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mighty mouse

SA’er ‘miahmuhwhat’ gives us our favorite kind of report; PHRF chat, seamanship, drinking, deliveries, drinking, racing, drinking, shorthanded deliveries, and then some more drinking.  From the land of inflated lobsters and deflated footballs comes this gem about a New England staple, from the slowest boat in the fleet.  Instagram for The Mighty Legacy here.

Screen Shot 2015-06-02 at 11.07.52 AMFigawi is an annual race from Hyannis, MA (Cape Cod) to Nantucket over Memorial Day weekend.  With over 200 sailboat entries, it is the first big event of the year, marking the start of the busy New England sailing season.  A great welcome party Friday evening at Hyannis Yacht Club kicks off the 25 mile pursuit style race on Saturday. The weekend is punctuated by 2 (epic) days and nights of party tents and dock parties on Nantucket Island.

This year was my 6th Figawi and my first as skipper of my own boat.  My girlfriend and I have a C+C 24 in Boston and spend just about every free evening during the week cruising Boston harbor, introducing friends to the joys of sailing, and competing in local PHRF races.

It was early 2015, in the absolute depths of Boston’s brutal, recordbreaking winter when I really started jonesing to be on the water.  It’s also when the plan to do Figawi was born.  I knew Legacy met the minimum size requirement of 24 ft, but I had no idea if our PHRF rating would be ‘fast’ enough to meet the max (slowest) rating of 225.  After a little investigative work and contact with my fleet measurer, I learned that a genoa over 161% would make my PHRF rating 6 seconds per mile quicker, to the 225 ‘slowest’ rating eligible per the NOR (Is this the first time in history someone has intentionally lowered their PHRF rating and was happy about it?)  In the happiest of coincidences, there just so happened to be a 165% “reaching” genoa in the bottom of the bow locker that I’d never found, flown, or measured.  A quick check with a tape measure confirmed genoa size, and hence Legacy’s Figawi eligibility.

Screen Shot 2015-06-02 at 11.06.36 AMWe fielded a crew of great friends with varied sailing experience but exceptional partying ability.    2 of 5 crew sent it up to Boston to help with the 100-ish mile delivery via the Cape Cod Canal.  We set off from South Boston at 6pm with sunshine, 15 kts out of the WSW and a slight chance of rain that night.  30 mins into our trip and shortly after we passed between the two main towers of what used to be the bridge to Moon Island, we were flagged down by a gentleman adrift in a 23 foot bow rider off of Rainsford Island.  We acknowledged his hails by coming within shouting distance as his radio was either not on or monitored.  I never got his name, but lets call him “Joey”.   In worst Boston accent imaginable Joey says, “YO! CAN I GET A TOW OVER THERE FROM YOUZ GUYZ?!  FRIGGIN SOLENOID AIN’T WORKIN’…” as he motions roughly West.  “Where?” we asked, despite the fact I’d stopped listening after the word “tow”; a 24 foot sailboat with a 9.9 outboard on the back is hardly a rescue tug.  Joey motioned ‘over there’ – about 4 miles upcurrent and upwind over various shoals towards Quincy MA.  We dropped the #2 genoa and fired up the outboard, turning to come along side.  “I doubt we can even tow you at all, but we’ll see what we can do,” I shouted.

Several minutes of attempting to tow into the breeze and current to at least keep him off the rocky shore of Moon Island yielded nothing.  Meanwhile, he is sitting back there smiling in his bow rider, at one point yelling “Beerz are on my when we get in, guys!”  I let him know that we are trying to make the canal, and are not going to be able to tow him in with such a small outboard.  Joey then dropped a pearl of navigational wisdom on us,  “AH THE CANAL?  EASY! JUST GO ON OUT PAST HULL, TURN RIGHT AND FOLLOW THE SHORE… YA CAN’T MISS IT”

We changed course and dragged him cross -current out of the channel and sort of into the lee of Rainsford Island where he could at least get an anchor set.  We offered to call SeaTow or whoever if he didn’t have a working radio or phone and stayed near for a minute to make sure the anchor was set.   He said he could call someone else to give him a tow, thanked us for trying and we were off again.  Had we kept trying a tow we would probably still be pulling that guy now, a week later.

Screen Shot 2015-06-02 at 11.06.53 AMFinally, we’re off again with sails up, enjoying the last 2 hours of daylight with a cold IPA.  We make it out of Nantasket Roads, turn right (thanks, Joey) and are flying down Cape Cod bay on a close reach and 50 miles to the canal entrance.  Obviously, we do not live in a perfect world filled with money trees and fairy dust, so as soon as the sun set that evening it started to rain with a healthy portion of the breeze going forward on us to keep things interesting.  Nothing like beating in 18 knots, pounding through the chop on a 24 foot boat.   It is here I should add that Legacy has a slightly oversized main on a taller mast, coupled with a larger rudder.  These elements combine to provide enough ‘feedback’ to tire the Incredible Hulk’s arm.

