We targeted 12-15 April as our shakedown cruise window. Four solid days of getting out in the boat and putting all the systems through their paces while replicating a schedule that we would expect on the Great Loop. Then we can see what works, what doesn’t, and have a couple of weeks to adjust in case there is something catastrophically wrong. Four days seems like the minimum we want to have to get a good shakedown. This fall right in AJ’s spring break, so perfect—he has the whole week off plus the Monday after. Unfortunately I had already signed up for a marine electronics class on Sat-Tues, so we couldn’t head out earlier than Wednesday, but Jan would load up the boat and we would be ready to go out on Tuesday night after my class. Wednesday at the latest!!
Monday after class, Jan, AJ and I rented a van and loaded up our dinghy and motor and headed to the Marina to get the dinghy on our boat. The original plan was to head out with Kevin, next door neighbor and master of the universe. But Kevin, who has this thing called a ‘real job’ was running late so the three of us headed out to get this thing done! The only thing that saved us was that when we got to the marina, we found a cart made to schlep dinghies around. So while there was a bit of huffing and puffing, mostly it was pretty painless to get the dinghy from the truck to the water and get the motor on the boat. Did some google searches for how to put the engine on the boat, how much oil it took and how to start the darn thing and we were off. What we thought would be the hard part was cake. AJ and I drove it to the boat.
And then tried to pull the dinghy out of the water.
Our boat has these things called davits which Mr. Dictionary tells me is ‘any of various cranelike devices used singly or in pairs for supporting, raising and lowering especially boats, and cargo over a hatchway or side of a ship.’ Origin for those of you who care is Old French from ‘David.’ Which makes sense. My brother’s name is David, he was a pain in the a$$ when we were kids, and it turns out our davits were also a pain. In our minds we would lower a couple of ropes with some clips, put the clips on the dinghy (Magically apparently) and we would pull up the boat and head home for dinner. Reality was that we had to find lifting points on a glorified (heavy) rubber boat with a 100 pound outboard on the back, design a lifting harness on the fly, relearn how to tie knots to hold all this together and then hoist the *&@#$ thing out of the water. Without hitting the engine against our boat. Or our rudder bar. And without dropping said boat/motor combo into the water. This engineering problem was not a quick task. Consequently it got dark. And cold. And windy. And as the temperature plummeted and our bellies got emptier, tempers flared a bit. Perhaps. But we got the dinghy and motor up out of the water, went home and made a big old batch of nachos for a late, late dinner.
Tuesday was a busy day for Jan. We had a radon dude at the house early in the morning to conduct a walk through and give us the estimate for how much it would cost to mitigate the radon so we could sell the house. Or put another way, what the vig was going to be move out of the house! Then she had to take AJ to the ortho to get his appliance checked out—the dentist who works next door had a concern. AJ got some wire snipped and sent home and that would come back to bite us later.
After I finished class and we picked up AJ and Cody (AJ’s friend) and headed down to the boat to better secure the dinghy for the trip. While we were there, we had a bit of an incident which will be covered in a different post called lessons learned, but the bottom line was that we didn’t get much done on the boat, though we did have a lovely dinner with Jen Mish who got to come out and rescue us.
Wednesday dawned bright and not so early. Jan and I headed out for some last minute shopping. Easter would happen on the boat and we needed supplies for that as well as a run to home depot for projects that we were going to accomplish on the boat. That quick trip took us almost four hours. Home at 2pm and we load up not one but two cars full of crap and head to the boat. Which translated into six cars to the boat.
Emptied garage into cars
And two more carts.
We thought that we had almost everything loaded on the boat. We were wrong. So we stashed everything away and then realized that even though we had two cars worth of stuff, we had left things at home. So Jan turned around and went BACK home for another load while AJ and I installed the TV and made dinner (spaghetti with marinara sauce and meat balls). AJ said his mouth hurt a bit and he couldn’t eat. Weird.
