IO's SEATRIAL BECOMES TEST OF CREW & BOAT
(The Unexpected Circumnavigation of Delmarva Peninsula)
When Dave Mooberry ordered his new J/42 Hull #18, he knew he wanted a cruiser/racer for easy, family Chesapeake cruising and a fast, stable offshore racing machine. His three-day sea trial proved he had both.
The plan was to seatrial the J/42 at the end of May, a season of variable weather in the Chesapeake Bay, sailing out into the Delaware Bay, then SE about 120 miles to the Gulf Stream and back. Their route turned out quite differently. An experienced crew of five set out to test newly-installed deck gear, electronics and to shake out ‘IO’s spankin’ new Ken Read-designed North sails. The boat, which is named after a graceful Hawaiian hawk, rallied on its initial journey. Much of the 391 miles was spent in heavy weather, and the sailing team aboard marvelled at their average speed of 7.3 knots on the seakindly J/42.
Gale Force Winds
As former owner of IONA, legendary J/44 Hull #1, Mooberry has sailed extensively offshore—south to Bermuda and the Carribean and north to Nova Scotia. Knowing he wants to use his new boat to ply the Atlantic Seaboard and beyond, he figured he should substantially test its mettle, first-time out. He left from Worton Creek, in the northern Chesapeake Bay and headed North to the C&D Canal. As the boat got into the Delaware Bay, however, the winds piped up and continued to build. Mooberry and crew were getting more than they bargained for. They found themselves in a short, sharp sea, with a strong current coming down against them.
Winds out of the NW blew at gale force now, and the J/42 ended up spending 14 hours in the Delaware Bay. With only a #4 headsail up, the crew directed the boat just off the wind, where they nobly sped at 8 to 9 knots in "a surprisingly comfortable ride." Everyone on board was very impressed—there was no hobby horsing, and even with fierce winds, it was a dry, exciting trip. Under a three-quarter moon, the swift night sail was accomplished in sparkling clear weather. "We thought of putting up the main, but we might have slowed down the boat," quipped Mooberry.
Once out of the Delaware, ‘IO sailed nearly 70 miles toward the Gulf, but continuing predictions of dire weather ahead made the sea trial team change their plans. They abandoned the last 50 miles to the Gulf, and decided to turn south to come back around into the southern Chesapeake at Cape Charles, Virginia. Heavy winds persisted, but so did the crew’s tenacity, and their relative ease of operation continued as well.
Some Pertinent Conclusions
Dave Mooberry, a trim, fit 68-year old, concluded, "I wouldn’t have asked for the weather conditions we got for our sea trial, and certainly hadn’t planned a circumnavigation of the Peninsulas, but once we were out there, I was gratified to experience ‘IO’s excellent performance." He couldn’t help but think of his former, beloved J/44, IONA, and observe, "I gave up a couple feet of length and a foot and a half of beam when I decided on the J/42. It makes a dramatic difference in sail area, which I wanted for our cruising times with my wife, kids, grandkids and friends. The smaller, lighter sails will be much easier for them to handle. In a wild blow, we found that same ease of handling held true. Despite the downsizing from the J/44, my J/42 proved to be very fast and stable.
Why A New J/42?
"I’ve never owned a new boat in all my boat ownership days, and although I loved the power of the J/44, it was a lot of sail area for my family, so I started looking at all the boats in the 37’ to 42’ range. I also knew, in a much more exacting way, what features I would choose in a boat I equipped myself. The experience of IONA was invaluable in determining those nuances. My excitement built as I realized I could have the latest gear, the newest electronics, a carbon fiber mast in a fresh, new hull. After an extensive search, the introduction of the new J/42 occurred at just the right time for us, and combined all the things we were looking for in an easy-to-sail, easy-to maintain, fast cruiser/racer."
"I ordered the boat in October, through Paul Mikulski, president of J/Boats Chesapeake, in Annapolis. The only racing I do is offshore, point-to-point ‘big boat’ competitions, for which the boat comes wonderfully equipped. I also planned to add deck gear and cruising provisions, to help us enjoy family outings on the Chesapeake Bay."
After studying a variety of possible sail inventories, Mooberry decided on a combination of cruising and racing sails, designed by the eminent sail crafter, Kenny Read, of North Sails. Dave remembers their discussion about the mainsail with a smile. "Ken recommended a loose-footed main, which for many sailors would have been right. I said, ‘No—I need a shelf for my grandkids to sit in!’ Even with the compromises, I have a beautiful set of sails on a spirited boat."
From Factory To Champagne Christening
Dave Mooberry and his wife, FM, toured TPI, Inc., in Warren, RI, and were fascinated to watch their boat take shape. Mooberry returned three additional times, once accompanied by Paul Mikulski, J/Boats Chesapeake, who agrees, "It’s great to observe, first-hand, the experts at TPI, building these new boats. Everett Pearson and his group combine their industry-leading production techniques with the Johnstone designs in what I feel is an unbeatable, quality product."
"I think the traditional lines of the J/42 make it very aesthetically pleasing—and besides performance and comfort, I wanted a really pretty boat," Dave explained. He went on,"Except for the installation of lee cloths, I basically left the interior alone, because I feel J/Boats does a thoughtful job with the below-decks layout—great galley design and spacious accommodations. I gave up a little beam, compared to my J/44, so we will have to get used to finding new places to stow our cruising gear. Spaces are cleverly well-planned, though, and we’re feeling comfortable with the transition already. I’m also extremely pleased with J/Boat cockpits, and the new J/42 is no exception, so I asked for no modifications to its roomy exterior, other than the addition of our cruising deck gear."
‘IO arrived in Annapolis in early March, where the J/ Service team took over the post-delivery details. The finishing touches were added under the watchful eye of "Papa" Mooberry, who paced the dock and smiled like a new father! At last the hull was Awlgripped, flag blue, and the name and hailing port were emblazened on the transom in gold.
A formal christening was planned, and invitations to attend the April 20th event were mailed. The guest list was impressive in scope—family, friends, sailing associates, including IONA’s original owner, Nick Brown, all of whom came from many locales to congregate on a sunny,breezy spring afternoon at J/PORT, when Annapolis was showing off some of her most welcoming weather.
The program may have been a first on the Chesapeake, since it echoed the boat’s name with a distinctly Hawaiian flavor. There were fresh flower leis for honored attendees. Mrs. Mooberry and their granddaughter wore fresh flowers in their hair, while their grandson tossed specially air-delivered tropical Ti leaves into the water around the pier, in a ceremony to please and honor the Hawaiian gods of wind and water, and to bring good luck to the crew and vessel alike. To cover all the bases, there were more traditional hymns and prayers and, of course, the flowing of champagne, to properly launch the seagoing career of ‘IO.
Where Do They Go From Here?
David Mooberry and his family are looking forward to the June arrival of a grandchild from...where else?...Hawaii! to commence their summer Chesapeake cruising season. They can’t wait to begin cruising their brand new boat, with smaller, lighter sails, and to enjoy warm, sunny days and cool, breezy nights aboard.
The race crew, meanwhile, is looking forward to some offshore action, as Dave plans for this year’s Marblehead to Halifax race. Dave Mooberry’s longtime dream—a new cruiser/racer, fitted out to satisfy both kinds of the sailing he loves the best—has come true in his J/42, ‘IO.