From the pilothouse

In mid-June I boarded a plane for Miami to join contributing editor Chuck Husick aboard his boat Bonne étoile for a little cruise up to Maine, where he and his wife would spend the summer poking around in search of lobster. It was to be a no-nonsense delivery, a quick ride in the Gulf Stream and another jog northward after the Stream glanced east. We would not hesitate to press up the rpm on the boat’s 50-hp Yanmar, Chuck told me in advance, to maintain a speed of at least six knots. We would not let the wind dictate when we arrived. Furthermore, I knew we would be voyaging in comfort, since Chuck has fitted his boat, a 46-foot Irwin ketch, with every electrical and mechanical convenience for modern living afloat.It’s not that Chuck does not accept the world on its own terms, but he is selective about which terms he wants to accept at any given time. An engineer by birth and by trade – he worked as an aircraft engineer for most of his working life – he uses nature against itself for his enjoyment: to cool the air in the boat, make ice, keep ice cream, filter and shred particulate matter like sea grass or trash that is slurped into the engine’s raw water intake and navigate his vessel with ease. He is someone who knows so much about the physical world that he is typically a step or two ahead of Murphy when he tries to strike.For this reason, and because he tempted me with promises of abundant food and drink, I did not hesitate to sail with Chuck when the invite came, despite the fact that I had never seen his boat. I figured that whatever trouble I would get myself into he would be there to get me out. I was pleased to discover that he has made the boat and its systems strong and seaworthy.We didn’t have any trouble. The trip was completed in less than eight days just about seamlessly – 1,411 miles in 182 hours, which averages to a speed of 7.69 knots. Sure, our mainsail ripped from tack to clew just two days out; our engine suffered an air lock because of a clogged tank, and the injectors needed to be bled while we were off Hatteras – a feat Chuck managed in about four minutes; the wind never blew hard enough from the right direction for more than a few hours the whole trip (We ran the engine for a total of 160 hours and burned 112.61 gallons of fuel for an average of .67 gallons per hour.); and off Cape Cod we fouled our prop in an enormous snarl of fishing net. These weren’t problems; they were diversions, ways to spend our time creatively between eating good food and chewing ice cubes. These were also sources for conversation since we could then spend hours sketching and discussing, for example, pump technology after using a vane pump to transfer fuel from the clogged tank (see photo above). Or a hot shower would be followed by a description of the water softening system Chuck developed.We did get a serving of rougher weather. We were slapped around off Cape Hatteras for about 12 hours, and the final leg across the Gulf of Maine was moderately rough. As weather built, though, we never felt the edge of disquiet common in the bellies of sailors negotiating rough weather. Knowing a boat can handle the weather is a tremendous luxury. It comes from an intimate knowledge of a boat’s capabilities. I didn’t have this knowledge, certainly not at first, but Chuck did. He was the vessel’s master in the truest sense of the word. (Next issue we will publish a full feature on Chuck’s boat.)

By Ocean Navigator