Tag Archives: Points of sail

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.


Shakedown and First Sail

Lifeline on Alum Creek Lake

Lifeline on Alum Creek

It was long in coming this season, the first raising of the ‘canvas’ over Lifeline’s deck, so very much of her master’s work necessarily being diverted to his Master’s work.  The latter provided the former with some relief, and in company with His given heart the dock lines were loosed and Lifeline made way.

Whoa…  If I write any more poetically I’ll be on my way to a novel instead of a story.  How many more readers will I lose?

Father’s Day evening turned out to be a wonderful time for shaking down the boat.  The mild southerly drafts raised and lowered as the clouds covered the sinking sun and alternately strained and slacked the rigging.  The stays are not set for the trials of racing as the slack leeward set freely dangled from the mast on either testing tack.  Downwind reaches proved the strength of the new backstay rig, though the whipping holding the ends of the lines and the eyes together showed more attention was required.  Two of seven came undone.  Fair leads spun with precision, boom tackle responded with ease, and the vang worked with the lightest touch.  Only the main halyard challenged us, and our gratitude goes out to our shipmates whose party we held up when they attempted to tack.

The weekend must have been a party for the rest of those at the docks.  Only three other sets of sails were raised while we were out, including the afore mentioned revelers.  While she was the largest of the vessels, another Catalina was sprinting about.  And, our neighbors from B31, ‘Vestal’ graced the water as well.

I put Lifeline through a rotation around the compass.  A starboard tack took us across the lake once the main was set.  Mindy flipped on the GPS and speed sensor and we watched those as we eased across toward the Galena ramp.  We came about when we reached the wake buoys and beat to port towards the spillway.  From midway across the lake I fell off the wind to a beam reach, then to a broad reach, and we jibed to the opposite tack and on around until we were close hauled to starboard again.  It was enough.  Lifeline proved ready to sail.

logo bright

The above is a ‘stock’ picture, taken north of South Bass Island on Lake Erie.  Sailors on Alum Creek lake will periodically see the Donate Life logo and know it is ‘Lifeline’.

I fell back off to a starboard beam reach, then back down to run up the lake. Back and forth I jibed the boat while Mindy took some supper.  We packed a simple fare of meat, cheese, and Ritz, a couple bananas, with water and Gatorade to quench the thirst.  We switched so I could enjoy the same and my evening was set when I heard her say, “This is fun!”  Our shakedown became an evening sail, near to the Cheshire causeway and back, and though the two hours did not quite bring us to meet the near full moon, it was enough to satisfy the long winter break.

Our ‘Blessing of the Fleet’ was prayed as we beat back south. Prayers were given at the dock in the past.  This ‘first sail’ evening was made for such devotion, and together we read from Psalms and sang.  Mindy and I have been blending our voices for forty years.  On the water this night we blended them with the beating of the breeze on sails and waves on the hull.  We offered prayers for the safety of those on deck, of Lifeline and all other boats on the lake this year.

She is forty-two years old, Lifeline is.  Her wood is clean, but needs some attention again if only a bit of oil.  Her gel-coat shows the cracks of age and stress, and her deck needs a coat of wax to help keep it clean.  She sports a new tiller, the old one finally splitting from years of tension.  Each year a few new lines replace older and worn ones.  She’s a fine ‘sea bird’ as one screen writer called another vessel, and continuous attention to her will provide a few more years of calm evening sails and exciting challenges of racing.  Her crew looks forward to both in the coming months.

Sailing Instructor

I have copies of the Blessing of the Fleet aboard, should anyone be interested in sharing the same for their vessel.  Ours is a decidedly Christian prayer in the traditions of European seaports.

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.


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.


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.

…and the Glow Sticks Are Still Glowing

My wife and I are cleaning up the house this morning after a family party on our acre-and-a-quarter that lies across the county road from Alum Creek State Park. It’s a happy chore as my siblings and two of our children’s families were here, one visiting from Florida and another from ‘just down the road’. Mom and my brother and sisters have to travel just over an hour to get here so it’s an extra honor they chose to make the trip on a holiday when they all live only a few minutes apart from each other in our hometown. The yard is mostly picked up from yesterday, everyone naturally lending a hand to put away the croquette set, pick up the balls and bats from the game, and clearing all the food and trash away into proper receptacles. The Florida family is off to continue their summer trek, heading for New York State and I head to the basement to see what needs to get put away down there. And there they are, still bright and light in the red, white, and blue pattern hanging on the line.

