49 hours and a 390 mile, shake down for the “new” Pandora.

It’s Tuesday afternoon and we are motor-sailing past Oriental NC on our way north to Norfolk VA where we plan on jumping outside again for the final run to the CT River and home. 

We decided to continue on the inside instead of waiting in Beaufort as it will allow us to avoid running around Cape Hatteras and also puts us further north instead of sitting for half a week on the HOPE that the wind will shift to a favorable direction as forecast.  And, as the wind will be from the north for the next few days, before turning back to the SW , it’s quite possible that we’d hit nasty conditions off of Cape Hatteras, favorable winds or not, and all that after waiting for a half week to find out if we’d made a good decision or not.

So, we just decided to keep moving and get ourselves another 100 miles north while we can and hope that the wind shifts as planned.  One way or the other, we want to keep moving and perhaps be back in CT a day or more sooner than might have been the case if we waited for the wind to shift in Beaufort.   I guess I have made my “wordy” point on that by now.  Hope so.

I guess we won’t know if it’s the right decision for a few more days so we’ll see.

Anyway, when we left on Sunday morning from St Augustine on our 400 mile “shake down cruise” to Beaufort, we did so on a boat that I had never even had the sails up on, even once.   I worked out fine but I was nervous, I’ll admit.

We were greeted by a nice sunrise in St Augustine which seemed like a good omen.  I decided to ignore the sailor’s adage of “red sky in the morning, sailors take warning”.   Also, to head out over 100 miles from land, right off of the bat, on a boat that I had never sailed, not even once…  The green line is our actual course, which followed the Gulf Stream, for maximum favorable current.   The black line is the point to point run.  I’ll admit that it made me a bit nervous to head that farm from land with a boat I did not know.  What does that say about my crew?  Hmm…  I did have more than a week living aboard.  Not convinced we were ready?  Me neither. But, it all worked out.  We practiced putting a reef in the main before we needed to if that’s any consolation.   

Good thing we practiced as we had PLENTY of wind in the Gulf Stream and put in and shook out both reef one and two multiple times.   I probably could have had up more sail but I was in the mood to be conservative.  Besides, we made the run half a day faster than I expected, cautious or not.  Fast boat. 

In consultation with Chris Parker, the weather router, we opted to head further offshore and catch the Gulf Stream even though it added perhaps 20 to 30 miles to our trip as we felt that getting the 2-4 knot lift from the current in the stream would ultimately make for a faster run.  However, in exchange for that, we “enjoyed” a pretty bumpy trip along the way.  On the bright side, my meal prep was not as complex as my two crew members lost their appetite.  Worked for me.

However that wasn’t until the second night when the wind piped up to around 25kts so we were able to make a nice meal out of the tuna we caught on day one.   Here’s Jim with the catch of the day.Overall, the run was very good even though it was quite hot and stuffy aboard with everything buttoned up against the spray that we were kicking up in the rough conditions.  Nothing major broke but it’s clear to me that this is a very powerful boat with lots of moving parts and it’s going to take a while to get used to her and all her gear.

Today, in the calm waters of the Neuse River near Oriental, we tried out the code “0”, a huge sail that’s more like a spinnaker than a genoa.  It’s on it’s own roller furling system so it’s “easy” to deploy and retrieve.   We were sailing down wind on a broad reach with wind that built to 15kts apparent.  This doesn’t sound like all that much wind but keep in mind that the boat was going over 9kts, down wind.

That means you have to add the speed of the wind we felt to the speed of the boat which meant that we ended up with wind behind us that was approaching 25kts.  The sheets that control the sail are quite small in diameter and sing like a guitar string when pulled tight.  Let me tell you, they were singing.  What a sail.   Quick, take it down… I was plenty nervous about how much the wind was gusting.   But before I doused it, I took a picture of our speed, over the ground, of over 9kts.   And, there was no current so that was our actual speed, according to the GPS.  The water driven log needs some calibration so the GPS was more accurate.  That’s screaming.  What a powerful sail and boat. Enough excitement for one day though.

So, our plan is to make the run from Beaufort NC to Norfolk by Friday so we can jump out as the wind fills in from the SW north of Cape Hatteras.  Tonight we’ll pick a spot on the ICW to anchor and head out first thing tomorrow for Elizabeth City, one of my favorite stops on the ICW.

I am looking forward to a good night’s sleep and a shower.

So, all and all, a “shakedown” cruise of nearly 400 miles turned out fine.  No major issues (that I’ll admit to in writing) except one little one with a head pump that seems to be leaking.  As my friend Christopher says “The more complex a boat is the more that can break.”  If that’s true, than I am going to be doing a lot of fixin.

I guess we’ll see about that.   So far, so good…

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