Just a Couple of Changes to Make

September 19, 2015

This was a great day on the water. The wind was strong but not too overpowering, I made generally good decisions on tacking (the key word being “generally”) and had a great time.

The day started simply with a few chores around the house, and since I hadn’t been out on the water since Labor Day, heading out on Ilya was one of my goals. And since NOAA predicted a small craft advisory for Sunday, September 20, Saturday was the day. The last time I tried to go out, the wind and chop were so high that I just got spooked and came in. It was really demoralizing then, when after I had tied up in my slip, four guys came out and took a little rental dinghy out on the river. And yeah, when I saw that I really felt like a complete scaredy-cat. I did drive over to the rise over the breakwater of west basin and saw that the dinghy was way out in the river and making progress toward the bay — which is exactly what I had wanted to do. One thing I did see those sailors do that was interesting was that they turned into the winds while in west basin and raised their mainsail. Of course, they don’t really have much choice since they have no engine other than oars. But since one of the challenges of singlehanding is raising the main, especially in high winds, it gave me an idea. I was going to raise my main in west basin and see what happened next.

So, that was my goal today — raise the main in west basin. I did that and it worked! The nice thing about it was I was able to motorsail out of the marina and breakwater very nicely. And once on the river, I was able to cut the engine much earlier than I usually do. Once that happened, I deployed the genoa and started my sail toward the bay.

As usual, because of the strong current, I had to tack and change headings several times to get past Drum Point. I probably could have made it on an earlier tack, buy unfortunately, my port jib sheet got caught on something and I couldn’t tighten it. As a result, I wasn’t able to make much progress on that tack and had to try one or two more before breaking into the bay proper.

Once out on the bay however, I made great progress and kept thinking “I wonder if I can make it halfway across the bay before I head back?” Well, I just kept going and going. Mostly, I encountered fighting boats: there weren’t many sailboats out (couldn’t figure out why) few larger powerboats, and only one real speedboat. But I just kept sailing, and finally thought I would turn around at 5:00 pm. However, I turned around earlier because the wind diminished even though it had peaked earlier at 13 mph, or a little bit more than 11 knots.

The trip back was just as pleasant. I had the same challenge with getting around Drum Point but from the other direction. The wind and current were pushing me toward Drum Point, so again, I had to tack several times to get in the proper position. One tack had to be made when a large powerboat came out and kicked up a huge wake that was really uncomfortable for me. And that’s when I realized that the real problem with raising my main early on this day was that I had the lazy jacks blocking the main from going all the way up to its first reef position. This also explains why the boom was so low in the cockpit. Once I fixed that, I was able to sail even faster now that the sails were better balanced. So I think next time, I’ll raise the main and then deploy the lazy jacks.

Once past Drum Point, I just sailed nicely toward west basin. I tried using a couple of tacks so I could sail into the marina, but that wasn’t going to happen. I also realized that my self-steering mechanism (using bungee cords and surgical tubing) was good, but leaving it to its own devices resulted in a swing from side to side of about 25 degrees, which I think is way too much. I also noticed that I had to keep steering much more than I wanted to compared with previous years. This brings to mind the fact that I changed the way the rudder was deployed when I motored to west basin from Spring Cove. My guess? I should have left the rudder alone, so I’ll change it back the next time I get to the marina.

I was out long enough that I turned on the mast and running lights as I came in, and that made sense, since by the time I tied up, I could see the lights quite clearly.

All in all, an excellent day; I’m glad I got to go out.

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