On the big day, June 18, Seth and I arrived at Platypus Marine at 7am to find the ‘heavy lifting crew’ already stepping our mast. We scrambled up the ladder to help with guiding it in and attaching the stays. Stepping the mast had been delayed until the day of our launch because we’d found by a pretty minimal hammer hit that the old mast step on the keel was corroded into aluminum dust. We had a new one shipped overnight from Rhode Island (we were thrilled to find we could purchase one at all—the mast is no longer manufactured) and then had to affix it, being super careful to bed the stainless steel machine screws to prevent future corrosion. But all that was now behind us and we were actually stepping the mast!
When it was secured, Seth went up in the big man lift to affix the VHF antenna and tricolor light and I did some last minute electrical work when the tricolor switch turned on the strobe. . . . Then we were ready for the big moment! Platypus Marine’s huge travel lift trundled down to the slip and carefully lowered Celeste to the water. With the mechanic, Clay, aboard, we checked all our seacocks and transducers for leaks and happily found none. Then we started our new Yanmar and all seemed well until we put it in forward. We started going backwards! The propeller was pitched backwards, an easy mistake to make when installing a new engine and one we’d made aboard Heretic in New Zealand.
Clay and the travel lift crew were fantastic, and we were out of the water and still hanging in the slings while Clay worked through his lunch hour to get the feathering prop’s blades off and turned around so we could launch for real that afternoon. Platypus had another boat coming out so we had to be floating by 1pm. We made it, and were happily heading out into a calm harbor when more troubles began!
The engine gave an unnatural hiccup and, rather than let it kill itself, we shut it off. Thankfully it was a dead calm so we didn’t drift fast, but we were definitely drifting towards the rocks. In our rush to be launched we unfortunately hadn’t assembled our Mantus anchors so couldn’t anchor to avoid our impending fate. Instead we slipped the dinghy over the side and Seth started rowing us out of danger while Clay checked out the engine and I assembled the 45lbs and 35lbs anchors.
Clay quickly deduced that it was fuel starvation issue and solved it by blowing through the fuel line which was clogged with some gunk from sitting over the winter. But as soon as we had the thing running again, it sounded its overheating alarm! What could be wrong?? It’s a new engine! Turns out there just wasn’t enough coolant in it—super easy fix. Then we could rev it up and see whether or not we had the propeller adjusted perfectly to put the correct load on the engine. There’s no set way of determining this (because each boat is different) short of revving up the engine and seeing if the RPMs reach the manufacturer’s specifications. If they fall short the engine is overloaded and if they go over then it’s underloaded. Ours looked a little bit overloaded but not terrible so we headed to the marina for the night.
There, we and our project manager Stewart noticed that our waterline was higher than our bootstripe, so we decided to haul again the next morning to have the bootstripe brought up just a little higher to have Celeste look right and avoid getting a bad scum line on her new topside paint. All that went without a hitch and we launched for good on June 20!