Sky cleared and a warm breeze blew as two friends joined me for the first sail of the season on Saturday, April 11th, a shakedown sail, despite the fact that my first mate, John, couldn’t join us.  After some six months on land, I found my skills were rusty, in fact, so rusty that after we put her in the water two weeks ago, I mistakenly left the Inverter switch off.  This prevented proper battery charging, reducing batteries power below where they should be.  We remedied the situation, took stock of all things boat, then, after careful preparation of both systems, sails and equipment, we were ready to venture onto the Bay.

By the time we left the slip, the breeze had transformed into wind.  That wind, my less that stellar helm handling, and surprising low bow thruster power (aka, turning power at the pointy end) fought against us.  After a bit of fancy maneuvering, a few shouts and murmurs, all 46 feet of Dolce Vento made it out of the marina with only an artfully bent new BBQ grill hanging off the stern by the locked security line John had added just in case something like this should happen.  But made it out, we did.

With the wind gusting to over 18 knots, we played it conservatively, partially raising the main sail (aka, the big sail) out of her new stack pack (aka, canvas sleeping bag with zipper attached to the boom to hold the main sail when not sailing) and kept the jib (aka, sail at the pointy end) furled (aka, rolled up).  The reefing lines worked perfectly.

The Bay chop was something special, so special that one of my friends verged on ‘sick of sea’, but crackers and a focus on the horizon kept her stomach at bay.  Also, I was cold, despite a clear sky rich with sunshine, wearing multiple sweaters and a pair of  heavy socks, so after less than an hour under sail, we dropped the sail, fired up the diesel engine and headed back to the marina.

Docking was perfect — Dolce Vento slipped into her slip with calm precision despite the wimpy bow thruster power.  Not a voice was raised.  My helm skills had returned, thankfully.  We looked like we knew what we were doing, even though we hadn’t sailed together before. Taking stock after the sail, we concluded the following:

  • Find a solution to ensure that Inverter switch does not get turned off by mistake.
  • Evaluate what caused the low power in the bow thruster.
  • Create a new preparation checklist, now that we have new sail and electrical equipment.
  • Remember to bring a bottle of wine aboard to celebrate our return.

We were proud!  We will sail again soon.


Our lethargic bow thruster was a symptom of a larger electrical issue — the alternator on the engine died, indignantly and spectacularly. It’s soon to be replaced with a healthy new one, just perfect for our needs.  Then, we’ll be ready to sail again with the confidence that we can maneuver in and out of tight places in brisk breezes.

As I have said before and I am sure you have it heard, owning an old boat is like owning an old house–there is always something to mend or replace.  Good thing we like fixer uppers.