Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Shifting horizons

It looks like this weekend is an "Indy" weekend. Little Nomad will have to look out for herself. But I got to thinking about last weekend's adventures along with a conversation or two Deb and I have had about potential boats, and I was a bit startled to discover how much our "sailing horizons" have shifted in just a little over a year.

For example, last year at the Annapolis boat show we pretty much decided that center cockpit mono-hulls might work, but aft cockpit? Not so much. The ocean appeared to be way too close to the person standing watch. That concern has completely fallen by the wayside. We still like the aft cabin in the CC boats, but the usually tall house jutting out of the deck and the massive amount of windage now catch our eye more than the location of the water in relation to the driver. We also find ourselves saying, "It looks like a comfortable boat but how do you think it sails?" A year ago I'm not sure we could tell the difference between a good sailing boat and a bathtub with a stick. (Mast.) Now a sleek, aft-cockpit boat with a nearly flush foredeck to work on and a huge sail plan provokes thoughts of, "That would be nice. I wonder if the transom folds down into a swim platform and would the draft be too deep for the Keys?"

The same kind of thing has happened with simply being on a boat. I don't worry much about the thing sinking out from under me while I sleep. The idea that a good boat, well maintained, will somehow just spring a leak and head for the bottom, has faded. I like being away from the dock and out on our own. (As much as one can be in a land locked lake just a few miles wide.) Night sailing still calls for care, but it is no longer the eerie habitat of so many unknowns. It fact it has become one of our favorite places to visit. The wind is what the wind is. (Again, here on our little lake.) When it picks up we will trim the sails in tight, reef if we need to, or bag one and sail on the other one. If it is blowing directly out of where we need to go and no amount of tacking will work, we drop all the sails, fire up the little diesel, and get where we were going. Once anchored out, I don't wake up every 20 minutes sure that we are dragging. In fact, if the winds are calm and the anchor well set, I forget about it entirely. If (say Pensacola) there is a chance we will drag, an anchor watch will do the trick and we will enjoy that as well.

If I had thought much about it I would have known this change would happen. This morning we flew down from SUS to HEZ, went 200 miles out of our way to dodge huge thunderstorms, flew up to FL400, ducked back down to FL230 to get under some bumpy looking clouds, and then shot the GPS 36 approach to get in due to the low scuzz hanging around. We knew there was weather so carried some extra gas. The approach was an easy call once we saw that the clouds were lower and filled more of the sky than the weather reports suggested. It was all pretty routine.

Nearly thirty years ago the 16 year old kid on his solo flight in a Piper Cub couldn't even imagine doing such things. (And not just because GPS approaches were the stuff of science fiction.) It should come as no surprised to that sailing will work the same way. Now if I had started when I was just 16...

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