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Thread: The North Channel by Sail and Oar

  1. #1
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    Default The North Channel by Sail and Oar

    So, this past summer, while I was supposed to be building my new boat (Don Kurylko's Alaska http://www.dhkurylko-yachtdesign.com/designs.htm ), I frittered away lots of good warm building time with a three-week trip to the North Channel in my little Bolger boat. This was supposed to be a temporary boat to tide me over until my "real" boat is completed, but it's turning out to be a lot less temporary than I thought it would be.



    Here we're just crossing the border from Michigan to Canada, day 2. When I landed in Hilton Beach, my phone check-in with Canadian customs went something like this: "What make and model is your boat?" Me: "It's home-made." A chuckle. "How long is your boat?" Me: "Fourteen feet." Outright laughter, then: "Good luck." That was about it.



    Hilton Beach marina on St. Joseph island, day 3. As you can see, there ain't a whole lot of sail and oar boats in the North Channel. And all that stuff piled up in this photo? That all fits through an 8" diameter bulkhead hatch. It just doesn't fit out again without a wrassling match.



    On day 3 we camped on Africa Rock. Yep, it's a rock. Happiness is a boat you can drag up on shore just about anywhere.

    Not a single small open boat anywhere so far. Covered about 40 miles (about 15 miles rowing, 25 sailing) from the start. Some big sailboats, all of them motoring downwind with furled sails. Made me happy to be in my little boat.

    But of course, the new boat ain't getting done...

    I'll post more later if there's any interest.

    Tom

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    Default Re: The North Channel by Sail and Oar

    I'm hella interested in hearing more!
    Quote Originally Posted by James McMullen View Post
    Yeadon is right, of course.

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    Default Re: The North Channel by Sail and Oar

    Well, there it is then; I'll post more tomorrow. Especially since you, Big Food, and a certain other West Coast balance lug yawl enthusiast are at least partly to blame for inspiring my own voyages.

    Tom

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    Default Re: The North Channel by Sail and Oar

    Great thread.

    I'm from superior wis. originally. Some beautiful waters up there. Must be nice not having to worry about tides.

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    Default Re: The North Channel by Sail and Oar

    All right! This is my kind of thread! More, please!

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    Default Re: The North Channel by Sail and Oar

    Almost home waters for me, but the only time on the North Channel for me was in a big charter. There is some shore line like that around Duluth but not much, it's mostly cliffs. I would like to hear more and photos lots of photos.
    "The hand feeds the mind."
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    Default Re: The North Channel by Sail and Oar

    +1
    We've gone up there for a few years now.
    A while ago there were a few groups of small boats that we had seen,but not in the last coupla years.
    They hang out at beaches like on South Benjamin or Croker Island.
    A notable one is Raggedy Annie,IIRC, a retired American Coastie who spends the summers cruising on her wee boat.
    More pics please!
    R
    Sleep with one eye open.

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    Default Re: The North Channel by Sail and Oar

    Must be nice not having to worry about tides.
    That's what I used to think, too (it's a common misconception about Great Lakes sailing). But take a look at the picture below. Turns out that at low tide, the water level can drop so far that it leaves the islands themselves high and dry.



    Thanks for the interest, by the way; more to come today, uploading my photos to Photobucket now.

    Tom

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    Default Re: The North Channel by Sail and Oar

    Can't wait to see more. I'm stuck up here in Wyoming with nothing but one river and a few lakes so there is no "adventure" to be had really other than going around in circles You guys keep me going by following your adventures.

    George
    George

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    Default Re: The North Channel by Sail and Oar

    Quote Originally Posted by WI-Tom View Post
    I'll post more later if there's any interest.

    Tom

    We're interested. Is that a Windsprint?


    Steven

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    Default Re: The North Channel by Sail and Oar

    For others like me who don't know where North Channel is, here's a google maps link (when on the page in this link, click on the map thumbnail to go to the full map window where you can zoom and pan).



    And a Wiki link...

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    Default Re: The North Channel by Sail and Oar

    Quote Originally Posted by WI-Tom View Post

    I'll post more later if there's any interest.

    Tom
    i'm interested too
    Simpler is better, except when complicated looks really cool.

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    Default Re: The North Channel by Sail and Oar

    Is that a Windsprint?
    Nope; actually it's a Pirate Racer (called the "Child's Pirate Boat" on Dynamite Payson's website, a name my wife would argue is more fitting...) built from the small plans included in Boats With An Open Mind.

