Could Have Been Better

September 24, 2016

This should have been a better day, and it was.  The wind started out light even for me, but I was still reluctant to raise the main fully.  That eventually turned out to be a fine decision: I could have shaken it out, but I really didn’t have to.  I mean, the wind did die down, but I’m not convinced that having the main at full would have made much difference.

The wind was very odd.  In the beginning, I could only sail back and forth in the river, kind of in front of the marina, but since I am very uncomfortable heading toward the bridge, I thought it best to try to head to the bay.  After several tacks and playing with the wind episodes, including direction changes of almost 90 degrees (seriously!) I made my way into the bay, just as the wind was dying.  To be fair, it was dying as I moved toward the bay, and the smart sailor would have taken that as a sign to turn back in, but that’s hardly me (the smart sailor, I mean), so I stayed in the entrance to the bay far too long, and had to motor all the way back in, though I allowed myself to ghost for quite awhile, even once I lowered the main and had only the Genoa deployed.

It might have been possible to sail slowly back toward the marina, but I doubt it, given how light the winds had become.

On the way back in, Hercules performed well, but that was partly because I put very minimal pressure on the throttle so it kept up the rpms.  When I finally left off some of the pressure, it began to sound like it was missing.  I still did okay, until I lowered it to an idle and reversed.  The reverse kept trying to stall, and there’s nothing more nerve wracking than an engine stalling in the fairway when anything — boats, piers, etc. — can get lamed into.

After gunning the reverse gear several times, I backed into the slip, but I still don’t know what’s going on with Hercules.  I was more confident coming back in but now much less confident once back in the marina.

Engine:                        40 minutes

Sails:                           Reefed main, mostly full Genoa

Chop, current              Moderate, 1-2 feet

Wind                           Peaking at 10, then dead

Time                            4 hours

 

Nope, Not Gonna Happen

September 23, 2016

 

I wasn’t sure about this from the beginning.  My hope was to head out for a few hours before heading to the county fair with my students.  Given the wind and the wave motion, I was antsy even before I left the slip.

Given my doubts, I decided not the raise the main in the west basin, and shortly after clearing the breakwater completely, I deployed the Genoa at about half way, and immediately, was pushed back toward the rocks.   Given that I had (also wisely) not turned off the engine, I simply turned more radically and went back in, though the process of getting through the breakwater was very difficult, and I still don’t understand what happened — or in this case didn’t happen.  After all, I had the engine at a nice rpm, and I didn’t think the current was that strong, but perhaps it was.

I also noticed some hesitation with Hercules as I lowered the rpm, which concerned me.

I was happy to park Ilya back in the slip.

Engine:                        ½ hour

Sails:                           Only Genoa for 2 Minutes

Chop, current              Medium current, with 1-2 feet chop

Wind                           Peaking at over 12

 

Well, That Was Unexpected

September 18, 2016

 

This was really not the better of the weekend days for a sail, but I had a project to work on for my boss’ boss, in addition to watching my favorite college volleyball team play.  So, since Saturday was out (as was any night during the week) my wife and I went out on Sunday.

 

The wind seemed extremely light in West Basin, though I maintained the single ref the sail as we headed out.  The current didn’t seem too bad, and the wind was practically dead so I decided shake out the reef and go with a full main.  It took a while to get going, but eventually, the wind increased and we go some great tacks as we headed — sort of — to the bay.

 

We handled the tack pretty well, and few powerboats were out to annoy us, when the wind suddenly grew in intensity, and we were forced to reef the jib.  I probably could have (should have!) reefed the main as well, but the wind was high enough that I was concerned we would lose too much control.  Of course, that’s what reefing is designed to address, but I was concerned that it would be tougher with my wife in the boat as compared to when I singlehand.

 

When we finally looked to come in, we heaved to, but even that didn’t work as normally planned because of the very strong current.  Having my wife control the tiller as I lowered the sails was certainly a blessing, and we finally motored back into West Basin.  This could easily have been the strongest current in which we’ve sailed, and it really caught me off guard.

 

Hercules concerned me with what seemed like missing in the engine.  However, when I held my hand on the throttle at a slightly higher rpm, it hummed beautifully.

