sailing class – 5 of 6

A few things converged for me this week and this image really culminates the whole thing.  Joby Easton and racing partner Bill Huseby completed the TransPac sailing race from San Fran to Hawaii aboard Raindrop, and were first to finish, first in class and first overall.  Joby hails by the name of Redbull on Ifish and has helped me finance two houses back when he was in the mortgage business.  He is far and away just one mensch of a man and I have nothing but respect for him.  I followed his race online and while I wondered why he chose the path he did, he showed me in the end by beating his own time for the race by two hours.

This week was the first time that I needed to visit ‘the head’ that is adjacent to the sailing school and this poster was hanging inside.  I couldn’t help but think of Brenda, who this weekend is up on Whidbey Island with her mom enjoying ‘the cottage’, a 10×12 Tuffshed.  When Brenda’s mom was talking about her property on the island, I mentioned that if it were me I’d put up a couple of simple sheds as cabins since 10×12 is the largest size building one can put up without a building permit.  I’ve seen a few pics and heard Linda speak of it.  She just beams at the mention of it and I’d like to think that I inspired a little bit of happiness in her life through my suggestion.

But I digress.

Sailing class this week: it would appear that Eric and Jennifer have dropped out of the class entirely.  Not a word from them at all again this week.  And again, it’s just fine with me as Bruce and I trade off duties as captain of the boat.  This week we were moored on the other side of the slip which presented certain challenges in getting out of the slip and underway but nothing we couldn’t easily manage.  Having completed all of the maneuvers required of the course we simply set sail, but not before performing one slightly advanced maneuver: anchoring.

Having spent hours and hours at anchor on the Columbia, I voted myself as the helmsman while Bruce set to the task of setting and heaving anchor in the lee of a wingdam at the instruction of George.  Although setting and retrieving anchor is no big deal for me, I did learn something.  At first, I thought that I was without control of the boat as we slipped the motor into reverse and the wind blew at our backs.  My assumption was that the current of the river would pull us backward and that my use of the tiller was to direct the flow of the river’s current past the rudder.  I’d also assumed that our formidable freeboard exposed to the wind was resulting in my lack of control over the boat.  After flailing about in the water a bit I noticed the motor’s reverse flow next to the boat.  Then it dawned on me: I was controlling the flow of water from the motor either to port or starboard and thus could shift the tail end of the boat to keep us straight or center up and maximize the force of the motor against the anchor.

Having completed setting and retrieving anchor, the other parties on the boat noticed (I see a lot on the river that neither of my shipmates notice) a sheriff’s boat dealing with another boat to our port beam.  I tried rounding up the boat to bring us well aft of the two of them but try as I may I couldn’t get us to round below them.  George pointed out that in order to have directional control of the boat, we needed speed.  He centered up the tiller and as we gained a little speed eased the tiller to starboard and the boat rounded out nicely below the sheriff and the boat he was dealing with.  I suppose I should have been a bit embarrassed about my lack of basic understanding of the way a sailboat handles but I humbled myself and considered it a valuable learning experience.

We moved out into the channel and Bruce and I took turns sailing however we pleased.  We each got in a few jibes and some tacking.  One thing that has become invaluable to me is in knowing how we are to jibe or come about.  While we can sail quite close to the wind in our little boat, in relation to the absolute wind blowing across the water upon which we sail, a tack or jibe completes somewhere in the vicinity of 90 degrees, more or less.  Therefore, by looking directly off the beam of the boat I can estimate our new course prior to executing the turn.

So Bruce sailed the boat a bit, then I sailed the boat a bit.  The wind was blowing out of the west with gusts from the north, same as last week.  We have a couple of little tell-tails on the standing rigging now in place of the bits of yarn that make it much easier to see the behavior of the wind.  And once again, the wind whipped up nicely at the end of our class, which was much sooner than in previous classes for some reason.

We heaved to and reefed the main to have better control of the boat and completed sailing back to the school.  This time Bruce went to the bow pulpit to bring down the jib and he was just as excited about the bounding of the bow in the heavy seas as I was last week.  We brought down the main sail and made our way back into port.  With the wind whipping from the west now, we slipped the motor into neutral and cruised into our slip ‘under sail’, which is something of a misnomer since the sails had all been hauled in.  Nonetheless, I guided our boat into the slip using only the wind and even still it was a fast entry and Bruce had trouble catching the boat.

We have our final exam next week prior to sailing and I’ll devote an entry specifically to review sailing information as a prep for the test, sort of a summation of the skills that I have hopefully aquired in my weeks of class.