Trip Report: Sailing in/around Edgartown & Sunfish tiller length thoughts

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I just finished a one week 300nm cruise on a Hanse 400 to Edgartown and back, mostly motoring, with one fabulous day of sailing on the day we left Edgartown, leaving Monday afternoon at 2:40 pm to catch the tide in Vineyard Sound. Typically, I only do week long trips of this length with experienced crews. This time I had one experienced crew and the family. A broken auto-pilot mount meant everyone had a chance to steer. Light or no winds meant that we could not balance the boat to steer itself.

The highlight of the trip, for me was the close haul sail up Vineyard Sound where we averaged over 9 knots for several hours, hitting 10.8 knots, our maximum, over the ground.
It always pays to have the current with you! We also made an interesting night approach around the south side of Block--motorsailing the last 20 miles or so as the wind dropped, arriving about 1 am or so on Tuesday morning. I chose to sail around the south side of the island to avoid an adverse 2+ knot current around the north side at our arrival time. This is my second trip taking that side of the island. I like being the only boat out there on nice evening. The bottom side of the island was just about slack, but it did gave us .6 knots of current curving around the SW corner to our benefit. Once we turned the corner it didn't take long to reach the entrance to Great Salt Pond--one of the best anchorages in New England.

I love night sailing. Block Island's Great Salt Pond is an easy night approach also. Here is a screen capture I took on the south side of the island. I was in night mode and thought it looked cool, so I grabbed a screen shot of our position. Boat position was the white dot with the blue triangle around it.

Most of the rocks *'s on the chart were quite deep--30 feet down or more. Some rocks did not have charted depths over them. I kept clear of those, just because I was not into taking any risks while sailing close to shore at night.

Not too far behind in fun, was an opportunity to borrow a '60's vintage Sunfish that belonged to a friend I've known since kindergarten. The boat was filthy dirty. I spent 90 minutes scrubbing it as it had not be used at all this year and perhaps last year, and the bottom is still stained. Sorry no pictures--the camera was at the beach with the girls.

It had a rudder modification to the new style rudder without the benefit of an access port! It seems to be holding together, but the rudder was brand new without a scratch, and I think it was a virgin, never used before that day. So I wonder how long it will last. I plan to write them about the boat and perhaps, drive up at some point later this year and do a few upgrades for them.

Best of all the sail was perfect, because it was not stored on the spars! Nobody does that. I don't think this Sunfish was used much.

No one wanted to clean it and all anyone saw was the filthy bottom.
It had a very nice blue deck which no one could see because it was stored upside down. The bottom needed some light wet sanding but had no serious damage. There was no name on the boat, so I called it, in my mind, "Bluefish".

I am going to tell them that if they don't use Bluefish, that I will buy it. It is too nice to just sit there unused. All the kids--young girls 10-16 range looked at me like I was nuts for wanting to sail it. They were asking me, "what I was doing?" and seemed amazed that I'd clean "that old boat". None of them had a clue what a jewel of a Sunfish this was...

So while the bottom was not particularly nice looking, with some gloms of pine pitch turned hard as epoxy, and horrid stains--no one could see that when the boat was in the water, The topsides cleaned up OK, and the rest of the boat looked perfect unless you closer than 5 feet away.

After cleaning and getting everything together, I made an inventory of what it needed.
The bottom plastic butt cap for the mast was missing.
The drain looked pretty good was was frozen on.
The boat was dry when I started but felt heavier by the time I got back.
The caulking around the coaming needed to be replaced in spots.
The mainsheet was too short. I tied it to the halyard to I wouldn't lose it and managed to lose it one time anyway as this knot came apart.
Needs a mainsheet ratchet block and cleat--Bluefish had nothing but a hook.
No hiking strap--not a problem on a light air day.
Extremely pitted, but functional bow handle.
Rudder mount not done properly, with the modern rudder upgrade--this will fail in time, I'm sure.
Daggerboard needed varnish.

I spent nearly a whole day about 8 hours, Sunday, sailing it from the SW corner of Katama Bay through Edgartown harbor, out to R8, circling two megayachts and returned to our boat and then on my way back ran out of wind and could not beat the strength of the ebb--about 6 nm sailing mostly taking against wind and tide. I had the tide with me for one mile or so back to our boat, and then fought the current in very light winds, before giving up and taking a tow the last three miles of my 9 mile loop from the boat ramp to R8 and back. It was a fun day, but a little tiring on my back, which has still not recovered, and despite my considerable tan, I got a bit burned on my face and chest.

I plotted my straight line distance. Actually distance through the water was much great. I spent a long time tacking though the area near the lighthouse. WP 78-79

I spent much of the trip back thinking about how much I hate the standard length of a Sunfish tiller! I cut all of my tillers down about 5-6 inches so I can sit in the middle of the back of the boat and still steer behind my back. This loaner blue Sunfish had the normal rudder and it was in the way as it is on all Sunfishes for those people who like to sit just aft of the tub on the centerline. That was the reason my back was so sore after sailing Bluefish on Sunday.

Does anyone else cut down Sunfish tillers? So many people put up with stock tiller length's on these boats, and others. I did maintenance on Soloing some years ago, and someone replaced a broken tiller with a longer one, not thinking that these can in should be shortened to suit. I am quick to make easy changed like those. The other thing I do, is install a carbon hiking stick--probably everyone does that.

BTW, if anyone needs original Sunfish hiking sticks, I have lots of them, I'm about to put them up for auction on eBay with the starting price below the cost of the metal hardware.

A few more pictures worth seeing.

This is one gorgeous yacht--I didn't get the name. Someone told me it was "Sade".

And if the boat is long enough on the waterline...who cares if the current is 3 knots against you here at the chokepoint...

This one [below] is big, but ugly. I sailed around this one on Bluefish, when it was anchored near R8 near the Edgartown light. It is named Atmosphere and features a port on the aft port side that folds out for boarding--pretty cool that. Three decks make it roomy. But I don't like it otherwise. Someone with more money than sense owns this one.

Sunset, enroute to Block Island on Monday. It was nice leg for giving the little woman some open water experience. She wants to do an ocean leg with me this November. I think that would give her a heavy dose of experience. This week's trip was great for the whole family.


I enjoyed this until I got to the "little woman." I guess it's better than the "old lady" or the "old ball and chain." OK, I enjoyed it anyway.
I concur with your reason for shortening the tiller although my modification involved only removing about 3 inches. I also found the "Battlestick" tiller extension to be excessively long so I cut it down as well. I found that I could sit anywhere on my SF, including hiked out and still have good control of the tiller and mainsheet without the need of the extra length of the tiller extension. At it's manufactured length I found the tiller extension was constantly getting fouled in the rigging.