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Lake Charles
Mess About

Larry, Moe and Curly Not Quite Offshore Racing Team

"The Shake Down Cruise"

Copy Write 9/2/2002 ©   Updated  1/3/2006

Mess About    Aftershocks    The rest of the story
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Lake Charles Mess About

Lake Charles Yacht Club was the gracious host of the "Lake Charles Mess About" an informal gathering of trailer sailors from Texas and Louisiana. Unknown to the Yacht Club this event heralded the first shake down cruise of the legendary Larry Moe and Curly Offshore Racing Team. I am still unsure if LCYC will ever be the same and frankly I am afraid to go back to ask.

It all started August 10th 2002 with the arrival of yours truly. I arrived about an hour before my father, his wife Julie and another sailing buddy Robert (skipper of a Cal 22) from Houston Texas. Once lined up behind the other boats preparing to launch, it was time to rig.

First step of course is removing the ladder from the top of my Dad's Jeep. Have you ever seen a homeless person pushing a shopping cart full of their possessions? Well the inside of the Jeep looked like that shopping cart; between luggage and "boat stuff" I was surprised my Dad could even get the doors closed. I was informed trailer sailing requires you anticipate EVERY contingency and carry stuff accordingly.    Actually rigging the boat was the first indication things were going to get interesting. The Montgomery 17 owned by my father is relatively new to him and this being the second time to actually launch and sail her he was unfamiliar with the rhythm of rigging. Not that he didn't know how to rig the boat. Rather each boat is different and until you set it up and take it down a few times you are not as organized. So the first few times are awkward. To make things even more interesting both Robert and I were assisting you get the idea. Then there was the untried pulley system for raising the mast. After two tries and moving stuff around the mast was up.    Last of all, unloading of the Jeep.

Of course once this was completed the ladder was strapped back atop the Jeep.

Pulling around we got into the line to launch.    Backing down the ramp was relatively uneventful.    Next to the boat ramp was a most interesting world-class cruiser, at least according to the skipper building the boat that was supposed to circumnavigate. More on this later as I am unsure how to describe this boat.

Once launched we find the wire part of a halyard is snagged on the spreaders. Only one option as the Jeep & trailer has already been parked go back to the vehicle and un-strap the ladder put it on the cabin top and carefully climb up to free the halyard. LCYC sits on a peninsula and the motor cranks up with little fuss, putting down the channel and to the end of the point an empty slip is used to secure the boat.

LCYC went way beyond the call of duty and provided everyone with an excellent lunch of hamburgers, grilled chicken and ALL the fixins. My thanks to all involved!!!

After lunch it was time to head out into the great beyond.

The western edge of Lake Charles is a dredged shipping channel naturally the wind was blowing from the east a good 15 knots or so. Actually everyone was excited, as this kind of steady wind is not normal for this area during August.

The rudder for this boat is fixed and does not pivot; also it rides lower than the shoal keel (centerboard up). In thin water this can be a pain to manage the rudder depth and boat at the same time.

On board is yours truly, my Dad, Robert also an independent observer Randy (skipper of a Montgomery 15) a friend of Dad's from a previous "Mess About" at Lake Conroe Texas.

With the wind blowing the four of us motor out and raise the jib. We discover two important facts: 1. The leads for the jib sheets are in the wrong position and it is difficult to get it adjusted correctly. 2. It seems the jib luff is a bit too long. We have no idea if the jib is designed for the Montgomery 17 or just made to fit by the previous owner. With improper adjustment of the jib we are getting blown to lee shore. Really this should be no issue as all we need to do is raise the main sail and everything will be just fine.

Halfway up the combination wire and rope main halyard hangs up in the masthead sheaves. It ain't going up, we can get it down at least.

We are getting nearer the lee shore, which does not look very inviting. All around the lake the shore is a gentle beach or grassy shore EXCEPT the western edge. The western edge is composed of a gambling barge (no real good place to tie up) and a lot of jagged rusty seawall and rock (an even worse place to be).

Hey no problem we can just crank up the iron jenny. Yup it cranks right up and we motor our way east trying to get to the other side of the shipping channel. About back to safety the motor sputters and dies. The channel is deeper than the rode available for the anchor so not much of an option there. Lake sailors rarely need big anchors or a lot of scope!

