Shake it Out; Put it Back in

June 28, 2017

Lots of sailing websites and forums (fora?) tell beginning sailors to practice putting a reef in their sails and shaking it out as part of becoming better and more competent sailors.  I get it.  In fact, I’ve been doing that the last few times I went out, and think I’m getting pretty decent at it.

This day of sailing was unusual for the wild swing of wind speed during the sail.  When I started out with my mainsail up and one reef point in, I had a feeling that the wind was going to be a lot slower than the weather report said.  No problem, I thought.  “Just keep heading out with Hercules” — which performed quite effectively — “and catch a breeze somewhere on the river or the bay.”  Eventually, I shook out the reef and felt some breeze, not too far from the markers indicating Drum Point.  I was really sailing!  And that feeling lasted quite a while — I suppose for about 30 minutes until the wind really picked up.  Really.  I couldn’t really measure the wind speed because of the whole apparent-wind thing.  I decided to reef both the mainsail and lower the Genoa into essentially a storm jib.  Another small boat with a skipper and three passengers kept going on toward the bay, but I didn’t feel the need to prove anything (though I did feel like a wimp) and headed back in the direction of the marina.

It turned out to be a decent sail.  I kept the sails reefed and simply rode the higher winds and very strong current back toward the marina, which took probably close to 45 minutes or so.  Eventually, I decided to try to sail back into the marina, and took perhaps 10 passes back and forth riding the wind before I decided to call it a day and lower the sails, which was at the same time the wind died down again.  So, whatever higher winds were out there in the afternoon, I rode completely.  The other small boat I saw with the four people on board had eventually reefed their sails too, by the way, so I wasn’t the only wimp, or only smart skipper.  The wind became slow enough that I was able to secure the mainsail without heaving to, and motored easily bask into the slip.

The only casualty was the self-steering device:  the surgical tubing came apart from one of the clips, but I’ll repair that before heading out again.

I’d call it a win….

Engine                                     45+ minutes

Sails                                        Main reefed; Genoa half out; then full, then reefed again

Chop, current                          Low to Moderate to low

Wind                                       Who knows?

Current                                    Very strong in the middle of the sail

Time                                       4 hours


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