Opus is Home

Well, it’s been months and months. I had dropped Opus off at the boat yard in late October, expecting that it would be a month or two of work before I picked her up again. I’d still have time to make the late winter/spring racing season. Most of the work would be done while I was away helping a yacht delivery. I’d come back, pick her up and off we’d go. Tiddlywinks!

Uh huh.

December came and went. January too, followed by February. Finally Mid March the call came that Opus was ready and a date set to put her back in the water. I found a volunteer to help me bring her home. The plan was to go down on one day, inspect her late, after the yard had closed, spend the night in a Bed and Breakfast, get her into the water, do some in-water checks, and be on our way around 10:30 AM. The travel down went well, but the gate to the boatyard was closed, necessitating a bit of a hike to go in to see her. No big deal, and there was a ladder set up (Opus’ decks are quite high off the ground when she’s ashore!) which allowed us to climb aboard where she hung in the straps of the travelift all ready to be launched the next day. We did a small amount of inspections before stowing our gear and heading to the B&B for the evening.

A lovely dinner with some acquaintances ensued, and the following morning they arrived to drive us back to Opus. Upon arrival, she was already in the water and people were aboard doing the yard’s final checks, all the things they couldn’t check while Opus was out of the water. At last it was time for me to (re)take posession of her.

Before departing, I wanted to do some engine checks, for we would be in a narrow channel for a few hours, and if the engine failed there, it would be a surefire grounding with the tide going out. With her securely lashed to the dock, I started the engine. She was blowing a bit of black smoke, but that cleared up relatively quickly. Engaging the motor and advancing the power level, she started to blow more smoke and laboured and then ran really roughly before dying. We started to troubleshoot the system, but there was a deadline bearing down on us. The boatyard’s lagoon is fairly shallow and Opus had a limited window in which she could float. As that deadline approached, it was agreed to haul her back out. This time was a bust.

Fortunately, the dinner friends agreed to drive us back to the border and from there we were picked up and taken home.

A few days later the problems had been found and rectified. This time I would do it alone and make the trip home over two days instead of one. The boatyard had launched Opus and moved her from their lagoon to a Marina just up the channel from them, so there was no tide window looming. The plan was for me to take Opus from that Marina, up the channel to Anacortes, overnight there, and then come home the following day. Because of delays at the border, we arrived at Opus much later than had been planned. That meant a check of only the most critical components there at the dock, namely the powerplant and transmission, before departing La Conner up the Swinomish Channel. The trip should take about 2, or 2 1/2 hours. Maybe three since the current was against me.

The trip up went fine other than the cold weather. I actually was hit with a bit of sleet and rain, and I was very glad I had my foul weather gear and warm undergarments on, at least until I got past the swing bridge at the north end and was headed into the last stretch of the channel. The banks here are very flat meaning there’s not much slope to them. As a general rule of thumb, they are going to continue to do the same thing under the water as they do above the water. It took me over an hour of slow, cautious, probing with the new (uncalibrated!) depth sounder to convince myself that, yes, I really do want to come that close to the west shore. Truly it felt like another 6 inches and I’d be high and dry.

Finally past that impediment, it was a clear run to Anacortes. The 5 months away from Opus really showed when it came to docking. It wasn’t pretty, so on my to do list is a lot of practice getting to where I know the “feel” of her again. In Anacortes, I had an opportunity to again meet up with the dinner couple from the first attempt. This time they took me to dinner. Then it was back to the boat where I was looking forward to turning on the heat and enjoying a cozy evening.

Except the heater didn’t work. Temperatures were expected to be somewhere in the -2 to +1 (celsius) range. I did have a small electric space heater but there was no way it was going to warm up the whole cabin. Instead I had to bundle up. Fortunately, I had come prepared for this eventuality as the heater has been completely unreliable since it had been installed. So, wrapped in my mummy bag, with warm clothing donned and the space heater going, I settled in to sleep.

The next day’s departure was planned for about 11:30am, but looking at the state of things again, it seemed to me that departure as early as possible might be warranted to try to avoid the worst of the currents in some of the passes. Even though the fuel gauge said I had enough fuel – it had barely moved from the reading the previous day, I decided to top it up. Imagine my surprise when the final read was 25.7 gallons. Why so surprised? That tank only holds about 27 gallons (I normally calculate it as 25 gallons usable). I was running on fumes at the end, despite the gauge saying 5/8ths full. Apparently the gauge is currently broken. If I had tried to make it home on the amount of fuel I thought I had, I would have run out of fuel about 1 1/2 hours into the trip.

The rest of the trip was a combination of trying to figure out the instrumentation, new procedures for using the autopilot, and trying not to freeze. The skies were overcast and drizzly, and every exhale resulted in a big white cloud of condensation. However, as I approached Canada, the weather warmed up until I finally had to remove my jacket AND sweater. Maybe it was just the relative temperature, but it felt nearly balmy by the time we arrived.

More to come on this as I work my way through the systems, get them all calibrated and have an actual, thoughtful, and fair review of the work done by the boatyard!