Boat Launching Follies


My heart was racing as I cruised down the Massachusetts Turnpike at 70 mph. Lyric bounced around on her trailer like an inflatable Snoopy at the Macy’s Day Parade. Every bump I hit I thought I’d see Lyric punch a hole in her old flexing hull or simply bounce off into a twisted wreckage of fiberglass and man hours on the highway.

I had never towed a boat this size and all 22 feet of her taunted my anxiousness. I knew the Mass Pike wouldn’t be too bad, but the ripped apart road and potholes from the Big Dig on Route 93 South were a different story. I made my way to the end of the Pike and merged onto Route 93. My breathing stopped for the next 5 miles as I crawled along through the grooved pavement and teeth-aching bumps. About 15 minutes later…I took a breath as I put on my directional for the ramp to Morrissey Boulevard and Lyrics new summer home, Dorchester Bay.

It was boat launching day. This would be my first time trailering and launching a boat this size. I had secured a friend to help with the launch, but a duty called and that friend had to be elsewhere. I decided to launch her on my own and figured there wouldn’t be too much of a problem as long as the winds were light and off the shore. I arrived at the launch ramp and the winds were heavy and blowing onto the beach. I smelled trouble, or it may have been the ripe pungent algea of Boston Harbor.

Again, I decided to forge on. I took my time rigging her and raising the mast, and all went very well. I had practiced a couple of times in the yard and was fairly proficient at that process. I learned quickly that being under power lines and raising a 23-foot lightning rod is not the smartest idea. Luckily I was not hurt in that day’s events. The beach was free of such obstacles and the mast seemed to step quite easily. I planned my attack for launching the boat without an extra set of hands and fired up the truck.

I backed Lyric down the beach and into the water. The 2-ton dump truck I borrowed was nice enough to let me back her fairly deep into the water. Lyric floated up off the trailer informing me I was deep enough. I knew that the next steps I took would have to be fairly quick in order to keep Lyric from crunching up against the rocky beach and the truck from getting stuck in the rapidly rising tide.

I jumped out of the truck, unclipped Lyric from the trailer, and pushed her out to clear the last rollers. She floated out ready to hit the open water only to be stopped by the bowline I held in my hand. I finagled her into a place in the wind where I felt she’d sit for 30 seconds or so and made my run back to the truck. I threw the truck in gear and jetted out of the water far enough up the beach to stay out of the rising tide. I shut the truck down and turned to see Lyric lying on her port side on the shore, rocking back and forth on the jagged beach with each little wave. This wind was a little quicker than I thought.

I ran back down the beach and pushed her stern out to sea. She slowly swung around and the stern caught the other side of the wind and started to come in on her starboard side. It took all my power just to keep her stern pointed out into the wind. I finally got her balanced a bit and planned my next approach. I decided that turning her around with the bow pointed out would be a good starting point. I could then take a leap of faith into the cockpit and try to get her moving before the wind pushed me back into the beach. It was then that I began to doubt the 40-lb thrust, Minkota trolling motor that I bought at Wal-Mart the night before.

I spun Lyric around in the wind, gave her a good push, took two steps on the boarding ladder, dove into the cockpit, and knocked both wires for the trolling motor off the battery with my foot. I hastily reconnected the wires, looked up and there I was washed up on the beach. I didn’t even get to put the motor bracket down. I jumped off the transom into about 6 inches of water and caught Lyric before she made landfall. I worked her back out into the deeper water and tried it again. Push, step, dive, push the motor bracket down, and CRUNCH! The now backward momentum of Lyric caught the bottom of the trolling motor and ripped it off the motor mount and into the sea. Another leap off the back off the transom to catch Lyric and now recover my trolling motor. This was about the time I realized that there were about 4 cars on the beach probably getting a good chuckle from my little performance. I gave myself a moment to think that it was awfully nice of them to offer a hand, but quickly turned my attention back to Lyric.

No more screwing around. It’s game time. I was fiercly determined. At this point I considered swimming her out the mooring, but given the incoming tide, the frigid water temperatures, and the high amount of medical syringes in Boston Harbor, I quickly ruled that option out. I balanced Lyric and remounted the trolling motor. I hung over the gunwale and into the cockpit to refasten the power wires. I then slid back into the water and firmly planted my feet. I aligned her bow into the wind and pushed with all my might. She slowly slid forward into the wind, and at about waist deep I stepped on her ladder and dove into the cockpit. I twisted the handle on the trolling motor like I was throttling a Harley. “More power! More Power!” I yelled frantically as my not-so-helpful onlookers sat in angst. The bow caught the wind and started to head to starboard. I spun the trolling motor and tiller to compensate and Lyric slid only sideways in about 3 feet of water. “Damn you! Come around!” I yelled out loud. Ever so slowly, the stern caught up with the bow and she started to make some forward progress. I got her nose into the wind and got clear of the shallow water.


About 35 minutes later, I arrived at the mooring and tied her off. It was quite a battle and we had come along way. I will always remember those 35 minutes as the worst 100 yards I ever traveled. The trolling motor has since been retired to my 9-foot dinghy and will never see the likes of a 1600-pound sloop again.


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3 Responses to Boat Launching Follies

  1. I did not know you’d moored Lyric at Dorchester/Savin YC. I remember reading about Lyric. Just upriver of that spot (at Old Colony YC) there is a nice Marshall 22 that Greg Babbin acquired on Long Island, NY early in the season, name of PhuCat, and sailed her up from there.

    Our own M22 Catzilla is moored at the other end of the SHYC mooring field off of UMass Boston just inside the red nun across from Marina Bay. We sailed out to Spectacle Island today. It was a beautiful golden sun afteroon. Not raining like we had expected.

  2. By the way, if you launched off the pebble beach on Morrissey Boulevard with onshore wind, you should consider yourself proficient if not at least lucky. It is a tough spot to launch.

  3. Yup. That’s the spot. To say that it was a challenge, is a gross understatement. It was hell.

    Other than that, it is a beautiful sailing spot. People would think it, but it really is. All of the islands, the city skyline, the planes coming and going, the various commercial ships, everything just makes it really fun and always interesting. One of these days (when the kids are a little older) I am going to bring Marsaili (M18) out there and do a long weekend.

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