What a different experience this year! Instead of days reefed this year we alternated between champagne sailing and fighting to keep steerage in calms. We only used the big genoa and spinnakers; we only put in a single reef once when a squall approached but never caught us.
Not that this trip was without drama. The starting sequence was the first time in 2016 that FEARLESS had set a headsail! Many improvements were put to the test, some failed but most held up. Many of the crew had not met until the day before the race. We re-seated each mainsail batten underway, some more than once. At times our deck was an absolute tangle of lines as we worked on patching a sail on the bow while flying the staysail, spinnaker and mainsail plus the extra control lines we rigged (blocks to control sheet angles, a preventer, jacklines and the like).
Our spinnakers were put to the test of being flown when seas were more significant than the wind. Eight patches later one was put to pasture peacefully, one exploded completely and the third was resurrected as the Frankenspinnaker using duct tape and all purpose adhesive. We hoisted and doused chutes a dozen times. To bad the new kite didn’t make Newport until the night after we’d left…
At Home Aboard
For the last two weeks I’ve lived aboard FEARLESS: slept here, eaten here, worked here and played here. This is the first time I’ve ever felt at one with anything. I was really hoping this might happen when I resolved to sleep aboard while in Bermuda…
I really came to know her quirks and the ones that weren’t endearing we ventured to fix. Add coolant. Top up the transmission fluid. Replace the fuel sender. Replace the fuel guage. Fix the starter wiring. Replace the fuel filters. Replace some dry rotted fuel hoses. Replace the oil filters. Change the oil. Clean the bilge and clean the strainer. Repair the V-berth. Instead of exploring Bermuda and vacationing I chose to spend my time in paradise aboard taking a homemade crash course in boat and diesel maintenance.
This was my first time tackling any of these tasks on a boat but what really made it start to feel like home was those tasks and the cleanup afterwards (can’t sleep aboard if your bunk is covered in tools) made me the goto guy for finding bits and answering questions. I understand the methods of what once seemed like madness.
I learned the incantations necessary to get the batteries charging from shore power. I figured out the sequence needed to make certain lights work in night mode. I even figured out where to step on the squeaky floorboards so they didn’t squeak!!
A Final, Fateful Night
It all came together the last night of the return delivery. The main engine stuttered and went silent which roused me, groggily, from my bunk. We had run one of our fuel tanks dry. As they tried the ignition in the cockpit we got the tools and access ready to bleed the fuel system. Slightly less groggy I pondered out loud “does the primer pump work for the main diesel too?” I flipped the switch and moments later the diesel was rumbling once more.
I stowed the tools and victoriously slipped back into my bunk having saved the skipper a messy fuel system bleed in a seaway; a small victory but within a realm of seamanship I had avoided until the start of the Newport to Bermuda race.
This video was featured at Scuttlebutt Sailing News. Cool!