The glow sticks are still glowing and an instant reminder of the glow of the night before as twelve of us covered the deck of my Catalina 22, Lifeline. Five adults and seven kids, age’s four to eleven (the kids ages and the adults’ equivalent anticipation) were motoring out onto the lake for the fireworks celebration of this Fourth of July. Our local sailing association joins with the local Power Squadron and any other volunteer boats to create a lighted boat parade for those thousands watching from the shore at Alum Creek State Park near Columbus in central Ohio, USA. Red, white, and blue chemical lights outlined the rigging fore-to-aft.

Earlier during the week, my daughter helped measure the distance up the backstay of the sailboat. We tied a quarter inch twisted nylon line to the main halyard and hauled it up to the top of the mast. She held the halyard taut while I pulled the line to the aft rail and marked the spot. We pulled the line down, replaced the halyard, and then wrapped the quarter inch line around a wooden yardstick. Four wraps and one length, twenty-seven feet. We did the same for the forestay and came up with twenty-five. Off to the local big-box store and I counted out twenty-seven four-inch chemical lights in the three patriotic colors. Eight necklace glow sticks were also taken for the package. I entertained some of my family during conversation in the afternoon with the tying of the lights to a section of the line used to measure, splicing an eye in one end of that and an end splice at the bitter end.

Aboard Lifeline, my son-in-law and I managed to get one of the kids to help with each of the tasks. We tried first to get them all to break the lights and shake them. The lights were too tough for the little hands. The wands were a different story, though, and each in turn was snapped and shook with the glee only children know of with such things. The adults snapped and shook the sticks. Then one child in turn hauled up the sticks aft and another the necklace wands, tied parallel to the line they were on, hauled up forward. The sun was still shining over the trees to the west and its rays overpowered the lights. The decorating was done and it was time to get under way.

July 4th collage 070414
The boys had said they wanted to handle the helm and with them at ages seven and nine I was excited to let them steer. But sitting forward of the mast is a much more exciting draw for these kids all total, and when the boys were directed by ‘Mamie’ to sit forward they were only too happy to oblige. One of the mothers was sitting all the way forward so they were bound to be somewhat restrained. The girls sat, four of them back-to-back amidships under the boom, just aft of the mast. Mamie was standing in the open hatch, and the other mother and one dad were back aft with me. The youngest, frustrated he could not get forward as well, was fidgeting in the cockpit between the four of us.

A steady stream of boats was leaving the marina to join whatever awaited on the open lake. The roaring of a few more powerful speed boats could be hear through the trees and down the channel. Running at idle speed we were only boat lengths apart from each other and working to match our speeds so as not to run up on each other. Changing motor speed is easy, one just throttles down. Slowing a boat in motion is another thing. Reversing the motor works, but is not so easy on outboard motors on sailboats. Other boaters on the lake were heading toward the beach area to the south and not a few were ignoring the channel markers. Changing speed was a frequent maneuver and when the lead boat in the channel had to slow, the train of boats behind pressed up one-to-another. Still, we were all moving slow enough to avoid the crossing pattern and head up the lake a mile to the marshalling point for the parade.

Alum Creek Sailing Association was well represented and the ‘crew’ on Lifeline had many ‘honors’ to render, saluting ‘Raven’ and Penguin II, Half Baked and La Vita, Lady, JOATMON, and Wicked Pissa. Time and Change sped toward the group and joined those circling. Wind Swept motored along-side Lifeline for some time. Many, many more sailboats were circling off shore from the State marina. A Coast Guard Auxiliary boat was holding station just outside that channel, amber safety lights turning. Some powerboats were with the sailboats outside. The bulk of those came out from the State marina all at once. The USCG Aux boat’s lights switched, and the white and red emergency lights signaled the start of our parade!

