Tag: Sonar

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.

Omg, racing

Omg, racing on my second day of sailing this year!  The weather forecast was nice for today but rainy for the next couple of days so it was worth a little extra effort to get out and sail a second day in a row.  My kind of weak plan was to practice some of the CBI-approved techniques from shore school yesterday.  It was a weak plan because of course I easily change my mind if there’s anything else interesting.  I learned shortly after arriving that the regular Monday high-performance racers were planning to race in Sonars.  Oh, now that was interesting.

It get’s more interesting.  Me being rated on the Sonars, I ended up with the tiller in my hand.  I had fantastic crew and even more fantastic guest crew for one race and we managed to do okay.

One situation was much like case 15 of the World Sailing Case Book.  That case shows two boats but we were third of three boats approaching the mark on port.  By the case book, we should have been able to hold our course and keep the other two boats from tacking.  Problem was, the first boat started to luff and I could imagine them getting tangled with each other and me with nowhere to go.  I chickened out and bore off below both of them.  Sure enough, one ended up doing a penalty turn, one was slowed in their rounding, and I came out okay going wide around the whole mess.

Racing was between about 6 and 7 pm, green flag, 56F, wind NE 3 – 8 and veering E over the hour.  I wasn’t learning my lesson with the wind shifts.  It happened more than once that I was lured left by nice breeze only to have it lift a little and leave me downwind.  If was picking up on this I could have tried staying right more on the beats.