This afternoon offered a mixed bag of sailing pleasures and pains.
Tiptop on the pleasure side of the equation was being joined by my brother and nieces. Beautiful conditions – sunny and dry, breezy and gusting 9 to 19 knots – offered the perfect bonus.
But, on the painful (or at least, not-so-pleasurable) side of the equation was “kissing” sunken debris with the keel. Yes, you heard that right. Big frown. Bottoming out is never, ever pleasurable.
Downtime with my brother, a globetrotting diplomat, is a rare luxury. Doing so while sailing was the highlight of a roughly weeklong visit by my brother’s family.
This is the third summer that my nieces have been enjoying sailing adventures aboard Errant, but it’s the first time that we have forgotten to bring their comfy life preservers. Both nieces were less than thrilled to wear the onboard emergency jackets, but they were good sports nonetheless. In fact, it turns out that the oversized orange PDFs make pretty good pillows!
Unfortunately the day’s painful element was bumping the keel on the bottom. Twice. Lake Champlain water levels continue to drop, drop, drop. I still have enough water in my slip, but there’s a hump (debris?) in the bottom that I bumped on the way in and out of my slip. Not hard enough to cause significant damage, but concerning nonetheless.
A fellow boater who used to keep a sailboat in the same slip some years before suggested that I try what he had done: have several people on the dock push the boat out sideways to clear the hump before reversing. Sounds doable but dodgy, especially given the steering problem I’ve been experiencing. So, what next? I still don’t know. Stay tuned…
What better way to celebrate the 3th of July than a sail with Charlie and Charlie? Charlie (my brother) and Charlie (my father-in-law) spent a lazy afternoon aboard Errant, sailing light winds and enjoying welcome weather — hot and sunny with nary a cloud or raindrop insight — after what feels like a month of rain.
Both Charlies spent time at the helm, and both helped with an exceedingly ungraceful return to my slip at the Essex Shipyard. I decided to back into the slip in order to make boarding slightly easier now that Lake Champlain water levels have flooded over the docks. Gven the tight quarters and Errant’s less-than-agile reverse maneuverability (exaggerated by my still “green” command), I made a decision to enter the channel bow-first, pivot in the slightly larger opening in front of my slip, and then back into the slip.
Too much momentum and a strong pull to port when reverseing contributed to a botched pivot. Did I mention tight quarters?
Fortunately, my brother wields the force of Paul Bunyan and enough boating experience to anticipate our problem before it was too late. He managed to fend us off at midship, and helped me restore the pivot. Two friendly boaters from neighboring vessels assisted from the totally submerged finger, guiding us safely into our birth.
One of these days I am going to become as comfortable docking Errant as sailing her. Better yet, I hope to become as comfortable docking Errant as I as I have been docking powerboats for a quarter century. Stay tuned…
Today was the picture-perfect start to the sailing season. The sunshine and warmth and wind delivered an auspicious rebuttal to yesterday’s chilly, drizzly launch. And even more fortunate, I was joined by my father and sister for the sail south from Willsboro Bay Marina to the Essex Marina.
Lazy Day Log
The mostly north-northwest wind varied 6 to 12 knots with very minimal wave action. We motored north out of Willsboro Bay and raised our sales as we rounded the tip of Willsboro Point. Smooth sailing all the way, and approximately four hours of catch-up time. My father sailed most of the way, and my sister helped with the charts/navigation and even spent some time at the helm.
Docking still revs up my anxiety meter, and while I know this will change as my skills/confidence improve, I arrived at the Essex Marina with a twinge of dread. But light winds, forethought, and ample good fortune served me well. The boat responded perfectly, and my crew stacked the odds in my favor. A huge relief!
Projects on the Horizon
Errant feels ready for a summer of sailing. I’m excited as I look forward.
I still need to rig one or two reefing points. I’ll try to take care of that over the course of the week plus a handful of other projects that I still need to tackle including ordering and installing new halyards, ordering and installing new name, sealing a couple of slow topside leaks. But all in all, Errant feels ready for a summer of sailing. I’m excited as I look forward.
Water Level Worries
Unfortunately recent rains have elevated the Lake Champlain water level by 2+ feet, and the waves are now breaking over the marina’s docks and fingers. I had to set up a temporary spring stretched across the channel just to keep Errant off the dock. Fingers crossed that the rains will diminish in the lake level will begin to fall.
This morning will be my last sail before heading off to the desert southwest for a week. Light but steady winds, bluebird skies and a father willing to join me in exchange for good conditions and a pastrami sandwich. Actually, he probably would have come even without, but the least I can do is dial in the weather and spring for lunch, right?
Note the chilly temperatures. It’s a bundle-up sort of day! Apparently autumn is offering a preview of crisper times to come.
Windy & Wavy
The wind forecast for today was accurate enough in the morning, but windspeed increased steadily all afternoon, blowing consistently in the high teens and low twenties. And with all that wind coming out of the north, the waves were stacking up into fairly significant rollers.
I’ve gotten much more comfortable pushing her forward even when the gusts knock us over a little, and she plows right through those waves.
It was an exciting and slightly anxiety inducing experience, but I learned a lot about how the boat performs. I’ve gotten much more comfortable pushing her forward even when the gusts knock us over a little, and she plows right through those waves. In hindsight, we would have been wise to reef early in the day and to furl some of the genoa, but all told it was an excellent learning experience. The boat handled well and we stayed dry.
End of Season Service
Today marked another first of sorts, docking in Vermont at the Point Bay Marina service dock for diesel and a pump out. I’ll be getting the boat hauled and winterized shortly, so wanted to make sure that she was ready for the trip north with Mark and Jim.
The west side of the service dock was open and I was able to dock pretty smoothly with my bow up into the wind. Not a confident docking job, mind you, but it was adequate. No last minute engine revving, and no abort and try again. I know it’ll take plenty of time getting on and off docks, etc. to feel comfortable with this, but each little victory is a step in the right direction.
Docking at the Point Bay Marina gave me a premature taste of confidence, and unfortunately my return to homeport was considerably less victorious. In fact, it was a bit of a disaster.
The wind was blasting pretty steadily out of the north, and the seas were a sloppy mess. In hindsight I should have opted to take a temporary slip with better protection, etc. Instead I tried to pivot and reverse into my super tight, shared slip with my bow into the wind. Fortunately the marina manager’s instincts were awesome and his response time even more so. He leapt onto the bow of the neighboring sailboat and prevented us from tangling anchors. Two neighboring sailboat owners managed to fend off on our finger and caught/secured lines.
It all happened pretty quickly, and the damage was limited to a new chunk out of the gelcoat on the starboard edge of the transom. There were already several smaller dings, but this afternoon’s scar is the worst.
I was relieved and grateful, thanking everyone for saving the day. But once I was left alone to tidy up and batten everything down, I stalled a moment to study the damage. Minor but disappointing. Hopefully it will serve to remind me that I need plenty of practice before I should attempt anything as risky as backing into a slip with a strong wind.
Time to hunt around for some docking instructional aids…