Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Endless days in the School of Kintala

The wind built all through Sunday night, rocking our little 2-boat raft-up. After a tasty breakfast compliments of Paradise, Deb and I tried to figure out what combination of sail would best fit the conditions. We debated multiple choices; the big and little stay sail, with or without a bit of jib rolled out, coupled with one or two reefs in the main. We were really trying to get it right with the winds steady in the high teens, gusting well past 20, and swinging through 20 to 25 degrees. The one thing I didn't figure mattered was the waves - at 42 feet Kintala is just too long for the short, steep waves that build on our little lake to matter much.

Sailing short handed with the wind what is was we decided to keep it simple. A reef in the main and about half the jib left on the roller was our choice. We handed in our answer sheet, pulled up the anchor, and headed out onto the lake to get our score.

At first it seemed we had gotten it correct. Not an "A+" as we heeled hard with a lot of weather helm, but at least a "B" with some bonus points for pure fun. An hour later though, with the wind building and gusting, our "B" was sinking fast. Rail in the water, helm hard to weather, Kintla was once again struggling to do what we had asked. The bad news was we were almost completely out of control, the good news was we were in the middle of the lake with a bit of room to figure something out and, well, it is lake Carlyle. This season the lake has proved that it can put a hurt on a boat, but one still has to work pretty hard at it, or be very unlucky. We hadn't run out of luck yet, or completely out of ideas. I dropped the traveler all the way to the bottom and freed the main sheet. At the helm Deb forced Kintala up just enough that the mad deck-monkey (that would be me) grinding wildly on the roller line managed to stow away the jib.

We were now pointed upwind of the marina entrance, falling off just a bit would get us safely home. Only Deb had no control at the helm. No matter what she did the bow kept the same heading. Unlike little Nomad, which would sail happily on just the main, just the jib, or just about any combination of the two, Kintala is not a happy boat with no head sail. Playing with the main sheet / traveler moved the bow a few degrees this way or that way, but Kintala was still not taking orders from the helm. Now I was out of ideas, but at least we weren't going very fast. I was forced to admit to getting a failing grade on this sailing test - Deb started the engine.

I should have let a little of the jib back out, but getting it in had been a single-minded battle that left my arms complaining bitterly of lactic overload, with wrists stiff and fingers numb. The flogging sail and flying sheets were a sight to behold, scenes from the movie of "How Not To Do It". (Deb was sure were were about to break something.) My brain just couldn't get to giving back what was so hard to earn. Even better we should have started out with the small stay sail, rolling out just a bit of jib had we needed it. Equally important, when the wind goes above 15 kts put a reef in the main. When its going well above 20 put in two! Thus rigged my guess is that we would have punched easily through the waves still doing at or better than 6 kts, with nary a care in the world.

But we will have to wait for the re-test to find out for sure.


S/V Veranda said...

Your estimates for next time sound spot on to me. We reef at 18 and I usually skip right to the second reef and then make adjustments through headsail size. Its always amazing to me how well a large boat can perform with suprisingly little sail up.

Deb said...

Bill - Just wanted to say thanks for the input. I've really appreciated your thoughtful comments and I look forward to shooting the breeze with you two sometime soon and picking your brains for whatever morsels of sailing wisdom are there for the taking. Wish we were making the Annapolis show this year but my own "downsizing" took all our discretionary income.


Ken said...

One of the very first pieces of advise I received as a new sailor at age 35 in Antigua was if your not sure how much sail to put up when leaving a harbor or marina, put in two reefs, it's way easier to shake one out than put one in.