A star is born

Photo by Jack Farrell

September 2022

By Jack Farrell

Just short of five weeks into life with the Shining Star, I’m sitting in the wheelhouse between trips at our dock along the Piscataqua. The boat rolls nearly incessantly against the float dock as the weekend warriors roar through the no wake zone between the bridges on their way to lunch or a school of mackerel. A sailor at heart, I’ll never understand why so many feel the need to go so fast.

I am pleased to report that, in spite of a couple of dicey moments, we have yet to inflict a scratch or ding on the smooth, bright white hull. For the most part, the learning curve and the break-in period have gone smoothly. We did lose steering twice in one afternoon when the hydraulic connections at the quadrant worked themselves loose. A couple of gallons of oil and a realignment of the hose angles seems to have taken care of that problem. And I did manage to pull a float out from under the gangway on a loosely moored dock system while trying to spring in against the Piscataqua tide and a blustery southerly. The mate overheard a remark about a brand-new boat without a bow thruster from the peanut gallery.

But the real problem was the flex in the dock system and the fact that the cleat location is too far forward to bring the boat in sideways. I spent some time looking for a way to determine the pivot point, but in the end, it took actual experience to learn where to locate another midship cleat. And, of course, this boat is heavy, very powerful, and I shouldn’t have gone in there with her in the first place. Humbling moments like these, where the only long-term damage is to the ego, are good medicine in this business. But we won’t be going in there again.

With her 750 hp engine, Shining Star practically jumped off the trailer when eased into reverse at the launching. The speed at idle is about six knots. We did sea trials with Andrew of Minott’s Diesel in early July. Andrew had more probes linking the engine to his computer than a cardiac patient in the ICU. We started down the river at 1,200 rpm as Andrew watched his laptop. As each stage passed the diagnostic review, we added 100 more rpm until she topped out at around 2,300, slicing smoothly through a two-foot chop at 27 mph and about 25 gallons per hour. The wake is really big in the middle of the range but levels out appreciably as the big hull seems to lift at higher speeds. It’s nice to have that speed if it’s ever needed, but I’m enjoying life at twelve knots and ten gallons an hour. Andrew advises to run the engine at 1,800 rpm for the first 250 hours, but that would mean we’d be going 18 knots most of the time. I just can’t bring myself to do that.

Unlike previous lobster boats I’ve run, the propeller on Shining Star is right-handed. The stern pivots smartly to port in reverse, which comes in handy when leaving the dock. I’m also finding that she can be reverse-steered fairly precisely when backing down, with tweaks of the rudder left mostly amidships. The boat performs beautifully, and I’ll figure it all out with more time.

There are many things left to complete on the boat, but at this point, we have all the essentials and safety gear. The winter will allow lots of time for shelving and doors and cupboards. The last step for this phase is to get those new cleats installed so she’ll spring in predictably and secure my Joel White Shellback skiff to the housetop to show my roots in the world of wooden boats.

I continue to be greatly frustrated by the inspection process with the Coast Guard. The officers are always friendly and respectful, but the process is unclear, and money and time seem to be of little concern. There is an underlying theme of absurdity to these interactions, which often seem like scenes from a Kurt Vonnegut novel.

It’s August now, and I have formally given up on the idea of launching our sailboat. I often find myself watching wistfully as cruising sailors pass through. I used to say that if I missed a year of sailing, it would be time to sell the boat. I can’t afford to say that anymore. I visit her once in a while in the cool, dark shed on the north side of our barn. I love the smell of her cabin. I love the teak cockpit. I love most everything about her. And I remind myself that there is always next year.

Meanwhile, out at Star Island, the unofficial capital of the Isles of Shoals, the summer has peaked, and we are planning for the long shutdown period. It has been a relatively smooth summer out there, but I am chagrined that diesel consumption for the power generators continues to increase. Plans are in the works to expand the solar power and battery systems to raise the percentage of renewal energy from 65% to 95% of total consumption. The Earth is clearly in a climate crisis caused by fossil fuel burning, and if we can’t make the move to renewables on an island whose stated goal is to imagine an ideal world, I don’t know who can.

The charter business is thriving in Shining Star, and along with the Island work, we’re seeing twelve-hour days pretty often. People sometimes ask me if I ever get tired of running the boat back and forth to the Isles and in and out of the Cove loaded with guests. The truth is, I don’t. I go down to the dock every morning, excited to get back underway. I need to find some time next summer for cruising, though. The grandkids will soon be old enough to learn to sail with Pops.

Jack was the manager at Star Island for many years. He currently manages major construction and utility projects there and provides all-season boat service to the island (average 250 trips per year) for luggage, food, employees, supplies and guests. Jack also runs Seacoast Maritime Charters, LLC providing year-round private charter boat service and marine logistics to the general public, now in the Shining Star. He still enjoys cruising in his classic Ted Hood sloop, Aloft, and teaching skiing at Sugarloaf Mountain in Maine.