Join Date: Feb 2006
Location: Florida, US northeast
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I just logged onto this thread for the first time and read the whole thing with great interest. I never had much opportunity to sail on OPB and had to learn pretty much by myself. I do have a couple of observations.
Reading never hurts. I can't tell you how many times I got in what was, at that stage of my development, a bad situation and said "Hey, this is what I read about in "Heavy Weather Sailing". I've been sailing for over 40 years and just went back and re-read "Sailing for Dummies". Guess what? I learned something new. If I don't learn something new I am reminded of something I already knew.
It's surprising how your definition of heavy weather changes. In my early days I never reefed. When the wind blew harder, I braced my feet on the lee seat and stood up. The first time I reefed I was amazed how gentle the motion became. Not only that, but the boat actually went faster. Lee rail under only looks cool to those who aren't on the boat.
My "chicken factor" has grown slowly over the years as my skill grew. I (almost) never feel out of control. I've been out in a lot of stuff that, later in the yacht club, elicited the "Wow! You were out in that?" comment, usually from guys who never left the dock. What's the moral? Practice, practice, practice.
The reality is rarely as bad as the expectation. I moved to Michigan in 1976 and the theme song of the trip was "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald". I bought a new boat and, the following April, went out in the small inland lake connected to Lake Michigan. It took me until July to work up the nerve to go out on "THE BIG LAKE". About five minutes after I passed the end of the breakwater it was "Is that it?". I had a delightful sail, the first of many, on a great body of water. I had spent three uncomfortable months dealing with shifty winds and sandbars and tight spots because I was afraid of something that was only to be feared a small part of the time.
Heavy weather isn't my idea of big fun. Ghosting along with a "rum based" drink in my hand is pretty much my idea of heaven. Still, when the wind pipes up and the waves build, there is a real sense of satisfaction when you drop the hook and say "We got through that OK".