Tag: Sonar

Two sails

Two sails in one day. First a little day sail with Stacy and Jessica. Stacy has grown fond of the Ideal 18. It’s easy and comfortable and spirited. Wind was 3 kts gusting to 8, shifting between south and east, but it was cloudy. The primary effect of clouds at CBI, strange as it seems, is that not many members come and sail. Other than the well attended CBI 420 regatta going on, traffic on the water was light. We had a nice little sail but I dropped them at the dock because I had other plans for the afternoon, an advanced Sonar class.

Only two people were signed up in advance for the class. When I signed up at the desk, I made three. Then one person dropped out and Max had just two of us. It was pretty nice really to have an instructor all to ourselves on a boat for an hour or so. Max talked fast and we listened eagerly trying to soak up as many ideas as we could about rigging, sail trim, and all the controls on the Sonar. Then we got right into spinnaker practice, again nice to have this extra instruction beyond what is taught in the regular keelboat class.

One little point that clicked with me for the first time was a neat effect of the guy hook (or twing on other boats.) A problem I had seen a number of times was the spinnaker pole riding back down the guy, away from the spinnaker tack. Putting the guy on the hook fixes this problem! The downward pull on the guy immediately drives the pole forward against the tack. A silly little thing maybe, but I never really understood it before.

Friday unwind

I was at CBI Friday after work but undecided on what to do with the evening. I wasn’t sure I wanted the workout of informal racing. I had thought on and off of a little practice in a Laser, but the water quality has been poor lately. I was sitting on the dock watching others eagerly rig boats when I was invited to sail on a Sonar with Kate, Pam, and Susan. It took me less than a second to accept this easy option. Susan took the tiller and mainsheet first. Kate and Pam declined repeated invitations to take the helm but of course I couldn’t resist.

Wind was a little puffy, 6 gusting to 14 but from the south, which seems to make it a little erratic as it comes over the Boston side. The flag was yellow most of the time. They had red up momentarily earlier in the afternoon when one 30 knot gust came through but that seemed isolated. I think it might have dropped to green at the very end of the day.

I paid attention to a couple of recently learned lessons. We pulled the main almost to the top of the mast but not hard. A little cunningham tension brought the tack close to the boom then. I was explaining to Kate how I had had trouble with the top batten with the sail too high. She laughed and pointed to the tack and said “learn.” I also watched the cast off from the mooring. From a mooring in the middle of the field, Susan at the helm had Kate simply cast off whenever she was ready. We were in irons head to wind but starting to fall off. Susan, with much more experience than I, right away called for the jib to be unfurled as she explained that the boat wouldn’t start going without it. Just the lesson I had embarrassingly learned recently.

Sailing was perfect but I forgot until the last tack in that I had brought my camera. When I remembered, Kate was eager to grab it and snap a few pictures. Here’s me at the helm of the Sonar with Friday racing in the background and the Cambridge shoreline behind.


Sonar Lessons

First though, a link relevant to last week’s post, When to communicate… an article at Sailing World, describes the situation I discussed with a boat on starboard and multiple boats on port.  (See the section “crowded situations.”)

Now, the first Sonar lesson:  don’t run aground.  Oh, I did.  It was almost comical but still horribly embarrassing.  It happened leaving the mooring.  Green flag, wind was East at 1kt gusting to 6 by the CBI dock.  That means blowing somewhat toward the island from the mooring.  I was starting from a mooring ball closest to the island.  That means very little room to maneuver, little room for retries if thing go wrong.  …  Almost any accident has multiple factors that lead to it.  A factor here was that I didn’t take measures to ensure that I would get off the mooring as reliably as possible and not need that retry.  A typical mooring cast off involves planning which tack you want, and either waiting for the boat to be heading in the right direction or backing a sail to get the boat heading in the right direction.  I typically don’t bother.  I just have my crew cast off and then I sail from however the boat happens to be headed.  Bad plan here.  I had my crew cast us off.  We happened to be stationary, head to wind.  This didn’t concern me a bit.  Close as we were to the island, there was plenty of room to back up and fall off on port.  I did.  The sail filled, and then … the boat made leeway.  More leeway, it wouldn’t start making headway, and wouldn’t do anything except round back up to windward.  Now I was starting to get concerned.  There was still a little room behind me.  I could try again, but no, not enough was different.  I needed the jib, which was furled.  Becoming a bit frantic, I had Stacy unfurl it.  She held the jib sheet the only way she knew, which of course was not backed.  I was shouting by then for her to let go of it.  … You know, shouting just hardly ever works.  It was too late.  I felt the keel nestle gently against the island.  I listened, watched, and waited a few seconds to see if maybe the boat would rotate against the island or begin to drift off the end of the island, but no, the light and steady wind was holding the boat in place.  In resignation I refurled the jib and dropped the main half way to signal the dockstaff for help.

