Monday, May 18, 2009

Drop kicked by a big Cat

I almost lost a fingernail, a running jib sheet left a rope burn behind, and I didn't pay enough attention to the main sheet, (which on this boat is a 1/2 inch line on a 4X block that runs from the deck to the end of the boom, about 7 feet). As a result I got caught flatfooted by a jibe, upended by the main sheet and unceremoniously dumped over the seat back and onto the cockpit floor. (That one is going to leave a mark in the morning.) We think we got an overheat warning from one engine and the head sail has a small tear in it that may mean I'll need to ride the bosum's chair to the top of the mast before we can leave in the morning. It was a perfect day!

(Here's a picture of me holding the main sheet, safe at the dock. The boom is that big chuck of metal still a couple of feet over my head. As you can see, when that thing is being pushed by 20+ knots worth of wind, one needs to get out of the way.)

How can I say that? Because it was too much fun. At one point the winds were gusting to near 30 knots, the bay was lumped up with whitecaps, spay flew from the leeward bow, and I had the autopilot ( cool is that?) holding our heading. We could have been a part of a "learn to sail" commercial. (They would cut out the "throw his dumb ass around the cockpit" part.)

Deb was a little disappointed that we weren't perfect on this, our first try at a big cat. But I think differently. During the man overboard drills we got Lady Marian stopped within a couple of feet of "Wilson" (a yellow ball on a rope) on the first try. I thought that was pretty good but Wilson, lacking arms, legs and a brain, couldn't swim the last few feet for me to catch him with a boat hook. We got within a couple of feet on several more tries before I snagged his little yellow butt and dragged him back on board. (It was a bit lumpy out there and I didn't want to end up in the water with him. Man overboard practice is one thing, actually having a man overboard is quite another.) Of course, once I did get him on board our instructor tossed him over again so we could practice some more. Nice guy, our instructor, but I don't think he likes Wilson. Anyway, we got out, we did uncounted tacks and jibes, hove too, had lunch, saved Wilson a couple of times, and made it back in. We are a bit tired, a bit sore, and I have a claw mark or two, (reminders from Lady Marian that stupid can hurt) but I think we did pretty well.

We didn't actually learn anything new about sailing. Tacking, jibing, points of sails, systems; all are just like what we do on Nomad. But it is a matter of scale. Nomad never has us in a spot where the ropes controlling the sails can't be manhandled into place. Not so with Lady Marian. Once loaded the monster sails on this thing make pulling the sheets in any tighter impossible. The rigging is massive, don't let digits get near running winches, and keep bodies out of the way of the main sheet and boom! This thing demands a sense of timing, surefooted actions on the part of the crew, and sometimes a bit of brute force. (And, beginner though I be on big Cats, there are some things on this boat not particularly well thought out.) Tomorrow we go out to play again and I promise you I'll be keeping an eye on the main sheet.

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