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May 8th, 2009

Thursday Night Recap [May. 8th, 2009|03:57 pm]

Convergence, rain, flood tide and sloppy chop.  The good news?  The 10 to 15 knot northerly filled in well before racing started.  All in all, an excellent day to get out!

October Sky was minus a team member, so the emergency calls went out, bat signal illuminated, the docks were scoured for likely suspects and two seconds worth of consideration were given to calling it a day.  Persistence paid off, because about 15 minutes after the rest of the boats left the dock, newbie Frank Kaplan answered the call, arriving at the dock in full gear, split toe booties and a very stylish life jacket/nylon windbreaker combination.  :)

Frank has had some 14 experience in the past, but we still tied the boat to the dock with the jib up and boom on in order to go through some quick ground school drills.  Tacking drills... foot placement, leading with your fore foot on the way out, hand switch behind the back, fore hand straight to the trap handle.  Gybing drills... nice and conservative skipper in first, nice big sheet on the kite, bring the lazy guy across with you as the crew crosses, forward hand to the trap handle.  All the usual stuff.  After 15 or so minutes of that we were ready to splash and get the main up.  "Oh yeah Frank, in case we flip...."  Brian and I always had a 5 flip rule when we started sailing together... it served us well.  Were we really going to flip I thought to myself?  Being a realistic optimist, I made mental preparations for at least 5 flips.

The boat was scooted to the south end of the dock, Frank jumped in and we were off.  Headed slightly too far north, and with too much heel.  No worries, I grabbed the trap line, Frank made an excellent gymnastic move and we scooped to windward just enough to get the bow down and miss the south end of the next pier.  Excellent... Frank has some skills.  Still heading west to the main channel and picking up speed, Frank was moving out on the trap as the main and jib came in.  Excellent!  Now for the first tack.  Nice flat entry, not too powered up, not too close to the rocks... through head to wind... too fast, Frank not out (I could see the mental processing... hand back front foot forward... where the hell is the hook...) I grabbed the trap too late as we layed it down to leeward.  Flip #1 complete, check.  Boat back up, everybody in... boat in irons... crap.  Drifting in to the rocks, Frank sacrificed his body for the boat and jumped in to fend off.  Everybody back in... heading back out... and then down again.  Flip #2 complete, check.  Traffic was very patient as we righted the boat... boat flipped again... and again.  Four flips, right?  We were very courteous to let the boat drift to the rocks to let traffic by. 

Frank is starting to pant now, and comes over the stern looking like like a meatball trapped in spaghetti.  Those split toe booties really catch those lines well!  Memory starts to get hazy here.  Some memories of more flips, more panting on the breakwater.  Kayakers offering assistance (should have said "sure" just for the fun of seeing what they possibly could have had in mind).  Would have been a good time for a quick snack break, since we were standing around looking at the docks from the breakwater, but I did not have the foresight to bring any bars.  I believe that we are past our 5 flip quota, but still not back to the dock.  Feeling refreshed, Frank hopped in, I pushed off the rocks and we scooted across the channel to the crane dock, tipped the boat over on the dock, took stock of the situation and decided to swim more, but on another day.  With the main down and off the boat, we sailed back under jib and put the program away for the night.

Frank, while appearing somewhat contemplative (dazed) about the experience, seems to have resigned himself for another try.  Myself, I chalked it up as a wild success, having left no carbon on the rocks and all the equipment intact!  I am sure now that Frank has made his first payment to the breakwater, he will at least make it to the fishing pier next time.  I have not warned him about the flying crab-pots yet...

See you all next Thursday, and do not forget NOOD this month!

Jeff Oaklief


How To Sail Upwind In The Channel [May. 8th, 2009|03:59 pm]

Some advice in the wake of Jeff's experience:

Allen Johnson:

So I don't talk much to you guys, but have to comment particularly since I was not there and don't know what really happened.
Getting out of that breakwater in a northerly in a two trapeze skiff is hard!  It has humbled some of the best sailors in the world:, mckee, buchan, even bundy.
I spent some time early on in the 49er watching bundy sail out of the marina.  Next time he goes out watch him.  He rarely if ever, touches his trapeze line.  He is all about sitting, keeping the boat in control, and making it through the 3-6 tacks it takes to get out.  Even if it is windy, if the main is out, the boat should stay upright if both guys are on the correct side.  Sail on the jib out of the marina and trim the main when convenient.  Hopefully the crew can go trap to trap, but if not, play the main.