The next Sonar lesson was soon after we had been freed from island and had entered the basin.  The top batten was stuck on the backstay.  I had a terrible time freeing it.  In the first jibe, it stuck again.  The only thing I could think of that might help enough was lowering the mainsail a bit.  I had made sure when I rigged that I had the main hoisted to the top of the mast.  Now it seemed that full height was too much.  There were a few inches between the tack and the boom.  I eased the halyard those few inches and retightened the vang and cunningham.  Another jibe to see if it worked.  The batten stuck again but at least this time it took only a little push on the backstay to free it.  The “fix” seemed to be enough.

The air temperature was mid-70’s after a week of days near or over 90 and the day was wonderfully pleasant.  Our Sonar was in demand and we yielded it after an hour.  After rigging an Ideal 18 on a mooring, one in the middle of the mooring field this time, I wanted to try again at casting off in irons.  I failed!  I tried to have the Ideal 18 stationary and head to wind for the cast off, but I couldn’t hold it head to wind.  It fell off and began making headway immediately.  Experiment over, we just went sailing.  But was it just two random events or are the Sonar and the Ideal different in this way?  The Sonar jib is larger (relative to the main) than the Ideal.  So the jib of the Ideal may not make as much difference as it does on the Sonar.  That is, the Ideal may stay relatively well behaved without the jib, including naturally making headway under more conditions.  The Sonar may be more “crippled” without its jib, and may be more prone to making leeway, much as a Mercury is prone to making leeway under main only.  Just some ideas.  It will take more experience to confirm.

Anyway, we sailed a little more in the beautiful weather, without further incident.


Wind shadow

(The date of the post is a guess.  I’m writing this two or three weeks late because I haven’t been feeling well.)

I had arrived at the dock and I think I was doing my routine of watching for a bit while putting on sunscreen when they called on the loudspeaker for anyone that wanted a rigged sonar.  I was walking across the dock and dockstaff hailed me, “Sonia, want to take this Sonar?”  I laughed and called out “no, unless you find me crew.”  Sitting at a picnic table, Walter and Alice (I hope I’m remembering names right)  Overheard and came over to say they would like the Sonar if I would come with them.  Walter was Sonar rated but had some recent medical problems with his knee and wasn’t confident to sail with just one crew.  I agreed.  Then the dockhouse was calling for an informal instructor so we picked up…  Oh, now I have forgotten her name; one more crew.  We sailed.  Winds varied in strength.  I think wind was East, maybe ESE which made for a little wind shadow in front of the islands and on the Boston shore in general where the wind was hard to read.  Away from there it got a little breezy at times.  I don’t remember the flag.  Maybe yellow.

We came in and because I hadn’t sailed in a number of days I wanted to go back out.  Our informal student came back out with me.  Oh, I think I called her Alice by mistake.  I might have been a little flaky that day.  I don’t remember lessons for the day.  Funny how what I remember most was that wind shadow on the Boston side.

