We launched Relentless on April 30 which makes me happy since it was still technically April.

The plan was to launch around 11:00 AM and maybe take her out for a little spin. Unfortunately, around 9:00 AM a wicked blow popped up from the west and the forecast called for 50 MPH gusts…

Ned and the Mattapoisett Boat Yard crew decided to move up the schedule and launch Relentless and Vigilant before it got any worse.

Relentless was already in the water when I arrived and Vigilant was cued up next…

One of the projects we had MBY do over the winter was to apply Propspeed to the propellers on Relentless. As I pulled into the yard I noticed a new Authorized Propspeed Dealer sign on the barn and sure enough, they’d done Vigilant’s prop too…

I walked over to the dock just as Ned was pulling Relentless into her slip. He stepped off and said “Those new thrusters are awesome. We wouldn’t have even tried to launch in this wind without them.”

The winds on Buzzards Bay blow southwest or southeast 90% of the time. MBY is well situated for those winds and my slip has a long concrete dock on the south side.

But on April 30, we had those gales blowing from the west – straight across the harbor and on to the fully exposed side of our slip…

As I reported a few times, we decided to “bite the bullet” and install thrusters over the winter. Since I first mentioned this at the end of last season, I’ve received a ton of inquiries about it. If your interested in the back story, here you go – if not, just skip ahead the The Flotilla Kickoff Party section.

The Tale of the Thrusters

It all began at the very end of our first trip on Relentless when I scratched the beautiful new Awlgrip heading for lunch The Chartroom.

It was my first attempt to back into a slip at Kingman Marine and the whole thing was doomed from the beginning…

  • A captain (me) unfamiliar with the limits of the Zeus Joystick and one who believed all the hype that said they were better than thrusters.
  • A 20 MPH crosswind.
  • A narrow slip with virtually no fenders or bumpers.
  • A single inexperienced dockhand calling the shots.

Still, as captain, I take full responsibility for the scratch and the smaller one that followed a week later on the other side in Sandwich (fortunately MBY made them all disappear for a mere $1,710 over the winter). But as captain, I knew I had to do something.

Shortly after the second ding, I had Ned join me on a windy day and to attempt some “touch and goes” against a floating dock in the harbor – just to make sure I knew what I was doing (stop me if you’ve heard this story before).

It turned out I did, but the demands of close haul maneuvering amidst Buzzards Bay winds was more than pods and a joystick could handle.

The problem with the thruster/joystick is that they really can’t do just one thing. The most common failure is the nautical version of “parallel parking” with the wind blowing you you in. You simply want to inch sideways toward the dock and then reverse power at the last second like “retro rockets” as you gently kiss the dock.

It’s near impossible to go straight sideways with the joystick without moving a little forward or back. In addition, the bow or the stern almost always twist and there’s nothing parallel about that! And there’s also a sizable lag when the time comes to “apply the retro rockets” (along with the twisting and lurching fore or aft).

And that’s just one of the problematic scenarios! You can never nudge the bow starboard without nudging the stern to port.

So we sprang for nearly $35,000 to go with the best to install oversized Bow and Stern thrusters on Relentless.

New England Bow Thruster

It didn’t take long to discover that Side Power made the best thrusters and NE Bow Thrusters were the best installers in the region.

Bill at New England Bow Thruster suggested we go with the Side Power SEP 170, which is designed for boats up to 70’. Since it’s fully proportional – meaning the paddles are more like throttles than on-off switches, the extra power won’t get you in trouble.

I admit to a little “sticker shock” when Bill first quoted the job, but when you consider what it takes to retrofit thrusters, it’s fully justified.

When fully engaged, the thrusters are pushing 462 pounds of torque on the bow or stern – kind of like a Ford F-350 towing you. That requires a fair amount of engineering and structural perfection.

After all, they’re cutting several sizable holes in the hull of your baby…

They also have to run lotsa wire and install controls on two helms…

And since they’re electric (battery powered), they needed to install a new battery system with chargers and back-up.

It took a couple of skilled installers 3 1/2 days to complete the job.

Thrusters In Action

Last Friday the forecast was for modest winds out of the east. With so many different workers on the boat, I was anxious to shake her down and discover problems before we left on our first extended cruise. I was also anxious to see if my $35,000 was money well spent on the new thrusters.

The east wind was up to 15 knots by the time we shoved off (10:45). It was a very unusual wind direction, blowing Relentless hard against the well padded wooded dock.

I asked Mrs. Horne to drop all the lines on the west side of the boat and then I engaged “Dock Hold” to starboard, which throttled both thruster at 10% power.

They performed perfectly, slowly pulling toward her toward the well padded pilings and snugging solidly against the gusting wind. This made Mrs. Horne’s job easy.

There are four lines on the starboard side and each must be uncleated and carefully hung on a piling so they can be easily retrieved when we return.

