Aug. 29th, 2010

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I knew on my drive to the marina in the predawn hour this would be a good day on the lake. The wind was already blowing at six am. The most recent forecast called for 10 mph, the one a bit earlier said 10 to 15, gusts to 20. From the looks of the wind this morning we'd be in for the 10 to 15 with excitement at 20!

I had the boat about halfway ready to depart when the text came through. "Here!" it said, I could tell she was excited. I texted her back and started heading down the dock to let her through the gate when I saw her already halfway to me. Someone else let her through before I got there. We had to laugh at that this morning. A few more moments at the dock and the motor was in the water, started, and warming up. We cast off and pulled out of the slip. We talked a bit as we headed out, I turned the tiller over to her and pointed where we needed to go while I untied and stowed the fenders, making the lines ready to deploy the sails. I bobbled the job on one of the fenders, it escaped my grasp, and plunked into the water. She turned the boat, not quite on a dime as we were just idling along, while I reached inside the cabin for an oar. It only took a moment and we soon had our wayward fender back corralled, back aboard, and headed out again.

The breeze was certainly fresher than it had been even yesterday. I told her it held great promise for her, as I wisely put on my sailing gloves. The last thing I needed was a rope burn today as I manhandled the lines to leave her to enjoy the sail. It only took a few moments to hoist the main and the boat fell off into an easy starboard beam reach as I went aft to kill the motor, lifting it out of the water in the sudden silence as the sound of the wind filled our ears. As we deployed the jib from the furler it snapped tight with the wind load and the boat instantly wanted to heel. We were on our way for an exhilarating day of sailing. It was by far the most wind I've sailed in without a crew to help, but for the most part it was easily handled.

I was a bit slow on some of my tacks, had an angry flapping jib in the breeze who didn't always want to be tamed, but a bit of effort on the lines soon brought it back into place. We must have crossed the lake 4 or 5 times by the time we first checked our time, only 8:30? A bare hour and a half with this much distance already covered? Certainly a far different day on the water for her! I decided to head down the lake a bit, show her a few other bits so took up a broad reach, nearly a run as we ran downwind. Broad reaching into a run is generally the slowest feeling point of sail, also the hottest as you get very little relative wind, but today the gusts kept things fresh for us. Our first warning was evident for increasing gusts for us. One I thought a little about, but didn't give it the attention it probably deserved.

I headed up out of our nearly dead run, pulling in on the main sheet and the jib as the energy of the wind transfered through the sails. Into a bounding gallop the boat turned, spray rising as the bow came slicing through the water, the waves building on the lake. The wind was gusting now, heeling us harder over, making me work harder with the mainsheet to keep us depowered enough not to toss my guest into the sole of the cockpit. Tacking back and forth under the higher winds at times made for some great fun single handed, not always pretty, but doable. I decided that if it was going to keep gusting this way it was time to reduce the amount of sail we were carrying. With the roller furler it's an easy job winding the jib down to about half its normal size, reducing our total sail area by at least a quarter, if not a full third.

Gone was the bounding boat and overpowered jib for the most part, but still, on occasion, we had spray over the foredeck in the gusts. The smaller jib left things much more manageable for single hand operation, we continued our sailing, back and forth again. Around the time I cut our jib down in size several other of the larger sailboats came out of the marina to play and the four or five of us danced back and forth across our end of the lake in a silent ballet of gigantic proportions. Following one another, one tacking here, there, another falling off, falling behind or turning before. At times we were close enough to call out across the water and converse, our words carried out on the wind, if only for a moment, as we quietly slipped past one another.

All too soon our time was coming to an end, John needed Brown Eyed Girl back for a birthday sail he had planned with some of his friends. Back towards our marina we headed, easily reached with the wind we had today we motored up, put away our sails and I had my guest take us back into the marina. Around the far side we went, I intended to tie the boat up on the big pier to make it easy for John. Getting in as much practice coming alongside and docking in this manner as I can under a variety of conditions is fun. I brought the boat in, spun her in the channel and knew I wouldn't make the cut I wanted on the pier as the wind was now pushing me up against it much more quickly than I was moving forward. We reached out in case we needed to brace the boat and touched down on our side lightly on the fenders. What, was I worried? Clambering over the pier railing, having my guest hold the back of the boat to the dock, I reached for the bowline I had already prepared and set. Walking the boat forward on the dock I soon had her tied off at the cut fore and aft.

A very full day of sailing this morning. The winds according to the wind graph shows them starting at 8 mph at 7 am, averaging quickly to around 14, gusting 22. Because of the new conditions I could feel my skill set growing, my decision making expanding. A few things I might have done differently today, perhaps a bit earlier, but overall a very successful day of sailing. I think I managed to fulfill my guest's want for excitement on the water in a good way. I certainly had a good time out there with a very good friend.


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September 2010

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