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The day started out reasonably cool for Texas in the the middle of July. Only a bare 83 degrees as I pulled into the parking lot of the marina at 7:45 in the morning. I see that some of the guys already have Brown Eyed Girl up on the boat lift and have taken her rudder off. It's work party time to pay for the privilege of having the boats available. Lee is there and tells me to follow him and we'll go work on the other two boats.

Up the dock we go, picking up another guy from the club who's also come to help. We pretty quickly empty Sunny Side Up of everything in the cabin and pull up the locker covers so we can empty out the bilges. The new guy we picked up goes to work on that and after he's done there he power washes the topsides of the boat. She looks nice. While we are there emptying out the cabin Lee takes the oppertunity to show me how to check and make sure the swing keel pin is locked in place. It's hidden on the Catalina 22's in a forward port side locker that you just have to reach and feel for. Turn it clockwise until it's tight and you are good to go. One of these days I'll get him to show me how to swing the keels up and down on the two club boats with swing keels. They should always be down, but it'd be nice to know the procedure.

Lee and I unlocked Sofia and drug out her jib. It had some tears on the luff and it's time to break out the sail tape. Sail tape kind of looks like contact paper, but it's made of different stuff. I held the tension on the jib on the table while Lee put on the tape and smoothes it on. We ran the luff edge looking for any other tears, reinforcing a previous repair and by this time two more have showed up to help. John and Paul help us while we hang the jib in the rolling furler on the boat. We've all done this one time before the first time we repaired the sail. The second time it goes up much easier than before. Once it's up it's time to go pick up the outboard from the shop mechanic who says it's repaired. A slog up the hill and then a slog back down with it on the engine cart and we are soon locking it down to the swing mount on the boat.

Now it's time for a sea trial! John, myself, and Paul decide to take her out. The engine starts and seems to run okay, though maybe not quite as much cooling water flow as we think it ought to have, we decide to go on. It turns out there is more wind on the lake than it looked like. Paul had the idea that we turn it into my third checkride and everyone was agreeable. The tiller is handed to me and I now have a crew of willing sailors to follow my commands.

I could get use to this. This is sort of like having minions!

We faced into the wind, hoisted the main and then unfurled the jib and were soon underway. I went through the points of sail for them answered all the questions again they need to ask and then we decide we'll try something new. There's a way when you are sailing dead downwind to sail what they call wing on wing. You have the main on one side of the boom and the jib on the other. To keep the jib out and filling with wind you use something called a whisker pole that grabs a loop tied on the clew of the jib and then clips onto the front of the mast. Paul goes first to do the work, I edge us nearly down wind and he snags the loop and clips the whisker pole to the mast. I do a gentle jibe to swing the main to the other side of the mast and let out on the mainsheet as far as I can so the sail lays out against the shrouds. It works! It really something to see a boat configured that way as she moves under sail. I don't really like sailing so much dead downwind because there is always the risk of an accidental jibe if you get distracted and let the wind catch the sail from the front and it will slam the boom across the boat, possibly injuring someone or breaking something. It makes me nervous still in my baby sailor stage. We decide to come out of the wing on wing and then John goes forward to give it a try. A repeat of everything is done, a gentle jibe and the main comes across and we are wing on wing with things reversed this time. Pretty neat.

John asks if I want to come forward and give it a try and I told him not today, we'll try it another time with me on the foredeck. Besides, we really need to come about soon and start sailing the other direction as we are running out of lake this way. We were coming up on the lee shore, and in an area I am not that familiar with. The banks here are really high and you can see where they have collapsed into the lake. It's kind of pretty to sail along, but it also is making me think that it's about to get really shallow and I don't really want to put my information on how to free a boat that's run aground to use today. We clean up the sails, come about and take up an easy tack back towards the marina. Before long we are getting close and I point the boat into the wind and we furl the jib and drop the main and I start the engine.

This is when I notice a problem. The cooling water flow, isn't nearly as strong as it was before. I decide to keep an eye on it and we head towards the marina and our slip. Looking back at the engine again and again I notice the water flow has stopped. We decide to kill the engine and take her the rest of the way in under sail alone. We'd really rather not overheat the engine and ruin it.

Now on this boat we've got me, who's just a baby sailor, and we've got John, who's been sailing these boats about a year, and we've got Paul who's been sailing about a year as well. None of us have ever docked one of these boats under sail before. This will be a learning experience. The guys work the sheets and we tack back and forth as we try to make our way across the marina and towards the slip. We've some problems early on but figure them out. We've so little wind now as the temperatures press into triple digit territory that it's hard to get up enough speed for the rudder to have much effect. Lee sees us sailing back towards the slip and comes down the dock and yells out to us asking about the engine. We tell him what's up and he says he'll head back to the slip and stand by to help us when we come in.

We blow a few tacks and get ourselves blown back out a little bit, then we opt to jibe around in a circle and get pointed the right way again. The wind has switched a little for us and I'm able to hold us close hauled to the wind and we are finally making progress down the channel. I quick tack towards the dock, then away from it, then close hauled paralleling the dock and we are nearly there. We've got plenty of speed now and she'll respond to the rudder so I tell the guys I'm going to turn her into the slip and we should have enough momentum to get us in, get ready to drop the mail and furl the jib. I call the turn and yell to them to drop the main and jib as I hear Lee yelling to us from the dock to do the same. It's nice to know we are all on the same page. We get the sails down, going a bit faster than I'd like to I head for the slip a bit blind because of the main being in the way still but Lee is ready for us. He's along side of the slip and moving to the front of it to cushion the bow and Paul is stepping off the boat onto the dock to grab the side and keep us tight as I kick the stern of the boat towards the port dock and start to slow us down by putting us somewhat angled into the slip because our other boat is out.

A bit of a scrape along the port side, but that's what the fenders are for on the boat to protect our hull and the dock and we are in. Tight and docked! We did it! The three of us brought her in under sail and docked without an engine. Whew! That was a LOT of work with a 22 foot Catalina!!! I'm sure it would get better with practice, but I'm not sure I want to practice it much!

Lee complimented us on a job well done as we cleaned up the boat and put on the covers. He said he could probably count on the fingers of one hand the number of sailors in the program that have docked under sail. Welcome to the club! We removed the engine to go back to the maintenance shop and all collapsed in the shade on the dock for a few minutes for some water and to talk about things. We've certainly got a story to tell around the club now.

John told me that I'd passed my third checkride and he'll get Mike the information on it. So now I see if I will need to take a few more, or not, to get checkout privileges on the boats. I just received an email from my checkout skipper from yesterday and he told me that his assessment is that I can handle the boat in 5 to 10 knots of wind with the assistance of an untrained but willing deck hand to help with the tiller to point into the wind while the sails are raised or lowered and help at the dock when I push off or come back in. If I have a trained sailor/deck hand on board, I can likely sail in anything the boats are okayed for on our lake. So I wait to see if Mike agrees and lets me go.

That sure made me feel good to hear that from Mo.

I think my next sailing event will be Wednesday evening with Lee, and then possibly Thursday evening with John if he can get a boat for working on the whisker pole, anchoring, and man overboard drills.

Always something to learn.

But wow, what a day on the water. I'm going to have to get a sailing avatar soon for LJ the way this blog is going.

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September 2010

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