September 11, 2011
Earlier today, I had a crappy “sail.” Sail is in quotes because I didn’t have any wind. But that wasn’t the whole of the crappy day. When I left the marina after the crappy “sail,” I found that a bird has pooped on my car. And there was so much on the car that I had to go to a car wash even before I went home. Then, I had to go to a walk for 9/11 program. This was a nice program, though I’m not convinced that my presence there was any too important.
On the way home from the walk, I drove behind Lowes and got a nail in my tire. I didn’t know it was a nail at the time, but after heading to the Target parking lot, I discovered it in the left rear tire. And if you know anything about modern tires and lug nuts, you will know that often, one of the lugs has a special key on it so the wheel can’t be stolen easily. So, I couldn’t put on the spare and needed to go to a tire store. One good thing: a tire store was open. The bad news is that they couldn’t repair the tire from the at least 4 inch nail — more like 6 inches — they actually had to replace it. So tell you what: I was done with not heading out on the water to relax. After getting home, for one of the few times, no one in my family complained that I was going sailing. I packed up a snack, coffee and water, and was gone.
I headed out on the river to better winds and started going back and forth toward the bay, though I was pretty sure I wouldn’t make it to the bay. I got both sails up pretty easily, and had good control of the sails. I was also able to change direction pretty smoothly, though I did feel like I was somewhat out of practice.
While I was going this, I did notice a dark cloud coming I think from the south (I never was very good at directions on the water or on land. I thought the cloud might have been a storm coming in, which I thought I remember from the NOAA forecast, but since the wind didn’t seem bad, I didn’t worry about it. What I did notice was that as I was heading one time toward the bay, the wind got stronger and Ilya began heeling more right to the limit of my comfort zone. Still, thought I might try one more pass back and forth before going in.
One thing I tried when Ilya heeled over a bit more than was comfortable was to move to the windward side so I wasn’t feeling like I was going to go into the water. While I couldn’t see the compass to hold the course as well, this changing sides seemed to work, just as it did on a few occasions when I tried it on North Star (our Whip sailboat) last year. This was a good thing to get myself more accustomed to heeling so I would be less of a sailing wimp. and tried moving to the windward side and taking it more than just it seemed to work.
Finally, I decided I should really just go in, so I heaved to and lowered the main, though this took a little too much time. Then thought I might use the jib to get in to the marina rather than just motoring in, but by this time, the wind had picked up considerably — so much so that I was heeling so far and being pushed so hard by the wind that the starboard rail was only about 6 inches from the water. Surprisingly, I didn’t panic when this happened. Obviously, I knew I had to get the jib sheet off of the cleat and furled, so I concentrated on this rather than how much I was leaning into the water. Eventually, I got the jenny off, but the wind whipped it around and by the time I furled it, it was a poor furl, but it was done, and I hoped to fix it in the marina. By this time I was also a little shaken by the experience.
I had to use a lot of rpms to get to the marina, and noticed that Hercules’ twisting lever needed to be tightened as I headed back. As I approached the breakwater, the wind seemed to die down and sky clear up. I then clocked the wind speed at about 13 mph max. Once in the marina, with significantly lower wind, I was able to refuel the jib and fix the twisting lever on Hercules.
Here are my mistakes as I saw them:
1. I put too many turns of jib sheet on the cleat
2. I don’t know if after heaving to in order to lower the main, if I allowed the tiller to turn the boat into the wind. That would have prevented some of the violent action when trying to furl the jib.
3. I had the jib halyard (for the furler) cleated off and it was tough to finally get it off the cleat to furl the sail.
Having the rail almost in the water obviously meant that Ilya was more heeled over than she’d ever been with me, and I would have been much more afraid of it if I would have actually seen the boat — all I could really see was the cleat and the sheet on the cleat.
The biggest mistake? I should have trusted my instincts when I saw the dark cloud and thought it might bode ill. I should have — in the words of Obi Wan Kenobi — “used the force.”