Thursday, November 6, 2008

First Sail

Pardon me if I sound like a vacuous sorority girl, but, I have to say OMG! That was sooo much fun!!!

I bailed on work today and headed down to Willamette Park by myself with my new girlfriend in tow. I stopped at Staff Jennings, under the Sellwood Bridge and picked up an emergency paddle to keep handy in the boat. When I arrived at the boat launch, the river was about as flat and glassy as it could possibly be, with a wet fog hanging on Portland's autumnal-colored West Hills.

I spent about fifteen minutes in the parking lot stepping the mast, rigging the boom, rudder, tiller, and a few other things. I saved myself thirty seconds by not rigging the boom vang until I was underway and discovered a pulley and some line hanging off the boom.

It was a very quiet morning and there was absolutely no wind. I did manage to make some way upriver, but I think it was owing to the tide. Even though we are sixty miles from the ocean, we are affected by tides. I played around with the tiller and was able to make a little way by swinging rudder side-to-side. I'll look in my New Complete Sailing Manual tonight and see if I invented that one, or they already know about it. I suspect the latter. (Nov. 7 update: sculling!)

It was quiet enough that I had lots of time to reflect on things like the five yellow jackets accompanying me on my first voyage in the new dinghy. One of them fell out of the mainsail when I removed the cover and the sail ties in the parking lot. The forward foursome dropped out of the mast when I stepped it.

Yellow Jacket Number One was the liveliest of the bunch. He manned the boom traveler for most of the sail, while his buddies sprawled about the mainmast as though they'd spent the night feasting on leftover picnic spareribs and just couldn't be bothered to move themselves.

I never got much further than a hundred meters from the boat launch, before deciding to work my way back to the start. After about an hour-and-a-half of very peaceful drifting I took a break, moored the boat, and hit a Starbucks nearby for an Espresso Truffle.

Back to the boat (this picture is how she looked when I returned) and underway again. I got a little excited walking down to launch for round two, because I thought I could see some ripples on the water. As I got closer to the boat, however, I realized the rippling was from the flock of geese swimming by. Sigh.

I launched again and this time drifted across and down stream. As I tacked back toward the docks, a breeze started to blow from the South, puffing down river.

I think the time I spent drifting and playing with the tiller and the rigging in light winds was probably the best first thing for a novice sailor like myself, since I was able to sort out the best way to move around in the cockpit, while situating the lines so they were easy to handle without being under any real pressure.

As the breeze started to pick up the boat began to heel over quite a bit. That's when I realized that in the light winds, I had been roll tacking (I think that's what it's called; using body weight to shift the boom and turn the boat) and the boat had been heeling to the side I was on, the leeward side.

With some real wind to work with, I carefully shifted myself to the windward side of the boat, keeping the sails set. The boat immediately leveled out and I could see water moving under the transom. As I approached the dock I tacked back toward the other side of the river, shifted the jib, and began making way across toward Oaks Park and the floating home community on the East side.

At this point YJ#1 took the initiative and moved over to man the port jib sheet. The next time I tacked, however, he had disappeared. As much as I'd like to think he flew off, with the cold wet air and the sluggishness he showed, I suspect he wandered into the centerboard trunk and met his doom.

As I trimmed the sails and played with the centerboard height there were actual ripples coming out from under the transom and I could hear the water moving out of the way as I made about three knots across the water. I fear that if anyone saw me at this point they must have either thought it was wonderful that this grinning idiot was allowed out on the water to experience such joy, or they were scandalized that the group home let one of it's own out on the water alone without a life jacket.

A couple more tacks and another hour had gone by, so I headed in and was able to get the boat trailered, the mast unstepped and everything ready to roll in about twenty minutes. I called my wife then, giddy as the aforementioned tri-delt and she caught the enthusiasm. We are going to try and get out on one or both of the weekend mornings and sail her together.


Christy ~ Central Air said...

OMG - awesome! Great story. Keep 'em coming!

The O'Sheas said...

ohmygaw! Like, I totally WILL! Azif! Yeah!

David said...

Woohoo! As much as I enjoy reading about your big boat dreams, this account of actual little boating with yellow jackets is a gem.

O Docker said...

Wow, this is bringing back all of these memories from our first boat. You are going to have a great time.

Again, don't overlook the San Juans - this would be a great boat up there, and you're only a day's drive away.

The O'Sheas said...

Thanks, O'd. It's on the list. Maybe we'll get a long weekend next summer and get out in the San Juans for a sailing/camping trip.