Our new (to us) boat, and it's maiden voyage
We bought a 1978 Morgan OI 30 last week. A survey showed it clean, and it is in excellent condition. We bought it for cruising the great lakes with 3 kids and 1 dog. Here is the story of our maiden voyage, if not a bit embarrassing. We learned a lot in three days, and this was after several practice days on a small Hobie cat to learn the points of sail, and reading both the Annapolis book and The Complete Sailor. Nothing can beat doing it yourself... Note: The following is long, but we will probably be asking questions we had as a result of this trip. It was a heck of a journey.
66 nm or 76 miles
Total travel: 13:55
52 nm or 60 miles
Total travel: 11:00
30 nm or 35 miles
Total travel: 07:00
We closed on the boat on Thursday morning, and I made my way to the sail club where she was moored in advance of the family early Thursday evening. We had been sailing with the owner twice before. He met me there to clean out a few remaining personal items, and to drive the boat out of the very tight channel in which it was docked, something he'd grown accustomed to in the several years he'd been there, but a prospect we wanted to avoid given the very expensive boats nearby and the unhelpful wind.
The family met me later that evening and we unloaded the car into the boat and settled in for a night of sleep before our maiden voyage. The alarm came sooner than we would have liked, but by 5:30 we were packing up the loose ends from the night before, taking the dog for a walk, and getting the motor warmed up to cast off. It was a quick and uneventful motor down the river to lake St. Clair, and we were off. After 45 minutes to an hour, something didn't seem right. My speedometer was showing 6 knots, but the engine was revving really high, and it just didn't feel like 6 knots. I decided to cut back on the throttle a bit and considered restarting the engine when a "clunk" resounding from below. The clutches finally fully engaged and the boat launched ahead much more smartly than before.
The motor picked up and we were suddenly maxed on the speedometer showing 10+ knots. I confirmed that this was not the case with the GPS and started searching for the problem. I opened the cockpit locker to get access to the back of the instruments and found no way to calibrate it. I finally locked the wheel and stuck my head inside to take a look, and that's when I realized I had broken the speedometer early in the morning. Before we'd cast off, I couldn't figure out how to get the instruments working. I didn't see anything on the fuse panels that looked like it applied to the instruments, and had tried the aux switch to no effect. In that effort, I'd flipped switches that were inline with the wires going to the instruments, wires that I learned controlled whether the speedometer would show knots or half-knots. I flipped that and the speedometer began to read correctly, and we were making about 6 knots towards the North Channel to the St. Clair River.
This is when I had a few realizations. 1) It was dawn, we were headed into the sun, looking for channel markers, and I hadn't brought sun glasses. 2) The chart that I was given with the boat was from 1973 and didn't have any of the new channel markers listed. 3) The depth meter is glitchy and likes to go from reporting accurately to reading 200 ft. Something that isn't helpful when navigating an unfamiliar channel in a lake.
We made it through with few issues, and spent several hours motoring up the St. Clair river. On advice from others, I was going across the rive to stay on the inside shore and avoid as much current as possible. The kids liked looking at the ships going by as well as the novelty of zig-zagging in and out of Canada. Around 2pm we spotted the entrance to the Black River (in Port Huron), and rounded in to drop off the kids and their mom, and to get gas. I hailed the gas dock and confirmed they were clear, and we motored in with nervous flutters of our first attempt at docking. We came in slow and were way too far out, and decided to round back out into the river, turn around and come in for another attempt. The dock attendant thanked us for not ramming the dock like the last boat, and we let out a sigh of relief. A quick ice-cream cone, and I was on the boat for a solo trip up to Lexington, MI on Lake Huron for the night. It was sunny, and NOAA was reporting waves less than 1 ft, and clear skies, what could go wrong?
I hauled out into the big blue waters. I'd been out there power boats before, and assumed that in the worst case, I could motor it all the way. After getting outside of the current to the river I rounded into the wind and hauled up the main and let out the jib while the motor rolled slowly to keep the sails from turning me around. A light 5-7 mph wind was good enough to keep the sails filled and added a little to the motor and made it at least look like I was sailing.
A few miles of motor sailing and I started trying to hail the Lexington State Harbor. A certain git had failed to call ahead and make reservations. A few attempts on the handheld didn't work, so I switched to the cell phone and gave them a call, only to find out they'd given out the last slip five minutes before. It looks like I was going to have to head another 11 miles north to Port Sanilac… and sunset was coming fast. The wind tapered off and the water became glassy, a great night for a runabout, less so for a sail boat, but we needed the motor anyway. The sails were doused, and the throttle buried, it was going to be close.
A phone call to Port Sanilac confirmed that they would have a spot for me, now I was just counting minutes. It's a little frustrating to see your destination, and know you are over an hour away, while watching the sun go down. I came in at the end of dusk, with a sliver of light in the air, straining to see which of the slips were available, the harbor master said I could choose anyone I wanted, he didn't tell me which ones were occupied, and the low light didn't help. I came in slowly on my (admittedly foolish) second docking attempt, solo, with only marina lights to guide me. I confirmed that supports separated my boat from the neighbor boat, so the worst I could is sink my own boat. Fortunately, it didn't come to that, but it was a nerve racking few moments.
