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post #440 of Old 03-15-2013
Alex W
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Re: What's your biggest bonehead move sailing?

3rd sail on the Catalina 25, which also made it my 3rd sail after taking classes.

It's March, nice out. My wife and I go through the Montlake Cut over to Lake WA. I don't check plan on going very far, so we're not carrying much fuel, clothing, or fuel.

We're sailing between the 520 and I90 bridges when I see another similar size boat (in retrospect it was probably a 22' boat) go under the I90 bridge. I thought I remembered it being tall enough (it's not). I say "let's go around Mercer Island". My wife says I'm nuts. I do it anyway, against her smart judgement.

We're close hauled and have a good amount of heel going through. Nothing touches, but the masthead light looks really really close. I know what it's like going under 40' bridges, and this was much closer. I go below to look at charts and discover that the documented bridge clearance is 29'. The lake is about 18" to 24" down, so we might be at 31'. Our mast is 35' from the waterline (tall mast C-25), so I know we can't go back. I start doing math in my head to figure out heel angles to fit. It's not pretty since we'd now be sailing downwind.

At this point I'm feeling like the stupidest and luckiest guy in the world because I never take risks like that, but hey, at least I still have a mast. My wife is really annoyed with me. The only good part is that I do get to sail around Mercer Island! It's a nice sunny day and the sailing is going pretty well.

At the south east corner of Mercer Island we have a lot of trouble making headway. There is wind coming out of the south in one place, and a few hundred feet over it is coming out of the east. We have old blown out sails and aren't tacking very well. We're overcanvassed for that one portion of the trip. I'm just out of my experience level.

A big gust heels us way over when we are close hauled and it's pretty uncomfortable. I jump up and dump the sails. We motor slowly (to save fuel) for quite a while before getting to calm wind and back into more open water. We sail again with a really pretty sunset from the north east corner of Mercer Island back across Lake WA to the Montlake cut.

When we got back to our dock on Lake Union it was 8pm, the fuel tank was just about empty, my wife was freezing, and we were both hungry. However, we had a mast.

Luckily she still sails with me! I always have paper charts with me too (on that trip I was using an iPad with Navionics...they often cut out bridge clearances in their versions of charts).

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