After several hours of pounding through the chop (not sure how the other 2 guys were able to nap down below at all) and tucking in a second reef in the main, the breeze moved to exactly the angle needed to fetch the canal.  We motor sailed the last couple of hours to ease the agony a bit, making it to the canal around 3am, cold but at peak fair current.  A nice hot cup of clam chowder courtesy of a camp stove I had welded to the bottom of a percolator was just what the doctor ordered.

We blasted through the canal in about 40 mins, and the first bit of dawn began showing around 415am.  The breeze had calmed to less than 8 knots so the plan was motor straight to Woods Hole.  Around 430, as we were finishing off the last bit of the cape canal channel I climbed down below to sleep for the first time in about 20 hours.  5 mins later the 2 guys on deck call for me “SH*T! THE RUDDER…”.  The Canal currents were slamming into Buzzards bay off of Wings Neck and built 5-6 foot standing waves .  There must have been some insane pressure on the rudder because the long single gudgeon rod sheared its lower retaining pin off and allowed the rod to work its way up and free the lower rudder gudgeon.  Legacy’s rudder is approximately 6ft long and extremely buoyant.  By the time i was on deck, the rudder had floated itself out about 30 degrees and was canted similar to the double rudders on a Mini.  The 1/2″ stainless gudgeon rod still had the top gudgeons pinned in place, but had bent from the force of the rudder.  The three of us were able to stabilize the rudder, pound out the bent gudgeon rod and get the rudder onto the deck.  With the current still flowing and the breeze pushing us towards shore we powered up the outboard and steered using the thrust of the outboard.  Around 5am we began to steam towards Woods Hole while figuring out WTF to do about this rudder.

Screen Shot 2015-06-02 at 11.07.37 AMLegacy is surprisingly agile without a rudder and actually handled better than expected so the plan was to stop in Woods Hole, find a hardware store and replace the bent gudgeon rod with whatever would work.  The next problem was how would we get into Woods Hole with a fully foul current and no rudder?  Dealing with the rudder caused us to miss the slack/slightly foul tide window we originally planned to transit.  Our newly found confidence in Legacy’s handling under outboard thrust steering helped me decide to just go for it, check out how the boat would react and then bail out and ride the current back to Buzzards Bay if it was even a little bit sketchy, where we could wait for the tide again.  The anchor was readied, charts out on deck and we breeze right on through without much issue.  Had there been fog, ferries or lots of breeze we probably would have figured out another way, but at 0630 Friday morning it was clear, flat and totally doable.  We powered through vineyard sound in calm waters, safely on course for Hyannis and a suitable repair upon arrival.  I finally got some sleep after 24 hours, despite being awakened by the crew’s concerns of running out of fuel, but I knew we had enough to motor for at least 15 hours, if needed, and we hadn’t even come close to that number thanks to sailing most of the way to the Cape Canal.  Legacy’s new found rudderless agility must have burned more fuel with the additional thrust required as well as writing our names in cursive across vineyard sound as we snake-waked our way to Hyannis.

Screen Shot 2015-06-02 at 11.06.17 AMWe had a nice southerly breeze filling in the early that morning as the sun came out so we jury rigged the rudder back on using the still straight portion of the gudgeon pin and were able to find a 3 inch long bolt, which we wrapped in tape to build up the diameter enough to take most of the wobble out.  This allowed us to make the last few hours of the trip into the harbor under sail quite pleasant.  We had celebratory cups of coffee and enjoyed the morning.  Friday afternoon was spent finding new hardware via some 1/2″ carriage bolts from West Marine and completing the re-installation of the rudder while on the loaned mooring from Hyannis Yacht club. Some shaking and banging of the rudder and inspection satisfied concerns of the installation’s robustness so we turned to address the next problem: Too many beers on board.

