Sea Trials

Guest Post by Willis Eschenbach

Before you take a new boat to sea, you do a “sea trial” to make sure everything is working. Today was the day for the sea trials. It was early afternoon when we went out, so the clear morning had been replaced by stupendous thunderstorm clouds. By about 1PM they were already hard at work cooling the surface …

vuda2vuda 6It was a fun day. I had to go to the top of the mizzen mast (the small mast in the back of the boat) to bring down a halyard (the rope that hoists the sail) and to attach lazy jacks, which are ropes that bundle in the sail when you drop it. It was great fun. (I hope the sailors in the crowd will excuse my defining terms as I go along … most folks aren’t sailors.) Here’s the view from halfway up the mast.

vuda 8

There are five men in the crew, and all of us have at least a thousand sea miles under our keel, some much more. I figure I’ve gone ten thousand miles at sea, and one of the guys has more sea time than that. It’s a pleasure to work with people who know what they are doing. We went out and dropped the anchor, then hauled it back in to make sure it was in good order. After that we cruised around a bit. One of the crew brought his girlfriend from the Solomon Islands …

vuda 7The ship in the picture above is an oil tanker. There’s no fuel dock, so they moor offshore and unload by submarine hose. We came back into Vuda Point Marina in good order. All systems seem to be working.

vuda 3In the late afternoon, I put together my po’ boy ocean thermometer … it’s a regular thermometer given to me by a friend from this blog (many thanks, amigo) that I mounted in a piece of plastic pipe to keep it from breaking. Actually, my friend mailed it to me in the pipe, so today I just modified it to take a line, and I cut a hole to make it readable inside the pipe.

vuda 4vuda 5Eighty-five degrees Fahrenheit in the shade … but the evening was lovely, a beautiful sunset from the bar, the thatched-roof building that you see on the right of the picture above the thermometer … I have no idea who the woman is, but she completed the picture nicely. Fiji, gotta love it.

vuda1Tomorrow, it’s provisioning, and then on Thursday we should set sail, “God willing and the creeks don’t rise” as my Momma used to say …

Best wishes to all, here’s hoping that the creeks don’t rise,


53 thoughts on “Sea Trials

  1. I do hope you plan to keep us posted on your travels. I’m enjoying the spelling and naming differences.
    A much-less accomplished sailor

    • More to come, the voyage is to New Caledonia and then on to Australia …
      Thanks for the encouragement,

      • Picture you provided in an earlier post of stern area seemed to indicate plenty of things to hold onto (and/or lean against), but do us all a favour Willis and, regardless of how calm it is or what time of day it is, don’t forget to clip on if/when doing the old “yellow water overboard” thang. 🙂

      • Jolly, you are not kidding. Several years ago while checking into Bimini in the Bahamas the Customs office gave me two or three copies of a new form to be fill out. It was for reporting any crew members lost at sea on the voyage over. It seems that the previous fall a couple of boats had arrived with one fewer crew than they had left with. Speculation was they had fallen overboard during one of the night watches while not clipped on.

      • Ummm,
        Best practice is to have two lifelines hooked on.
        If you need to move, you unclip one [ONLY one].
        WHEN THAT IS FIRMLY RECLIPPED, THEN – AND ONLY THEN – can you unclip the other.
        CAPs – yes. No Apology.
        It can save your life.
        One of many links.
        A lady, a friend to many, including someone my wife knows – was lost at sea.
        Man overboard is often fatal.
        So is entry into enclosed spaces – any enclosed space.
        Willis – many thanks – enjoy – and stay clipped on!

  2. It will be interesting to compare the thermometer SST log of your voyage to satellite readings along the same path. Kudos to Dave for sending it to you.

  3. I want your Job you have some great tales. I am trying to figure out if you actually work for a living.

  4. I am really jealous and wish you and the crew fair winds and following seas. I attach a link to a song that we play and find invigorating as we set off sailing – it is by the Fables from Newfoundland in Canada and is called “Heave Away” (Song is also available as an Amazon download). I know you are sailing in sunnier climes but the sentiments are universal. Have a great trip!

  5. There is nothing like sailing in the tropics with the trades blowing a steady 15, especially with good friends and plenty to drink and eat on board. You are then envy of many on this blog. Good luck and enjoy!

  6. Had to up the mast to retrieve the halyard huh? You’re supposed to keep those things attached when not in use. Yeah I know, I’ve had to climb a mast too.
    Speaking of sailing miles; I had the pleasure of meeting Jon Sanders when I was a member of RPYC where he lives on a boat. The only person allowed to do so in the Swan River. He does world wide yacht deliveries. His claim to fame is he’s done non-stop single, double and triple circumnavigations of the world. On the triple he went wore through 26 can openers. Seems he lived on chili.
    Hope your fare is more varied.

