A west-southwesterly breeze graced the water this evening, though I wouldn’t know it until I left the slip and the inlet. It was stifling there, on deck, as I tightened the rigging. My stays were still loose from stepping the mast. An earlier sail in light winds showed the severe slack of the steel lines on the lee’ side. None of that this evening. The predictions were for winds up to ten, gusts above that. These lines need proper tending. A small crescent wrench and a screw driver, and ten or so turns on each turnbuckle are made. I tightened down the jam nuts on each. Pools of salty water formed on the deck where I worked. There, now, they are taut. Not tuned for racing, but taut and safe for sailing. Time to get under way.
The mains’ l cover removed, the ‘Donate Life’ foresail hanked on, the motor purring and pouring out its necessary stream, I loosed the lines and motored out, around the end of ‘B’ dock from the back-side, past my neighbors across the pier, then down past ‘D’ and ‘C’. ‘Dolphine’, ‘Penguin’, and dozens of others remained at rest this Friday night. I suppose most were still resting from the holiday on Monday.
The channel markers looked oddly placed, and I wondered if the higher water or the rise and fall of it over the summer to now had pulled up some anchors. One red marker is showing the strain, as the inner foam ‘popped’ the top off. I zigged, then zagged out to the lake and noted the wind on the water. The calm of the small bay to the south invited me to raise my sails there. I steer to starboard, come nearly full about into the drafts coming down off the trees.
Now, I have yet to install a tiller minder on the new tiller handle, so as I move about the deck Lifeline is rocking, and the tiller therefore shifting. A sail-slide popped out of the track and I had to step up to make the adjustment. Lifeline fell off the wind to starboard, what sail was up caught what little draft there was, and I was sailing before I was ready. I let that slide go, stepped back down, adjusted course, and finished raising the main. Underway! Rusty and rugged, for the second time this summer, Lifeline is riding the wind.
I fell off to starboard, rounded away from the outer marker I drifted down to while raising the canvass, and ran down wind. The promised breathe for the evening matched the predictions, and more. A few other sails dotted the water. Three were working toward the Cheshire causeway. Another two beating about the south end toward the dam. Someone was reaching across Galena inlet on a fluorescent pink sailboard. Only two power boats broke the silence of the wind.
‘Round the compass I sailed, studying the sheets, cueing on the tell-tails, watching the rig as well as the water. Only seven sailing events last year and only the second in this one, my muscles aren’t tuned to Lifeline any more than the steel of the rigging was. Take it slow, take it easy, test each maneuver. Listen to her. Are the sails singing? Is the keel board haul humming at 2kts like she used to? What new creaks and groans are coming from the hull? What is the symphony Lifeline is playing this year? ‘Round the compass again, tack over and away from the boat adrift, tack over again away from the on-coming sail, tack over again toward the dam and into the wind. Each movement, each motion shakes cobwebs off the mast and the stiffness from my arms and legs. Breathe…………
An hour of beating upwind and exercising Lifeline and I was ready to run back up the lake and down with the wind. The main and jib out to starboard, the ‘Donate Life’ now on the backside of the foresail couldn’t be helped, I took a broad read on a port tack, steered for the middle of the lake, and slid back to rest and ride with a steady pouring of air over my left shoulder. Breathe……..
Riding up the lake as the sun was coming down shown the orange and yellow and red of the evening light. I came about to return to port, and that light shown on the sails the shadow of Lifeline’s rig. It was the perfect light to show a perfect shadow, and a chance to imitate art Jeff Benedict created once. I trust Providence is foreshadowing more breathing for the remainder of the season.