With just the joystick/pods this was always challenging in that I’d power the boat to the piling and kind of bounce off until Mrs. Horne got it. If she didn’t get it right the first time, we have to try, try, again.

I would say that the Dock Hold capability alone may have been worth the sporty price tag. And as soon as we did it, I said to Mrs. Horne “Next time I’m going attempt to do everything by myself.”

I’m not trying to put her out of work, but rather, I was delighted with the realization that I could now take our 48’ Sabre out singlehanded!

I have a total of about three feet to play for the first 150’ backing out of the slip, I put the Zeus drives in “Dock Mode,” – which simulates 600 HP rather than the normal 1200 HP and allows me to truly inch forward or back.

Needless to say, backing out of the slip with a 15 knot cross wind was also a breeze (no pun intended). When docking in slips I pilot Relentless from the flying bridge and lean over the starboard side where I can see the gap between the gunwale and the pilings. I had no problem maintaining a 10-15” gap all the way out into the harbor – which meant I had more than that on the blind side.

Without a doubt, the thrusters were worth every penny. Sabre should offer them as an option on all of their pod driven boats.

The Flotilla Kickoff Party

As you may recall, we’ve created a flotilla of likeminded boaters over the past few years. We’ve all become close friends and it makes our marina life way more fun when we are all docked together. It’s also nice to travel in a fleet on longer offshore trips like Nantucket or Block Island.

We’d talked about having everyone over in the past and we decided a kickoff party in early May was just the ticket.

We were blessed with a great night and a nice variety of dishes contributed by all…

Mrs. Horne, Joan, Jean, and Terry
Doc Ruel, Monette, Captain Tom, and David

I had prepared a list of the 18 trips we hoped to take and handed out these cruise plans for everyone to consider.

Everyone is in on Nantucket in for Father’s Day week. Sea La Vie is going to join us on our extended cruise to Maine beginning Memorial Day weekend.

The Shakedown Cruise

After 6 months, the first run is truly joyous. But it’s also the shakedown where we hopefully discover all the things that mysteriously broke over the winter as they always do. It’s just a fact of life that when you have dozens of workers doing things on the boat, someone is going to inadvertently mess up something.

The shakedown cruise is also where you begin to remember everything you forgot about operating the boat!

It began when I went to power up the engines and noticed that the fresh water tanks were empty. This happened a few days earlier and I assumed MBY had forgotten to fill them. But I filled them myself right after and mysteriously they were empty again.

Since we were just doing a day trip, we’d only need water to flush the toilet, so I put 20 gallons in the tank and we gracefully shoved off.

Given the brisk east wind, we set The Cape Cod Canal and The The Fisherman’s View as our destination.

Although it was close to 60 degrees out, the 15 knot wind made it feel more like 45. Of course we simply shut the aft door and let Relentless’s four heat pumps warm the cabin to 72 degrees.

This time of year there are very few recreational boats on Buzzards Bay…

With everything running smoothly, I punched up my favorite combo screen on the port 22” Garmin only to discover it had odisappeared over the winter.

With twin engines and twin pods, there’s a lot of temperatures and pressures to monitor and SK Marine had created a perfect screen to do just that…

With the autopilot doing all the heavy lifting, I tried to recreate it myself, but to no avail. I texted SK and booked a visit for the following week.

I did find the water level gauge and discovered that the 20 gallons I had pumped on board was now gone. Oh well, that’s why we do shakedown cruises!

The ride up the canal was as beautiful as every…

Tying up along the long wharf at Sandwich Marina was never a problem with just the joystick/pods, but all the more easy with the thrusters.

We recently learned that Tara – our dear friend and former bar manager at Turk, had moved to Sandwich and was now a manager at The Fisherman’s View.

I had texted her to tell her we were coming and as soon as we sat down a scrumptious bucket of Shrimp arrived…

One of the guys on the Back Cove and Sabre Facebook page asked me about Dock and Dining in Sandwich and I realized I had never reviewed The Fisherman’s View so I did last week…

The Fisherman’s View – Sandwich

We had a wonderful lunch enjoying the spectacular view from the southern corner of the dining room…

Despite the brisk sunny day, the parking lots were still full of boats undoubtedly hoping to get in before Memorial Day…

The run home was truly blissful…

Ned met us at the dock and went below to diagnose the disappearing water mystery. It turns out that clamp that holds the hose to the water tank was loose and as soon as the system pressurized, it dumped all the water into the bilge.

The clamp is loosened every fall to drain the tank as part of the winterization process. They just forgot to tighten it up in the spring.

There is a lesson here for all you captains out there. Always assume something got messed up over the winter. Alway pick a calm day for your shakedown cruise and make sure you try everything until you find all the hidden problems.

Glad to be back for the 2021 season. We’re off to MASK FREE Newport for three days Saturday.