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Old 20-07-2008, 07:59   #1
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Join Date: May 2008
Location: NY (me), Charleston SC (Icefire)
Boat: 1974 Sabre 28 Mk I - Icefire
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More great Chesapeake Sailing

Hi Guys!

I feel the need to share more of our sailing fun. Hope you don't mind.

Well, since Mom didn't get to actually sail with us on the 4th, I thought we should ask her out again. It was a great way to get the Admiral to agree to going out (not that she really needed convincing, but it's more fun to pretend to be the oppressed husband ).

So I invited Mom, Shaher, a young guy who's renting a room in her basement, and Stan from my office out with us yesterday. We were supposed to meet up at 10 o'clock, so naturally at 10:40 my Mom arrived at my house, and we all set out for the boat.

Holy cow, but everyone brought so much coke, water, and beer that the icebox on Icefire was completely filled up. Pretty nice: we won't need to buy much in the way of beverages for the next several trips! Obviously, things started out well then.

We got underway at ~1130 or so, and instantly I could see that we were going to have a good wind. Once into the Severn, it seemed we'd be able to sail all the way to the bay. But after raising the main and securing the engine, the breeze died. We were passed by a Benetau under power; the skipper chuckled and asked us if we were waiting on the wind. Nah, we were just bobbing there for fun. So we lowered the sail and motored down the Severn toward the bay.

After passing under the Naval Academy Bridge, we saw several boats tacking down river, but the wind was very strong. I figured it for at least 15 knots, if not closer to 20. Based on what I've read about Sabre 28 handling characteristics, I decided to put a reef in the main. Stan took "the conn" and steered us into the wind as I raised and reefed the sail. It was easier than I thought (having never reefed the sails on Icefire before), and before long we had the main up under a single reef, and I proceeded to tack down river.

I wanted to get the genoa out, but planned to only unroll it to about 120% or so (it's a 150% sail). I could get it out and trim it myself, but I figured I'd let Stan help out (Mom and the Admiral were just riding and having fun, and Shaher was up forward looking at the sights). We were on a starboard tack moving toward the eastern side of the Severn, and Stan had the need to "burn one", so he went up to the bow (the designated smoke pit). So rather than unfurl the genoa immediately, I decided to proceed with just the main. Our progress was unimpressive (2 to 2.5 knots), and I was really missing that genoa. It took Stan a while to finish, and I noticed that our speed was dropping off as we approached the eastern shore. I began to think about starting the motor to aid in tacking, but I thought we had plenty of time as the fathometer read 19 feet. Just then Stan came back. Rather than motor, I figured we'd gybe around onto a Port tack and proceed back across the river.

Well, no sooner did I start to bear off than we ran aground. ARRRRGGGHHH!

The main was up. We were beam to the wind at this point, and starting to heel, so I shouted at Stan to get the sail down as I started the engine. Full reverse......nothing. Full ahead....nothing. Skulling the rudder....nothing. Then mom says "Should I move back and put my weight aft (well, she didn't use the word aft but that's what she meant)?" I didn't really think it would help, but I said yeah, but keep away from the engine controls. Well, holy cow, with her and me both at the taffrail and the engine in full reverse, we began to move!

Once clear, I threw it into gear ahead and motored us away to the center of the channel and back toward the bay again.

Chastened, I waited until we were near the entrance to Annapolis harbor to raise sail again. By then, I noticed that no one else had a reef in, and I began to feel like a wimp. But I decided to stick with my plan and kept the reef in. Better safe than sorry, eh? So we got the main up and shifted to a starboard tack, pointing to the opposite side of the bay, then we unfurled the genoa. Initially, we unfurled it all the way, but after a few minutes, I wasn't comfortable with how the boat was behaving, so I took in the genoa a bit.

For the next hour or so, we were beat up by waves as proceeded eastward at a starboard tack closehaul across the Bay. I was annoyed, because I couldn't maintain course very well (a bit of weather helm and lots of wave action) and our speed was between 3 and 4 knots. I reeled in a bit more genoa to try to reduced the weather helm, but between the waves and the boat wanting to steer upward, the genoa kept luffing every couple minutes. We didn't heel much (10 to 15 degrees max), but it wasn't super fun to drive. We were pitching and rolling something fierce, making it an entertaining ride (Shaher started to get seasick, or more accurately the waves accentuated his hangover from the previous evening's exploits. He went below and somehow fell asleep in spite of that), but when I looked at all the other boats out on the Bay apparently tracking along without difficulty, I became a bit annoyed at my inability to do the same.

Eventually, we approached an anchored tanker. I couldn't pass astern without luffing, and while I could bear off and pass ahead, it had taken long enough to get where we were that my initial plan to go down to the South River and go up to Yellowfin for a late lunch wasn't feasible. So I briefed Stan and the Admiral on the plan, and we tacked, with the intent of heading back to Annapolis.

The tack was ugly, because the breeze picked up the (brand new) forward hatch just enough for the genoa sheet to bind itself in the space between the hatch hinge and the deck! The Admiral went forward to try to free it, but had no luck. She ended up going below and throwing the hatch fully open in order to free the sheet. It all worked out, but ugh! Talk about annoying!

