Daily Archives: 5 June, 2012

An Adventure – Sailing in a Storm

Today’s Music: The Doors – Riders On The Storm

This weekend, I went sailing. For the first time in well over 10 years.
Me and one other person on a 12′ Laser (it’s like a Sunfish). I had a blast. And learned that both sailing and storms are not quite what you remember them to be.

I don’t think the heavy stuff will come down for quite some time yet…

It took about half an hour to rig the laser. The sail needs to be fitted over the mast, mast gets raised and stepped, the boom is attached. Several lines and block and tackles are connected – the vang and traveller, the cunningham. The sheet is run through its cam and chock feed, and the tiller is connected.
We even remembered the daggerboard! (Yeah, I don’t use it either – I just slide it all the way down and leave it there.)

Looks pretty when it’s done right!

As we got ready to hump the boat down the ramp and into the water, we saw storm clouds in the distance. A storm cell, about 10 minutes off. we looked at each other.
“You want to go?”
“Sure. You?”
Simple and to the point. And as it turns out, not really a problem.

You know that phrase, “the calm before the storm”? It’s absolutely true. We shoved off, got in the boat, and coasted out. Only to find that there was slightly more than absolutely no wind.
Fortunately, there are some tricks you can pull in that situation:
-Scull, or use the tiller as a paddle to gently propel the boat
-Roll tack – get the boat to lean over so that the sail forms a bowl. this will help it catch whatever faint breeze wanders past.

Of course, a laser is a tiny (light) little boat, but we managed to roll tack and get into some stronger breezes before we capsized. (I know, right? I’d have sworn we were going over too!)
Then came the storm. Or so we thought. Rain started falling, small drops disturbing the water, and some nice gusts. We rounded a buoy, both of us splitting our time between the tiller (steering) and the sheet (adjusting the sail to catch the wind).
I was actually surprised at how much I remembered, and how much fun I was having. Until…

Several other boats came out as the rain stopped. Bigger boats. With larger sails.
Which meant they were catching more of the faint breezes than us. Until the breezes stopped.
When the squall passes, the lake face settled into a glass sheet – no wind. On a boat with no means of really moving. Other than wind.
So we’re sitting on opposite sides of the boat to keep it flat, looking over the water for signs of breeze, and we see

Ok, it wasn’t that bad. But our boat was a lot smaller than this too…

Yup. A new storm cell. And this one looks a lot nastier than the first.
We look at it, then each other.
“Head in?
“Probably a good idea”
We start turning the boat, as a gentle breeze started pushing. We manage to get our bow pointed to the area we need to be when the rain starts. With drops the size of marbles.
In moments, the glassy lake surface is frothy, from the sudden gusts of wind and the pelting of the water.
Our conversation, which up until now had been general and far ranging, comes in short bursts:
“Turn to port! TURN!”
“Look out! BOAT!!!!”
“I can’t see anything!”
“Where the hell are we?!?”
“Who are you again?”

Ok, that last was me. What, I got distracted for a minute.
There was enough wind to sail now, but as often happens in a storm, it was coming from every direction at once, settling for a moment, then whipping back around to another direction.
We were swinging the tiller, yanking the sheet to bring it in or let it out. We were ducking under the boom trying to keep our weight in the right spot to keep from flipping.
We get about 30 yards from the boat ramp, in about 6 feet of water. The wind stopped again, and the storm cell settled over us, dropping buckets of never ending rain marbles straight down on us.
“How deep is it?” I yelled over the storm.
“I don’t know” was the answer I got.
I shrugged, and hopped out of the boat. We were in about four and a half feet of water. No problem. But the bottom was very soft mud.
Which means that while I have never slogged through poo, I can now speak quite knowledgeably about how it feels.

We got the boat up the ramp and broke it down in about 10 minutes. Sure, it took 30 to set it up, but it’s always easier to break something down. Plus it was pouring. And cold.
And I wanted nothing more than to be done with it for the day.

It looks so innocent under wraps…

But as Shandy commented in another post, even a bad day sailing is better than a day at the office.
So now I’ve got a whole new set of sailing experiences that I will hopefully get to use before I forget them.
But next time, I’d rather go sailing here