Yesterday, my wife suggested that we (3 kids and I) go for an evening sail. She didn't need to ask me twice
By the time we packed up the gear, drove to the marina, and ate dinner, it was about 7:00. We dropped the mooring lines and motored out of the harbor around 7:15. There was no wind at all, but we usually get a 5-10 kt breeze around 7:00.
The Thursday night fleet was out and waiting for the wind. Sure enough a gentle breeze filled in and the fleet was off. We watched them start, the 'chased' them to the first mark. We were careful to stay out of the way and watched the fleet head downwind to the second mark.
By this time my kids had seen enough racing, so we bore off and headed west (the wind was SW). We watched a beautiful sunset, switched on the running lights, and watched the moon come up. Around 9:00PM my son and daughter (7 and 10) went below. I turned on a DVD and went back outside. My 13 yo daughter was listening to music, my wife was relaxing in the cockpit. The weather was great, mild temperatures, about a 7 kt breeze, flat water, no boat traffic, the autopilot was working great and I was loving life.
We tacked and started heading in the direction of home. We weren't far away, maybe 1 hour the harbor. When we were about 1/2 way back I saw that if we wanted to, we could sail right into the harbor. This is kind of rare because to get into my harbor you need to sail south for 200 yards, in a narrow channel that is maybe 200' wide, then make a 90 degree turn to port and travel about 1/2 a mile in a narrow channel. There are hills south of the harbor that block a lot of wind and the tidal current can run at 1 kt. Tonight the wind was from the WSW (good for going south and east) and the tide was flooding, helping to push you into the harbor.
Anyway, I wasn't brave enough to sail into the harbor, so when we reached the buoy that marks the harbor approach I rolled up the headsail and started the engine. Or, I should write that I tried to start the engine. The starter has been a little flaky, sometimes requiring 3-4 presses of the button before engaging. This time it didn't work at all. I was on battery bank 2, which I had been on since we turned off the engine. This bank is 2 group 27 marine batteries, and should have had plenty of power to start the engine, even with the running lights, DVD player, instruments, and other electrical loads on. The voltmeter showed 12.5 volts at my GPS, which is pretty far from the battery. Anyway, I switched to battery bank 1, a single group 27 marine battery. Still nothing from the starter. This battery showed 12.7 volts. My wife tried, I tried, no go on the engine.
By now the kids were getting mad because I turned off the movie, my wife wasn't too happy either, and, truth be told, neither was I. We reviewed our options - call SeaTow, anchor and try and get the engine started, or sail in. I convinced my wife that sailing in was our best choice.
So we unrolled the genoa, strapped the sails in tight, and sailed close hauled into the harbor. Entering the harbor was easy, I was able to sail directly into the first channel. There were a few nervous moments when the wind died because it was blocked by the hills. The headsail started to back, but I was able to steer a little more off the wind and it filled. Thanks to the current, we were moving at about 3 kts and I had steerage. When we reached the end of the entrance I turned to port and my wife eased the sheets.
So far so good. We now had about 1/2 a mile to go, the wind was about 7 kts and was on our beam. The moon was bright, there was no other traffic. If you were asked to describe perfect 'sailing to the mooring' conditions, this is what you would have asked for. I told me wife that she would have go to the bow and grab the mooring, that she would have one chance, so bring the boat hook forward and be ready.
When we were about 100 yards away I rolled up the headsail to make it easier for her to stand on the bow and to slow the boat down.
At 50 yards I aimed directly at the mooring ball, but was little nervous because the mooring pick up stick was not to be seen. I then realized that the current was carrying me too far west, so I had to aim a lot more south. We were heading in the right direction. About 10 yards away I turned the boat into the wind to luff the main and allowed the current to push us towards the mooring. My wife snagged something (dingy painter I believe) so I ran forward to help. To complicate matters, the dingy got all twisted around the mooring ball. Anyway, we made it! After cleaning up, putting things away, and getting ready to dingy to the beach, I had my wife give the engine one more try. Of course, it started right up!
Next up, cleaning all wire connections. Work over the winter - rewire the connections to the starter with a solenoid and better wires.