Thursday, 21 May 2009

By Land and By Sea

With Iris sitting nicely on her trailer, she was ready for transport to the commercial marina where we traditionally launch her. If I made it to the launch crane I would consider my little boat loading project a success. There were considerations though that related to our choice of tow vehicle, the capabilities of the trailer, the grades on the route, and a million other things. As I rounded up gear and loaded the van on Tuesday night, our neighbour came over and admired my work. "Its amazing" he said, followed by "Poor little van."

With Iris loaded and the plan for launch day revised and revisited a dozen times, I was finally ale to get to bed. It was a little after midnight, and I was planning on a very early morning.

The alarm sounded at 4:00AM. I wanted to be on the road by 4:30. It isn't a long trek from our house to the marina (about 11km) but I wanted to go when there was the very least traffic on the road both for my own safety and for the safety of others. I was concerned with how things would go.

Right when I started pulling, it was obvious that the van was being pushed too hard. It didn't want to move and when it did, it felt like it was dragging a cruise ship, not a little sailboat. An Astro van is definitely NOT up to the task of pulling a boat this size.

Here are the reasons:
  1. Braking - the braking power on the van was inadequate. I would roll to a stop, but sudden braking was definitely a non-option.
  2. Windage aloft - I'm not sure of the towing term for this, so the nautical one will have to do. Things mostly were OK with the wind, but when a tractor-trailer passed, it was a bad scene. You could feel things moving in every direction.
  3. Hobby-Horsing - The boat may have been too far forward on the trailer, or the trailer suspension not up to the task, but whenever we went over a good bump, we'd kick and buck pretty violently.
  4. Horsepower - The route was along a number of 80 km/h roads, but the best the van could manage was around 55 km/h. going up one hill we dropped to 20 km/h and I was afraid we wouldn't reach the crest.
  5. Tow rating - The van is rated to 5500 lbs, and I had been told that this was an understatement, that these vans could pull much more. Brochure weight for our boat is 4500 lbs. add the trailer and gear, and 7,000 lbs becomes a much more reasonable number. I'm glad the police weren't watching my route. If these van's can pull a great deal more than their tow rating, I must be doing something wrong because I am very uncomfortable with the idea of using the van to tow the boat again.

We did make it to the marina without incident, and then I sat in the parking lot waiting for the gates to open. While I waited I went over my to-do list for getting the boat to our club and considered what I could do while sitting there. Not much came to mind so I went to have breakfast at a diner across the road.

Around 7:00 the maintenance folks came around and let me into the marina, then at 7:30 SWMBO arrived with a mittful of parts I had asked her to bring over. She gave me a ride back to the house and I got the Volvo for any running around that had to be done.

When I got back to the marina, I started a conversation with the crane operator. He had 2 big powerboats lined up ahead of me for launch. I should expect to get splashed around 11:00. Ok I said, and went to unhook the tow straps that were holding Iris to the trailer.

"How long will you need to have her ready to splash?" the crane operator asked? "I mean she's such a small thing, I might could get her in right now if you can move your van and stuff out of here."

"I'm ready as soon as these straps are off."

Iris was in the water by 9:00. I went and parked the van and negotiated myself a 4 hour borrow of a slip in the "Executive Pool." Just as I motored over to the slip, FIL appeared to lend a hand with the rigging. Everything was going on schedule.

I quickly fitted the masthead instruments, and then started working on the standing rigging. Then challenges came up. The cotter pins that hold the spreaders in place were nowhere to be found. I was short a few split rings. The details were nibbling away at the goal.

FIL and I shuttled the van back to the house, and after some rummaging, I found a bag of spare parts. We took them to the marina and found that though we now had the right cotter pins, they were mangled so that they wouldn't fit the holes they needed to go in. While I continued to wrestle with the bent pins, FIL went to Home Hardware and got new pins. These are mild steel and will have to be replaced with stainless, but at least we were able to complete the rigging.

With all the split rings and cotter pins in place, we raised the mast. Once again it was a brute force effort, and FIL pointed out that I won't be able to do that once I'm 70. He's probably right. There are 2 solutions I can see to that. Buy a bigger boat with a crane-raised, keel stepped mast, or built a proper A-frame to raise the mast with. Now that the mast was up, and the stays properly tensioned it was time to go for a car ride.

Our second car shuttle took the Volvo to SGA - our home sailing club, and got provisions for the journey by sea. Then we drove back to Iris, attached a boom to the mast, bent on the sails, and headed out to sea.

According to the marine forecast, we had wind in the 10-15 kts range. I think they were about right. It was a perfect sail. The wind was on our aft quarter most of the way across the lake, the sun kept shining all day, and one frosty beverage was about right for the trip. Just as we arrived at SGA, the winds picked up a little stronger and 2 other sailboats came out of the marina, as though to welcome us home.

We had to take 2 passes at it to get into our slip since a strong crosswind blew us off course the first time, but once we were in, we packed up our toys, put a cover on the sail, and headed back home.

Looks like the sailing season has finally found us!

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