Shakedown

Shakedown

Yesterday we headed out on our boat for a “shakedown” cruise – essentially a test before a larger trip (like sailing around the world – or to the Bahamas).

For almost a year we’ve been spending every extra minute on getting our boat ready for a long sail. Maybe you know the story – how we left Cali with plans to live on a boat in the keys, but when the boat we wanted fell through, tired of living out of a car and roach-filled hotel rooms, we got this place with a dock out back in hopes that we could save up for a boat. The very next day Greg went out and bought a boat from a nonprofit that sells donated boats. Imagine a boat purgatory – where dying boats go to possibly be rescued or raided for all their value before being crushed. Ours was the best of the bunch. A 1979 Endeavor ’32 named M’tunzini. He spent $6000.

$6000 is not a lot for a boat. For perspective, the Hallberg Rassy model we wanted was originally priced at $45,000. It was also from the 1970s – but kind of like a Mercedes in the boat world. This one is more like… I had to get Greg’s help on this analogy – a 1979 Pontiac Bonneville… well, I have no idea what that means… But while an older Mercedes still has value even if it’s in rough shape, Endeavors need to be taken care of. Ours was not. The previous owner had jury-rigged all kinds of “solutions” with the best of intentions… but they were all just a bit… sub-par.

Packing up: pots, utensils, bedding, towels, food for five days.

Packing up: pots, utensils, bedding, towels, food for five days.

The first example of this was also our first problem: the engine wouldn’t turn off. So to turn it off the previous owner would starve the engine of air by placing a piece of plexiglass over the air intake. Greg quickly noticed a red button underneath – a “shut-off solenoid” – then traced down the reason it wasn’t working properly: a bad crimp in the electrical connections. We have dozens of stories like this.

In the spring we hauled her out of the water in order to relocate some of the through-hulls. We ended up sanding and painting her bottom with anti-fouling paint, and putting in a new prop shaft. Greg re-worked the stuffing box and cutlass bearing and a bunch of other stuff. It was while she was in the yard, and we were contemplating what a lemon we’d purchased, that we renamed her the much-more-pronounceable, “Lemonade.” Since then, Greg’s done so much to the boat I had to move the list to another link. AND HE COULD GO ON!

A lot of these fixes required $50 here and there – and Greg’s a pro at getting deals on parts at second-hand shops or online. But there were a few things we knew we’d have to shell out big bucks for… and we held out until the last minute. Well, that last minute has arrived. At the end of this month we are giving up the apartment and moving onto the boat. So we ordered a new mainsail ($2000 with the cover) and found a grill on Craigslist ($250) and ta-da. Time for the shakedown.

Captain Greg getting the boat ready to sail.

Captain Greg getting Lemonade ready to sail.

We had many goals with this sail. As I plan to work from the boat, we want to do an energy audit for power consumption and answer questions like: How much power does it take to re-charge a laptop computer? How often will we need to start the engine in order to do so? We wanted to see how she sailed with the new mainsail, and to test other systems like our autopilot and the engine.

You might be surprised to learn that Lemonade has no refrigeration onboard. The retrofit for a fridge is costly and you often get very little fridge for your farthings. So I saw this cruise also as a test of our icebox and how long we’ll be able to go before we’ll need to re-stock the ice.

Our shakedown cruise was to begin Thursday (yesterday) morning and end on Monday. We planned to exit at the Port Saint Lucie Inlet, just off where we live, and head up the coast (via the ocean) to Fort Pierce, where we would re-enter the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) which is like a long river protected by a series of narrow, low-lying islands. At Fort Pierce we would anchor for the night, and continue via the ICW up to Vero Beach the next day. On Saturday we planned to explore that area, do some snorkeling, etc., and then on Sunday make our way back home – again, first via the ICW and then on the ocean from Fort Pierce to the Port Saint Lucia Inlet.

I’m writing this now, on Friday morning, from my own bed. While I think it is the owners who should be shaking down the boat, it would be fair to say that the boat shook us.

To be continued…

Just before the shark-sighting.

Just before the shark-sighting.