Monday, July 02, 2012

Adventures with Steve

I've been living and breathing sailing lately and I have the deep tan and Raggedy Ann nose to prove it. Mostly, I'm living and breathing Optimists with and for my daughters. Next in line comes the Etchells, for which I wrote last post - and never finished the story, but I'm not going to do that here. The last boat on the brain is the Laser. 

I have my own Laser named Steve. Recently my husband found a great deal to get a second Laser on Craig's List, at which we jumped. Yesterday we took Steve and the new Laser, named Scooby Doo, out on the Bay. 

Carol and Steve

Getting everyone on the water, including the girls into their Optis for race practice, was a monumental effort. Scooby Doo hadn't been sailed in a very long time and getting it rigged up took time. The two of us sailed out of the harbor in a very light breeze. We sailed past a few random giant jelly fish that looked like mushrooms the size of basketballs. The wind was shifty at first, but the farther you went out, the breeze picked up. 

Emboldened by my husband's presence, I went further than I had ever gone. I was doing pretty well finding the feel of the boat, the wind and getting my maneuvers down. 

And then I flipped.

I've never capsized before. They make the kids do it in sailing school, but for me it was always something I knew would happen to me eventually while out on the water. When it happened, I knew that matter-of-factly I had to push down on the centerboard and the boat would pop up. I would climb back on and away I'd go. Except that is not what happened. Not even close.

First of all, I pulled down on the centerboard and the boat didn't budge. I pulled down on the centerboard again and again and again and nothing would make the boat come back upright. A guy sailed up next to me in a keel boat and offered me help. He didn't know what he could do to help and I didn't know what to do to take help. It had also just happened so I was confident I'd be fine and sent him on his way. I looked out to see that my husband had sailed off pretty far past me, but was probably making his way in my direction. He was either really, really far away or he didn't know that I was down. 

I tried over and over to right the boat and nothing was working. I finally tried pushing the hull of the boat under the centerboard while pulling down and after a few tries, I got the boat flat again. With the feeling of relief mixed with "now what?" I tried to pull myself into the boat. That proved challenging and the boat was turned around and tipping a bit again. I thought that if I turned the sail into the wind, I could be sure that it was going to stay flat while I climbed in. 

Turning the boat, I managed to capsize it again. Fortunately, I now had the pushing-while-pulling trick up my sleeve and it only took me a few tries to right the boat again. My husband still wasn't there and I was getting tired. 

Trying to climb back into my boat, I kept getting my life jacket caught on the edge of the boat and I couldn't get myself out very far. When my husband finally arrived, he asked me if I wanted him to tow me to shore. He tied our boats together and set off in the wind. I started dragging behind the boat like I was Superman flying off to save the world. 

I called my husband to bring his boat near mine instead so I could use it to climb up. I thought that if I could throw my foot onto his boat, I could leverage myself up. It worked, but in the process, my husband's boat turned away from the wind wrong and he capsized. He was able to right his boat easily without even getting wet. (Show off!)

Once on board Steve, I tried to calm my nerves but realized that I was shaking. I had been in the water a long time and don't know if the shaking was due to cold or fear. It didn't matter at that point. During the acrobatic maneuvers, we managed to drift pretty far and we were nearing the land. We weren't at risk of crashing onto rocks, but we were close enough that our wind was affected by the land. I couldn't make the boat move the way I wanted it to. And close enough to have a hearty audience for the whole show.

My husband was yelling instructions to me to get the boat back in order, as all the lines had loosened up during the capsize. The loosened lines made my boat very touchy to the wind and I needed to flatten out the sail to under-power it for my ability and situation. The main sheet, the rope that controls the sail got wrapped around the corner of the transom, the back of the boat, and I needed to un-hook that to regain full control.

The next thing I know it, I've got the boat going again and there is a high-speed ferry crossing my path. I wasn't so close as to hit it, but close enough to be freaked out by it. And then freaked out by the wake it caused. I bobbed around a bit and kept heading into the wind to stop myself from going anywhere. Another lower speed ferry soon followed, nearly duplicating all the fear that I hadn't quite recovered from.

I finally got going and limped into the cove. I sent my husband off to sail on his own, knowing I could get it into the dock at that point and wanting him to have some fun before coming in. I slowly made my way in and tied up. After getting on dry clothes, I went to the bar for a beer. 

Today my knee is tweaked, I'm bruised under my arms and I have a massive shoulder pain, though, that could be from hefting Scooby Doo onto and off of the car top twice. But all of my muscles are screaming today and my ego has its own bruise, as well. 

I'm not saying that is the last time I will sail the Laser, but I don't have immediate plans to do it again soon, either. And in the meantime, I'm going to see if there is a technique to pull myself out of the water should I need next time. If there is a next time. 


hokgardner said...

I used to sail lasers in Florida. I'd usually flip at least once a day, but back then I weighed all of 80 pounds, soaking wet, and there was no way I could right one on my own. I'd just have to float there, waiting for rescue. Fortunately, Sarasota Bay is a lot less traveled than SF bay.

ckh said...

Ferries are scary!