Raising the jib again there is a flurry of activity as some of the crew tries to manage the sail and others try to get the motor running.

Eventually the motor is cranked again and we are once again under power, right about the time we get close to the windward side of the channel the motor once again dies and we are floundering.

Only this time there is not much seaway left to lee shore and we get blown onto the rocks and jagged rusted out metal seawall.

Immediately we go into overdrive. Two guys get out and try to fend off. I am desperately trying to toss an anchor that looks incredibly small to me and hope it catches on something.

My Dad the brave skipper he is, trying to get the motor started because that is the only way we are going to move anywhere.

Every time I toss the anchor it just skips over the bottom and comes up with a rock in the fluke. Danforth anchors are good in sand, fair in mud, poor in grass and almost useless in rocky situations. Apparently this side of the channel has been lined with rock rubble to slow down erosion. Not a lot of help.

All the while the winds is pushing us upon the rocks and rusty steel seawall.

Once again the motor come to life and we take off. The motor is mounted on the port side and rides just a bit high. With four guys aboard we need a lot of weight on the port side to keep the prop in the water. So I am standing on the port side gunnels hanging on to the backstay. Remember this is a 17' boat and not a lot of cockpit space.

This time we manage to get across the channel and at least anchored in some thinner water that has no rocks. I still think the anchor is rather small but it holds.

Now it is time to brainstorm, with 4 skippers aboard that is a dangerous activity. My thinking (dangerous activity alert) is to drop the jib and use the jib halyard to raise the main sail. Then go out and have some fun, as if being stuck on a bad lee shore was not fun enough.

First attempt the wire halyard snags, hey what about this bright idea. Remove the wire and tie a length of line to the rope part of the halyard. Nope that ain't going to work either, something about the masthead sheaves is causing major problems and now the mainsail is stuck not quite up but defiantly not coming back down.

While anchored we are visited by a wooden Bolger designed boat. The skipper asked as he sailed by if we needed any help???? I mentioned yea it probably wouldn't hurt. The Bolger boat just kept going. So the four of us were unsure exactly why we were asked if assistance was needed.

Back to the motor again, at least this time we are anchored safely and have time to reason this out. I am no mechanic, being left handed a double strike. Robert seems to have some mechanical aptitude and determines the gas tank is not venting properly causing the engine to fuel starve and die. He unscrews the gas cap the motor cranks.

So the maiden voyage of the Larry Moe and Curly Offshore Racing Team comes to and end as the motor now running putts us back to shore at LCYC.

We let Randy the independent observer off to secure a ride on another sailboat. Tie up ashore and proceed to take the mast down. It is obvious no sailing today due to something up in the masthead sheaves. Removing the mast and standing rigging from the boat the sails are spread to dry in the grass.

An interesting thing happened to the Bolger boat, it snapped a mast down low.
As it is an all-wood boat the mast will be a job to replace. They limped back under power. I discovered later their iron jenny was actually an electric trolling motor; they could not have towed us back even if they wanted to.

My Dad was rather ticked off at both himself and the boat, can't say I blame him. Unfortunately it goes back to a statement I made years ago concerning my boat. You can look a boat over all you want but until you get it in the water, you won't know what is going to break or not work right. Getting thru the shake down process can be frustrating.

My Dad's wife Julie was a real trooper thru all this. Left ashore Julie with her limited sailing experience knew something was not right and asked if it was possible to have a rescue boat come out to help. She was advised that if we really needed help we would call the clubs phone number to request help.

On the surface this policy is sound, it is after all a matter of pride to get yourself out of compromising situations with out asking for help if you can manage it.

As visiting guests we aboard the boat were unaware of this policy and even if we wanted to couldn't call for lack of the phone number.

Buy the way the ladder was untied from the cabin top to help get the boat loaded on the trailer, then back atop the Jeep.

Final loading of the mast, boom and other gear for the return trip to Houston involved removing the ladder again.



Upon return to Houston Texas it is discovered there used to be some kind of card that separated the jib halyard sheave from the main halyard sheaved at the masthead. Used boat with a few years and some wear and tear it seems this card has been damaged. Allowing the wire halyards to jump off track.
Not real sure exactly why a brand new motor was having problems breathing, some additional experimentation is needed.
Basically it was just one of those things! Shake down sails are most important, yet potentially frustrating as you never know what will happen.


