sailing class – pt 1 of 6 (or 5)

I’ll start this by saying that I don’t know if there will be five classes or six. Prior to my arrival on the first day of class, the other class members decided that we’ll not have class on July 5th because of the holiday weekend. So, I don’t know whether that means we’ll have a compressed class schedule or we’ll extend the class for an additional week.

Having hopped aboard our boat, I met the other folks in class, we talked about some of the rigging on the boat and made preparations to get underway for our first day of sailing instruction. The wind generally comes from the south on any given day, the river’s current flows from the east and the marina is on the south shore of the Columbia river just downstream from the Portland airport making it a rather dicey prospect getting in and out of the marina. George fired up the old outboard and guided the boat from the slip, hopping in as the boat began to clear the dock. He skillfully guided the boat into the open water and so began the first lesson.

He explained ‘crabbing’ to the class then demonstrated it, angling the boat back towards the dock we’d just left while under power with the motor such that we held position against shore while approaching at an angle against the force of the current. He kept commenting how nice the wind was and I explained that having plenty of power boating experience on the Columbia I could skip the exercise in the interest of getting under sail. We untied the mainsail and I hoisted it up with the winch and we were officially under sail.

He explained the points of sail (the direction of the wind versus the direction of the boat and what that means for the placement of the sails) and demonstrated them, then had each of us run through the points of sail, calling out “prepare to gibe/gibe ho” and “ready about/hard alee” as we changed which side of the boat faced into the wind and shifted the sails. After navigating through the rudimentary points of sailing, we hoisted the jib; this has the upside of making the boat perform better and the downside of making the boat harder to control. We finished up the day by sailing a bit upriver, tried our hand at wing-and-wing (running directly downwind with the jib on one side of the mast and the mainsail on the other side), each of us practicing at piloting the boat and managing the lines and sails.

While George does a fine job as an instructor, I’m glad we’ve got a nice thick book to go along with the class. Being out on the water for about three hours with his previous class doesn’t really leave him with a lot of energy and focus for us.