Wing-On-Wing!

The day began for one of my crew at 0200 when hurricane Hermine blew through the Tampa area.  Brooksville, FL is near sixteen miles inland and on a rise above sea level around thirty-feet.  The winds were fierce enough to blow over her shed and lightning knocked out power.  Remarkably, when the shed went over it did not blow into the minivan sitting just beyond it and all the contents stayed where they were placed within it.

The coming storm was to be severe enough to last for several days and foul air travel up the east coast along its path.  She had made arrangements to change her flight to Ohio and come earlier, hoping to avoid all the delays expected to result from the storm’s turbulent trek.  Her effort paid off and the flight was delayed only by thirty-minutes.  She arrived to sun, blue sky, and temperatures in the mid-60’s.  What a remarkable change.

Still, a day that begins at 2am becomes a long day when it includes the displacement of a cross-country flight, hauling even a small bag, and shopping to buy an Ohio State jersey for the game.  After all, that’s what this trip was supposed to be about; coming to her first Ohio State Football Game in Ohio Stadium!  Sailing was only a side activity she hoped to enjoy as part of the extended weekend with us and her sister.  Coffee and an hour relaxing in our living room and she and her mother were ready to take a ride on Lifeline.

We went by the grocery store and picked up a supper of submarine sandwiches, potato salad, pretzel chips, hummus, and sodas.  Packed into a paper bag to help keep all cool we were off to the dock.  The steady northerly breeze predicted was on time and brought others to the docks as well.  There was a sense of anticipation at the marina and a growing activity as the Labor Day holiday weekend was beginning.  Lifeline lay ready to work with us at her slip and was quickly made ready for getting under way.

We motored out around ‘B’ docks and out the channel.  The wind on the water assured us of its northerly direction.  There was no doubt it was blowing at 10+ with some ‘white’ caps noticeable; not too noticeable I hoped, else my crew might beg off.  As we cleared the point of the east-west channel, the wind bumped us over on a bit of a heel.  I had my daughter steer us into it and my wife and I raised the mains’l full.  It would be enough for this ride up Alum Creek Lake.  The sail climbed the mast easily, showing the adjustments I made to the mast worked well and the sail slides remained in their channel as designed.  We fell off to starboard, set the main for a close reach.  The motor was stopped and raised up.  We were a sailboat now.

There was one northeasterly tack upwind.  The wind was such that when we came about I could point Lifeline north and setting the main for a close-hauled starboard tack, I ‘rode the groove’ for the three miles to the causeway.  The girls chatted and had supper, laughing, watching the sun, watching the other boats, and enjoying their ride.  I ‘ate up’ the time I had at the helm, watching the tell-tales, the pennant at the masthead, and the luff of the sail to hold our course.

The wind was still steady from the NNE and bringing the boat about I could set the sails for wing-on-wing, main to starboard and a whisker pole for the jib.  She was quite a site as she ran down wind and the other boats on the water simply parted as we neared.  One, though, a 21′ speed boat decided to take a closer look.  It’s driver circled us a hundred feet out from our hull and waved as he speed up the lake.

A wonderful sail concluded as the sun set and we entered the channel on a beam reach. The trees did the shadowing of the wind as I hoped, and we furled the sails as momentum took us into the harbor.  We tied Lifeline up as the last streams of twilight faded from behind the trees.

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