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Old 18-01-2010, 16:36   #1
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Second Sail, and My Lessons Learned

This is a little long so if you're an old salt and newbie antics sound like re-runs to you, you can skip this post.

I woke up this morning to a forecast of sunny, low F50's, and 10-15 kt winds and 1' seas on the Chesapeake Bay. Geeze, does it get any better than that in January?

A short walk down to the jetty shows that the ice isn't all gone, but it looks "rotten". Hm. I tell the kids to get dressed and I start loading up the safety gear. About 11 am we're ready to go. A few pokes with the boat hook shows that the ice is porous and weak so I fire up the engine and we push out. A few hundred yards and we're past the ice. This is my second sail, and my first attempt at sailing with both sails.

Here's where things get interesting:

I have press-ganged 2 fifteen-year olds as my crew. They know boating, but know even less about sail than I do. After we get to a suitably wide point on the Rhode River, it's time to raise sail, but the wind is up our arse. We make a U-turn to put the bow into the wind and I raise the main.

Mistake #1:
I don't have a roller furled jib, so NOW I decide to hank it on to the forestay because I was worried that the wind would catch it if I did it earlier. We fall off the wind and we're being dragged to the edge of the channel by the main.

I lower the main and the kid on the tiller gets us back into the wind and in the channel.

Mistake #2
I hank on the jib. I raise the main, tie it off, I raise the jib and promptly note that I did not clip the tack down.
This jib is not a 90 or 100% like I thought, it's a 110% at least. The jib is flogging me to death so I start to haul it down so I can clip on the tack. The halyard jams, and I'm an inch away from clipping the jib tack, getting my ass totally handed to me by the jib. I make my way back to the boom, and see where the halyard jammed, get it loose, clip the tack to the chainplate.

All the while, the kid kept us in the channel, on course, and into the wind. Thank God.

I return to the cockpit and catch my breath. I put the tiller over, the sails fill, pushing us sideways, and we make another U-turn, and resume heading out. I kill the engine, reveling in the silence.

Mistake #3
The sails are full but the wind doesn't feel right and the sails are...kind of flapping like the wind might get in front of them. I sense a gybe coming on and tighten the main sheet just in time to lessen the "BANG" as the wind flipped it over. I misjudged the direction of the wind, or it slightly shifted direction on me, probably the former.

We only had to run before the wind for a few hundred yards until we could round a channel marker and get the wind mostly on the beam so I just kept a very close watch and kept the main sheet tight.

We rounded the channel marker and from there, the rest of the day was pure bliss. We re-trimmed the sails and I could feel the boat power up. We had a slight heel, and I had lots of time to observe the tell-tales and experiment with sail trim. We race-tracked up and down the Rhode River, and got to practice our tacking.

Mistake #4
With 10-15kt winds, and being a total newb on my 2nd trip, I should have put a reef in, and take it out once I was more certain of conditions. On our 2nd lap outbound towards the Bay, we caught a long, powerful gust that really sped us up and put some heel on. That was when I realized that mistake.

On the way in, I noticed that the wind seemed to change from North to Northwest. This enabled us to sail nearly all the way up the river, up Whitemarsh Creek, and to the final bend before our cove before we had to start the engine for the last few hundred yards. I backed us in for a perfect, stern-first mooring.

So I made some mistakes that could have really bit me in the ass and I realize that I was saved by two things:

My kids being in rare form and actually using their brains when I got into trouble and plain old luck. It was a great lesson though and we all had a great time.
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Old 18-01-2010, 17:03   #2
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You're at the right place on the learning curve. Some mistakes you only make once, because you realize you're a knucklehead for not thinking ahead. Hoisting the main with the reef already in it would be an especially good practice.

Sounds as if you're having a great time: keep at it.
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Old 18-01-2010, 18:28   #3
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BubbleheadMD, First, you actually went sailing on Jan. 18th in Maryland! Second I learned a great leason from a world sailor in that anytime you take a boat out all sails should be ready to go at a moments notice. Third, it is always easier to shake a reef out than to put one in. But on the positive side, nobody was hurt and boat was not damaged so everyone had a good day sailing and we all learned something new, which is what sailing should teach us everytime we go out.
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Old 18-01-2010, 18:49   #4
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Quote:
I woke up this morning to a forecast of sunny, low F50's, and 10-15 kt winds and 1' seas on the Chesapeake Bay. Geeze, does it get any better than that in January?
Nope. If you come away knowing you made 4 mistakes then you are clearly on the road to great sailing.

1. You knew it was a great day and you went any way!

2. You made it back.

3. You learned all the great things that 4 really good mistakes should teach you.


Sailing is really easy once you learn how (duh). You need to learn the mistakes and they stick. The being there, doing it, and finding out makes impressions that you won't forget. I hate to say it, but you had a great day so sit back and get ready - it gets better! There can be more days ahead. Sooner or later you'll be saying 20 knots with 2 ft is even better. You did pick a great day, so you already have that down before you left the dock. Sailing is more about showing up than anything else. Sorry I could not have been out there too. It's been so cold and nasty for a long time.
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Old 18-01-2010, 19:53   #5
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sounds like you have a great crew.......
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Old 18-01-2010, 20:13   #6
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So riddle me this guys-

I have the old-school, non-roller reefing jib rig. How do I hank on the jib and keep it doused and under control while I motor to the point where I'm ready to raise sails? I thought perhaps I could stuff it down the hatch into the V-berth but it doesn't reach that far back. It just sits on the deck.

