Tag: Practice

Two weeks later

After two weeks of rest I couldn’t resist the nice weather.  6pm, sunny 80F, W wind 6kts gusting to 12.  They were just replacing the yellow flag with green.  As I was opening my locker I heard calls on the PA system, first for crew for a Sonar, then for informal instruction.  I took the time I needed to get ready then walked to the dockhouse.  “Sonia!  What are you doing?”  It was Fan, who I met just once earlier this year in women’s racing.  “Um, I don’t know, I just got here…”  “Would you sail with me on a Sonar?”  Oh this was perfect.  I had been apprehensive about doing too much work.  Sitting on a Sonar should be easy.  Fan had just completed the keelboat class over the weekend and was eager to practice.

So, it should have been easy.  That was my plan.  But I can’t resist hand trimming the jib, especially when it’s gusty.  Then there was a Merc run aground on the Boston side where there’s poor visibility from the dockhouse.  No launch seemed to be coming.  I said we should lower our sail half way.  In contrast to the little Mercury against the shore, we would be highly visible.  It would be work though.  We sailed to mid river.  I looked one last time and there was still no launch.  Sail down half way.  Launch coming right away.  Sail back up.  More sailing.  Mooring at 7:30.

One thing I left in my locker was my gloves.  It was just green flag but my hands are so sore.

Light air practice

I had decided to sail today, so I did.  Early forecasts showed likely strong gusts late in the day.  Early in the morning CBI had tweeted that there would be red test conditions in the afternoon.  But this is the Charles, so what really happened?  0 kts, gusting to 2.  I watched for a while after getting to the dock, then finally mustered the courage.

Centerboard Merc, mainsail only.  The idea was to practice roll tacking.  Supposedly you can gain speed on a roll tack and so can propel yourself even with no wind.  Is it really possible?  On a Mercury?  When you’re just learning and barely know what your’re doing?  And struggle a bit with difficulty moving around the boat?

It turned out yes!  Well, maybe not gain speed, but certainly not lose too much.  I was able to tack and come out of the tack with headway.  Any headway at all was good in that wind, but it seemed pretty much full headway.  This meant that I could tack again almost immediately and repeat and make progress to windward, even with glassy water and slack tell tales.

Start on close hauled course with headway, close hauled sail and a slight heel.  Sheet a little harder for extra weather helm and either let the tiller fall to leeward if it wants to or push it over if it doesn’t want to.  As the boat starts to spin, level it to take out that little bit of heel.  The boat doesn’t like to pass through the eye of the wind as well with any heel as it does flat so it must be flat before it gets to the eye of the wind.  As the sail luffs, let the sheet go slack and pass it behind your head, shore school style.  In the light air, push the boom out to keep it dead with the wind as the boat continues to spin under it.  As the boat approaches the new close hauled course, lean as much as possible to leeward for the roll.  With the sail exactly in line with the wind, it doesn’t back, it just slices straight to leeward.  Then center weight to roll back to vertical.  This is where the sail fills from rolling and propels the boat forward.  It’s at the verge of a luff while the boat is rolling even though it is eased pretty far.  Also as the boat returns to vertical, sheet the main back to close hauled trim so that the sail stays filled.  The tack should be complete to the new close hauled course, with headway, and with the sail trimmed close hauled.

That was my theory anyway, what I was attempting.  I was going through it super slow motion, muttering the steps I was taking, and it was awkward and sloppy.  Still it was kind of sort of working.  I would tack, check my wake, then tell myself “tacking in 3, 2, 1…”

Next, on another day, try with more wind, with things happening faster, with crew, and with rolling the boat much more.  And go back and review roll tacking videos on the internet and advice from others.

Finally worth mentioning, a problem with this light of wind was that it would stop completely and then come back in from a random direction.  I had problems getting downwind to practice tacking because I would run down wind, then have the wind come in from a new direction so that I wasn’t downwind anymore!

Time on the water

I got in another hour on a Sonar today.  More importantly, so did Kathryn who steered for most of our sail.  I just wanted a little time on the water between sailing last Sunday and (hopefully) racing tomorrow.  Kathryn was interested more specifically in Sonar practice.  Wind was 10 gusting to 20kts under red flag, dock staff asked us to reef and that was fine with both of us.  That’s a pretty easy and comfortable wind strength with the reef in.  Unfortunately though, the wind direction and temperature were not.  The winds would shift 45, then 90, then 180 degrees on us, and while it had been sunny and 60F earlier in the day, by 6pm when we got on the water the temp had fallen to 50, the sky was heavy, and there was a chilly mist in the air.

One nice thing about clouds though, people stay away and you practically have the river to yourself.

One focus for the day was mooring practice.  Leaving the mooring I know some people like to wait for some “right time” to cast off.  If I have the tiller I usually don’t care and just just have my crew cast off whenever and I just deal with whatever the boat is doing at the time.  I went up on the bow and called back to Kathryn, “do you want to wait for the boat to swing around or can I just throw the rope in the water?”  Hesitation, so I waited.  In this case, like I described above, the wind was really swirling and making the boat swing on the mooring — and we were on a mooring by the island — and at moment the boat was pointed at the island.  I waited.  The boat had kind of sailed up over the mooring was was taking a minute to drift back down.  When the mooring line finally went taught again the boat swung the other way to point away from the island.  I have to admit, that was a much easier departure than it would have been the minute before.

On the basin, we practiced some mooring approaches on the green nav buoy.  Kathryn was asking me advice on slowing down, much as I had been asking Niko advice on slowing down another day.  I told her what she already knew, just as Niko had told me what I already knew.  The problem is that without practice, the all the possibilities like luffing sails, turning the boat, furling sails, and backing sails don’t come as second nature, even if you know it, even if you’ve done it in the past.  Practice helps, talking about it helps.  When we brought the boat in for the night, we still had a little bit of speed at the mooring.  Having just talked about it, I pushed the boom forward to back the sail,  the boat stopped, and we were on the mooring for the night.

A small lesson rigging the boat was that it’s just as easy to pull the outhaul too tight on a Sonar as it is on a Mercury.  Reefed, the outhaul is the the reefing line, but when we got on the water I saw that again I had the sail too flat.  The Sonar is so well behaved that it wasn’t hard to sail or tack like the Merc was, but still I knew from my recent experience it would do much better with the outhaul loosened a little.  Nicely though, this is perfectly easy to do underway on the Sonar, unlike the Mercury.

We sailed, we talked and told stories, we tried to act like it was easy and effortless sailing.  But really we were pretty busy.  I had my camera around my neck and I kept thinking I would take some pictures, but always we seemed just a little bit too busy for me to pull out the camera.  I’ll take pics another day.