Thirty-foot power boats lined in all white, pontoon boats at twenty- and thirty-feet sported flags and red, white, and blue holiday lights. Some boats carried pinwheels, others those tubular kites trailing streamers. Those sailboats carrying similar lights switched them on and all moved as one behind the lead boats. One sailboat was flying half-dozen star-spangled banners from its foremast. Another had red holiday lights strung from its masthead to its boom, and blue ones from the masthead to the foredeck. Still another had electronic controlled lights that shown as comets or fireworks scattering all about its sail area in all the colors of the rainbow. This was Raven, and Lifeline’s crew liked this display the best.

A hundred plus boats all traveling in the same direction on Alum Creek Lake and in the dusk of the night was somewhat tedious to begin with. The sun was behind the trees and the lighting of the boats was unusual, when ahead of Lifeline a boat was showing its port broadside. “What is happening?” ran through my head as Half-Baked’s sun decal shown full ahead of me. There was time and room to slow and motor behind her, but I had to wonder what caused one of my shipmate skippers to come fully about inside the flotilla. My starboard turn showed me the answer. They had lost a cockpit pillow over the side and were coming back to retrieve it! “Curious time for a crew-overboard drill” I hollered at the skipper as we passed port-to-port. He laughed and both of us returned our gazes towards the other boats. His situation was the more precarious and I was happy to be clear of his intended path.

This event filled most of the attention of the space between the State marina and our own inlet, as we were now passing back down the lake to the south. Still more sailboats were heading out and my favorite appeared at the outmost marker in the channel. Sledgehammer was flying what looked to be a U.S. flag to be four or five foot along the hoist. The banner was reminiscent of the original Star-Spangled Banner, so large it was and such a statement it was making! Sledgehammers lights were mostly the lit-up tubular novelties the crew was waving on deck. There was no mistaking what the primary décor was.

Many of the parade boats peeled off the formation as we passed the secured area of the water from which the fireworks would be launched. These headed toward their selected anchorages. I steered Lifeline into the single line that was forming behind the Coast Guard, Sledgehammer some boat lengths ahead of me. The crowds cheered the parade, a gala of flashes from the shore. Yet, more flashes from the water. The parade course steered was flanked on both the shore side and the lakeside by anchored boats and their crews. Lifeline and the other crews were the subject of joyous observation and waved back at those cheering, surprised to be in the focus of so many on-lookers. We followed the several boats that remained in the parade past the four-hundred yards of beach.

It wasn’t over for us yet. There were thousands more spectators on top of the dam that marked the end of our southward course. We came to port and motored across the water, each parade boat to its own chosen point to observe the anticipated fireworks. Lifeline motored for a half-mile past the dam before I turned her back north toward the east side of the lake and left the spectators behind. There is a wake marker along the eastern shore we call ‘B’ for our local sailboat races. We know the water is shallower there and only a few boats chose to watch from that area. It is directly opposite our inlet channel on the west side of the lake.

The air was chilling as the boat turned into the wind. The children began shivering and one sweatshirt was passed around for two of them to huddle under together before it was passed to another pair. The rest huddled closer to one another while waiting their turns. I slowed Lifeline to a stop by idling the motor and turning first to port and then to starboard. She began to move backward in the wind and waves and I had my foredeck crew lower the anchor. Thirty feet went out before it hit bottom. I had them run out another thirty feet. For a longer-term anchorage, I should put out a minimum of five times the depth of water beneath the keel. I decided we would be ‘ok’ for the short term, watched the shoreline at two places, and was rewarded with a ‘holding station’ for the duration of the fireworks.

My shipmates from Alum Creek Sailing Association had not embellished at all when they described the sight of multiple fireworks from the lake. Directly across the lake, a mile off, we watched the sponsored event in full brilliance, doubled in delight by the reflection off the water of every spark and glint! Over the trees, we watched the lights from the cities of Delaware to the north and west, from Powell to the west. To the south and west were the fired delights of Worthington and directly south the city of Westerville entertained. What we thought were echoes of our own pyrotechnics turned out to be a show of sparkling explosions from the area of Sunbury or New Galena. All around the horizon the sky was exploding with color and drumming with sound. Not a child mentioned the chill on their skin, nor the need for the sweatshirt, not a child of any age. It was a wonderful show.  And those glow sticks, they are still glowing, but not as brightly as the glow in my heart for the wonderful memory I have of the glowing faces of my crew.

