Our sailboat has spent many years, first sitting next to the garage in Ledyard, and then (mostly) inside our garage here in Preston. I got the sailboat before William was born, so it has been sitting around for over 10 years. Getting the boat in the water has been one of those great ideas. But for so many years, it has been just a dream. I loved thinking about sailing. I even loved working on the boat, but after a while, it would get old, and I would lose momentum on fixing it up.
Something always came in the way. First it was kids – it is a crazy change in how much free time disappears after kids (but it is well worth it). And then a second kid. It sat through a move, a divorce and my own ADHD. And pieces and parts that I had taken off wandered away, lost in all the transitions, and the trailer rusted away under it.
I wanted to get it in the water last summer. But of course summer got in the way. There is always lots to do in the summer. And I’m not good at finishing things. Certainly not good at finishing things when there are lots of distractions (like in the summer). But I was able to get the trailer fixed last year.
So, this year I decided to pick a date to put the boat in the water. The boat didn’t have to be perfect. It had to float. Enough of the hardware had to be reinstalled or replaced to get it sailing. The trailer had to make the 10 mile trip to the launch and back.
My goal was to get it in the water on the 17th of April if the weather supported it. And, yesterday, I made that goal. We launched the boat near the head of the Thames river in Groton, CT. The boat launch is directly under the I-95 bridge over the river. We then motored under the railroad bridge (with a couple foot clearance for the mast) and put up the jib and sailed out towards Pine Island.
The weather was perfect for a first sail. The wind was very light – perfect for a first try. We didn’t have anywhere in particular to go, so we could just slowly move along. It is also very early in the season, so there was almost no traffic on the river (a couple of passing ferries, and an outbound submarine with coast guard escort).
After reaching Pine Island we headed for Ledge Light and then back up the river. The wind was heading directly downriver and was light. I had a lot of trouble trying to get the boat to move upwind at all – something I’ll have to work on. Eventually we gave up and started the outboard and motored the rest of the way in.
The light wind and bright sun made the ride warm and enjoyable. I had been worried that everyone would freeze on a mid-April outing.
Of course, a couple of things learned from the day out:
- Stepping, launching, retrieving and unstepping the mast is a lot of work. I think we will try to find a place to keep the boat in the water for a month or two this summer.
- The mainsail is in pretty rough shape. I’ll need to replace it before next season, but I want to figure out how to best use the headsails this year, so I won’t worry too much about the main.
- We need a long dock line for launching the boat. The 20′ dock lines are a bit too short.
- The cabin needs to be better organized. That is Susanna’s job.
- A couple more cleats would make life easier topside.
- I’ll need a way of telling how fast we are going if I am to ever figure out how best use the sails.
- Before we go to sea again, I’ll reinstall the life lines. Not a big problem on a day like yesterday, but it will make everyone more comfortable going forward.
- We need a curtain to give some privacy to the porta-toilet.