What do you get when you mix gale warnings, surfing in huge seas, and downwind sailing... besides a big hole in your main? Scary fast sailing!
"Any damn fool can navigate the world sober. It takes a really good sailor to do it drunk." - Sir Francis Chichester when asked why he carried so much alcohol on his solo sail around the world.
Sunday, September 16, 2012
I’m qualified! This past week I took off for my solo Mac Race qualifier; sail a minimum of 24 hrs and a minimum of 100 miles on the boat that I planned on racing. I barely made the 24 hrs, I had to sail outside of Chicago to add time, but I sailed over 150 miles. I left Chicago under small craft warnings with wind in the mid 20’s and gust higher, and steep monstrous waves that sent green water running down the deck. The wind was coming from the NW and I was heading north, so it was going to be wet and lumpy for at least half of the trip.
In all of the sailing that I’ve done, never have I been hit by a bat. About 5 hours out of Chicago, still in daylight, as I went forward to do one of 14 headsail changes, I felt something hit me in the chest, this was at about the same time that a wave came roaring down the deck. I changed the headsail, went back to the cockpit and there laying the in cockpit was a small black bat. I’m not sure if he flew into me or was carried by the wave, but he was to become some happy fish snack.
Despite the waves and wind the trip north was uneventful, until I was offshore of Milwaukee, WI when I was hit by a 52 MPH squall that put Bootlegger on her side and had me testing the limits of my tether and harness. I was caught with a #4 and a main with a 2nd reef, which would appear to be not that much sail, but in these winds was way too much. I tried to roll up the 4 only to have the lazy sheet wrap around the block and sheet so that I couldn’t reduce sail, and the main refused to come down because of the pressure on it. Then to make matters worse the main halyard wrapped around the starboard upper spreader, another first. It took a while, but everything was sorted out and the only damage was a tear in the leech of the main from the flogging. Lots of lessons learned.
After the squall the wind shifted to the SW for a short period of time and went very light, slowing my progress back to Chicago to 3kts with very lumpy seas. The original wind returned and off we went to Chicago.
Since returning home I have talked with every accomplished singlehanded sailor and sail maker that I could find and have sorted out and confirmed what I need to change on Bootlegger to make her faster and easier to sail. Don’t get me wrong, Bootlegger is a great boat, but she can always be better. In the mean time I can’t wait to go out again.
Why do I like singlehanded sailing? Most people go about their lives never having to take 100% responsibility for everything they do, not so with singlehanded sailing. Something goes wrong or right and you have to deal with it, it’s that simple. Singlehanded sailing also makes you a better sailor because you’re helmsman, navigator, mechanic, weatherman, trimmer, grinder, tactician, etc.
I really need to get a waterproof camera.
Wednesday, September 12, 2012
Sunrise from the mooring before we depart for St. Joseph's, MI
The Tri-State Regatta never seems to disappoint and the 2012 running was no different. First of all, we choose not to do the race because of the dropping out of some crew and instead sailed to St. Joseph, MI on Friday for the party on Saturday. It was an easy spinnaker run with us moving at 7-8 kts most of the time.
Once we arrived in St. Joe’s I did something that very few have done…I hit a tree, actually just a few branches, when we were pulling up to the wall. Because of the low lake levels there was only 8 ft of water at the wall, only six inches more than Bootlegger requires, so we had our eyes on the wall and the depth sounder. Before I knew it there was a cracking noise in the rigging and bunch of small branches stuck between the starboard D1 and the V1. No damage done to Bootlegger and the tree no longer overhangs the wall.
On shore we immediately met Dawn and Nick, mother and son, who were on their way to do shots, something I’ve never thought of doing with my mom. It turns out that Dawn owns a bar with docks behind it named the River’s Edge, and they offered us free docking. So we did what anyone with a boat named Bootlegger would do and moved the boat to their bar. What they didn’t mention was that the dock was only 12’2” wide, only 2 inches wider than Bootlegger.
The bar was interesting to say the very least, with a few of the patrons speaking in a sloppy Cajun dialect, and racism spoken out loud as if we were at a Klan rally. We left our mark on the bar by taking down a ceiling tile and signing our names on it. Why? Who knows?
Moving back to the wall after a night at The River's Edge
Saturday morning the boats started to show up from the race and tie up along the wall, so we moved back to the wall. This time leaving the branches connected to the trees. I don’t know if it was a sign of the times or what, but there was absolutely no party or celebration in the park, and worse, there was only one Porta Potti for about 600+ sailors. Needless to say it reached the totally gross stages in a hurry.
St. Joseph Yacht Club knows how to throw a party, and even a short downpour from Isaac couldn’t temper the festivities. The band, P.S. Dump Your Boyfriend aka Pfreak Show, was fantastic. If you ever get a chance to hear them, I promise, they won’t disappoint.
While other boats set goals, like winning the race, we set the bar low and decided ours was to get a picture of one of the crew members wearing the football helmet that the male lead singer wore while doing a Beastie Boy song. Goal accomplished! The crew was fantastic and fit in perfectly with the mood of the party and Bootlegger; I owe a lot to them for bringing the party to the party. They’re always welcome on Bootlegger.