Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Do you know how to sail?

We've had a run of good weather the past 4-5 days and Kris and I launched the dinghy last night with Jared and Nathalie to take advantage of the longer daylight, after-work time and a warm day.

I was first off work, so launched the boat and only had to wait about fifteen minutes before the rest of the crew showed. For the most part it was nice to sit and watch the sailing club races and feel the warm breeze. A couple of kids were fishing, lending the whole thing a bucolic, Huck Finn air, but occasionally the launch would experience a swarm of power boats and things transitioned quickly from Life on the Mississippi, to a night in da club.

The wake boats were out in force, with stereos blasting. A young couple wandered down and stood near me for a while, obviously looking for a ride with friends. I was able to overhear them making a call on their mobile and then a boat slid up with the hip-hop blasting. As the boat operator and the guy on the dock tried to converse with each other it apparently didn't occur to anyone involved to turn the stereo down.





That was about all I could follow, except for the lyrics, which involved a recurring line about being from Miami.

So, time to get jiggy wid it.

On this night, I had two experiences with the jib that reinforced my slowly (very, very slowly) growing knowledge about boat handling. The main turns me into the wind and the jib wants to fall off. When we left the dock I wasn't clear enough to my crew on when to unfurl the jib. As we were falling off with the main, Kris unfurled sooner than I would have liked and we started turning right back into the dock. Without much problem and only a little bit of banging on the dock bumpers, we were able to fall off and do a loop through the launching bay.

The wind was excellent, blowing 8-10 knots upriver (from the North), and the sailing club was having their Monday evening racing session. We headed upwind, downriver, toward them, making four big tacks before falling off and goosewinging it upriver.

As we passed the midriver buoy, Nathalie commented on the floating homes near Oaks Park, something about what it might be like living there. We were set up for a broad reach that would pass us right along the row of homes, so I offered to cruise past them.

We were starting to get the feel for the wind this evening and everybody had their controls in hand as we smartly turned to port, dropped the centerboard halfway and quickly picked up speed across the river.

We were passing within about thirty feet of the houses when the boat started to feel as though it were losing power, or at least making way more leeway than I thought it should.

Sure enough, we were pushed right up on the third house in the row, which of course was the only one with objects sticking out over the water. Pretty quickly, our shrouds were hung up in the plastic poles the homeowner had deployed to hold their jetskis. And just as quickly, a cranky-looking old woman was out on her upper deck staring daggers at us. I wondered why she looked at us with such purpose, when out of her thin-lipped grimace popped, "Do you know how to sail?"

It wasn't so much a question, as an accusation. I answered quickly and lightly, "Well, we're learning!" And then I had the crew furl the jib and hold us off from banging on the dock.

The woman said a few more rude things, which I don't recall and finally came down and pulled the plastic rod out of it's mount, setting us free.

With the jib put away, the main turned us into the wind and we were able to overcome, what I then realized was a strong eddy that pushes right into the homes at this point.

Kris made a very direct comment to the woman, along the lines of, "You could show a little understanding." I think she was irritated that, even though three of us had apologized and nothing was damaged, this woman was absolutely and unrepentantly grumpy.

I guess she's got the right to be, but I also sort of wondered why so early in the season, and how's she going to feel after a whole summer of wake boats roaring by, blasting L'il Wayne and dropping off bikini'ed young ladies to pee on her deck ...

We managed to stay out of trouble for the next half-hour or so, making runs upriver and down and speculating on whether the old biddy was going to be able to return to Dr. Phil uninterrupted after her run-in with the novice sailors.

We've adopted 'Do you know how to sail?' and I'm sure it will be with us for years to come, with many opportunities to toss it out for our own entertainment.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Hella Wind

That's what we had yesterday, hella wind, blowing a steady 10+ kts at all times with bigger gusts. Lots of dinghys on the Willamette, even one keel boat, and a bunch of big keelboats out on the Columbia.

My daughter was up from Corvallis for the day and we took her and her, um, friend out for a sail with us. They seemed to enjoy it, even though a little nervous from the dinghy's rolling disposition and Kris's having told them about my previous adventures.

The wind was blowing upriver, very fresh. We set off from the launch, downriver, upwind, tacking three times and then falling off and goosewinging upriver, downwind for a bit.

We all sort of worked out our postions and rolls by the time we headed back toward the launch, and made an approach in between the heavy fishing boat traffic. The fisherman are on a shortened season here, only allowed to chase anadromous fish on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, so it's chock-a-block at the launch on Saturdays and ghost town on Sundays.

Our first attempt to dock (yes, we failed) ran a bit short, as we dropped the main a bit too soon, with a bit too little speed. We got about ten meters out and then the wind began to push us upriver, even overcoming our attempts to make way with the paddle and sculling the rudder.

We circled around, waited for some crazy boat action to calm down and made another run as one of the boats began to motor up the launch way, as though he were pulling his boat out.

We had to whip back around and head out as Mr. Stinkpot put her in reverse and started backing down on our intended docking spot.

Fortunately, the h 170 turns on a dime as well as it spins on a dime, and we were able to spin and go easily, while Kris said, "C'mon, Mister, make up your mind what you're doing."

The college kids chuckled as we made another spin and headed back in.

We had plenty of speed this time, dropped the main, furled the jib and eased in like we knew exactly what we were doing. Kris stepped off and we were done for the day, the youngsters no less relieved for the feeling of cement under their tender feet.

The rest of the day, Kris and I went up and watched the big boats sail all heeled over in the heavy Gorge winds blowing West on the Columbia, while we dreamed of Cal 43s, IP 480s, and Tayana 55s.


Saturday, April 4, 2009

High Pressure Rolling In

Sailing today! And tomorrow! Exclam key stuck!

Portland is expecting to hit seventy degrees for the first time since October.

If you're on facebook, friend me and you'll get some pics from the dinghy, provided the wind doesn't start blowing and make us do crazy sailor things with those tarps and that tiller-thingy.