Launching a brand new boat is always a big, big emotional and psychological effort for the fresh owner. I have witnessed this formative moment a couple of dozen times now and should know what comes with it. Nevertheless, being the new owner myself is a completely different experience and absolutely not comparable to buying a used boat. GEKKO, my new First 27 SE by Seascape/Beneteau has hit the water yesterday and I´d like to share a “logbook”-style account of what it feels like, because this is a journey a skipper isn´t experiencing all too many times in his life.
It all started the day before, normal workday from 9 to 6 o´clock in the late afternoon when my partner finished her job too. I collected her directly in front of her office and we headed from the Baltic Sea down to Hannover where my company is situated. There GEKKO had been on display for potential clients and our tech-staff had installed the electric engine as well done all pre-commissioning works including antifouling. We arrived when dawn was already in full swing.
20:25 – Preparing the Trailer
Although we had been pre-commissioning the boat already two weeks before she wasn´t ready for transport. First thing we had to do was loading the sails and the carbon boom into the boat, rig everything for a safe transport and secure all moving parts inside. The most sweaty part was actually putting the mast to the custom built stands horizontally on the boat.
That took us 15 minutes. Although the mast is made of carbon hence lightweight, it is still a bunch of kilograms and because of the length not very easy to handle for two people, one of them being a slenderly built girl. But we made it, secured it tightly and attached a signal flag (honestly, a pink-colored dish towel) at the rear end. Enjoying a hot cup of coffee and sitting down to let go the stress before firing up the engine of the towing car was imperative.
00:40 – Finally Underway
Northern Germany yesterday was a weatherly mess. A low pressure system over the Baltic Sea was sucking in warm air from the south, creating a strong wind corridor with a load of precipitation. So driving wasn´t fun at all, gusts twitching the trek, dragging the boat high up on its trailer. Other than promised my dear colleagues providing me with the big towing car hadn´t filled up the gas tank, which with a trailer that big attached is always annoying: During the night time Germany´s gas stations along the Autobahn are tightly packed with truck on their overnight stay.
Nevertheless, we managed to negotiate our way through a couple of dozen trucks and filled up the gas tank. I was tired. But my heart was pounding at a high rate that night: Driving with a boat attached to a car is always stress for me, distances to trucks overtaken and curve radiuses are not easy to guess. In fact, I hate driving with a boat attached: Especially now that it is mine. It´s just not comfortable and feels awkward.
02:36 – Arriving at the Marina
It´s an approximately 200 kilometres long drive from Hannover up to the Baltic Coast. The weather got poorer and so did my mood, it sunk to the bottom as well. Which is tragic because naturally it should have been a day of fun and joy. But I simply cannot relax and let go, talking to my partner, she asked why I was so anxious: And the answer is as simple as this, it is just pure stress.
We arrived to GEKKOs new home port which is one of the biggest Baltic Sea marinas of Germany. The nice thing about it is that it´s just a 25 minute drive from my flat to the jetty and I like the setup, the service quality and the sailing area here. Unloading the mast right at the crane site was very tricky as visibility in the middle of the night was very poor, the boat being wet and slippery and a very strong wind pounding boat and crew. In addition, temps had been dropping to a chilly 3 degrees Celsius and we froze, got wet. Mood wasn´t that high …
09:18 – Commissioning the First 27 SE
Hitting our beds no sooner than 03:30 in the morning, we slept away unconscious immediately. No celebration, no high mood, just worn-out guys, falling asleep immediately. Getting up again at six thirty, my partner heading to her job, I had a quick cup of coffee and headed back to the marina. Weather had been cleared up and at least the rain stopped. Let´s start!
I took off all transport-related devices from the boat, unboxed the freshly bought fenders and attached mooring lines. I also checked the Torqeedo-System and had boat and trailer ready for crane-date. That of course was still some two and a half hours away but I thought I might need that time window to get the mast together.
The weather was still very variable: Thick, black clouds bringing harsh winds and sudden rain changed, from time to time the clouds broke up and a fantastic blue sky brought warming rays of the sun. I worked hard to get the spreaders on, put the shrouds into place, attach some tape and have everything done the right way. Time was ticking down and my very optimistic estimate that 4 hours would do was quickly becoming a hustle: The marina had big time crane-action and so the operations crew visited me every couple of minutes checking if they could bring the boat to the water.
13:12 – She is floating …
Which they did in a matter of minutes: “Let´s go, get the trailer, it is time!”, called me the boss of the gang. I hurried to the parking lot, hauled the trailer to the travel-lift and sure as they were they had GEKKO in the belts. She was lifted from her cradles: “Park the trailer, we will have lunch – we come back to you when the mast is ready.”, said the boss and waved.
