Liberty is being free from the things we don't like in order to be slaves of the things we do like.--Ernest Benn

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Taking It in the Shorts Four Different Ways

There is no way I can see to photographically convey extreme surface conditions, especially in extremely light wind. Perhaps a video would help. But the audio could prove to be extremely embarrassing: excessive expletives; repetitive mind-changing; rampant indecision.Tonight's  experience was both back breaking and mind-boggling.

Initially we had a steady, less than 5-knot wind from the south and flat seas. I was late to the start because I deliberately opted that option to be on the highly favored side even if it meant being crowded out by lighter and faster boats. Next time I will just try to get over the line as early as possible and to tack on to port, away from the starting line. That's because in light airs, faster fleets will be charging across the line on starboard within five minutes and port tacking then will mean you will take it in the shorts. Which we did, serially.

So we were very late getting to the windward mark. Not long after the spinnaker run started, our real troubles began. Wind oscillations: I'm talking 360º. Continually. Almost like the dinghy sailing I used to do as a kid on mountain lakes. Except in the middle of the second leg in this afternoon's race we were confronted by huge rollers. It's unusual to have huge waves coming against you on a spinnaker run. I'm talking about waves which threatened to bury our bow. (Came close.)

Note: Not too many boats behind us today and the water looks deceptively flat!
Spinnaker would be wrapping around the fore stay. I was too mentally challenged to deal with  more than steering.

The foredeck crew finally made the decision for me and dropped the chute in order to save it.

A third frustration: Just offshore, almost within reach but off the course was a wind wall. Dark water and white caps. Some of our competitors floundered out in that direction to grab some of that good stuff. Not for me. We passed them. In fact, just as we approached the last mark we got some of that good air. Up to 15 knots! But it was still with the  360º oscillating directions as before!

Fourth frustration: A rare up-coast current. After rounding and starting the last beat to the finish line, our breeze kind of settled in to be offshore at 5-7 knots. With the huge rollers going with us, we could not improve over 1 knot boat speed. The answer, of course, was not buckets of kelp or  crab pots  entangled around our prop. It was a huge current flowing against us and the waves crashing  down around us on the stern.

The unprecedented and unforgetable and final insult for the day was the wave which broke over our stern and spashed down my shorts!


  1. We dropped out. You didn't do too badly. With 15 boats in the race, you corrected out to 9th place. There were 5 of us DNF-ers!

    1. Not too badly? It took Doc more than 2 hours to sail a course shorter than 4 miles! Y'all should have stayed in the bar with us and watch baseball.

    2. Comparing notes in the bar with other sailors was very reassuring: everyone was totally freaked out by these paranormal conditions. On the water I wondered at times if my rudder shaft was stripped. Was my rudder turned 90º when the steering wheel indicated that it should be pointing parallel to the stem of the boat? And coming back into the harbor the engine sounded weird. So I asked my diver to take a look. Just got his report:

      We checked and there was a lot of kelp fouling the prop and shaft. We cleared it all and everything looks good.

      I told him thanks, and that the next time I need an excuse for a sub-par performance I'll know exactly who to ask.

  2. What I heard was that on Taxi, they were swapping sails up and down so quickly that someone eventually hoisted one w/o any sheets attached!