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…
Following the most idyllic bike ride this morning, I headed out on Lake Champlain with my parents and sister for a almost-full-family inaugural sail. Perhaps we’ll manage a full-full-family sail when my brother arrives in a little over a week?
We had motored out of my slip at the Essex Marina and begun hoisting the sails when I remembered that I wanted/needed to install the reefing system for the mainsail.
I still need to rig one or two reefing points. I’ll try to take care of that over the course of the week… (First Sail 2015)
Fortunately I found some spare hardware aboard and managed to temporarily rig the first reef, and it turned out to be essential. The initially light 6-8 know winds quickly built to the mid-teens and before long were +/-20 knots.
I’ve now that I’ve discovered firsthand how easy and useful it is to reduce the mainsail area.
This was my first time using the reefing system, and I’ve now that I’ve discovered firsthand how easy and useful it is to reduce the mainsail area, I’m going to hustle up the requisite hardware so that I have two ready reef options from now on.
I also reefed the genoa’s roller-furler twice as the wind built. It was a powerful learning experience.
This spring while working on Errant in the shipyard at the Willsboro Bay Marina I met a friendly fellow who was spring commissioning his sloop nearby. He impressed upon me the importance of reefing and assured me that the boat would perform better once I became accustomed to reefing during heavy winds. I explained that my sailing experience is primarily rooted in small boat sailing and sailboarding which made me greedy, hesitant to sacrifice sail area when the wind was whipping. But today I learned that he’s right. The boat doesn’t round up or wallow, and no water helm to wrestle with. And I was actually able to increase my hull speed when reefed, which was an important if overdue lesson to learn.
We knocked around for a few hours taking turns at the helm and familiarizing ourselves with the ins-and-outs of this user-friendly Catalina 310. Once we were ready to wrap up and head in, I asked my father to furl the genoa. I rounded up into the wind, and he pulled the roller-furler line. It wouldn’t budge. He took the wheel and I tried. Nothing.
I realized that the spinnaker halyard had become tangled in the roller furler when I reefed it earlier. How? I had secured the spinnaker halyard to the bow pulpit this winter to keep it from slapping against the mast, and I forgot to switch it over when I launched. I had noticed the halyard flapping in the wind earlier in the day, and I’d made a mental note to secure it to the mast as the end of the day. Not soon enough!
By unfurling the genoa and tightening the spinnaker halyard so that it wouldn’t re-tangle, I was able to solve the problem. Relieved. I promised myself to become more detail oriented going forward.
Docking still revs up my anxiety meter… [so] I arrived at the Essex Marina with a twinge of dread. (First Sail 2015)
I was well protected from the wind and waves when I arrived at the marina, and with the advantage of a full crew to handle lines and fenders I was able to execute a relatively confident and wholly successful docking. I’m developing a slightly more intuitive understanding for Errant under engine power, but there’s still plenty to learn before I will feel as comfortable docking 11,000 pounds of fiberglass (plus plenty of windage) with a small two bladed prop and a 25hp diesel engine as I do a powerboat. But each successful docking brings me a little closer to the goal!
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.
A perfect day for sailing! Warm and sunny, winds variable 0-15 knots, and — best of all — a chance to wile away the day on Lake Champlain with my father.
My dad taught me to sail 30-35 years ago (a story for another post). It seems appropriate that for my first day sailing Da Capo (soon to be Errant) without my friend Mark at my side, coaching and encouraging, I should have my father onboard to balance out the sailing team.
Winds were light but mostly steady making for easy, enjoyable sailing and plenty of time to swap sailing stories. My father didn’t grow up in a sailing family, but he learned to sail in his teens and twenties with friends. He shared a couple of fun adventures that I’ll recount anon if he offers his blessing.
From start to finish our sail was a delight. He sailed much of the time, and Da Capo performed predictably, reliably, and 100% enjoyably. Even docking, a hurtle I’m yet to perfect mentally or in execution, proceeded smoothly.