My seat-of-the-pants lesson for today...
I woke up this morning to a forecast of sunny, low F50's, and 10-15 kt winds and 1-2 ' seas on the Chesapeake Bay. Geeze, does it get any better than that in January?
A short walk down to the jetty shows that the ice isn't all gone, but it looks "rotten". Hm. I tell the kids to get dressed and I start loading up the safety gear. About 11 am we're ready to go. A few pokes with the boat hook shows that the ice is porous and weak so I fire up the engine and we push out. A few hundred yards and we're past the ice. This is my second sail, and my first attempt at sailing with both sails.
Here's where things get interesting:
I have press-ganged 2 fifteen-year olds as my crew. They know boating, but know even less about sail than I do. After we get to a suitably wide point on the Rhode River, it's time to raise sail, but the wind is up our arse. We make a U-turn to put the bow into the wind and I raise the main.
I don't have a roller furled jib, so NOW I decide to hank it on to the forestay because I was worried that the wind would catch it if I did it earlier. We fall off the wind and we're being dragged to the edge of the channel by the main.
I lower the main and the kid on the tiller gets us back into the wind and in the channel.
I hank on the jib. I raise the main, tie it off, I raise the jib and promptly note that I did not clip the tack down.
This jib is not a 90 or 100% like I thought, it's a 110% at least. The jib is flogging me to death so I start to haul it down so I can clip on the tack. The halyard jams, and I'm an inch away from clipping the jib tack, getting my ass totally handed to me by the jib. I make my way back to the boom, and see where the halyard jammed, get it loose, clip the tack to the chainplate.
All the while, the kid kept us in the channel, on course, and into the wind. Thank God.
I return to the cockpit and catch my breath. I put the tiller over, the sails fill, pushing us sideways, and we make another U-turn, and resume heading out. I kill the engine, reveling in the silence.
The sails are full but the wind doesn't feel right and the sails are...kind of flapping like the wind might get in front of them. I sense a gybe coming on and tighten the main sheet just in time to lessen the "BANG" as the wind flipped it over. I misjudged the direction of the wind, or it slightly shifted direction on me, probably the former.
We only had to run before the wind for a few hundred yards until we could round a channel marker and get the wind mostly on the beam so I just kept a very close watch and kept the main sheet tight.
We rounded the channel marker and from there, the rest of the day was pure bliss. We re-trimmed the sails and I could feel the boat power up. We had a slight heel, and I had lots of time to observe the tell-tales and experiment with sail trim. We race-tracked up and down the Rhode River, and got to practice our tacking.
With 10-15kt winds, and being a total newb on my 2nd trip, I should have put a reef in. On our 2nd lap outbound towards the Bay, we caught a long, powerful gust that really sped us up and put some heel on. That was when I realized that mistake.
On the way in, I noticed that the wind seemed to change from North to Northwest. This enabled us to sail nearly all the way up the river, up Whitemarsh Creek, and to the final bend before our cove before we had to start the engine for the last few hundred yards. I backed us in for a perfect stern-first mooring.
So I made some mistakes that could have really bit me in the ass and I realize that I was saved by two things:
My kids being in rare form and actually using their brains when I got into trouble and plain old luck. It was a great lesson though and we all had a great time.
Last edited by BubbleheadMd; 01-18-2010 at 05:40 PM.
Reason: There's always a typo.