Splashdown: She is Risen

 Lightning #2833 sees another Spring


Been waiting for this a long time. Easter weekend was grey and chilly, but not enough to stop me from getting Lightning #2833 in the water for the first time. Redbuds are blooming, a startling purple popping out in the still bare woods, a pale green haze of new growth is just starting to show low on the hillsides when the evening light is just right. Seems fitting this old boat should be reborn now.

On this first trip we weren’t getting too ambitious. Just wanted to get her in the water, test the centerboard raising apparatus, and cruise around a bit with the trolling motor. So I spent a few hours on Saturday checking things over again, adding registration numbers, adjusting the improvised motor mount, etc.. That left only a couple of hours of daylight, but that was enough.


Little Old Man


I hauled her over to the little reservoir on the edge of town, the same place I’ve taken each of my boats – the Sharpie and the Melonseeds – for their first row and sail. Took the Little Old Man with me, as he’ll have only a few more chances to go along before he’s done.

We had the place to ourselves at first. Then a fellow pulled in to do a little fishing with his two daughters, the youngest using a pink Barbie rod and reel. They held the line like the boat was a pony while I parked the trailer.

A little water came in around the centerboard case almost immediately. Not unexpected. The boat has been drying out all winter. But within the first half hour the seams swelled shut and no more came in, not quite an inch in the lowest part of the bilge. I actually expected worse.




The boat moves well with the 80# 24volt trolling motor. At full power she moves at 6 knots; but I probably could only go an hour at this speed, drawing 30+ amps. But at half power it only draws about 7 amps and goes 3 knots. If the batteries are still in good shape (they’re about 15 years old now) I could go at this speed for 15 to 20 hours. Drawing half that power the boat still goes at 2 knots, and might go for two full days. Not bad. If you don’t need to get anywhere fast.





Total AmpHours used after almost 3 hours of motoring.



But I like the quiet. We could hear the birds in the trees, the whistle of duck wings. We came up on two deer bedded down for the night. When they finally saw us they snorted and stomped off through the woods, flashing their white tails like flags.

I’ll need to put the two 12volt batteries forward of the centerboard trunk to keep the boat trimmed and balanced. Expected this, too, and already have the wire on hand to run that far; but for this test just set the batteries in the stern behind the aft seat with a short cable connection. And I wanted to see how bad it would be with 120 pounds of lead in the back. With just me aboard most of the time, I think having that weight forward will let me sit comfortably back by the tiller.

The mount worked out fine. I’ll use the router to cut a shallow divot into the wood where the screws bite, so when they work loose from all the pounding the motor won’t bounce off. The torque of the motor when gunning the throttle is strong enough to almost twist it off. But I’m satisfied with the way the motor lays sideways along the transom out of the way. Hoping it stays clear of all the lines like this.

After about an hour motoring around I got a call from Terri, saying she was at the ramp and was looking for a ride. I picked her up and we motored around for another hour. She snapped some phone photos so I could see how the boat sat in the water with all that weight in back.














She was amazed at how much bigger this boat is than the Melonseeds. Though only 1/3 longer it feels enormous. She remarked how she would be content to lay along the side benches while I did the sailing (1st Test = Passed). And amazingly stable. We can walk around the whole deck without the boat tipping or feeling like we would fall off. Kind of crazy compared to what we’re used to.

The tradeoff, of course, is it isn’t nearly as easy to rig and launch. Took me three times to get it on the trailer straight when I hauled her out. With the Melonseeds I just lift them and set them where I want them to go, without a second thought – at 700 pounds the Lightning is a bit beyond that.











Here’s some not very fancy video from the trip:


 direct Youtube link



The rudder is still kind of a mess. So far, it’s the only thing that really needs work before I can comfortably take the boat sailing. Might work temporarily if screwed down in place, but definitely not a long term fix, and won’t work in the shallow water launching and sailing I expect to do. Must think on this more.

The 10:1 block and tackle system works well for raising and lowering the centerboard. Happy with that. I fiddled with it a little more on the water just to be sure. On Sunday, I took apart the temporary rig and replaced it with something that can stay for a while. With the minor adjustments made I can easily raise the board with one hand, and it works smoothly. I’ll also replace the temporary pin holding the board up with a bronze one, with a cord attaching it to the case so it doesn’t get lost.








 direct Youtube link


Even got the electric bilge pump working, though I’ll probably replace that with a simple manual one. Doing that will reduce the clutter, and I prefer important things like pumps be simple and mechanical, less likely to malfunction.

By then it was getting dark and starting to rain. Had to pull the tarp over it for another week. Maybe next weekend, weather permitting, I can raise the mast and sails.



