Tag Archives: Rigging

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)


Two students, Ten Knots

Water sports at Alum Creek State Park photo credit Megan Musselman, Columbus OH

Water sports at Alum Creek State Park
photo credit Megan Musselman, Columbus OH

Summer Sundays bring the learners to our sailing marina.  When the mission of the Association is ” To Promote the Sport of Sailing”, sailing education has to be foremost.  It is for Alum Creek Sailing Association…er…well…  ok, it’s a secondary effort, but the first of the secondary efforts.  Captain Morgan has the first say…ah…well…at the local watering hole, after sailing, of course (just in case someone ‘official’ is reading).  Anyway, I digress quickly… too quickly.

Adult learn to sail brought us nine new sailors this spring and I had two of them aboard Lifeline for the forth week of class.  Mother’s Day and Memorial Day weekend stretched our class out and this made the sixth week since we’d met.  That meant more time for studying the books between classes and these two swabs (Captain Ron says we all start out as swabs) had been hitting the books.  They were well versed with their vocabulary and understood directions in ‘the lingo’.  Port, starboard, windward, l’ward, tack, and points-of-sail all were understood quickly, though pushing the tiller to l’ward was something that needed some polishing up.

We beat our way upwind and since the wind was SSE we were generally headed toward the south end of the lake coming out of our inlet (getting confused yet?  ‘up’ is ‘down’ and ‘out’ is ‘in’). The tacks, or directions we headed the boat were toward the boat ramps across the lake and back toward the beach, alternating direction to work our way to the wind.  Each in turn, the students took the tiller to practice.  We were getting a good ride in the increasingly steady breeze.

The breeze made practicing what we had been discussing for week easy to accomplish.  Both of the swabs were able to swing Lifeline up to a floating buoy and stop within a boat hook’s reach (one never wants to actually ‘capture’ a navigation buoy).  Falling off the buoy for the last time we beat out into the middle of the lake for another exercise, as most of the power boats and jet skis were running along the shore lines.

“Crew overboard,” shout/throw/point (STP, yes the oil treatment commercials makes this one a bit easy to associate actions with).  Out went the red floatation cushion (so it could be seen on the water.  I demonstrated the figure eight method taught by USSailing.  If I had done so well two year ago I would have passed my instructor’s certification.  Twice we worked Lifeline around the cushion and twice we came right to it.  Then it was their turn and four times running we were right along side.  Then the quick turn, in turn, and still we were right on top of the mark with each effort.  Until the last…Try as they may we could not get close enough to hook the cushion when we wanted to pick it up.  I took the helm and still it was two more attempts before we were close enough.  But we hooked it.  All together we were more times successful than ‘knot’.

One note I emphasized.  The most common error in a crew overboard recovery attempt is to head directly to the swimmer.  Nearly every new helmsman will do this.  ‘Don’t’, I cautioned them, “you’ll miss every time.  Approach the swimmer on a close reach, at an angle, and just like stopping at the buoy, luff the sails and pull right up to them, stopping when they are along side.”

But even a more common error, especially this time of year, is every skipper and crew failing to practice this maneuver.  Drilling isn’t just for students.  Knowing how to recover a lost crewman is key to boating safety and the boat’s coordination.  Every skipper needs to know how his/her boat will handle in such an emergency.  The actions should be rote.

We finished our sail heading for the sun as it was hovering over our inlet.  We let the wind blow us in until the trees shadowed it from the sails, then rev’d up the motor and furled sails as we approached the slip.  Three hours, ten knots of wind toward the end, and two well exercised swabs made for one terrific day on the water.


Flying ‘Donate Life’

See where I’m at:  http://www.charts.noaa.gov/OnLineViewer/14844.shtml

(Click on the photos and they’ll fill your screen)

I did not stay aboard Lifeline while attending the Bay Week festivities.  Not that she is too small to my liking but she is too small and lacks the most primitive of accommodations that would facilitate a more comfortable stay with my wife on board.  We stayed in a hotel on the mainland for the three nights of the festival.

I wasn’t really surprised when I arrived at the docks on Friday morning to find most of the fleet already ‘out to sea’.  The races all started at 0920 and I didn’t arrive until just after 0900.  I was surprised when the inboard boat, Discover, was gone and the outboard boat’s skipper chided me for him having to move my boat.  If there was any glitch in the fine work of the Dock Masters it was that what we describe as a ‘support boat’ was tied up next to a competing one.  That would be corrected today and I was moved to the forth breasted out boat on the other side of ‘A’ dock.  This is where Lifeline looked more like a dinghy than a part of the fleet.

'Laughable' but full of pride

Forth breasted boat out.

And like a dinghy, on the third night, Saturday, the wind shifted to come out of the North and blew right into Put-in-Bay.  Lifeline was the furthest boat out and the only boat breasted out forth.  That made her a ‘scoop’ for the wind and pulled the whole group backwards as the wind blew down.  Not being aboard, I was not part of the scramble to keep our group from bouncing off the power cruisers behind us.  Staying aboard is important, and I know this from the Navy.  I was fortunate to have Dock Masters come from our club, and they were more considerate than I might have expected others to be.