Soon enough we had the genoa trimmed where I wanted it, and we were on a port tack beam reach heading southwest. And holy cow, it suddenly became awesome! Tacking through the wind and seas changed everything. Suddenly the waves that were screwing us before were not an issue, and Icefire quickly assumed a 15-20 degree heel angle. Very quickly we were zipping along. My log isn't working (growies must have bound up the wheel), but a glance at GPS proved what the sound of the wake alone told me: we were moving! 6.5 knots.....6.8....7.0! Not bad for a boat with a theoretical hull speed of 6.4 knots.

That said, weather helm was still an issue. It took a fair amount of pressure on the wheel to keep her from heading up, and when she did, the angle of heel increased to about 30 degrees, maybe a little more. The Sabre 28 owner's manual states an optimal heel of 15 - 22 degrees, with greater than 25 degrees requiring depowering because of excessive leeway. So we were right at the edge of the good envelope with that 1 reef point in. Realizing that, my earlier feeling of wimpiness was replaced with satisfaction that I'd read the conditions correctly.

All was good for about 15 minutes, until one too many episodes of the boat heading up and heeling excessively in a short period of time made the Admiral and Mom uncomfortable. By this time, we'd covered a good distance back toward home. I needed to bear off to a broad reach to make the harbor, but with the ladies uncomfortable, I decided to head up and douse the genoa, then proceed back to the harbor on main alone.

We made 4.5 to 5 knots by GPS (with a shallow angle of heel) on a port tack broad reach into Annapolis harbor with just the main. As we drew into the harbor, I noticed with satisfaction that several other boats were also reefed. Passing the Naval Academy, we witnessed a little racing dinghy dump. We sailed within hailing distance, but they had the boat righted again right as we got there, so all was good.

The breeze calmed as we approached the Naval Academy bridge, and the waves were much calmer, so out came then genoa again (all the way this time), and we continued up river at a deep broad reach (about 140 - 150 apparent). For a short while there we were back up to 6 knots (and the Admiral commented that THIS was the type of sailing that she really liked: calm waves and a good breeze), but the breeze lost strength as the river narrowed. Right around the Severn River Bridge, it go to the point that between the lighter breeze and the deeper angle we had to take, the genoa just wasn't going to do anything for us unless I poled it out to run wing and wing. Since I don't have a whisker pole right now, I doused it and we ran upriver on the main, making about 3.5 knots or so.

Right around then, I convinced the Admiral to take the Conn. I'd told her for the longest time that she needed to get used to it (she'd conned her little 420s in her sailing classes, but never Icefire). But she'd always been reluctant. Here in the shelter of the river, though, she took to it beautifully (even dealing with the wake from one of those jackasstic cigarette boats well ). I got a great picture of her at the helm, and of a passing sailboat when was tacking downstream (I ought to try to find the owner and see if he wants a copy of the pic).

Shortly after that, we arrived back at Saltworks creek. Down came the sail and on came the engine, and soon we were tied up once more. It was an eventful 4 and a half hours on the water. Plenty of fun (and plenty of sunburn) was had by all. Well, the sunburn was mostly mine.

So there you have it. I really need ti figure out the right technique to eliminate weather helm.

Hope everyone else had a great weekend out there!

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Old 20-07-2008, 11:03   #2
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Thanks for sharing your sail with us, Alexei. And congratulations on achieving your first grounding! On the Chesapeake, it will happen, sooner or later, so it's good to just get it out of the way.

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Old 20-07-2008, 11:44   #3
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Great story about what really happens when you go out for a daysail. A little too much wind, running aground and a large commercial boat. Serously a Chesapeake kind of day. It's a lot like that here but we don't have any bridges on our Severn River (the real one). We do have the Naval wapons sation, some oil barges and yesterday a sand barge that tried to use the extra air from his horn to get to get us out of the way (it works!).

So when you get ready you should plan a trip all the way down south and I just know you'll feel at home. We have fewer boats and more places to run aground too.
Paul Blais
s/v Bright Eyes Gozzard 36
37 15.7 N 76 28.9 W
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Old 20-07-2008, 16:35   #4
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Nice story. Do you guys know of any catamaran bareboat charters on either the Cheasapeake or Newport? I've found a lot of mono's but no cats. Thanks.
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Old 20-07-2008, 19:04   #5
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Multi Charters would be north Chesapeake as in all the way. We really don't have any charters this far south until you get to Virginia Beach.
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37 15.7 N 76 28.9 W
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Old 21-07-2008, 12:30   #6
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Weather Helm

Hi Alexei

Sounds like you had a great sail. There are several things that you can do to help control weather helm, Here are a few...

You can move the jib fairleads aft to spill wind off of the top of the headsail. You can move the mainsheet traveler to leeward to help depower the main by spilling wind off of the main and you can also easy the mainsheet if you are still overpowered. Reefing early is good also but I think you already knew that. Sometimes in bigger seas you may also want to have a little more draft in your sails to halp power through the waves.

Some boats sail great with just one sail up. On most boats under main alone you get a nice ride but my boat with its masthead rigged headsails (not fractional) does great under headsail alone. Have some fun experimenting with different combinations to see what works best in which conditions.

HAVE FUN and thanks for the great post.

Ed in Va Beach

P.S. SailTime Virginia Beach has a Cat for charter

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