Thursday, March 12, 2015

In a pinch

A lot of times when we're sailing I can hear our instructor's voice in the background from our early ASA101 and ASA103 courses on Lake Carlyle. One of the things she talked to us about a lot was not "pinching up", a term (for you  non-sailors) that means turning the bow of the boat until it's too close to the direction the wind is coming from. It causes you to lose speed in a hurry and it can damage the sails from them "slatting" all over the place since they're not efficiently full of wind. It's a common mistake that new sailors make, determined that they can actually sail where they want, not where the wind says they can go.

Most boats can sail reasonably well anwhere except from 60° off the wind on one side to 60° off the wind on the other side. Again, for you non-sailors, picture an analog clock face: most boats simply can't sail from 10:30 to 2:30 on the dial, having to tack back and forth in a zig-zag to get to the destination. Kintala happens to be one of the better boats in this regard. With all three sails flying she can happily sail 35° off the wind as long as there's any wind at all and as long as the waves aren't 5 feet tall. The tradeoff  is the bit of speed lost, but some times this is a tradeoff you need to make. It becomes extremely handy on a day like today, when you need to thread your way through some shallow spots and the wind is blowing in such a direction that you can't go 60° off the wind and still keep from plowing into Mother Earth, something we try to avoid at all costs.

So off we went from the Powell Cay anchorage, fully expecting to motor the whole day since the wind was forecast to be out of the direction we were headed. As is wont to happen, we found the wind to be a few degrees better than what was forecast and, if we were very very diligent on the helm, we could pinch up between 30° and 35° and just make it through the shallow spots sailing instead of motoring. Nighty night Mr. Westerbeast. A few times we dipped below 3 knots, but for most of the day we had a romping sail over 5 knots and heeled over at 15° slicing through the waves like nobody's business. For you sailors, 5 knots is pretty good when you're pinching to 30° off the wind and you only have the staysail and a reefed main up.

The Westerbeast had a good rest, Tim had a good deck-monkey workout, and we all had an unexpectedly terrific sail, quite possibly the best one we've had in the Abacos so far. It just doesn't get much better than this.


Mike Boyd said...

Hey Guys,

Just catching up on my blog reading so, in no particular order...
Happy anniversary! Very cool about the book reading. And be glad you weren't tacking in my cat...seems 120~130 degree angle between course lines (100 degree heading + leeway) is about the best I've ever done without forward speed dropping to near nothing (and that was in pretty flat water).


Matt Mc. said...

The "for the non-sailors" stuff is helpful. Seriously.

Deb said...

Matt hopefully we'll be able to get you guys out sailing this summer some and then it will all make sense. And yes, there will be a test :)