SOUTHBOUND LUNACY: Delivery to Annapolis Interrupted

Synoptic chart

As I expected Lunacy’s putative buyers formally renounced our still-born deal as soon as I returned from the wilds of France. The late season and a lingering illness were the cited causes, but I had sensed other obstacles on their side. A less enthusiastic female partner and a need to borrow much of a boat’s purchase price are always problematic. So I quickly pointed Lunacy south toward Annapolis, where I figure she is much likelier to sell in the off-season. I made it as far as Huntington, New York, before I pressed the pause button to wait for this gale now raging off the Jersey shore (see image up top) and the advent of Thanksgiving.

I left Maine Yacht Center in Portland on my own last Monday, immediately after Steve Ecker (MYC’s electronics maven) and I ran a calibration sea-trial on the new Raymarine EV-100 tillerpilot he had installed to replace the antique and unfortunately defunct Autohelm unit.

(I should note that the work Steve did on Rich Wilson’s Great American IV during her refit at MYC was the talk of the Vendée Globe race dock back in Les Sables d’Olonne.)

New tiller pilot

This is the new pilot ram installed to drive the head of my Aries servo-pendulum steering gear. This new unit, thankfully, is a drop-in replacement for the old one, with the same size mounting pin at the back, and the same size ram arm, with even the same thread at the end for screwing on extensions (like the one with my custom-fitted tab for attaching the ram to the windvane). What’s missing now is the old Autohelm black-box compass/brain/control-pad that used to hang on that black bracket you see to the right of the power cord

Control head

Now the compass and brain are installed safely below, and the new Raymarine p70 control head is mounted just inside the companionway. If desired the new unit can be controlled with a wireless remote; it can also be interfaced with other NMEA 2000 electronics, including a masthead wind sensor that would allow the pilot to steer to a wind angle rather than a compass course

The autopilot performed flawlessly. The engine did the same, which was a great relief. Indeed, replacing the fractured damper plate between the transmission and the engine (which caused the problems that initially frustrated the deal with the prospective buyers) seems to have had a miraculous effect. During all the time I’d run this engine in the past, a cruise setting of 2,100 RPM yielded a speed of about 5.5 knots, give or take depending on conditions. Now a more conservative cruise setting of 1,800 RPM yields speeds well in excess of 6 knots, and 2,100 gets the old girl storming along at 7-plus!

I’m wondering, of course, how this could be. All I can think of is that there must have been something wrong with the damper plate all along. Though of course I’m willing to entertain other theories, if you have any to share.

The extra power was certainly useful, as I ended up motorsailing almost all the way to Huntington against contrary wind. The first leg, from Portland to Provincetown, leaning into 14-17 knots of breeze at a 20-degree AWA took 17 hours and saw me picking up a mooring inside the P-town breakwater just off the fish-boat docks around 0400 hrs. The next leg, from P-town to the Cape Cod Canal entrance, saw me motor-dogging it into a solid 20-24 knots after I caught up on sleep and spent much of a day waiting for a small rainy gale to pass through.

My canal transit was highly unusual. My arrival at the Sandwich end of the canal was perfectly timed tide-wise, but my monitoring of the VHF radio revealed that the railroad bridge at the other end was popping up and down like a yo-yo on a string. Disturbingly, it was spending as much time lowered, if not more, as it was raised.

I have no idea why. I have transited the canal many times over the years and have never heard anything before about the railroad bridge ever being lowered.

Bridge up

The bridge in question, where it belongs, in the raised position

For a vessel such as Lunacy this is a disturbing prospect. Once inside the canal in a small boat with a fair tide you are as good as flushed down a toilet. Stemming the 4.5-knot current with a 44-hp engine so as to avoid getting swept into a closed drawbridge may not be impossible, but it is certainly daunting. Through careful communication with Cape Cod Canal Control, I avoided this fate and emerged in a terrible maelstrom of standing waves in the exit fairway, where a brisk 20-knot southwesterly breeze was quarreling ferociously with the aforementioned current.

I survived this ordeal, by dint of much cursing and gritting of teeth, and eventually pottered down the northern part of Buzzard’s Bay into Hadley Harbor, the inner part, off the west side of Wood’s Hole, and exulted in its complete protection.

Hadley Harbor

An ultimate sanctuary!


Just in time to watch the sun go down

I quickly ate a hot meal, dove into my berth, and awoke again at midnight to take advantage of a diminished breeze and fair current. I had hoped the breeze would be solidly northwest, so as to provide a good sailing angle, but it wasn’t, so again it was flame on with the motor. Nine hours later I arrived in Stonington, Connecticut, where I picked up a crew member, Bear Gibney, with whom I had sailed once before.


