Our First Spring Launch – Part 1

Are you ready to read about our first launch with Azura? You might want to prepare a hot beverage and get comfy because I’m not sure that brevity is going to be my strong point today.

When we bought Azura, the sailboat was on the hard. For you non-sailors among our readers, that means she was sitting atop a cradle in the compound. The survey from a few years back was good but we were still taking a bit of a  risk in buying a sailboat that we hadn’t ever seen in the water. That said, seeing Azura out of the water gave us a great opportunity to thoroughly inspect the hull. Saturday’s launch was a little daunting and part of that could have been that we’d never launched a sailboat before.

ready to launch

The night before, Bryan and the marina staff positioned Azura at the travel lift so that she could go straight into the water on Saturday morning. Bryan, our daughter Kaia, and I headed out early that morning while our teenage son, Tobias, decided to stay home to work on a school project sleep in.

Paul, one of the marina employees, already had Azura in the sling above the water when we arrived at 8:30 am. The day was proving to be gorgeously warm—quite a drastic change in weather from the previous two days of rain and snow. Bryan and I figured it would take an hour or so to launch, then we’d spend the rest of the day setting things up in the cabin, exploring Port Dalhousie, and then head home in the late afternoon.

The first order of business was for Bryan to hop on board and double check that everything was closed properly before the sailboat would be lowered into the water. He did that and we were good to go. As Azura was lowered I held my breath. Everything seemed to be going without a hitch and then it happened… a few moments later I heard Bryan shout out to Paul that Azura was taking on water. *&#$!

Further inspection indicated that we had leaks in two places. The one spot, which is common, is called the stuffing box.  This is where the shaft for the propeller leaves the sailboat. It would be fairly easy to access and wasn’t something he was overly concerned about. The other spot was the waste discharge valve. It is illegal to have this functioning on the Great Lakes and pretty much any inland waterway. It had been fiberglassed over as well as sealed off  properly but it seemed the nut wasn’t tight enough and water was coming into the bilge. Bryan tried to tighten the valve but it was impossible to get at. He explained to me that we may have to pull Azura back out and access it from the outside.

What is it that they say about the best laid plans?

Paul told us that there might be another way and he called in their marine mechanic to look at our issues. Yunior, a very helpful and friendly guy who originally hails from Cuba,  said that the leaks were small enough that we wouldn’t sink and he didn’t think we needed to pull her from the water just yet. He suggested that Paul and his helper help Bryan line Azura to the service dock and he would come back the next day. Yunior was going to make a tool that would allow him to access the nut from inside the sailboat to tighten it. He would also take care of the stuffing box then.

stepping the main mast

While Bryan was taking care of all of this, Little Miss Kaia and I settled the bill for our summer stay at the marina. We explored the marina grounds, took quite a few photos, and then headed back to the office. We had a lovely chat with Laura and Nena who own the marina. Kaia politely asked Laura for a garbage bag. She wanted to clean up some garbage she saw around the rocks and in the gardens. I put gloves on her and we set to work. It was so sweet of her to offer to help and a great way to keep her out of trouble. Kaia isn’t quite seven years old and all the waiting had to be pretty boring for her.

Now back to our sailboat. Paul and Bryan decided that they would step the masts before moving Azura. Stepping the masts is fancy sailor talk for putting the masts up. Our main mast was very heavy and took several men to lift it onto the transport truck at the Lake Simcoe end during the move. Thankfully Paul and the guys had put it on  a cart the night before and it could simply be wheeled up to the crane. Within an hour, they had both the main and mizzen masts up and Bryan was tightening the shrouds. Azura was then lined to the service dock and we went for a late lunch.

Upon returning we loaded Azura with all the gear we brought from home. Kaia and I spent the remainder of the afternoon organizing Bryan’s tools as well as a plethora of spare parts that we found in the hanging locker. We set up the cushions in the vberth and puttered around. Kaia read her books, played on her tablet, snuggled under a blanket on one of the berths, snapped some photographs, and even helped do some sweeping.

Bryan had been installing the booms when he heard a ruckus across the water. We looked over to see a couple struggling with putting their mast on. A third boater came over to help and the mast was precariously position. In fact, it was close to landing in the drink. He immediately dropped what he was doing and ran along the docks to go help. It was a good thing he did and a half hour later they had it in place. It was educational for us because we had considered stepping the masts ourselves. After seeing that I think we will stick to the crane.

view towards the lake

Later in the day, Bryan decided to check the bilge pump. He disconnected it from the hose and put it in a bucket of water. It didn’t go off like it should have. He checked the wiring to ensure it was getting power. It was. Finally, I suggested that he just go get a new one. I figured the bilge pump was necessary especially with the leaks still not being repaired at that point. Perhaps I might have been overly cautious but that is my nature. I found a shop nearby that had a new pump on sale for a reasonable price. It was 5:30 pm by this time so Bryan hurried off to pick it up as well as something for us to eat.

After a quick bite, Bryan set to work installing the new bilge pump… and it wouldn’t work either. He checked all the wiring again and discovered that the ground wire had come off at some point in time. He put the ground back in place, successfully tested the pump, and reconnected the hose. We decided that we would keep the old pump, which wasn’t broken after all, as a backup.

We called it a day, watched our first sunset from the cockpit, then headed home. The plan was for Bryan to return on Sunday to meet with the mechanic and try to rectify the leaky business while I prepared for a housefull of teens. In my next post I will share the second part of our launch story.

