God is awesome, isn’t He? In the mist of all our learning and yearning to be good sailors, God sent us an incredible gift, in the form of Eric and his sweet wife Janet. Eric is a FaceBook friend whose been following the antics of S/V Knot Alot online. Last weekend he graciously agreed to join Guy & myself for a day of sailing. And what a day it was.
Meeting them both was interesting. Janet is soft-spoken, bubbly and joyful to be around, She has the most beautiful, sparkly eyes. Eric is a very humble, gracious man. He didn’t come across boastful even though he has tremendous sailing experience and knowledge. He met us at our level and learning ability, kinda like we do with our beginner riders.
The most helpful thing was after a month of online and book learning, we finally got a hands on feel for the things we had been reading about. This was going from classroom training to practical application and things started to make sense.
Starting off with learning about knots. we learned how to tie the figure 8, square knot and a half hitch. Also proper cleating – the Cleat Hitch, or Cleat Knot, secures a rope to a cleat. It is deceptively simple. A simple way to hold the rope allowing the cleat to do its job. The lines sometimes need to be secure, but tied in a way that you can unsecure it quickly.
Figure 8 is used for tying a rope thru a pully so the line can’t be pulled thru it. It’s a stopper knot – saves the rope escaping. Half hitch is used for for fastening a rope to an object, while a square knot is used for tying 2 lines together or to tie a line in a loop around something.
First off. we walked around the boat, checking all the lines, going over everything necessary to launch the boat. Making sure bumpers were aboard, all lines were fastened properly. Making sure all the sheets were in working order before we hit open water.
The funny thing about current – its hard to see it has a mind of its own. So, Eric thought it best for Cap’n Guy to take the helm and steer us out of the slip. Sometimes learning is best handled by doing. You know how when someone’s watching you and you try to do something you’ve done well before? And no matter how hard you try to do it as you have many times before, nothing works. That’s what happened next. Cap’n Guy tells the story…
The book said the rudder can cause you to walk steer, when the current steers you instead of you steering the boat. Since it’s never happened before, I proceeded to back out as always in an attempt to dazzle everyone with my amazing manuvering skills.
Using the rudder to position the bow correctly, I forgot that the motor was steering the boat, so as I’m pushing the tiller into the correct position, I can’t figure out why the boat is heading in the wrong direction. I’m still trying to look cool.
Andrea offers a newbie solution to just let her go all the way, in the wrong direction, til she comes about. Eric was patient, hiding his amusement from us and offered an alternative solution as well. Using the motor to steer while motoring does in fact bring more effective results. Imagine that!
After amazing him with the slip donut technique, Eric astutely determined it might be best for us to raise the sail while still in the no-wake zone. We raised the mainsail and he loosened the boom vang and secured the main halyard, then trimmed the leading tack to take out some slack that was at the bottom of the mainsail.
Then it was time to raise the jib. We had discussed our difficulty getting it to unfurl, convinced that another repair was emmentent. He explained it probably wasnt necessary and unfurled the jib sheet with no trouble at all. Wouldn’t you know it, we were just doing it wrong.
When both sails were up, he instucted me to find a point of focus on land to keep the boat going in a continuous direction. I then turned the bow into irons until the jib sheet began to luff so I could turn the bow back into the position of close haul that I wanted. That was him teaching me where the best use of the wind and position of the bow to pull the boat forward. Closed haul is pulling the boat with the wind, running is pushing the boat with the wind.
We did multiple zig zagging tacks in the no wake zone getting us prepared for the open water. Finally we had tacked into open water and the wind really began to take the sails. We straight away went into full running, which is the most precarious position in sailing. However, Eric is an accomplished sailor, so we knew we’d be just fine.
Then he asked – you wanna see some real razzle-dazzle sailing and he proceeded to instruct us to place the sails in full wing position. This was a very advanced potition for our first 20 minutes having been in real wind. It was really exciting!
We were able to hold that potition for about 15 minutes before we jibed into our new position. It was awesome. I would have never expected us to do something that cool that quickly into it. The jib was full on the starboard side, the boom swang out to the port side, all the way, the boat stayed level and we picked up speed.
The boat, our boat looked like a peacock strutting its feathers instead of a roadrunner dashing twards a destination. we were so proud. We then went to mutiple tacks and jibes, learning closed haul, closed reach, beam reach. This finally put the book and blog learning into proper perspective with an addition of safety that allowed us to focus on learning completely.
The multi- jibing and tacking manuvers got us into a comfortable place where we were ready to be comfortable heeling and even enjoyed it. We were doing between 7-10 degrees heeling and we weren’t afraid. This was a first for us. The afternoon slipped away quickly. The time went so fast the next thing we knew it was time to head back to the marina and go have some dinner.