    Originally, it was supposed to have an 85 sq. ft. lateen rig, like this:



    But that was an 18' yard in a 14' boat, not the perfect cruising rig. And besides, things like this:



    kept happening, since I made the yard of solid fir (!!!!) but still made it the size Bolger designed for his hollow, box-section spar. Oops.

    So I experimented with a boomless spritsail for a while, then a spritsail with a sprit boom (better), before installing the 68 sq ft balance lug from Jim Michalak's Mixer design (best!):



    Later,

    Tom

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    Default Re: The North Channel by Sail and Oar

    Great thread! More please!
    There are two kinds of boaters: those who have run aground, and those who lie about it.

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    Default Re: The North Channel by Sail and Oar

    Fritter away with the photos! I've always wanted to sail at least one of those lakes, and the North Channel looks very promising. Africa Rock looks wonderful for a lunch stop... if you can keep upwind of the seagull crap.

    Bucket list stuff.
    "It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so."

    -Mark Twain

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    Default Re: The North Channel by Sail and Oar

    I've also come to the inescapable conclusion that the balance lug is the Holy Grail of cruising rigs for a small open boat. Do you have any more commentary on the pro and cons of the previous rigs from your experience?

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    Default Re: The North Channel by Sail and Oar

    Do you have any more commentary on the pro and cons of the previous rigs from your experience?
    Well, my experience is less than yours, I think. So if you notice anything in the photos that you can bring to my attention (sail adjustments, sheeting, rig set-up, etc.) please tell me; I'm still figuring it all out. But for what it's worth:

    I love my balance lugsail. It saved my bacon twice on this North Channel trip; once we broached when running downwind (didn't have enough reef points but thought I could keep going...) and only the ability to drop the whole rig in a split second kept us from capsizing. We BARELY made it, and even then we shipped enough water from breaking waves that the sloshing action almost took us out anyway. With any other rig, no chance at all. That alone makes a balance lug worth it in my book, especially when cruising alone relatively far from civilization. And with the boom it's very fast downwind. Big sloops couldn't pass me without motoring. (But they're always motoring, so maybe that doesn't count for much).

    The second time, I was in exactly the same conditions, but I actually recognized them in time (imagine that! I done learnt something) and just dropped the rig and rowed casually to a nearby island. I have to kneel (or stand, even) to drop my sprit rig. Much easier with a balance lug, just reach over and uncleat the halyard. Same for hoisting--simple with the balance lug, not so simple with the sprit rig (I didn't have a halyard, which would have made it a bit simpler, but still no comparison to the ease of the lug rig).

    I liked the spritsail for its light weight and simplicity (and because you get a "snotter" with it), but I never found a good way to reef it. But that sprit was a LONG spar to fit in my boat (an 11' spar in a 6 1/2' cockpit). I felt like I was in a jousting match whenever I rowed around with the spar stuck in my boat. Which might be handy in some circumstances, come to think of it. With the sprit boom, that was a good downwind sail, too. But not as good.

    The lateen? With a lighter spar it would be good, but not for cruising. Actually seems a lot like the balance lug (no surprise, perhaps) but just made as inconvenient as possible.

    Tom

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    Default Re: The North Channel by Sail and Oar

    Downwind is always the trickiest point of sail for small boats -- and the 'death roll' all too common when swells get into the action.

    The best rig for those conditions I've sailed with in a single-masted boat as been a marconi with sprit-boom and no jib or forestay -- what I called a Faux Leg O' Mutton. I was able to just let go of the mainsheet and let the spritboom rotate downwind all the way forward. I could then go forward and pull the sail down.

    Of course a mizzenmast would be much nicer as long as you can depower the mainsail enough and get sideways through the swell.



    "The enemies of reason have a certain blind look."
    Doctor Jacquin to Lieutenant D'Hubert, in Ridley Scott's first major film _The Duellists_.

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    Default Re: The North Channel by Sail and Oar

    So, for those wondering just exactly where I went, the image below shows the west end of North Channel (the sheltered waters at Lake Huron's north end, separated from the rest of the lake by Drummond, Cockburn, and Manitoulin Islands). I started from the eastern tip of Michigan's UP, and sailed clockwise around to finish on Drummond Island. We covered about 240 miles or so in all.



