2013 ended well. The whole end-of-year holiday season was pretty great, starting with Thanksgiving/Hanukkah with John’s folks up in Kalamazoo, winding down with
Ever since we got the boat finished, John and I have spent large swaths of the weekend out on the lake – sailing around, and fishing, and swimming, and just generally enjoying the heck out of life.
The first weekend of August we took a long weekend off and went to to Michigan to visit John’s family. We stayed at his brother’s place on Whitmore Lake, and were joined by another brother, his Mom and his Step-Dad. They brought their boats (a kayak, a small single-hull sailboat, and a canoe) and we all went out on the lake. That was actually the first time that there was enough wind for us to really sail, and it was a pleasure to find out that our boat handles very well indeed under sail.
Building that boat? Was totally one of the best ideas ever. (For which John gets all of the credit, as it was his idea, and then all of his hard research, and planning, and designing, and building. I just helped sometimes.)
While the boat was being built, I asked John a lot of questions about sailing, and the mechanics of using the wind to make the boat go where you wanted it to go. He explained about the different kinds of rigging was, what beating and tacking were, the physics of sailing into the wind… but when I would ask how you knew something, like how you knew that you needed to trim the sail, or to what degree you needed to adjust it to make the most of the wind, his answer was that you would just know, that you would be able to feel it. Which was a little frustrating at the time, because I am the sort of person who likes to plan everything out and who wants to know how to do something before I actually set out to do it.
Turns out that he was right. It is way easier to learn how to sail if you don’t get hung up on reading books and websites about it and just get out and do it. And a lot of it is really intuitive, you really do just kind of feel how you should adjust the sails to catch the wind. Which is pretty cool.
I prefer to sit up front and work the foresail, while John sits in back and handles the mainsail and rudder. (When I am sitting up front, I don’t have to duck for the boom, because it passes right over my head. Bonus.)
The way that the foresail works, it directs the wind into the mainsail (unless you are running gull-winged before the wind) and like the mainsail, it has to be able to swing from one side of the boat to the other. The mainsail on our boat has a boom, which makes swinging it easy. The foresail does not have a boom or a spar (though this is the next project, so I am told) which makes working it a little trickier. At the bottom corner of the foresail, there is a large grommet, and to this grommet are attached two ropes. These ropes run through eyebolts on the front crossbar over the pontoons on each side. And you haul on the ropes to pull the foresail from one side to the other, and to adjust the angle of the sail. Frankly, it reminds me a lot of riding horses and using the reins to direct the animal. It is also a heck of a good upper body workout, since you are working against the wind the whole time.
Something that I learned: wrapping the ropes around your hands will give you better control and leverage, and will also give you bruises and rope-burns.
Something that we learned about sailing the last time that we went out – throwing out fishing lines when you are putt-putting around using the trolling motor is a great idea, and you can do a pretty good job of catching fish that way. But throwing out fishing lines when you are under sail is not a great idea. Because sailing our boat is a two person job, and each person needs to be using both hands, especially if there is a stiff wind. Which leaves exactly no hands free to deal with the fishing poles if you happen to get a fish. Also, if you are paying more attention to sailing then to your fishing lines, you might not notice right away that you have a fish on your line, which is bad for the fish. Lesson decidedly learned. That was a very exciting five minutes or so, and a few times there I thought that there was a chance that we might go over.
Also, I have learned that you really need a lot less wind to really move (especially with a boat as small as ours) then I had originally assumed. I thought that 5-7 mph winds were nothing, too light. Turns out that is actually just about perfect. Last weekend, when the winds from Hurricane Irene blew through Ohio, we went on the lake. The wind that day was 12-13 mph, with gusts up to 17mph or so. And that was actually a little bit much for me. Yeah, we really flew over the water, but it was a lot harder to handle the foresail, and my hands and arms got tired pretty quickly.
Even a little bit of speed feels like a heck of a lot more on the water.