When you hear the crickets, it’s time to tack

http://www.dnr.state.oh.us/Portals/2/parkmaps/Alumcreekparkmap.pdf  Click to see a map of where this story takes place.

I’d like to write about the race last night.  My sailing stories get the most attention and mostly from the others involved.  So here’s the race report…   last in class, last in fleet.

Don’t ask me how…I just don’t know.  I followed 2nd Wind for the first two tacks.  Those guys port tacked across the starting line and my bow reached for their transom.  They’re faster than Lifeline is but tactics and strategy play in, and mine was to follow them as close as I could.  I just couldn’t point as high.  We both crossed the others in the Catalina 22 class (nine boats last night), but when they turned left again onto a starboard tack, I kept going.  I wanted the tactical advantage of the right-of-way when we all approached the first mark.

I was THERE!  Out at the swim area I swung left onto a starboard tack.  The rest of the fleet was at the buoy, a hundred yards away!  And I was…  behind? EVERYONE?  WT@#$%???  OK…just an ‘awe shxx’ will do.  Making things worse, the damn was causing a diminished southerly wind and shifting, I fell below the mark, had to turn back the other way, … and the rest you can guess.  Once behind in a sailboat race, the other guys have to make mistakes if I’m going to catch up, and no one did on this beautifully sweet SSE breeze of eight mph.  Add in a starboard jib sheet getting into the wind (only one sheet to the wind, not three) and then the water and a jib wrapping itself around the fore stay and insult was added to injury as I swore up a storm in frustration.  (Thanks to Sledgehammer and crew for not hitting me while I did 360’s in the water recovering my jib)  I did get to finish the race.  That was a plus after the summer series when I Did Not Finish (DNF) four races.

But that Moon last night?  Ahhhh…. the light was a soothing salve over the wounds of ‘failure’ and ‘frustration’  Crossing the finish line and waving my thanks to the Race Committee (John Pyres, Mikie Gray, and Miles) I kept the wind on the port side, eased the sails out a bit to come off a close hauled trim, and glided down the west side of Alum Creek Lake.  The moon held an orange tint as it rose through that soup that surrounds the horizon.  A light flashed on the shore in the dimming twilight of the evening.  Yes, that should be one sweet picture; the glow of indigo’s and purples, the shadow of a sailboat on the water, and the moon and its white light glowing behind.  I’d like a copy of that one.

As I came about and headed across the south end of the lake some chatter broke the silence over the radio.  Race Committee the Commodore and Mrs. Commodore to pick up extra buoys from Kayotic.  They replied that they’d picked up one of the markers, but begged off the second as they were ‘up by the bridge’.  The Bridge.  Now there’s an idea.  Three miles up the lake and three miles down, at about three miles per hour.  That would give me a two hour sail under the September full moon, and that sounded just fine.  The light of the moon was a salve on the wounds, but my blood pressure was still up and I wanted it back down.  Two hours of cruising should do…

Turning north up the lake put the SSE wind behind me and to my right.  I had what we call a broad reach point of sail and I didn’t have to touch the sheets to trim anything if I didn’t want to.  Half way up the lake, with twilight having given over to the night, I finally relaxed.  There were several sailboats out still, most headed back at me, but at least one was sailing ahead.  Their lights, you know… red visible from their port side, green from their starboard, and white on the transom; one can tell which way a boat is traveling from that indication.  I saw a lot of red bow lights, a green one or two ahead, and followed one white one going my direction a half mile ahead.  We were appreciating a wonderful, warm, breezy fall evening.

The moon shown brightly as it cleared the haze of the horizon and reflected fully from the sails above me.  Daylight it wasn’t and moon light it most certainly was.  Its easy to appreciate the idea of fairies and gnomes in such a light.  Bright as it is, it still casts silver shadows behind everything it illuminates and doubly so when reflecting off the water.  Lifeline took on a glow of its own in such light, gurgling across the water, her rudder and transom making the only noise I could hear.