Thursday the plan was to head out! But we had found in the night we had forgotten more stuff, so I took off early, went home and picked up the stuff. Then back to the boat. AJ was miserable—his mouth was bleeding from the work they had done on the appliance and he was in pain so we called the ortho dude and got him a 1245 appointment. Back in Crofton. Which meant no cruising today! So we adapted and adjusted which is probably a good lesson for the loop. So Jan and AJ headed back where Dr. Martin shaved down a bit of metal, made some adjustments and pronounced him good to go. I installed our new Rocna anchor on the windlass and managed not to drop either anchor (or tools) in the water. Got the Apple TV working and connected to the boat internet with “The Voice” waiting for Jan when she got back with AJ. Replaced bulb in stern light and it is working again. When Jan returned, she went up the mast to install a line for our courtesy flag and to troubleshoot an electrical problem with our mast light. Then we made tacos and sat down to watch some netflix streaming to our boat.
Friday, finally, would be the day we leave. The winds were forecast to be light from the east for Friday switching to a bit stronger from the South on Saturday. So we decide to fight the light winds to St. Michaels for the night instead of heading to Annapolis and having to fight the southerly wind on the way home. We get up at the crack of 0830, get a cup of coffee and are out in the water by 0950. The engines are still in their break in phase so can’t open them up and our speed is something around four knots when we put up a sail to help the motors. The water is pretty flat and the sun comes out by noon and it is a spectacular day. AJ makes it his mission to use up the entire wifi hot spot bandwidth allocation (4Gigs) in one trip and gets busy. We arrive at St. Michaels 4ish and putter around looking for the perfect anchoring spot. And we can putter all we want; we are the only transient boat in the entire place! We eventually drop the hook in Parrot Bay at 15:55. We deploy our new anchor and harness and both work like a champ.
Cartelized onion, gruyere cheese and sour cream pizza!!
Painful to listen to dad’s jokes
Then we lower the dinghy and head into shore. The town dinghy dock is free and we owned it—there was no one else there. Out and we wander down to Ava’s for some pizza and then to a store for ice cream and eventually make our way back to the boat and are on board by 7pm. While preparing for bed, the hook that holds the bathroom door open got pulled out of the door and was no longer functional. We add it to the ever growing list of things to be fixed by the time we leave.
0955: Depart Herrington Harbor North
1555: Arrive St Michaels
Total Time: 6:03
Average 4.1 Knots
Motored or motor sailed the entire way. Each engine has a whopping 9.3 hours on them. Almost halfway to the 20 hour service!!!
Lucky enjoys the scenery at St. Micaels
Saturday, 4/15/17: The day we put SHAKE in the shakedown cruise.
We are now 17 days out from leaving. And we learned two critical things right off to bat this morning. First is that the bladder capacity for Lucky is 14 hours. And second that the cat will crap anywhere if his litter box is not available.
The plan for the day was to get up, get dressed and head right away into town so Lucky and I could go run (and Lucky could pee) and Jan could go get coffee. AJ would get to choose which activity. We awake at 0815ish as planned. But our schedule was delayed when I discovered a surprise.
I need to backup a bit. The previous night, the latch that holds the bathroom door open broke, so the door to the bathroom, which includes the kitty litter box, was closed. Which for those of us with prehensile thumbs is not an issue. Door closes, we turn the handle an head on in. But if you are a geriatric feline with a poor attitude, a weak bladder and horrid eyesight, this is a problem. Sid has to go to the bathroom someplace, and ‘someplace’ was on my PJs at the side of the bed. Which I found it by stepping in it when I got up. In his defense, he was quite loud and insistent at 4am that we should help him, but we chalked it up to his normal caterwauling. We were wrong. So cleanup operations commenced. Which took longer than expected. And our first lesson for the day was fix problems immediately. The second thing we learned is that Lucky has a 14 hour bladder. Which is why when I looked up from cleaning the kitty waste, I saw Lucky emptying his bladder on the clean deck. All of this before coffee.
