Five in a Boat is Really Different

July 16, 2011


I certainly wanted to go out on Saturday. and made sure I told my wife about it.  Her idea — and a good one — was that one of our best friends and his sons, who are two of our son’s best friends — might go out together.  It eventually worked out that just the three boys, my wife and I went out, my daughter choosing to go out with me on Sunday.  This sounded pretty good, and I was game.


We weren’t able to go out until around 2:45 pm, with everyone in a pfd and ready to hit the river.  While my objective was the bay, it quickly became clear that the wind just wasn’t going to make it easy, so going back and forth across the water, Solomons to West Basin would be our sailing universe for the day.


The first thing I noticed other than the fact that I don’t think our boat will ever go out with more than 6 adult sized people, is the fact that with five people on the boat instead of the usual one or two, we had an additional 600 pounds on the boat.  This is why I felt we weren’t going very quickly at all as we left the dock.  It also explains why today, where somebody sat was really important.


We were sailing in about 8 knot winds, with 1 to 1 ½ foot swells, and because of all these factors, and my level of experience, this was a challenge.  Not a bad challenge, but a challenge nonetheless.


One of the boys steered most of the time when I needed to put up sails or adjust something with the engine.  The other two boys were more interested in eating than sailing, but they all seemed to enjoy the experience.  The swells did impact us, and we had to fight more than we wanted to to finally get the main down.  It occurred to me afterwards that I should have opened the jib again, then heaved to in order to lower the main with less wind whipping the main around.  As my wife said, it is a learning experience.  I just wish I could actually learn and retain some of this stuff rather than having to learn it again five or six weeks later.


Another problem I saw was that we had a little bagging in the bottom of the mainsail, perhaps a linear foot or so, perhaps less.  This means we were losing much of the power we should have had from the main.  I’ll have to see if there is something blocking the sail from going up higher, or see if the boom is supposed to be lowered to compensate for it.


Even with a somewhat strong current, leaving and docking were very easy.  Whatever I asked the boys to do going in and out, they were able and willing to do.  It was tough while underway, because no one had any instincts about what to do.  For example, I said we were going to change direction, and to be ready to change sides (on the boat).  Unless I specifically told them to go to a certain side, they seemed to have no way of figuring it out for themselves, and as I said, with this much weight, where you sit really matters.  This meant that I had to do almost as much with five people on board as I do when I singlehand, yet I also had to watch out for four other people as the skipper.  Our neighbor was there (the one in the other MacGregor) and he went out just before us.  When we got back, he had already returned because the wind was a little tough (he is an experienced sailor with a new-to-him boat), and because his friend hadn’t sailed before, he was of far less help on the water.  That’s how I felt as well, even though my wife and son had been out a few times before.  I don’t regret going out with the group, though I can say it was a little harder than I thought it would be, both because of the responsibility and because of the sailing conditions.


Update: The boom can’t go any lower, and there is nothing stopping the main halyard from going higher.  What I can’t tell is whether there is some problem in the sail track preventing the top slug from going to the top of the mast.  Film at 11.



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