Puffin’s launch on October 10 was an exciting milestone, but the celebration was literally short-lived since Puffin had not been in the water for the last decade. She was kept on the hard after her owner passed away, and I never had the chance to sail her before. I did all of the refit work over the last 2 years by estimation; it was kind of a “dead reckoning” refit.
Challenges at Sea and on Land
The good news was that she stayed afloat, but there were immediately several issues at hand. The plumbing system, which seemed to be adequate on land, soon showed the signs of deficiencies. First, water leaked into the engine room at the binnacle when I test-flooded the cockpit. Then I had to rearrange the track of the cockpit drain hoses for an effective flow. The next surprise was the inoperative vacuum head, which was not willing to work while sharing the same seawater intake with the other foot pumps. I have never had a vacuum head before, and had to learn the necessity of adding a Diverting Y-valve to the system, creating another major detour. And the list keeps growing…
After a short and very gentle sea trial in a 5- to 8-knot breeze, I had to race to a very different battleground—to Florida. I cannot say “home,” because we had just sold it, and became homeless for a couple of days. Thanks to my wife’s sacrificing decision, we closed and moved out of our old home that we loved so much over the last 13 years. Within 12 days we moved into a sweet but downsized project home. Rounding Cape Horn in 1991 was really tough, but I was 26 years younger then, and God was helping me. But the double move within this short time period—with our dog still recovering from a recent operation, and my wife and I both suffering from an awful flu—was really challenging. Thanks again to our Floridian friends—Lajos, Istvan, Patu, Ilcsi, and Janos—who made it possible! This was the first time when I did not have to fight against falling asleep during my drive back to New York (25 hours straight), due to my constant coughing.
Problems Come to “A Head”
Luckily, Puffin was waiting for me loyally, and steady on her mooring in spite of a recent bad storm. I feverishly (literally) started to make up for my missed time on her to-do list, and got my second sea trial in just one month after her launch. I removed the bulk of the tools and parts from the boat to prepare her for some heavy-weather sailing predicted by a coming cold front.
But for some reason I was reminded that the head door must be on board during the race. The race management gave us the green light to leave the salon table on shore during the race, but the head door is still required. Shane, the Australian competitor whose Tradewind got dismasted just before the Horn, had a friendly dispute with Don (the GGR race founder) about the necessity of this privacy door for the head when one is sailing solo. But Don was stubborn, and I am forever grateful to him now! Because I got really stuck—even more than the door itself—after I installed it, since I was not able to close it.
The door served as a gauge, revealing to me the irregularly curved door frame (which I had not noticed before). This was caused by the deck’s compression by the mast, just in front of the compression post.
At first I was ready to jump into the already icy water when I made this unpleasant discovery, but I quickly realized how lucky I am… learning about this now, rather than in the middle of the North Atlantic, England-bound. I wonder if Shane used his head door gauge to check on his mast support before he got dismasted?
To be continued in the next part….