On Wednesday 24th we finally got her in the water, two years and four months after she arrived. Here, in high-def, fetishistic, shaky, niche appeal video glory is the launch. Sped up because even I couldn't bear how slow it was.
Anyone reading this blog (yes sir, you at the back) would have expected this to go pear-shaped at some point, and you would be right. I will sum up.
- Engine remained untested until the morning of launch - I had turned it over, but not with fuel. After connecting up and pumping the fuel bulb for ten minutes, nothing. Turns out the ball valve in our fuel line was stuck - ok, that's an easy one, but it's still 30 minutes of fiddling.
Once we had fuel, she was turning over but still not starting. We decided it was probably the kill switch, which my custom electronics were in control of. Strangely I couldn't talk to the control box over USB, so I decided to open it up. The large volume of water exiting the box hinted at what might be wrong, and the hissing and steam rising off the board removed any doubt. This is what a circuit board looks like after exposure to water (rain water) and electrical current for about 6 weeks.
The buttons were still functioning, and disconnecting the white wire (kill switch) from the engine got the engine started. However it was running on the back of the boat, not in the water, and we couldn't turn it off. I had to short out the same wire to ground to shut down the engine.
- The guys on the lift were unsure how it would go, as their slings were of a fixed width and we were worried the floats would open on lift. As it turned out this was fine, but we'd run a line around them to arrest this just in case. This was their first Farrier or Corsair: there are a few Dragonflys about, but their folding geometry is different
- Once we were on the water, everything went smoothly. Just kidding. Of course it didn't! Our first manoeuvre from the crane lift to our mooring, so we cast off our lines and found the shift unit (a Teleflex TX172013 I'd mentioned my dislike for before) wouldn't shift into gear. I had tested it just before we set off. Just at this point the wind came up and blew us across the dock into the opposite pier, while I am using the kind of language that makes plants die. Problem resolved by lunging for the gear shifter on the engine itself, not quite in time to stop us hitting the pier. No damage done, but not elegant.
We are now mildly rattled. The wind died after about an hour, by which time I'd spotted the double berth across the way. We motored in with our now perfectly functioning gear shifter (repaired by fiddling and jiggling it), unfolded (easy for float one, a bit more effort for the second but still doable with two) and put the mast up.
I'd previously raised the mast on the trailer using the trailer winch, this was the first time we tried on the water. I have no doubt Ian's assessment of the load is correct, but frankly it looked a lot higher. We used two halyards on the cabin top winches, each run to a different block connected to a different points on the boat (Selden 75mm block lashed around the bowpole with a Dyneema strop, and a Wichard MX halyard shackle connected to to the jib-tack U-bolt on deck). Not only for safety, this allowed us to disconnect one halyard to get a shackle past a block. My long-suffering wife on the shore was steering the mast with a third halyard to stop it swinging off centre, which it did - a bit, but probably not dangerously so with the boat unfolded. My raising wire geometry is a bit out, it's on my list.
It would be fair to say neither of us enjoyed this bit, as it felt like a very expensive disaster was just about to happen. However it went off without a hitch, and mast was up on a very stable platform once done. This probably took about an hour, all up, much of which was spent thinking it through beforehand, then double and triple checking the process. It would probably be quicker with more familiarity. We had two people, more would not have helped. Sharing the load across both cabin top winches felt like a good decision.
The last step was getting to our mooring. Although I'd never seen it done, I knew the mast could be up on an F-boat while folded, so we took a breath and folded one side. The sidestay slackened as the float moved in, but only for a second or two and tightened up once the float was folded tight. It might be worth underlining that the duration of the sidestay being slack is very short because the float is in transit - buoyancy is pushing the float in or out. So, from what I've seen in flat water, this is a fairly safe manoeuvre - I was watching the masthead, there was about a meter of lateral movement, no more. Hats off to Ian for this one, who I believe has been perfecting this mechanism for about 40 years. Folding was not difficult with two and a bit of a heave. Now we're 4m wide and still stable as a rock, and with slack winds and a docile engine we chugged off to our mooring.
This was the first time I'd been at the helm of a multihull and didn't quite know what to expect, particularly as we had been unable to lower the centreboard - jammed somehow, we'll sort that out next week. For the benefit of other F-boat virgins, she handled extremely nicely in flat water under minimum power, turning around a point perhaps a meter back from the mast even with no board down. Maybe my tiller-linked outboard helped a bit, but she has such a large rudder and a surprisingly small wetted area that she turns very nicely. I was expecting more drag from the extended float when turning, but couldn't detect any.
I'll add some notes here for to serve as a warning to others. If you're an old hand, I will not feel bad if you shake your head in despair and mutter "muppet". It's a fair call.
- You would be advised to start your engine before launch day.
- Just because something comes with a waterproof seal and is labeled "waterproof", doesn't mean it is. On reflection I think the waterproof seals actually contributed to the problem. Silicone or Sikaflex everything. Or just Sikaflex: the boatyard threatened to charge extra as I had used silicone to seal, because it's such a pain to remove.
- Spraying a circuit board with conformal coating is a good idea, although unless you spray all the connectors (after they're connected) it's not going to be enough to waterproof it. Don't build anything critical you can't repair in the field.
- Raising the mast is nerve-wracking. Always have redundancy. The load on the blocks at the bow is doubled when you're using the cabin top winches due to the lead angle, so go up a size. But it can be done on the water, and a 7m wide floating platform is the place to do it.
- Raising a mast with a trailer winch is not an identical process to raising with a cabin top winch. In particular, my preferred halyard was not long enough, and I would have had to pass a shackle through a block. Fortunately sailing is all about improvisation.
- The absolute best time to raise your mast in a marina is when there is no-one else around to tell you not to. In particular this applies to anyone that has a financial interest in the boats behind you.
- When raising the mast, do try not to get the halyards caught under it, otherwise you'll just have to lower it again.
- In flat, calm water at least, an F-boat handles no differently under power than any other boat. I think the last boat I helmed was an 11 tonne mono, and it's a lot easier than that. But, the flip side of bobbing about on the surface is you can't rely on mass to keep you in one spot if the wind comes up - windage is a bigger factor than I'm used to, and we hashed our first entry into the slip as a result. But you can certainly get through a marina without problems even if you've only helmed a monohull. We motored with one float out for stabilty.
- You can antifoul and then put the boat in the water before it dries! Did you know this? I did not. Multihulls Direct had missed a couple of spots, presumably due to the boat being supported there. Generally antifoul has to be applied within six months of going in the water, but turns out the product they'd used (which we believe was Transocean Regatta) was more toxic resilient. The guys at Goodacre Boats spoke to Transocean and the advice was generally "if it looks like it's not peeling, then it's probably OK". And if not, the worst that can happen is I come out with a beard in six months, so we'll find out.
More work to do
I am now running around fixing all the bits that need fixing. This is quite a long list, but for now I'll leave you with that image. Look how high she floats! I feel like a twelve year old who has been unexpectedly given a Ferrari, and I am very much looking forward to my first beam reach.