Although Orion Jr is a trailerable sailboat, we've never been able to launch her on our own. We discovered this on our way to our summer cruise on NY's Erie Canal. (Luckily, the marina there had a way to launch it for us.) There were 2 problems. First, the electric over hydraulic brakes had a battery and a brake controller mounted just behind the tongue of the trailer, neither of which was supposed to get wet. Given how deep we needed to put the trailer into the water to get her to float, these boxes were unlikely to stay dry. The other problem was our need to use the extended tongue to let the trailer go deep in the water without getting the truck tires wet. Since this tongue sits about 7 inches below the regular tongue, we needed the trailer to raise an additional 7 inches to get it on our ball mount. However, the original jack could not raise the trailer more than a couple of inches higher than the ball mount. Not nearly enough. When Dave contacted the folks at Magic Tilt, they agreed to solve both of these problems for us.
After picking up Orion Jr and her trailer from Magic Tilt, we made a beeline for the boat launch. It was a Thursday, and the one thing we knew for certain is that we didn't want to launch on a weekend. We had observed this same boat ramp the Sunday before and the power boaters were launching and retrieving boats in quick succession, non-stop. And Friday would count as a weekend day. Our timing was good. The combination of weather and weekday gave us an empty parking lot and 6 empty boat ramps. Right! This boat ramp also had labels on each ramp showing how much distance back the ramp extended into the water. That would allow us a comfort margin to ensure the trailer wheels didn't drop off the end.
When we headed to the Erie Canal, we had completely removed the mast, so re-rigging it proved more work than it had been to take it down in the spring. We carefully followed each stay / shroud from its location on the mast to the deck fitting trying to ensure it would be untangled when the mast was in position. We had labeled each of the ends, and luckily most of the labels stayed in place and readable, although pretty badly worn from 4 months in the weather. Before we raised the mast, we had a couple of projects to take care of. Dave had fashioned a new mast top bracket to support the new anchor light and a new Windex. The Windex needed to be attached to the bracket. Then the bracket secured to the top of the mast. Once we made the first attempt, we realized we needed to change its orientation so that the Windex would clear the VHF antenna. This required it to be bent at a different angle. Once Dave made the changes, it mounted fine. After wiring the anchor light into mast wires, the installation was complete.
Once the gin pole was rigged, we secured 2 ratchet straps loosely over the mast at the deck step and at the stern in preparation for positioning the mast on its tabernacle. Once the mast started moving, it would no longer be balanced and would want to flip into the water. We wanted to avoid this possibility. With the bolt in place, securing the mast to the deck, Dave started to raise the mast with the gin pole. It worked great. We had a couple of twisted turnbuckles that we had to straighten out. The majority of the rigging was run as it should be. However, the backstay was on the wrong side of the stern rail, which it took us a bit to figure out why all the forward rigging was too tight.
Despite our fatigue, we had to keep going before we could relax. The furling system had to be installed to give the mast its forward support. The boom, stackpack and mainsail had to be installed to allow the bimini to be rigged. And we needed the bimini in place to get us out of the sun. So, the day ground on. As the sun was starting to set, we were finally getting ready to leave the boat to get some supper. The only big things left were the headsail and the solar panels. But Dave realized he hadn't tested the anchor light once it was reconnected. He quickly flipped the switched to see it light as we were about to leave.
We were running out of energy, but this could be a big deal. What if there was a problem inside the mast? Neither of us could even consider the possibility of lowering the mast again. And we had left the Top Climber back on Orion to save weight. Dave pulled out the multimeter and began testing the light. He became convinced that the problem was in the connections at the base of the mast. He was able rig a temporary connection to plug it into a 12V outlet and it lit. Hurray!! The problem wasn't solved, but we knew the problem was at deck level. It was time to get some dinner and call it a day.
We were finally underway and for the first time in 7 months once again ready to sail.
But what's all this work for? We wanted to see new places and visit with friends – old and new. It didn't take long to have that happen. Before arriving in Clearwater, we learned that our friends Randy and Sherri on Priorities would be anchored there when we arrived. We stopped over to Clearwater Beach on a blustery Tuesday and joined them for lunch. They were on their to the Bahamas with friends, so we were not likely to see them again this trip. Our next reunion was with Val and Graham from Bonnie Lass, who were at home in Palm Harbor, which is right next door to our first port of call, Tarpon Springs. We were invited to join them for their Thanksgiving celebration, which started with the Turkey Trot in Clearwater. While Dave, Val and Cathy walked the 5K Fun Run, Graham dug in and ran the 10K. None of us got recognized as top finishers, but we felt that we earned our Thanksgiving dinner, which was delicious.
So, all the work paid off, and we expect to continue to enjoy the fruits of our labors a bit before we have to haul back out later in December. More about that later.