Thirteen months have gone into making this boat work well. And the 2018 Chicago Mackinac Race has arrived. A last minute crew glitch occurred and we secure an experienced racer to replace a friend who has sailed with us for 40+ years.
This race has been a part of my family’s life forever. This will be my father’s 64th race (the 2nd most of anyone ever), my sister’s 43rd race (the most of any women ever), my 42nd race, and my daughter’s 8th race. My wife has raced with us in past years and has about 7 races.
The supplies are stored, everything is secured. We are ready to race. Being one of the smaller and slower boats in the race, we start very early in the morning. The biggest and fastest boats start close to 3 hours after us.
We make it to the start and go! The race is overcast, very windy out of the North, good sized seas making the deck wet, very wet. Rain gear tries to keep the water off us with wave spray and buckets of water being thrown at us, and our boat speed is not too good. We have a sistership in our Section and they are moving a little faster than we are. We try to make a variety of adjustments and come to the conclusion that we have too much sail up. However, we don’t have a smaller sail to shift to. We will next year. We are flying a #3 jib and a double reefed main.
The crew is settling in, and the skipper is steering trying to keep the boat moving well, with seas that are trying to push all boats backwards.
Two hours into the race, there is water……..over the floor belowdecks.
Not just a little water, not enough to sink us, but more than anyone wants to see or deal with. A bucket comes out (with the boat heeled so far over, the bilge pump hoses on the centerline of the boat are not where they need to be over on the Starboard side of the bend of the hull when heeled). Buckets of water are being thrown out the hatch. And it doesn’t seem that the level of the water is going down. We have no idea where it is coming from. After bucketing for 2-1/2 hours, now 4-1/2 hours into the race we take a poll after bucketing probably 400 gallons of water. How many of the crew wish to take turns bucketing non-stop for the next 48 hours (the weather conditions are predicted to stay this way for 2 days)? No one raises their hand, not even me.
The decision is made to retire from the race. We turn around and head back to Chicago.
With the boat now standing up straighter, the bilge pump hose now has water around it, and we pump the boat dry. No more water comes in on the return trip to the harbor.
The conclusion we draw is that when these boats were made (out of 600 built), the rudder was undersized. At speed it barely did what a rudder should do, and when going slow (such as going in and out of a dock), it didn’t do anything. The boat wandered left and right bouncing into pilings. This of course scuffed and scraped up the sides of the boat, so these boats had rubrails installed on the sides up near the deck height. Would anyone wish to speculate how many times these rubrails have been crashed into during the 42 years of life? How many times they were torn loose, the rubber insert in the c-channel removed, the screws that were loose removed, go over a few inches to solid fiberglass, drill new holes and re-installed – BUT never filling in the old screw holes?
With the boat heeled over during the race, the water enters through the rubrail and fills the c-channel behind the rubber rail. Those old holes allow the water to enter the boat. From inside the boat there is no way to see it, as the teak wall planks don’t let you see fiberglass hull. There was no way to ever know, or to have thought that this may be a problem.
As we had replaced the small rudder, with a new modern larger and deeper rudder this spring, and the boat steers appropriately at all speeds now, both fast and slow, we make the decision to remove the rubrail which we do two weeks later. It will be a fall and maybe a spring project to fill the holes, fiberglass it over, smooth and paint, but we will make absolutely sure that no water ever enters in through these old holes ever again.
This was quite a punch in the gut having spent so much time preparing this boat for this race, and having been let down so hard. So I say in John Blutarsky (Animal House) fashion: “60 days of my life down the drain, with a score of zero point zero zero.”
The next owner is really going to enjoy this boat.
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