Shake it Down

The boat was ready, my crew member had arrived, and the sun was shining. I was ready to go for a sail!

We were off to a late start, and our departure was a bit reckless. The wind was blowing a good 16 knots with gusts of 20, and we were handling a boat we had little to no experience on. I have ample experience on my Hunter 30 in San Francisco bay, but like people, boats are all different. This day sail was the equivalent to a blind date.

Getting used to little things, like cleating off your mainsheet as opposed to letting the self-tailing thingamajigger do the work for you (like on my Hunter 30), was time consuming. But I guess thats what a shake down cruise is all about; working out the kinks. When we realized the 120% jib was too much sail area for the weather, we pulled out the 90% to hank on. Panache has a great headsail system that allows you to strike one sail, lash it to the lifelines and raise another sail without un-hanking anything. To our dissatisfaction, almost all the hanks 90% were corroded, making it impossible to use the sail! This was no big deal, but it meant we were not going to change sails until we went back to our slip to loosen up each hank individually.

Honestly though, I was ok with this. The sloshing of the ocean was starting to get to me, and it was only a matter of time before I lost my lunch. I don't consider myself someone who gets bad motion sickness, but it does seem to strike every once and a while.

Now back at the slip, we brought all the sails onto a nice patch of grass and spread them out to examine and measure each one. For some reason spreading sails out is like a sailors bird call. Before Eric and I knew what was going on, a group of people surrounded us, ready with questions and suggestions about our spread. It was great! Eric and I were having a hard time figuring out how one measures sail percentage, so we asked our new group of friends. This started a conflicting discussion that required a ringer to settle the debate. One lady went off to her boat and brought back a guy who looked like he had just woken from a nap. John greeted us with a big smile and provided us with the answer.

100% sail is measured by taking the distance from where you tack your sail on bow of the boat, to the mast. So the 120% jib we were using was 20% beyond the mast if the third point in the triangle was the top of the mast.

Simple enough. We asked John about the shape of the sails, and what necessary work was required to get them in tip top shape. All of John's answerers came in the form of a story. He had sailed all the way to Japan and back, and gained lots of sailing knowledge along the way. He told us to use the sails until they broke, and then fix them. "Get a book on sail repair," he said, "and do it yourself. You will learn something, and its a very marketable skill in the marinas everywhere around the world." John concluded that the sails were in pretty good shape, and would definitely make the trip down to Mexico. Quick and easy things we could fix were the grommets the hanks attached to. Once again, our list of gear and provisions expanded.

We only had a couple more days to prepare and provision before we had to leave the slip in Ventura. We were essentially Tony's guests until he no longer owned the slip on October 4th. Our preliminary plan was to head to Santa Cruz Island, an abalone lover's paradise, then it was on to Catalina Island, and eventually we would head for San Diego. Being strangers to California, both Eric and I wanted to get our fill of all this State has to offer before we cross the southern border.

The second day on the water was much smoother, we took our time getting ready, and the motions to manipulate Panache were starting to become second nature. Everything was going well. We even set the wind vane, aptly named Jesus. Not only does Jesus sail the boat like the sone of God, but apparently Jennifer, a previous crew on Panache, would always curse "Jesus Christ!" every time she would have to operate the wind vein, and Tony decided that would be an appropriate title. It just stuck.

The wind wasn't as intense as yesterday, but once we got eight miles off shore, it really started to blow. The swells were also super close together witch increased the rocking of the boat. This intensified to the point of kicking everything below deck onto the cabin sole. Apparently we had a lot to learn about stowing our gear. We turned around to head back to Ventura and decided to strike the 120% jib and set the 90% jib that we overhauled the day before. Simple enough, right? We learned a valuable lesson; never leave too much slack in your halyards. Our jib halyard got tangled about two thirds of the way up the mast. When we tried to strike the main, that halyard got caught too. No worries, we can motor back to the dock, and fix it then. But our motor wasn't starting either.


I rushed into the cabin to see how much voltage the battery bank was reading. 12.8 volts, more than enough to start the Yanmar diesel engine. I tried to start the engine again, but no luck. I check the isolator switch, and set it to pull energy from all four batteries at once. No luck. Ok, so this is not an energy problem, its something mechanical with the engine. Meanwhile, panache was really starting to rock back and fourth. When you have sails up, it dampens a lot, if not all, of the rocking motion because you have so much forward momentum, but we were a sitting duck. I try the engine once more time, and agin no luck. A light bulb went off in my head and I realize our fishing line was no longer behind our boat. I tried to pull the line in, but it was sucked under the boat.

I inform Eric while leaping down into the cabin, carefully stepping over all the crap that was tossed onto the floor. In the blink of an eye, my clothes were off and my wetsuit was on. With a knife clinched between my teeth I threw a bow line behind the boat, and hop into the ocean. You need to know that I am afraid of lots of ridiculous things including, but not limited to, Zombies. These ridiculous fears include sharks. I guess I watched Jaws one to many times as a kid. Despite my fear, I knew it had to be done. After all, we were drifting towards the shore. Moments after the shock of hitting cold water faded, I submerged myself and carefully swam under Panache, who was rocking like a big fat baby. A boat this size can easily knock you out if it rocks into you, so I was being extra careful. Sure enough, our fishing line was tangled in the prop. I untangle it, Eric pulled me back into the boat, and we start the engine.

It was a long motor back to our slip. I was a little rocked from the dive, and we had a big mess below waiting for us.

The next morning we were sluggish. Its surprising how many muscles you use while keeping yourself standing on a rocking boat. Despite our condition, we finished provisioning, and I finally received my camera lens I had mailed to Tony! You were probably wondering why I have not posted any pictures, well thats why, I didn't have a lens.

A storm is passing over Ventura right now, so we are going to wait until tomorrow morning before I head off to Santa Cruz Island. Next post expect some pictures 🙂
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5 Responses to Shake it Down

  1. Scruffy says:

    It’s rare… But every once in a great while, you get to see someone as they truly are. You maybe knew them from work or school, but you never knew them. Just a glimmer or a brief flash of a smile.

    Zach, thank you for sharing so much with us. I am glued to my seat and can’t wait to see how your story unfolds. Not just this chapter, but all the rest.

    Safe journey.

  2. Finally a person that puts some real work into a blog. I do like what you have done with the blog.

  3. obviously like your web-site however you need to take a look at the spelling on several of your posts. A number of them are rife with spelling problems and I in finding it very bothersome to tell the truth then again I’ll certainly come back again.

    • ZSOL says:

      If I knew how to spell, I wouldn’t make the mistake. Sorry, but you will just have to bite your toung until I can hire an editor. Glad you like the posts even with my terrible grammar/spelling, and I will do my best to not look like a complete moron publicly.

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