Posted by: wrmcnutt | November 23, 2009

Ship’s Log: September Blue – First Voyage in Tennessee Waters

At long last, and finally, I took my first abbreviated voyage on September Blue. For the uninitiated, I have bought a sailboat. I visited Richmond Virginia last weekend to pick her up and bring her home. (UPDATE: the pickup date for September Blue was Saturday, November 14.  I wasted an entire week sitting at a desk doing “work” and my “job.”  The first voyage was the night of November 20.) Despite getting up at the crack of dawn, and blasting down the highway as fast as remotely safely possible with a 23 foot long trailer, I was unable to take her out last Sunday. By the time I got her rigged and off the trailer, the sun had set, and her dead batteries wouldn’t support the night running lights. So we had to pack her in the dark, and despite my best hopes, I was unable to get her into the water tonight.

This afternoon I took two hours off, and left work at 3:00. My friend F also got loose, and we met as his place, where September Blue is enjoying a temporary trailer berth. That was at 4:00 PM. We were at the boat ramp at 5:00, and had the boat rigged by 6:15. Unfortunately, sunset was at 5:30. This time, however, the batteries were charged. Turn a dial, flip three switches, and the running lights, mast light, and depth finder are good to go, and we shoved off from the dock.

The lake was like glass. Only the lightest puffs of air were moving. The thermometer read 58 degrees. Our breath rose in small clouds. We killed the outboard, lifted it clear of the water, and raised sail. We spent the first 15 minutes just under the main, as I tried to get a feel for the boat. She was very responsive, given that there was no wind to speak of. The speedometer didn’t register our motion, but the GPS I brought from the car did.

The GPS was a Garmin, designed and programmed for terrestrial navigation, not nautical. As far as the Garmin was concerned, the lake was a featureless blue blob. But since I was trying to navigate at night, on a lake I didn’t know, on a boat I was unfamiliar with, I brought the Garmin, with the idea that if I kept the little car icon in the middle of the lake, I wouldn’t run into anything important. Between the depth gauge (Lake Loudon is 45′ deep in the middle) and the Garmin (the car Icon looked really silly in the middle of the lake) I managed to sail for about two hours. I eventually flew the foresail as well as the main, and we experimented a little bit with the full rig, but frankly, there just wasn’t enough wind to fill it. We ghosted out into the middle of the lake, up to where the Tennessee River enters the lake. The buoy there is not lit; it’s just a dark mass the rears up out of the water with no warning. Fortunately, we carried a big flashlight with us. The channel markers flash a green reflector. It was still startling.

I wonder if I’m even allowed to sail at night. I should probably look that up. We were missing some critical gear. Oh, the lights worked, and we had adequate life jackets. We did not have a heaving line, though. Should we have had a man overboard, his life jacket and a recovery operation would have had to do. Small chance of getting lost in the “surf,” at least. Also, the water temperature was about 56 degrees. Getting wet would have been no joke. I need a console mount for my Garmin. And, frankly, a flask of single malt was in order, given the weather. I don’t hold to getting loaded and piloting a boat, mind you, but a wee nip to warm the blood would have done a lot to enhance the experience.

After the first fifteen minutes, we ran out the foresail. The guy who invented roller furling was a genius, and I hope he’s rich. It was truly amazing.  Yank on a rope, foresail is deployed.  Yank on another rope, foresail is not only out of service, but packed in a UV-proof cover.  If only it could work that way for the main.  Anyway, it was amazing to be out under the stars, ghosting along on that mirror-smooth lake. I could never have gotten Dad’s Boat to move in that air.  Just not enough sail area.

I really like my new boat.  There’s just one problem:  I paid through the nose so that I wouldn’t end up buying a “project boat.” I wanted a boat I could sail, not a boat I could work on.  I have enough projects. There’s a thought for a blog post: compose a project list. But I digress.  September Blue is exactly as she was advertised, and, allowing for the need to replace the batteries (which I was warned about), rig the galley, which the previous owner had never used, rig the head, which has also never been used, she needs no work.  But there are so many cool things I could do.

The galley storage sucks. I don’t know what her designers were thinking.  There’s  a HUGE area, mostly below the waterline, that’s got no shelves, no drawers, and, near as I can tell, is supposed to be accessed via a TINY door.  Same for the sink area on the other side, although that’s complicated by the presence of the water bladder.  I want to add a dedicated boat GPS so that I can know a little bit about the bottom of the lake I’m sailing across, instead of trying to keep a little car in the middle of the river.  Here in East Tennessee, I want specialized sails for light air sailing . . .

Help me!

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  1. As the only previous owner of September Blue, we are so glad you are so in love with her. We love her too and still can’t believe we sold her! However, she is a boat that needs to be sailed and we are glad she found a home that will give her the attention she desires!

    • Deb – thanks for checking in. David just about broke my heart when he popped up across the edge of the yacht club next to the highway to wave good-bye. I haven’t bought a boat. I’ve married a daughter. She’ll never be cold and she’ll never be hungry – upon the honor of my house and by the love I bear my lady. I’m taking my wife out this coming Sunday. Of course, I’M going out Friday. (Herself is going shopping.)


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