It had been over a week since the last time I stepped on deck. That evening was for a ‘full moon sail’. It occurred to me (finally) that I was between semesters at school and there was no book that needed read and no paper that needed writing. The lawn was mowed Monday. The rest of the chores could wait. Let’s see what wind is predicted. Ah…taxpayer dollars at work, the National Weather Service report for 43035, Lewis Center OH. Scroll down to the predicted atmospheric conditions (wind, humidity, dew point, rain, and lighting) and the typical August summer night numbers appeared; high eighties, high humidity, chance of rain and storms, and… ah ha! Winds south east at 5 diminishing to 3 by sunset.
Let’s go SAILING!
It was race night at the ACSA marina on Alum Creek Lake and I hadn’t been racing for over two years. I didn’t want to get out and get mixed in with those boats so I planned to arrive at 6:30. The boats and crews would be angling for their starts at the line by then. It proved to be so when I arrived at the marina. The docks were quiet except for one other crew. Lifeline, my Catalina 22, was resting at the slip quietly. She was all snugged up with her sail covers, motor tipped up and out of the water, and lines lying just slack. There wasn’t much more than a breath of air in the cove. I wonder if the winds died out earlier than predicted. The only way to find out was to get under way.
Lifeline loosed her sail covers and lines easily enough. It was stuffy down in the cabin, her having been closed up for ten days in 90 degree plus temps. Opening the forward hatch while motoring out scooped fresh air in and cleansed the dankness of the ‘down below’. The motor purred as we rounded the ends of the docks and headed for the channel.
The racing fleets’ sails proved the predicted direction of the more than ample breeze. The spinnaker boats were already rounding the first mark and the cruising fleet was surprisingly close behind. Somewhere in the mix was the Catalina 22 fleet with the ‘cruisers’ just coming to the line. The course was a ‘down and back’ on the east side of the lake. I would stay from center to the west side.
I already had Lifeline into the wind coming out of the channel. The sails leapt up the mast and forestay. They billowed out gently in the breeze and I turned left away from the fleets, onto a starboard tack. Lifeline responded and inched up to a two-knot pace over the water. Up the lake we went, and across, ‘til the wind was nearly shadowed by the eastern shore and a half mile north of where the fleets were rounding ‘B’ mark on their first leg. Time to come about and head down the lake.
There were an ample number of other watercraft on the water and these ‘motor-boaters’ were respectful of the sailboats, whether it was Lifeline and a few others cruising toward the Cheshire Causeway or the four fleets on the racing course. Most were not aware of how their wakes affected the sailboats’ steerage. When the light breeze we had died down, or if we steered into one of the many lulls, the wakes from the motor-boats brought some to a complete halt. Those missing the signs on the water and braked by the wakes had some time to contemplate their attention skills while waiting for the wind to freshen. Still, there were no close approaches by either type of boat to the others. It made for a safe evening.
Back across the lake and nearing the outer marker of the channel I’d come out of I noticed Lifeline was skimming across the water faster than most of the boats in the race. Two-and-a-half knots speed sets no record, but many of those boats racing were standing still. Being on the east side of the lake it was apparent they were fighting with the trees for the breezed. Too close into shore and the trees blocked the wind entirely from the sails. In the middle and on the west side of the lake the cruisers could enjoy the evening with little thought to sailing tactics and strategy.
All the way down the lake to where the racing fleets were rounding the ‘A’ marker and past the swimmers on the beach, Lifeline moved over the water as a cloud across the sky. Some minor adjustments to the sails were the only movement made. As the sun slipped lower and lower into the orange and amber sky we came about again and made the trip once again. Up the lake, then back to the channel, a quiet evening was enjoyed. The racers joined the cruisers as they crossed the finish line and twenty or more sets of sails dotted the lake through sunset. Lifeline surrendered her sails to their stowage and covers and I steered her into the cove to her slip. She’d given me a fine ride once again.
It was good to be with the fleets again, even if I was observing rather than racing. There were smiles shared across the water and on the pier. Some handshakes, one hug, and some polite ‘hello’s exchanged let me know that through a long absence good acquaintances remained firm. But then, this is a sailing fleet, and no matter the span of time, a shipmate is always a shipmate. The interdependence of those that necessarily have to be independent weaves the canvass of the sailing community.