Copy Write 4/1/2000 © Updated 2/13/2006
There was a chain of events that my wife will never let me forget and resulted in both me and my boat becoming the laughing stock of Sarasota Sailing Squadron around the mid 1980's.
The boat was a Christmas gift from my wife, I did complete a Coast Guard Safe Boating course and being a member of Sarasota Sailing Squadron there were many folks available for advise, solicited or otherwise.
I began to notice a problem steering the boat after a few hours on the water. I couldn't quite get a handle on the problem. Initially she would do just fine then as time progressed it seemed she became sluggish at the helm. Sailing in winter even in Central Florida on a small unprotected boat limits your sail time to a small window. I kept thinking there was something I was doing wrong, although I couldn't determine what it was.
I decided one blustery day in March both Lela and I were going sailing. The plan was to end up in a protected cove and dink around for a few hours. We ended up out in Sarasota Bay proper because I thought it better to fly just the jib. I learned that day the boat will sail broad reaching to a run with just a jib, forget about working to windward. Plan B was to circle around the north side of Sarasota Bay setting up for a down wind run into the mooring field of Sarasota Sailing Squadron. I never had a motor for the boat and had completed this approach several times before. We had been on the water for a few hours and I began to notice the boat was increasingly difficult to steer. Meanwhile the wind was a blowing and gusting. Lela had passed the uncomfortable stage long ago. We finally floundered around to the south shore of Sarasota Bay. The bay is laid out along a North to South axis and the winter winds were screaming straight down the bay.
I couldn't understand what was creating the problem, why was the boat so hard to steer. It should have been an easy downwind ride under the jib back to the marina. Finally Lela had enough and asked to be let off the boat. We ducked into another marina to let her off. After the Taxi picked here up, I headed back out when it happened. With a loud crack the screws holding the rudder to the pintles gave way. I managed to get turned around and back to the dock with no further incident. The folks at the marina were not happy to see me. My little 18' sailboat looked like a toy compared to the big high dollar boats next to me. They allowed me to tie up in an area the big boys couldn't use for no charge with the understanding I would be back ASAP to get my boat out of there.
I was crushed, my pride demolished, my new boat broke and my wife mad at me. The ultimate embarrassment was for me to call the Sailing Squadron to get my wife to drive to this marina and pick me up. My wife was hanging out at the club house so naturally the whole story got passed around quickly.
I never had a tow vehicle for the Buccaneer; I bought a hand dolly for the trailer hitch and could launch and retrieve the boat single handed if I really wanted to, although two people made the job much simpler. I borrowed a pickup truck from the company I worked for and went to fetch my boat first thing after work on Monday. There was no boat ramp at this marina. I must back the truck as close to the water as possible and winch the boat onto the trailer. The center trailer pivot pin was removed and the boat attached to the winch. Cranking the boat some and bailing accumulated water from the cockpit I had the boat almost ½ loaded when I heard the sound. To this day I can still remember it. It was the sound of air sucking into the space between the cockpit liner and the hull. This space was supposed to be water tight. I had removed the drain plug as usual. Hunting around for the sound I quickly determined it was coming from somewhere in the keel trunk. Inspecting the drain hole it was obvious a lot of water was in the space between the cockpit liner and the hull. This slowed the loading process a great deal. I cranked the boat some, let the water drain and cranked some more. Eventually enough water had drained allowing the pivoting trailer to swing down and the boat was loaded. Returning to Sarasota Sailing Squadron the boat was left until the following weekend.
The only thing to do was to ask the advice of fellow sailors, endure their admonishment about going out that day at all and begging for information on what to do. There was only one option, strip the boat of all gear, slide it off the trailer, turn it over and remove the swing keel to inspect the keel trunk. There was one fellow nicknamed "Sandbar Kelly" that sailed a Crysler 15 which is a Mutineer Class boat, he hung around until we got the boat turned over. From there I was on my own. Once the keel was removed it was obvious why I started with a boat that sailed well and ended up with one that didn't. Wellcraft built the boats for several years, when production was stopped a guy bought all the remaining hulls and finished them out as he sold them. My boat, my first sailboat, my gift of love from my bride, had a fatal flaw. For what ever reason, the keel trunk had not been completely finished by the folks at Wellcraft. The top half of the keel trunk was grafted onto the hull about ½ into the keel trunk. Initially the boat sailed well, as water seeped into the space between the hull and liner the stern settled deeper into the water. Not enough to be noticeable but enough to affect steering. Naturally the more water in the hull the worse things got which explains the fiasco mentioned above. The fix was simply a can of polyester resin and some fiberglass cloth. The rudder was easily patched and I thru bolted everything instead of screwing it in.
After completing the repairs and returning the boat to the trailer I left the access ports open to give the resin a chance to breath and cure. In an effort to redeem my self and my pride the damaged hull and my successful repair was mentioned at the club house. I was still condemned to be the club buffoon for at least a bit longer.
Between work and weather the boat sat for several weeks before I could get back out to it and sail her. I was not forgiven at home for the entire situation, my explanation of why and how fell on deaf ears. Finally I agreed as a form of penance and redemption to ask a real sailor to teach me to sail. My wife made the call to the guy she bought the boat from and he agreed to meet the both of us for a sailing lesson.
The appointed day arrived sunny and mild, a perfect day to go sailing. My instructor arrived, we went over the boat and I mentioned the previous problems. He agreed with my ascertation of cause and effect although it did little to make my wife happy. So here we are launched and sailing around and between the mooring field at the Sailing Squadron. The winds are mild we are starting to have a good time. By now my instructor has realized I know at least a little bit about what I am doing. I am picking up a few pointers from him my wife is finally relaxing a bit. Life is good until my wife tells me she hears cats calling. We all listen and hear nothing, sail a bit more and she says the same thing again. We are too far from shore for there to be any sound coming from the population of boat yard wild cats. We sail along a bit more when we all hear the faint mewing of cats not just one cat but several. Eventually we realize that by sailing a beam reach on one tack we are apparently disturbing some cats that are between the hull and liner so much for sailing lessons today. Once on the trailer and back to my shore side location it is determined a momma cat had her kittens in my hull. Fortunately for us she was not in the boat at the time, all the vents are opened back up and the boat left.
After a few weeks I can find no trace of the momma cat or her kittens. The boat is set back up and launched. She sails just like she is supposed to and I have no further problems. It will be some months before I live down my reputation.
The information on this page is not intended as a "definitive" guide to sailing .
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