|SAILING LOGS :: EQUIPMENT AND STORAGE :: MISCELLANY|
The day dawned cloudy and gray, but by 9 AM it was bright blue and sunny--a perfect spring day. In the days since launching earlier in the week, we had been plagued by very strong southerly winds that ruined the chance of sailing on otherwise warm, sunny days, as well as a gray, gross day in between. I had of course been to check the boat daily, but was itching to get out for a sail. Was today the day?
Problem was, the marine forecast was calling for 20-30 knots out of the west. Not fun in my book. By 10:00, though, there was no sign of this breeze, and I wondered if the forecast was wrong. In any case, trying to work was fruitless, so I headed for the boat. With no launch service yet, I had a very pleasant row out to the boat in crystal blue, calm conditions, taking my time and enjoying the process. Winds were light to nonexistent out of the east. I rowed around, took a few pictures, and climbed aboard. I spent several minutes taking care of a few small projects, but as a soft breeze began to pick up from a non-westerly direction, the sailing bug got the better of me and I prepared to leave the mooring. I stripped the sailcover and raised the main, after squirting the cars with a liberal dose of WD-40 (the only lubricant I happen to have on board at the moment) to make them slide better. Then, I tied the dinghy to one of the mooring lines and cast off.
The wind was light, and it took a little time to get up some momentum, so I sailed in whatever direction I could until I had enough way on to tack. Along the way, I unrolled the jib, and soon I was enjoying a pleasant sail at 2-3 knots. I sailed through the nearly empty anchorage, dodging winter sticks, empty mooring balls, and the occasional sunken mooring (click the thumbnail, left, and check the center of the photo).
The sun was warm, and with the light breeze I could take some time to look around at the boat and the sails to make sure everything was leading properly and set up correctly. I noticed that the new reefing lines sagged dramatically between the cheek blocks and the line stopper near the forward end of the boom, especially in wind light enough so that the sail could hardly lift the weight of the lines. I made a note in my log to pick up some fairleads to better secure these lines against the boom and prevent them from drooping. Also, I guessed where the genoa sheet leads should go on the track, and I have to check back to last season to see if they're in the correct spot or not. For now, though, everything looked pretty good, and I tweaked the boom vang and mainsheet controls to try to get the best shape out of the sail.
By now, the wind was getting lighter and lighter, and seeming to clock all over the compass card. Eventually, I rolled up the drooping jib and continued under full main alone, drifting slowly along and basically enjoying things immensely. It's nice to have whatever your version of the "perfect" wind is (for me, it's about 12-15 knots), but there's something to be said for days when there's just enough breeze to move your boat at steerage speed and not much more. When you're not trying to go anywhere, this sort of sail can be extremely relaxing and pleasant.
After an hour or so of this, I noticed some cats paws on the water to the west. Nothing special, but before long I could see that the winds were definitely shifting to the west as predicted. I figured I'd have some pleasing breezes soon. Almost instantly, however, there was 20 knots of breeze. It was shocking how quickly the wind came up. There was no squall, no visible weather, no clouds...the typical harbingers of sudden wind shifts and increases in velocity. I had been prepared for the wind to shift, and for heavier winds, according to the forecast, so it wasn't an issue, but it was still amazing how, in the space of 5 minutes, the tranquil bay became darkened with wind ruffles that soon grew into bona fide white caps. I decided to head back to the mooring, and was soon moving at 5 knots under main alone. My course was perfect to take me right to the mooring, so I decided to sail in, something I do most of the time anyway. As the wind continued to build, the boat rocketed forward, and I was moving a little faster than I prefer when I approached the mooring. My favored mooring approach under sail includes sailing towards the mooring with the wind behind the beam and the sail let well out, then, after sailing just past, turn the boat sharply into the wind, allowing two things to happen: the sail, which is sheeted well out, luffs easily as the boat turns into the wind, dumping the wind; and the boat's speed drops quickly from the turn, maintaining hopefully just the proper amount of momentum to drift up to the mooring, where I can grab it.
This time, I was moving a little faster than I had hoped, but usually this just means the boat overrides the mooring a bit before drifting back. I grabbed the pennant with no problem, and got it on the cleat. Then, I hurried to the mast to lower the mainsail before any wind had a chance to get back into it. As I clawed the sail successfully down, I stared through the folds of the sail in disbelief as my dinghy bobbed cheerfully away behind the boat, somehow having come untied from the mooring line to which it had been attached. My mooring has two pennants, one of which has a pick-up buoy attached; I had tied the dinghy to the other line, the one I had not yet tried to grab as I came in. All I can figure is that somehow the knot was less than perfect, and the boat coming into the mooring at the higher speed than anticipated must have put enough strain on the painter to undo the knot the rest of the way. Whatever the case, I had to now go retrieve the dinghy. Sigh.
In all the excitement, I realized that I had neglected to put a knot in the end of the mainsheet, so it had partly come unstrung from the tackle as the boom swung out over the side of the boat in the gusty wind. Grabbing the remaining parts of the mainsheet, I tied it down to the stern cleats for the time being, wrapped a couple sail ties around the main, checked carefully for any lines overboard (none) and started the engine to retrieve the dinghy, which I did without further incident. I then returned to the mooring under power, also without incident.
After putting the boat back together and securing everything properly, I was glad to have my beefy, high-sided dinghy as I rowed the 1/2 mile to shore in strong winds and choppy seas. The dinghy handled it like a champ--money well spent. When I got to shore, I watched through binoculars for a few minutes as one of my mooring neighbors struggled to row the club dinghy (a less than pleasant design) out to his boat through the wind and chop. I was glad when he finally got aboard his boat, especially after, for a heart-stopping moment, it looked like he might have gone over the side. Fortunately, that was not the case--he had been crouched in the tiny bow of the dinghy trying to make his move for his stern ladder.