  7. WIllis,
    Having been only a few years engineer on motor ships (small tanker – small cargo – banana boat), don’t have much experience with sailing. Even the few times that I was on a sailboat, the weather was that bad that they had to use the motor to have a little speed in the right direction… Thus only can try to imagine the silence of a sailing ship gliding over the large ocean…
    Hope the weather is good and the wind from the best directions on your trip…
    Note: why only a thermometer? With a small laboratory you could inform us about pH, pCO2, DIC, Total Alkalinity, types and abundance of coccolithophores and many other most interesting scientific items in seawater during your trip… But even without these items, we await your stories here…

  8. Willis, you are missing some details I would love to know. You said this boat was purchased on the hard and I take that to mean the boat needs to be thoroughly vetted before setting sail on a voyage of that distance offshore. I realize is downwind but… climbing the mast seems like much of the vetting process has been pushed aside in the excitement of a new boat, camaraderie and a few seasoned sailors. Seems to me the rigging was not thoroughly inspected or the mast work would have already been completed and no need for an assent.
    Are we missing something? Was this boat one of those where the previous owner meticulously did everything and then for some reason could not go and the boat was for sale on the hard for a very short time or did this boat sit on the hard for some time before sale?
    Curious, don’t want to lose you at sea. The conspiracy theories would never end.

    • Pierre DM May 3, 2016 at 6:55 am

      Willis, you are missing some details I would love to know. You said this boat was purchased on the hard and I take that to mean the boat needs to be thoroughly vetted before setting sail on a voyage of that distance offshore. I realize is downwind but… climbing the mast seems like much of the vetting process has been pushed aside in the excitement of a new boat, camaraderie and a few seasoned sailors.

      Thanks, Pierre. The boat had been out of the water for the cyclone season. The halyards were deliberately run up the mast to prevent them from slapping if a cyclone hit … which it did. The previous owner, Don McIntyre, has been here a couple of weeks getting it into shape. So no, experienced sailors don’t push the checks and vetting aside …
      My best to you,

  9. Willis, I’d suggest drilling some holes around he bottom of your thermometer tube to allow flow through and around the thermometer.

  10. Willis, Hank Williams would say something almost identical to your Momma at the end of his concerts ” If the good Lord’s willing and the creeks don’t rise…..we’ll see you before long….until then….”. Looking forward to your reports.

  11. The vessel was (presumably) surveyed prior to acquisition. My guess is that the sea trial was used to confirm previous repairs and to check possible deficiencies and potential problems. The lazy jack installation was simply a matter of choice and convenience for the skipper/owner.
    The vessel is clearly a motor-sailor with a very substantial pilot house. Is she steel-hulled? What’s her length, breadth, draft and rig (ketch? yawl?)?

  12. You know the old expression of “…if the Creeks don’t rise” comes from Georgia. Back in colonial and early statehood times, the major tribe in Georgia was the Creek. There was always conflict at some level as the treaties were always being violated by both sides (that’s right, the natives were humans too, OMG get the smelling salts for the fainting lefty!) Occasionally a large war party would form and attack a small farmstead or trading wagon train, usually in response to some real or imagined grievance (ack he has called the natives human in two sentences, someone stop him fast!). Thus the Creeks rising had to do with avoiding a violent confrontation with a war party rather than anything to do with floods.
    The sad thing is, this had all been peacefully mostly settled when President Jackson implemented the Trail of Tears and carted them all off to the west. The Creek exodus was sad, the Cherokee exodus was criminal, but that is history for you.

  13. The last party I got to before I left Manhattan for the Colorado Front Range was on Reid Stowe’s Schooner , , at the Chelsea Piers . He built it himself , wood with lots of fiberglass cladding . The immediate impression is ruggedness . Massively thick mast for its height . Lot of the interior wood carved over the years even back then . Tracked his path on Google Earth during his 1100 day voyage out of sight of land .
    He highly recommended the mass quantities of donated Parmesan to add some flavor to his diet thru the entire 3+ years away from land .

  14. But wait, isn’t this in a tropical climate? A “hot” climate, foretold to be the norm in the future? Aren’t you suffering? Isn’t the wildlife dying en masse?

  15. Been there, with a new( to me ) sailboat- hauled out, repaired nothing can go wrong
    -right. Same with Aircraft. Large and small.
    “God is my co-pilot, Murphy is the flight engineer.”

      • One of the first lessons as an junior officer in the nuclear navy was a questioning attitude. It is what made me a skeptic. Sometimes people are wrong, sometimes they did not check, and sometimes they just flat out lied.

