Launch


Progress Report - Aug. 2001

Upon receiving my sail, I rushed home and set the rig up horizontally in the backyard. After sliding on the sail I made a number of measurements for the reefing lines, outhaul, and cunningham. And as I expected, the boom was a bit too long. A lot better than being too short, though. So I cut about 4" off the aft end.

After another few trips to the store and a couple more evenings doing a odd jobs, the Great Event approacheth.

If you do any research on launching ceremonies, you get a multitude of different ideas. Many cases follow a set pattern. The builder launches the boat (with or without ceremony). Then after performing sea-trials, the builder legally turns the boat over to the owner. The new owner then performs a christening/launching/commissioning ceremony whereby the vessel gains a name, a spirit, and an official skipper.

I decided to follow the same procedure. As the builder, I would launch the boat and perform sea-trials the weekend before the Big Ceremony. That way I would have a chance to put the boat through its paces, become more comfortable with its performance characteristics, and still have a week to fix anything that broke. During the Big Ceremony, the builder (Me) will officially turn over the keys to the new owner (Me), designate the name, the spirit, and the new skipper (Me). Complete with bubbly over the bow (and into Me).

Okay, it's a plan.

Sea Trials

In a break between rain showers, I towed the boat to the designated launching area and assembled the rig with the help of an eager friend and my bride. Backing the boat into the water, it came off easily into the water. Due to the inclement weather not many were using the boat launch, which was good since I needed a bit more room to get the sail up and everything squared away. The area around the ramp is pretty shallow, so I wasn't able to lower the centerboard or the rudder all the way until we were a good distance out. Even with appendanges retracted I was surprised at how little leeway we were making. Once the 5 kn breeze carried us into deeper water, it was time for the sea trials to begin in earnest.

The rudder was really easy to drop and hold in position. The centerboard was not so easy. If there was any side pressure against it, it would not move. Luffing up helped drop it down most of the way. We then eased into a close-reaching starboard tack. The first thing I noticed was the lack of pressure on the helm. After a short period I just let go. My friend and I looked at each other with wide eyes as the boat just tracked along by itself. Eventually a stronger puff arrived with a slight wind direction change and the boat just readjusted course itself and kept going. Our reaction was the same: "What an amazing boat!"

More tests were done. Slow speed manueverability, sailing all angles to the wind, tacking, gybing, intentional knockdowns. This last bit was done by luffing until almost stopped, pulling the main all the way in and turning 90 degrees to the wind. It heeled to 45 degrees and just stopped. Just a bit of the leeward rail was in the water at this point. More wind would be needed to get it to go any further. Knocking it over on starboard tack would cause the off-centerboard to ventilate at about 40 degrees of heel. Good to know. We took in both reefs to test out that gear. No problems. My thanks to Tim for the Seaward Fox site where he added a halyard winch. I used mine frequently and was very happy to have it. The rest of the running rigging worked perfectly.

I admit that going into the sea trials I was fully prepared for the boat to show some bad behavior. Even in 5 knots of breeze. I was continually amazed that nothing untoward came to pass. The rudder is very well balanced and has a lot of bite, even at slow speeds. Gybing was no fuss. Tacking was really easy (just turn the helm). Acceleration was great. And as I suspected, the boat is initially tender. From my experience in 6 Meters, though, I don't consider tenderness to be a bad trait.

After 2 hours another rain storm approached so we headed back to the ramp. Getting the boat back on the trailer was not a problem, despite not being able to back the trailer all the way down. That tested the bow eye successfully. Two final observations: the boat floated on her lines and never leaked a drop of water.

Things I didn't get to do is test in waves and higher wind conditions. Somehow I think that will come in time. Oh, yeah, and I didn't test the rowing capability. Call it downright laziness.

Several days of downpours revealed another flaw. My cockpit hatches leak like sieves. I will have to redesign that system (Heavy Sigh).

Launch Day

Perfect conditions greated us on August 25. Sunny, winds N-NE at 15 - 18 kn, and warm. A friend took most of the pictures here with his fancy digital camera. Click on the thumbs to see the full picture. Back to the designated launch area at Willoughby Bay we went. My bride set up a great food spread, I set up the boat, guests arrived. Among the entourage was Alleluia, a Norwalk Islands Sharpie 26. It became the press boat.

With the boat properly dressed, I said a few words of thanks, my bride did the sponsor thing of making a small speech and spraying the boat with champagne. We then proceeded with the launching evolution.

The burgee is from the (University of) Washington Yacht Club where I first learned to sail.

Here I'm coaxing the boat off the trailer. Sliding it off and on is remarkably easy.

This picture also shows the intricate spaghetti of control lines around the mast. In total there are main halyard (left side), boom vang with strap, outhaul, cunningham, reef outhaul #1, reef outhaul #2. It all works out without too much binding.

She's floating! These fancy digital pictures most accurately reflect the green color of the deck (your monitor may differ).

A number of people have warned me about the hazards of lazy jacks. I've found mine to be pretty benign. The only time they get caught is during the initial raising and it's no fuss to clear them. Reefing, or taking out reefs, doesn't foul at all.

So I raised the sail, loaded up the first batch of guests, and off we went. Once beyond the shadow of the highway bridge the wind made it's full force felt. I decided pretty quickly that we needed to take in a reef. This picture caught me in the midst of the process.

Even overpowered the boat didn't exhibit any bad behavior. The helm was always pretty tame regardless of gusts, people walking around, or the course. But there is one thing I found in the stronger breeze. Like a Laser and Finn, if you go dead downwind it will rock gunwale to gunwale if you're not careful. Heading up a bit stops the rolling.

Here we are properly trimmed with a single reef and a bone in her teeth. The sailmaker tried to convince me that the reefs I requested were too deep. Since we had plenty of power here in the gusts, I am very glad I stuck to my guns.

As in the sea trial, the short fetch didn't allow much in the way of waves. So the jury is still out on how she does in chop or bigger waves.

Here she is at speed. Please forgive the dragging fenders. Since I was back and forth to the dock to give rides I didn't bother stowing them. I like the photo though.

Again, the oars stayed stowed on the side decks. I take that as a good thing. I'm still a bit curious about how they'll work, but I'm sure that will come in time.

This picture is probably one of the few times we'll be ahead of Alleluia. Although the starboard cockpit drain appears underwater, it is actually right at the water's edge. Despite 4 people in the cockpit, I never got more than a cup of water through the drains. I was surprised since I expected a bit more.

Here's a picture of the aforementioned Alleluia. You can see the family resemblence. This boat was built by a Connecticut boatyard under the watchful eye of the designer. To my knowledge it was the second 26 made. The current owner purchased her several years ago. She remains in the original configuration (and name) since her launch in 1986.

Eventually our party came to a close. A great ending to one chapter and a start on the next. From the first cut to launching took exactly 2 years and 9 months. Total construction labor was 619 hours.

Egia

Pronounced Egg'-ee-ah, this name comes from Norse Mythology. The god and goddess of the sea are Ægir and Ran. Together they had nine giantess daughters, often referred as Wave Maidens. Egia is one of these maidens. Legend has it that when they favored a sailor, they played in the waves around his ship, pushing him forward to his destination. Well, I guess I can always hope.

Now you might think that I'm all misty-eyed over the end of Egia's construction. That I'll miss those evenings in the shop making sawdust or mixing epoxy. Not so. You see, I've already cut the bulkheads for my next boat project. And for those in the back snickering, the next boat will not be bigger. Rather, it is much smaller--a Mixer. But I don't expect to be working on it much before winter sets in. Instead I'll be S-A-I-L-I-N-G!


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