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Old 02-08-2010
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Lessons learned today ..

This morning brought clear skies over San Francisco Bay .. a light breeze .. and sun .. something that was welcomed after the past two weeks which were punctuated with rain ..

I am 61 .. and six months ago purchased my first sailboat .. a '67 Cal 28 flushdeck .. my previous sailing experience having amounted to a 2 week chartered cruise in the BVI on a 43 footer .. along with some time spent out of Detroit on Lake Ste Claire .. all over 25 years ago .. not much more than .. enjoyment .. no real hands-on ..

As I plan on cruising full-time in a little more than 4 years .. education and experience are top priority .. I have joined a sailing club (with 14' Lasers to practice and learn on) and am enrolled in the USCGAux Sailing Skills and Seamenship Course .. have read extensively books and boards .. and managed to take her out a few times with my partner/crewmate (who has extensive experience in Lasers and HobieCats .. as well as some in larger Cats (45' range)) ..

With such a beautiful sunlit morning and a light breeze .. we decided to forgo the Flare Shoot and seminar at a neighboring marina and instead .. try our hand at sailing her for an hour or two .. (I have set as a target .. 12 hours tiller time a week this year ..)

After motoring out into the bay and setting the main and jib .. we wallowed for awhile .. which for me was good practice at gauging wind direction and identifying points of sail .. finding the wind .. and getting more accustomed to the feel of the tiller .. of course 'wallowing' also included a late breakfast .. fried eggs and raspberry crepes .. and music (yes I now am sure that speakers are required in the cockpit) .. as the breeze picked up abit .. we were able to sail ... and I felt the tiller pull as I'd find the wind and keep the sails full .. I practiced tacking and found that it was difficult to maintain a 90 degree course change .. I'd more than likely swing around to almost 180 .. and I believe this is probably due to losing momentum as I moved the tiller .. and we attempted to readjust the jib .. and my inexperience ..

One of the realities of purchasing a 43 y/o sailboat is that the equipment is .. well old and used .. the sails are I imagine in fair shape .. she was raced when young here on the Bay .. and is set up for that purpose .. our inexperience with her particular rigging set-up made tacking a real learning experience .. which is why we chose to sail in light to moderate air .. as the afternoon wore on .. the wind increased and we enjoyed catching it and moving .. a complete thrill and wonder for me .. I tried to set marks to tack and change course .. but even with a stiffer breeze .. had trouble finding that 90 degree course and holding it .. she always drifted more and I was unable to keep her steady .. having to correct ..

At about 3 PM .. we made our 2nd pass by the entrance bouys to the channel back to the marina .. by then we had been out for 5 hours .. I thought to return .. the Super Bowl and a Crab feed at our yacht club (my Christmas present to myself) beckoned .. but I sighted a sailboat on the hook a mile or so away and wanted one last attempt at tacking around her .. to see if I could do so abit more smartly ..

I know the winds pick up around 3:30 but it failed to register .. I was getting abit chilled .. but felt exhilarated ..

We negotiated around the sailboat .. perhaps abit better but not meeting my expectations and headed back .. and caught the stronger breeze .. and I again enjoyed finding that 'slot' .. feeling her move .. feeling her heel .. and learning to pull off abit .. straighten out and yet move abit faster than when heeling .. (we also learned .. in our planning to only sail in light air .. we had not stowed everything .. properly .. and healing does wreck havoc on unstowed items .. as well as refrigerator doors left unbolted shut) ..

