Tuesday, May 20, 2008

First Outing with the New Potter 15

Sunday was our first trip out with our new (to us) WWP15, #1036. I have been windsurfing for almost 25 years, and sailed a dinghy in my youth, so I felt pretty confident in my basic understanding of sailing. One of the things that drew me to the WWP15 was that it was a small light boat that should be easy for a beginner.

We launched at Swan Town Marina in downtown Olympia at about 2:30 on Sunday afternoon. The tide was still pretty low, so the ramp was the longest trailer-backing I have ever done. There was no one else there using the ramp, so there was no pressure. My trailer tongue was not long enough to float the boat off the trailer, but with a little persuasion I was able to push it off.

It is a long motor cruise out of the marina to the open water. When we were about half way out to the end of the channel the motor died. I quickly deduced that I had neglected to open the vent on the fuel tank. So after a brief panic the motor was running again.
We raised the main and made a couple of reaches across the bay with just a single sail. After gaining a feel for how the boat was responding we raised the jib. We had a breeze that ranged from 0 to 10 or 12 knots. After sailing in and out of a few of the dozen or so sailboats my wife commented that those big boats with all their sales didn’t seem to be going that much faster than us!

The WWP15 responds almost as like a surfboard. If the passenger makes a sudden move, the boat turns! It is a very nimble little boat that turns quickly.
I discovered that my windsurfing experience has taught me how to go upwind very well, but I got pretty nervous when it came time to turn downwind and head for home. So we did broad reaches to head back to Olympia so we could turn upwind to spill the gusts as they occurred. I probably went into more weather than I should have with a tiny boat for a first sail, but it was fun!

When we decided to drop sail and motor in, we ran into one more small problem. The motor had used more gas than I thought it would. We ran out and stalled about 100 yards from the marina in the midst of traffic. I managed one restart, then it died again. I finally decided that the boat behind me would probably recognize the universal signal of a red can pouring liquid into the motor. I added about a cup of fuel and fired it up again. We made it to the dock and got back on the trailer without incident.

So far, I think a windsurfer is easier to rig and de-rig, but it was nice to stay dry and not have to put on a wetsuit. I miss the white-knuckle fun that windsurfing provides, but I think I will be able to adjust to this new sit-down sailing thing. I like the easy of handling the little WWP15, but at times out there I was wishing for a little more boat. We want to launch at Boston Harbor some time because the marina is very near the open water, but there does not appear to be a dock at the ramp, so it is essentially a beach launch. I will let you know how that goes when it happens.