DAY 1- INTRODUCTION
The J/42 performed an early rescue mission, circling in her own length while rolling up the jib to hand the dinghy operator a tow. The mother ship had failed to give him the kill switch device to plug in. In late afternoon we sailed the 8-9 miles upwind in 7-9 knots of air to the Biscayne entrance channel and to No Name Harbor. This turned out to be quite revealing in terms of light air sailing ability. J/42 sailed from behind and between the Tartan and Pacific Seacraft and doing over 6 knots moved out to a 1 mile lead by the time we reached the Biscayne Channel. This was with a 100% jib. The Tartan was next, holding pretty much the J/42 line only slower, the Pacific Seacraft about a mile behind the Tartan with about 5 degrees moreleeway, the Freedom seemed 10 degrees lower on pointing angle and much slower, while the Island Packet motored - after performing yeoman service with the Rally's dinghy. We popped the asymmetrical chute to sail all the way up the channel, dropped the mainsail, and ghosted into the very narrow harbor entrance of No-Name jibing the spinnaker,then up to our anchorage, snuffing the chute and dropping the hook. It wasn't necessary to wake up the Manatees with our engine. Every now and then those standing ovations are nice to get.
Erik announced the plan was to depart at midnight with the idea of arriving in North Bimini, 49 miles away across the Gulf Stream by noon. A crew change and sailing were planned for the afternoon. The Jacketts on the Tartan 4100, having celebrated a birthday party and the J/42 crew figured we could average over 7 knots under sail and/or power on the voyage and got permission to leave at 4 AM after 6 hours of sleep rather than loose sleep at the outset by leaving at midnight.
DAY 3- SURPRISE
So much for the motor. We called the Tartan to transfer the crew so at least they could get to Bimini and continue the Rally. We weren't sure at that point whether the J/42 would have to be scratched. Chip Mason, the first-rate shipmate that he is, volunteered to make the sail back to Miami with me with the objective in mind of getting the engine repaired by midnight, then returning to Bimini to join the fleet for Day 4 of sailing. As it turned out, the J/42 was the only boat to sail on this day. And, it was quite pleasant under the circumstances. We had a 12 knot Norther and were making 7+ knots by GPS on a close fetch toward Government Cut. Chip steered and I analyzed the engine and made phone calls. Then the wind dropped to "0" two miles out. Oh, no! The Gulf Stream could take us to Bermuda. I hailed one small fishing boat in Spanish and offered them $50 for tow into the Cut. They responded that they hardly had any fuel themselves. Fortunately it wasn't long before the wisps of a building sea breeze permitted us to set the large asymmetrical and we ghosted through Government Cut under spinnaker.
This was not easy considering all the sportfisherman, Donzi's and Cruise Ships blasting out at 3/4 throttle. The last of the flood helped into the entrance of South Miami Beach Marina. We snuffed the chute, dropped the main and glided into a slip to begin our repair program. It was noon. It had taken us 3.5 hours. We were getting good at making moorings without auxiliary power.
Needless to say, my cellular bill had climbed to astronomical heights in efforts to line up a slip in a Marina that was "absolutely full", in locating the local Miami Yanmar repairman who shut off his beeper as a courtesy to the client he was then working for, and to convince Mack Boring and the Yanmar distributor in St. Petersburg that here indeed was one of those rare opportunities to demonstrate Yanmar's superior service capabilities in front of 5 of their largest boatbuilding customers, the Sr. Editor of SAIL and 200,000 devoted readers. Certainly, the very least they could do was dismantle another engine and drive with its sheave and water pump 8 hours round trip from St. Pete to Miami. And, there would be cause for celebration, if the job were completed by midnight. We were grateful to get this exceptional Yanmar service and a complete pit-stop turnaround in the time allotted: midnight. Mary was elated when I finally got back to her to say we'd arrived in Miami Beach safely and were following a plan to depart again by midnight in order to enjoy another Bimini sunrise.
The explanation for the water pump sheave casting failure was "too tight a drive belt", placing an inordinate amount of pressure on the offset bell-shaped casting which is the supporting framework for the water pump sheave. The sheave is one of three on the main drive belt, including the main drive sheave and the alternator sheave. We've advised Yanmar that we don't think a tight belt should break a pulley after 12 hours of use, that either the casting should be heavier or that there may be a defect in the casting. In the meantime, we'd advise everyone to keep their main drive belts on the loose side. Ours was the second to go in the Florida area in the past year.
Chip and I cleared Miami Beach Marina in the J/42 at midnight and headed out the Cut into the Gulf Stream once again, motorsailing in much the same light, following breeze of the night before. Target was to arrive off Bimini at 7 AM, making contact with Erik at that time via VHF to rendezvous with the Fleet.
Our double-handed routine was an hour on, an hour off. This made the time fly and kept the biorhythms functioning at a non-fatiguing pace. Our nap times were averaging 20-40 minutes after deducting navigation and eating. We were approaching Bimini for the second sunrise in two days and our third crossing of the Gulf Stream in 24 hours.
