Boat Journal

Chronicling a love affair with sailing

Month: April 2009

Maybe it was an Omen

… that I put the link in about the learn to sail in gusts link. That’s just what happened yesterday.

The weather was perfect for sailing! Breeze was nice. It was a little on the cool side, but not enough to be uncomfortable. We’d been out a couple of hours and were just about to turn back to the docks when BAM! A gust came and knocked us over about 35 degrees. Not much, if you’re a racer, I know – I’ve been at bigger tilts when racing. But this came out of nowhere! Everything inside the boat that wasn’t locked down went from port to starboard. The boat spun til it was facing a windward direction, then stayed pretty stationary. It was still rocking in the wind, but not quite that bad.

I first tried to pull down the mainsail. I got it partway down and it stuck. I couldn’t at the time figure out what was wrong. Debbie, my one passenger, I told to try to bring the jib in. It’s on a roller furler, so I showed her how to haul it in. But the wind was too strong and she couldn’t do it.

I finally got the mainsail reefed in (still couldn’t get it all the way down), and started the motor. I turned the boat slightly off the headwind, since directly in took us into a crabpot minefield. Debbie took over at the helm. I pulled in the jib, then took over the helm and headed back into port.

We were on a broad reach heading back in. With the main reefed, and the engine on minimal, we were still doing about 6.5 knots. The waves were coming in parallel to us, and growing.

Yeah, the waves. There were ripples on the water most of the time we were out. There were still ripples when this storm hit us. By the time we neared Wormley Creek (home), the waves were about 2 foot high.

Wormley Creek is sheltered. In fact, you really can’t tell what the weather will be like on the York River sitting there at the docks. In this case, it was a good thing. I knew, when I brought the boat in, I could take care of whatever I couldn’t in that weather.

When we got in, I saw that the main halyard had wrapped itself around the spreader. That’s why I couldn’t take it down. First lesson – follow the entire line when trying to figure out why it won’t move. That’s no saying that I could have gotten it unwrapped out there. That would have required holding the line tighter as I tried to bring down the sail. But at least I would have known why it wasn’t moving.

Second lesson? Well, I’m going to hope some more knowledgeable sailors can tell me how I could have predicted this, or was it a fluke?

Weather report – land: 5 – 10 mph winds; marine: 10 – 15 knots, with gusts of 20 late in the afternoon in the bay. Sky: partly cloudy when we headed out. Overcast most of the sail. But the sky was a light, even color, almost as if we were staring up at fog. No dark spots – no dark spots ever. That I would have known was a storm heading our way. And, as I mentioned, the waves didn’t pick up until after the winds had started getting strong.

The online buoy report doesn’t work for that part of the river. The only report I can get is from the buoy closer to the mouth of the bay. The weather report I get for that portion of the bay tends to be less favorable than I find conditions on the river, although I won’t venture out if the words small craft advisory appear.

And the whole time, I kept repeating my mantra: sailboats are stable, sailboats are stable. I have 4 tons under me and it will take alot to tip it over.