First solo sail in a lot of wind. It was also a very sunny day, so the lake and dock were quite crowded. In maneuvering the boat around at the end of the dock trying to figure out how to position everything to sail off the dock without hitting anyone, I managed to fall in off the dock. Pulled myself back up without any difficulty, and was dry almost immediately so it was no big deal, but an embarrassing start nonetheless (though no one seemed to notice).
I finally left the dock looking goofy under 2/3 sail, until I could get far enough out I could turn upwind into irons, and finish raising the sail. I need to learn a better knot that I can untie from the boat as I sail up and over it. I think there’s a way, I just need a pole and some time to figure it out.
It was quite windy out, and I was having a lot of fun playing it very close to the wind and heeling out with all my weight trying to read the gusts coming at me. A lot of fun and a lot of work. My arms were getting tired putting so much effort into holding the tiller and main sheet just so. I turned downwind to give my arms a break.
I realized I was on the wrong tack and headed too close to the pier, though still a good way off. I started to pull in the main sheet to jibe. Unfortunately, I dropped the main sheet I was pulling in, a gust picked, and I jibed before I was ready. Boom goes the boom into the back of my head, off to the leeward side goes all my weight and the sail.
I practiced capsize procedures. Unintentionally.
Going over wasn’t too violent, but my leg was tangled in the lines as the sail lay on the water. I untangled myself, swam around and then remembered the sail. Swam back around, released the main halyard, and then back to the underside once more. Put my weight onto the centerboard and up she came. Only to realize, even with the main halyard released the sail was not dropping at all. Wind caught it and it went down on the other side, with enough force to turtle fairly quickly.
My option as this point was to swim under the boat and try to figure out what the halyard was catching on or otherwise ensure the sail was in the right position before I tried righting the boat again. I carry an IP68 (full submersion) rated flashlight on a daily basis, but my bathing suit has no good location for it, so it wasn’t on me. The prospect of going under the boat in the dark water to try and identify what was stuck was not what I was looking forward to. There was a big air pocket so I would have had air and time but identifying the lines in the dark would have been tricky.
I got the boat on it’s side, but couldn’t get it to stay there as the sail was still below water and wanting to make it turtle again. I couldn’t swim around and address it while keeping my weight on the centerboard.
Thankfully a kayaker and power boat came by about this time. The kayaker was able to jump in the water with me and keep his weight on the centerboard so that the boat was again on its side. At this point, I could swim around and not wanting to risk the halyard getting stuck again, I manually pulled the sail all the way down and free of the mast. Probably should have done this the first time around.
With both of us on the centerboard, the boat came over fairly quickly at that point. At which point I got an email and my phone made noise. “Hey, and your phone still works,” said the kayaker. Yup, my waterproof case that lives in my life jacket had kept the phone just fine as I swam around.
Very gracefully (as graceful as a seal), using the kayaker as balance and trying not to further upset the now water filled and tippy boat I slithered in. I opened the scupper and it started to drain with the little movement we had. Not fast enough, but some work with the milk jug and it was at least better balanced. I was not however about to raise the sail and continue sailing. The wind was continuing to pick up, and going over twice, I was done for the day.
The power boat that came along earlier threw me a ski line and pulled me towards the dock. With just a little momentum the boat drained almost immediately and I closed the scupper. Thankfully, while the kayaker had been helping me the power boat had gone around and grabbed my dry bag, my Nalgene, and a bag of gloves whose 30 year old velcro securing it to the hull had come loose. The docked with me and passed my stuff back to me.
I was quite thankfully for them and the kayaker. I think I could have done it without help, but for a first time capsize in this boat, and 15+ years since my last one, it was nice to have help.
- Stuffing into the forward cavity only works so well. Get some large clips/ropes to hold bags, nalgene, and the like to something in the boat.
- Need to replace the main halyard. I think the sail got stuck on the swage in the last 6 inches on the halyard. I couldn’t identify the halyard as being stuck anywhere else. It’s also possible the wet rope against the cleat was too much friction. A better rope than the cheap stuff I bought might help.
- Regardless of if it was the halyard’s fault or just the physics of the righting process, next time bring the sail all the way down manually. This is a time issue as this needs to be done quickly to get back to the underside and get some weight on the centerboard to keep it from turtling completely. I did verify that I have enough weight/strength to roll it over from a turtle myself. It was nice to have help, but I was able to move it myself too.
- Carry the jib! There is no way to reef the main, and it would have been a long paddle back if I didn’t want to pull it all the way up and didn’t have the power boat there.
It was a fun day nevertheless. But my shoulder has an enormous welt running down my back and my head still has a large sore bump. And all my muscles everywhere are sore.