January 2023

Sea-Trials. Two words that evoke excitement and apprehension. Excitement because it means I will soon be setting off toward a new adventure, apprehension because I know the work list will expand just as fast as the time before departure contracts.

Sahula has not carried us across an ocean since we sailed from Tasmania to New Zealand in October 2022 (yes, right in the middle of Covid19 lockdowns.) We have had several 3- and 4-week cruises around the islands of Northern New Zealand. But between these short cruises we upgraded her interior in the course of doing a complete interior rust detection inspection. Good news, no major rust, found ways to add two really spacious new storage areas, upgraded the galley with new stainless-steel countertops, modernized the loo area. Bad news? Just the norm, haven’t finished some of the woodwork details, haven’t finished cutting the new floor coverings, haven’t sorted the dish and glassware storage in two lockers (bunched up towels have been doing the job for almost a year.) Before setting off a month ago on our true sea-trial run, the work list was pretty short.

Then our 3 week sea-trial cum holiday cruise began. We had smooth seas, relatively light beam reaching winds as we headed north towards Whangarei. I got out the rigging kit once we had all three working sails set and used a medium sized sail needle to test various spots on the three sails. I could not shove the needle through the fabric on the 7-year-old yankee or the 5-year- old mainsail without using a sailors palm, but it went through the 12 year old staysail without the extra push of the palm. The fabric of this sail definitely had lost at least 25% of its strength. I then used the side of the needle to rub firmly across various areas of the stitching holding the sail panels together. None of the stitching broke or shredded. Good news because that would have been a sign of UV degradation.  My first thought, nothing to add to the list. But then the wind headed us. We winched the sails in flatter. “Staysail’s not pulling well. Wish we could get it in flatter, belly is too far back,” I commented.

“I’ve been unhappy with the way that staysail set from the day I got it,” David replied.  “I think it is getting worse.” That did it, first expensive item added to the shopping list.

During the next weeks we had a mixed bag of sailing, some fair winds, some foul, some calms and motoring. We found well sheltered anchorages like Whangamumu with its abandoned whaling station where we could walk through native brush and along deserted sandy beaches then bath unseen under a rushing waterfall. In Whangarei and then Opua, we rendezvoused with friends we’d met in other ports, other countries. We shared Christmas dinner afloat, moored alongside friends I’ve known for 40 years. All the while, the work list grew, fortunately more quickly than the shopping list; add a curtain instead of a door to cover the new storage area under the chart table, re-route the wiring for the overhead light in the main salon, re-set all the hinge screws on the new cabinet doors so they close more easily, make new trim to replace the broken trim in the galley, add non-skid near the anchor windlass, service the life raft if necessary, figure out how to configure the ham radio and pactor modum so David can stay in touch with his 3 daughters and keep tabs on his six new grandchildren…

Other than the staysail, the shopping list contained mostly simple to acquire items; new spinnaker pole mast slider, cup hooks, closed cell foam to line the new lockers, new straps for the canvas bimini side curtains, woven storage baskets to fit various shelves, possibly an AIS receiver/transponder.

As we explored coves we’d never entered before, the slowly growing sea-trial induced worklist lay open on the chart table, reminding me there was only four months left to prepare for our departure. I was tempted to suggest returning home to get started on it. But I had to agree with David when he said, “Most of that list is made up of - would be nice to have items. We could safely set sail with a week’s work and do the rest along the way if we really had to.”

His words brought to mind the suggestion I give first timer voyagers: two weeks out from departure, write everything you think of on the worklist.  Then go on deck and let the list blow away. Now, write down the first half dozen items you remember. That is probably what you really need to get done. 

And most of all, remember to take frequent breaks as you do your refit. Stop working on the boat, put it back together and get out sailing. Call it sea-trials, call it a chance to test the upgrades you are making, call it a holiday But what matters most is - using that magic machine not just working on it.

May 2023 bring you some wonderful sailing



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