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Old 25-01-2010, 10:10   #1
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Thumbs up A Weekend of Firsts: Sailing and Saints

After a long time, Danielle's mother's (new to her) boat was ready to be taken home to its slip in Mandeville. It had just finished a refit in Lake St.Catherine. So the day of destiny was to be Saturday. The only problem with such a date being set was that it was probably going to be unimaginably hard to sail a boat that far with no one having any experience sailing at all.

I have probably over 500 books hours of knowledge about sailing, but no practical experience. Luckily we found a man named Tyler to come aboard and help us make the journey across the lake with us. I also recruited my best buddy Alan to come along and crew. So we had five willing people, 2 of some knowledge, and 1 with practical experience.

Once we got to the boat that had just been put into the water, we found that whoever raised the mast and rigged the ship had done a piss poor job. So Tyler and I spent some of the morning time rerigging everything we could and STILL screwed some stuff up. For instance the jib had a double eye spliced piece of line on the head of the sail and we ran it up even though I realized later it should have been on the foot. Neither of us know why it was attached to the bottom of the sail. The traveler was rigged all wrong. The traveler attached to the bottom of the boom and the line continued through a block on the deck far ahead of the cockpit and then ran back into the cockpit. This essentially put the load vertical instead of horizontal on this block. In retrospect, I'm glad we didn't pull this block out of the deck. And we should have stopped and fixed it as soon as we realized how poorly it was positioned. There were numerous other issues that came up but I won't bore everyone with the details.

We set out after being pulled around a fishing boat and made our way out into a channel. We almost hit someone and got laughed at but oh well. All motor on the way in the channel until we ran aground where the channel opened into the lake. Really soft grounding. It was a strange feeling and I didn't know what it was at first but Tyler knew too well. We were stuck.

Tyler tried to reverse and we weren't making any way. I raised the main to heel us over some and we thought it started to move but nothing. Finally we got everyone on the side of the boat and Alan and I leaned way out while holding the shrouds and the boat broke free.

Some old timer yelled down to use from a house about where to go so we stayed in the places he told us and we made it out into the lake. About this time we flipped the switch and found the depth sounder was working... Ugh! Another newbie mistake not turning it on at first. The water in the lake is so dark and murky its not really much use looking to see shallows. It was further compounded by the total overcast of the day.

We brought the main back down and made our way through several bridges, one of which had to be opened for us. The bridge tenders looked at us like we were insane. We were the only craft on the water for as far as we could see. It was overcast, mid 60s and blowing 20-25 knots out of the south east and we were heading north west. Waves were probably about a 1.5-2 ft average height, which wasn't bad, but unfortunately they were high in frequency which made things a bit... interesting.

Somewhere in this portion of the trip, though I can't recall exactly where, I was sitting up forward on the deck and saw something in the water. I called back to the tiller and then heard people cheering. I was just quick enough to turn my head back and see that whatever it was under the surface there that I feared was actually a dolphin or porpoise. We saw three of them going in and out of the waves. What joy!

After the bridges we finally hoisted sail. A glorious feeling to have the wind pulling the boat along. It was fantasy to finally put all the pages and pages and pages of knowledge to use in setting a course, keeping the course, trimming the sheets, etc etc. I was in heaven.

The only problem was that we all were about to puke. Well... Danielle and I were. She did really... I had to concentrate hard not to. By the end of the trip I was able to hold a course MUCH better than at the beginning and that pleased me. Also I was at the tiller and called out the commands for the second gybe of the trip and it was smooth as could be. What a thrill to feel the boat come around and see your best friend and girl friend pulling in and letting out the sheets so everything snaps to and the boat shoots forward again!

Through the trip we made about 6-6.5 knots which to me was amazing. When I first plotted the course I was expecting us to get maybe 4? Or maybe to motor the entire way when we found out how bad we sucked at sailing, but even with all our rigging wrong and all of our mistakes we really made good way. Maybe the 20 knot wind on the butt helped.

Reading so much about being overpowered and knocked down made me very cautious. I didn't know if full sail in 20 knots on this boat (27' Ericson) was dangerous or not? There weren't many gusts but I trusted Tyler's experience and we never came close to a knock down.

Once we made it to "home" coming out of the lake we put the boat into the wind and I went out on the deck to bring down the jib (hank on). The boat going up and down in the 2 ft quick chop was a bit unnerving and I almost threw up again, but it was thrilling. I got it tied down rather quickly and then came the main. No problem. We motored all the way back into the slip.

I won't go into the docking experience, but I will say I'm glad we had 5 people to dock and thank God no one was watching...

I really can't wait to have a boat of our own! Despite 4 hours of being ill, it was still wonderful. Next time I'll take something stronger than Dramamine.

After the "adventure" I crashed hard. Slept for almost 12 hours. Got up the next day and piddled around until we saw the Saints win the NFC championship. That is something I never thought I'd see. It was truly a weekend of firsts.
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Old 25-01-2010, 12:13   #2
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Location: SE NY
Boat: Tartan 27' - 'Odalisque'
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Congrats on your adventure. It sounds like you did pretty well for a first 'outing'.
Because Lake Pontchartrain tends to be fairly shallow it has a reputation for kicking up short choppy waves in a good wind. Lucky for you it was mostly all down wind.
For sea sickness recommend dried ginger or ginger ale. I have heard others say plain white bread helps to absorb the stomach acids. Reducing your anxiety level may also help and for this reason I will sometimes have 1 beer before heading out to race - seems to work for me but I do not seem prone to sea sickness.
I'll be rooting for your Saints in two weeks!
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