Tag Archives: Catalina

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.

Weaving the Canvass

sunset behind sail 061214It 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.

A Favorite Poem

Third grade, Mrs. Kuhlman’s English class; she was introducing us to poetry.  I guess I had been ill recently and since I was reading about a poet who was once a sickly boy I felt some kind of kindred spirit with him.  “Block City” was the poem I read and it stirred inside me a deep, deep stirring for the sea.  Third grade was a very long time ago.  Since then I’ve spent a career in the U.S. Navy, learned to sail small boats as a Boy Scout, taken my family sailing where ever we lived, sailed “From Tampa to the Cape” and wrote the book, been a sailing instructor, and continue to sail ‘Lifeline’ on Alum Creek Lake north of Columbus Ohio.  Here’s “Block City”.<!

Block City
By Robert Louis Stevenson

What are you able to build with you blocks?
Castles and palaces, temples and docks.
Rain may keep raining, and others go roam,
But I can be happy and building at home.

Let the sofa be mountains, the carpet be sea,
There I’ll establish a city for me:
A kirk and a mill and a palace beside,
And a harbor as well where my vessels may ride.

Great is the palace with pillar and wall,
A sort of a tower on the top of it all,
And steps coming down in an orderly way
To where my toy vessels lie safe in the bay.

This one is sailing and that one is moored:
Hark to the song of the sailors on board!
And see on the steps of my palace, the kings
Coming and going with presents and things.

Now I have done with it, down let it go!
Allin a moment the town is laid lo.
Block upon block lying scattered and free,
What is there left of my town by the sea?

Yet as I saw it, I see it again,
The kirk and the palace, the ships and the men,
And as long as I live and where’er I may be,
I’ll always remember my town by the sea.

Calder, A. Ed; Robert Louis Stevenson, Selected Poems; Penguin Books, Ltd, London 1998. Print

The storm blew in, and took me with it!

You know, it was just one wonderfully warm evening last Tuesday when I stepped aboard Lifeline and prepped her to motor to the ramps. The prediction for weather was some increasingly heavy rain and I knew I was pressed for time. There was a temptation to raise a sail one last time, but I would have to bend the foresail back on. I didn’t want to take the time.

I snapped some pictures of the docks as I walked out and again as I motored away. Mostly empty, they seemed lonesome and the quiet about them unnatural. It was a good year. I was absent more than in the past yet those times when I came down there were always many others enjoying the marina and the boats. I sighed and turned back to the task at hand, motoring out across the lake to New Galena ramp on the east side of the lake. Lights hadn’t been installed in the new parking lot at the Hollenbeck ramp where the State’s marina is, and I was most definitely out ‘after dark’.

Half way across the lake, I decided I’d raise my keel board. I didn’t want to run aground in the dark only a few feet from a dock. It’s shallow on the east side, too shallow for my counterbalance of lead to be sticking down. Besides, I was motoring and didn’t need the counterbalance to begin with.

It’s fifty cranks of the winch handle to raise or lower the keel board. The handle rotates close to the wood edge of the companion way and I knocked my fingers a few times. I was alone on the lake, so being below wasn’t too big a deal. I had the tiller tender set to hold the rudder for a steady course for a few minutes while I worked the wire and wheel. That’s why the ‘bump’ was such a surprise when I lost my balance.

What made the boat heave over was the wind! The weather front hadn’t arrived with rain yet, but the wind ahead of it was stirring. I took another fifteen-degree push from starboard and lost my balance again. Holy cow! What’s going on?!

Back at the tiller, I could feel the wind blowing across my face, and Lifeline blowing sideways across the lake. I adjusted course to starboard, bringing the bow toward the New Galena channel, yet I was still moving sideways. I increased the motor speed and turn right again. I was still slipping sideways in this wind, and I couldn’t see any signs of it on the water in the dark. Another large gust caught the boat and heaved me over again.

Mindy was watching from the ramp and couldn’t understand why she could see the mast light seeming to drift toward the shoreline instead of the docks. She said later she was just amazed; right up until the wind hit her at the shoreline. Then she understood. She went to the truck and pulled the trailer down to the ramps. She was backing it down when I finally turned Lifeline into the docks.

