So we are out for a short sail in our 26 footer.
We are in an east/west channel that is heavily trafficked by large ships. Close passes are not entirely unusual, see photo
, and we manages to share the channel pretty well.
So we are headed up the right side of the channel headed (edit) east with wind
from the south on starboard tack. A ship is approaching the channelheaded (edit) west, not an unusual situation. I have a friend helming the boat who has never sailed my boat before but is an experienced sailor.
As the ship comes up channel I can "see" the entire port side, which indicates we are clear. We are close hauled so I know that falling off would be bad and a tack could be in order and I should be prepared.
I get a little fixated on the ship and am not really paying attention to the windex and the helm
. As the ship approaches I can see we are only going to pass about 3 boat lengths up the port side, it's a bit close for me so I call for a tack.
What I didn't realize is that my friend had been pinching and we had pretty much lost
too much boat speed to complete the tack. As we end up head
and boat speed zero I realize we are in trouble. I hit the happy button, the donk fires up and I floor it. However at this point the wind has caught the genny and the nose is rapidly bearing to port. In 3 seconds we are headed right at the side of the ship (north heading) 2 boat lengths away and the helm
is hard to starboard. Basically helm and motor
trying to offset the wind blowing the genny down, holding a north heading. There is no way we are going to turn back to starboard into the wind.
No choice left I yell for hard to port, and blow the genny sheet. The bow continues to head
down, The boom crash gybes, the genny wraps forward around the forestay, flogging like hell, but I realize we are going to make it.
We end up headed (edit) west, parallel to the ship one boat length abeam - about 26 feet. I look up and on the ship rail are 5 sailors 25 feet about us, laughing their asses off and clapping. I could have passed them a beer!
We continue abeam for a bit and then continue the port turn head to wind. The genny is still flogging and the sheets
are wrapped. I end up on the bow and have to derig the sheets
and manually unwrap them.
I kcicked myself for a while after that one.
- Upwind of a ship? Tack off early and give plenty of room. No need to pass that close.
- In a tight situation owner/skipper should be on the helm.
- Make it clear who calls the shots. We had no problems but with 2 "skippers" on board the communication and decision making could have been a problem
- You basically can't man handle the genny around the foreestay in any kind of wind. After the gybe, because the sheets were wrapped around the genny about 6 feet off the deck
, we couldn't furl it, we couldn't drop it and it was drawing air. In a tighter situation we could have been in further trouble because the engine
coudn't drive the bow where we wanted it which limited our choice of headings - i.e. we couldn't get above a broad reach.
After the gybe we were on a broad reach port tack. Had the wind been stronger we still could have been blown bow down (to the north) and still been closing on the ship.
Luck expended / Experience gained...