"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

2013 Solo Mac Qualified

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.