12 Replies to “Splashdown: She is Risen”

  1. Beautiful old boat, lovely story, details, pictures, video and voyage companions. I enjoyed reading it very much. The woodwork inside the boat looks great. Thanks for composing & posting this little story.
    One question: what is the digital readout device showing the battery info?

    1. Thanks, Joanie, was a real pleasure just gathering the material for it. That little gadget, and many clones like it, was originally made for RC (radio controlled) hobby market. People who build and fly battery bowered planes and cars and drones, etc.. But they’ve been adopted by all sorts of people who do anything with battery electric power. They’re a critical tool for the electric bike builders, for instance, which is how I found out about them. You just plug them in between the battery pack and the motors, and it tells you all sorts of useful stuff. The original, and still very popular one, was called the Watts Up, though I don’t know if it’s still available.

    1. Good to hear from you, Robert. I’ve really enjoyed your posts on that classic old girl that followed you home.

      Mr. Old Man continues to exceed expectations. He’s now 18, nearly blind and nearly deaf, but still runs (well, trots) down the hall at supper time. He might get out a few more times before he calls it quits.

  2. Thank you for posting your stories and pictures, very informative and descriptive – and of course for allowing us access to consume all of it. I am doing my own research on sailing the Delaware Bay and find little substantive on the topic; aside from a forum post here and there. Your blog entries on sailing the Bay(in small boats) I think are some of the most complete; so have read a lot of it. My sights are set on a sail from Philly, or Wilmington, or C&D entry, to Ocean City, NJ – Google Earth tells me about 130NM RUM – I have sailed enough to use this merely as a guide – I sail an American 14.6 which I have fitted for races like The EverGlades Challenge – not a race-winning boat by any stretch, but I trust it, lol.
    My plan would be to skirt the eastern shore around the point just past Fortescue, then a short crossing to Cape May; here I will let the weather decide whether I sail down the ICW, or opt for a stint offshore to OCNJ. I would appreciate any input or advice on the route that you may have to offer – optimal tide and weather conditions(time-of-year) you may suggest – I also have a small 6hp outboard on the boat, which i am usually reluctant to use, but given the nature of the DB I am thinking it would serve as a worthy option to consider in adverse weather.
    Thank you again for your very enjoyable and thoughtfully constructed blog posts, i am a new subscriber!
    Kind Regards,

  3. Hi Miles, an interesting trip you have planned, for sure. My experience on Delaware Bay is so limited, I wish I could offer more info of the kind you need. All I can say is that conditions there can vary so greatly you would be wise to prepare for all the extremes. In fine weather, when the wind is mild and running with the tide, it can be a beautiful and tranquil trip. Steve Early on Spartina had just such trip a couple of summers ago. But if not, it can be a real harrowing experience. I assume you saw this post from 2011 – https://eyeinhand.com/2011/11/15/returning-danger-on-the-delaware/

    Even though I don’t prefer outboard motors, either, I would recommend having one – and knowing that it works reliably – before making the transit. Primarily because the hazards of the busy shipping lanes are so great. If not for that, you can deal with just about anything, but there’s not much to do about a big container ship bearing down on you but get out of the way and quick.

    The areas near the shore are shallow and generally safe from other traffic. Just have to watch out for fish traps and such. The south shore is more scenic, and avoids proximity issues with the nuclear plant on the north shore. However, if you plan to head north of Cape May, a good argument could be made for hugging the north shore so you avoid the worst crossing at the mouth of the bay at the cape. Maybe work your way across to the north shore as soon as you’ve cleared the power station.

    Keep us posted if you make the trip.

  4. I love your Lightning! My brother in law had one like yours. He sold it before I could get to him!

    The watt meter device is available at Amazon, I just bought one for my homebuilt electric car, a BMW 320i with a 120V drive system.

    I was going to comment, that in my experience with home built electric cars, using lead/acid batteries, Trojan batteries last longer than any other brand. I got 7 years out of my last set of 12.

    I think you can get away with a golf cart/Electric Vehicle flooded lead battery because there will be almost no vibration on your lightning. The AGM mat batteries are for stinkpots that are just purring with vibration from the engine(s). Deka Chargers are reliable and cost effective.

    Of course a consideration with a lead-acid battery is what happens to persons and nearby environment nearby in a capsize.

    Fair winds and following seas! Dave

  5. Thanks, Dave. The electric car projects sound like a lot of fun.

    I like the AGM batteries on these small boats for safety reasons. Capsizes and major tipping give them an advantage, having no acid to spill. Even when the batteries are secured, a lot of stuff can fly around the boat unexpected to puncture things. Don’t ask me how I know. I also like that you can store them sideways, which is handy when trying to fit them into tight spaces. Weight is still a concern, unless you can use it to advantage. Makes me want to explore other things as they become available.

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