Again, my thanks to Gordon Fowler and Brian Ross of Alum Creek Sailing Association, as well as the crew and skippers of the boats I was breasted out from.

My ‘mission’ today was to raise my ‘Donate Life’ foresail to promote signing up for the organ donor registries in Ohio and Michigan primarily.  This has been a goal for me since arriving back in Ohio.  My wife has been a donor coordinator for fifteen years now.  I gave over my time to volunteer for Lifeline of Ohio1 while looking for work.  That gave me an opportunity to help promote the concept with a year of volunteer work.  I got the idea to put the Donate Life logo on the sail watching video from the Volvo Ocean Race and seeing how they promote their sponsors.  Today I would make my debut in the sailing community among the 75 or so yachts racing and the surrounding islands.

logo bright

The westerly wind made a circumnavigation of Middle Bass Island an easy task.  I reached northward.  It inverted the logo on the sail, but the logo is pretty bright in the colors on the Dacron and is still visible over my port side in this configuration.  The mulit-hull fleet was off to port and I was about a half mile off the shore.  Local knowledge was lacking.  I’d sailed aboard another boat as crew in the October 2009 Fall Bay Regatta aboard Foghorn, an S2 9.2 out of North Cape Yacht club.  I was retracing the route of that trip today, but forgot about the reef between Middle Bass and Sugar Island, just to its northwest (see the NOAA chart link).  I had a new chart plotter, courtesy of my wife at Christmas, and I learned quickly enough I was not going between these islands.  I came about and beat back windward to circle Sugar Island.

Multihull race day three from the south

Multihull race day three from the south

The sun was being shrouded by a blanket of clouds.  That was good for two reasons.  The first was it kept me from being cooked in the sun.  I don’t sail with my bimini up, it keeps me from tending the mainsail.  The second was the increase in the westerly wind velocity.  It was perfect for flying the sails wing-on-wing and doing so filled out the foresail very well.  It would be a ‘banner’ day for showing the logo.  I was able to run the whole length of Middle Bass Island’s north shore.  Coming behind me were some of the larger catamarans.  They blew by me as though I was stuck on that previously mentioned reef, but smiling as they did.  Coming from the other direction were some cruisers who chose the opposite direction for the circumnavigation.  As they were beating upwind while I was running down, they were smiling and waving as they sat on their rails.  This was the most fun of the day.

In case you haven’t pulled up the NOAA chart, Middle Bass extends under the surface for several hundred yards past it’s visible termination and I needed to sail ‘round the buoy marking the end of that reef.  Coming to starboard I was crossing that stronger westerly and it continued to grow with the day’s progression.  Still, Lifeline and I were able to handle full sails.  The cruising fleet regatta was now in sight of us, and though few might be looking in my direction, those that did were able to see the Donate Life logo brightly gleaming back at them.

Lifeline and I had some trouble as we cleared the lee of Middle Bass Island, though.  Heeling over wasn’t the problem.  Catching the sail on the anchor was.  I haven’t modified my anchor’s rigging and it hangs suspended on the bow pulpit as was the design at the time she was built.  This puts the flukes and their cross bar up where a tacking sail can catch on them, and the foresail did just that.  The light winds that started the day would have allowed me to ease about and free the canvass, but the current conditions would not.  She just started to wrap around the forestay.   “THAT’s not going to happen.  No, no, no, no…” I thought.  I might have even said it, or shouted, but as no one else was there to hear me, it’s of no consequence.  The ‘energy’ of those words was present on the boat and I loosed the jib halyard and headed her up then went forward.

Now, stand by for the lesson learned….I was wearing my manually inflatable life vest, a safety must on my vessel when single handing, especially in ‘big’ water like the lake.  And I almost needed it, as  being on my knees and pulling the sail down wasn’t quite enough of a balanced position as the wind kicked the boat around and the waves pushed over the bow.  I was wet , the sails were wet, and the deck was wet and I ‘almost’ took a swim.  But I managed to get the sail down and put the bungee over it to keep it mostly on deck.  The sheets were all  twisted and to keep them from pulling the sail about in the wind I removed them from the clew.  It was curiosity that hit me as I clasped them onto the mast and noted that Lifeline was sailing herself on a port tack.  I had not loosed the main sheet and the tiller had caught on its own tending line.  Maybe the boat sensed I was going to fall over and sailed herself under me and gave me a steady ride?  It’s a great idea for a fantasy story, but my error in not losing the main sheet put my boat under way with no one at the helm.  This would have been a problem in tight quarters, such as might be found within the race course boundaries.  Tactically having the anchor mounted as it is caused a situation of concern in safely operating the boat.  The money spent at Catalina Direct on a new anchor mount for my bow will be money well spent before the next open water trip.

