Come Sail Away

Off the keyboard of Eddie

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Published on the Doomstead Diner on June 15, 2015

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"There is nothing- absolutely nothing-
half so much worth doing
as simply messing about in boats."

The Wind in the Willows

Sail-RhodesLately I've been puttering about with the boats, and I finally got out sailing yesterday, for the second time of the season. Last weekend I finally got the running lights replaced on my old Rhodes 19 centerboard, and the plan was to go for a night sail on Saturday night…but exhaustion won out over adventure, and we sat out on the dock until eleven and then climbed up the stairs to bed.

I'd left everything rigged at the dock, and even though rain wasn't out of the question, we set out after a very late breakfast, for a reconnaissance of the lake.

My place is on a cove, behind a biggish island, on the last large part of the body of the lake, and to the north and west the lake funnels down into a 200 yard wide course that follows the old river bed north into Kingsland, some four miles up the lake.

With the prevailing winds almost always from the south, the sail up that narrow stretch is a broad reach or a run, and yesterday it made a fine sail, smoother than trying to beat upwind toward the dam.

I knew we were going to have to motor back, but we had a full charge  on the battery for the electric outboard kicker. As we coasted north, wing and wing, the weather continued to threaten, with some distant thunder off to the east, and the wind coming up a bit behind us.

As we approached Kingsland it was obvious it was time to turn for home. The wind was kicking up a few whitecaps and raindrops were starting to fall.We turned into the wind and dropped the sails and started to motor back.

The wind was blowing into our face, and the eV strained to push the big scow hull into the rising weather. After a mile and a half it was obvious that our battery was being depleted far too quickly for us to ever make it home under power. After another half mile it was almost dead, and I cursed myself for putting us in a situation that  looked to put us on a lee shore. A lee shore on a lakeside ranch with private roads and locked gates, far from any boat ramp.

sail-rhodes-2So, with trepidation, I raised the sails in the rising blow, and we began to tack across the narrow channel. The main on the old Rhodes is big, and I had made no provision for putting in a reef.

So we tacked. And tacked. Under tight jib and luffing the main most of the time…pulling in the main when the wind lightened up, bringing us up to weather as best I could…and then dumping the main when the gusts came and threatened to roll us. My partner (wo)manning the jib sheet and both of us up on the deck.

Did I mention I've cut down the cockpit coaming to allow a more comfortable seat on the topside? Easier on the butt, but also less seaworthy when the rail is in the water.

But we were making progress, and I knew after fifteen minutes we would be able to get home eventually. But we weren't making much progress on some of our tacks. It might take hours.

We were trying to get as close to shore as we could to extend our tacks, and eventually I ran aground as I rounded into the wind. Abrupt stop. Raised the centerboard and blew back down wind…recovered…tacked again.

The river finally began to turn west a bit and the wind shifted just a hair..and suddenly our tacks were taking us two or three times further upwind. Two more long tacks and we were into the body of the lake. another twenty minutes and we were home…I pointed us dead into the wind and drifted up to the dock.

It was only 6 pm, but it seemed like we'd been out for ten hours instead of five.

With three hours of daylight left, I finished up my going home chores and headed out for the hour drive back to the city.

My heart suddenly filled, and I remembered why I love to sail. Every little daysail is an adventure when you make your own power with the wind. Nothing is guaranteed. Actions have consequences.

And on this day, Sunday June 14, 2015, we truly lived.


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