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-   -   Last Sail of the Season (http://www.sailnet.com/forums/miscellaneous/26331-last-sail-season.html)

Jack Northrup 10-10-2004 08:00 PM

Last Sail of the Season
 
<P><TABLE cellSpacing=0 cellPadding=0 align=right border=0><TBODY><TR><TD width=8></TD><TD vAlign=top align=left width=300><IMG height=214 src="http://www.sailnet.com/images/content/authors/northrup/101104_JN_323.jpg" width=300><BR><DIV class=captionheader align=left><FONT color=#000000><B>The author owns a Pearson 323 that he sails in Lake Champlain, sometimes way too late in the season.</B></FONT></DIV></TD></TR><TR><TD colSpan=2 height=8></TD></TR></TBODY></TABLE>When is sailing too much fun?&nbsp;Where’s the line where fun ends and anxiety begins?&nbsp;&nbsp;I crossed that line soon after I bought my sailboat, the <I>Surprise</I>, a 1977 Pearson 323. Unfortunately, I dragged my family across that line with me.</FONT></P><P>The adventure began on October 6, when I said to my 26-year-old son, Brice, that that day&nbsp;was the day.&nbsp;We had made a pact to go out on Lake Champlain at the end of the season to find some rough weather and “to have some fun.”&nbsp;&nbsp;The sailing season was almost over.&nbsp;Few boats were left on the lake.&nbsp;Ronnie, my wife and third crew member, had signed on for the first half of the trip.&nbsp;(She always demands to be put ashore when the fun ends.)&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</FONT></P><P>Lake Champlain is western New England’s version of the Atlantic: 120 miles long, straddling New York on the west and Vermont on the east.&nbsp;Our destination was Valcour Island, one of the many historic islands in the northern part of the lake.</FONT>&nbsp;&nbsp;</FONT></P><P>Normally, it would take&nbsp;two to three&nbsp;hours to sail there, a reach from the east to the west side of the island.&nbsp;The Sunday forecast had been a wind advisory and small craft warning, winds from the south at 25 with gusts to 35 miles per hour on the broad lake.&nbsp;Waves were to be three to five feet.</FONT> <P>I had purchased the <I>Surprise&nbsp;</I>three months earlier and in the ensuing time, taught myself all I could about sailing, with mixed results.&nbsp;The boat had not sunk, my marriage was in trouble (Ronnie hadn't talked to me for two weeks) and my three sons were distancing themselves from me at varying rates.&nbsp;</FONT></P><P><TABLE cellSpacing=0 cellPadding=0 align=right border=0><TBODY><TR><TD width=8></TD><TD vAlign=top align=left width=300><IMG height=225 src="http://www.sailnet.com/images/content/authors/northrup/101104_JN_brice.jpg" width=300><BR><DIV class=captionheader align=left><FONT color=#000000><B>Brice, son and crew, may have had more "fun" than what he bargained for when he decided to sign up on board&nbsp;the <EM>Surprise</EM>.</B></FONT></DIV></TD></TR><TR><TD colSpan=2 height=8></TD></TR></TBODY></TABLE>To begin, we headed out five miles over the bays that connect to the lake.&nbsp;&nbsp;The wind&nbsp;was not blowing very hard, and the waves&nbsp;were not too bad.&nbsp;&nbsp;We made it to the island in an hour and a half, rounded it, dropped anchor, dropped sail, and&nbsp;ate our lunch.</FONT></P><P>After lunch, we sailed north and dropped Ronnie on the New York mainland.&nbsp;She had had her share of the fun.&nbsp;We passed the northern tip of Valcour Island and immediately&nbsp;were pounded by the southerly winds, which had really picked up.&nbsp;So had the waves.&nbsp;&nbsp;It was blowing very hard.&nbsp;&nbsp;I have an anemometer on top of the mast and I won’t report what it said, because saying so would discredit this story.</FONT></P><P>The waves, whatever size, were by far the biggest I had seen since I owned the boat.&nbsp;They were as long and far as the eye could see<SPAN style="FONT-SIZE: 12pt; FONT-FAMILY: 'Times New Roman'; mso-fareast-font-family: 'Times New Roman'; mso-ansi-language: EN-US; mso-fareast-language: EN-US; mso-bidi-language: AR-SA">—</SPAN>thousands of them.