The Lunacy Report

2018 SOUTHBOUND LUNACY: Annapolis to St. Maarten

Lunacy doghouse

What with swapping out old Lunacy for new Lunacy and last year’s jaunt down to Florida and back it’s been a few years since I pilgrimaged to the W’Indies for the winter. It’s past time to revisit old haunts, I decided, what with last year’s awful storms, plus I have some business to attend to down there. Having again pimped out new Lunacy to her builder to be shown at Annapolis, it was preordained I should depart from the Chesapeake, which is something I hadn’t done before. I assumed it would be easier than leaving from New England.

I made the run from Annapolis to Norfolk last year (with crew), before diving down the rabbit hole of the ICW, and had not forgotten how long the bay is. I’d hoped to have crew again this time, but another un-named boat magazine editor (different from the last one) who volunteered to come along, unvolunteered on short notice, and I was left on my own. I thus felt some urgency and hastily left Spa Creek in Annapolis on the afternoon of October 22, same day I flew in, and motored 10 miles down the bay to the West River before sunset. A small first step down the long road south.

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2018 SOUTHBOUND LUNACY: Back to the Boat Show Solo Delivery Trip

Lunacy in slings

This truly was touch and go. I’d had the boat hauled in early September to attend to a fairly discrete list of chores: 1) put on fresh bottom paint; 2) have some nice handrails sent by my friends at Boréal welded on to the stern arch; 3) make sure the engine’s running gear was OK after that run-in with a pot warp. It was the last item, of course, that created problems.

Turned out that wrapped pot warp (remember?) had ruined the cutless bearing, and to change that out the prop shaft had to be pulled, and as long as the shaft was out: why not send it on to get it checked to make sure it’s still perfectly straight??? It made sense at the time, but it unfortunately took much longer than it should have. Then there was some head-scratching over Lunacy’s exotic Vetus transmission coupling after the shaft came back, and a missing shaft key, and before I knew it the guys at Maine Yacht Center were relaunching Lunacy (see above) the very morning I planned to take her away south to Annapolis to be in the show again.

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2018 SUMMER CRUISE: Thwarted Ambitions

Lunacy aground

Job one before embarking on this summer’s cruise was to clean up Lunacy’s bottom a bit. I waited until too late to ask if my home yard, Maine Yacht Center, could arrange to have a diver do it, so ended up having to do it myself. First I dove on the boat, on day one of the cruise at Cliff Island, and scrubbed a good bit of the starboard side, paying particular attention to the log and depth sensors, which were extremely foul. This, as I’d hoped, resolved both my autopilot problem (my modern NKE pilot needs more-or-less accurate boatspeed data to function properly) and my inconsistent depthsounder problem. Two birds with one stone, as the saying goes.

Day two of the cruise was spent at Popham Beach, at the mouth of the Kennebec River, where I grounded the boat on the sandbar between Long Island and Georgetown Island (see photo up top). The spot is well known to me, as I used to spend summers on Long Island when I was a boy. I wanted to ground out on hard sand, and I knew the sand is very hard here, but I’d forgotten there are also some significant elevation changes, which accounts the nice heel angle you see there. Fortunately, this worked to my advantage, as it gave me good access to the port side, which I’d ignored when diving on the hull the day before, and also the running gear behind the shallow skeg keel, where I found the prop zinc had disappeared and needed replacing.

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NORTHBOUND LUNACY: Atlantic City, NJ, to Portland, ME

Flies onboard

As I departed the casino-studded shores of Jersey early last Thursday morning, sailing alone this time, there seemed no shortage of wind. There was a nice northwesterly, 20 knots or so, so I tied in one reef as I hoisted the main just outside Absecon Inlet, as I thought it might soon grow stronger. In spite of the firm breeze, the boat was soon infested with flies. Dozens and dozens of them. On the sidedecks, in the cockpit, down below. As if suddenly they had all decided that New Jersey was no longer worthy of their presence and they would risk anything, even a voyage on a boat bound for God knew where, to get away from it.

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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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