29 September 2007


My big sister came to visit this weekend, and we went sailing for the first time together in a very long time. We had a great time, albeit a crazy one on account of some rather extreme conditions. So, first time aboard Motrha, and my sister gets to experience a couple of wild knockdowns where we managed to twice fill the cockpit with water. We managed to do it two different ways, actually. First a little bit on the conditions. We were sailing in the Carquinez strait which is where the California Delta (fed by three big rivers) empties into San Pablo Bay. The river is tidal here and was near max flood (couldn't make headway against it in the middle of the strait) with some interesting eddies near shore. We also had an unusual wind direction
with a front moving through which had the wind coming down over a bluff across the strait rather than the usual blowing down the strait.

Knockdown #1: We were near the bluff and just about on the eddy line. The wind had almost completely shutdown (my masthead fly was spinning 360's!) Mainsheet was cleated. When the wind did come back it came in a big blast and I quickly noticed that the main swivel cam
had swiveled down to leeward causing me to have to shift my weight over there to go get it. By the time I had it popped out, we were on our ear.

Knockdown #2: This was another case of near no wind to max wind and complicated by being out in the max flood current. With the true wind shutdown, the current was strong enough to create an apparent wind from the opposite direction, and with almost no boatspeed through the
water, I had no steerage. Mainsheet was uncleated this time (didn't let it out of my hand after the last one!) When the blast came, it hit us beam-on. I let the mainsheet fly, but the jib was still
sheeted in hard. With no steerage and a strapped in jib, I was unable to round up, and the gust knocked us over just against the jib (yeah, it was a big one.) My poor sister, unfamiliar with the boat, didn't have the instinct to pop the jib sheet free. I was able to leap forward and pop it loose before we took on any more water.

whew! what a day. and luck would have it, today is a most beautiful California day with mild 10 kt. breeze. Looks like I picked the wrong day! All-in-all, some good lessons learned on boat handling in difficult conditions. Getting back in the harbor was interesting, too. We played it extra cautious by dropping the jib, reefing the main, and limping in nice and easy.

14 September 2007

More Vanguard Stunt Sailing

Don't try this at home. Dean let me skipper his V15 for the last Fleet 76 Friday night racing of the season. It was really interesting to see what the boat looks like from the other end--it's much bigger! Also got a good feel for how the boat really handles--should help me be a more in-tune crew member.

So anyway, what about the stunt sailing? We had just crossed all the other boats on a very nice port tack lift and were setting up to tack onto the layline for the windward mark. As I opened my mouth to say, "Let's go!", Dean hollered, "whoa we just lost a shroud!" Glancing to leeward I see the turnbuckle swinging back and forth in the breeze. If we had tacked, the rig would have dumped over the side just like that. Luckily we had plenty of searoom to sail on on port tack while Dean re-purposed a chunk of hiking strap line and managed to tie down the wayward shroud (the pin had disappeared in the drink.) We managed to get back into the harbor with a rather sloppy rig, and then swapped a shackle off the boom vang to make more appropriate repairs. 10 minutes later and we were back on the course!

01 September 2007

Small Water, Big Sail

Two new things today. Had Mothra in fresh water, and tried out the genoa for the first time. We decided to give Lake del Valle a try which is just a few miles South of Livermore. Very nice lake with a 10mph speed limit which keeps things quiet for us sailors. The wind blows mostly straight down the narrow lake, but being basically a dammed up puddle in the bottom of a canyon, wind speed and direction is constantly switching about. We quickly found that having to short-tack up the narrow lake made the big overlapping headsail impractical. So, we just dropped it and had a very nice relaxing time making our way under mainsail alone. Will have to try the genoa again when we have a bit more sea room as it did seem to draw very nicely in the light wind.
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