Saturday, July 17, 2010

Sailing, sort of.

Today I tried to take out the only boat available to me right now: the MacGregor 26, Syzygy. It's an old, "fine sailing machine," if you don't actually want to sail.

My dad hasn't exactly spent a lot of time with that boat lately, and the time he has spent on it hasn't exactly been the most beneficial to its long term health. The wiring has never been good, but after my dad stepped through our solar panel that kept the batteries charged, the batteries died. He doesn't want to replace them, but he wants me to get the system working again. Also, we've had problems with the stereo. A few years ago the stereo burned out, starting a small fire on board. Since then, we've had the wiring replaced a few times, but that hasn't helped too much: the stereo still has issues when the engine is running.

That brings us to the next fine piece of equipment on the fine sailing machine: the engine. It's an older Tohatsu 9.9, but effectively it's more of a 0.0. It sometimes runs, but only if it's taking you toward disaster. Otherwise, it counts as deadweight. We've replaced every single part on the engine at some time or another, but that just made our wallets thiner.

Now that we've covered the secondary source of propulsion, lets move onto the primary propulsion: the sails. These sails are great if you happen to be a bat: they make nice nesting places, and they already have enough of that guano smeared in to smell like home. They even make a decent place for a bat to die without having to worry about remains being eaten by insects. Unfortunately, those attributes aren't the best for using the sails as sails. These soft, floppy, blown out, torn up bits of canvas mark best of twenty years of aging in the sun. Of course, along with the old sails go old lines. Old stretchy halyards the droop in the slightest zephyr are accompanied by shaggy sheets and other powder filled cordage.

So we set sail at the dock (the motor just wasn't in the mood) and take off. We start tacking out the Narrows, but the shifty winds and 120 degree tacking angle make that difficult. Halfway out, the wind kicked up, and made life rather more interesting (rhymes with, "Why isn't that BLEEEEPing thing working now!?") as the roller furling on the genoa broke and the winches jammed. At this point we fall off, jibe (mainsheet fiddle bearings on the cockpit floor) and start heading back. Once running, the furler started working again, so we furl the genoa in, since we don't need extra power now. The motor really doesn't want to start now, but with the wind in the west we've got a dead downwind shot at out slip. We cop a spin, drop the main and sail in under bare poles. By the time we were done, I could see a person at our slip, so I assumed that the dockmaster was going to help us land. Just then the furler let out six or seven feet of sail, and in the confusion I lost sight of the dock.  As we got the jib back in the wind shifted to the southeast, blowing us straight back, away from our slip. We could've thrown the line to the dock, but there was no one there now. Now we force the jib back out, and we try to sail up wind back to the dock where the dockmasters let us go. Without a mainsail, the boat will not tack, and there it takes a long time and space for it to jibe. It turns out that it takes too long for it to jibe. We wound up on the north shore of the cove, and we were held there while the weather built into a thunderstorm right on top of us. There wasn't much to be done, except to try to use the VHF radio and talk to the folks at the marina. The radio died right when they tried to come back, so we wound up without communication beyond air horns.

Eventually the wind died down a bit, and some samaritans came and towed us off the shore. our stern was further out, so we tied on there. Unfortunately, we found out that the centerboard line that was repaired over the spring, hasn't been repaired. I moved the tow line to the bow, and we eventually swung around and out. Getting to the slip at that point was relatively simple.

I have found that while I have some aptitude for boat repair, I just don't want to deal with the glorified bleach bottle that is the MacGregor. I also have little tolerance for things that have been repaired that don't work, and for things that really shouldn't be breaking that break. On top of all that, I was told that all systems were go, and that there would not be any issues. That is the single thing that annoys me the most.


Syzygy is for sale.


  1. I don't know who told you all systems were go, since I definitely knew they weren't, and so did your dad. For the past four years, I've been wanting to get rid of that boat (quick, before something ELSE goes wrong!). The problem is, your dad gets sentimentally attached to things ... including things that he really shouldn't.

    As a wedding present his folks gave us a 1981 Pontiac Grand Prix with GM's pathetic attempt at making a diesel engine based on a gasoline engine block. Even as the repair bills were mounting, he refused to get rid of it because a) it was a wedding gift, and b) it was "so economical" -- meaning that, when it ran, it got 40 MPG even though it was a V8. He didn't factor the costs of repair into his definition of "economical."

    When I first heard that you had "run aground and a whole lot of things are broken," my heart soared. I thought, ah, maybe the hull has been breached -- maybe the boat is totaled and we can make an insurance claim and be rid of the thing. I was really disappointed to find out it was just that the motor and winches and furler were broken.

    Now your dad wants to bring his mom's 1980 Lincoln Town Car to Albuquerque to sink even more money into. Aaarrrgggh!


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