Oh, one more thing I just remembered was the tack of the sail was rigged in a way I don’t prefer.  There’s a downward pointing hook on the Sonar boom right at the gooseneck and some people put the tack cringle on this ring.  Problems are that the sail doesn’t go up as high, it leaves the foot of the sail baggy, and your only way to rig a cunningham then is through the reef cringle.  (But usually if someone has rigged the tack this way they have left the cunningham unrigged.)  Much better is to leave the tack loose while you pull the sail to the top of the mast with the halyard, then rig the cunningham through the tack cringle.  I really don’t know a good use for that hook.  I believe it is intended to be a reef hook, but when reefing I’ve never figured out how to fit the reef cringle on it.  Instead what works is to ignore that hook and re-rig the cunningham through the reef cringle.

Okay, and speaking of Sonar rigging, Isaac would like to remind Sonar sailors to take tension off the outhaul when unrigging to leave the boat at the mooring.  This is to keep from needlessly stretching the sails.

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.

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.

Tiller club Sonar match racing

#1 lesson for the day, do not attempt to leave home without having coffee.  I won’t explain, but travel time to the dock was much longer than I had planned.  Regardless, the racers were not on the water yet, had not started the skippers’ meeting, and in fact I was just in time for crew selection.  Niko asked me to join him, with Robin and Aeron also crewing.

I wish I had specific interesting points of match racing rules or tactics to report on, but I really don’t.  Niko had me trimming the main most of the day and I was pretty intensely focused on that.  Robin and Aeron trimmed the jib.  You might think that one person would be enough to trim a little jib on a 23ft boat, but there are problems.  One is that in match racing, maneuvers are fast and frequent.  Another is that the CBI winch handles have long rested on the bottom of the Charles and have not been replaced.  The jib might be smallish for a keelboat, but rigged single purchase it’s nearly impossible to trim under load.  In fact before today I was under the impression it was impossible, but no, these guys worked out that if one person sheets as hard as they can and the other person twists the winch with bare hands, it can still be trimmed under moderate load.

The system with two people on jib is not only to sheet harder, but to tack the jib faster.  With four hands instead of two, the jib can be taken off the cleat, backwinded if neccessary, hauled to the new side, and trimmed again much faster.  Faster if well choreographed, that is.  The commentators for the match racing I watch on the internet talk a lot about crew choreography and it was so cool to see this first hand.  Before the first race, we had enough time on the water for the skipper to direct some sequences and the crew to run through it a few times.

In addition to trimming jib, Robin was invaluable as lookout, always with “head out of the boat” scouting for wind changes, keeping an eagle eye on the competition and any non-race traffic.  I usually fancy myself good at keeping lookout but this day I was no help whatsoever.  My head was uncharacteristically “in the boat.”

For me on main, Niko reminded me of some Jib II lessons, not only for sail trim but heel as well.  (Slightly more important for me because I was the heaviest person on the boat.)  A first-order principle for crew is to follow the lead of the skipper with weight placement.  If the skipper is hiking, he probably wants help.  If he is crouching inboard, he would be more comfortable with crew weight to leeward.  For maneuvers, the crew weight controls heel to promote turns.  I know this stuff, I just don’t always do it naturally.   Later in the day Niko was trying to coach me a little on roll tacking.  This is something I really don’t have a good feel for yet.  I can understand the general principles but I’m not good at it at all.  I think it takes practice, and probably becomes most effective if you can develop a “feel” for it, a feel of how the rotation of the hull helps the boat through the water and how the rotation of the sails pumps forward through the air.

The next hard lesson, later in the day, was fatigue for me, both mental and physical.  I was really fading at some point, losing concentration on the sheeting, losing awareness of what was going on the race, and not anticipating what was coming next.  I noticed Niko having to say my name more often to get my attention.  At one point I started to make a disastrously wrong move prompting a wild scream by the skipper.  When I no longer had the strength to sheet the main, Niko took over for me without a word.

As a team we won some races but didn’t win prizes.  Personally I won some good racing experience, lots of fun, and well, exhaustion.

Yellow flag, sunny with temp rising from upper 50s to mid 60s.  Wind 7 gusting to 15kts, shifting between W and NW.