3, 2, 1...splash

It took 20 miles to catch them, right at the Mississippi line. How wonderful to be following my  ship to the sea (excuse the literary license).  She seemed to ride well and the hill country of North Mississippi barely slowed the truck. Helen drove ahead to alert the marina and scope out the entrance. My truck was laden with the radar arch, bimini, railings and dodger.

By 9:30 we had arrived at Aqua Yacht Harbor and the staff there was expecting us, allowing Paul to immediately wheel into the yard and get positioned for the TravelLift to remove the boat from the trailer. The crew was very experienced and friendly -- they all turned out to admire what we had brought.

Paul was kind enough to hang around while we prepped the boat and I went over the checklist with him to make sure I wasn’t forgetting anything important: through hulls shut, lines on the bow and stern, fenders...what am I forgetting? We did manage to remember to mark the toe rail with tape at the points where the lift slings line up, so next time we haul her out will be straightforward.

I will never forget the exact instant when the keel first touched the water. In fact, I have it on video, so when my memory fails I can replay it over and over. Well, okay, it wasn’t that dramatic. For one thing, the TravelLift is achingly slow, which is good when you’re toting around 15 tons of a guy’s life. Hey guys,go slower!  We were able to get lots of pictures and video in the 5 minutes it took to move the boat 30 yards from the trailer to the pier. Then down she went, inching toward the water, the keel immersing, then the hull and finally the young man driving the lift says, “uh, I think she’s floating…”. I scrambled down onto the deck and hurried down below (they won’t let you ride down) to check for leaks...all dry in the sump, nothing squirting around the shaft seal, the rudder shaft is dry. Wow! I’m on my boat -- in the water!

Then I was told by the lift driver that I would need to back the boat out of the launch well so he can lift the slings out of the way. Back out? No way, I’ve never driven this boat! Will the engine start? How will the rudder behave? Will the prop turn in the right direction? With the tiny moment of self-doubt passing quickly I ran down the checklist: Fuel valves on, battery switch on, through hull for raw water on. It had been 2 years since we cranked the Kubota / Beta 60. I removed the engine cowling to see better what’s going on. Turning the key in the ignition panel inside at the nav station I cranked for a few seconds...the engine sputtered. A few more seconds and she started chugging, then died.  I waited 30 more seconds to try again. She fires this time, chug, chug, lots of low RPM vibration. Giving  her a bit more throttle she starts to smooth out… Helen checked that water was spurting from the exhaust on the transom. Smoother still… now she’s purring like a tiger. Now to back her out of the pit, turn around and back in again so we can lower the arch and dodger with the jib crane. Fortunately there was not much breeze. I remembered Steve Dashew’s advice on driving in reverse with a spade rudder: turn around and face the rear, and turn the wheel in the direction you want the stern to go. With the minimal walk of our feathering prop it seemed to work quite well. The prop certainly had good thrust. Standing at the helm, even though I had done so numerous times while building her, I realized how much larger this boat was than anything else I had been in charge of, at least in close quarters.Without too much fuss and bother I turned Helacious around on the fairway and eased back into the pit. I shifted into forward to stop the motion, and then back to what I thought was neutral, but was apparently still forward.It seems the Vetus shifter is a bit touchy, I guess we’ll get used to it. That or I had a slight case of nerves.

By then the sun was directly overhead, really blazing down, full-on summer and the nice fog/mist from this morning had turned into 90% humidity. We were cooking, but there was work to be done yet. First we lowered the radar arch down and popped a couple of bolts in each side to hold it.  Then the pushpit rails slipped neatly into place. They’ll get screwed onto the arch later. Then the bimini frame was handed down and slotted right in. I think the boys helping us were starting to be impressed. Finally the hard dodger was eased down and onto the pilothouse. It was exactly 12:00PM and all was well. Helen took command and turned Helacious around again so we could load the anchor chain from the back of my pickup truck into the anchor locker.  We were really sweating.  A few more items, like the anchor, loaded and we were ready to depart the launch pit. Helen located our slip, just straight down the dock from the pit.  I was able to back Helacious straight down the fairway without so much as a waver, then almost made a clean shot into the slip, which is at the very end. I managed not to run into the dock, but just. The second try worked much better. We tied the docklines to some dock cleats, plugged in the shorepower, opened the auxilliary water valve and turned on the air conditioner for the very first time ever. It was nearly 100˚. The aircon began pumping  cool-ish air through the vents, as well as shredded tissue, a gift from the mouse that lived onboard a couple of winters ago… We wolfed some sandwiches and collapsed onto the forward berth for a well-deserved recovery. We did it! In the water, floating on her lines (or near enough), tied up in the berth! Now the real adventure can begin.