  16. Pacific trip to Australia! Brazilian reefs!
    My head is spinning .. must .. have … vacation.

  17. Sounds like a wonderful trip for those who retain their love for the sea. Have a great time.

  18. How many waves to float over between Fiji and New Caledonia and on to Australia? Untold. Each adding a a tiny part of the journey as you sail

  19. Great to hear that Willis Eschenbach is coming over to new Caledonia and Australia. There is lovely sunny warm weather at present, to enjoy.

  20. Old boat need dock trials and sea trials too.
    Started heading north to our sailboat in eastern Washington State yesterday two months late but my wife’s sister got a new knee. Made it as far as Dallas. The creeks, rivers, and lakes in east Texas and Louisiana are rising, again.
    After a winter with no snow or ice, looking forward to cool desert nights and no humidity.

  21. I too wish you fair winds and calm seas. (Following seas can be uncomfortable by causing a ship to yaw.)
    A midwesterner, I was turned off to sailing my plebe summer at boat school. Our sailing instructors were all brand new ensigns who had just graduated. They were all previous members of the academy sailing teams. They taught us to sail by letting us crew for them as they raced each other in the academy yawls. My instructor taught us the commands and how to handle the lines. Unfortunately, he never explained the strategy of racing and the maneuvers he employed during the daily race. In addition, the winch for my assigned line was broken and I had to do the sheeting in by hand. I learned that sailing was not fun ; it was a punishment. That was unfortunate because later I discovered that my great, great, great, great grandfather was a shipbuilder and privateer during the Revolution.
    My worst time at sea was three days and nights during a severe storm off Cape Hatteras. We were sailing south to the carribean. We were consistently taking 45 degree rolls and the majority of the crew was seasick. I was navigator. Early on the morning of our fourth day while I was plotting a fix, the ship rolled hard to starboard and I watched the inclinometer reach 55 degrees and the ship just hung there for what seemed like forever and then it snapped back to port tossing one sailor clear across the bridge. He actually landed feet first on the door leading to the port bridge wing before falling to the deck. He was uninjured but shaken. The storm quickly dissipated after that.
    Willis, hope you do not run into any bad weather. Be safe.
    A little boat school humor. We had a little book called reef points given to each plebe (freshman). It contained all the information that a plebe was required to know when asked by an upperclassman. Plebes spent most of their free time during plebe summer before the academic year started polishing their shoes and memorizing reef points. One bit of information was the commands to the crew to bring a full-rigged ship about, that is to turn it around and head in the opposite direction.
    Upperclassman to plebe: “Maggot, how do you bring a full-rigged ship about”?
    (Stop me if you have heard this.)
    Panicked plebe: “Sir, full-rigged ship, about. . . .face, sir”!!

  22. Thinking back to my surface Navy days, which were in the early 1970s, I remember that the sonar operators aboard my old destroyers were interested in the water temperature vs. depth profile so they dropped bathythermographs (BTs) to collect that information. I have been reading the information on this site for less than a year, but I do not recall any mention of BTs. Are they still being used? I think all Navy ships, not just the sonar-equipped ships, made By drops. Retired Kit P: you sub guys probably used them too. You used the thermocline to hide from us surface guys.

    • Maybe I jumped to a conclusion Retired Kit P. You said nuke, but you might have been surface, not a submariner.

  23. SR
    Sorry to hear that some jerks took the fun out of sailing. I pride myself on teaching folks to sail without yelling.
    In high school in Indiana, I failed the physical to get into the naval academy. Later as a machinist mate in the early seventies, I learned that seawater temperature was very important. Also learned to cheat on my eye test to get into NESEP.
    However, as an officer, I failed the vision part of the sub physical. As a result, I was stationed at Newport, RI twice where I learned to sail. Unfortunately, I did not have time to sail until a few years after getting out of the navy.
    Last year was the first year that I got to sail almost as often as I would like. There are many places with the non-snobby sailors who would be happy to share the experience. There are many old boats that can be picked up for a song.

    • On my first destroyer, the Chief Engineer was from Indiana. As he was only about 5ft 7in, he specialized in Indiana’s second sport: checkers. He taught me how to play. It took me awhile, but I considered it to be a major achievement when I beat him in a game. We played a lot while we were deployed to the Med. I won some more when I was at my best. When I was a kid, I could never beat my father playing checkers. The first thing I did when I visited my parents was to challenge my father to a game. He had not been playing for years and I was at the top of my game. After I beat him, I felt terrible. It is near the top of my list of things I regret doing. I always tell young men to never beat their fathers at anything.

    • Which ships were you on in the early 70s? I was on Steiner (DD-863) and Robert A Owens (DD-827), both home ported in Norfolk, VA. My last ship was an amphib, Portland (LSD-7), at Little Creek, VA. I went to the Department Head school in New Port in 73 and was almost assigned to the Holder (DD-?) In Boston, but went to Owens instead.

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