Ahoy! Today I decided that there was time for a little more sailing practice in better wind. It’s good to practice.
15-knots of good wind, I shipped some green water but didn’t flip it, managed to get back to the dock, and got most of the blood out of the boat too.
The urge to go sailing had been building over a year or more. “Sail away to the Marquesas, the Tuomotus.” Escape really, from a backwater job in a tide-pool of the tech industry, a tide-pool of cutting-edge design teetering between solvency and evaporation. I bought sailing magazines to feed the dream. Last June A Higher Corporate Power turned-off the solvency-buoyancy. The little eBook company was shut-down and everybody laid-off. Suddenly I had all the escape time in the world, so I checked-out keel-boat lessons. Holy $S$mokes! No wonder I hadn’t pursued it before – not a poor-man’s sport. With no money for sailing lessons at that level I decided to start all over again, and took a beginning dinghy class out at Shoreline.
Over 30 years ago I took dinghy sailing at UC Santa Cruz, in the same type and brand of boat. I had pretty-much forgotten everything. Back then we never went out of the harbor because of the high seas and wind on Monterey Bay. I vaguely remember the capsize exercise, and pedaling back up The Hill on my old Schwinn Varsity, in wet jeans. It sucked to have a bicycle as sole means of transportation, especially at a hilly location like Santa Cruz. It’s supposed to build character and all that crap, but boy does it suck on a heavyweight clunker. The character it did buid was physical strength and endurance; the side effects were marginalization, envy at rich kids with $2K all-Campy featherweight bikes, and a failed self-transportation policy. Afterwards, student poverty kept me away from the elite sport of sailing.
I guess it qualifies as a mis-rigged boat when the rear line is dangling over the transom with its brass clip-hook in the water alongside the rudder.
1.) Check everything – tag, skipper YOU are IT and nobody else.
2.) Lines with clip-hooks or weighted ends shouldn’t dangle over the end, or where they can foul another line.
3.) Smooth rudders anybody?
With wind off the starboard quarter I backed-out from the dock pushing on the boom, more concerned with the summer sail-camp kids on the boat next to me. The accident that was waiting to happen would happen during one of my wild-ass tacks. I headed towards the golf-course shore on the main alone, the boat heeled and picked up speed and I had to fight a course to stay off “Bird-Crap Island” (what I call it anyhow) and to keep pointed straight. It was more wind than I had sailed in before by twice as much. Soon, here’s the opposite shore, time to come about, rudder hard a lee.
The wind was up and gusting, and the boat heeling, so I let out the main-sheet. The boom swung wide to the shroud and dipped in the water, with most of the line paid out from the main sheet. The excess line dangled briefly off the end of the boom in the water, then the wind dropped and the boat righted again and the boom swung back. The dangling line caught around the outside-end of the rudder and draped over the tiller… Ok THIS looks like a problem! I leaned towards the mass of tangled lines – Whoa!! – and had to duck under the swinging boom.
The weighted clip-hook on the end of the painter, the line that was dangling outside in the water, rose in the air with a flick as the boat rocked and turned upwind. It looped up through the air and came down inside, over the traveler and tiller. Now the rudder and main-sheet were tangled together, and the wind filled the sail. The boat quickly tipped on edge and green water started flowing onboard.
That’s when I hiked the hell OUT. (That’s probably also when I sliced my little toe on one of those circle-clips on the end of a shackle-pin. NOTE: re-think “barefoot” sailing)
On the first day of class I had flipped the little boat, and this was soooo close. At least this time if I went over it would not be because I didn’t let out the sheet.
Sweating and slipping I flailed and grabbed at the lines as the boat rocked, and finally managed free them. I decided that was enough fun for one day, and made my way slowly back to the dock. When I lowered the sail I saw bloody footprints down by the centerboard track and on the sail where I stood in the boat. I scooped some water into the boat and got most of the blood out.
I went up to talk with one of the instructors who was still on the pier. He said these boats are really meant for the milder breezes of SoCal and not the stuff we get up here in the Bay Area – they’re Catalina Capris after all – and, “They have a nasty weather helm.” Now THAT term has more meaning than ever. They ever turn up into the wind fast, and it takes a lot of counter-tiller to steer straight – you can practically spin them around.
He said I should come out on Wednesday nights for their mini race-series, only about a month and a half left. Hmmm… Weeknights, we are pretty much stay-at-home-bodies. But it’s a change of pace and a new opportunity. From new things come new perspectives, and thinking and experiencing out-of-the-box stuff may mean a new job. Anyhow I figure I need more practice, so it’s a good thing.