Sep 1, 2015

Summer Sailing

I don't get out on the boat enough by myself. Today the stars aligned, and I was able to enjoy some much needed alone time on the water. We spent a lot of time taking people out on the boat this summer, which is a lot of fun, but it doesn't allow much time for me to learn how this (still new to us) boat sails.

So today I practiced singled handed tacking. I almost always single hand the boat, even when we have guests, but I wanted to perfect it into a clean, dependable tack.

Unlike a monohull, it's a pretty good walk to the other side of the cat to release or haul in a line (about 20 feet). Today I found that I can put the wheel hard over, release the jib sheet, reset it on the opposite side, and make it back to the helm to steer into whatever point of sail I'm after. By the end of the day I could do this casually with time to spare, and I added unjamming the boom traveler as part of the process (it almost always gets hung up).

I was feeling pretty good as I made my way back towards the marina, then the water temp alarm went off on the port engine. I cut the engine and considered my options: docking with the one remaining engine, going to a temporary dock, anchoring in the channel. I decided to be salty by letting out a bit of the jib and sailing my way back out to more open water.

I was hoping the wind would catch the jib and help spin the boat around. Unfortunately the wind had already blown me towards the left side of the channel, and I would need to turn to port to come about, this would put me even further out of the channel. I considered a 3-point back up maneuver, turning the wheel to starboard to assist bringing the bow around, but a channel marker prevented any attempt at that. By the time I had avoided the marker, I was even further out of the channel.

With no time to check the charts for depth outside the channel, I decided to play it safe and drop the anchor. Fortunately I had flipped on the anchor windless before leaving the dock, in preparation of this exact kind of worst case scenario. 

The anchor didn't set well, but it set enough to give me time to check out the problem. It was a broken drive belt. It took about 5 minutes to fix and I was back on my way again. I've never had a marine engine with any kind of belt before, changing them before failure is obviously preferable. I was lucky it failed when it did, rather than fail in the middle of docking or in a place I couldn't have dropped the anchor (like inside the marina).

I also started to learn to balance the sails so the boat would maintain a heading without the autopilot. This worked best on a close reach or close haul.