End of the Story
As promised, Lee Shore delivered a 100% complete, builder and owner sea-trialed Bucktail by the end of February. She meets spec, performs like a dream and was free from budget overrun. Final departure for our maiden voyage was like a Formula One pit stop, thanks to Lee Shore's newest hand, Scott. In a span of about five minutes, this guy had us totally hitched and rigged up, including raising the hitch ball two inches and diagnosing/replacing a suburban fuse to get the trailer lights working. She rolled out of the shop, like a high school kid in cap and gown, off to see the world. In the rear view, I watched Eric for signs of a tear rolling down his cheek, but only saw the camera come up for this view.
Bad weather had delayed our owner's sea trials. Finally, last Monday, with a promising forecast, we readied to head east. Eric emailed: blizzard in Port Angeles. Ten minutes later, a new report - sunny. Snow squalls the length of Lake Crescent gave way to a pretty day - sweater weather, no less. Eric and Scott launched out towards the end of Ediz Hook, next to the Coast Guard Station, where a couple of very serviceable ramps and a solid dock live. Reader, if you don't know Ediz Hook, you'd better google maps it. Interesting spot, where all the inbound ships take on pilots. We motored around a bit, dropped Eric off at the "marina" tower for some photos and played with the twin throttles. The Hondas are very quiet and smooth, peppy too. With the final prop selection, they rev right up to 6,000. The manual says they are Accord engines - maybe that's necessary since Bucktail weighs about the same as two Accords.
Snowy hills above Port Angeles gave way to... what could be liberally referred to as sunshine. Note, dark glasses, some reflection on the water.
Is that a beer keg on the cabin top? Almost - a two gallon diesel tank to power our little Sig Marine furnace. Poor thing, the Sig has an almost hopeless challenge of trying to heat an aluminum boat, with large windows, while it sits in 50 degree water and 40 degree air. It's really cute, though.
Scott, a real customer-oriented guy, hunkered down in the cabin, giving center stage to proud owners.
Aluminum boats can be loud. But, Bucky is surprisingly quiet due to the extensive structural grid of longitudinals and bulkheads below deck. I like this "fish cop" look, as boats seem so dandified these days. Conversely, there's the risk that poachers will shoot first, before seeking out the obvious telltale yuppie signs.
Two days after sea trials, we were itching to take delivery. Wednesday, we packed up sleeping bags, chocolate biscotti's and USCG safety gear and headed to PA, chased by swirling snow. The Lee Shore guys hitched her up, must be the first time this "soccer-mom Suburban from Dallas" has been "saddled". And we were off for Brownsville, about 1 hour distant, on the east side of Hood Canal. But, first we stopped off at Del's Farm Store, in Sequim. Three quarter inch recycled tire rubber horse stall mats were on sale, $33 for a 4'x6' rectangle. Two would cover the cabin sole, with a bit to spare. And thank goodness, Del had several hands twiddling their thumbs, as these mats, weighing 88 lbs. apiece, were going to be lifted about five feet up and over the Bucktail gunwale.
The maiden voyage cruise plan was to begin at the height of a gale, to position us for a somewhat fair weather window for the cruise to Seattle and back. So, the drive to Brownsville was made in violent winds and hard rain - nothing like a highway-induced 60mph driving rain to test for window leaks. Next we're wondering, "Could this breeze be so strong that they've closed the Hood Canal floating bridge?" Not quite.
Arriving at the Brownsville Marina, what do we encounter but the (some of you won't believe this) commercial Geoduck fleet which had taken over the entire launch area and was unloading to an awaiting fleet of trucks. Fresh monster clams, to be flown to expensive restaurants the world-around. The Bucktail, not one to impede America at work, awaited her turn at the launch ramp.
Highlights of the voyage itself included a good rough water test from Port Madison, across the Sound to Seattle, dog-friendly Lock Masters, scary thunder and lightning and a real fun time forgoing our Husky tickets (weather was just too wet for the walking phase) for the big screen and world's best fish & chips at the rather dumpy Highliner Tavern at Fisherman's Terminal. Thoughts of arranging impromptu visits to waterfront friends were dashed by the normal early March conditions. Back in the saltchuck Friday morning, Bucktail mentor and benefactor Gary Wood took the tour and formally donated the Hootchie, his 1970 Avon Redcrest inflatable, Bucky's first pet or maybe her pal. An aluminum boat connoisseur, Gary was most impressed with Lee Shore's welds.
Based on Gary's earlier email advice, I tested twin-screw maneuverability upon arrival at the Shilshole Marina Guest dock, where an expert parallel parking job was required. And simply adjusting the two motors between forward and reverse idle, she spun on her length and sidled-up to the dock. Just like the big boys! After a slow cruise past the big doughnut buoy with the sea lions (dogs couldn't believe it), we needed to race back to Brownsville beating the next front. Loving that flat water, she was docked in no-time, hauled-out and headed back to Sequim, where the Bucktail has taken up residence till "boating season".
Thirty six hours into the maiden voyage, we were beginning to really like the diesel furnace. Quick, close the door. One more thing: the Verizon MiFi was awesome - 3G on the "Salish Sea" - can you believe what the Legislature is doing to our place names? What's wrong with Puget Sound? Admiralty Inlet? The Strait?