So we head into shore to walk the dog, run, get coffee and score a cinnamon roll for AJ at a local farmer’s market. Then back to the boat. We get underway at 10:18. Wind is forecasted to be from the South at 10-12 Knots with some stronger gusts. Our first four miles is under motor; the wind is negligable. Then we make the turn to ESE and are heading for home. The wind picks up. First a nice 10-12 knot wind. Then it continues to build as do the waves. And the number of boats has exploded. Very few sail boats, but TONS of fishermen. Turns out today was the first day of rockfish season. By the time we get back to HHN, we are in steady 19 knot winds and the waves, forecasted for one foot in height, are a bit larger to our untrained eyes, and are thumping our undersides. Our boat is rocking and rolling!! Our Dinghy which we lashed to every available cleat made it through. We certainly gave all our systems (including ourselves) a shaking on the shake down. Everything looked good, though we did have water in the port side bilge and the bilge pump, while operating, did not get the water out of the boat. Will check the hose to look for clog tomorrow.
Back at the harbor we showered, decorated easter eggs and went out to dinner to celebrate our successful day.
1015: Depart St. Michaels
1526: Arrive Herrington Harbor North
Total Time: 5:07
Distance 25.2 NM
Average 4.9 Knots
Took an hour less time even with longer distance because of the winds. Made 6-8 knots while under sail. Passed TWO sailboats, one motoring and one under sail! Who says it ain’t racing!
Wifi on boat. We have a wifi router installed on the boat and a verizon hot spot card on the router. So we get a wifi network on the boat which allows us to use Apple TV, share data across devices and other sexy wifi stuff. AND we are able to get internet access while underway using verizon air card. And when we are in a place with wifi (like the marinas), we switch from the hotspot to using the marina’s network as a WAN. All worked like a champ, but we probably need to look at the amount of data on the verizon based on AJ’s youtube usage while under way.
Sidney the wonder cat: Adjusted seamlessly to the water. Which probably isn’t hard for something whose daily work load is 23 hours of sleeping, 50 minutes of eating and 10 minutes of going to the bathroom (on my pajamas).
Headsets. Leaving dock, anchoring, sails up, everything is much easier with clear communications. Turns out that I can’t whistle while wearing the headset (it blows out everyones ear drums), AJ has to talk quietly (his normal voice comes across at a shrill 130 Decibals) and we can hear everyone of Jan’s curse words (even though she swears she doesn’t use profanities).
New chart plotter. Upgrading technology from 2010 to 2017 was winner. Maps actually load in seconds, not minutes; I can use touch screen to plot a route and then send it to the auto pilot atomically; Automatic Identification System (AIS) information is displayed on the chart plotter so we can all see equipped ships, their bearing and most importantly their closest point of approach (CPA) and time to the CPA (TCPA). Why does this matter? Saturday was a great example. We had sails up and were smoking along at 7-8 knots when we saw a very, very, very large ship making its way from Baltimore south to the Atlantic. We looked at its AIS information, found out it was moving at 10 knots and the CPA was .4 miles in 10 minutes. And trending down. Which was not in our comfort zone. So we tacked in a circle and the CPA was up to .8 miles and we could see it would pass harmlessly in front of us.
New poo hoses. Installed at the end of last year, our new hoses got their first work out this trip. The old ones were busted—they smelled badly. The only smell we have from the bathroom now is the cat litter box.
The boat! Lots of room in the catamaran compared to our Beneteau. And it smoked across the water when the wind was up.
Dinghy davit lifting system: Davits work, but the lifting system was not designed for a heavy dinghy and motor. Have rigged up a bit better system, but it needs work.
Cat litter box in the shower. Easy to clean, sure. But no way we are going to be able to use the shower with that thing in the bathroom. Looks like the guest bedroom is the new home for the kitty litter box. Lucky guests!!
We are the Donnelly family, taking a year away from work and heading around the Great Loop in 2017-2018. We are on our PDQ36 sailing catamaran named "Serenity," which is a reference to the space ship, not 'peace of mind!' We are accompanied by our Dog, Lucky and maybe by our Cat Sid. Though we are holding out to see if Sid, who is 17 years old, makes it to our departure in May.