The rest of the story

The remaining afternoon for me was spent sailing a Sunfish all over Lake Charles. It has been a long time since I last sailed one, they are still a lot of fun; especially in some wind on a small lake that doesn't build any real seas.

At 6'6" and 280 lbs sailing a sunfish can be a challenge to tack. Took several times before I started getting the boat turned with out coming to a dead stop in the process. My biggest problem was moving too much weight to the new weather side too fast causing the boat to stall. Eventually I learned to start the tack try to move to the center of the boat thru the tack and back on the rail once the tack was completed and the boat moving again. All this fast enough to keep the boat from flipping and maintain steering.
All things considered an enjoyable day with some adventure.


World Class Cruiser

Every time a bunch of boaters get together boat watching and comparing notes is part of the fun. Near the boat ramp was a hand made blue water cat rigged sailboat of which the owner was working on. With out photos it is impossible to describe.
I can only hope these photos will do it justice.


Shane and Jeff of Trailer Sailor fame, where assisting the owner installing the rudder.



April 11 2003 found me in Freeport Texas on business. My wife and I planned a week in San Antonio on the "Riverwalk". If you have never been I highly recommend it. As my daughter was to stay with my Dad in Houston Texas for most of this week. I met up with my Dad awaiting the arrival of my wife and daughter on Saturday April 12 2003.

Friday night as if there was any other option the discussion of sailing on Saturday came up. My Dad mentioned several items needing fixing before we could head out. After all we didn't expect arrival of my family until at least 8 pm.

What could possibly go wrong?

Saturday morning I awoke around 8 am to find my Dad already hard at work in his shop on the Montgomery 17. Lending a hand we soon had a new motor mount installed and various nuts and bolts re-attached. He had been working on her and she was not 100% ready to go. A few items were needed from the boat parts store. It seemed to take forever but eventually we were driving down the road headed for Clear Lake via the nearest boat parts store.

I find working on my boat "Don't Ask" no matter how hard I plan there is always some nut/bolt or other part I failed to get or got the wrong size. Requiring another trip to the boat parts store. You would think with the boat parked in front of the boat parts store things would go smoother.

Yes the boat parts store folks were happy to see us walk thru the door, even more so when my Dad pulled out his wallet.

Screw driver and wrench in hand I am in the parking lot of the store attaching the back stay plates. It is important to have the back stay attached to the boat in such a way it doesn't come loose. Of the twelve nuts and bolts purchased some had the wrong size nuts (just a size too small).My Dad has not finished paying for the other boat stuff he bought when I am back in to swap out for the correct size. Did I mention the boat stuff store employees got real excited when Dad pulled out his wallet?

Just think two trips to the boat parts store and we never left the parking lot.

Eventually we made it to a public boat launch rigged the boat and launched her with no mishap. I was impressed as the ladder was taken off the Jeep only once.

Motoring out on Clear Lake with all the PWC buzzing like angry bee's we find the motor is acting up again. Eventually the culprit is found. It seems the gas cap serves as the vent for the small internal tank. There is a part of the gas cap that needs to be unscrewed to vent. It doesn't look like anything but a gas cap.
There are two things real men never do.
Ask for directions
Read the instructions
Why take all the fun out of life?

Once the gas cap was venting correctly the little 3 hp motor settled right down and chugged up a storm. From that point on I guess you could call the rest of the trip uneventful. We had a delightful time sailing around Clear Lake.
I found my Dad's little Monty responsive smooth and nimble.
As the sun was starting to set we returned and waded thru the pile of power boats and PWC's swarming around the boat ramp.
Recovery was smooth!
We arrived back home around 8 pm to find my wife and daughter already there awaiting our return from the high seas. She made better time than we anticipated.
This was the third time the Montgomery 17 was launched



The information on this page is not intended as a "definitive" guide to sailing .
Rather it is a collection of things that work for me also ideas I have learned from other sources.
The information is specific to my 22' swing keel South Coast Seacraft Eclipse.
The sailing area is local bays and ICW
Use at your own risk
Any good sailing resource book should provide a comprehensive review of sailing theory.

Do you know how you got here?

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