    After camping on Africa Rock, we hit a long stretch of open, rocky coast--I wasn't sure where I'd be able to camp. It proved very difficult to get ashore safely, lots of rocks, and enough wave action so we could easily have been dropped onto a big rock and had the bottom of the boat knocked out. And there was a gusty bunch of thunderstorms going on at the time, of course. But I needed to camp somewhere, so finally I spotted a tiny beach, ran the gauntlet of boulders and breaking waves, and ended up here:



    for our fourth night. The rainbow was a nice touch, I thought.

    This was the diciest stretch of the trip, though. Not much shelter, kind of risky going ashore in those conditions. But it worked out ok. I think I'd plan to avoid this stretch of the coast in future trips.
    Last edited by WI-Tom; 11-10-2010 at 06:54 PM.

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    Default Re: The North Channel by Sail and Oar

    Anyone ever use a lug on a multihull? I saw Gary Dierking is using a junk presently on his Wa'apa.

    WI-Tom, I'm down in Chicago and getup to WI every summer. I did a similar trip via kayak from Killarny to the Key river a few years ago and am itching to get back!

    Dan

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    Default Re: The North Channel by Sail and Oar

    So on day 5, forecast called for W winds increasing to 20 knots by evening. A day for an early start if ever there was one. A day to wear my drysuit! (Yep, I bought one on sale at REI ($350)for this trip, wore it whenever I got nervous, or mostly when I had to reef--like today).

    I left before 7 a.m. Still, had to stop at tiny Richelieu Island to tie in a reef:



    Below is the view from the summit of Richelieu Island, looking due east:



    Running dead downwind parallel to shore, I managed to jibe (unintentionally) while taking pictures like this:



    But jibes, apparently, are relatively gentle with a lug rig, and we survived. But I quit taking pictures. Shortly afterwards, though, a wave caught us from behind. Next thing I knew, the bow slid off to starboard (we were on a starboard tack at the moment) and waves were breaking into the cockpit. I managed to uncleat the halyard and drop the whole rig--couldn't have had much time to spare. We were REAL close to going over. Shipped half a cockpit of water, which we only survived with a few minutes of frantic bailing.

    After it was all over, I took this photo:



    I couldn't believe it--it looks pretty tame. Just dropping the sail apparently shrunk the waves by about 43.6%. Actually, it was a revelation for me--waves don't have to very big to be TOO big.

    So what do you think? I had only one set of reef points (58 sq ft of sail). Would another set of reef points have prevented this? I suspect the answer is "yes." Is there a way to run downwind in high winds safely? What exactly happened? It was so fast I'm not sure I really understood it--other than being overpowered for the conditions. That near miss made me a LOT more conservative, realizing that dangerous conditions won't necessarily LOOK that bad. Is that true in everyone else's experience, too?

    Anyway, we survived; I rowed to shore where I discovered this delightful (and completely deserted cove) to camp:



    We'd covered 20+ miles and it was still early afternoon, but I was a bit spooked and ready for an easy afternoon ashore in a beautiful spot. Five days of sailing, and we're just getting near the "real" North Channel--the Turnbull Islands and the Whalesback Channel.

    Later,

    Tom

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    Default Re: The North Channel by Sail and Oar

    Downwind is always the trickiest point of sail for small boats
    Thorne (or anyone who knows),

    so how DO you sail downwind safely in a single-masted balance lug-rigged boat? Should I have been tacking downwind? I thought about it, but REALLY liked how much eastward progress I was making by running dead downwind. Would a smaller sail have tamed things? If so, why?

    Thanks,

    Tom

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    Default Re: The North Channel by Sail and Oar

    Day 6 brought a brief breakfast stop in a marina in Blind River, Ontario (a nice clean beautiful hassle-free arena), then a run to the Turnbull Islands. Saw lots of big 'glass sloops, all motoring. (Small boats really do have more fun). Landed here, on Caroline Island:



    Camped here (one of my favorite camps, spent two nights here):



    The big boats were anchored in a cove about 1/2 mile away; I rowed over in the evening. At each boat, I'd have a conversation something like this:

    Them: "Where did you get here from?"

    Me: "Michigan."

    Them: "Michigan?! In that little boat?"

    Me: "Yep."

    Them: "Here, have a cold beer. Have another one. Have some brats. Have some venison steak. Have a glass of wine. Have some cheese and crackers. Here, take these leftovers."

