Under Way, Under Sail…and the Moon was absent

Tonight was the shake-down cruise.  The wind was up at 10 – 15 and gusting higher I’m sure.  Lifeline was a sturdy as ever under the strain of the sails pulling her forward through the water.  With full sail she leapt up to 5.1 knots, pressing forward and ignoring the ladder I left down and the propeller that doesn’t quite come out of the water.

Around the sailing circle we went, falling off on a starboard tack (wind from the right side), not testing a close haul but still beating upwind toward the Alum Creek beach.  I opened up the angle to the wind and reached (wind at 90 degrees to the right) toward the dam to the south.  No groaning or whining, Lifeline pounded the water, the bow wake splashing up onto the deck and the port side taking water over the gun’ls.  I opened up the sail more and ran down wind toward the Galena ramps.

A jibe is a maneuver that requires some extra attention.  The shift in the rudder brings the wind across the stern of the boat and the boom completely across the boat from one side to another.  Uncontrolled, it has at least caused damage to persons and boats.  At worst it has taken down masts and stays.  I had no such difficulty this evening.  I loosed the port side (left) jib sheet and let the sail fly.  I hauled in the boom until it was over the port side rail.  I pulled the tiller toward me and the rudder dutifully turned Lifeline to port.  The wind brought the boom over my head to the starboard rail and I eased the mainsheet out to run on the port tack and still downwind.  Trim the jib with the starboard jib sheet and Lifeline was pulling at the reins again.

Running with the wind has its disadvantages.  One is not feeling just how fast the wind is really blowing since one is sailing with it.  I learned the hard way when sailing in Florida and took to coming up into the wind, still shifting the boat counter-clockwise around the sailing circle.  The wind put us on the starboard gun’l as I trimmed the sails up taut.  We handled it well but I was getting tired in the cold that this wind was bringing.  I headed up into the wind and dropped the jib.  It took a bit more time than it usually does when I’ve knocked all the rust off my skills and by the time I looked up from closing the forward hatch I was blown another two-hundred yards up the lake.  Fortunately there were only two other boats on the water this night, and they were full of instructors and students.  I knew they would be alert outside their boats as well as in.

I pulled in the main and beat upwind on the port tack (wind from the left).  The wind gusted and put us on the gun’l once more.  I hiked up onto the deck with my feet on the opposite seat.  There would be no leaning backward, I had not rigged the tiller extension handle.  But the wind eased as I drew near the west side of the lake.  Down to the State’s marina channel we went, rounded the channel buoy, and completed the sailing circle.  Lifeline and I were back on the starboard tack and heading for ‘home’.

Another thirty minutes and she was tied up in her slip.  The mainsail cover was slipped over the boom.  I brought the jib sail in its bag back up on deck.  The bottom of its bag is vented and will let the sail dry through the coming days.  Navigation lights came on.  Cabin lights came on.  The motor didn’t want to go into reverse.  Hmmm… Thanks to Tom for fending me off the dock and giving me a good shove about when getting under way.  I didn’t rig the Cunningham yet.  I’ll have to do that before class on Sunday.  I did have to hand pump the bilge and the cockpit.  The scuppers were clogged.  It wasn’t the first chore I wanted to do this year but it wasn’t too nasty, what came out of the hull valve and lines.  It was just cold.

Last night I looked out the front window of my home and watched the moon appear full out of the clearing clouds.  A line of thunderstorms had gone through, tornado warnings were about the area, and racing was cancelled.  I thought I might see her bright tonight as the clouds cleared off, but she kept her distance ’til late and I left Lifeline to witness her passing overhead from the slip, should the clouds decide to give way.  A month ago, the snow was still melting, the air was still cold, and Lifeline was still on her trailer.  This night, we sailed under a cloudy sky, but the moon was there behind them, we know, and we sailed under her just the same.  I’m count’n it as the first for the year.  ‘Til Sunday, Lifeline… I’ll see you again then.  In four weeks, moon, we’ll come looking for your full beauty again.

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