That's the lesson I don't have an immediate answer for.
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Old 18-01-2010, 20:52   #7
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Bubblehead -
Assuming you have the bitter end of the jib halyard (at the mast) secured so it cannot ever go flying merrily up the mast, attach the tack of the jib, hank on the jib, attach the halyard to the jib then pull the halyard from the head of the jib down to a cleat on the foredeck and secure it. Lay the jib out along one side of the deck or the other and tighten that sides jib sheet and secure the sheet to a cleat near the cockpit. The sail may flop around a bit but it won't go far until you're ready to raise it. When you go forward to uncleat the jib halyard walk on the side opposite the sail. Sails are slippery, not to mention they don't last long when you walk on them on nonskid.
A better way is to rig a downhaul. This entails a separate piece of line long enough to go up with the jib when raising it and still long enough to go down to a small block at the tack, then back to the cockpit. Then you can release the halyard, pull the jib down and secure it with the downhaul then cleat off the sheet as previously mentioned. This gets the jib down and under control without having to go forward, which can come in handy during a squall. If you want to do a truly neat job see if you can find a reference to a "Gerr downhaul", designed by naval architect Dave Gerr.
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Old 18-01-2010, 22:19   #8
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Bubblehead- could those teenagers have gotten you if you had gone into the water while you were at the head of the boat? Do they know MOB? Hearing your tale makes me shiver- but not because of the cold. Be careful out there bud.
As for the jib- my hankon in a smaller boat such as yours seems to stay put (ie, the halyard doesn't go up unless I pull on it) But Mike's advice is sound and is a sure way to address the problem.
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Old 19-01-2010, 05:52   #9
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Bubblehead,
Envy you your January sail, it was beautiful but my boat is too much of a pain to de-winterize and then re-winterize, so Enchantress will have to wait until spring.
To control your hanked-on jib until you get ready to hoist it, get a length of shock cord with hooks at each end wrap the shock cord around the sail and your lifeline and hook the hooks together. When you're ready to hoist the sail take off the shock cord and you're ready to go. You should hank on the jib and attach the sjock cord before you leave your slip or mooring.
I remember from my days on the Rhode River (Bluewater marina -- does it still exist?) That because of the shape of the river -- very narrow then widening out and the narrow again, when the wind is coming up or down the river it will change direction somewhat where the river widens out.
As newt pointed out, the weather might have been relatively warm but the water is still cold. If you sail in the winter you might consider getting a good harness and tether. Lots of info on it if you do a search of this site and other sailing forums. Might prevent a real disaster.
In any case its great that you're learning from your mistakes. That's what experience is all about -- learning how to avoid the ordinary run-of the-mill-mistakes so you can concentrate on making really creative and unusual errors
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Old 19-01-2010, 09:15   #10
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Wonderful story!
Keep going out and sailing when you can. The more you do the more you learn! I always tried to bring guests who were savvy with small boats and I learned fast with their patient advice.
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Old 19-01-2010, 10:50   #11
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Thanks for the info on why the winds change. That's very valuable, and something I'll be better prepared for next time.

I'd received an invite to go with an experienced sailor on New Year's day but was unable to go. I definitely want to sail with a pro, so that they can observe what I do and correct me, otherwise my lessons will be slow and painful.

My one kid really showed an aptitude for the whole thing. I think I want to sign her up with me for the 101 course.
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Old 19-01-2010, 11:25   #12
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Well done!
I used to keep my jib hanked on the headstay and stuffed in the sail bag with the sheets led out of the sail bag aft and the halyard secured by the lines that hold the sail bag closed. I had a web tie sewn into the bottom of the sail bag that I could secure to a cleat on the foredeck near the chainplate where the tack was attached. When I was ready to raise the jib I'd just go forward, untie the sail bag closure and the halyard and sheets would pull the sail completely out of the bag. The bag could stay where it is until I was ready to go forward and untie it and put it down the forward hatch. With that system I was never afraid of the sail filling (even a little bit) before I was ready.
Each time I go out I learn or relearn something. Sailing is never boring to me.
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Old 19-01-2010, 12:56   #13
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Addressing the danger

I appreciate the positive comments.

On another note, I've been taking a lot of flak for venturing out at all during January, and worse yet, for involving my kids in such stupidity.

Let me just say this:

I assessed the risks as best I was able, and provided equipment, training and a specific plan to mitigate those risks BEFORE we pushed off. Even so, the day was not "risk-free", but the risk was brought to a level that I deemed acceptable when compared to the gain to be had. That's my decision and I agreed (in my head) to accept any consequences for any misjudgement that I made. I have been to the Arctic icepack twice in my life, and I'm totally familiar with the risks of hypothermia.

There will always be those who feel that what I did was wrong no matter what steps I took to reduce the risk. There are those who believe that I have no business on the water at all unless I've been personally trained by John Rousmaniere.

Frankly, it's a wonder that we, as a society have the courage to even get out of bed in the morning anymore.
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Old 19-01-2010, 13:01   #14
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Originally Posted by BubbleHeadMd View Post
So riddle me this guys-

I have the old-school, non-roller reefing jib rig. How do I hank on the jib and keep it doused and under control while I motor to the point where I'm ready to raise sails? I thought perhaps I could stuff it down the hatch into the V-berth but it doesn't reach that far back. It just sits on the deck.

That's the lesson I don't have an immediate answer for.

You can keep it in the bag. Hanked on and ready or
You can fold it up and hold it down with a bungie cord.

You pretty much have to run forward but you wnt the limit the time and ease the work. Maybe the 15 year olds are good for it.

If there is swell, you want to keep the forward hatch closed and latched.
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Old 19-01-2010, 13:23   #15
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By the way you might want to check ebay fro (hank on Jib Bags). There made of (sunbrella) or other sail cover material. You can leave your working jib hanked on and ready at all times. Fold your jib so that the Clew is easy to get to at the front of the bag by the hanks. Before leaving the dock attach your jib sheets / halyard. Leave the bag on. On the water.... run forward, unzip, run back, raise.
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