The wind was swinging the boat in the belts as I attached the fenders to the right side. Another rain shower set in and I looked for shelter in my car. Five minutes later I returned to the site of the masts to complete the work by putting together the forestay, FlatDeck-furler and Tuff-Luff. When I returned to the crane the boat was suddenly in the water, which was a surprise.
I went on board, proud and happy: Now, some 20 hours since we had got into the car, the boat was finally floating. Gently bumping to the wooden protectors inside the crane basin, I was suddenly so relieved and literally a stone dropped from my heart. Smiling all over my face, I texted pictures to my girl, to my parents, to my company … what a great feeling!
13:14 – She is sinking!
Bloddy hell, that was not so great: As I returned from parking the trailer outside the marina, GEKKO was already in the water. Which was unusual as the craning crew normally wouldn´t launch a boat with their owners missing – this time, the queue behind GEKKO was long. A Sweden Yachts 42 – beautiful boat! – was waiting and a big ass Princess power boat has also been in line. So I guess they thought putting the small boat to water was no problem.
Which it wasn´t at all – albeit the crew did not know that the log-device on the new models of First 27 SE / Seascape 27 is located directly in the watertight bow compartment exactly where the boat is resting GRP-cradles. That means that the log has to be unscrewed when on trailer. Meaning the boat has a hole. If not screwed in quickly, the bow compartment will take on water. Which my boat did indeed. I jumped aboard and quickly put in the log into the socket, but damage was done: Some 100 litres I would guess came already into the boat. What a mess! Anyway, I lowered the keel and decided to pump out the water later.
13:36 – Stepping the mast
Well, that wasn´t a direct threat or danger to the boat, but of course annoying. The guys pulled out the boat from the crane box and put her alongside the mast-rack. “Are you ready here?”, they asked me whilst the Sweden Yachts was already taken on by the strong belts of the travel lift. Nope, I wasn´t so I jumped to the mast and fixed the last part, the forestay.
Now the secondary crew came to action: Three guys of which one was operating another crane, two took the mast by the foot and held the shrouds while it was taken up high into the air. The carbon mast of the First 27 SE is almost 11 metres long which is quite a long stick for a boat that small. With ease the crane pulled it up and the drove slowly but surely to the boat.
My heart was pounding because of … well, carbon. I know which strength and durability this fascinating material can bear as I was a semi-professional race biker years ago before I came into sailing, but I also know how fast it can split and be destroyed if not treated properly. But the guys are pros themselves and it took them barely 5 minutes to have the mast stepped to the foot.
I went inside the boat, the little access hatches to the mast unscrewed and open, to take on the cables for Windex, position lights and VHF. The two guys up secured the shrouds and the forestay – just the tough way without any fine trimming the standing rigging – and left the boat. The whole action did not take any longer than 10 minutes. I thanked the guys and – for the first time during the last 24 hours, felt some relief.
13:39 – Powering up GEKKO
“Can you leave here as quickly as possible?”, the boss asked. More and more boats had been lining up in the queue and wanted their masts stepped. I agreed, not much to be done here now, and powered up the engine. I had already tested the system in dry mode but now it was real life. Putting out fenders and mooring lines at all sides, ready to have the boat secured at any time, I lowered the Torqeedo propulsion unit into the shaft.
Which was a surprise: How high the water inside was really standing: I never would have thought tht at this spot the hull would be so deep in the water. Main switch for battery to “on”, I waited one or two minutes as it is said in the manual and pushed the “on”-button of the engine itself. One beeb, one status-news on the display and two green LED-lights: Go!
Pushing away the boat from the quayside, I waved a Goodbye to the crew, put the lever to slow forward and the boat sprung to life. Steering the First 27 SE was as easy as ABC. She is very, very responsive and obeys to any, even the smallest changes on the rudder. Although there was a strong wind coming in from aside, there was virtually no drift and the boat behaved just fine.
13:59 – Arriving at her berth
In order to go to my berth, I had to leave the Northern harbour and steam down outside in the Neustadt inlet to enter the Eastern harbour again. Outside the wind was even stronger and some waves building, but the boat behaved great. The display was showing “ERROR 84” which was odd, but the engine was running anyway. Because of that error-message I refrained from any test drive action and decided to have the boat moored safely at first.
Which I did in single handed mode with no problems. That is one of the good things about a small boat of course. Now, that she was at her berth, big time relief set it. Some 24 hours this whole project took me and I was down and tired. Going back home, I slept half an hour (like a dead guy) and drove back two hours to Hannover to change cars again. Arriving back at 10 o´clock in the evening, I collapsed onto the sofa. Dreaming myself away to GEKKO, which is now ready to be fine trimmed and rigged fully. But that is another story. For now I slept a long sleep, fully exhausted … but happy.
You may also find interesting to read these articles:
All Seascape- and First-boat related posts under the hashtag #thinkseascape (LINK)
Go small – now! (LINK)
How to determine which boat fits best (LINK)