&nbsp;&nbsp;The ride became bumpy and wet, and yet the <I>Surprise&nbsp;</I>handled beautifully.&nbsp;We&nbsp;were having a good time.</FONT> <P>Then the jib splited and started screaming and flapping in the wind.&nbsp;The boat took a sharp turn to the left and we headed downwind.&nbsp;&nbsp;I started the engine and turned east back to our original course.&nbsp;Brice grabbed the wheel.&nbsp;I headed on deck to drop the mainsail and pull the jib down.&nbsp;I left the jib down<SPAN style="FONT-SIZE: 12pt; FONT-FAMILY: 'Times New Roman'; mso-fareast-font-family: 'Times New Roman'; mso-ansi-language: EN-US; mso-fareast-language: EN-US; mso-bidi-language: AR-SA">—</SPAN>a hanging mess, attached to the forestay, crumpled up.&nbsp;When I returned to the cockpit Brice&nbsp;was grinning.&nbsp;&nbsp;Someone was having a great time!</FONT></P><P>Suddenly, the engine stopped.&nbsp;We turned again, straight downwind, going five knots.&nbsp;With the waves behind us, we would be in Canada in two hours.&nbsp;</FONT></P><P>Brice managed to raise the reefed mainsail and we slowly moved to the Vermont side, behind the Grand Isle-Plattsburgh Ferry breakwater.&nbsp;We cut off the ferry that had just arrived, with over 50 cars and trucks on board.&nbsp;The captain&nbsp;wasn't happy<SPAN style="FONT-SIZE: 12pt; FONT-FAMILY: 'Times New Roman'; mso-fareast-font-family: 'Times New Roman'; mso-ansi-language: EN-US; mso-fareast-language: EN-US; mso-bidi-language: AR-SA">—at least that is how I interpreted the fist shaking he was doing. </SPAN>&nbsp;I rounded the breakwater and we dropped anchor.&nbsp;The waves had stopped, but we&nbsp;were pointed right into the wind.&nbsp;&nbsp;It began to rain.</FONT></P><P><TABLE cellSpacing=0 cellPadding=10 width=160 align=right border=0><TBODY><TR><TD><IMG height=2 alt="" src="http://www.sailnet.com/images/content/authors/bullets/black_1pix.gif" width=160 border=0></TD></TR><TR><TD vAlign=top align=middle width=160><FONT face="Arial, Helvetica, sans serif" color=black size=+1><B><I>"The unrelenting wind pushed us, and the anchor dragged. We were heading backward into granite cliffs."</I></B></FONT></TD></TR><TR><TD><IMG height=2 alt="" src="http://www.sailnet.com/images/content/authors/bullets/black_1pix.gif" width=160 border=0></TD></TR></TBODY></TABLE>The unrelenting wind pushed us, and the anchor dragged.&nbsp;&nbsp;We&nbsp;were heading backward into granite cliffs.&nbsp;&nbsp;This is when I decided to start yelling.&nbsp;Brice&nbsp;was at the wheel and five feet from the ledge wall.&nbsp;I told him to move out of the cockpit and got ready to jump into the water.&nbsp;In desperation, I moved up toward the bow, raised the reefed mainsail, pulled up the anchor and, miraculously, the wind pushed us offshore and we&nbsp;were clear of immediate danger.&nbsp;&nbsp;We were back in the lake with the wind and waves.&nbsp;Twilight was setting in.</FONT> <P>I believe the term is hove-to, which in our case meant that&nbsp;the <I>Surprise&nbsp;</I>was pointing southwest, losing ground.&nbsp;Things settled down.&nbsp;&nbsp;We dodged a bullet.&nbsp;&nbsp;On Channel 16, I heard the ferry captain talking to the Coast Guard.&nbsp;The captain, whose acquaintance I had made 30 minutes earlier,&nbsp;was telling the Coast Guard that “The guy that looked like he was trying to sink his boat seems to be back in the water and everything is fine.”&nbsp;&nbsp;</FONT></P><P><TABLE cellSpacing=0 cellPadding=0 align=right border=0><TBODY><TR><TD width=8></TD><TD vAlign=top align=left width=300><IMG height=225 src="http://www.sailnet.com/images/content/authors/northrup/101104_JN_home.jpg" width=300><BR><DIV class=captionheader align=left><FONT color=#000000><STRONG>At one point Valcour Island got a little too close for comfort<SPAN style="FONT-SIZE: 12pt; FONT-FAMILY: 'Times New Roman'; mso-fareast-font-family: 'Times New Roman'; mso-ansi-language: EN-US; mso-fareast-language: EN-US; mso-bidi-language: AR-SA">—especially when the engine decided to take a break.