Thursday, December 29, 2016

Close, oh so close.

Daughter Eldest and Family have been visiting for a couple of weeks, enjoying life on Kintala and a break from the winter weather gripping the midwest. We have played games, worked coloring books, hung out at the beach, and gone for rides in the “Ding”, grand daughter youngest's word for the dink. (I think it is going to be permanent.) The little ones all love going for rides in the Ding, something Grampy T hasn't learned in going on four years of living on the boat. With the Merc-on-the-Ding running acceptably again, power rides rather than oar rides are the new highlights of the day.

One thing we had not managed to accomplish was getting the whole crew out on Kintala for a sail, something we finally managed a day or so ago. The forecast was for very light winds, but the day was warm, the boat ready, and sometimes just heading out is enough, even to drift around for a while.
We did a bit better than that.

Clear of the river my internal wind sensors suggested there was enough of a breeze to hang out some canvas. Our newly installed wind indicator didn't agree, but it turns out there is a calibration routine needed when you mount a new breeze stick on the mast, and we haven't done that yet. And, opposite of what they drill into hard-core instrument pilots, the years on the water have taught me to trust what my body says is going on with the weather and the boat. Things like wind sensors and GPS maps provide supplementary, and sometimes suspect, information.

Deb swung the bow up and the main sail went aloft as smoothly as it ever has. There was just enough wind to give it shape as we fell away to a close reach; Kintala surged to a killer speed of a knot or so. The jib spun out without a hitch and the sheet pulled in tight. Speed went up to two plus, then a touch over three. We ghosted along that way for a few minutes, heading to drop the anchor at Egmont Key for lunch. After a few minutes I decided to spin out the staysail as well. There was no reason to think that it would help much, but the boat looks cool with everything flying. And why miss a chance to look cool? With its sheet pulled in equally tight both head sails started pulling in near perfect parallel. Even with the apparent wind hovering around a bare 10 knots, speed flirted with 5 with just a hint of heel to port. Whatever shortcomings our old Tartan offers as a full-time live aboard cruising boat, they get forgotten when she is sailing fast on little wind, fully dressed for the dance.

There are people who love bashing into the waves, spray flying and the boat galloping along at full song. And there are times when I like that as well. There are people who prefer to be running before 20 knots worth of breeze, boat running at near hull speed with just 15 knots or so left ruffling the deck. And there are times I like that as well. When running offshore for a couple of days (or weeks for the true sailors among us) it is best to love whatever is happening at the moment, for the choice of what kind of sail we are having is not ours to make.

But sometimes the choices - boat, crew, and weather - add up to nothing short of pure magic.
The winds faded as we approached the anchorage, which turned out to be completely potted over with crab buoys. Without bothering the Beast we dropped the hook in deeper water than we had planned and much further from the beach than we had hoped. Lunch was low key and clean-up a bit of a trial given the rolling. Though the wind really had faded, we chose to drift off the anchor. It was also pretty good conditions for trying out the rebuilt jib pole, though the fact is I am still not comfortable with the thing. (Yes, I have read all the articles and watched all the you-tube videos. So far something hasn't sunk in so I am still working on it.)

We drifted down wind at a knot or two for a couple of hours, poled out jib doing what it could in the zephyrs. With the day fading away and the river mouth in sight, the Beast was poked awake to get us home before dark.

Crawling into the v-berth, boat secure and kids happy, it was easy to feel that getting back to cruising is tantalizingly close.

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