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The Mast-Head: Readying for the Season

Thu, 06/13/2024 - 11:48

Boat season has begun more slowly than I intended. Cerberus, my 1979 sloop, remains where I left it in October, at a marina on the Connecticut River. The plan is to get it back into the water soon and continue on in the direction of Hartford. Bridges with not enough clearance to the water block sailboats' farther passage.

Cerberus has a bit more work ahead before it will be ready to launch. There is the varnishing of the brightwork wood cowling around the cockpit. It needs bottom paint. The main bilge pump hose seems clogged. But the big-ticket item is replacing its engine, a 1978 Volvo Penta hunk of green-painted iron.

The Volvo Penta MD7A is a classic and put out a steady 13 horsepower when it was in its prime. They are of some interest among diesel aficionados, but what with the scarcity of parts, keeping the aged, green monster going is a hell of a thing. At the beginning of last season, the MD7A started overheating every time I used it, and I spent the summer unsuccessfully trying to diagnose and solve the problem. 

With a bang and a clatter, the old engine stopped suddenly in Lake Montauk one afternoon in August and spent most of the remainder of the month on anchor. I was able to start it eventually and nurse it through the inlet and to Block Island Sound, but not before a heavy coating of barnacles had colonized nearly the entire underwater surface of the boat, including the bronze, two-bladed propeller. I did not know about this until the boat was hauled a few weeks later. Cerberus now awaits the arrival of a new Beta Marine engine, smaller, lighter, and a lot more reliable than the old green beast.

Barnacles or not, our transit across Long Island Sound was terrific. With a favorable tide and wind, Cerberus and I stayed on a starboard tack all the way, past Gardiner's Island, then through the swirling Plum Gut. We took our time going up the Connecticut, spending a night in Hamburg Cove protected from the wakes of the powerboats that roared up and down the main channel. In a couple of weeks, I hope to reverse that course, pass the mouth of the river at Old Saybrook, and point south and east toward home. 

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