Megan (jehoshabeath) wrote,

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All day on the water

I locked up the apartment at 6:40 am and returned to unlock it at about 10:40 pm yesterday. I spent the whole day down on the water crewing the Spirit. We had three sails - one in the morning, one in the afternoon, and one in the evening.

We had a strong wind early in the day. It blew away the captain's hat and would have claimed mine had I not kept a free hand on it. The channel waters grew quite choppy and crested with white. With the sails sheeted out some*, we were still heeling* over at quite an angle so the water was nearly splashing up onto the leeward deck*. Heeling is a natural part of sailing when you are sailing upwind*. In this point of sail, the wind is pulling you, rather than pushing you.

On the boat, there are wooden frames that stand in two places. These are called gallows, and they have notches in the middle to hold the boom* when the sails are down (here's a picture of one from another schooner). When we go to lower sails, we have to sail into the wind and once the sails start to luff* we can drop the booms into the notches in the gallows and then commence lowering the sails. The trick in all this is maintaining a heading into the wind. When sailing into the wind the sails provide no power - and since the tiller is nearly useless if the boat has no motion or power behind it, we run the engine very slowly to give us a little kick so the boat will respond to the helm and keep us headed toward the wind. This is normally fine, but when the wind and waves are tossing us about a bit, it seems that we need more power from the engine to keep us on course. This wouldn't be a problem if we had plenty of room to maintain a course, but when we are in the channel, there isn't always a lot of room.

So, yesterday I found myself in an interesting situation when we lowered sail. I had the engine low to give us time, but with the engine low, I couldn't get the schooner to respond to the helm. Meanwhile, she edged alongside into the wind where her sails started to fill up and heel us over in an attempt to sail off. I had to crank up the engine and finally got her head back into the wind long enough to allow the crew to get the sails in and then change course before we reached shallow water. It wasn't nearly as dramatic as it sounds, but since I was the one at the helm, I was cautious to see this all done as neatly as possible. I wasn't as straight into the wind as I could have been, as I saw when the sail came down a bit off-centered, but it went smoothly enough and soon we were on our way back to the dock.

By sunset, the wind had died down and we had a very easy, relaxing evening cruise. I nearly fell asleep watching the white seagulls against the grey and purple clouds, and then a little later, the black outlines of seagulls against the grey clouds. Our passengers' taste in music appealed very much to me, so it was a wonderfully pleasant trip after a long day.

*sheeting: Sails are controlled by lines (ropes) called sheets. When you pull the sheet in all the way, you pull the sail completely in line with the mast and hull of the boat. When you let out on the sheet and let the rope run loose, you allow the sail to spread out over the side of the boat.

*heeling: Leaning over (This is different from a list, which is also a tipping of the boat, but as I understand it, listing is due to some other cause besides the natural effect of the wind. A sinking boat lists, while a sailing boat heels.)

*leeward: Away from the wind (In this case, the side of the boat that was being tipped over by the wind coming from the other side - from the windward side)

*Upwind: Toward the wind. The opposite would be sailing downwind, with the wind behind you.

*boom: A beam that runs along the base of the sail. You can sort of see the booms in the icon.

*luff: Flutter and flap like a flag.
Tags: sailing

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