the PNW, it feels like our summer has only just barely begun.

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