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My soon-to-be wife and I just bought our first sailboat and had to bring it back to our new slip in Fairhope, AL. Our 1983 ketch-rigged Irwin 41 was located in Fort Walton Beach, FL, so we planned to take an easy two days to bring it back through the intercoastal, stopping in Pensacola for the night.

We intended to motor most of the way, as my fiancé has no experience sailing, and I have only handled smaller boats (420s in college, two days on a 34 hunter in San Diego bay). The excitement started early. We went to the marina the night before to get the keys, only to discover an inch or so of water flooded into the galley and engine compartment. Faulty sensor on the bilge pump…don't know where the leak is coming from yet. A boat-warming gift! We spent the night, after pumping the water and moping the floors, waking up as the sun rose. We promptly pushed off the dock with the help of another Irwin owner next slip over, and headed straight for a sandbar! Trying to back the boat out under engine power, I learned about prop-walk and how it sux. After the old timer set us straight about the sandbar, we managed to avoid any collisions and get in the channel.

We had a great couple of hours motoring towards Alabama as the rest of the coast woke up. We have no working tachometer, engine temperature gauge, speedometer, GPS, or chartplotter so relied on the sounds of the motor and the Navionics iphone app (savior!) to get us home. Along the way, we passed our new friends Jim and his girlfriend as they were coming back from offshore to the marina we just left. Got some pictures we are anxious to see! Seeing them under full sail, we got tempted to raise the main and mizzen sails in the open waters of Santa Rosa bay. The line to our roller-furler is broken, so we didn't have the chance to fly the headsail.

Once heeled over for the first time, our airconditioning unit released a bunch of nasty rust-water from the drip pan all over the navigation area. Then I got to perform my first stuffing-box tightening while underway since it started streaming water a couple of hours into the journey. I think its better now?
We made good time getting to Pensacola, and started getting weather reports about a storm system coming in the next day. We made the decision to keep moving through the night in order to avoid finishing up in a storm. Then all the real fun started!



First, I had to scramble to splice a couple wires and install a new bow-light before the sun went down. Then, a bunch of smoke started coming out of the exhaust. We had to bring the throttle down to 2 knots to minimize the smoke, but it was still coming out and we were starting to get worried if we could make it, or what running the engine with smoke coming out would do in the long run. At this point, we were in the canal, and had no wind…so we just kept motoring really slowly until we got into Mobile Bay. Once in the Bay, we cut the engine and hoisted our sails again. Soon after that, the wind and waves started to pick up and little rough spots of weather would pass over us a couple times an hour. I had a really hard time controlling the boat. I was on a run, almost straight downwind, and the waves were breaking behind us. Each wave would grab the boat, and try to push it through the wind. I was worrying about an accidental jibe, so I'd turn the boat away, and then it would overcompensate to the other side. I couldn't get it figured out. I don't know if it is just characteristics of the boat, or our sail configuration. We only had the main up by this point because of the strong winds. Does this make the boat unstable while on a run with the waves breaking against the stern? The boat handled well earlier in the day when we were reaching, so I'm hoping it is my inexperience and not something the boat does naturally.

We were rocking around quite a bit, and I was working full time to keep the boat on track. It was a narrow lane I had to stay in as we moved North to keep the boat away from some shoals and out of the Mobile Bay shipping lanes on the other side. I was running really close to the wind, and a big gust finally threw me off and we jibed really hard. Our crappy main-sheet pulleys exploded apart and a bunch of line got tangled. I turned the boat to keep from jibing again, but now we were heading to the shallow waters quickly. The slamming woke my fiance up and our dog started freaking out…running around the decks in the dark. She (my fiance, not the dog) held the boat on course as I freed up the lines to jibe again before running aground. We managed to make it through the narrow corridor and could finally get on a safer reach and got behind Point Clear where the wind and waves calmed down.

Although we thought we might make it into Fairhope around 2:00am, with the engine problems and rough waters in the bay, we didn't pull in to the dock until 7:00…23 hours after we left. Docking was no pretty site either, as I still don't understand how this thing goes in reverse. Luckily our new dock-mate Jake was up and helped pull us in with some bow-lines before I took out the marina. Finally, I had to lie down on solid ground for a half-hour to keep my head from spinning.

All in all we had a safe journey, with a bit of excitement. Had a beautiful day with some good sailing while the sun was still up, and hopefully we've paid our initiation fee with our experiences through the night. Looking forward to more adventures! If anybody has words of wisdom on smoking engines, hard-to-control downwind runs, or reversing…please let me know!

 

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Sounds like a normal sail to me. ;) Check the engine oil and fuel filters. What color smoke? Check the coolant level, any missing?
 
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That Drunk Guy
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He who dies with the best stories, wins. And you've got a good one there. You made it safe and sound, no worse for wear. Well done! Looking back one day you'll say "that first trip was a blast!" :)
 

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I expect the weather gods smiled on you a little, that was a mean little front that passed over us Monday night. And you got away with some gear problems (engine black smoke, instruments kaput, exploding mainsheet blocks, leaky stuffing box, no jib furl line, no e-chart but you did have at least a paper chart, huh I hope?) that might have discouraged some from getting underway. But all's well that ends well, glad you made it and best wishes with your new boat.

The squirrely handling downwind may stem your inability to fly a jib, which would have moved the center of effort farther forward and "kept your bow downwind" so she wouldn't keep trying to head back up as you seem to describe.

But beyond that I don't know nuthin' ;-)


Oh, wait, PS on the reversing stuff. Yeah, if it's the usual right-hand prop (clockwise in forward when viewed from astern), then it will twist you clockwise as you back. So line up a bit counterclockwise of your desired finishing position. And if the "walk" is too much in reverse, then very briefly go back to forward and use your rudder to "kick" you back straight before going back into reverse; repeat as necessary, pretty soon you'll be able to do it and chew gum at the same time ;-)
 

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s/v Tiger Lily
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Sometimes this time of year, when the water is cooler, the "smoke" may be steam/condensation from the two temperatures combining - hot wet exhaust and cold ambient water.
 

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Sailor
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When going downwind, it is very important to rig a preventer that keeps you from making unintentional gybes like you did a few times. It saves equipment as well. Rig a line from where the vang attaches to the boom and run it to a point forward of the mast on the leeward rail. Sometimes the boom vang can perform this task well when attached to a shroud at the deck. This also saves lives.

Regarding the smoke, did you check to see if you had water coming out of the exhaust? If the boat sounded like a jet airplane, you didn't and I hope you weren't overheating the engine. You certainly increased your skill set tho! Good deal!

Tod


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
 

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Concerning reverse and the prop walk...that is pretty standard for non-folding/feathering props. Learn to use the prop walk when backing it up and it can actually become your friend! Just Google prop walk and there are some good articles about which to turn the wheel with prop walk. Not sure how you are oriented in your marina/slip, but if you are bow-in to your slip, it is certainly helpful to have a slip that allows you to reverse to port rather than starboard.

Glad you made it safely...that front passed through the FL Panhandle on Tuesday and was pretty nasty...
 

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And so the adventure begins! :) Sound's like you're a mechanical, fixer type a Dude, stick with it. Enjoy the fixin up, you'll learn your boat. You will know it better than anyone on the planet (as you should).

Involve your new bride as much as she wants to be involved in everything from fixing to sailing and knowledge of everything in between.

Sounds like you have a solid background. There are some really smart, knowledgable, savy, experienced folks on this here forum to draw from in times of need or advice. ;) Don't be a stranger with your new life!

Dave
 
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