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Catching up

My son and I had a terrible summer of sailing here in south-central
Kentucky. We can sail only on Saturday, and for eight weeks in a row the
weather was not good. Mostly, it was blistering hot with calm or very light
and flukey winds, but occasionally stormy, with lightening, rain and
strong, gusty winds. We have a standing date to sail every Saturday, but
for the longest time had to decide it was not worth the three hours of
driving involved in order to sail. Very frustrating.

All things come to those who wait, though, and we did some catching up last
Saturday, September 29. Fall is on us here, and the weather was gorgeous.
Clear blue skies with scattered puffy white cumulous clouds, temperature
70F and winds predicted at around 10 mph in the afternoon, the beginnings
of fall colors accentuated by the magically clear fall air. We arrived in
late morning and left the slip under sail within a few minutes. Heading
south in a mild northeast wind, we had pleasant, relaxed sailing for ninety
minutes, mostly reaching with the 153% genoa.

After about three miles we found an area of shallow water along the eastern
shore and anchored for lunch. We had never anchored with this boat, before,
but experienced no trouble. One of the main goals of my sailing is to share
what little I know about it with my son, and he's beginning to leave me
behind. He sailed the boat into the wind, shot just the right distance and
stopped her for me to drop the anchor right where we wanted it. Good bottom
and a snug spot. When the boat had settled to the anchor we broke out lunch
and spent a leisurely hour eating, talking and soaking in the beauty of the
lake. It really is a pretty place to sail, with the steep rocky shoreline,
a mix of conifers and deciduous trees along all the shore and clear,
greenish water.

 Lunch over, we weighed anchor, raised the sails and got on with it,
anticipating an afternoon of relaxed, easy sailing. It was not to be. After
sailing a quarter-mile, just as we were turning to follow the lake to the
northeast, the wind piped up as if a switch had been thrown. It was
suddenly blowing about 10 mph NE, and we had no choice but to work our way
directly into it. Great sailing with the genoa still on, and we made some
nice long boards, one of more than a mile and a half on starboard tack.
That one brought us to our destination,and we wore around for the trip
back. The wind was still building.

Sailing now on a broad reach, occasionally a beam reach, we roared back the
way we came in high style. I think that was probably faster than we've ever
sailed Kestrel. Flat on her feet, with the noticeable sound of bow and
stern waves a constant, she was really impressive. We made three and a half
miles before having to turn into the wind again, and our work was now to
really begin.

By this time the wind was 15-18 mph with gusts, and beating up the narrow
lake into it was not relaxing, at all. I asked my son if he wanted to reef
the main or change to the working jib, but he said he didn't, that he was
in the mood for some exciting sailing. He got it, in spades.

We broke Mr. Clark's commandment to keep the heel angle below 20 degrees
many times in the next ninety minutes. We never buried the rail,  but
missed doing so by only two or three inches many times. In my job as deck
ape, handling the sails, I found myself walking on the backs of the cockpit
seats many, many times. Exhilarating! Whoops and yells and laughter! I'm
sure all the power boaters are now totally convinced we are nuts. If only
they could know what they missed.

After what seemed too short a time we arrived at the marina pool and
prepared to approach our slip. We usually drop the sails, here, crank up
the outboard and motor in. We weren't in the mood for that, today. Even
though that stiff wind would be behind us and blowing us directly into the
slip, making speed control a problem, my son decided to sail her in. He
brought her into the wind and I dropped the genoa, then reefed the main. We
were a quarter mile out, wind dead astern, and he spent the time it took to
make that distance experimenting with speed control, pulling the main to
the center to destroy its aerodynamic function, then letting it out in
little increments. I got the bumpers on and the boat hooks out, then spent
the remaining time muttering under my breath. Surely didn't want to bang
the boat.

Slowly and under complete control, he made his way down the channel around
the marina, turned right into our street, turned left toward our slip,
asked me to drop the main and then eased the boat into the slip dead center
and dead slow. Perfect. I told you he was leaving me behind.

A perfect day, a perfect sail in a wonderful boat, and I got to share it
with my son. Makes an old man feel good. Well, not all muscles
feel as if I've been keelhauled. Catching up is hard work.

Sail #619

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