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post #26 of Old 09-22-2011
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More on this ramp...

The Brooks Bridge ramp was the beginning and fortunate end of perhaps one of the great sailing misadventures of all time. Very long story short, My now wife and I were still in college and I had just purchased a Catalina 22 for an amazing price in Durham, NC. We drove our new boat Kamala, named after a seductress from the Hermann Hesse book Siddhartha that fittingly enough died of a snake bite, from NC all the way to Destin for a week of sailing and vacation. At this point I had (1) only sailed on lasers, (2) never stepped a mast and (3) had no clue what I was doing.

We finally found the ramp at the West end of Okaloosa Island and pulled in the parking lot. We put up the mast, adjusted/tightened the rigging, attached the roller furling, hoisted the jib, rolled it back up in the furling, put on the rudder, attached the tiller, attached the boom, and main sail: all in 1.5 hours. I knew sailing was going to be easy and so far I was proving myself right.

We launched the boat for the first time after the engine cranked on the 2nd pull. Oddly enough that was the last time both the boat or my wife have been this willing to go sailing. Anyway, we motored under the bridge and into the Choctawhatchee bay. The weather was "awesome" for sailing as my dad (who had been sailing twice and thinks it is boring) told me that it is not worth going sailing unless the wind is blowing greater than 30 mph!?. Current wind speed was 20 mph so we were a little disappointed that the conditions were not going to be "perfect" but headed out anyway.

I'm not sure of the wind speed for the rest of the trip but the second I hoisted then main and unfurled the jib I silently thought to myself, I probably should have brought someone who actually knows how to sail. The boat instantly speeds up, heels over (feeling like it is going to flip), then the weatherhelm points us into the wind, and we slow down. This whole time wife is laying out on the leeward side of the boat as her dad typically has things completely under control at this point. Father's on this forum with daughters, beware the sailing boyfriend.

After sailing like this for about half a mile my now wife ask me how many beers I had while we were putting up the mast. "Zero."

"Well then quit sailing like you're drunk."

I'm somewhat speechless at this point and ask if she has any pointers from the last 20 years she had spent on a boat. Her reply had something to do with keeping the shade from the sail away from where she was laying out... In retrospect I should have probably thought of ways to reduce the amount of sail but now the wind was really screaming, black clouds are in the distance and I feel like we are flying!! We were on a reach, of course I didn't know that at time, and I found that if let the mainsheet out then we would slow down and things became more manageable. About 4 miles from the car we decided that the weather is really looking bad and it would be a good time to turn around. We executed our first tack as a couple and began working our way back.

Things were going reasonably well but, then it was time to tack again because we kept drifting toward a nearby sand bar. On this tack, the boat spun around, heeled over to about 80 degrees, came up, spun around and jibed. I have no clue how this happened but am somewhat shocked at (1) we are both still on the boat and (2) we are headed in the completely wrong direction. Knowing when I'm beat (which was technically long before now), I decide we are motoring in. I ask my now wife to lower the main and as she is reaching for the main sheet. WHammm. I catch her right in the forehead with my elbow while pulling on the rip cord for the motor.

She's out. Completely knocked her out for about 10 seconds, which seemed like thirty minutes. She wakes up crying, the sails are up, the engine is running, and now it is raining and lightening. The rain is coming in sideways, she is now below in the cabin holding ice on her forehead, and I finally get the sails down. Victory.

We motor back to the boat ramp. A sailboat at the marina about 300 yards away gets hit by lightening. I tell my now (I know you are surprised that she married me) wife not to touch anything metal below.

Finally we reach the boat launch, I pull up, tie off, back the trailer into the water, jump back on the boat while my wife jumps in car (all in a torrential downpour). The current is such that it takes two tries to get back on the trailer and I'm completely frazzled at this point. Finally, I'm on the trailer.

Thank God. The saga is over.

I wish. As she pulls forward the tongue of trailer pops off of the trailer ball and I roll about 10 feet backwards to another splash down. Now the boat, with trailer attached is floating back away from the ramp. Miraculously the boat/trailer stop. I'm able to run a rope from the car to the front of the trailer and pull it back to the ramp. We re-attached and now the saga is over.

Needless to say I'll never forget this particular ramp.
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