The Lunacy Report

NORTHBOUND LUNACY: Morehead City, NC, to Atlantic City, NJ

Peter at work

I had not one but three crew for the next leg of this year’s homecoming odyssey: my brother Peter, an engineer (see photo up top), and two engineer buddies of his, Steve and Greg. They didn’t know much about sailing, so to help them feel useful and appreciated I staged a mechanical emergency within moments of our departure from the Morehead City Yacht Basin last Wednesday. This is not too difficult: all you need do is forget to open your engine’s intake valve.

I was surprised at how long it took my engine to start overheating. As soon as the alarm went off, I dope-slapped myself and opened the valve, but still the needle on the temperature gauge kept climbing higher. I realized the raw-water pump’s impeller must have self-destructed and immediately anchored the boat and shut down the engine. Fortunately, we were still inside the harbor, in relatively shallow water, just off the Coast Guard station.

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NORTHBOUND LUNACY: Jacksonville, FL, to Morehead City, NC

Nat on wheel

We’ve had a brutal spring in New England this year. March brought four nor’easters, one a week like clockwork, each with heavy snow and blizzard conditions. April, once it finally got going, was mostly just too damn cold. So I was looking forward to getting back to the boat in Florida and doing some sailing. But sailing all the way back home, given the treacherous season, seemed like it might be a bad idea. Much better, I thought, to do this in stages.

For crew on this first leg I enlisted one Nat Smith, a recently retired geologist from Houston, Texas. He’s pondering whether he might purchase a boat like Lunacy, a Boreal or perhaps some other Francophilic aluminum centerboarder. That’s him steering in the photo up there, head wrapped in a sensible sun hat, during our first short daysailing leap from Jacksonville to Fernandina Beach. A pleasant close reach in a moderate westerly wind.

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GEORGIA MARSH CRUISE: From Hilton Head to Jacksonville

Lunacy underway

I did take the family down to Hilton Head to visit Lunacy over the Christmas vacation, but we did not take the boat anywhere. It was far too cold for that. Instead we used the boat as a hotel suite (thank God for the Refleks diesel heater!) and toured the surrounding environs. Savannah, Beaufort, Charleston, and of course the island of Hilton Head itself. To get home we had to drive to Jacksonville (the airport at Savannah was closed) through a vicious ice storm, and I swear I saw more car accidents in those few hours than I’ve seen in my entire life. True fact: people in the South cannot drive on slippery roads to save their lives.

We tried again last week, in much nicer weather, but still there were complications. Daughter Lucy, who likes horses much better than boats (go figure), had first to be deposited in the Florida horse/cattle country outside Gainesville, so she could indulge this preference. Which perversely meant getting stuck overnight in Charlotte, North Carolina (where family vacations go to die), due to the ineptitude of American Airlines. Which meant the wife and I, once we finally arrived in Hilton Head, really only had a handful of days to fool around on the boat.

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LUNACY'S FLOODED ENGINE: The Final Solution

Master Blaster

By far the biggest disappointment of my recent new-boat buying experience was when new Lunacy’s engine flooded in the middle of the Atlantic as I was sailing her back from France this past spring. My initial reaction, as I described before, was one of abject denial, though the problem was not at all unanticipated. In fact, prior to leaving, I had asked Jean-François Eeman, managing director of Boréal, point blank if they’d ever had any flooded engines on their boats. He answered there had been only one, on a boat where the buyer had asked that the footwell in the cockpit be lowered 4 inches so there’d be more standing room under the hard dodger. This in turn had required that the raised loop in the exhaust run, just under the footwell, be lowered accordingly.

My anticipation of the problem was hard earned. I have now owned four different offshore-capable sailboats, and of those three have had engines that flooded (or almost flooded, repeatedly, in one case). In a fourth case a large schooner I was crewing on, during my very first transatlantic passage, also suffered a flooded engine. As I like to tell people: I get flooded engines the way most sailors get dirty fuel.

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SOUTHBOUND LUNACY: Down Chesapeake Bay and Through the ICW

Phil & John

For many years now my semi-regular aquatic flights from winter have involved offshore passages from New England to the West Indies by way of Bermuda. This year, however, what with new Lunacy already ensconced in Annapolis in the aftermath of her appearance in the boat show in October, I thought I would try an even older trick. It has been more than 20 years since I took a boat down Chesapeake Bay in the fall, and thence down the ICW from Norfolk to Beaufort, North Carolina. So though I had no clear idea of where I might end up, I did have some dusty memories to guide me en route.

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DRYING OUT: Not Afloat Aboard the New Lunacy

Anchor and boat

I’ve been looking forward to doing this ever since I got this boat. Mind you, I’ve done it before on another boat. My old Golden Hind 31, Sophie, conceived by Maurice Griffiths, a true shoal-draft aficionado, had three keels (one shallow full keel on centerline, plus two small auxiliary bilge keels) and was designed to take the ground with impunity. So I tried drying her out, once, in the St. George River off Thomaston in Maine. I did not know the ground there, and it turned out the mud flat I grounded her on was composed of very (very) soft mud. When the tide was out she was sucked way down into it, bow first, and I was afraid it would never let her go.

Lesson learned: before parking your boat on the inter-tidal littoral, you should know what it consists of.

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TWEAKING NEW LUNACY: Mainsheet Modification

Lunacy under sail

Now that I’ve got the new boat on the Left Side of the Pond I’m starting to think seriously about how I’d like to change it. Of course, I’ve been thinking about making changes all along, even before I accepted delivery, but I do believe you should first spend some time sailing a boat the way its builder and designer intended before you start mucking with things. Presumably they had their reasons for doing what they did, and you should strive to understand those before making alterations.

My first modification pertains to the mainsheet, the run of which can be easily followed in this fantastic photo taken by Clint Davis, from a boat called Corsair, when we crossed paths between Bermuda and Newport last month. Many thanks to Clint for sharing this (and a few other pix)! It is always great thing when you can score off-the-boat images of your own boat under sail.

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NEW LUNACY TRANSAT: Phase Four to Newport; Phase Five to Portsmouth; All Done Now!

Self in new shorts

It’s over… at long last! My seventh transat done and dusted. This has been true for nearly a week now and still I’m waking up in a bed in a house every morning in a confused wobbly-footed fuzzy-headed daze feeling like I just stepped ashore.

I must be getting old or something.

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NEW LUNACY TRANSAT: Phase Three, Big Jump to Bermuda

Lunacy sailing

This was a hard one this. For one thing it was a bigger jump than I had sketched out in my head. For some reason I had fixated on 2000 as the rough mileage between Porto Santo and Bermuda (see last blog post), but in fact it is 2,400 and change, even via a great circle route, as the chartplotter dourly informed me once I plugged in the distant waypoint. In all, due both to contrary winds and aggravating technical problems (more on that coming up), it took us 23 days and about nine hours to transit the gap, which via the meandering route we followed involved moving much more than just 2,400 miles.

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