A comment about these crossings is instructive. Instrumentation was set up with 5 KVH dual displays on deck. 3 across the companionway slider in a pod, then 1 on either side of the helm station in a deck pod. The 4 pages of info in each display (8 rows of data) could be flipped by the keypad installed next to the starboard aft pod. Reading across the top, we had in (1) Wind Direction and Wind Velocity, (2) Boat Speed and GPS Speed Over the Ground as a check (3) Compass Heading and GPS Course Over Ground (4) Bearing to Waypoint and Depth. By matching up Bearing to Waypoint and GPS COG, we found that we would be steering as much as 30-40 degrees to the right of our course in order to go to Bimini in a straight line. Makes sense. 50 miles at 7.75 knots equals 6.5 hours. 6.5 hours in 2.5 knots of Gulf Stream is 16,25 miles which is 10% of the circumference of a 50 mile circle. 10% of 360 degrees is 36 degrees. A comment about the KVH instruments. We plugged them in right out of the box, with no calibration, and they were spot on - even boat speed and wind angles. That was a first in my experience in dealing with instrumentation.
The narrow passage to North Bimini harbor, which creeps along just a stone's throw from the beach was made particularly treacherous in appearance by the very obvious grounding of a 40 foot sportfisherman, so high and dry on its deep-V keel on top of a rock at low water, that it looked as though it would tip over if the owner rolled out of his bunk. Chip and I enjoyed cruising around just beyond the shoals with jib only watching the sunrise and waiting for the fleet to depart.
DAY 4- BAHAMA BEAUTY
The delay in arriving at the Bahamas meant that, after a cooling swim (1st of the year!), Chip Mason and I had to clear customs at Cat Cay for a combined cost of about $60 - to tie up, then pay the Customs agent overtime on Saturday. The captain was able to get Chip cleared with his Massachusetts Driver's License, one of the least convincing forms of certification and citizenry issued in the Western Hemisphere.
The waters over the Bahama banks were amazingly beautiful with each cloud and change in depth putting forth an aurora of pastel colors from yellow to deep blues and greens. Even having a 5.5 foot draft keel and seeing the fathometer reading 7-11 feet, it looked more like a foot or two of depth. We anchored off the beach, on the North side of Gun Cay for the night, changed crews and enjoyed the sunset. Once again the plan was to take off at an early hour, 4 AM, so that the fleet could make it back to Biscayne Bay by mid-afternoon for another crew change and second sail. Erik didn't have the heart to insist that the J/42 leave then also, it would have been my third all-nighter.
DAY 5- FLYING WITH THE FISH
Motorsailing once again, we caught sight of our fleet ahead on the horizon and trailed them in to Biscayne Bay for another crew change and afternoon sail. Fortunately the afternoon thermals kicked in and we were able to generate a little sailing excitement with Bob & Carol Harris plus Erik Nelson. We went through the normal upwind sailing through the fleet with 100% jib, closing fast upwind on a Melges 24 which was tuning up a race crew. Setting the asymmetrical we demonstrated how easy it was to jibe for one person. While demonstrating the quick, emergency take-down, Bob accelerated the process a bit - but we managed to snuff the spinnaker in a boat length, tack through 180 degrees and go in the opposite direction with mainsail only.
DAY 6- CONCLUSION.
How did the J/42 do? When it came to the fun of sailing, upwind or downwind, and ease of handling, the panelists seemed to like the J/42 very much. In fact, the J/42 was the only boat that every panelist had the opportunity to sail. Because of its clean functional layout and ease of maintenance (no teak on deck), the J/42 seemed to get high marks for seasonal family cruising, where many daysails and weekend cruises were combined with 2-4 weeks of extended cruising.
J/42 #7 interior decor was in the classic Herreshoff style with white bulkheads and varnished cherry trim and cabinetry, but without the cherry hull lining strips, which I prefer, in the two staterooms. Her upholstery was forest green Sunbrella with white piping and matching throw pillows. The pillows doubled as storage bags for bed pillows and fleece sleeping bags. With an "as is in the Rally" Miami boat show sailaway price of under $225,000, J/42 was the best value in the fleet. Had she been built with the optional all-teak or all-varnished cherry interior with sculpted, wrap-around ultrasuede settees,the J/42 would also have scored high on the "just like home" index. I got the impression from some of the panelists that the most significant redeeming quality of the other boats was interior styling, the all-wood decor and living-room like upholstery. The majority of the panelists seemed to be of the opinion that this interior styling was more suitable for a couple planning to move out of their house and live aboard for a long period of time.
More than likely, the conclusion of the Rally in the October issue of SAIL will be that all the Rally boats did an admirable job of fulfilling the mission for which their designers and builders intended. The editors of SAIL under the direction of Erik Nelson should be congratulated for their organization, flexibility and good humor under challenging circumstances. Skip Brown's photography should be outstanding and everyone should get a copy of October SAIL to get the complete story.
My own personal observation (unbiased, of course) is that the J/42 made a significant and surprising impact on the panelists when it came to sailing qualities. For the most part, they had not experienced anything like it. And, secondly, there was no question the panelists on the J/42 welcomed each morning with better health and more vigor, thanks to the captain's private stock of Old Fashioned Quaker oats and brown sugar.