More photos (click to enlarge)…

docks to be set up
at the service dock
the setting sun






Moving a Sailboat

You might be wondering why we didn’t simply sail the Azura from the Beaverton Yacht Club to Port Dalhousie Pier Marina. After weighing all the pros and cons we came to a decision.  The reality is that sailing from Lake Simcoe to Lake Ontario is quite a journey, we’ve never crewed a sailboat before, and Bryan doesn’t start his sailing lessons until next month. Then there is the fact that we have some necessary projects to complete such as the hatches and dorade boxes that didn’t get finished over the winter. Consideration was given to the three hour (plus) drive to Beaverton to do all the work needed before we could sail—we’d spend time on the road that could be used for paring down the to-do list. Not to mention that we drive a Jeep Wrangler which isn’t exactly known for fuel economy. Finally, the owner of the marina in Beaverton wants to phase out all sailboats and wanted Azura off the lot by mid-May. The more we thought about it, the more sense it made to bring the boat overland to somewhere a bit closer to home, so we contracted Drew Marine Transportation to handle the endeavor.

In typical March Family fashion, this was not without Mother Nature adding to our adventure. Here is our story…

Bryan took last Thursday and Friday off. The weather had been good and then, Thursday arrived complete with rainfall warnings which made preparing our sailboat for the move a very wet job. Tobias’ took a day off from school to help his Dad and the pair left the house shortly after 4:30 am. By the time they arrived at Beaverton Yacht Club it was pouring. The guys removed the tarps first and then emptied the sailboat, tie-wrapped the shrouds to the two masts, and ensured that everything was secure. They made it home just in time for a supper of homemade soup which was perfect because they were both cold, drenched, and exhausted.

thawing the hydraulics

Friday morning was as early a start as the day before. Bryan had to meet Keith, the boat mover, for 9:30 am plus account for possible delays due to commuter traffic and SNOW! You read that right and it was a mess… a snowy, wet, slushy mess. Just as Keith went to load the sailboat the guys realized that the hydraulics on the truck were frozen. The marina loaned them a heat gun which they plugged into a generator and they ended up being able to thaw the equipment. Azura was loaded and they were off.

Azura arrived in Port Dalhousie safe and sound late in the afternoon under sunny skies. The marina owners had Keith unload the sailboat right by the travel lift with a Saturday morning launch in mind. But… that’s another story and a whole other set of surprises and mishaps.

Here are some more photos (click to enlarge)…

and she’s off
waiting for launch






PS. Bryan and I were so pleased with Drew Marine Transportation that we would not hesitate to recommend them to anyone. Keith went above and beyond.

You Can’t Afford the Cheap Stuff

You can’t afford the cheap stuff” or at least that’s what Bryan has been telling me for as long as I’ve known him. This post solidifies that sometimes less is not more. It was written last weekend while I was attempting to stay warm in the Jeep until Bryan was ready for my help.


I’m sitting here at the marina in Beaverton watching as snow and ice are being brushed off of Azura’s tarp or what remains of it. There are holes in the tarp reminiscent of Swiss cheese so Bry and I have come up here to address the problem.

blustery day
a blustery day

When I say that Bryan ignored his own  rule and cheaped out on a tarp I mean that he bought the mid-grade one that came in at just over $100.00 from a local auto supply company. Our son Tobias and he put it on just over a month ago one damp and windy Saturday. Then, last week he went back up to remove the batteries that he forgot last time and saw that the cover was in pretty rough shape. High winds in early November had damaged our cover and several others in the marina. It was a good thing Bryan decided to be fastidious and checked because some water had made its way into the v berth through the hatch that needs restoration.

Epic tarp fail!

He brought back the damp cushions and then we made plans to come back up today and redo the cover. Bryan picked up a second tarp but this time around he bought a heavier grade one. That said, at 3 am I woke up, like I often do, with a brilliant idea! We should go with something even stronger—the super heavy duty sort designed for covering hay bales. They have great tie downs and they are designed to withstand quite a bit.

As soon as Princess Auto opened this morning we make the exchange with a cost around $230.00. 18′ x 48′ will be plenty big enough. We also grab some more rope before heading North. The drive here and back takes a total of six hours so a full day is pretty much necessary.

stanchion tears
stanchion tears

In a few moments he will be underneath the old tarp detaching the stanchions and safety lines so they don’t abrade the cover and cause holes in yet another tarp. That’s where I come in. This new tarp is very weighty and the winds are gusting right now. There is also a good 5 cm of snow on the ground which is starting to melt.

While I’ve been waiting I decided to walk down to the marina office and grab the other keys for the companionway. The fellow manning the shop tells me that he surveys everything after every heavy snowfall and will call us if he sees anything at all concerning. That certainly adds some peace of mind although we will still pop up to visit Azura from time to time. From what he is saying, the former owner has been quite vigilant about keeping Azura well covered too. It does show.

Well it is time for me to assist Bryan with this behemoth sheet of poly. Off I go!”

More than two hours later we had completed the job. To save time we simply tarped over the damaged tarp being sure that none of the grommets would touch the hull. One of the spots where the tarp had ripped was where the makeshift wood frame was positioned at the top. We didn’t have time or tools to change the construction so I suggested that Bryan take the cockpit cushions, which we are replacing anyway, and use them to pad the ends of the two boards. He climbed in the cockpit under the old tarp and put them in place. Being an industrial grade hay bale tarp meant it was quite heavy for the two of us but we used the wind to our advantage by working with the gusts to get the tarp up and over the sailboat. We now have a much more secure setup that will hopefully hold until Spring.  Next year we may consider a custom made cover or shrink wrapping.

Here are some more photos (click to enlarge)…

hole from frame
hole from the frame
torn tarp edge
better holds
better holds