The "New" Boat
October 7, 2005
From the log of David Cochran's Ergo:
I recently bought a "new to me" boat. My "old" boat was an Alerion 19 Catboat. The "new" boat is an Alerion Express 28. Both were made in 1999, so "new" or even "old" do not apply but I will use them anyway. The catboat had been a great boat for me for 5 years but I felt that a move to a larger boat with more sails was appropriate.
After lusting and searching for several years I finally got serious when I found an AE 28 on the market in a port on the Chesapeake (Oxford, MD) that I would be sailing to anyway. I had set up an appointment with the broker and my sailing buddy, Bill, and I thought it looked great and would be the boat for me. I called my wife and told her that I had found the ideal boat. Her comments are unprintable. I persevered. Eventually we came to a financial arrangement - I had to find the money somewhere else. Loan companies can be a godsend but my insurance company offered the best deal. I made an offer and it was accepted.
After the survey and closing, I needed to get to the AE 28 and sail/motor it across and up the Bay to Galesville on the West River. I checked into taxis and friendships. I found it better to pay a friend - Roger. I got another friend, Paul, to agree to help moving the boat to my home port.
This AE 28 had had some cosmetic problems and was shipped back to the factory for refurbishing. This meant that it had been almost decommissioned - mast removed, etc. Therefore, it had to be re-commissioned or reassembled. The AE 28 has a self tacking Hoyt boom that is unfamiliar to most yards. I had called the yard and asked that the old name be removed and that it be put in the water on the day of my arrival. Upon arriving, the boat was not in the water and it still had the old name on it. The yard informed me that they never put a boat in the water until the owner arrived in case there was a mix-up in days or times. Additionally, the old name had "clear coat" over it and removal would be difficult. Both were minor problems.
My friends, Roger, Paul, and Bogey (Roger's dog/son) and I looked the AE 28 over and agreed - it is a beautiful boat - everything I wanted and more. Upon examining the setup and rigging, it became obvious that this boat had not been sailed since being re-commissioned. The outhaul on the jib on the Hoyt boom was rigged completely wrong. The mainsail cars had not been inserted into the track on the mast. Other lines seemed to be out of place.
My driver friend, Roger, thought we could set out that day (at about 3:00 PM) for my home port over 30 miles away. Somewhat fortunately, wiser heads prevailed. My crew, Paul, and I would re-rig everything we could identify, stay on the boat that night, and sail home the next morning. We got everything to what we thought was ship-shape and decided to go for a short sail to get more comfortable with the newness of this boat. We had a great sail in light air and discovered what a great boat I had just gotten.
Next morning the broker picked us up to finalize a few things. We picked up food and water for the trip and went back to the boat to get a morning start. The forecast was for cloudy with winds of 15 knots gusting to 20. We motored out of the marina and hoisted the sails. The wind began to pick up and we were sailing at 5 to 6 knots. I had planned a course that would take us through Knapps Narrows but the wind was so good, and sailing was preferable to motoring, we decided to sail around Tilghman Island rather than through. The course set us on a close reach.
The wind continued to pick up and by the time we had rounded the tip of the island it was blowing seriously. We turned up the bay and I took over the helm. We were on a run with the sails wing and wing. The wind was blowing well over 20 knots and the seas were following at about 4 feet.
I thought I would let out the main sheet a little. Big mistake! One of the things we had not caught was the lack of stopper knots in the lines. The main sheet left my hand, went out through the block on the barney post, and out of the first block on the boom. The boom had been out to very near the shrouds so there wasn't much movement and no damage there. I grabbed the main sheet lengths where it went back and forth between the boom and the traveler and held on to the tiller. We were stable but in a bind. We agreed we would head up and that Paul would attempt to re-lead the main sheet. On the first attempt he got it wrong and on the second attempt it was less wrong - but workable. We put in a stopper knot.
We headed up the bay again wing and wing and were flying. We had following seas of 4 feet or more and we hit 11.8 knots on the GPS and well over 9 knots on the boat knotmeter. It was a glorious ride.
Our next challenge came when we needed to head up into West River on a close reach. The wind was really blowing - 30 to 35 knots. We were healed over seriously but sailing steadily. The reefing line had not been rigged and we did not have ties even if we did reef. We were fearful that the small engine would not hold us into the wind when we needed to drop the sails and that we couldnt keep the sail in the boat. All of that proved to be unfounded. The final challenge was to put my new boat into a slip with a 30 knot tail wind. My new boat now has a nice ding on the bow.
All in all, it was a great trip. It certainly was a learning experience. My advice for those who want to live on the edge and flirt with danger - go to sea without preparation.
Read the manual in advance and make a list of things to do and check. Give yourself more time than you think you will need to get everything ready to sail.
Very thoroughly check out the rigging.
Stopper knots are critical as is the ability to reef.
Take a trial sail going nowhere with no timetable.
Get the boat of your dreams. Now.