Sunday, September 8, 2013

Marshmallow skermishes

I was a bit worried about having any wind today. Knowing the weather is going to be beautiful usually means very little wind around here. I showed up to find Troy faithfully working on one of the boats that had suffered some damage in the previous club event. I was excited to bring a friend ,Derek, aboard and was glad to see Mike show up, so I was really hoping the wind showed up, too.

We rigged two boats and drifted our way out of the marina. After skulling around for about an hour I thought it was a good time to open the bag of marshmallows I've been hiding in my sailing bag. I came directly at the other boat achieving speeds of roughly half a knot (really slow) then turned broad side and opened fire. Derek was kind enough to keep feeding me ammo. After some return fire of soggy mallows we all realized that some wind settled in and we were actually sailing!
Proof! We had wind for like 30 minutes and it was glorious! We chased Mike and Troy for a bit until I gave up trying to catch them. At some point they dropped a gatorade bottle overboard that we recovered for later use. I handed the rudder to Derek so I could hide from the sun in the shadow of the sail. I'm such a nice friend that way.
We started heading back to the marina knowing that the wind wouldn't last long. Once it died I had renewed interest in another marshmallow strike. This time we had a secret weapon, the bottle previously recovered would be our kinetic bomb. It went mostly as planned with some shots returned. The sinker bomb was fired and a direct hit.
 It is hard to make out above, but the marshmallows float, leaving some evidence of the battles fought.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Race day #9

Arriving at the Marina today we would have never guessed what we would be in for. The weather looked as average and unremarkable as I've seen. Pretty quiet in the marina, but what appeared to be a nice, full and consistent northerly on the outside. Those characteristics changed as the hours ticked bye. We eventually picked a medium to small sized triangle course based off the Battle Point day marker and one of  the boats moored to the south of it.
Well I had waited the requisite five minutes and the weather had changed, at least for me. I couldn't find a good clean breeze for nothing. I believe it was at the start of the first race that the warranty on Chris's mainsheet block and cleat had expired. Chris showed no signs of personal defeat however as we re-started the race which I believe he subsequently won with Sandy right on his heels. Myself, I had a bad tactical move early in the race and I just couldn't find the favorable conditions I needed to recover, so I cannot be positive who really got the win on that race, only that I was a distant third.
For the second race Chris and Sandy swapped boats to see if one hull was favored. It wasn't long before all the boats decided their place on the course and there was quite a bit of seperation. After rounding the first mark we found that any perceived lead was an illusion as all the boats were stacked up together. It was after rounding the last mark, on the way to the finish that everybody got a taste of the crappy wind that I found myself attracted to earlier. We called the race after 3:30 with no breeze in sight and a long paddle in our expectations.
The wind did get us home though, for the most part. A little after five and mostly on schedule we made our way off the dock.


Tuesday, August 6, 2013

There is nothing in Manzanita Bay for us :(

This last Sunday was one of our monthly social sails. In recent history, we normally group up and sail down to Illahee State Park to have a nice picnic lunch. To my knowledge it is the nearest public dock to the Port of Brownsville, and we can often get there in a little over an hour.
However, we had exactly enough people to fill all four C-Larks and the wind felt a bit light. We were trying to avoid bringing the safety boat (12' aluminum boat w/ small outboard), which is often just used as a small tow boat to get us home when the wind runs out. So, we thought we would try to get into Manzanita Bay, Bainbridge Island and see if we could find a dock around there.

Troy took this opportunity to rig up our spinnaker boat for some downwind fun. I convinced my wife and two kids to come along with me, and we even took out two guests on this fine summer day. Once we all got in the water, the wind took its sweet time to fill in. Most of us paddled out of the Marina just to get a jump on the voyage. Luckily we didn't have to wait too long before some wind from NE developed.

We made our way up around battle point, then followed the shoreline up around the northern point. Troy and Victor were the first ones into the bay and had the privilege of trying to find a public dock in a new area. Unfortunately, we found that everything in that bay was private, so we were unable to land anywhere to have a picnic lunch break. I think we need to make some friends on Bainbridge Island before our next social outing.

