Boat Journal

Chronicling a love affair with sailing

Motorsailing into the Docks

Today was a lovely day for a sail. It was completely overcast and breezy, which kept the temperature down. And the waves were low, which made me happy. I don’t mind wind; I hate fighting waves. When you have to go through waves, much of the energy that should be going into forward motion instead goes into getting through the waves. Lots of physics to that. Will have to look it up sometime.

So no waves.

The wind was coming from the west, so I decided to head out towards the bay. That way, I’d be going downwind heading out and upwind coming back, making it cooler in the hotter part of the day.

I left the docks about 8 am. The plan was to head out about 2-1/2 hours, then take about 1-1/2 hours to come back. That would have been great for upwind out and downwind back. But it doesn’t work too well for the reverse.

The problem in York River is that the prevailing winds tend to go move in such a way that, if you’re tacking to close haul, you’ll spend your entire time going from one side of the river to the other, making very little progress. I hadn’t thought of that when I was making my plan for the day.

Still, it should have been okay. I could just motor enough to get me in a good spot to tack into the channel leading to the marina.

Step back a moment here for the next part.

As those who have read my blog fairly regularly know, I have an electric engine. I have 4 100-amp 12-volt batteries that run it. Those batteries are sufficient for most of my needs, which is getting out so I can sail,  motoring back in when I get the sails down, and handling the occasional time when the wind completely dies. I have used that power to sail all the way from Yorktown to downtown Hampton, running out of juice just about 1/2 mile before we reached our slip.

I put the batteries on the recharger every time I leave the boat. The batteries, when quite low, will take about 17 hours to charge. I normally check the charge levels before I leave the slip. If all the lights are green, we’re good to go. If something is blinking, the batteries were probably¬†really low and it’s taken longer than usual to charge. The blinking means the charger thinks there may be a problem, since it has taken too long. So I’ll unplug it, then restart it so that the recharger is reset. Next time, we’ll be good to go.

I had one occasion when the charger didn’t seem to charge the battery right. We had all sorts of problems then. Apparently, when one battery is low, it drains power from the others. So we actually had to be towed in by another boat to get to our slip that night. And, the next day, we couldn’t even start the engine. I discovered that time that one of the charge wires had come loose. Once I fixed that, everything charged and we were good to go.

So, this morning, I didn’t check the colors on the recharger before I took off. I did notice that the display for the engine only showed 85% charge, which was strange, since I hadn’t been sailing in a week. But I figured I’d check it out later.

Now, back to our lovely day of sailing.

I’m heading back. I’m in the river, I’m doing the usual back and forth and not wanting to be. So I go directly upwind, which I need to do to get to the marina channel, and I turn on the engine. The wind is pretty strong, so I’m not making alot of progress. But I am making some progress. And the display shows that I should have 4-1/2 hours left in the batteries. No problem. I’m definitely less than that away from where I want to be. So I run the engine long enough to get around the refinery piers, then turn the engine off and sail a bit more.

Strange. The indicator is now showing I only have about 30% left on the batteries. That doesn’t make sense. It shouldn’t have gone down that quickly. When I turn it back on, it still shows that I can do another 2-1/2 hours, so I figure I’m ok.

I turn the engine off, tack over and back. I’m still not as close to the channel as I want to be. But then again, when I get frustrated, I tend to hurry the process. Rather than going long on a tack, to allow me to position myself better when I tack back, I tend to turn too early, requiring a few more back and forths.

I turn the engine back on. This time, I don’t seem to have alot of power, although I am moving forward. This was a symptom we saw when we ran out of juice heading to Hampton: the engine was turning the prop. But it was turning it slowly, and it didn’t matter how much we turned up the throttle; no more juice was going to get out.

I’m in the channel at this point. And I let out the jib, just about 25%. Luckily I was at a good angle to use it. Lucky, too, I didn’t hit bottom. I don’t think I ever would have gotten out if I had.

I back into my slip. It’s easier to run the power if I do. But I barely had enough juice to move the boat backwards. In fact, we touched the pier across from the slip before I could back it up.

When I plugged in the power, I hadn’t yet turned off the indicator. Now, instead of 28% battery, it showed 56%.

Hopefully, the cause is just an in-line fuse blown on the recharger line. Hopefully, it’s not that one of the batteries has gone bad!