Hi all, new to the forum. Just learning to sail, took the basic keelboat course two months ago, been out on a mentor led sail once since then. Yesterday was my first sail without a mentor on board.
When we went out, the winds were a steady 7 knots, gusting to 9. It was really smooth. The winds picked up shortly after we got out (I found out by looking at the NOAA buoy center website afterwards) to 12-13, gusting to 15. That was quite a bit of fun, lots of keel when we wanted it, easy to control by letting out the main if it was getting uncomfortable. The boat was was wanting to head into the wind a bit, but was controllable. It was a fair amount more work to keep a heading than it had been early on, but it was my first sail as skipper and I was enjoying it.
Somewhere along the way, the wind really picked up. The waves got much choppier, but I didn't really notice them as much until we got close enough to land to see them slamming against the boardwalk there. At this point the boat was becoming a nightmare to steer and the wind was blowing straight into land, so we were constantly bearing into the wind to stay out far enough. I decided I would call it a day and go in an hour early.
I headed into the wind to lower the sails, but got spun around on the first two attempts before I could do anything. Was definitely the fastest I've ever turned in a sailboat, the fact that it was involuntary made that feeling a little worse. I lowered the main first without problem once I managed to stay heading into the wind for a few seconds. The jib was a furling jib, and had become tangled up somehow in the wind. At one point I wasn't sure if we were going to be able to roll it up, and thought I was going to have to try to motor in with the jib flailing wildly in the wind. Got it down, motored in, was really hard to steer even under power and no sail, but we made it in okay.
I felt somewhat better about my difficulty when I saw on the NOAA site that the winds by then had jumped to 22-23 consistently, and gusting up to 28. Everyone else on the boat just thought it was fun. But I would have liked more control there, especially at the end and getting the sails down. So I had a few questions that lingered that I thought I'd ask for some more experienced help with.
- I had a LOT of problems turning into the wind as opposed to falling off into a jibe. The boat would start to turn and then just stall and start to fall off again without ever making it through the turn. Is that normal under the higher wind conditions?
- What speed wind is appropriate for sailing in general, and as a beginner? The numbers on a page meant nothing to me before yesterday - they mean a bit more now. Is that even considered high wind, 22-28? It sure felt high to me.
- I know looking back I should have reefed the sail, or maybe lowered it entirely and just used the jib. Is there an order of preference for cutting down on sail size, ie. reefing the main, lowering it completely, lowering/furling the jib?
- In the higher wind conditions, any tips on how to get the sails down easily? Does the main always come down first, or did I do it backwards?
In any case, I have mixed feelings about it all today. I figure that I'll probably not see that kind of wind again soon, so I'm glad for the experience. No one fell overboard and the boat didn't sink, so I suppose it's a success, but it sure felt hairy there for a bit.
Thanks in advance, and I apologize for the ridiculous length of this post.