    So, no Chef Boyardee in the Turnbulls!

    Next day (a rest day) I took a little rowing expedition to nearby Round Island, which had some impressive cliffs. We landed on a rocky beach:



    Climbed up (wasn't exactly easy, but not too bad; maybe 5.4 if you're a climber and know what that means):



    Came back for more food from big boats (friendly folks, sailors) and a pleasant evening. The Turnbulls were great; lots of islands packed very tightly together, some sand beaches (NE corner of Caroline Island for one), bald eagles.

    And did I mention how everyone wants to feed you when you're in a small open boat?

    If I had less time, a good trip would be to start in Blind River and sail east through the Whalesback Channel. Could even arrange to drop a car at the Spanish marina and do a one-way trip with car shuttles. Or take Greyhound back from Spanish, then drive back and get your boat. But for me, the "real" North Channel (lots of islands, wilderness feel) starts at the Turnbulls and continues east.

    More later,

    Tom
    Last edited by WI-Tom; 11-04-2010 at 09:58 PM.

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    Default Re: The North Channel by Sail and Oar

    A while ago there were a few groups of small boats that we had seen,but not in the last coupla years.
    They hang out at beaches like on South Benjamin or Croker Island.
    A notable one is Raggedy Annie,IIRC, a retired American Coastie who spends the summers cruising on her wee boat.
    Funny you should mention Raggedy Annie (Anne Westlund's boat); she'll be appearing later in the story...

    Tom

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    Default Re: The North Channel by Sail and Oar

    Quote Originally Posted by James McMullen View Post
    All right! This is my kind of thread! More, please!
    Doesn't take long for the usual suspects to show up, does it? (The secret: put "sail & oar" into your title somewhere) Welcome aboard, James; I've enjoyed reading about you, Yeadon, and Eric and your PNW adventures. Nice to turn the tables on you!

    Tom

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    Default Re: The North Channel by Sail and Oar

    Quote Originally Posted by gstanfield View Post
    Can't wait to see more. I'm stuck up here in Wyoming with nothing but one river and a few lakes so there is no "adventure" to be had really other than going around in circles You guys keep me going by following your adventures.
    No adventure???!! You need to take up climbing, that's all. Are you anywhere near the Wind River Mountains? Maybe one of my three favorite places.

    But sailing, maybe not so much. Still, I have to drive 26 hours to climb in Wyoming, so I think we're even. The West is great, but if you're not on the ocean, you can't beat the Great Lakes. Life is good.

    Tom

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    Default Re: The North Channel by Sail and Oar

    Quote Originally Posted by WI-Tom View Post
    Thorne (or anyone who knows),

    so how DO you sail downwind safely in a single-masted balance lug-rigged boat? Should I have been tacking downwind? I thought about it, but REALLY liked how much eastward progress I was making by running dead downwind. Would a smaller sail have tamed things? If so, why?

    Thanks,

    Tom
    I'm never big on running straight downwind, and am mgenerally on at least a touch of a reach. Though I never get the deathrolls like I got with my old sprit-rig I still get a funny feeling straight downwind. it's also tougher to grind your way back up into the wind in a hurry when you're dead downwind -- and in a yikes moment, it's nice for a bit of weather helm to help you react quickly and turn back upwind if necessary.

    Another thing to consider ... the chicken-gybe ... in which you turn back up into the wind, then fall off onto the other tack. It's always an option. I did it more with my sprit rig, but I still do it when things are nuts.

    Quote Originally Posted by WI-Tom View Post
    And did I mention how everyone wants to feed you when you're in a small open boat?

    Tom
    Seriously! I've been handed cold beer at so many beaches that I've basically quit carrying booze in the boat.

    One day I rowed for hours, pulled into a harbor, and had a couple in a boat yell ... "Do you like grilled pork?"

    "Ummm yes."

    "Do you like scotch?"

    "YES"
    Quote Originally Posted by James McMullen View Post
    Yeadon is right, of course.

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    Default Re: The North Channel by Sail and Oar

    Quote Originally Posted by Yeadon View Post
    I'm never big on running straight downwind, and am generally on at least a touch of a reach.
    So, Yeadon,

    I sometimes (like that day, and once before running downwind in about 20 knots on the Texas 200) feel like steering off a bit would be risky, too. Somehow it seems like "if I can just avoid a jibe" it'll be safer than turning. What do you think? Have you had that perception that starting to steer off a bit is scary in those conditions? It's the transition between "dead downwind" and "a bit of a reach" that frightens me, for some reason. Kind of like "If I survive these next few moments, I'll be safely on my new heading--but I'm not SURE I'll survive these next few moments...)

