Alum Creek Lake is a reservoir created from the ravine cut by Ice-Age glaciers in the central Ohio, USA. Water has run through it since the ice sheet melted and sometime in the 1970’s the Department of Natural Resources, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the State of Ohio, County of Delaware, and the City of Columbus decided to close off the end of the valley and make a reservoir for the growing populations. The benefit to over four million visitors each year to the ‘new’ lake is the hours of recreational camping, fishing, and boating recreation we all participate in so avidly.
The key terms for the story I’m telling today are ‘ravine’ and ‘valley’. The wind over and across the lake is dependent on the shape of the shallow bowl the lake exists in and the trees around it. The stronger the weather front crossing Ohio the stronger the wind over the lake, and consequently the reverse is also true. When the overhead winds are so light the lake gets only the swirls and wisps from the various up-and-down drafts created by the sun and convection off the water.
Wednesday evening I’m single-handing Lifeline out as usual, later than normal and catching up with the other racers. I’m not registered for the series and I do know I want to stay away from the start/finish line and any points of sail I know the others will take from that marker on the water. The wind is from the southwest from the low-pressure area passing over Ohio, and it is running ten knots. The flags on the yard up on top the hill were waving in the breeze but not standing straight out, as they will at fifteen knots.
A peninsula of sorts runs along the south side of our channel with a small ‘bay’ opening to the south side and all of this land and the trees lets some breeze through but mostly gives us some ‘shadowing’ from the full-on wind coming from the south and west. I used this area to raise my sails full and then maneuvered out into the broader part of the lake.
‘Fewumph!’ (that’s how I spell the sound a sail makes filling with wind, hard and fast). Actually, I have the two sails up and full so ‘Fewumph! Fewumph!’ as they both filled and pulled. Suddenly I’m holding onto both the main and the jib sheets and somehow the tiller and Lifeline is hauling keel and transom to keep up with her own sails. The boat heeled over nicely and behind me I heard the wake splashing loudly as a school of fish breaking the surface of the water. Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!!!! Lifeline was so obviously overpowered I let slip the main sheet to dump some wind, and it stayed like that most of the next forty-five minutes.
I was across the mile of open water the south end of the lake offers in only a few minutes. Sometime during the outbound tack or the return trip, I noted five point seven knots on the meter. Pretty good for a boat that she only designed for five. It was all I could do to get her about in the wind. The jib wrapped around the forestay on two separate turns. I caught it both times. The disaster of a useless piece of canvass acting like a wind anchor was escaped with the help of Providence prompting me to ‘look up’ while coming about and jibing.
Back in the lee of the small bay Lifeline settled onto an even keel. My arms were already sore from pulling so hard and they were relieved being able to release the jib sheets as I luffed up (steered into the wind) to let the wind out of both sails. I flipped up the lever on my jib halyard (line that pulls the sail up) and the foresail’s weight caused it to begin its downward fall. I moved promptly (I don’t ‘leap’ any more) to the bow and pulled it down, un-hanked it from the forestay, and stuffed it down the hatch. Back into the cockpit I went, pushed the tiller over, trimmed the still-fully raised mainsail, and headed back out into open water.
‘Fewumph!’ went the main. Lifeline responded with a gentle heel to port. The speed tack read three point two. The rest of the evening was the iconic dream shown in videos and running through peoples’ minds when they think of sailing. Her mainsail doing all the work, Lifeline glided across, back, up, and down the lake with the rest of the fleet as each class finished in turn. Kaotic brought the Commodore past, he at the helm and his ‘admiral’ tending the rest of the crew. Second Wind sailed past with her crew in their persistent efforts to conduct her more efficiently. Reagan hailed me from Sledgehammer as that boat’s crew enjoyed a relaxed after-sail across the blue and gold glint of the lake in the now setting sun.
No pictures to aid in the telling of today’s story. Look to the next entry for some visuals only 24 hours later.
Fair winds, all!