Except that Mindy was on one ramp and I was coming in to the one beside it. There was no chance I was going to get into where she was and ‘drive’ right onto the trailer. Not tonight. Not in this blow. I jumped up from the tiller and grabbed the lines I had on the port side, bringing them onto the starboard. I tied off as securely as I could while Mindy brought the trailer over one lane. The wind was whipping up whitecaps on the open water and the exposed dock was being beaten about handily. I was grateful the wind didn’t let me pull in there. That dock might have gotten on the trailer before I could get the boat on it.

Now, the trailer down in the water put the winch out in knee-deep black and COLD water. I knew I wanted dry clothes in this wind since it was going to take two hours to get the mast down and everything rigged for the road. Mindy hadn’t even thought about being in the water so she was rather surprised when she turned and saw me dropping my trousers and kicking off shoes. She had grabbed the boat hook to push Lifeline out far enough to get onto the trailer while I snapped the winch strap to the bow. It was so COLD my ankles HURT!

I had Lifeline snapped to and hauled to the winch but she was still floating and beating herself on the dock. I jumped up onto the dock and took the boat hook from Mindy. She went to the truck and started inching the trailer up the ramp. It’s really difficult to push on a Catalina 22 with only the point of and/or the hook on the end of a five-foot aluminum pole, against a 25-knot wind! Little-by-little we made it, though, and Lifelike has but a couple degrees ‘heel’ she’ll sit with on the trailer this winter.

The rest of the night went smoothly. The rain didn’t come in ‘til we were near finished. The trees on the shoreline broke the wind once we pulled away from the ramps. The lights at New Galena gave us plenty to work under, and they were almost WARM with their halogen glow. The turnbuckles came loose, the gin-pole snugged tight, and the mast came down slow and controlled (thanks again, Kevin). We pulled away in under an hour-and-a-half, towing my mistress behind me with the help of my wife.

My trousers? Oh, no, I didn’t forget. Those I retrieved as soon as she hauled the boat out. Those overhead lights weren’t really warm…

(It’s really nice to ‘blow’ through a thousand words for fun.  The other three thousand tonight went toward school)

The Moon Filled the Night, Fresh Air Filled My Lungs

The sliver of orange that crested over the treetops gave credence to the possibility that this morning’s eclipse would be repeated this night. There was no real expectation. Like the anticipation of All Hallows Eve brings those who use spooky spoofs, so this creeping splinter of deep amber light seeped into the late evening sky. It teased with that hint of gray it had set with only twelve hours earlier. It is the October moon, hidden last night by the shadow of clouds and rain, come out to survey the wind and water upon which we were sailing.

The persistent breeze just north of west blew stiff enough for the racers to have hoped it would hold for a twice-round-the-course campaign. Gusty it was in the late afternoon dropping off in intensity toward evening as it steadied into a more even stream. I was there for the Night’s Light alone and this same wind that let the others give chase I gave over to Lifeline to pull me north. I trimmed the sails by sitting to starboard and heeling Lifeline over to keep a most northerly course. The wind in my face, I watched the moon over my shoulder, occasionally turning full to face it. It was as if there was a line from Lifeline’s bow to the bridge ahead, then to the moon. As the latter rose steadily into the sky, Lifeline moved steadily north.

It was colder this year than last. The darkness along the shoreline was as black, the moon not fully above the dust and deflection of a deeper atmosphere. Colder, as well, the crickets were quieter. Depending on their voices to warn me to tack wasn’t something to trust as I closed on the eastern shore. The wind rose a bit and gave Lifeline a lift. A few more degrees were all that was needed to clear a point ahead.

The causeway was busy and the wake noise of tires grew as a pounding surf. The moon was higher yet still not full bright so the lights and the noise were the gage for finding the causeway. I held course with care, then with concern, and finally with trepidation. Still I held longer, driving on forward dragging all I could from this northerly path. Now, yes NOW, … time to ‘about.

I let the wind do the work of taking the sails over and pushing them out away from Lifeline on her opposite side. I let the lines run until the course was reversed, then drew them up easy and snug. The moon was now high fully clear of the haze and it bathed Lifeline and I in full bright light. The cast-a-way cushion for crew overboard became a layer of warmth for my bum. I sat in the stern, my back against the ladder. Ahhhhhh…..the wind and the sails did the work.

