Jun. 13th, 2010

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I was beat last night when I got home. But it was a good tired.

I had volunteered for Lakefest at Grapevine with the sailing club. I arrived for my shift, they put me in the beer tent to serve to the masses, which didn't show up. Then they needed a pair of guys to stand guard at the VIP area to bounce people who didn't have a VIP badge or bracelet. We bounced so well I think we only had 3 or 4 VIP's the three hours me and Len worked the gate.

Len is also in my sailing class. Turns out he use to sail a long time ago in college. Then recently he bought a boat and was taking the class as a refresher because he'd forgotten over time what things were called, the points of sail and what not. He offered that if anyone finally relieved us from our post that we could go out for an hour or two sail on his boat Saturday afternoon.

Eventually the next shift showed up, a little late but I'm not complaining too much. It was HOT in the full sun where they had us stationed. I will say this though, the people running the event made sure that we all got fed pizza when it arrived and ran water for us when we needed it. I was impressed. This was the first year of the event and I think they could have used more advertising, it was picking up a bit as the day went longer. Hopefully next year it will be even bigger.

So we were released and Len asked if I was still interested in sailing for a bit. I said sure! I reapplied my sunblock and grabbed my sailing gloves from the car and we walked down the docks to his boat. He has a 25 foot MacGregor sailboat. Fairly basic, not a club boat, and it's always interesting to see how the different boats are set up. We motored out of the marina after casting off and then he gave me the tiller/motor and had me face her into the wind while he went forward to bend on the Jib. We hoisted it and the mainsail and then had a whole lot of fun at the first. The wind was blowing nearly 20 knots, gusting higher. With the jib up we tacked once or twice and he tried to hold a course but we had pretty severe weather helm. Weather helm is when a boat tends to want to turn towards the wind. On his boat it was being caused because we were heeling over so much (rolling away from the wind) because of the wind load on the sails that the rudder would come partly out of the water so we couldn't hold a course with the wind we had. The way to fix it would be to bring down some of the sails to have less pressure. We decided to drop the jib and sail under the main for now.

I went forward while we were underway and started to bring down the jib. I needed to remove it from the forestay and stow it in the forward hatch. A couple of things, I'm tall, and not really all that steady as of yet on a boat when it's likely to heel. I ended up getting up there, opening the forward hatch and sitting with my feet in it as I pulled down the jib. I had a bit of a fumble at first because I didn't understand how the hanks worked on the jib. I eventually figured it out and start unclipping it and stuffing it away. I unclipped the halyard and clipped the line on the lifeline, unclipped the control line for the jib and clipped it to the other side of the boat on another lifeline. Then I made my way back to the cockpit on a MUCH more stable boat.

We talked a bit about other ways that situation might be handled if the boat was equipped differently or even if we had had a smaller storm jib to put back up. I learned a lot in that exercise. Experience is a great teacher.

Len asked if I wanted to take the helm and I said sure! I managed to both jibe and tack with just the main without much problem today. Calling them out and then either I would work the main or Len would help.

I noticed in the higher winds we had today that at times there would be a moan in the boat. It was more than just the sound, I could even feel it in the tiller at times. After it had been doing it for 20 minutes or so I asked about it. He grinned and said that when you had the sails set right on this boat she'd let you know, especially in this much wind. It was such an animal sort of thing to experience. The boat was alive and talking to us.

He had me steer to the gap between the bank and a little island on the lake. Saying that in the middle of the gap it was about 16 feet deep and his swingboard only takes about 6. That was so very cool to slip between and look over the starboard side at the trees and such on the little island, then once we got enough past it I jibed on the downwind to turn us and we came around the end of the island. We ran in 20 knot winds with just the main all the way to the dam. From there I tacked when I felt I could pick an aiming point upwind of the marina so I could try to make it back on the single tack without having to work up again in the wind. I was lucky, or maybe I'm starting to learn a little because I brought us all the way back to the marina with flying spray from the boat at times under the main sail alone. Wheee! As we approached the first tire wavebreak Len took the tiller back and brought us all the way back to slip on the sail alone. With just a little less wind he'd have tried to sail us into the slip but instead opted to have me drop the main and he put us in with the engine instead. I helped tie up the boat and flake the main and put the cover on. All in all it was a lot of fun. I'm really glad he offered. I'm glad I took him up on his offer.

While we were out we watched some of the other boats. The usual bevy of powerboats and jet skies, but there was also a little sunfish sailboat being sailed singlehanded. They sure looked to be having a lot of fun. I also saw a wave-border for a little bit later, but I think he was finding the winds/lake conditions where we was a bit more of a challenge than he wanted. Still, for a little boat that sunfish was doing a great job out in the high winds. I was very impressed.

Things learned today in the short hour or two I was out, if the wind is too high and you are carrying too much sail reduce the sail, either by getting rid of the jib/putting a smaller one one, or reef the main. We opted to get rid of our jib and had a really easy time then with still very good performance, speed, and comfort. If you are trying to hold into the wind too tight and you are getting a pretty hard lean, you can sometimes ease out the main a bit and the boat will straighten back upright and you'll still be able to get where you want to go. Sometimes... I learned what weather helm was, and that reading about it in a book doesn't do it justice. I learned better about how to plan a course on the lake to get where I want to go under sail. I learned that higher winds doesn't mean don't sail, just sail differently. I also more firmly cemented in my head tacking and jibeing, points of sail, starboard and port tack. It was a LOT learned in the hour or two we got to play. Still, a whole lot of fun.

I guess the last thing I learned today, was sort of like the first time I sailed on the 30 footer of Bob's. When sailing under wind power alone, the boats really are creatures in their own right. Alive, dynamic, active, communicative. It is such a neat thing when you can feel it in the boat, in the helm , in the sheets.

wow....

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