My seat-of-the-pants lesson for today... - SailNet Community

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Go Back   SailNet Community > Skills and Seamanship > Learning to Sail
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  #1  
Old 01-18-2010
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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.

Mistake #1:
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.

Mistake #2
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.

Mistake #3
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.

Mistake #4
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 06:40 PM. Reason: There's always a typo.
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Old 01-18-2010
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"I kill the engine, reveling in the silence." - absolutely one of the best parts of sailing.

Hey - at least there wasn't a mistake #5. Congrats on the sail dude.
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Old 01-18-2010
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There the best times , its all well !
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Old 01-18-2010
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Old 01-18-2010
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there you go! congrats!
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Old 01-19-2010
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The Rhode River is a really beautiful place to sail with Camp Letts on one side. My buddy keeps a sailboat at the Blue Water marina there that I have been on a few times.
I can only say that you didn't make any critical mistakes and that you obviously learned a lot by going out when you did. I encourage you to keep trying and it will all get easier once you figure out how to get your hull off of the bottom.
The winds can be a bit flukey near all the points of land in that river and it is not at all surprising that they may have shifted on you. The best piece of advise that I can offer you is to keep a good eye on the surface of the water and you will be able to see the gusts as they come up by the dark areas they carve out on the top of the water (I call them Cat's Paws). Stronger gusts will often seem to change direction by quite a number of degrees before the actual gust hits. The best advise I can give is to steer with the wind you are experiencing at the moment which may mean heading up or down wind - sail by what the sails tell you - while keeping an eye out for when the main gust will hit you. This may mean letting your main out (or traveler) or heading upwind and sometimes both actions will help keeping the boat more 'level'.
There are lots of variations. If you are going downwind and it is gusty you might consider going down the Rhode River under jib alone and jybing it as necessary to avoid the shallow spots. Similarly, if you are going upwind you might consider using the main sail and a small jib or just main alone when trying to tack upwind.
That was some good work getting out on the Rhode River and into the Chessy with some novice 15 year old 'press gang' crew.
Try getting in and out of your slip without the engine sometime. It can be done if you have enough able hands on board. We did it last summer on my friends 32' Endeavor where getting out was much more difficult then getting back in under sail alone. There were 4 able hands though and we must have hit the bottom at least 3 times.
It is really nice to have a working auxiliary engine on a sailboat - but not absolutely necessary in all conditions - if you have a good, seasoned crew on board.
My point?: keep doing what you are doing. Keep an anchor handy that you can use to kedge you off the bottom once you find it. You will figure it all out. You are doing great!
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Old 01-19-2010
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Really neat post bubble....I learned a lot, vicariously. Not that I could do it by any stretch of imagination, just learning what's going on.

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Old 01-19-2010
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You learn more when things go wrong so if you keep it up by spring you should be a pro. Winds change more in rivers compared to out in the open bay. The winds flow around trees, creeks and rivers try keeping an eye on the water in front of you (watch ripples an waves). Also you may not have needed to reef if you used a smaller jib. I never even used my genoa the first year. Thanks for being an ice braker maybe I will make it to that boat.
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Old 01-19-2010
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I carry a big stick for pushing of ground. Caleb what is the name of your friends boat I am at Blue Water
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Old 01-19-2010
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I'm not sure where the talk of grounding came from. That's about the only mistake I DIDN'T make- I never touched the bottom.

I was using my smaller jib. I think the dang boat came with a 110 and a 130. I'd really like my "working" jib to be a 90 or 100.

The jibs appear to be in pretty decent shape, it's just the main that's "tired but serviceable". I've already priced a replacement so I'll buy it come the Spring.

Riddle me this folks:

If I'm supposed to prep the jib before I get underway, how do I keep it doused, and under control while I motor out to the area where I have enough room to raise sails? Do I just pile it up and place something heavy on it or what?

I'm old-school, no roller-furling system.
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