what can she handle
I’ll tell you what. I think everyone has gone through the fear of healing. It seams to be some kind of “rights-of-passage” sort of thing. You’re not the only one who has asked this question, or have had these feelings!
On my first boat, a Columbia 22, Olde Blue, I use to become absolutely petrified when she healed much beyond 7 degrees! On days that the winds were up, I’d just stay on the mooring, too afraid of the prospect of rolling her over and loosing her, or myself! At the risk of sounding foolish, I talked about my predicament with some good friends at the marina and was a bit surprised when they listened, in all due seriousness!
The day came when several of us had cruised down the coast to Misery Island. It had been a civil day and we were horsing around and seeing just who could out do whom, taking pictures, trading crew and the like. That night, rafted off the island, we watched the sunset and the lights of Salem, Beverly and Marblehead over pulls off the rum bottle. Later that evening, as I settled into my bunk, the fear of healing too far over was far from my mind.
In the morning, I was awoken to the sound of the wind howling through my rigging. A Northwesterly had built through the night and after breakfast, it was up around 30 knots! Jimmy S. had the Fore-N-Aft, a 28 foot, gaff rigged plank-on-edge by Atkin. Her spars overhung her hull so far that her overall length was almost twice her waterline length!
“Today’s your day to meet Bob”, he said, referring to the bobstay chain supporting the bowsprit. “I’m gonna saw that little plastic bleach bottle of yours clean in half”! (I’ve left out the expletives) After yesterday’s stunts, I felt that Jimmy was just crazy enough to do it! “I’m giving you 20 minuets to get under way, then I’m coming after you”!
It was bad enough that I had to deal with my fears of rolling this boat over, now I had to deal with this psychotic mad man! My plan had been to fly my double reefed main, hug the weather shore and perhaps motor home when the wind got forward the beam as I turned into Gloucester harbor near Norman’s Woe. Now it seemed I would need more sail then that. I tucked the first reef and hung on the working jib, pulled the hook, crossed myself and grabbed the tiller!
The first half of the run wasn’t too bad. I did stay in the lee of the land, pretty much and the healing effect wasn’t too bad with the wind on the beam. In fact, I noticed that Jimmy wasn’t closing me and I started to relax a little. Maybe I could beat him home. All was going well until I passed Magnolia harbor and got under the high bluffs of the West Gloucester shore. Here I was almost becalmed. I turned to look and there was the Fore-N-Aft, about an 1/8th of a mile behind, laid over, with a bone in her teeth!
I knew I had to do something, quick! My only recourse was to fall off and get the heck out of there, but I knew that when I got the wind, it would be strong and on the nose the whole way home! Now, I was a bit scared of that but even more so of Jimmy, so I put the helm up and eased the sheets!
When the wind hit, it was like a wall, cold and angry. Olde Blue shivered at it’s power. With trepidation, I pulled in the sheets and rounded her up a bit, a bit more and more still until I was close reaching with my heart in my throat! I started to sail her with a bubble in the sails but I still wasn’t going to clear the breakwater like this. And there was Jimmy, waiting up to weather.
The wind, still turbulent coming off the land suddenly shifted around and filled Blue’s sails. Like getting hit by a prizefighter square on the chin, she stumbled and lay down! “Here she goes” I thought! I scrambled out under the lifeline and sat on the outside of the cockpit combing. The movie African Queen came to mind, the part in the end, where the ship rolls over and some of the crew runs around onto her bottom… But, wait a minute, she stopped rolling, and look, she’s starting to go???
As she rounded herself up luffing, I pulled myself back into the cockpit. I lead her sheets to the windward rail and hooked in the hiking stick then crawled back out on my perch. “Well, here goes”, and I gave ‘er the hardwood! The breeze filled her sails, she started to roll, 20, 30, 35, 40 degrees… and GO! I trimmed her, hard on the wind, all telltales drawing aft. With one hand on a lifeline stanchion and the other on the hiking stick, Olde Blue came to life! Powering into the troths, breaching over the crests, throwing spray over half the damn Atlantic Ocean, balanced and in the groove! Sssmmmoke’in! I could just hear Jimmy’s wife, Sandy screaming “Drive ‘er”!
I got back to my mooring but it wasn’t enough. I rounded, fell off and headed back out. In fact, I sailed back down to Misery Island and rounded it again before I went back home! I think that crazy Jimmy S. damn well knew what he was doing! He cured me of that fear.
She’s NOT going to roll over on you. She has something your sunfish didn''t have: Ballast. Cast iron in the form of her keel. She’s like a Weeble. Remember: “Weebles wobble but they don’t fall down”? You’ll get over it! I did.