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John at the club had offered earlier in the week to do my first checkride in the club boats this morning. The day dawned with nary a cloud in the sky, light winds, and the temperature was only 78. This is a marked change from the last several weeks of low clouds, rain, and intermittent thunderstorms. The forecast called for the wind to pick up some and a heat index of 105 later in the day, but we'd be long off the water before it got that hot.

7:45 finds me at the marina with plenty of time to apply my sunblock and decide what I'm taking on the boat with me. I really need to get a bag that is dedicated to sailing that I can leave packed with everything I might need on board the boat. My gloves in my pocket I grab my cap and am walking towards the marina down to the marina when John sees me, grins, and calls a hello from far dockside. I call back to him and we meet up on the public side of the gate. He'd asked me yesterday if a friend of his could join us and I said sure. We decide to go on out to the and get started with prep for the sail and he'd go back and walk her in when she got there. We go over where to get the gate access keys and head to the boat.

We are on Sunny Side Up today. She's likely the most manual of the club boats. Opening the companionway we unhook the solar battery charger and put it away in the v-berth. SSU doesn't have a roller furler for the jib so we fetched the 110 jib out from the cabin and I hanked on the sail and attempted to tie the sheets. It's been a few weeks since sailing class and I've already mostly forgotten how to tie a simple bowline. John had to laugh at my difficulties and came forward to tie one of the lines on and turns out he went blank on tying one as well. It took us a few minutes more than it should have but eventually we got the sheets tied correctly and made the lines ready. John got the call from his friend and he headed back up the dock to walk her down. I futzed around the boat some more, learning where the various thing are. Where our fire extinguisher is, the registration for the boat. All that important stuff to keep us legal. Once he was back he had me unlock a pair of topside lockers in the cockpit and one side had all the PFD's for the crew, the other side had the fuel tank for the motor. He went over how the motor mount works, how the fuel line hooks up, starting process, and how we'll leave the dock.

Before long we were starting the engine and pushing back from the dock. I motored us out of the marina and took us out to raise the sails. We'd already taken the sail cover off the main and had the jib gathered and held in place with a bungee cord at the ready. John wanted me to do all the steps today even though when I take the boat out in the future the skipper usually gives the orders and lets the crew raise the sails and such. Because I have so little experience he wants to make sure I can do all the crew duties if I need to in the future. I handed the helm to him. As he faced us into the wind I untied the main and then raised the main with the main halyard. I took the helm back from him and we sailed on the main alone for a little while.

He talked about reefing the main, when we should (before you think you need to, or even before you leave the dock if the wind is high), what the processes is (lower the main halyard until the first reef point is at the boom, run a line from one cleat through the reef point and down to the other cleat and secure, gather in the reef line on the clew side of the sail to secure the back of the sail down). Reefing is done to reduce the amount of sail (hence the amount of power you are developing) when under high wind conditions. What would we do if a squall developed (drop all sail and secure them, start the motor and head to a protected cove). We decided to go ahead and deploy the jib now so I handed the tiller back to John and made my way forward as he pointed us into the wind again. I unclipped the bungee to free the jib and made my way back to the cockpit and hauled up the jib with it's halyard. The speed increased in the boat as we hung nearly half again as much sail in the air on the boat with the jib.

Well done John said as he handed me back the tiller. He ran me through the various points of sail, close haul, close reach, beam reach, broad reach, and then we went wing on wing on the downwind. Wing on wing is a pretty way to sail because you have the main on one side the mast and the jib on the other. It feels slow to you because you are running dead downwind and so don't get much of the breeze. I would call for a tack and either John or his friend would run the sheets for the jib as I put the helm over to lee. A few times I called for a gybe and swung the back of the boat through the wind under control.

