5 Apr 2008
The weekend had been set aside to allow me all the possible time I could handle underway.
Raise sails as much as I felt comfortable with. Genoa or main.
Gain more familiarity with everything aboard.
As much time as possible underway.
Forecasts predicted a strong front with high winds and rain rolling in on Saturday afternoon and escalating to thunderstorms through Sunday.
That meant any underway time I wanted would have to be first thing on Saturday. So there was the plan. Get underway as early as possible on Lake Tarpon, put up sails, get comfortable and head back in before the front rolls in. Expected arrival for the front was noon to 5 pm.
I was able to enlist the support of an intrepid soul as a first mate. I was completely forthcoming about my lack of experience. She was eager for new experiences so she agreed to meet me early Saturday at John Chestnut Park boat ramp.
I kept my eye on the forecast in hopes it would suddenly be all sunshine and bluebirds, but no such luck. I reviewed the West Wight Potter 19 rigging information and ran through the mental preparation checklists. Then Saturday morning arrived.
By around 8 am I retrieved her from storage and rigged her mostly solo, with minor hiccups here and there from lack of experience. The biggest challenge was ensuring the stays and lines were cleared while raising the mast. A simple twist in a stay or line gets in the way of pinning the forestay (also the roller furling rig). The boom and main went in easily enough.
I bemoaned the dirt lot where my boat is stored. After all rigging was done, she was totally tracked up with footprints from my deck shoes.
Winds were from the South at 10-15 kts with little chop. Skies were overcast, but no threat of rain, yet. With my trusty crew aboard, we departed through the calm channel and in no time passed the bass fishers in the shallows and had the genoa unfurled.
After a minute or two of fudging around I was able to raise the motor. I have to remember to push down first then pull up on the black knobs. Another lesson to remember.
We were moving at a really nice clip under only the Genoa. It was an incredibly relaxing experience idling along, no noise, snacking as we went, basking in the shade of the bimini. My crew treated me to hand fed fruit slices and sweet beverages (non-alcoholic of course). For a couple of single parents with stressful jobs that are flanked by children whose biggest thrill is marathon WOW’ing out on a PC indoors, this was an incredibly welcomed break away.
Eventually we reached the northern end of our trek and began heading south, attempting to close haul under the genoa. We went back and forth a number of times. Yes, we were making headway, only it was arduously slow. We joked that progress was probably 100 feet for every complete circuit of tack. That would put us back at the ramp around Thursday.
So, I had the inspiration to switch to the main. After all, I had gained a lot of confidence under the genoa. Why not? It’s all an adventure anyway, right?
Furling the genoa, I scrambled through the tiny openings of the bimini to reach the mast and send the main up. My poor crew was left on the tiller attempting to keep us luffed long enough for me to finish hoisting. [Yes, I am looking up sailing terms as I write this.] This was a little more challenging than I anticipated. Note to self: skip the bimini while learning.
A little finagling and the main is raised and in no time we’re making progress. During it’s flopping around on the way up I lost a stay.
Up to this point we had been heeling a maximum of 3 degrees or so. We could see the chop increase when under sail. What was a lake filled with dimples earlier was becoming ever covered with white caps.
On our second leg with the main while maintaining a steady heading the wind seemed to gust from a totally different perspective, the boat abruptly heeled another five degrees and the sharp change in attitude startled mes. I did a quick check to confirm the solid steel dagger board/ballast was all the way down (comfort from capsizing) and let loose the tiller and released the main some. We fell off into a much more conservative position but were making no headway.
Realizing this was likely the leading edge of the impending front, I called on a more conservative posture. I dropped and started the outboard and put it in gear. Again my poor crew was abandoned on the tiller to keep us in irons while I scrambled to the mast through the small opening of the bimini to pull in the main. Making that squeeze required the skill and size of a spider monkey which I outweigh by at least 170 pounds. Lacking one of those I made the scramble awkwardly.
Once the main was secured, I dropped back in the cockpit and we headed directly into the wind and chop. No matter what speed we went, it was a wet ride. I attempted adjusting our position relative to the chop so my stalwart crew would suffer less shower time, but alas she couldn’t hide the onslaught of spray.
We couldn’t help but laugh at the adventure. By the time we reached the channel we were both soaked. In fact, I only remember one instance the entire time that we weren’t smiling and basking in the experience. But knowing things won’t always be perfect is half of the thrill.
After reading challenges with West Wight Potter 19’s and the Pacific Baja trailers, I was especially careful to ensure “Fasha’s Dream” was centered between the trailer wheel wells. No way did I want my bottom paint to be scored by the inside edges of the tires.
Dropping rigging was a breeze made even easier by my eager crews desire to witness and experience it all.
All in all, it was a successful sail. I actually sailed with no major issues, albeit under only one sail at a time. I rigged her for the most part alone. No challenges motoring.
For the future:
1 – Learn and master the reefing of the main, especially underway.
2 – Sail with the main primarily. The genoa is so easy with the roller furling I got lazy.
3 – Master maneuvering around the bimini or don’t use it.
4 – Think ahead to prevent tracking up the decks. Use a welcome mat or change shoes.