Sunday, June 28, 2009

Sailing to Boston Harbor on 6/27/09

We launched on Friday afternoon and had a nice evening sailing session near Olympia. We found out later that we probably had the best breeze of the day for our evening sail. We ended up back at the dock at about 8:00 PM and got one of the last open berths at Swantown for the night. We met up with Tom and Jan Salzer who had sailed down from Shelton earlier that day and enjoyed some nice conversation.

On Saturday morning we met up with a third Pottering couple who came to launch a beautiful Potter 15. They heard about our sailing plans from the online discussion and came to join us. There were three Potters in Budd Inlet for a while on Saturday morning. Tom and Jan went north to drop Jan off so Tom could continue a solo trip, and Dee Ann and I started our trek to Boston Harbor. I was in the Potter 19 (Dare) and she was in her 14 foot kayak.

The day started out with very light wind that sometimes dropped to almost nothing. It changed direction constantly until it made a 180 degree switch and blew me downwind to my goal. We took some pictures of the kayak floating in front of Boston Harbor as proof that she made it, then headed back.

I ran into the same shifting winds in Central Budd Inlet, but as I made it south things picked up a lot. I soon discovered I was catching up and passing Dee Ann and the ride was getting a little wild. I used some of my recently learned skills to put the boat in a Heave To maneuver and I reefed the main down to the first reef point. I was able to maintain the same boat speed and have a much more comfortable ride.

I was amazed at how calm things became the instant I did the Heave To maneuver. I went instantly from over-powered sailing to quiet calm bliss. Reefing went real quick because this time I had the reefing line installed before I needed it. The boat behaved much better with a reef in the sail.

In my many years of windsurfing I would change sails quite often during the day. So I wonder why it had never occurred to me that I would do the same thing in a bigger boat? Now that I have done it once, I will be much more likely to adjust my sails to match the changing wind conditions.

I am lucky to be tall. I can stand with one foot on the keel trunk and one in the companionway and do my reefing without having to go forward. I don't have enough experience to say for sure, but it might be easier to do that with the halyards on the mast rather than run to the cockpit. It was sure handy to have all the reefing lines in close proximity when making a quick sail adjustment. I am giving some thought to manufacturing a companionway table that is sturdy enough to stand on when sailing solo. It would make those trips to the mast feel a lot safer.

I rigged a lifeline and a jib downhaul for this trip, and was real glad to have the downhaul. The P19 lapper will not drop without it, and I wish to avoid trips to the foredeck whenever I can, even when not sailing alone. My downhaul was an old halyard that was simply run through the bow pulpit and tied to the top jib hank. It worked great for me. I will add this to my list for winter boat enhancements.

My lifeline was just a piece of line tied around my waist and cleated off to the boat. If I fell in, they would at least find the body. :-) I am giving some thought to how I might improve that arrangement a little. I found that I would step on my own line and make it hard to stand up!

Lessons Learned:
1. Always wear a lifeline when sailing alone. If you ever need it and don't have it, you will really wish you had adopted this plan! (Thanks Tom)
2. Always sail with your Jiffy Reefing lines installed. Jiffy Reefing is for the unexpected sail change. If you don't expect you are going to need it today, that should be your first clue.
3. Lashing a boat hook to the tiller lets you step into the cabin to get a pop without losing control of the boat.
4. Heave-To is a great maneuver. When things start getting a little out of control, heave-to and make a plan. The boat settles down immediately.
5. If you ever heave-to so you can start your engine and drop your sails, make sure the engine is idling in neutral. If not, you will begin to spin in circles like a tired mutt as soon as your jib comes down!

I will attach a short video I took that commemorates my first successful mainsail reef attempt.

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