Preparing For The First Sail

After I got my “new to me” boat home, I had quite a bit of work to do to get things ready for the water. First thing was to take everything off the boat, decide what was good and what was bad, and get it back on the boat the way I wanted it. When started taking everything off I went right down to the cushions. All that was left inside was the Styrofoam used as flotation if it ever took on water to keep it afloat. Everything inside was sprayed and wiped down to start fresh before putting stuff back in. I did find a few moldy spots here and there but really nothing to be conserned about considering the boat is thirty-three years old. All the cushion covers were washed as well as the curtains too. Everything that came with the boat I was keeping was wiped down and inspected. Then the big task of putting everything back on the boat. I threw a bunch of old stuff out like the old wooden canoe paddles as well as some old blankets and pillows, because who knows where that sort of stuff has been. But, for the most part everything that came with the boat was in good shape and I decided to keep. There was also a number of things that I had around the house I wanted to keep on the boat as well. Some of my hiking bags would be staying on the boat as they contained numerous things that always seem to come in handy when you least expect it. I also had a bunch of kayaking stuff that I could transfer over to the new sailboat. My throw rope bags, life jackets, dry bags, and water proof map bag just to name a few.

With everything on the boat the way I wanted it, I still had a number of tasks before The Venture King was ready for the water. The next thing was to take all the sails out and make sure they were folded (or flaked, I guess I should start using the proper terms when I can), checking all the running and standing rigging, and making sure I could get the mast up and down by myself. Taking the sails out and inspecting them actually turned out to be a bonus. When I had first looked at the add, it had said that there were four sails. There was a mainsail, a 150% Genoa, and two spinnakers. I had thought this was weird at the time because it didn’t really make sense to have two spinnakers unless one was considerably older than the other. Once I to all the sails out I realized I was in luck. What I thought was going to be a second spinnaker was actually a smaller jib sail. This would come in handy for sure, especially if the wind picked up and was to much for the larger Genoa. Everything ended up looking really good with the sails which was a relief. I had only been able to inspect them briefly at the previous owners and, although everything looked okay there, there could have been some damage that I had overlooked. All the rigging looked in pretty good shape too. The running rigging, although not new, was in good shape. I did notice that some of it had tape over the ends. This would have to be properly whipped for my standard but that would be taken care of some evening out on the boat at a later date. The standing rigging was all quite new. The only real problem was the back stay was a little too long and couldn’t be shortened up as much as I would like. All the cable was swagged together so in order to fix it I would have to get a swagging tool to do it myself. Also something that would have to be done at a later date.

With all the gear checked over there was only one real problem left before the maiden voyage. I was having trouble getting the mast up and down myself. The new MacGregor sailboat now come with a mast raising system. This is just a pole with a winch on it to lift the mast up under some control. After doing some pricing online I realized this would cost a few hundred dollars and I had other priorities to look after before I sunk some money into that. It took nearly two days of trying different methods I found on forums and youtube sites before I found the solution. I stumbled across this fellow who would raise the mast using nothing but his mainsheet line and blocks. Attach one block to the fore stay and the other to bracket at the bow of the boat. Run the line through the blocks as normal and back towards the stern of the boat where you would lift the mast. The problem I had been having wasn’t so much getting the mast up, although it was quite difficult to manhandle the mast up. The problem I had was getting the mast down under control. Once it got to a certain point tipped back the weight was just too much to keep control of safely and things would quickly come the rest of the way down. The two times I tried this didn’t end in any kind of disaster but if something ever got snagged or tangled I’m sure the momentum could be ripping something out that isn’t meant to come out. Back to the new way though, now as I lifted the mast with on hand I could pull the line tight and the mechanical advantage would pull the mast and allow me to hold the mast in place with really no effort at all. Shift the line to the same hand holding the mast, take another reach forward with my free hand and pull again. This process was really quite effortless and didn’t cost anything to accomplish. The only tricky part was stepping from the cockpit up to the deck but after practicing a few times that was also pretty easy. Taking the mast down was even easier. All I had to do was hold the line tight and just let it slide through my hand (with gloves on) until it was safely lowered. This way I could have complete control over the mast and stop in any position if something were to get hung up. With all the problems fixed I was ready for a trip on the was. And with perfect timing because this whole process took a week and it was now the weekend again.

The morning of the Venture King’s first trip was a little shaky. I was trying to get on the water before ten o’clock in the morning. This might seem easy to some but I have a newborn son at home now and getting out the door without helping with him slowed me down quite a bit. Once I headed out and got down to the marina I needed to set the mast up. First thing was to slide the mast back and put it in the mast shoe in the center of the boat. Pretty easy I thought as I had already done it once before when I had first got the boat home. Was I wrong. Once I started moving the mast back on the home made mast crutch the last owner had made I heard the horrible crunch of fiberglass cracking and letting go. I stopped and went to the stern to investigate and sure enough the bracket that holds the mast crutch had cracked and the crutch would be able to take me moving the mast back any farther. I managed to get the mast off the crutch and used the bimini frame to rest the mast on as I slide the mast the rest of the way back. Didn’t work too bad and after wrestling to get the bolt that secures the mast to the boat through I was in business. Raising the mast itself was just as easy as I had practiced and making sure all the lines and fenders were out and ready went without a hitch. Towing the boat down to the water went okay for the first time moving the boat with the mast up and getting it down the ramp was also okay. When I got the boat nearly all the way down in the water I got out of the car when the exhaust from the car was nearly in the water. The boat was still not moving and because it had taken me longer to get going from the house I had only about an hour before the tide would be too short to even launch. After a few tries a decided to back the car down even farther so that the exhaust was in the water blowing bubbles. My car is actually a jeep wrangler so I’m sure this wouldn’t be an issue considering you can drive right up to the hood with them (or farther if you have a snorkel). That few extra inches was all it needed and the boat slid off the trailer with no problem. I think some of the people with fixed keels were giving me some weird looks as I walked my boat, in about 18″ of water over to the courtesy dock and tied it up. One fellow even came over and warned me how shallow the water was for moving a sailboat like that and I had to explain that the keel swung up and it wasn’t a concern. With the boat finally in the water I parked the truck, returned to the boat and headed out for my first sail on The Venture King. The winds were only about 5 knots at the time and I motored over to an unused mooring buoy and set up the boom and mainsail. I was finally sailing.

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