Saturday, August 3, 2013

The Shakedown

My year of medical school in Asheville, NC has ended and I am now a 4th year student! With the second step of my boards exam behind me I was able to schedule in two weeks of vacation time to help Adam with boat preparation.  It has been a long time since I was in Seattle.  Adam has been living on Moments since April, but I haven't seen our new home since the survey in March.  Much has been done since then to get us ready for departure.  Credit is due to Adam's amazing handy-man skills and determination to make it happen.  As well as the help of many of our friends.  Part of the necessary preparation is to take the boat on a shakedown sail so we can test her, strain her and break stuff before we are out in an ocean.  It turns out that we also needed to test ourselves both with handling a bigger boat than we had ever sailed together and with communicating effectively but not offensively with one another.

After a few days of boat work, Adam and I set out for 4-day cruise in what may have been the most spectacular weather Seattle has ever seen.  Our trip was: Seattle--Port Townsend--Sequim Bay--Port Hadlock--Seattle.  Overall it was a wonderful trip.  We were able to break out our new fishing equipment (a big shout-out to Adam's parents for this thoughtful gift), however it was a good thing that we brought our own food.  Sequim Bay was probably one of the most beautiful places I have ever been.  We were anchored right next to the John Wayne Marina and visited by both muskrats and seals during our stay under an amazingly brilliant full moon.

Sequim Bay was our first attempt at anchoring together or using the windlass on Moments.  For the non-sailing folk out there, a windlass is a motor at the front of the boat which helps to let out and bring in the anchor.  They are notoriously finicky.  We had been warned that anchoring is often the most stressful activity a cruising couple will go through. Although we knew better than to completely doubt our experienced friends, we did not understand exactly what they were talking about until Sequim Bay.

If anything, a successful long distance relationship improves your communication skills. The problem with anchoring on a large sailboat is a problem of physics.  One crew member has to be at the front of the boat to watch the anchor chain and guide the rode (fancy sailor term for anchor chain/rope) as it is let out or brought in, and the other crew member is in the cockpit steering the boat and, on Moments, lifting or lowering the anchor with the solitary windlass control switch.  The engine, which needs to be on while anchoring, is a large diesel beast that literally vibrates the whole boat and obliterates any attempts of verbal communication between the two crew members.  In a sailboat, the anchor chain cannot go under the boat because it can become wrapped on the keel.  This situation makes for a comedy of gigantic proportions.  We had been advised to communicate using a set of hand signals and were all ready to leave Sequim Bay after a sleepless night hoping our anchor would hold.  I was on the bow trying to communicate the direction the boat needed to travel to lift the rode perpendicularly out of the water, signaling to Adam using the anchoring sign language we had discussed and many exaggerated arm waving patterns I made up on the spot in an attempt to communicate situations we had not anticipated. To the residents clamming on shore I must have looked like an uncoordinated Zumba participant as I scuttled and waived and jumped and hollered.  In the end we couldn't actually get the windlass to work and Adam had to use brute strength to pull in our anchor.  Not an easy task, especially on very little sleep.  However, after reading the windlass instructions and making a few adjustments during our sail, anchoring and getting underway the next day went seamlessly.  I would like to say we are getting better, but I wont go that far yet.

The shakedown ended, as any shakedown should, with a night sail into Seattle where the throttle went out and the transmission was stuck in reverse while we were drifting into a major shipping lane.  However, with some quick thinking and good teamwork we were able to get home and land so seamlessly we didn't even wake up Adam's neighbor.