So, once we realized that we would have to make the trip back before emptying any bladder, we all made an about face to head back to Brownsville. Luckily it was a nice lazy downwind ride back. Troy flew the spinnaker for most of the ride back. My apologies for the blurry shots, but flying one of these in a tiny boat is no joke.

Sandy took this opportunity to kick her feet up. Apparently her guest, Kevin, is an experienced sailor and he looked right at home at the tiller. I kept up with them for a bit, making my best effort to add a bit of "social" to our social sail.

I took the opportunity to stretch my legs a bit on our way back. That's my kids stuffing their faces. Our little boats are fun to sail, but they don't make a great picnic table.

Our adventure ended with about as light of wind as when we started. We spotted this guy soaking up some rays once we were back in the marina.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Race Days 6&7

Today I don't have any pictures of sailboats for your viewing pleasure, but I would like to recap the last two races we've had. Saturday July 20th we had a group of three skippers and one crew take out three boats. I played the lazy card and said that I did not want to set up a full course and have to tow a sailboat out. It takes a fair deal of time, and overall does not add much to the experience. I suggested a point to point race and Troy knew of a marker to our north east that would work.
It ended up working out pretty well. With the wind coming from the northeast, it was a good upwind leg that required a few tacks with a nearly dead downwind finish. I got a chance to sail with Mike, our newest member. The wind was strong enough to sail, but light enough to keep up a good conversation. I love meeting new members and seeing them get excited about sailing during a race. After a couple races together we had Mike change boats and sail with Chris as well. It is bittersweet to report, that under Chris's tutelage Mike spanked us, securing his first win.

Skip ahead to this Sunday we had five members show up for the race, so I was feeling less lazy, but I still didn't have a burning desire to get out all the buoys. I suggested we try using the mark from the previous race, then find another piling on the Brownsville side, and I will take out one buoy as a start/finish marker. After a couple of raised eyebrows, I got the go ahead. 
With the wind generally from the south, this arrangement was okay. Our jackrabbit starts were difficult to be precisely lined up, so we would just get close enough. None of the three legs, except maybe the last required tacking to get to the mark, so there wasn't a whole lot of tactical sailing. Not to mention we never clarified where the actual finish line was (my bad!)
With the wind strong and gusty, advantages came down to reading the wind, holding tight when it gusted, and keeping the sails well tuned. With five of us, one had to go solo. I single-handed the first race and found the wind to be a bit overwhelming at times and was constantly dumping wind from the main sail. I also had a bad jibe around the first mark and very nearly capsized, hit the mark, hit Sandy and Mike head-on all in a matter of seconds. I took on a bit of water, but managed to get a hold of everything and continue to race. Needless to say, I was happy to crew for Sandy on the next race. Chris single-handed the rest of the day and was sure giving us all a run for our money.
In the end everyone (except me) gathered a first place finish, but more importantly, had a great time. Today was some of the strongest winds on a pleasant day I've seen in a long time, so we were all grateful for the chance to push each other's limits a bit.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Heat Wave

Well, my body is still recovering from the shock of floating around in 90 degree weather for over three hours. Today, the weather fooled us. It lured us in with it's soaring temps and cloudless sky, just to watch us drift in just the slightest of winds. At time we considered it sailing, but mostly we were drifting... Some faster than others.

We haven't seen Chris a whole lot on the water this year, but he made it out today and laid down two solid first place finishes before the wind totally gave up. Victor pulled off two second place finishes, which is pretty great considering he was in 4th on the second race after rounding the second mark. He passed me up when my boat decided to drift backwards (obviously through no fault of my own) and also managed to stay in enough wind to pass up Troy. Speaking of the second race, I'm not sure how I managed to catch up to Troy, who was a mere feet from crossing when the wind died, but for me it was the most subduedly exciting, slowest pass for a third place finish I've ever had.

After the torture of that race, we waited for a bit more wind that never came around. We decided to pack it in and try to get re-hydrated.