All through the checkout John was explaining things to his friend who's thinking about joining the club and had never been sailing before. She was a quick study on working the sheets for the jib. She'd ask a question and John would often pause to see if I was willing to answer the question first for him. In a way I think he was having fun because he was getting a pretty thorough quiz out of me without having to ask any questions. On anything I wasn't quite so sure on I would give my best answer and then look to John to see if I had gotten it right. I can't think of anything he corrected me on. We talked about how to tell when a gust was coming. I'd been maintaining us on a pretty even keel through the gusty wind we had this morning, easing the main sheet a little, pulling it back in. I'd never said anything about it and then John pointed out to his friend why I was doing it, to keep us from heeling so steeply because we were interested more in crew comfort and cruising than in extra speed and power in the sails for racing in the heel.

Again today while sailing SSU I was struck about how organic, how much like a creature, the boat is. Several times I would have the sails trimmed in a close haul and once in a beam reach and I could feel the thrum in the boat, hear a bit of the moan of the wind in the rigging as the gust kicked up and I would ease the main to keep us level. She would talk to you, she would leap forward when you sheeted in on the main and hold her tighter to the wind. In some ways she felt happy at times, above all she felt pleased when her sails were halfway in trim and working nicely. To feel the power in the sheets, to feel the pressure in the tiller as you put her hard over to lee in a tack. She spoke volumes to you if you cared to listen.

We were starting to run out of time and wanted to get in a few shots at docking again in the slip so headed back to the docks. I tacked us a few times back and forth to get closer to the marina. Picked a fairly protected area and handed the helm back to John as we pointed into the wind and doused the jib. I went forward and bundled it up again with the bungee to keep it out of the way. Back in the cockpit I doused the main and loosely tied it up to keep it out of the way while we went in. I put out the fenders so we wouldn't have to worry about them when we got to the slip. Back on the tiller I made our way back to the slip and John talked me through our fist docking. I brought us in very slowly and he stepped off the boat onto the dock and went forward to push back against the very slow boat to keep us from hitting the bow. I reached over and grabbed the stern line from the dock and tied off the back end as he tied off the bow. A hearty well done and we were then untying and pushing back again. I worked into and out of SSU's slip several times, then we went up to Brown Eyed Girl's slip and practiced a few times in it as it's on the other side of the boat. Again it went well. I had one kind of botched approach and put the engine back in gear and got us lined back up and presented us nicely in the slip at a low rate of speed again. I think that one impressed John most. Back out of BEG's slip and to our own I made one last docking and this time John's friend hopped out and stopped the front of the boat and tied us off as I tied off the stern.

I went through the shutdown checklist and John and I untied and reflaked the mainsail now that we were safely in dock. Tied it down and I put on the mainsail cover. I went forward to the jib and unclipped it from the forestay and handed it over the side so we could flake it (fold it correctly) on the floor of the dock to put it away. Tidying up all the lines it was then time to flake the jib and put it away. I hooked up the solar charger again and stowed the engine in the up position and tied off the tiller. Put in the companionway boards and locked the boat up and we were done!

We spent 3.5 hours on the water today. I was doing fine until it came time to stand up and start closing up the boat, flaking the sails and everything. Then I got really tired really fast. Stamina will come with time and work I'm sure.

John and I talked about the ride while we sat in the shade on the dock. He said that I passed all points on the checklist without a problem. He had heard I had only had the sailing class for experience wasn't sure I would be able to complete in the typical 3 rides. However once we were underway he saw that I had a good sense of all the processes, how the hardware worked, and what needed to be done. My book knowledge was outstanding, and my helmsmanship was really very good for such a low time sailor. Most folks will tend to get distracted on what they are doing and get the sails beating/luffing all the time when the first start. I tended to pick my point of sail and hold it fairly close, if I started to drift, I'd catch it and fix it. He was actually pretty impressed. I showed good habits in the marina, kept it slow, and approached docking with the politeness and finesse it demands. The icing on the cake was that I showed that I cared about the boat, the equipment, and I had a good safety mindset when it came to being on the water.

He had a few suggestions on other skippers to call on for my other checkouts and suggested I try to take the rides on the other two boats because each of them is a little different.

I'm tired but I'm very happy. I managed to pass the first checkout. One down, two more to go! I've already emailed the other skippers to see if I can set something up soon.
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slipstreamsurfr

September 2010

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