sailing class – pt. 2 of 6 (confirmed)

I confirmed that we’ll be extending class another week because of the holiday break next week. Also, this week Bruce didn’t make it for some reason. I was a bit bummed for him but it did make for more room in the cockpit.

We began class by covering the six knots for the class (overhand, bowline, clove hitch, square knot, figure 8, and cleat hitch). Having been a boy scout back in the day, I already knew all these knots, but it was useful to know where and when I might use these knots on the boat.

We then took the boat out and ran through jibes, tacks, reaches and runs. We did wing-and-wing for a while and learned a new technique: heaving to. Heaving to is useful for slowing the boat to a near stop if you need to attend to something else on the boat or for managing in higher wind situations. You start in a close reach position and begin a tack. Instead of shifting the jib to the downwind side of the boat, you leave it tight on the upwind side and release the main boom allowing it to luff as the bow crosses the wind. Last, you turn the rudder about 45 degrees back into the wind. What ends up happening is that the wind will draw on the jib, pushing the boat farther into a reach position and adding a little bit of speed; at this point the rudder position will cause the boat to turn into the wind and the boat loses speed and the cycle gently repeats itself. When you are ready to resume sailing, simply shift the jib to the leeward side of the boat and tighten the main and off you go.

George explained while we ‘free sailed’ at the end of class that sailing on the Columbia this year has been somewhat difficult. Because we had a good strong winter we have a higher than normal amount of snowpack in the mountains. As this melts off the Columbia and been running higher than in past years and that means sailing upstream has been more difficult. Since our sailboat tops out somewhere around six miles per hour, a two mile per hour river flowing downstream makes our best upstream progress about four miles per hour. You can get downstream in a hurry but making progress upstream is arduous and it’s made worse by the fact that the wind has been coming from the west and running in the wind (heading downwind) is the slowest point of sail.

I’ve been trying to find a place to rent a small sailboat to practice and enjoy my new skills, and while sailing on the Columbia is the closest option for me, I’d rather find a lake somewhere so that I don’t have to deal with the current. George mentioned during our first class that there is a class in the British Virgin Islands that takes about a week and completes ASA103 and 104 and readies you to charter a bare boat anywhere in the world, provision it yourself and sail wherever you please. Having not taken a real vacation in many years and also having a goal of perhaps sailing around the Greek isles some day, I’m a bit interested in pursuing this depending on the cost. Also, chartering a boat up in the San Juan islands and the bays around Seattle has some allure as well. So far I have no desire to own a sailboat myself but that may change just yet.