Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Reefing, Screaming, and Hitting the Bottom (Again)

I've been anxious to take my fixed up boat out on the bay for another trial run.  I took last Wednesday thru Friday off to make an extra long holiday weekend.  I've heard all the horror stories and planned on staying far away from the boat during the 4th of July weekend.

My brother in law Steve and good friend Joe were the suckers, ahem, deckhands, for the day's excursion.  Joe's been on a couple trips with me, but this was Steve's first time on a sailboat.  The day was beautiful.  The forecast was sunny, breezy at about 15 knots with a few gusty 20's.

Heading out of the canal we (Joe and I) hoisted the main and unfurled the jib.  Then immediately slammed over to about 35-40 degrees.  My "fun meter", wife's "squeal meter", and the rest of the worlds inclinometer only goes to 30.  We were past it.  I had too much sail out.  Waaaayyy too much sail out.  I don't have a wind speed indicator but it was almost howling out there.

"Okay Steve,"  I said to my brother-in-law, "you steer.  Just head toward that water tower over yonder."  Joe and I then head down into the cabin below. Within seconds the wind gusts, the boat heels over, and the screaming starts. "Mike!  MIKE!  We're going over!  Take the WHEEL!  TAKE THE F'ING WHEEL!"

Joe and I are laughing so damn hard we couldn't even take a photo.  I mean gut busting laughter.  Okay, it may have been cruel, but it's my brother in law (of over 20 years) and I just couldn't help myself.  Joe and I never even planned it.  We must have him screaming, yelling, and cursing us for a solid five minutes before I relented and went back to the cockpit.  I laughed so hard I had tears streaming down my face.  

I just calmly took the helm and said, "Great job! How do you enjoy sailing so far?  Not so boring is it?"  This had me and Joe laughing for another round.  Naturally I explained how safe it really was, how the boat is supposed to heel, how the wind spills over the sails, how the boat would just round up into the wind.  He just stared at me in shocked silence.  "Asshole", he responds.  I still chuckle thinking back as I write this.  He's forgiven me already.

 I rounded us back up into the wind a pulled in the furler by about halfway.  I also now understand the reasoning for reefing before you need to or even before you head out.  Man, trying to convince the main sail to come down to the reef point, get the wind to stop blowing all the excess sail out while trying to tie it down, and the flapping!  My God what an awful racket all that loose sail and lines makes.  Crap was flapping all over the place.  Hitting me in the face, pushing the boom over, making it so I couldn't hear anything but FLAPPING!  I thought this must be what it would be like to have Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds attacking.

We spend the next several hours tacking back and forth beating into the wind.  It's amazing how you can sail partially into the wind and actually make headway.  I show him on my gps that we are indeed slowly working our way (in a very roundabout manner) against the wind.  One thing I noticed though, which seems counter intuitive on first thought but not after you think about it a bit.  We picked UP speed after we reefed the main and rolled up the jib to less than 50% of itself.  The reason is that earlier, when there's too much sail out, the wind kinda just blows us over and spills completely out of the sails.  Most of the force is knocking us down instead of propelling us forward.  When I decreased the sail area, I was more ably to correctly direct the force of the wind, allowing us to propel forward.  I actually hit 6.7 knots for a moment!  Most of my sailing was running at 5.5 - 6 knots.  Joe decides we need to start jumping waves.  Swears he's gonna be the first guy on a sailboat to jump a wake.

We spend hours going back and forth, back and forth, then hit a little bump.  I know the tide has been going out.  I pull up the daggerboard and only let about 2 feet hang down.  We keep tacking and working our way up wind following channels and deeper water.  There's just something so tranquil or something.  I dunno, I just love sailing.  
Here's a quick 30 second video.  I drop the F bomb once so don't watch if it offends or you have kids around or are at work.  

A few more hours go by, we've been working our way upwind all day.  The channel we have been following comes to an end and we decide it's time to head home.  Joe has the helm, I lower the main, open up the jib, raise the daggerboard up and we start flying downwind.  Maybe about 5 minutes go by and I notice we are awfully close (about 100 yards) to a couple of boats anchored by a small island.

I see someone low down in the water and Steve thinks they are clamming.  "Umm Joe, Are we still in the channel?"  Just about then we skip on the bottom, and the guy over yonder stands up.  The water is at his knees.  "Oh, shit!".  We start dragging and bouncing on the bottom and then slide into a stop.
Of course I don't even think to take any photos of this.  I promise I'll try and get better at remembering the camera.

I lower the motor and try it and immediately dismiss it as a bad idea.  All I see is mud.  Me and Steve get out and start pushing.  The chart reads 0.7 where we are at.  I'm standing in water midway between ankles and knees.  The goal is to get the boat to the 1.0 water area.  Which is behind us, directly against the wind.  We aren't going in that direction.

I look at the chart and determine that if we can just push sideways while the wind pushes downward, the angle might be enough to get us to another 1.0 mark.  Probably after about 15-20 minutes the boat starts bobbing along merrily and we climb back on board.  I figure I've scraped off all the new bottom paint.

I open the jib again and guide us through the shallow water and eventually back into a channel.  Luckily I had the daggerboard already retracted.  Whew.

We sail back to our starting point and motor back through the canal.  Seven hours of sailing and 22 nm sailed today!  My best day yet.  

Motored 5, sailed 22 for a total of 27 nm today.

Total distance is 75 nm this year.

Lessons Learned:  Reef earlier, Watch the bottom, laugh no matter the circumstances.

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