sailing class – part 4 of 6

Last week as we sailed up near the 205 bridge, George pointed out a boat that was moored on the north side of the river and commented that it was a replica of some famous sailing vessel from many years ago.  He and Bruce then launched into discussions about various boats built by folks of note in the world of sailing back in the day and such as that.  You could tell in their voice and see in their eyes what sort of significance the histories of these men and their boats held for them.  For my part, I was bored.  I’m not really into sailing for the vast history and the minutea of it all.  I see it as an opportunity to ‘hone the edge’ and develop skills.  I also value the technology and science behind it all, be it hull design, sail theory or even the possibility of celestial navigation, which is covered in a class that comes much later in the ASA series.  But I digress.

This week it was just Bruce and I again, along with George.  I get the feeling that Eric and Jennifer have chosen not to complete the class and that’s just fine with me since it means more space in the cockpit and more time at the helm.  We practiced two new skills: rescue under sail and docking procedures.  The outboard was repaired and hummed away while Bruce and I took turns taking the boat out of the slip and into the river, then returning back to the slip.  We both executed the maneuver without any problems and George was glad that we weren’t a lot of work or trouble to teach.

Having gotten that part out of the way, we moved out into the river and hoisted the sails.  I had my trepidations about executing the rescue procedure but George’s method of doing this worked quite well.  He’d spent some ten years trying to find the best way to do this and I think he’s pretty much found it.  The goal is to approach the person overboard and put them on the lee side of the boat while at the same time heading the boat into the wind so that it comes to a stop or much slower speed.  The ASA book suggests a figure 8 maneuver and while that may be what we did more or less, George suggested simplifying the procedure.  Essentially, you continue sailing to a distance of some one hundred yards.  At that point, bring the boat about and approach the person overboard on a close reach.  Being on a close reach (with the bow pointed very close to the direction of the wind) it’s easy to luff the sails and stop the boat or haul the sails in and be under power again.  We paid close attention to the other boats around us so that we would have plenty of clearance to execute the maneuver and Bruce and I both executed the procedure without issue (except for the fact that I was standing near the edge of the boat when I retrieved the horseshoe ring which made George nervous).

Having completed this portion of the training, we discovered that the reason why we were nowhere near any of the other sailboats in the area was that we had very little wind.  At times we were without any wind at all, what is known as being ‘in irons’.  It took us quite a while to move back into an area with sufficient wind to sail but soon we were huffing along upriver and downwind again.

George is usually wont to sail upriver on an even keel and stare off into the distance but I had someplace to be after class so I cut our evening short.  We brought the boat around to head up into the wind and the fun began.  Suddenly, where we had had little wind before, it came up strong out of the west.  George and Bruce used the winch handle to sheet in the jib tight to the rigging and I sailed very close to the wind to keep us relatively level.  Occasionally a gust would come in from the north, heeling the boat over quickly and causing the boat to ‘weather up’ into the wind and resume a more upright position.

As we neared the school, we fired up the motor and I headed to the bow pulpit to bring down the jib.  The wind continued to whip the river up and I found myself bouncing 6-8′ up and down at the very tip of the bow.  At the very first, it was unnerving but I quickly got my bearings up there and quite enjoyed it.  We got the sails stowed and prepared to take the boat back to the slip.  Bruce was to catch the boat at the dock and George ran the outboard while I steered us in.  Because of the wind, George was a little hot on the throttle and while we had performed the docking procedure flawlessly before, Bruce and George were unsuccessful at catching the boat before the bow hit the dock at the end of the slip but thankfully it didn’t hit that hard.  I recalled afterwards a story in our text that moving the rudder to a position greater than 45 degrees has the effect of applying braking force to the boat.  The question for George at our next class is how much force the rudder could withstand before being damaged.