Birthdays (some are better than others)

Birthdays (some are better than others)

Birthday Club Race 2/11/12

This was my Facebook summary

“Birthday, went sailing, boat reminded me of the power of the wind and the foolishness of being poorly prepared, bled like a stuck pig, friends and new acquaintances lifted me to new levels of appreciation, alcohol lubricated the pathways to understanding, a day in the life, several thousand for a new jib, totally insignificant price to pay for the wisdom that I will have tomorrow…”

Below is a little more detail.

We headed out early. My friend Dan had come to town to go sailing, so Denise and Orion and I were pleased to accommodate him. The wind was consistently above 15 knots and reefing immediately would have been the smart choice. Being out of practice and inefficiently rigged to accomplish that particular drill, I elected to just sail on a full main for a while and see how that would go. Consistently making twelve to fourteen knots on just the main was deceptively comfortable. The wind was out of the North West and even though I have often referred to the North West wind on Lake Monroe as the strongest and causing the roughest waves (due to the reflected waves off the southern shore seawall), I was confident that there would be no problems. My plan was to head upwind to the Northwest corner of the lake then bear away and unfurl the jib, blasting back across the lake to where the race committee was laying out the course for the day’s club race. We tacked a time or two and blew by my friend Vic out sailing his Holman 20 on just the jib. The wind had increased as we neared the shallow water in the corner of the lake; we tacked once more and bore away to a little bit of a broad reach. On my command the jib was unfurled and the boat instantly exploded into a cloud of spray with a tiny little bit of sail sticking out the top. I didn’t have time to check the gps but I know what twenty plus knots feels like in this boat. To say I was surprised would be an understatement and I was not ready to deal with that level of speed, power, and all the way across the lake. I headed further of the wind and blanketed the jib with the main so that we could furl it up. Getting back down toward fifteen knots allowed me to catch my breath and shortly thereafter my heart gently crept back down into my chest from just above my Adam’s apple. Sailing the boat on the edge is quite doable and a lot of fun, but I prefer to kind of sneak up on it instead of opening your eyes and finding your toes hanging over the edge of the Grand Canyon.

It didn’t take long to get back to the committee boat, and it was obvious that reefing was necessary if we had any intention of using more than one sail. After a few minutes we managed to have the main down to the first reef. It wasn’t a real smooth transition and we were nearly five minutes late for the start. The wind was consistently above twenty knots but we did start and we did use the jib. We gained on everyone but finished poorly. The loads involved on the sheets and control lines in those conditions are large. Patience and caution are important words in these conditions. On the first leg of the next race, the halyard tensioner of the roller furling jib actually slipped about two feet. I concluded that I and the boat were obviously not prepared for these conditions and even the tiniest modicum of prudence dictated retiring. We furled the jib which did not go well because the lack of halyard tension caused a bubble in the luff and the sail was not rolled tightly. I thought it would be okay until we got to the dock. Rolling the main was better, usually once the sail is down I require the main halyard to be move to the end of the boom to backup the topping lift, but here again I thought it would be better to perform that task at the dock. As we motored toward the marina I saw a couple of friends that had overturned their small boat and although this is somewhat of a common occurrence, given the conditions I decided to hang out nearby to until they had recovered. As we watched, the waves were bouncing us around a little and the wind had continued to build. I am thinking everything is fine, boat is under control, waves are small, got plenty of gas, not too wet, not too cold, etc. snugged the mainsheet a little to keep the main from bouncing and the topping lift (something I knew was marginal and usually back up with the main halyard) snapped. The oval opening on the bottom of the boom landed squarely on my head as the boom dropped. Big pain. Slight stun, I have had worse but I dare say it was much less than pleasant.

At this point I am thinking my friends in the water are on their own so I head for the marina. The boom is in my lap my head is throbbing; everybody on the boat has that “holy shit, are you OK?” expression on their face. Shortly thereafter I become aware that I am bleeding and making a huge stain on the cockpit floor. Denise has a handkerchief that she graciously donates to me for applying direct pressure, which in turn becomes crimson, and causes me to question just how big this new hole in my head actually is. Denise provides a close visual inspection and assures me that it isn’t as bad as the cavern that I am imagining. Now as we are approaching the entrance to the marina the bubble in the poorly furled jib is grabbing the wind and starting to unroll. The sheets are tying themselves into previously unknown configurations of tangled-mess and the sail is beginning to shred itself. I am driving with one hand, holding the saturated hanky on my head with the other, and watching little pieces of the jib leech float off into oblivion. Dan and Orion are dealing with the sail as best they can but soon the sail is completely blown off the forestay and floating like a spinnaker and dragging the bow to leeward, totally overpowering the rudder and the motor. I called for Orion to cut the halyard and his always handy blade allows the jib to fall and be retrieved onto the leeward net.

More or less under control now, we make it to the slip and go through the docking procedures. Cover the sail, raise the rudder, raise the center board, PUT THE MAIN HALYARD ON THE END OF THE BOOM, run the engine dry, wash the blood out of the cockpit…

At the bar, still bleeding, Denise assures me that I don’t really need stitches, everyone assures me that head wounds always bleed profusely, somehow I announce that this kind of crap really shouldn’t happen on my birthday and my friends start buying Jaeger. I figure I already have a headache, what the hell…