The jib was down and now the sailing was slower but far better controlled.  I needed three tacks between Ballast Island and Middle Bass to make it upwind to the harbor.  I used the lee of the west footprint of Middle Bass to my advantage and progressed well toward the remains of the old winery.  Clearing this part of the island again I needed to go back and forth from port to starboard tacks one more time before having a straight shot into the harbor.  My only disappointment was that with the foresail down I was not showing the logo.  Few would be able to see and none would discern the same logo on the pennant at the top of my mast.  That was mostly for in-port identification but I left it flying all the time.

Thursday Aug 1 2013

Approaching Put-in-Bay from Ballast Is

It was a terrific day on the water!  Just being among the fleets was a thrill for me.  Making the debut of the Donate Life logo goal completed a three year vision and commitment I’d made to myself for the program.  Over 106,000 people are waiting for life-saving transplants nation-wide in the United States and more than 3,000 of those are in Ohio. (note 3) Ohio allows for voluntary registry through the Department of Motor Vehicles upon driver’s license renewal.  One person volunteering can affect up to eight (8) other lives through organ donation and help improve the life-style/mobility of upward s of fifty (50) others through tissue donation, which include giving someone a new set of eyes.  The DonateLifeAmerica organization can help you find the means for you to register in your state in the U. S. www.donatelifeamerica.net.

solstice setting sun over alum 2013

Tomorrow Mindy will join me and we’ll sail out to where the perf fleet are showing their colors!

(1) Please note there is no financial relationship between Lifeline of Ohio and Lifeline Sailing.  The name similarity is a coincidence of the entendre’ of the name between the importance of lifelines on a sailing vessel and the name of the central/southeast Ohio Organ Procurement Organization.

(2) The operations and maintenance of Lifeline Sailing are funded by my personal budget and any sales of my book From Tampa to the Cape, Eight Days Around the Florida Peninsula; available through www.iuniverse.com under the nom de plume’ John Louis.  The book is available in soft cover and e-format and also available through Barnes and Noble.  (I’m somewhere around 450,000th on the best sellers’ list.  Marketing, don’t you know)

(3) Facts and figures; organ donation needs; http://www.lifeconnectionofohio.org/donat_facts.html  updated since writing the article


The rigging is loose

Isaiah 33: 23  Your rigging hangs loose;

it cannot hold the mast firm in its place,

or keep the sail spread out.

One of the threads of life that makes sailing so wonderful for me is that the scriptures of the Judeo-Christian tradition are woven so well into it.

Yesterday was a terribly challenging day for me.  I’m working as an electrical/electronic repairman at a local university, so when a simple heater/fan comes in I should be able to fix it in under an hour.  But I didn’t.  I had the device apart, together, apart, together five times and finally broke a connection I didn’t think I could repair.  All the while the blood pressure is rising and the anger is boiling.  I’m getting more and more rough at the workbench, which is to say that I was beginning to hammer things, first with my hands and next with my screw driver (I don’t have a ‘crescent-hammer’, I work with electricity).  I was ready to use a sledge hammer if I could find one when my boss came over and asked if he could help.  I guess six hours of listening to me was enough for him.  Thirty minutes later the device was repaired and he handed it back to me for an operational test.

I didn’t stop there, though.  I went home with all that just festering within me.  I was planning to get ready to go sailing, trailering Lifeline to Lake Erie with my sister for the weekend.  Hooking up the trailer I discovered the lights weren’t working.  Looking under the truck’s bumper I found broken and corroded wires where there were supposed to be electrical connections.  Six hours later those lights still weren’t working.  And I was livid!  My wife tried humor and I just got more and more angry.  I couldn’t even figure out the correct repair with a $20 schematic I’d taken time to go purchase.  A simple circuit and this former space shuttle electrical test engineer still couldn’t fix the wiring.

Now, I’m a promoter of the ideas written down by many of the self-help gurus.  I favor the writings of Dale Carnegie and Stephen Covey myself.  Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich is a classic for me.  All these methods of conceiving an idea, believing in it, and working to achieve it match up quite well for me with “Ask and you shall receive, seek and you shall find, knock and it will be given you.”  But what happened to me that I can’t even conceive, believe, and achieve to fix a heat gun or trailer wiring?

I forgot to tighten my ‘rigging’.  In spite of knowing all I think I know and in spite of what I have done in the past I still need to continue to work to “conceive and believe” in the work of the Almighty.  Anger clouds discernment.  Frustration is nothing more than a fog to the mind.  Capitulating to these two creates a storm internally that will not let me see what it is I need to see to guide my life.

Last week I tuned my rigging on Lifeline to hold the sails better.  Today I’m reading scripture to tune the rigging of my principles, and to work to live better the faith I profess, and leave the anger and the frustration in the septic tank where it belongs.

And I think I can see how the lighting should work now, my mind illuminated anew with the Light.