    But I've adopted your "always be on a bit of a reach" mentality since then, so maybe my problems with that part of it are over, anyways.

    Tom

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    Default Re: The North Channel by Sail and Oar

    A sustained all-day 20 knots probably wears on you mentally and physically ... so much more than a 20 knot daysail for three or four hours. I can see how you'd get a little weary after a while. That's when I make goofy mistakes.

    Especially when you're dead downwind, and there's that moment with a push/pull rudder where you think, hmmm, is this a push or a pull to get upwind a bit? So you tap it one way, then the other - never too hard - until you figure it out. That might be the weirdness I feel. If you hit it too hard the wrong way, that sail will flop across and you'll be running to the high side of the boat.

    I would love love love to take Big Food on the Texas 200. I was just in Lubbock last weekend for a wedding, and was thinking, man, Texas is a long ways away from home, how would I pull this off?
    Quote Originally Posted by James McMullen View Post
    Yeadon is right, of course.

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    Default Re: The North Channel by Sail and Oar

    Tom,

    I've always had more trouble with accidental gybes running dead downwind in Hornpipe in lighter air than in heavier air. In lighter air, I find it more controllable and just about as fast to gybe downwind rather than run. In 20+ kts, there seems to be enough wind to keep the sail and yard pinned firmly to one side of the mast. Hornpipe also steers very easily and it is not too difficult to keep pointed dead downwind.

    All bets are off if there is too much sail up, though, which situation I've found myself in more than once. This summer's cruise I found myself in 20-25 kts going downwind and the reefed mizzen in the centre mast step provided more than enough power to stay and hull speed with the occasional surf.
    Alex

    "A man who is not afraid of the sea will soon be drowned, for he will be going out on a day he shouldn't. We do be afraid of the sea, and we only be drowned now and again" Aran Islands Fisherman

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    Default Re: The North Channel by Sail and Oar

    Thanks for sharing your trip, it makes me miss summer.

    FWIW- I like to reach a little on one tack or another when running down wind.

    Jim
    -Jim

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    Getting into trouble one board at a time.

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    Default Re: The North Channel by Sail and Oar

    A balance lug with its self-vanging qualities and gentle gybing characteristics is one of the friendliest of all small boat rigs for a dead run. With that said, I still prefer a broad reach and tacking downwind for all of the reasons stated above. The friendliest of small boat rigs still doesn't get you entirely past the fact that you're still in a small boat.

    If your sheet is long enough, you can let the whole thing go and just stream it dead downwind to survive a death gust. Reel it back in after you've regained your composure.

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    Default Re: The North Channel by Sail and Oar

    Death gust!

    (And with that, Admiral McMullen reaches new heights of balance lug hyperbole. Good show, sir.)
    Quote Originally Posted by James McMullen View Post
    Yeadon is right, of course.

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    Default Re: The North Channel by Sail and Oar

    Great thread, Tom. Can you stretch it out till about March for us?
    I miss that part of the country (just a little) when I see those rocky little islands. What a great place to cruise.
    And, yeah, what the Admiral said: "If your sheet is long enough, you can let the whole thing go and just stream it dead downwind to survive a death gust. Reel it back in after you've regained your composure."

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    Default Re: The North Channel by Sail and Oar

    Regarding sailing down wind, I always reach as my 17ft Salty Heaven cat yawl has no booms. The conditions can be deceptive downwind as the strength of the breeze is not as obvious as going upwind. Having been caught a couple of times with too much up I am conservative about reefing. You don't need much rag up to make good time downwind, if it's fresh. Two things I've learned. 1. Keep the centreboard raised. If you become overpowered the boat will skid rather than trip. 2. If a big gust hits resist the temptation to turn into it to spill the wind. This increases the apparent wind and only makes things worse. Ease sheets, and bear off. The boat will stop heeling and you can then think about taking in that reef that you should have done a while ago. The trick is off course not to bear away too much. That way lie the dreaded death rolls and maybe even an accidental gybe. When it's windy, though, it's pretty easy to tell when you're in the right groove.

    The main lesson is have several rows of reef points and reef early.

    JL

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