Kris Bundy:

While I appreciate the vote of confidence, you obviously were not there when:
1.  I rammed the dock straight on at 10 knots during our attempted exit,
2.  Bounced off the rocks about 4 different times, or
3.  Got stuck under the north side of the fishing pier on a big northerly.
There are many more, but I've forgotten the details.
The nice thing about skiffs is there are never ending opportunities to fail miserably.  And break things too! (I'm up to about 6 masts...)
If we can get you out a bit more (and me out a bit more) maybe I can cure you of your delusions.
p.s. your tips about not trapping too much on the way out are good.  Also add: bring a good crew with you.

Frank Flannery:

I think it helps to ease the jib a bunch before the tacks inside the breakwater as well.  If you come around with a completely loose main, but the jib fully trimmed, it pulls the bow down too aggressively.   I've taken a bunch of new sailors out in moderate northerlies and always stick with no trapping until clear of the breakwater. 

How To Sail Downwind In The Channel [May. 8th, 2009|04:03 pm]

Brian Keeffe:

Of course it’s best not to sail at or close by the lee-too easy for things to go wrong. If you are sailing deep and slow (usually coming back in to the channel) have your crew press the boom out acting as a preventer. Make sure everyone is aware that keeping the boat flat is paramount to anything else.

Best to sail high (not deep downwind) to keep the boat moving as fast as you are comfortable with as the jibes will be much easier the faster you are going. When we are coming back in and there is breeze-we like to jibe back and forth with the main farily taught as you enter the jibe but as soon as it goes slack when crossing center line, you let out a lot of main sheet (have the crew grab the vang and throw the boom across as you jibe-it lets you know when the boom is crossing rather than waiting for it) and when the boom crosses, be prepared to drive down deep and then back up-kind of an “S” turn as you jibe. This lets the boom get across, keeps the boat flat and then lets you head up as you sheet in.

This is probably the toughest maneuver to get right-it’s a serious timing and feel thing. Good thing to practice outside away from everything. The faster you are going when starting to jibe the better. If for some reason the boat slows down, stop the jibe, head back up and get some speed on.

Allan Johnson:

We always opined that it was much easier with the kite up, even if you are not flying it perfectly or at all.
Try this on a northerly:  Sail a little farther up the golden gardens beach.  Do one last spinnaker set on starboard like you always do (or jibe set) sail for a bit, jibe early for the trailer parking lot, sail all the way to the parking lot, nail that last jibe and run down the channel deep and crouched in.  If you can't get all the way down the channel, you have to heat up a bit and jibe again.
If you have to sail with two sails, I think I would have been running deep, with the main mostly out (do you have a stopper knot in your mainsheet?, more people should).  If you have to jibe, you must heat the boat up a bit and have the crew throw the boom over mid jibe.
That channel is very difficult.

Jeff Oaklief:

Like Alan said, everyone has been on the breakwater regardless of their skill level.  Bundy was just there last year.  Brian and I have been there numerous times, and although we are getting better at running the channel, I am sure we will be there again sometime.

There were many times earlier on when Brian and I were seriously considering short tacking up the inside from the south entrance.  That would be harder with more opportunity for capsize as coming in from the north (assuming you are already wet and tired).  Just too many short tacks in traffic.

Alan gave us that same advice several years ago.  Frankly, unless the wind is light, Brian and I have not had the nerve to try sailing in with the chute up even though it makes perfect sense.  Maybe we will start trying it more.  Other than that, we do pretty much what Alan says... sail high enough from the end of the breakwater on port that will allow us to put in one gybe east of the fishing pier... well to windward of the fishing pier so your next line puts you inside the channel. 

This gybe puts you on starboard clearing the fishing pier sailing slightly deep, but not directly down wind.  At this point we concentrate on keeping our speed up and are on heightened alert, ready to do anything to keep the boat upright.  For you, that means steering as if you have the chute up... ie heading down if you start to heel to leeward and heading up for the opposite.  These will be very small and very quick corrections.  Do not be afraid to sail fast... fast is safer.  Power boats will get out of your way, but you notify them to please stay clear. 

Did I mention that you need to keep your speed up, sailing slightly deep?  You may or may not be close to the breakwater at this point. 

When it is windy, gybe onto port every time you get more than 1/4 the channel width from the breakwater.  My philosophy is that if you gybe too close to the dock there will be quick assistance (of course you want your mast to clear the dock when you flip... cheaper that way).  As you get deeper into the channel it seems that you can also sail a bit deeper since the wind has a tendency to lighten up as you go in. 

By the way, your crew should help you keep an eye over the stern for puffs as you get deeper into the channel... always nice to know.  At some point, after a couple gybes, you should be able to make your last gybe onto port, take a deep breath and aim for somewhere close to the I-14 dock.

It does get easier (and more automatic) the more you do it.  While you are out on the sound, practice a bunch of high speed gybes.  After Brian and I got the hang of that, things got easier coming into the dock.

Have fun and do not sweat the crashes!


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