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Thread: An Adventure, A Lesson, Maybe A Laugh

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
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    Sound Beach, NY
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    Default An Adventure, A Lesson, Maybe A Laugh

    I sailed my Dion Dory again on Wednesday. It was warm here, over 60. The breeze was NW, forecast moderate to fresh, SCA posted. I've learned that the dory likes a breeze, and I wasn't going to waste a warm day in November. I launched at Port Jeff, a good harbor with coves, bluffs, beaches, nature preserves and some industry. It took a few minutes to tack out of the lee of the light gravel barges near the ramp, then started wide tacks down the harbor. Gusts made it fun, challenging. I tried to balance the boat with the tiller and the sheet while sitting on the floorboards. After a few tacks I thought I heard a woman's voice across the water. Mermaid? Nymph? Ghost from Mount Misery? No, just the announcements on the ferry. The wind was picking up more, she dipped a little water over the lee side and took some spray over the bow. I wanted to get to the outer beaches, but prudence won out. An open boat, late November is no time for a capsize. I bore away, letting the boom swing broad off. The boat charged downwind in a gust, faster I think than I have sailed this boat before. Wanting to know my speed, I let her round up and heave to while I took out my iphone and opened Navionics. While fooling with the phone, the sheet went over in a tangle. It has parts, so I grabbed the standing part and heaved it back. Bringing the boom from straight ahead in a strong breeze caused the boat to yaw wildly. For some reason, maybe adjusting my position, I shoved the tiller aft, knocking the rudder out of the gudgeons into the water. It only drifted a few yards far until the line securing it to the gunwale came taut. I tried again to steer with an oar, not well. Instead I let her round up again, struck the sails and hauled in the rudder. With her steeply raked narrow transom, I didn't think I cold safely hang over the stern and ship the rudder. Instead I re-set the sails, and tried steering with the sheets. Good enough. I landed on a stony beach at Poquott. There I straightened up the boat, bailed a couple of gallons, ate a snack bar and took a drink of water. I really wanted to sail back, but I couldn't find enough draft for the rudder without over-topping my boots. Besides, it was really quite breezy now. I walked the boat around a couple of small points and climbed in, rowing back. The ferry, a tug and gravel barge getting underway made me turn around. After that I push rowed the boat stern first, which works quite well. A smiling stranger met me at the dock and told me he had watched from his home, but decided not to call help for me. That was good, at no time did I feel in danger. I checked the buoy reports, the wind was 17kts, gusting to 27.
    The obvious lesson is not to fool with your phone when sailing a dinghy in a strong breeze. The laugh is trying to picture myself in that minute or so in which I lost both the mainsheet and the rudder.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2002
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    Deer Isle, Maine
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    1,212

    Default Re: An Adventure, A Lesson, Maybe A Laugh

    An exciting, if cautionary good yarn!
    Thanks for the vicarious ride .
    Do you sail with your PFD on? In a wetsuit?
    Automatic inflatable?
    Commando?

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Nov 2014
    Location
    Seattle, WA
    Posts
    1,864

    Default Re: An Adventure, A Lesson, Maybe A Laugh

    When I was a boy of 12 or so I once took my mother's Amesbury Skiff out for a row on Lake Union on a very windy Seattle day (I'm guessing 25kts with gusts to 30kts - I was not a cautious young man and my parents were permissive to an unusual degree). I headed out down the lake into the wind so as to have the wind with me on the way back. Which worked out fine until I was maybe half a mile away from home, when I caught a crab and lost an oar.

    Being untethered, unlike your rudder, the oar quickly drifted out of reach and it was far too windy for me to retrieve it. All I could do was use my remaining oar to paddle and steer as the wind carried me the rest of the way home. I made it but had to tell my mother that I had lost one of her oars - of a pair that my father had shaped and finished for her as a birthday present. She was understandably displeased with me but happy at least that I made it back safely.

    Then a few minutes later a man came down to our dock (we were living aboard at the time) carrying the lost oar. He had seen the whole thing, had recovered the oar when it drifted to shore and then followed me along until I landed. A generous act for while I am still thankful.
    - Chris

    https://fvpetrel.wordpress.com

    Life is short. Go boating now!