 We were lucky to have Caleb as our makeshift tugboat. He actually saved us a lot of time in the light wind, helping us group up so we could swap boats.

 Victor is chllaxin', waiting for the wind.

 Troy and Victor are probably exchanging notes on where think the next breeze is gonna come from.

 Nap Time?

 Evidence of the lack of wind.

Getting towed back to the marina.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Laser Race

Our first race of 2013 finally went down after many failed attempts. Most of the other races ended up turning into social sails, which are fun also, but I really enjoy the technical challenges of racing. So, only three of us showed up on the dock on Saturday, which gave me the idea that it might finally be a good day to do some Laser racing. Only having two Laser sailboats, we had enough for a race committee and two racers. The wind was light, but that often just adds to the challenge of reading the wind.

I quickly made my way out of the marina with all the race markers in the RC boat. Once I got outside of the breakwater I could feel quite a bit more wind and there were even some swells that were causing my little boat to slam. I eased off the throttle a bit and started getting a bit nervous about actually getting on the Laser. They are definitely an unstable feeling boat, fun, but unstable. While I was distracted with the thoughts of sailing I accidentally set up the triangle backwards. Instead of fixing it, I decided just to make a few rule changes (round the marks on the starboard instead of port) and get back to the marina to see if the boats were ready.

Troy and Victor had just locked up the boat house and were on their way. We slowly made our way out to the start line, where I gave Victor the crash course on racing rules that I forgot to go over on the dock. We used a quicker three minute countdown to start and they were off. We raced a triangle/finish to keep the races short and fun. Trading off with RC every race so each of us got 4 races in.

While RCing for the second time, I learned the value of bringing our air horn with us. A sailboat under full sail heading my direction failed to see me in our little motor boat, and the entire race course behind me. I thought maybe they were just trying to make me nervous (which was working) but I eventually gave them a Toot Toot. I saw a head pop up quickly and they turned, narrowly missing hitting me. I then warned them about the rest of the race course that was dead ahead. They smiled, nodded, then proceeded to  run right over our start flag.

Oh and check out the cool rainbow halo around the sun that day. What does it mean?

Sunday, June 2, 2013

All four boats on the water

It was a great feeling to get back out on the water today. I haven't been in one of our dinghy's since the 'incident' and I needed something to get my confidence back. Today's light wind and great crowd was just the ticket. We had eight people show up in Brownsville to sail, and had even more meeting us in Illahee upon our arrival.

Weather looking good upon arrival

Some dark clouds chasing us

We departed the Brownsville marina around 12:15 and were quickly met with some extreme light wind. Some had their doubts about how the rest of the days wind would play out, but I was committed to sailing, even it took all day. I knew that some wind would fill in in the afternoon, but wasn't sure if it would be quite enough. We eventually arrived at the Illahee dock around 3pm. That was definitely the longest trip I've taken to get to Illahee.

4 C-Larks in a row. Safety boat on right.

A late lunch for us
 After filling our bellies and sharing our harrowing tales of sunburn and light winded boredom we were ready to take advantage of some wind that had settled in. No sooner had we all set sail, the wind began to get spotty again. There was some towing and taxiing to get everyone where they needed to be in time to get home, but overall a great success.

All the ladies homeward bound

Commodore Troy making good time down wind.

Don't rock the boat boys!

A few of our newer sailors are on the verge of becoming full blown members. I can't wait to get them out there in our race series so they can really hone their skills. Great job everyone, I'm looking forward to doing it again.

