Boat Journal

Chronicling a love affair with sailing

Month: August 2009

Prepare to Be Boarded!

So, the other night, we finished the race. Of course, at this time of year, it’s dark by the time it happens – for everyone, not just for us. 🙂 We were about 100 yards from the channel marker for Wormley Creek when a tremendously bright light shines on us from starboard. We’re thinking it’s some goofy power boat trying to find the channel, and everyone comments on it. Next thing we hear is “This is the United States Coast Guard! Please bring your boat to a stop!”

You know how your brain can have a thousand thoughts in those few seconds? Well, at least mine does. First thought. “Um yeah, this is a sailboat. I’ll stop it right now.” But my response to them was “I’ll do my best!” As I put the boat in reverse to slow the forward motion, they came beside us.

The Coastie in charge asked if I’d ever been stopped before. I said no, and he explained that this was a safety stop. He first asked for a copy of my registration and my driver’s license. I handed them over. He handed them to one of his crew members, who started typing the information into a PDA. Palm Pilot, I’d guess (no pun intended!). Then he said that he wanted to see some of the safety equipment on board. First he asked to see life jackets for everyone on the boat. There were 5 of us that night, so I went to the Vee-Berth and pulled out 5 life jackets. As I started to struggle through the cabin door, he said I didn’t have to see that many. Um yeah, isn’t that what you asked for?

After looking at the jacket, he asked to see the fire extinguishers. I pulled the one down that was right beside the cabin door and explained that there was a second in the locker aft. He said that was ok. He then asked about what safety courses I’d taken and I started to list them.

There were a couple of other things he asked, which I don’t remember right now. He then said that his fellow Coastie was typing my info into a form, and, should I be stopped again within the next year, I just needed to show them that form and I wouldn’t need to go through the process again.

When the second Coast Guard finished typing, she pulled a thermal printer out and printed the form. Um yeah, right. A thermal form on a boat is not going to be readable after a week, let alone a year. So I decided I’d better make a copy and keep that aboard, too.

The whole thing took about 20 minutes. By now, we’ve drifted backwards, of course. During the races, the current tends to pull us towards that side of the river. Go figure! So, it takes us an extra 20 – 30 minutes to get back to our channel, plus the time to find the markers in the dark and make it through, made for a very long night.

Sad part of it all? I’ve lost my “Get out of inspection free” card. I took it in, printed it, and have no idea where I put it.

Oh well!

The Gamut of Weather

Last night, we left for the starting line of the race in very calm weather. No wind to speak of. Barely a ripple on the water. We got to the starting line and most of the other boats didn’t even have their mainsails up, let alone the jib unfurled.

About 5 minutes before our start time, the committee boat announced that it would stick around for 1/2 an hour to see if the wind situation improved. About 15 minutes later, one boat left, announcing that it was too hot and they were out of beer.

A little while later, we were watching another boat up the river, who was heeling over at about 15 degrees. He radioed back a few minutes later that the wind was heading our way.

And it did. Nice wind. Great sailing weather!

As usual, I got the start time off a bit. I was unsure that I’d noted the first horn correctly. But we were to the starting line only about a minute late. Problem was, another boat from the next fleet was coming along the starting line, and he was on starboard tack. So we did a 360 to get out of his way, and headed out.

The race was around one buoy, back to the start, then around the buoy a second time. But that wind was bringing in a storm, and folks started suggesting strongly that the race just be one loop.

There was some confusion about the course. The committee boat was clear as to what it was. Problem was that this was the first race of the fall series and the starting buoy had changed. It used to be the one we were rounding. Now it was one further up the river. And, when the committee boat announced the route, they kept confusing the buoy numbers.

We were doing great! We were not towards the front, but we stayed with the pack. Interesting thing, though. I was sailing close haul, but it actually increased our speed when I let the sails out a tad, rather than bringing them in tight. And I did note that we were at about a 15 degree heel, which does seem to be optimal for this boat.

As folks started to round the mark, the heavy clouds started rolling in. So the committee boat announced that it would, indeed, be one lap around instead of two.

But we were still approaching the mark. I had come up on starboard tack, hugging the side of the river. We tacked at what I thought would put us on a direct line for the buoy. I didn’t take into account the strong current and the fact the tide was coming in. So we were short the mark. Tacked again, then back toward the mark. Still too far down. Next time, tacked into it and we were close enough to see that we were making as much progress sideways, in the wrong direction as we were making forward.

We finally made it around the mark. But by now, the lightning was starting. We abandoned the race at that point and headed in. First one for which we had done so.

Great thing about the race was that we were close to the other boats. We had a fairly good start. We kept up good speed. So we’ve gotten past the first hurdle that has been holding us back tactically. Now I just need to learn to adjust better for the tides and currents when aiming for downriver markers.