Sunday, July 6, 2008

Morning musing in the marina.

We actually woke up in two different marinas this weekend. Saturday morning found us at Trade Winds, having sailed there Friday to show Nomad to some friends. We didn’t quite make it to the marina on our own as the engine overheated with about ¼ mile left to go. I was a bit puzzled for a moment after shutting down, not sure what to do next. Deb suggested throwing the anchor into the water, which seemed like a good idea. After some discussion both onboard little Nomad and over the VHF, some soon to be new friends and one old friend from Trade Winds motored out in a monster powerboat to help us the rest of the way to the visitor’s dock. It was an easy fix, (note to self, check the coolant level before leaving the dock) but we spent the night since we were there. That is one of the nice things about a cabin sailboat. Wherever one might be one can also stay for a while since everything needed is along for the ride.

Winds for the sail back to Boulder on Saturday were forecast as light and variable, which turned out to be optimistic. They were more like light and nonexistent. It gave us a chance to play with a different headsail, a big, beautiful, blue and yellow light fabric thing called a “drifter.”

The name is right. The slightest wind will have the boat drifting slowly along. With the drifter, some music, and a few “coldies” we finally made it back to our home slip without resorting to the engine. Silly of course, but we are kind of proud of making it in such light wind.

Today’s winds were forecast for much the same, which turned out to be pessimistic. We left the dock early under drifter and full main and were soon pulling along at a good clip, heeled over and leaving bubbles in our wake. The wind built to the point where we were a little concerned that the drifter might be a bit overmatched. So we changed headsails while underway, another first for us. Later, trying to get home to end the weekend, the winds died off to the point where we changed sails yet again. We take a very deliberate approach to doing things like changing sales. We will not win any races that way, but so far neither one of us has ended up tangled in a halyard, smacked by a wayward boom, or landing in the water.

People often talk of the similarities between flying and sailing. But this weekend put a spotlight on the differences. Shut down an engine in a single engine airplane and things get deadly serious in a huge hurry. In Nomad? Not so much. Toss the hook, get a beer, figure out what to do next. If I had been smart enough to take a little coolant along I could have fixed the problem right then and there. Something that is hardly ever an option with a broken airplane buzzing along in the flight levels.

Navigation in an airplane is basically point and shoot. Sailboat navigation is a matter of seeing what the wind, boat and sails will let you do. (Nomad, for example, will head much more into the wind under jib and full main, less under just the jib, less again under just the main, and doesn’t care much for a downwind run at all with the drifter flying.) After figuring out which directions the boat will go one fits the various headings together like a jigsaw puzzle. Changing winds mean different headings and that changes the puzzle. A good pilot controls an airplane. A sailboat and a sailor have negotiations. Sometimes the best the sailor can do is make a suggestion. Occasionally even that is ignored and the sailor is as much along for the ride as the silverware.

Oh and the horn? Still doesn’t honk nor does the anchor light light. It was only a 3-day weekend.

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