The moon lit the night, fresh air filled my lungs, and the Spirit was refreshing my soul. Though I prefer to share this deck and the tides with those that I like and I love, this solitude is a respite that is no less than a gift from Above. As with all who seek to convene with their Lord in a manner of meditation, the journey to moments like this comes in the layers of ever spiraling work. The moonlight provides an occasion when full, but other nights likely do as well.

It begins with the commitment to ‘get underway’, the preps and the work on the vessel. There’s the journey ‘out of the channel’ and surveying all that appears. On the lake there are the boats, in the mind there are all those ‘other’ obstacles from the day and the week, and the month,   …and the year that one must work to steer clear. Once ‘on the water’ the sails still need trimmed, the helm attended, and what may creep in from outside. A journey of the soul to touch the Veil and draw strength must permit other ‘boats’ to just pass in the night. As with Elijah in the cave, it is through the winds and the lightning and the storms we let pass that the quiet of God is allowed in.

So it was this night as I sailed down the lake, and the October full moon rose over Alum. In the quiet of the night, with an ever fading breeze, the peace I sought and required came. And my soul opened up, and battles were fought. Mud, water, and sludge were scrubbed away. As the moon bathed my body so God bathed my soul and in His mercy gave me vision and hope.

 

            I find it necessary to bear solitude. However, I am the oldest of eight siblings and have nine cousins on one side of the family and thirteen on the other, so being part of a larger group is the norm for me. It was a gift to be met at the dock at 10p.m. by Reagan Cole, the crew of Sledgehammer, and several others with smiles and working hands. I’ve never not had to tie up my own boat. This night, I couldn’t get a hand on a line before they were all over and tied off. Thanks to all the Alum Creek sailors that bore a hand in securing Lifeline.

Quiet

The wind was light, so light the leaves could not be heard rustling and the flags waved limply from their steady staffs. The docks were quiet. Only one other crew was on deck in a marina filled with nearly a hundred thirty other sailboats. It was a Monday night so the absence of sailors after a full weekend was not unusual. The exception tonight was the boat club meeting at the top of the hill. Not even a quorum showed for that. The water was near still. There were some ripples from the breeze. They were small. Even the fish would make more of a stir.

It was five weeks since I last sailed Lifeline, the longest sailing drought of any year since we became partners on the water. It was three weeks after Bay Week on Lake Erie before I got her back in the water, and that was two weeks ago. I was anxious and frustrated; lacking focus in most things, I did, fighting for sleep every night. Life was keeping me busier than I had been in years. This night I was putting it all aside. I was going sailing.

The night was a significant choice because the moon would be full, the third ‘super moon’ of the summer. The light of the night rose through the tree branches shedding an amber glow on the remaining leaves. Clouds that earlier would have blocked the light were now positioned to reflect it even as their counterparts in the west glowed with the setting amber of the sun. For a moment… only for a moment… the sky was completely glowing.

It had been five weeks so I was taking my time with the preparations. I was avoiding the ‘hurry’ of a racing night and lacking the urgency of having a class start within a short time. I could take my time. The moon would be waiting. The wind was holding, if not rising still. I folded the sail cover and laid it in the cabin instead of throwing it down. I took an extra pause to firmly tug on the knots in the lines. The main halyard fouled around the mast.   It required attention. I had two lines, neither long enough to untangle the halyard alone. I slowly, deliberately tied a sheet bend, tossed one end over the starboard spreader, and watched it fall down the other side. The halyard, properly rigged, now running free.

Norris and Kyoko were the other crew out. They helped me get under way. The motor ran well for having been quiet itself for so many weeks. Another boat was coming in. The noise of both motors held us to hand signals. The channel opened up before me. Lights were already blinking ‘out there’. Another sailboat, some fishermen as well, and two power cruisers coming in slowly. I put Lifeline into the wind and hauled up the sails. I let the wind take her as I turned off the motor and pulled it from the water.

Quiet.

If there is a dream that is sailing where the wind gently pushes the boat onto a heel and the boat gives the balanced response of hugging the wind, this was the how the rest of the evening passed. Lifeline fell off to port and I trimmed up the lines as I felt for the wind. I let my hands, my arms, and my face seek the same embrace as the boat had felt. Once I was in the wind’s arms, I brought the boat over to nestle in on the opposite tack. The moon seemed to be breathing the wind down onto Alum Creek. Lifeline and I settled in for an intoxicating visit.