All the other boats had passed down the port side.  No more red lights of those coming towards us.  The white light of the transom a half mile ahead turned to green as they tacked toward the eastern shoreline.  Lifeline and I kept on.  Green remained the light I saw as the other boat passed down the shoreline to my starboard side.  I watched ahead as the car lights on the causeway gave me some depth of perception, but I didn’t decide to come about until I saw the shimmering of the rocks of the causeway itself.  I turned in the same direction of the other boat, no more than one phantom of a shadow now as it went the other way.  White again I saw from their transom.

Now, I’d been riding the wind northward, going along with it for an hour, generally being pushed.  For this leg of the evening I’d be working back south and against the wind.  That meant a zig-zag patter sailing ‘zee’ shaped legs down the lake.  The long leg would be SW from the east shore to the west side.  The short leg would be straight across the lake, from west to east.  Turning on my first long leg let me see the moon full on.  It appeared smaller than it has in the past, still smiling down on me but about the size of a dime.  The wind being what it was I was obliged to put my back to her to balance the boat, though that only allowed me to appreciate more the glow it was giving my Lifeline.

Approaching the shore another sound entered the night’s journey.  Crickets and the other chattering critters of an Ohio woods began to be heard.  I’d been looking ahead of the boat mostly, and just hearing the warbling of the water past the hull.  Looking across the boat I could see the shore was closing.  Time to make a turn onto that shorter leg.  Lifeline swooshed in the water as she came about, her bow through the wind.  The main shifted over with little fanfare but the jib slapped the air a bit in protest until tamed with a tug on the port sheet.  We settled onto the starboard tack, heeling over to the left as we should and picking up speed again.  The crickets faded.

The moon was full in front of me now and Lifeline turned to silver instead of glowing, the moon being ahead of me but its light behind the sails.  The wind was a bit shifty on this leg and seemed to be pounding down on us rather than blowing across the water.  The tiller complained so I unleashed it from its tending line and it fought me less than before.  I didn’t quite need sunglasses, but that reflection off the water was mighty bright!  Then, I heard crickets again.  I looked behind the sails and sure enough, there was the eastern shoreline approaching.  Time to think about tacking again.

About we came and three more times repeated the patter.  Crickets – tack – trim – sail, crickets – tack – trim – sail, crickets – tack- trim – sail…. longer intervals for sailing rather than the routine of the other three.

The last pattern brought me to the marina channel markers, beckoning with their Christmas green and red.  I looked south toward the damn and yearned to remain here on Lifeline’s deck, or at least anchor and stay out on the water.  But Mindy was at home and my heart beckoned for her more.  I let the wind blow Lifeline into the channel where the southerly breeze was shadowed by the trees along the channel.  Down came the sails and wrapped well enough to stay in place until moored.  Into the water splashed the engine, that argued a bit about breaking the quiet of the night.  A second pull and it begrudgingly answered its call to duty for the night.

Lifeline was moored.  The docks were still alive with laughter and chatter, some shouts, and a lot of smiles.  Jim Foreman asked how I did in the race, but I finished my ‘Last and last’ with “but that Moon is wonderful” and he smiled and walked on down the pier.  I called Mindy, wrapped up Lifeline, and apologized to her for swearing and holding her so tightly trimmed earlier in the evening.  She gave me a great ride this night, when not pressed to perform and I went home content for having shared a journey out of time with her.

Remember, when sailing inland lakes, to listen for the crickets.

(update 10;47 am 9/19; it was noted to me that I misspelled the word for an earthen dam, several times over.  I have decided that it was Freudian [in spite of my lack of luster for the man’s work] following the frustrations of the race in my apparent ineptitude on deck this night.  I have decided to allow the spelling to remain as is as a subtle reminder to both the myself and the reader of how such things may carry through one’s perceptions and subsequent expressions.  Add this, then, to the Faith category of this blog, and let the lesson be recognized, if not learned)

3 thoughts on “When you hear the crickets, it’s time to tack

  1. Pingback: A Lesser Light to Rule the Night | faithandflag

  2. Pingback: Some Wind, Please | faithandflag

  3. Pingback: Penguin’s Crew “gots skills”! | faithandflag

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