Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Tony's first sail

Tony is still here in Minnesota. He is a damn funny, quite a well-read and multitalented guy. So today, we went sailing on Lake Pepin. A friend needed help moving the boat out of a marina to a buoy about 12 miles up the lake. Tony has never sailed before but seemed game.

Well, it turned out to be MUCH more exciting than I expected. There was a LOT of wind and plunging into wind and waves delivered a small bucket-full of cold water into the cockpit with nearly every wave. We didn't have foul-weather gear aboard so we were quite wet within five minutes of passing the jetty.

And when we rounded Point No-Point, we were confronted with massive headwinds of over 35 knots that funneled their way between the bluffs. This was suddenly serious business. The waves never get really big on Pepin but a relentless pounding of three footers made progress slow to a crawl. The noise was quite astonishing. After botching a tack near a shallow area where running aground is a real possibility, we decided to motor home. Then the engine lost power and stopped.

So we turned tail and ran for a beach cove where we set the hook and tried to asses the damage. We had torn the mainsail. We had taken on enough water to be seen over the floorboards. We discover an improperly stowed dock line had unraveled, fallen overboard, and fouled the prop. We discovered that the power loss was a simple matter of a plug wire coming off.

We were wet, cold, nearly spent, and probably had at least a month's worth of adrenaline coursing through our bodies. We were never in any real danger--pretty hard to get into serious trouble on such a narrow lake with a seaworthy boat. MOST of the problems were the result of bad judgement--the very thing we old codgers are supposed to be good at.

Sailing is an activity usually done best by folks filled with Producer virtue. The reason I like sailing is because it teaches so many great Producer lessons. And the lessons for today are: old guys should be the first to shorten sail, and, any wind over 35 knots in any boat shorter than 40 feet long is a major hassle even if you are young and strong.

We are both fine and I am sure that Tony's version of this story will be vastly more amusing than mine.  The picture below is of the boat we were sailing located at about the point we bailed on our sail.  It was taken last fall on the way to the winter storage in Lake City.

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