Bear makes coffee in the galley

It was on this next leg up the east end of Long Island Sound west of Stonington, last Thursday, that I at last had a chance to switch the engine off and let the sails move the boat courtesy of a brisk north wind. It was just a few hours, unfortunately, but I did appreciate it.

Just after sunset we put into a small cove just west of Branford Harbor, with good protection to the north, for a proper night’s sleep.

Short Beach

The cove, unnamed on the chart, was very comfortable and looks into a place called Short Beach


Viewed from the cockpit, after the trauma of anchoring

Setting the hook here was a great adventure. With Bear on the power windlass control and me humping the chain by hand through the bits where the much rumpled chain pile below refused to run through the hawse hole, we managed somehow to crush two fingers on my right hand in the windlass.

All I can say about this in print, diplomatically, is: OUCH!!!


Blood on the foredeck. Scene of the crime in the morning, before rinsing


The injured digits

We did have a great night’s sleep. Or at least I did.

It was the next morning while motoring west down the Sound in a fairly null breeze that I started thinking hard about where to stow the boat while waiting for this impending gale (see image up top, again) to blow through. Pondering the tide tables for getting through Hell Gate into the East River in New York City, I noticed our course of the moment would take us clear across the Sound to Huntington.

And then came an obvious thought.

I immediately dialed my old friend Hank Schmitt (of Be Good Too fame), who is based in Huntington, but is normally delivering boats south this time of year.

“Hank, where are you?” I asked when he answered.

Turned out he had just flown back from St. Maarten the night before, and was set to drive with his wife up to Boston that afternoon to catch the Harvard-Yale game. He greeted us at the dock at the West Shore Marina in Huntington and before we could say “Jack Robinson” was driving us north to whence we came.

Delivery to be continued after the Thanksgiving holiday.

Afterthoughts: I forgot to include this photo of my new deck cleat!

New cleat

Isn’t it beautiful?

And, of course, the obligatory blogger selfie.

Old self

Not so beautiful, but at least well preserved

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6 Responses
  1. Clare Allcard

    You look about as happy as Edward this morning! It’s suddenly decided to rain in earnest here. And yes there’s a lull in the job of launching our two books so I’m relaxing and checking out your blog :))

  2. Charlie

    @Jordan: That is feasible, but seems less feasible after you turn the corner at Cape May and head up Delaware Bay straight into it. No harm in waiting.

    @Jorge: Thanks!

    @Clare: A pleasure, as always, to see you here! Give Edward my best.

  3. Priscilla

    Howdy Charlie,

    “What’s missing now is the old Autohelm black-box compass/brain/control-pad that used to hang on that black bracket you see to the right of the power cord”
    My Good Old (plastic) Boat had similar … when the boat abducted me (in Annapolis, good idea to move Lunacy there) the AutoHelm wouldn’t work on the sea trial, turned out to be a Dead Brain, much to common these days.

    My control pad was below the helm seat, and had a relatively large hole (thru the fiberglass) for the control wires … and my winning idea what to do with the hole was to install two weather resistant DC plugs – they fit snugly without altering the hole, I made a faceplate out of 1/8″ GP03 to cover the whole scar of the AutoHelm control pad, then drilled the faceplate from behind thru the existing control pad mounting screw holes, and thru-bolted it. Took longer to paint the faceplate the same color as the cockpit than all the other work combined. Looks great and now I have outlets in the cockpit for a fan, electric blanket, or 🙂 .
    Side note, I have quite a few spare circuit breakers so those two outlets have their own dedicated CB – in case of trouble with corrosion and/or water intrusion, nothing else is affected.

    Just an idea for you, and everyone else, who has old AutoHelm controls in the cockpit – yeah the holes can be glassed/welded, then painted, but since no matter what there is a tad of painting involved MIGHT AS WELL (there’s those damn three little words again) make productive use of the situation.

    PS Don’t know why, I *really* don’t, but your selfie made me laugh out loud. Sorry about that … sortof … not really … hahaha! I do love you, I really do, I guess I’ve just had too many “bad” days to take any of them seriously anymore … and that’s exactly what attracted me to *Lunacy* in the first place. xoxo, and kisses for your fingers too, from all your followers I’m sure.

  4. Charlie

    @Priscilla: Howdy back at you! Fortunately I had no hole to fill, as my Autohelm brain was external and was hung on the bracket only when needed. I was able to recycle the DriPlug connection, the only through-deck bit of the install, and use it for the new unit, as the photo shows. And I’m glad the selfie amuses you!

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