Some musings about sailing and safety and stuff…
This has already been a good sailing season, whacky, but good. One of the times I started out with a tee shirt, long pants and my jacket and ended up adding my sweatshirt, winter coat, gloves with shoes AND SOCKS! Yes, even socks! For anyone who knows me, socks are a rarity once the season begins. I have left the boat more than once in 20-30 knot Northerly winds and 40-degree temps. The temperature part I don’t care for but once my little heater gets going, it can be nice and cozy down below. In the last weekend in May, I had a couple of good sails. The first was on Thursday with Bill and Patti Glade. They came up in the afternoon and we had a great time. It was a slow and easy sail out for about three or four miles and then we needed to head back in. That went fine until about a mile, out the wind quit completely, zip, nadda, zilch! We still had a great time. We smoked a couple of cigars that Bill brought along, had a little rum that I always have on hand and listened to some fun music. Finally, since it didn’t look like Mother Wind was returning anytime soon, I fired up the old iron genny and we motored in like true sailors.
As we came into the marina, we discovered Carey and his new boat so we pulled into the slip next to him and got the grand tour. I brought over my Gosling’s Black Seal Rum and we toasted his new boat. It’s a beauty! Bill and Patti needed to get on home so we shoved off and went over to Margaret’s slip and we made our good-byes. Friday was pretty good so, of course, I went out again. At first I thought I would just run on my headsail. It is a 150 genny so it does Margaret and me just fine if there is enough of a breeze and I don’t have to work so hard prepping and hauling up the main. No Stack Pack or lazy jacks to help, so I only use it if I really need it; or if I want to play with the wind more. I did look into the idea of boom furling at the boat show one year and the salesman cheerfully said that it would cost “only” $10,000 to put it on my boat. I decided to wait. I got out about three-quarters of a mile and realized that there just wasn’t enough wind for Margaret and me so I decided it was time to raise the main! Of course I wasn’t prepped for hauling up the main so I had a little extra work to do. It was lumpy so Margaret’s deck was quite active. Sailing and safety go hand in hand so this is a time when I use my PFD/harness and tether. I do have all the equipment and jack lines, the whole shebang but I don’t always haul it out for a simple sail. I ALWAYS hang on. One hand for me and one for the ship. I know where I will step next and where I will put my hand.
Back to the mainsail. I throw back all the lines from the winches to the helm… the mainsheet, reefing lines and traveler. I then take off the cover (what I can reach from the cockpit) and move forward to the mast where I clip on. Then I take off the rest of the cover and stow that securely forward by the starboard side rail. The halyard is a little more tricky. When I secure everything after returning to the slip I make sure that my main halyard is wrapped around the spreaders so it does not slap against the mast. I was errant one time about that and a power boater pointed it out to me that it was noisy. I said you should hear it down below! I am usually very particular about keeping everything nice a snug. But, not intending to use the main on this trip, I had not “unwrapped” the main halyard before leaving the slip. So, now it’s time to lean outboard and swing the line around the spreaders to get it to run free, the bitter end is always secured to the base of the mast so there is no chance of it running off to the top! That’s the last thing I need. Then I took off the sail ties and was ready to “haul the main!” Up she goes and I tie off the halyard and work my way back to the cockpit. I always move carefully on the deck. I lean towards the centerline and know where I will step and grab next. Again, “One hand for the ship and one for me.” Sometimes both for me! I sail by myself most of the time and I am particularly careful. I am free and embrace the joy of leaping over the waves if the wind and water cooperate, but I’m always aware of the conditions. I watch the weather and have an ear to our friend, Noah. Actually NOAA, but Noah sounds more personal and friendly.
With the main up, I double my speed. Usually it only gives me another knot or so but since I was only going a couple of knots, it made sense that it gave me the boost that it did. Once I got to about two and half miles out Margaret picked up her skirts and got herself up to six and sometimes seven knots! Now we’re sailing! Margaret and I are having a great time heading off towards Michigan. Well, at least in that direction. Waves are about one to two footers and she is sailing free. Life is good! Then our friend Noah pipes up with a special message for any boaters who happen to be out today. There were only two of us. Why was that? Noah mentioned that a front was coming at us on a line from Pleasant Prairie and Winthrop Harbor. It was moving at 25 knots, gusting to 33 knots, with cold rain. Noah suggested that we leave the lake and come back later to play. Since sailing and safety go hand in hand that was not what I wanted to deal with at the time, I decided that it would be prudent to come about and hightail it back to Reefpoint! (As much as a sailboat going six knots can hightail!) I tried to hail the other boat a few times but they did not respond. I put on my foulies and closed the companionway, even though my dodger is large enough to keep out all but the strongest onslaught. I was all set. About halfway back, the fog started to settle in, leaving about a half-mile visibility. During my return sail it only rained a little and the wind remained steady. Only the fog was a minor issue. As I approached the harbor, I dropped the main and saw that the second boat had followed me back, but the fog hid it most of the time. I found out later that they saw me come about and decided to do likewise. I’m glad they did, but the front ended up staying south of us and was not a problem. Better safe than sorry!
The take away in all this is: Enjoy the freedom and serenity of sailing, but always be aware of changing conditions. And, when things do change, use the greatest of care and know when to head back into the safety of the harbor.
Whenever we venture forth into our lake we must be confident in our skills and our vessel so we can have that unbridled experience on the water that makes sailing so much fun. Go out and get boating and be safe!
Peace, Love and Coconuts!
Rev. Don s/v Margaret Elizabeth
Sailing and Safety go hand in hand!