Race day went off without a hitch:  Our 3 additional crew arrived first thing Saturday morning on time, we rigged the boat, had a safety briefing and made it out to the race course on time.  As the slowest rating eligible for entry, we shared the starting line with 7-8 other similarly rated vessels with a starting time of 1000.  The beautiful 15-20 WSW’ly made for an exceptional reaching race for us on the short course to the entrance to Nantucket Harbor.  Our crew of 3 men and 3 women, we had 3 Figawi virgins.  Our anticipated finish time was 3-4 pm, but thanks to better than expected breeze and current we finished in just under 4 hours.  (See video of the finish).  We triumphantly continued our reach directly into the harbor, swapping cheers with each other while cleaning up the boat.  The Figawi race gods smiled upon us with an awesome slip assignment off Straight Wharf, directly behind the restaurant and raw bar CRU.  Friends came by the boat and we enjoyed libations until the party tent that evening.  No one seems to remember what happened after that besides the fact that the tent band was insanely good…

Sunday we had an epic dock party with maybe 20 people hanging on the boat and dock.  The afternoon pushed on and the group split up to enjoy the island, but reconvened at the party tent that evening. A few of us ended up at CRU later that evening for more drinks.  I looked out the back window to check on the boat and saw two of Legacy’s own, one in his underwear stepping down the ladder into the water and the other supervising.  I later learned a cell phone had gone in the water by accident while getting on the boat.  It was assumed a lost cause, but started ringing after 2 mins submerged in the 5 feet of water where we were berthed so one of the crew who was feeling no pain went in after it.  And the phone has survived!

Screen Shot 2015-06-02 at 11.07.06 AMMonday morning came far too quickly for everyone.  Half our crew slept on the boat and the other half were scattered throughout the random places you end up after the Lobster Trap. 2 of the crew members (inevitably) ended up snuggling up together at one of the houses after staying up drinking rum until 6am.  Unfortunately for me, one of those rum soaked people was the only other crew member coming for the delivery back to Boston.  He rolled up to the boat with a slight limp due to an large cut on the bottom of his foot (Side note:  Figawi requires shoes to enter the party tent, who knew?) A quick cleanup of the cabin and dividing of the gear left over on board got us fueled up and out of the boat basin (pretty much the last boat) by 1030am.

We were met with a gorgeous delivery home with 15 out of the SW.  This made for a comfortable but fast 6 hour sail to Woods Hole.  The other crew member helped get the #2 Genoa set up on deck and then napped his drunk/hangover away until we got to Woods Hole.  This enabled me to get my first taste of single handed sailing as I was able to balance the boat out and tie the tiller to sail a straight course without much intervening for minutes at a time.  I was able to put a reef in the main, make a sandwich and have a few snacks,  shake the reef out, and finally drop the genoa before getting the outboard set up to motor through Woods Hole.  After Woods Hole the two of us set the spinnaker for a spectacular run up Buzzards Bay in 12 knots from behind, while surfing 4 foot rollers.  We got to the canal entrance before dark so we doused the kite near Wings Neck and hit the outboard.  Our later departure time caused us to miss the fair tide through the canal, but it was good since I was able to get a Nap in while the other guy drove through the canal.    Once out of the canal we were SOGing close to 7 knots with just the main.  The other crew member went back down and snoozed for several more hours as I just drove, drove , drove.  Reaching on Legacy is a lot of fun, but the helm gets so loaded I felt a lot like Trogdor the Burninator with his single beefy arm by the time we got to Nantasket Roads.

The breeze built as we beat into Boston Harbor in steep chop.  By this point, both of us are awake and on deck, searching for government marks with the spotlight to verify the GPS and my dead reckoning position.  The rudder had nicely broken in our repair over the last few hours, resulting in a nice loose feel on the helm – a feel something like sleeve of wizard. Finally, after making it through the first few miles of Boston harbor we neared the point where we could turn right to start to approach the Moon Island Bridge.  I bore away after quarantine rocks when the ‘feel’ of the helm suddenly disappeared and the tiller rotated through my hands like a motorcycle throttle.  We had lost the lower gudgeon pin (again) I thought.  At this point we had a bit of dawn’s twilight (again) and could see the lower rudder gudgeon had completely sheared off.  This was problematic as the breeze was pushing us closer to quarantine rocks and we were unable to use the rudder at all.  The chop and waves were bouncing the boat and I feared we would destroy the rudder itself, which was still intact at this point.  We were unable to safely remove the new top gudgeon pin with the tools we had aboard,  so to the ole McGyver tricks we went; a sail tie around the lower part of the rudder stock, laced through the lower gudgeon was enough to hold the rudder straight, letting us motor the final 2 miles home. Every time I gave the engine a little throttle the repair would break, so we limped between the remaining towers of the Moon Island Bridge making about 1 knot, then around Thompson’s Island into Dorchester bay and the yacht club dock at 0600 Tues morning on the dot.  We lashed and stabilized the rudder as much as possible, buttoned up the boat got out of there.

There is nothing like finishing off a long, cold winter with 6 consecutive days just messing around in your boat.

366 days till Figawi 2016.