Thursday, April 18, 2013


Troy and I showed up. Victor and Amber, two prospective members, were also eager to get out on the water. Troy and I figured that two boats was not enough incentive to deploy all the racing marks, so we just rigged up two boats for a nice trip across to Bainbridge Island. I decided to take Amber out for her first sail and give her some general instructions and terminology. Troy went with Victor at the helm.
When we left the dock the sun was shining, the wind was a gentle breeze mostly from the NE, and it seemed that the weather was going to remain in our favor. We slowly made our way out of the marina past the breakwater and began making our way across towards Bainbridge, hoping to take a look at a small inlet. Amber and I played cat and mouse with Victor and Troy most of the way. We found a sunbathing seal to go look at, but I think he just wanted some privacy. I took some time to make a few unnecessary tacks in order to get Amber comfortable with the idea of moving around the small boat.
We met back up with Victor and Troy as we approached the shoreline. At this point I could feel the wind beginning to pick up speed to the South. We made our way down the shoreline a bit with the sail on our starboard Side and the shoreline fast approaching on our port. I gave Amber the  basics of what a jibe entailed, noting that it would be similar to a tack, just a lot faster. Meanwhile I looked behind us to watch Victor execute a jibe and sail away from the shoreline.
When I felt the time was right I gave Amber the signal that I was ready to jibe, she was ready. I grabbed the boom to guide it across, as I often do for greater control of the maneuver. As I started to swing it over my head, I felt the wind grab it a bit sooner and more violently than expected. At this point it is unclear what went wrong, but I think the main sheet got snagged on the starboard side of the transom, not allowing the boom to swing fully to the port side. Amber and I immediately knew the boat was tipping way faster than it should and we lunged for the starboard side to counteract it. It wasn’t enough.
I swung my body over the starboard side and onto the centerboard that was now fully out of the water. Amber went into the frigid water, not knowing what to do next. I leaned over and called out from above. She was okay and much more calm than I expected. I signaled to Troy and victor that we were okay. I quickly described to Amber that we were going to point the boat upwind and flip it back upright.
Somehow Amber was able to keep her head about her and help me maneuver the boat into position. My weight alone was not enough to right the boat, so Amber swam back to the stern and climbed onto the rudder to help get the mast vertical again. Once she was up out of the water, I saw the mast lifting. I yelled to jump in the boat as it was rolling towards us. We jumped and were in! I was greeted with a face full of salty water, and I fumbled to orient myself. Before I even had my eyes back open I felt the boat continue rolling and capsize again on the opposite side. However, this time I was not in position atop the centerboard.
Now with two of us in the capsized boat, the mast was sinking much faster than before. I knew that if we turtled it in this cold weather and so near the shore, that there would be little hope of righting it ourselves and sailing home. I could see now that all of our personal items were falling out of the boat and either floating away or sinking to the bottom. I briefly cursed to myself for leaving my smartphone in my pocket so I could take pictures. And with that I jumped in, making some very odd noises as the cold violated my entire body.
Amber was already moving around the stern and making her way towards the centerboard. Even after being in the water for a few minutes already she had enough strength to pull herself up onto the centerboard. She lay on it unable to pull herself up to stand. I was able to stand on the rudder and grab her feet to give her the last push she needed to stand on the centerboard. I stood on the rudder and said “Okay, let’s do it again, this time a little slower.” The mast lifted, coming out of the water. I knew it had to work this time, otherwise we may not have the strength to try again.
We again tumbled over the side into the boat. The rolling stopped, the sails began to fill, so I grabbed the rudder and the main sheet. We were up and moving! The boat was already pointed straight at the Brownsville Marina, so all I had to do was trim the sails to get us moving.
The whole time Troy and Victor remained very close by in case they needed to make a rescue. Luckily they only had to rescue our few belongings that remained floating. Their teamwork and experience showed as they went back and forth in the now heavy wind, scooping up our lost gear.
I pulled the transom plugs out to let the cockpit drain. It took about 10 minutes, but the chill of water around my legs was finally gone. I finally had time to realize that the wind that had settled in was much stronger than I expected. At this point I was so shaken by the experience and the unexpected change in weather, I couldn’t bring myself to do much more than adjust the main sheet and shiver. Amber bravely held the jib sheet and continued to help me counteract the gusty wind changes we encountered on our return trip.
I didn’t relax until we had our boat safely tied up at the fuel dock. I apologized to Amber in the best way I knew how, I bought her a nice cool beer at the marina deli. In hind sight, I probably should have found some hot chocolate.