On our last tack to get to the channel .. we inadvertently allowed the jib sheet go loose .. causing it to flap and flail in the growing wind .. although nothing serious .. it caused more than a few anxious moments .. compounded by my sudden chill .. and perhaps overextended adrenaline rush from the full day's activities .. unable to turn into the wind completely .. we managed to drop the main .. retrieve the flying jib .. and enter the channel for the 20 minute run back to our berth .. as I was now chilly .. I slipped below for some sweat pants .. (had been in shorts and a pullover all day) .. and slipped on a jacket over my PFD abit later .. just before entering the marina ..

extreme care was taken bringing her in .. and as we turned into the slip .. I left the tiller in my partner's more than capable hands .. (she had been running the outboard) and moved to the bow to hop off and tie her down ..
as we glided in .. perhaps in my haste .. I tripped over the anchor bag which we had stowed onto the bow .. kicking it into the water as we were entering our slip .. and falling .. but managing to catch myself on the bow pulpit .. hanging on with my hands as I fell waist deep ..

unable to pull myself up either onto the deck .. or onto the dock .. I was shortly yanked up by my harness ..

and there we sat and laughed .. at the completely marvelous experience .. and a most thrilling day ..

Lessons learned ..

- we had planned only to motor over to the nearby marina .. for a class on flares .. but ended up out on the bay for nearly 7 hours ..
the good .. before leaving .. we checked the amount of gasoline for the outboard .. and although had plenty for the planned trip .. decided to go and fill another tank .. as a precaution .. it came in handy as we battled tides coming in late in the afternoon .. but we did not properly stow all equipment when in the cabin when it became apparent we were going sailing for an extended period of time .. nothing serious happened but something to remember .. always stow it all ..
I flew for a year or so and lived by my checklists .. and have always thought a presail checklist a must .. but never have made one out .. this now is a priority .. (along with a floatplan each time we sail .. Float Plan Central - Official Site of the Float Plan )

- our sails are old .. the jib hanks are corroded .. the sheets improper .. the main won't raise the final 3 inches .. as I am spending quite abit of time onboard .. we had prioritized maintenance primarily to cabin projects .. adding 110 shorepower .. rewire 12V .. insulation .. adding a composting head .. adding hot water .. etc .. hoping that sailing in light wind would enable us to complete the interior before tackling the rigging and sails (among other concerns) .. of course not only time is an issue .. but money as well .. it became obvious that IF we are going to sail her .. then the attention as well needs to be put into not just the rigging .. but also the sails (and yes .. I want to sail her) as well as understanding completely HOW she is rigged .. and why .. not a very happy thought at the moment but I understand a necessary one .. one of the priority items on my current list is to reset all the safety stanchions (per Mainesail's recommended how-to) and especially the bow pulpit (safety issues being paramount - but happy to report the bow pulpit held me well today) .. which means removing the main .. clearing the track .. cleaning and inspecting all sails .. changing the hanks on the jibs .. reviewing all running rigging and replacing as needed (would think most need it) .. and having a complete inspection of the standing rigging (actual inspection) ..

- as I am older (61) and not as agile as I once was .. safety and prudence has become exceeding important .. I remember reading here on this very board 2 weeks ago a discussion about .. the inability to climb back into a sailboat .. and there is mention in this month's Latitudes 38 about a well respected sailor who drowned after he tripped and fell off his dock .. unfortunately I am negligent in this area .. even tho' I am fully aware of it's importance .. we have a cheap ladder on board .. but not in place when we sail .. stowed in the cabin .. one that would work is required .. to enable reentry into the boat .. in addition .. we have do not have a jackline set up .. yes we have only sailed in light wind conditions .. but today we stayed out longer than originally planned .. and in heavier wind conditions than anticipated .. and had trouble with a flying jib .. and even if we only are sailing in light wind conditions .. to my mind .. not taking necessary precautions is a bad habit to get into .. so add jackline to the list ..

- not listening to that little voice .. when we came past the channel entrance the second time .. something told me to go back in .. in retrospect .. I was tired .. weary .. and getting cold .. even tho' I was exuberant and thoroughly enjoying myself .. being cold and weary led me to donning a jacket .. over my PFD .. as we motored into the marina .. I didn't zip it up .. but I imagine if I had .. and I had fallen fully into the water in my slip .. that I wouldn't be too comfortable right now .. after my PFD inflated (and no .. although we have talked about checking to see if it is armed and ready .. I haven't done so .. as I bought it used) ...

It's been a thrilling .. enjoyable and memorable day .. I would appreciate any thoughts .. comments or suggestions ..

Thank you ..
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