Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Happy Bird-day

Grandson eldest turned eight yesterday. His little sister talked about his “Bird-day” from start to finish. The start was kind of early since the main thing the Bird-day Boy wanted for a present was to go sailing. The rest of us were glad to oblige.

Winds were forecast in the 10 to 20 knot range. Since there were no plans to set speed records nor anywhere in particular we needed to go, two reefs were set in the main with the plan to fly the staysail most of the day, should the wind forecast prove accurate. The crew hurried a bit to get Kintala off the dock while the morning doldrums lasted, which also gave us a chance to try and reset the wind indicator in mostly calm conditions. It was the second effort. Deb took over the button pushing part while I just steered the boat as instructed. As usual when a woman is doing something, the nearest man (me) kept offering completely useless advice. And, again as usual, tactfully ignoring said advice was the only way to get the job done. In this case finishing the job resulted in our wind indicator actually working for the first time in over a year.

“Mostly calm” still meant 10 knots or so of wind being available to get down the river and out into Tampa bay. It was easy sailing mostly off the wind. With just the jib flying, Kintala nearly steered herself, so the “Bird-day” boy was given the helm and tasked with us down the channel safely. Our eight year old Captain did an excellent job, making Grampy T a proud Grampy indeed.

Gaining the bay, young Captain and the rest of the crew wanted to sail under the Skyway Bridge. Being tighter on the wind, the main went up to help balance the helm, though I'm sure we looked a bit odd with a double reefed main flying behind a fully deployed jib. It worked out okay and we headed for the bridged doing close to 5 knots, Grandson Eldest reluctantly giving up the helm in the more challenging conditions.

Nearing the bridge the winds started to falter, requiring some tacking to manage the clearing. On the far side of the bridge there was a bit more wind, making for an easy turn to start the sail back to Snead Island. Going under the bridge for a second time it became clear there was more wind everywhere. A lot more wind. Kintala heeled up on her “go fast” lines and we romped off, still flying the big jib. It would take a couple of long tacks to make the river, which was okay with everyone. Daughter Eldest used the heel to settle under the dodger, Granddaughter Youngest snuggled in her lap, both of them nodding off for a much needed nap. Yes, we were heeled hard over and bashing our way down the Bay, but Mothers of two-year-olds everywhere will understand.

The next tack saw us rolling in the big jib and flying just the staysail, the thought being to settle the ride just a little. That didn't really work so well. Without the power of the big jib we bounced over the waves instead of blowing through them. The jib went back out, along with the staysail, and off we romped once again. Now I'm sure we looked really odd, both head sails flying full with two reefs in the main. But ye ol' Tartan was happy and the helm was only moderately loaded, so we let it be.

Besides, we were running comfortably at well over six knots. If it works, don't fix it.

The next tack would have us gaining the river, so the big jib was rolled in. Hard on the wind we where showing nearly 30 knots of breeze flowing over the deck. Even falling off didn't completely unload the sail. The Deck Monkey struggled a bit at the furling line, but the jib rolled in so tight it looked like a toothpick on the forestay. I wish I could get it to look like that every time.

Working the wind, taking advantage of every lift and occasionally pinching up a bit, Son-in-Law (wanting his own time at the helm) worked us through the narrow part of the channel and into the open part of the river out from the Snead Island inlet. The staysail rolled up (not looking as good as the jib) while the shorted main fell into the lazy jacks with little effort.

We gained the dock with just a little bit of a stumble, caused by (you can guess) who thought he was grabbing the upwind stern dock line when, in fact, it was the leeward line in his hand. Kind of useless for keeping the wind from blowing the stern askew. The rest of the crew stepped up to keep things from getting ugly.

All in all Kintala covered more than 34 nm in 8 and a half hours of raucous sailing. Afterward the “Bird-day” Boy got his pizza dinner and chocolate cake, (complete with a matchstick for a candle) and opened a couple of presents.

I'm pretty sure my eighth “Bird-day” wasn't anywhere near that cool. I suspect Grandson Eldest and the rest of the family will remember it for many a year.

It was likely the last sail we will take with Daughter Eldest and Family before they come back for the summer. The rest of the week will be taken up with provisioning runs and errands, the last minute details for getting them back to St. Louis for the next semester of school, and us back to cruising.

Happy Bird-day indeed!

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