Three boats in the fountain…

Yesterday, Sassy and I had our second outing of the season upriver. The day was sunny, but the winds were borderline for both of us (normally this would not have been the case, but this is the onset of the season after a long and weird winter as landlubbers). The wind was West with gusts at 15-20 Kts. with long lulls in between. We decided to chance it…  Burton was coming out in “Restless”, his handsome Compac 19, and Kirill and Natalya were doing the same in their uniquely junk-rigged PC23 (actually, they were trying a new experimental sail). Sassy motored uneventfully to the port entrance, but soon enough she was a toy in the swell fetching from upriver. Eventually she made it into the main channel past the K1 buoy and was able to head to wind, albeit at the expense of the Tohatsu pushing harder than usual and the ST-1000 trying to keep her heading upwind. The sail came up half way with ease, but then hell happened, suddenly, as it usually does… Something was hindering the headsail from being hoisted further than mid mast. From the corner of my eye I saw a large sailing vessel in full sail, overtaking Sassy on her starboard side. It was coming close to less than a boat length. I yelled. No change. I turned to face the outboard and managed at the last second, to turn Sassy to port and avoid the collision. Both hulls missed each other only by a few feet. Yes, it was a sailboat and Sassy was technically a motorboat, but this was not a crossing, it was an overtaking situation and a much better knowledge of the Colregs (or even a more sensible seamanship) should have applied on the side of the helmsperson (she was not a helmsman…) of the large sailing vessel. Luckily nothing happened and the sailboat proceeded undeterred on its original course. However, Sassy’s mainsail was still half-way up and she was heeling to port with the mast close to the water. Suddenly I realized which was the problem: the downhaul was badly tangled. No time to untangle it, time to use the rigging knife… and soon the sail went up gaff and all. I switched the outboard off and we were sailing:

Photo of Sassy by Natalya Belaya, from the deck of Woodpecker… Thank you Natalya!

It was a comfortable sail between gusts. Kirill and Natalya were doing fine in Woodpecker with their very flexibly special sail and Burton was sailing Restless full-and-by as if the wind had been half its speed. Here is Restless, abeam under Sassy’s boom:

But stronger gusts were coming. I could easily spot their darkness on the waters upwind. After a while, it started to be uncomfortable both for Sassy and for myself. I should have reefed… As it is usually the case, the moment this thought occurs in one’s mind, it is already too late… I decided to try it nevertheless. With the centerboard down I let the mainsail loose to port and latched the tiller to leeward… Sassy was now hove-to to starboard… I brought the boom closer to the port railing and let the sail down a few feet (it came down easily, even if by then I had no downhaul with which to force it down). Sassy’s reefing lines attached to cleats on the starboard side of the boom and I managed to bring both the tack and the clew down without much trouble. Then, the three vessels sailed for a while, meeting each other in the main channel of the river.

However, the channel soon started to get crowded: many sailors avid for a place on the water after fifteen months of seclusion, and also many new sailors, and motorboaters — one hopes all fully certified…

Restless was the first to turn in, and Sassy followed suit. Woodpecker decided to do as the “Chêne” in Lafontaine’s fable: “Le chêne et le roseau”: She tried to brave “l’effort de la tempête”… or perhaps she does more like the much smarter “Roseau”…  Either way it was not long before she too came back to her finger-dock in the marina. Here is the record from the Garmin aboard Sassy:

It was fantastic to meet Burton and Kirill and Natalya both on the water and at the docks…