So ended day 1…
My girlfriend had met me in Port Sanilac the night before, so I wouldn't be trying any more solo maneuvers. We set off around 6:30am. On the way out of Port Sanilac, we squeezed between two barges parked, getting ready to start dredging the harbor, set our course, and we were off. The skies were clear, there was almost no waves, and a very light breeze from the south-west that might have brushed 5 mph. After a few miles of motor sailing, I decided to be a little adventurous, and see how to fly the assym. We were going to have many hours on the boat, and the motor was keeping us on time, so what's the harm? I ran everything as I'd been shown by the previous owner. The sheet went outside of everything, I attached the tack and made it fast to a bow cleat, and I attached the halyard. We secured the sheet, and began to haul up the sail. I should have come downwind and ensured the spinnaker was behind the main, but the light breeze helped ease any problems that may have caused. A few flutters and we had a firm, full sail ahead of us. Of course, the best part is that it looks really cool. I, of course, also failed to properly trim it once it was up, but it was big, puffy, and awesome looking, and it was giving us some added speed, and that was all we needed.
We sailed for at least 45 minutes with the blue and yellow assym in front. It was long enough to get comfortable that we were doing pretty well. It was long enough to leave my girlfriend at the helm and head down below to tidy some things up, and grab a snack. It is inevitable that a stiff breeze would come while I was not top-sides. The wind smartly increased to 10 mph to put some serious strain on the helm, and held there long enough my her to shout down that she would like me to come up, at which point it quickly popped up to 15 mph and hauled the boat around like it was a plaything. After one more attempt to bring about and try sailing with it, and finding us just as smartly turned into the wind, we decided it was time to take it down and pull out the jib. This of course was lacking no comedy, and after much splashing, and flailing of a free sheet, and part of the sail, we hauled it in, in good condition, if not a little damp. But we were back on course.
It is equally inevitable that immediately on pulling down the chute, the wind would drop precipitously, and leave us wanting for a little speed. I now know that we probably could have handled the spinnaker up front with a few modifications to trim and direction, but we would settle for fewer unplanned course changes. The trip stayed relatively uneventful for the following 25+ miles as we slowly came to Port Austin on the inside of the thumb of Michigan.
Around the top of the thumb, winds became slightly more erratic in both direction and speed, and it didn't help that our anemometer decided to take intermittent breaks, in tandem with our depth gauge. We began to get heeled further and further, until we were both a little uncomfortable, and not liking the prospect of a further two hours on our sides. I rounded it up into the wind and set to bringing in the jib and bit, and setting the reef. I would later insist that we bring the sails in completely before we got into port, ostensibly so we didn't have to deal with it when we got in, but more because my reef job was so abysmal, I was a little embarrassed to have others see it. We motored the rest of the away into Port Austin at 5:30pm and spent a quiet, but exhausted night trying to get some rest.
The extra distance on the first day, meant we could get all the way to Port Austin on the second day, and that meant we had a relatively short sail on the final day, which was a blessing. We had inquired on a pump out on the previous evening, as we'd already docked. If it was available, we'd like to stop in before we left, but we'd be leaving quite early.
We woke up around 6:30, got dressed, and started bringing in our shore power lines and preparing to cast off. I walked down to the fuel dock to see if someone had made it there yet, and no one had, it looked like we would have to wait and see what we could find in Au Gres (and we didn't know if we could find anything). We threw of our lines and began motoring out. As I was rounding the final slip, I noticed the fuel dock attendant preparing the pompous station. The lady from the night before had left him a note, and he'd seen us leaving. Unfortunately, I wasn't prepared to come in, and was set away from the dock. Not wanting to waste the man's time, I turned the boat toward the fuel dock as if had been my plan all along. Unfortunately, to get close enough, I now needed to come in quite steep. Worse, my prop walk would take the stern away from the dock.
As we approached, with more speed than I'd like to admit, I backed the throttle down, put it in neutral, put it in reverse and brought the throttle back up. I hadn't eased the throttle far enough down, and reverse hadn't engaged. We were now on a 35 degrees angle toward the dock with no stopping power. I scrambled to reset the transmission and try for reverse again. We only skidded moderately hard against the dock, much to the annoyance of the dock attendant. But we had slowed it enough only to be embarrassing, and not so much to cause any damage.
Our pump out complete (with a borrowed key), we heading for the exit. A moderate breeze greeted us, unfortunately, we couldn't quite tell how moderate it was, as the anemometer was taking the day off. We raised sails, and began to set course for the other side of the bay. We were making good time on sails alone, and we were loving the absence of the diesel din. Unfortunately, we had to stay tight to the wind to try and hold our course and kept losing it. Worse, the wind slowly increased throughout the morning, and soon, our 10 mph winds were showing up as 20 mph on our newly interested anemometer, and we were heeling quite uncomfortably. Well, uncomfortable for my SO. I was perfectly fine standing on the walls of the boat. But her law IS law, and we needed to reef. I gave her the helm and asked her to bring it into the wind, giving her directions from the bow. Unfortunately, I hadn't freed the jib sheet, and into the wind, swiftly turned into a tack and stall, with a full main and a stationary boat.
I sat down and told her that this was a really good way to stall the boat, but that it wasn't what we wanted. I started the motor to give us a little leverage and stability, let the jib sheet out, and furled it, and then proceeded to reef the main. After tightening the halyard, the main looked much the same as it had the day before, with a huge crease running from the boom up to the middle of the sail. This certainly wouldn't do, and we set back into wind to fix it. A slightly harder tug on the reef line pulled the sail out and down, and we had good sail shape. We set the jib at about 100% and began making way.
Fortunately, the rest of the day was relatively uneventful, and involved us pulling into our new slip, seen for the first time, and bringing our, new to us, Morgan OI 30 to her new home.