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
    Location
    Victoria, BC, Canada
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    Default Re: An Adventure, A Lesson, Maybe A Laugh

    Distracted driving, distracted sailing - neither of them advisable.
    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

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
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    Sound Beach, NY
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    Default Re: An Adventure, A Lesson, Maybe A Laugh

    Jack, I carry PFDs right at hand, but don't wear one. I own a short farmer john wetsuit, but wasn't wearing it either. I have worn it while canoe sailing in winter, swam in it too. It's effective.
    Cstevens, that's a great story. It was nice that someone was watching over me too.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Apr 2010
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    South Australia and Tasmania
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    Default Re: An Adventure, A Lesson, Maybe A Laugh

    Kick up rudder.

  7. #7
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    Apr 2010
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    South Australia and Tasmania
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    Default Re: An Adventure, A Lesson, Maybe A Laugh

    A story well told, thanks.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
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    Sound Beach, NY
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    Default Re: An Adventure, A Lesson, Maybe A Laugh

    You're welcome Phil, I'm glad you liked it.
    I have a kick up rudder on my canoe, I'm not crazy about it.
    I am thinking of using a rod through gudgeons to let it slide up and down. IIRC, that is a traditional dory solution.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Apr 2017
    Location
    Decatur, Georgia, USA
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    182

    Default Re: An Adventure, A Lesson, Maybe A Laugh

    Quote Originally Posted by johngsandusky View Post
    I sailed my Dion Dory again on Wednesday. It was warm here, over 60. The breeze was NW, forecast moderate to fresh, SCA posted. I've learned that the dory likes a breeze, and I wasn't going to waste a warm day in November. [SNIP]
    Glad you are here to tell the story, John.

    Back in the early '80s, not long after I had finished my Bolger Teal, a 12' dory shaped plywood leeboard skiff, the weatherman said that the upcoming January Saturday, here in Atlanta, was going to be in the 50s, with a breeze around 15 mph. Sailing back into the Lake Lanier cove I'd started from, a rising wind behind right me, the only other boat on the water, a bass boat, fired up his engine and crossed in front of me. I turned about 45 degrees off the wind to take his wake bow on, and capsized. I checked the weather statistics the next day, and found out that the wind had been gusting 30-35. The water was close to 40 degrees F. I was grateful that the fishermen came and fished me out of the water, and towed my swamped boat back to the ramp where I'd started. If they hadn't, I'd have, in the next best case scenario, wound up abandoning my boat, swimming a hundred yards to shore. As it was, I bailed her out at the ramp, loaded her on the trailer, and shivered for the next hour, until my body temperature was back up to normal. Another fricking learning experience.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
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    Sound Beach, NY
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    Default Re: An Adventure, A Lesson, Maybe A Laugh

    Thanks Chris. I think it is important for all of us to try to think ahead, and also to review. The water temp here was in the low 50s, but that's still too cold for a long swim. The dory does not have built in flotation, I have strapped life jackets under the thwarts. She is built of pine, so should stay afloat, I don't know how high. She carries ballast, but it is easily discarded. The harbor I was in is not very large, but not very small either. I think next time I would wear the wetsuit. I also plan to install flotation in the boat. As it was, my plan for a capsize would have been to right the boat if possible, put the rig, ballast and anchor over the side, and bail. If unable to right or dewater the boat, I could hold on and drift to a beach, or remove my boots and try to swim ashore. Another option would be to keep a cell phone in a water tight bag and call for help. I own a SPOT tracker, but it no longer works. I bought that to let family and friends follow my cruises in Wandering Star, a 39' ketch. That would be a helpful thing in a small boat, because it has an emergency button. Part of the reason I posted this story is to admit that I made mistakes, and encourage others to think about their own safe boating.
    On a personal level I always feel that it my own responsibility to get out of any trouble I get into. But the fact that someone else was watching and might have called on my behalf means that I need not only to be safe, but to appear safe as well.

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