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Sailing Wicked Pissah

Updated: Dec 10, 2018

Other than the fact that this was our boat to learn on (and take care of), sailing Wicked Pissah (WP) wasn't all that different from the other boats we had been learning on. In fact one of the instructors owned a slightly newer version of her. Granted she is 3-5 feet longer than most and had an in board engine plus a "steering wheel" rather than a tiller. But she still has a mast and a boom, all the stays and lines we had become familiar with plus all the rest of the standing and running rigging. And still, she was ours. That is, our responsibility, to tie up properly, to maneuver in and out of the marina without hurting her or any other boat tied up there etc etc

I still recall the nerves I felt backing her away from the slip for the first time, what a pain. I was SO nervous! I am thankful for one note of instruction though, that really paid off time and again, "slow is pro". Don't be in a rush and you can handle just about any navigation situation.

I really want to fast forward to a significant emotional event for me. Really sailing! I mean, I motored WP out of the marina and past the channel buoys out into the center of the lake, kept her headed into the wind so we could deploy her sails and then, the wind caught and luffed her main as I nudged the bow cross wind. We headed south along the long axis of the lake. Then I cut the engine.

And that was it, I was in love! All I can say is that the sense of sailing under the power of the wind switches something off, or is it on, in me. I transition instantly into a very vacation frame of mind, pure relaxed attention. What a rush! We're sailing!

After the ecstasy, the laundry, right? And then what do "they" say? A boat is a hole in the water into which you pour money.

From day one we had a wet bilge. We always had water in it. Before we bought WP the previous owner had pointed out the little puddle under the engine he sponged out on occasion. He never did find out what that was all about, I did.

Turns out the problem was quite a simple matter of stuffing box maintenance. This box consists of the mechanicals of allowing a drive shaft through a hull without letting water, er, too much water, into the boat. Well this little bit of maintenance had not been done in the last 4-5 years. A little judicious Googling and the offer of help from a friend and I figured it out.

There's a lock nut that prevents the stuffing box nut from backing off. The stuffing box nut holds the fiber packing material in the box (more of a cup really, as it is round) and compressed against the shaft such that under way (shaft turning) you can expect to see one drip every 15 seconds or so. Each year about 1/8 of a turn of the stuffing box nut is all that is required, but it IS required.

After backing off the locking nut, one wrench to hold the stuffing box nut and the other to wrench the locking nut counter clockwise, I had to turn the stuffing box nut about 5 - 1/8 turns to get the drip to simply stop while at rest. I wrenched the lock nut back into place by hold the stuffing nut with one wrench and turn the lock not clockwise with the other. With that I completed about 5 years of maintenance in about 20 minutes! This is one bit of nautical lore would have saved me much bailing.

While poor stuff box maintenance wetted her bilges, the sailing whetted our appetite for adventure. We spent the rest of the summer running WP up and down the 3 miles of Alum Creek lake. Up and down, up and down. We had our days of fun in the sun, splashing about the tributaries, anchoring off the beach, a little fishing, a Wednesday night race or two.

Finally it began to feel like swimming laps in a 30 foot pool. Ever do laps in a short pool? Feels like all you do is turn. Just as WP was getting her wind up, we turn. It made me ache for a stretch that I did not have to turn back from, that I would not have to cross my own wake several times to make.

And then all of a sudden there was talk of take out day. The last day of the season when you have to take your boat of the water with the help of fellow sailors. ACSA has a mast stepping system so it was just a matter of waiting your turn. The day I took out there were 4 of us lined up. I was last and the least experienced and everyone was tired. Having not done this before I really had no idea what it would take. In the end I had to come at the trailer (held in place by Jim L's suburban) at run and bang myself aboard the trailer. I got out, but it wasn't pretty.

My temper flared. I'm on top of the boat so I cannot see what is going on below and I'm getting no instruction from the supposed experienced sailors I was there helping. Do I project too much confidence? Why was no one giving me direction? Finally one of the guys ashore asked me what I wanted to do. That's where I lost it. Anyway, I said I wanted to Jim to give me instruction and he did, he told me to come at it at more of a run and I did and I got out.

Mast stepping was very easy by comparison, but then I was being given all the instructions I needed, I just did the muscle part. Release the turn buckles on all the stays, wrap the stepping strap around the mast and under the spreaders and folks on the ground create the lift to take the weight. Unhinge/unpin the base of the 30 foot mast from the tabernacle and while managing all the stay cables lay the mast on cabin and lifelines, lash in place, done.

Next stop was the storage facility and a bottom scrubbing. The storage lot has an honor system pressure washer, $5 to cover the water and electricity used. I sprayed WP's underside, not too bad all told. The usual growth was effectively limited by the fresh bottom paint (copper biocide?) her previous owner had applied. Jim dragged WP to her winter resting ground and I came back a few days later to wrap her in her tarp with a variety of bungie cords. I got a call from Jim several weeks later after a bit of a storm, that the tarp had started so slip and headed back and battened her down again. I made several more visits to check on her over the winter, not issues to report, until ...

NEXT: Selling Wicked Pissah

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