No, this isn't a post about smoking anything, but a report on my first experience reefing sails for (relatively) high-wind sailing.
I have a 1975 Newport 28, which is the first boat I've owned. It's also the first boat I've sailed in winds over 15kt that actually has reef points, so when two of my sailing buddies from the Baltimore Downtown Sailing Center
(DSC) and I took her out last Saturday onto the Patapsco River into winds of 17-20 gusting to 23 or so, I knew right away it would be my first experience with reefing the main.
The boat has no reefing lines, so we did it the old-fashioned way, with sail ties. We did it at the dock, feeling around inside the flaked main to find the reef points and all the other little grommets, and used the ties and a bit of small line to secure the sail in place as best we could.
Then we motored out of Rock Creek into the river, where we could see whitecaps and 1 1/2-2ft swells running. When we hoisted the main, it only took a little bit of adjustment to get the sail properly flat, and it looked real nice. I had a camera, but never got around to taking any pictures for some reason. Just having too much fun, sailing in stiff breezes and not worrying about being overpressed with sail for the first time.
We did have a bit of excitement when we hoisted the jib, as my two mates had run the sheets inside the lifelines rather than outside, resulting in a lovely tangle. But we still had the engine going, so I just pointed into the wind until they got everything straight.
More fun even was while we were close-hauled on a starboard tack heading for the Key Bridge, and I commented on how little weather helm there was and joked how we wouldn't have to worry about breaking the tiller. Diane asked, "Do you really think that could happen?", and I told her "Don't even think about that!", as I couldn't think of much worse than to be in winds like those with no tiller (well, except for sinking).
About five minutes after she took the tiller, she said something was pinching her hand, and when we looked down we saw the laminated tiller was coming apart at the seams. It's a beautiful tiller, laminated teak(?) and willow (?), and highly varnished and buffed, and the laminates were coming apart as we watched. As the laminations were horizontal (for side to side strength), and the bolts holding it into the frame were running with the laminations, we figured that it wouldn't take much more separation to come completely off.
I took one look and said, "Time to go home." We grabbed some nylon wire ties from the locker and wrapped them around the tiller to keep it together, and headed in. It held all the way in, and I took it off and home with me. I figure I can get some marine glue, sand it down and reglue it as good as new.
All that aside, I was really impressed with how well she handled with that sail plan in those winds. Double-reefed and the 100 jib, and I think she'd have handled 25-30kt winds with no problems.
We picnicked on the boat after we put everything away, so while we didn't get the full day on the water we wanted, it was some very nice late-season boat time.
Maybe one more before the real cold stuff...?