SeaTrial-DieselIf you’ve been following our preparations over the last months, you know that Dolce Vento underwent serious surgery on her drive shaft and engine alignment which was finally finished at the end of June, allowing her to be  launched.  After the July 4th respite, we commissioned (de-winterized) her, removing all traces of anti-freeze, powering up all her internal systems, making her ready for the first big test – the engine sea trial.

On July 11th with brilliant summer sun splashing the deck, steel-blue sky overhead, and a light breeze, our mechanic, Billy, and his super sailing experienced boss, Larry joined us to test her power systems.  Just like sea trials for an ocean liner, we needed to learn what was working and what needed additional attention.

At the helm, with the men handling the dock lines, with engine idling, I puzzled over the bow thruster. It wasn’t powering up.  Was it broken?  It worked last fall.   Two minutes later, we discovered it was user error.  I’d forgotten that you have to press the power button twice, not once to get it started.  Dorine took a note…remember to test the bow thruster before leaving the dock.

As we moved out of the dock, the breeze picked up (it never cooperates when it should) pushing Dolce Vento’s port side toward the dock.  I made a quick correction and Billy strained against a piling, narrowly averting the new BBQ grill from a piling collision (I think we’ll take it down when leaving the dock from now on).  As we moved into the fairway I began the needed “turn on a dime” maneuver to get her 46 feet headed out toward the Bay.  The maneuver requires (1) a hard turn to starboard with a engine burst  in forward, then (2) a hard turn of the helm to port with a engine burspedistal pict in reverse , and (3) a quick switch out of reverse with another forward power burst.

All went well until I tried to move the gear shift from reverse into forward.  CHAOS ensued.  The gear handle would not shift out of reverse.  As I struggled, Dolce Vento moved backward, John watched helplessly at the bow while Billy and Larry prepared to push-off the boat behind us.  Knowing they wouldn’t be able to stop her because of her weight, I wrestled the gear handle with both hands  finally moving it back into idle and then to forward with a big burst of power, averting the disaster.  Larry took a note….fix the gear shift.  I took a deep breath.

We motored out into the Bay.  Dolce Vento’s engine ran well, responding nicely to changes in forward speed.  John and I learned that at 3000 RPM (our old boat’s easy steering speed), does not work on Dolce Vento.  At 2700 RPM, the propeller ‘cavitates’, pushing so much water over the rudder that the helm pulls hard to port.  Once I powered her back, the helm became easy to handle.   Dorine and John took a note…keep the engine at 2500 RPM or lower to avoid cavitation.  Save the big power for big storms when pushing through big waves is absolutely required.

Billy attempted to repair the sticking gear while the rest of us enjoyed drifting silently out in the Bay, but no matter what he did with hydraulic system wire, the gear sifting between slow reverse and idle persistently had to be man handled.  More work at the dock will be required.  Larry discovered our charger/inverter was set to charge only to 80%, not 100% so he switched it.  Larry took note…gear shift pedestal work may be required; watch the battery charge over the coming week.

As we approached the dock, I handled the helm over to Larry.  He was capable of manhandling the gear shifting as I was not.  He did well.  It wasn’t the smoothest docking, but it was a docking, a docking that caused no harm to man, boat, BBQ grill or dock.  The sea trial was a success.

Next week, we will sea trial with sails, if they are installed as planned this week.