1974 Cal 29
Join Date: Aug 2012
Location: Bradenton, FL
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Re: Big Freakin' Sails
My very first time sailing my own boat, I was 15 and had just bought a Hobie 16. It was a beautiful day and I had no idea what I was doing besides what I'd read in books. Some other sailors helped me to rig it, and one loaned me his attractive daughter to be crew. One of the best days of sailing I've ever had.
This story is about my second attempt. That one didn't go as well. I brought a friend who'd never been on a boat before in his life, and we pulled the sails up with the boat facing downwind... and blowing 20 knots. I thought I was pretty smart when the catamaran launched itself right off the beach and all we had to do was jump aboard.
The bay is a couple miles across, and it looked like we were going to cross it in only a few minutes. I tried to turn off the wind and immediately buried the leeward bow, so I turned back downwind and tried to figure out what else I could do.
Having seen pictures of sailboats going upwind with only the jib, I decided that we should pull down the main. It had reefing points, but I didn't have any line to reef with, so down came the whole thing. It didn't slow the boat down any, and now I learned that catamarans need the mainsail to go upwind. I was still heading across the bay, going just as fast, and no hope of going any other direction.
Figuring to do less damage if I hit the lee shore going more slowly, I danced out on the bow to drop the jib, while my friend steered. To this day I have no idea how he managed not to see it, but he ran us straight into a channel marker piling. I managed to dive onto the trampoline before we hit, and the bridle stretched back, the mast stood up straight, and then the whole boat bounced back a good five feet! I grabbed the tiller and steered us around the piling, then aimed the bows at the only patch of sandy shore I could spot and handed the tiller back. Dumb luck that at this point I didn't know the rig should have been tight; that is probably all that kept a bow from snapping off. I danced out on the bow again and finished dropping the jib, and we slowed down to probably five knots under the bare mast.
I took the tiller back and guided it to the shore. When we beached, it turned out to be a trailer park, and a little wandering around brought us to the office where I called home for ride. We left the boat on the beach for the night, and I returned the next day. The wind wasn't blowing any less, but I'd brought a line to tie in the reefs. Up went only the reduced mainsail, and off I went for an upwind slog across the bay. It took a lot longer, but was a hell of a lot more fun!