</SPAN></STRONG></FONT></DIV></TD></TR><TR><TD colSpan=2 height=8></TD></TR></TBODY></TABLE>Despite my reluctance to publicly identify myself, I cut in and ackowledged being the guy in that boat and while I&nbsp;was in no immediate danger <EM>I sure could use a tow.</EM></FONT></P><P>Guess what?&nbsp;A local marina’s tow boat was out, making a profitable living.&nbsp;<I>Surprise&nbsp;</I>is&nbsp;number 2&nbsp;in line, after the dismasted sailboat, but before the one that washed ashore.&nbsp;We turned and headed downwind.&nbsp;&nbsp;Thirty minutes later the tow&nbsp;was coming toward us<SPAN style="FONT-SIZE: 12pt; FONT-FAMILY: 'Times New Roman'; mso-fareast-font-family: 'Times New Roman'; mso-ansi-language: EN-US; mso-fareast-language: EN-US; mso-bidi-language: AR-SA">—</SPAN>a Boston Whaler, maybe 20 feet long, with&nbsp;two massive outboards.&nbsp;It came completely out of the water with every wave.&nbsp;We communicated via Channel 16.&nbsp;&nbsp;The Coast Guard&nbsp;was listening.&nbsp;&nbsp;In the tow boat were the operator, his wife, and her uncle.&nbsp;The wife and uncle hold cans of beer and toasted us like it was a family barbecue.&nbsp;On the radio the skipper said “One chance only.&nbsp;I’m going to throw you a rope and if you miss it, I’m not coming back.”&nbsp;&nbsp;He turned 180 degrees and came along side as best he could.&nbsp;&nbsp;Brice&nbsp;was up front to catch the rope, which he did.</FONT></P><P>One hour later we&nbsp;had pulled into Mooney Bay Marina, where a crowd had assembled on the dock.&nbsp;While being towed, my relief at being saved was being replaced by the “What is this going to cost me?”&nbsp;apprehension.&nbsp;In the initial euphoria, it didn’t matter.&nbsp;&nbsp;Now it did.</FONT></P><P><TABLE cellSpacing=0 cellPadding=0 align=right border=0><TBODY><TR><TD width=8></TD><TD vAlign=top align=left width=300><IMG height=260 src="http://www.sailnet.com/images/content/authors/northrup/101104_JN_towboat.jpg" width=300><BR><DIV class=captionheader align=left><FONT color=#000000><B>Having a Boston Whaler return your proud and joy to the dock is not exactly the most glorious ending to a daysail. </B></FONT></DIV></TD></TR><TR><TD colSpan=2 height=8></TD></TR></TBODY></TABLE>The tow pulled next to <I>Surprise,&nbsp;</I>then safely on the dock.&nbsp;Not being a great believer in tow insurance, I waved my credit card.&nbsp;&nbsp;I ask “How much do I owe you?”&nbsp;&nbsp;He said “Oh, you’re not going to like this.”&nbsp;&nbsp;Weakly smiling, I replied, “Don’t worry about it.”&nbsp;&nbsp;He answered “$150.”&nbsp;I knew that what he could have charged would have paid for the new jib I would soon buy.</FONT> <P>Brice&nbsp;was lying on the dock reveling in being off the boat.&nbsp;I started worrying about the engine.&nbsp;We talked to the marina about leaving the boat for there overnight, and we cleaned up on deck.&nbsp;&nbsp;A kind spectator, a fellow sailor, agreed to drive us to the ferry so that we could return to Vermont, where we&nbsp;would take a cab and meet Ronnie at the family car, near the mooring.&nbsp;We would (I would) deal with the boat the next day.</P><P>Brice took off the remnants of the jib and pulled in the attached sheets.&nbsp;They were stuck.&nbsp;They&nbsp;were wrapped around the propeller, which is why the engine died. &nbsp;I would have to dive in the 51 degree water the next day&nbsp;and unwrap the mess.&nbsp;Should I be relieved or curse my luck?&nbsp;&nbsp;</P><P>No matter.&nbsp;&nbsp;Brice and I&nbsp;were dropped off at the Plattsburgh ferry.&nbsp;We bought &nbsp;a ticket and stepped on deck.&nbsp;The captain of the ferry welcomed me aboard personally. I wondered whether to worry about being safely dropped off on the other side. Next time, I think I'll keep my distance from&nbsp;the ferry!</P>


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