 

Engine                           40 minutes

 

Sails                               Full, with some reefing of Genoa, including going with a “storm jib”

 

Chop, current                 Moderate to begin with, then very strong and high

 

Wind                              Slow, then gusting as high as 13 or 14; a steady 11+ back in

West Basin

 

Time                               3 hours

A First and an Almost Second

September 10, 2016

 

My time on the river and in the bay was really different today.  Once I was out on the river, the wind just died, yet I could see two of the sailing club boats in the distance turning near the helicopter pad area then heading toward the red marker for Drum Point.  While I had already deployed my sails and started ghosting, I decided to use the iron wind a bit more so I could catch a puff.  Eventually, I cut the engine — probably too early — and found myself just dead in the water.  Since I learned to have patience, I was eventually rewarded with a really nice puff that took me toward the middle of the river.  This started a back and forth sailing time routine catching the same puff over the over again from different directions.  After about a half hour, I found myself in a position to make it to the bay.

 

The forecast from NOAA for today was a bit scary, as it was talking about high gusts up to 20 but certainly in the mid teens, while the weather channel forecast talked about 8-10 miles an hour winds.  As I started to beat toward the bay very smoothly, I could feel the wind hitting somewhere near 10, but since the wind was so dead earlier, I didn’t have my windmeter in the cockpit to be sure of this.  The beating into the bay was actually nice, and it reminded me of a time earlier in the season when I shouldn’t have gone out there.  I did see a couple of boats, including Wavedancer, which is either in my marina or across the river in Spring Cove, and it is owned by someone I know from boy scouts.  There was also a large boat with an R on the sail that was handling things quite well.  I considered going back in as the wind and chop built, and some boats were doing just that, but I soldiered on.  Finally, I decided to go as far as the green buoy (#1, though I’m not really sure) and turn back, which is what I did.

 

Since I was determined to use the sails as long as possible, I had to tack and lot more back and forth to get back in the river, and even had to avoid a PWC and a couple of fishing boats, but I felt real “sailor-y.”  That’s when my first happened.  I heard something hit the bottom, and thought “I’m still in the channel, I can’t have hit bottom.”  I also remember a big ass boat that had gone in probably the same area and hadn’t hit bottom.  Ilya’s swing keel is only around 4 feet in depth, so I shouldn’t have hit anything.  Then, I hit again and slowed down.  I quickly went to the crank, raised the keel some, and eventually sailed myself off.

 

I just kept my sailing going and thought as the wind got more moderate that I might be able to sail back into the marina.  This would probably be tough, but as a bonehead anyway, the fact that I considered this shouldn’t have surprised me or anyone who knows me.  Thus began the second challenge, and I really thought I accomplished it about three times.  On two of the occasions, large schooners from the sailing club were coming out of the breakwater just as I was getting in so I had to do a 270 degree turn to avoid hitting them.  It seemed like no matter how much speed I had as I got to the breakwater, I just couldn’t get in without hitting the rocks by the green buoy.  I didn’t actually hit the rocks, mind you, but that was going to happen if I didn’t watch out.  One reason for this is that the current was rather strong coming out of the marina.  If it hadn’t been for that, my forward momentum would have let me in the basin.  So, I almost sailed in the marina for the second time, the first time four or so years ago being out of necessity when I broke the on/ off switch on Hercules.  The only consolation is that Bay Break didn’t even try to sail in — though I am reasonably sure that he could have done it and that would have really ticked me off.

 

Engine                                     30 minutes

Sails                                         Full, with some reefing of Genoa

Chop, current                          moderate current; intermittent high chop

Wind                                       slow, then gusting as high as 13 or 14

Time                                        4 hours

Its Own Virtue

September 7, 2016

 

Yeah, the patience thing, which is not one of my strengths.  I definitely had it in spades tonight.  My wife and I went out hoping to sail before the storm blew in.  The weather seemed a little dicey, though the wind was in some ways the opposite — a little light.  I didn’t even want to think about the bay, and know that when I ask my wife to shift from side to side on the boat, that she doesn’t like it.  So, back and forth would have to do.  Unfortunately, the wind kept dying on me.  I decide to use ghosting, where I sat on the leeward side to help the boat heel and thus increase its speed.