First Fireworks over Alum Creek Lake  photo credit Carrie E. DeNote

First Fireworks over Alum Creek Lake photo credit Carrie E. DeNote


The trip back was uneventful, if we discount the one boat motoring backwards and another crew shining a spotlight in the faces of others trying to navigate the channel. The more profound and important memory I want to share is the comment from one of my adult crew members, about how she hoped those who suffer from PTSD might be able to still enjoy such celebrations. I am career Navy and though I served in the Red Sea for Desert Shield and Desert Storm, I am aware that the Navy has seen little in war-at-sea as compared to other generations. Ashore is a different story these last fifteen years, since the 9-11 events and the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. Thousands answered this country’s call and no matter the politics, they served and sacrificed. The celebration of this day is due to the same service and sacrifice of our predecessor patriots, who believed in the freedoms written in the Declaration and the Constitution that it bore. I wish too, that those so recently and so deeply affected, physically and mentally, might at some level be able to appreciate that which we celebrated this day.

24 Hours Later

Wednesday evening I was sailing with the racing fleet, because I could as well as to let them know I was still about the marina.  The extended winter and the lateness of getting Lifeline on the water, as well as focusing on graduate school kept me out of the Spring Red Cup series of racing.  This is my social group, though, and I missed my shipmates.  I wanted to be on the water with the fleet.

This next night, Thursday, is for the broader community, though, and for my shipmate Vicki who is managing our Learn-to-Sail program this year.  I did the same two years back.  Supporting the LTS Chair is important to Alum Creek Sailing’s association goal of promoting the sport.  It’s a good excuse to get down to the marina and onto the water, too, as if I need one of those!

There are thirty new participants in this, the second program of the season.  Vicki needs ten skippers and boats.  We provide her with eleven, and that leaves me without anyone to take aboard when they are all spread out across the teams’ vessels.  I’m single-handing, again.  (maybe I have an off-putting aura?)

The other skippers have some teaching to do but I just have myself.  The wind is light.  The flags on the mast up the hill are wafting lightly.  There is no breeze in the marina.  My gas tank is back home in the garage, waiting for me to fill it.  Lifeline is in her slip, in a ‘crook’ of the docks, by design.  I’m not sailing out.  I’m not motoring out.  Looks like I’m sculling her out to the channel.

Sculling?  That’s rocking the boat side to side, letting the shape of the hull and the weight of the keel move the boat forward.  It is a small boat technique and Lifeline is just on the upper cusp of being a small boat at twenty-two feet long and two-thousand pounds.  At two-forty myself, I constitute ten-per-cent of Lifeline’s displacement and that is plenty of weight to rock her from side-to-side.  It takes me ten minutes to go the hundred yards to the channel.

There’s a westerly blowing this evening and the line of trees along the channel draw in plenty of draft from it.  I immediately raise both sails at the end of the docks and I’m being pulled along directly.  The speed tack reads half-a-knot.  It’s a nice, gentle pull.  The other skippers with their charges are motoring out and the lessons begin as to the right-of-way of sail over power is raised to their crews.  Some motor ahead, others are still coming from behind, others are already to be seen on the water, mainsails up and drawing.  All are heading north up the lake.Pan Vida LTS 061214

The wind is gentle and steady.  I come to port. Turning left the sails fill.  The breeze is strong enough to keep the sails full and the sails are so balanced tonight I can take my hand off the tiller and ride.  Picking up my cell phone I have the chance now to take some photos of the activity this evening.

Tom Werhung LTS 011214

The sun was setting and a couple of the boats turned back south toward the dam and the inlet.  I kept Lifeline pointed north with a couple others.  There was something to be seen or done yet this evening and I wanted to know what it was.  Onward we road the wind.

Then this…

LTS at sunset 061214

…and this…

sunset behind sail 061214

Day was done.  Gone the sun, from the lake(s), from the hills, from the sky.  All was well.  Safely rest.  God is One.

All the other boats were at the south end of the lake.  Ralph had La Vita heading back past Lifeline, leaving her and I the sole traversers near the causeway.  We came about and waited….

…for this…

full moon rise over alum 061214

I stayed out late.  It was the first day of my vacation and I had no reason to go back in a hurry.  A couple hours later, Lifeline and I were still sailing with the moon as our companion.

full moon behind jib 061214 01


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!