Thursday, June 18, 2009

Sarasota Bay: A pleasant, mid-week sail

On Tuesday I decided to go for a sail. The sun has been setting around 8:30 local time and the winds tend to be light but consistent in the evening, so after work I called up Wyatt and the two of us were on the water by 5:30.

I’m proud to say that the sail was pretty uneventful. Nothing really bad happened at all. I didn’t forget anything and it didn’t rain. Sweet! I could get used to that.

I decided that now was as good a time as any to see how the boat heaves-to. For those not familiar with heaving-to, it a technique used to stop the boat on the water in a controlled way. This is handy in a variety of situation… for example, if the Coast Guard pulls up next to me and yells, “Heave-to and prepare to be boarded!”, or if I just want to go below decks to grab a sandwich.

This is something they don’t officially teach you in the sailing school I went too, but it is in the “Fundamentals” book. Back when I was getting my certifications I’d asked my instructor to show me how to do it and he obliged. This was in a Catalina 22 and is the only boat I had ever heaved-to with before.

It turns out that heaving-to on a C&C 27 is hard… if it’s even possible at all. The best I could manage was a backed-jib and a very slow sailing boat. The main sheet was completely eased, as its supposed to be, and the rudder was all the way windward, but the boat was still sailing, albeit very slowly, in the direction the bow was pointed.

I’ll definitely try this again, perhaps rolling up the genoa to a shorter length so it catches less wind.

The other failed maneuver was an attempt to sail under the bridge. We probably could have achieved this if my self-imposed rules weren’t so rigid. The wind was coming from the northwest and the bridge was located more of a north-northwest. There is plenty of room in the Sarasota Bay to tack towards the bridge but the Bay does narrow a bit right at the bridge. My self-imposed rule was that we must sail through the center of the bridge where the navigation lights were located, even though we could probably safely sail to the west of that just fine.

We approached the bridge twice, but the first time I miscalculated the angle needed and we had to bear off about 60 yards from the bridge. The second attempt was much closer. We actually got beneath the bridge but we hadn’t gained enough speed to carry us safely through the lull caused by the bridge supports. We had to bear off at the last second or risk drifting into the leeward support.

Still, while it was not successful in that regard, it was a lot of fun trying and it was really nice to pass the evening on the water. I’ll probably try to get on the water at least one evening every week while the sun is setting so late. With the solstice just around the corner (this coming Saturday, I believe) the days will start getting a little shorter, but I’m sure I can keep this up for another 5 weeks or so.

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