Day 3… Best Day EVER! (Part 2)
Shelly and I were already floating on clouds from passing our ASA101 when Kevin (our boat broker) called and invited us out for an afternoon sail on his Pearson 36 Cutter. It was the perfect way to finish a hard and stressful, but great day.
We met Kevin at the marina and he lead us aboard his beautiful boat. And while this wasn’t the first time we had been aboard a cruising class sailboat — we’ve been inside quite a few sailboats in our search for a new home, even a great Beneteau 423 on the day before — but this was the first time we would be going to sea and sailing a cruising class boat. Our experience so far handling anything under sail has been limited to Hobie and Capri — small, recreation crafts.
Also, for those of you reading this who aren’t experienced super-sailors (including myself), let me add that today’s weather conditions were not normal sailing conditions either. Most cruisers who are sailing their homes around the world are very protective of those homes and heading off deliberately into 20-25 knot winds with gusts up to 35 isn’t something most would do. Especially since wind accelerates on the open water so 35 could easily become 40 and 45. Most cruisers (like us) would rather stay at anchor in a protected harbor for another day — chilling with wine (or beer) and some fried fish and a hammock.
But today was no ordinary day. Our sailing instructors wanted to see what we were made of that morning and now we wanted to see what a true cruising sailboat was made of. I wanted to see how a 36ft, 17,000 pound boat handled conditions that, quite frankly, scared the crap out of us at times on a small 22 foot, 4,000 pound day sailor. And the Pearson did NOT disappoint!
I want to point out that Kevin’s skills on his Pearson are beyond impressive. He told Shelly and I to make ourselves comfortable and just enjoy the ride while he singlehandedly brought us out of the double-bend harbor, locked in the autopilot while pointed upwind, and raised all three sails by himself — the main, jib, and headsail. And once under wind power, he cut the engine and turned us west across the bay.
He asked about how our weekend went and Shelly, with a beaming smile, told him all about our classes, learning to handle the little Capri, and the rough seas and winds this morning.
“You took a little 22 foot’er out in this?” he asked, pointing to the sky.
Shelly and I both laughed.
“That’s crazy!” he laughed too.
A moment later he asked me if I would take the helm while he went below to make us drinks. “Ummm… Hell YEAH!”
This was the opportunity I’ve been dreaming of for a long, long time! And while we’ve looked at quite a few cruisers, stepping aboard at the dock is NOT the same thing as taking her out. Boat buying isn’t like car shopping. You can’t just stop in for a look-see and take her out to kick the tires and see how she handles.
Kevin’s Pearson handled like a dream though! She was so very responsive on the helm, steering easily through the swells without me having to fight the wheel, and as the winds kicked up and gusted she didn’t veer off at all like our experience with the little, lightweight Capri just hours earlier. The Pearson cut easily through the choppy seas, too, without giving you that feeling that you’re just getting tossed and beaten. The best description I can give is she seemed to glide rather than jerk around like you’re on a wild rollercoaster.
Kevin brought up drinks for us, rum and ginger beer, that he had to make on the gimbal stove since the boat was heeling so hard. I started to move aside and give him back the helm, but he waved his hand and told me I was doing fine and to keep it as long as I was comfortable and to just keep heading towards the old lighthouse.
I did, and with a BIG grin! I was at home, in my element, and loving it!
For a while we talked about boats, some he knew of for sale in southern Florida, a couple locally, and the different systems each had aboard. We went over again what Shelly and I were looking for, what our priorities and preferences still were and if any had changed. I did admit that a few of mine had changed. Not that I didn’t want them anymore (or think that we didn’t need them anymore), but that I’ve come to accept that a few of them don’t have to be aboard when we buy. I can add them later during 6 months to a year while we’re living aboard in a harbor and getting used to the boat, learning her and her systems.
We talked about his Pearson, the cutter rig configuration and what made it so different from the typical sloop rig — a cutter basically has a second stay (cable from the deck to the top of the mast) so she can have 2 sails up front instead of a sloop’s single sail). The cutter setup has some huge advantages like being able to point towards the wind more than a sloop, having a shorter mast to get under bridges while not losing any sail surface, and more.
Soon the wind started gusting up higher than we were rigged for so Kevin took the helm back and we trimmed the sails out to let off some of the air pressure on them. Over the next 2 hours we saw gusts up to 32 and 35 on the wind gauge and the boat’s max speed topped off at 7.8 knots. It was exhilarating!
Correction: Shelly reminded me that our top wind speed was 38 knots. That’s 43.7 miles per hour winds.
Sometimes we heeled over so far we slid out of our seats and onto the cockpit floor, laughing!
7 knots on this gust!
I could literally reach out and touch the water we were heeled over so far.
Unfortunately, our day had to come to an end and Kevin took us back into the harbor. Again, with his superman-singlehanded sailing, he furled the headsail and jib, and pulled the main down into it’s stack pack.
In the harbor, he made it look so easy to motor a 17,000 pound boat into a slip no bigger than 20 by 36 feet and tied her up all by himself. I offered to help, but he had a method and rhythm that he was used to.
With his boat secured, he took us on a walk through the marina and showed us a couple of boats for sale there. A beautiful 2006 Beneteau 423 (42 feet) that I had cyber-stalked on the Internet for a few months. She was more impressive in person!
He also walked us aboard a Sabre and told us about a 30ft Hinterhoeller Nonsuch, but by this time it was getting close to 7 P.M. and he wanted to get back to his family and we were getting hungry. We thanked him for taking his afternoon to take us sailing and said our goodbyes.
The day was so incredible and packed with so much that I honestly can’t remember what or where we ate dinner that night, but after another wonderful breakfast by Bonnie we packed the SUV and hit the road. We talked endlessly about the entire weekend, but more importantly about what we are looking for in a future home. The experience with Kevin, and all the great info he gave us, gave us a new perspective and new focus on making our dream happen!
Sailing Into The Blue
Lance & Shelly
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