 

Eventually, my patience was rewarded and we had maybe three really quick sails forward and backward across the river.

 

I looked and started sailing upriver and think I might have been able to sail into the marina if we had another hour.  However, it was going to take a long time, and my wife wasn’t up for that much more time on the water.  It has been my goal to sail in specific directions via tacks and other measures to get where I want to go, but this was not the day it was going to work.  But, at least I have a better idea of how I might be able to sail into the marina someday.

 

We also found ourselves out and around the sailboat races.  Fortunately, they were racing near the bridge rather than closer to Drum Point.

 

Maybe next time I can get greater control over the destinations and points of sail….

 

Engine                                     40 minutes

Sails                                        Reefed main and mostly full Genoa

Chop, current                          Moderate

Wind                                       Up to 8 knots

Time                                        3 hours

Back and Forth

September 4, 2016

 

A decent but not particularly exciting day on the water.  My objective as always, was to get myself to the bay, and while I thought it might happen, it became clear quickly that I was going to be relegated simply to going back and forth on the river.  The wind was blowing strangely, in such a way that I was trying to sail across the river smoothly, but the wind was pushing me ever so slightly toward the bridge.  It was cool to use the sails to make some things happen without using the iron wind.

 

As the wind built, and the powerboats continued coming out in huge numbers, I considered coming in, but then a couple of larger boats from the sailing club came, and I figured if they can come out, I can come out, so I stayed.

 

Later during the sail, the two club boats sailed close to the helicopter area, then whipped around toward the bay, and I decided to follow them and do the same thing.  Of course, I couldn’t do that, but I think that has as much to do with their boats being ketches, and with staysails that can probably help the boats sail closer to the wind.  As a less experienced sailor and one with a simple Bermuda rig, I couldn’t do it, though I had a good time anyway.

 

Engine                                     30 minutes

Sails                                        Reefed then full

Chop, current                          Moderate

Wind                                       Up to 8 knots

Time                                        3 hours

 

Kiss the Bay

August 20, 2016

 

A day of fits and starts.  There was very little time that I felt I wasn’t making some progress, and I was happy not to have to overwork Hercules and use the sails instead.  I went full sail again because the winds started to fall toward the middle of the sail.  It seemed reasonable to head to the bay given the wind direction, but I wasn’t taking into account the huge number of powerboats in the river at that time, though I did think a lot might be out because of the incredible weather.  Well, I was right, and there were several times as I moved toward the bay that I had my progress slowed by massive wakes from power boats.  I also came face to face for the first time with a strong wake made by a little Personal Water Craft — a Jetski.

 

During my sail, I saw Bay Break on the way in and making decent time.  He is a good person/ boat to watch since he is always faster than me, and I can only assume that has more to do with the sailor than the boat.  But, I kept my trim tight (still making sure the telltales were in basically the right place) and hung tough.  As we were coming in toward the marina, I saw him heel over and really go faster and about 20 minutes later, I got the same puff.  Then I thought I noticed him going back out, and thought: “Dang it: if he can go out, I can go out.”  I then played more in the area of west basin, and finally decided to use the shifting wind to sail up and kiss the bay by the Drum Point buoy before I came in for the last time.  It worked and I got up to a maximum of 5.6 knots on the day.  One really odd thing was that there was a group of people climbing up the buoy and diving off of it, which has to be illegal I would think.

 

One thing I noticed as I have in previous outings is that I am more comfortable on a port tack than a starboard tack regarding heeling.  I don’t know if this is because of the wind during these different tacks, or because I’m right handed and have less control steering with my left, or just a matter of sitting port well over half of the time; — who knows.  I did feel I made some good tacks on the day, and even allowed myself not to get annoyed that other boats, including the 40 foot boat on A dock were moving a lot faster than I was.  I would still say “I won.”

 

Engine:                        40 minutes

Sails                             Full

Chop, current              Moderate, 1-2 feet; lots of wake from powerboats

Wind                            5-9

Time                            4 hours