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Thread: An Adventure, A Lesson, Maybe A Laugh

  1. #1
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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
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    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
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    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 which I am still thankful.
    Last edited by cstevens; 12-16-2017 at 02:06 AM.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: An Adventure, A Lesson, Maybe A Laugh

    Distracted driving, distracted sailing - neither of them advisable.
    Alex

    "“He was unfamiliar with the sea and did not like it much: it was a place that made you cold and wet and sick” " Nevil Shute, Trustee From the Toolroom

  5. #5
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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
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    Default Re: An Adventure, A Lesson, Maybe A Laugh

    Kick up rudder.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: An Adventure, A Lesson, Maybe A Laugh

    A story well told, thanks.

  8. #8
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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
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    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
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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.

  11. #11
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    Default Re: An Adventure, A Lesson, Maybe A Laugh

    John, i like these types of stories…they smack of adventure and fun even when things aren't panning out too well.

    Chris…you called yourself a 'none too cautious young man with unusually permissive parents'. what a delightful way to describe the freedom you enjoyed! i can relate to this very well in my own life on both counts.

  12. #12
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    Default Re: An Adventure, A Lesson, Maybe A Laugh

    ^^^ Thanks Bernadette. I did enjoy the freedom although sometimes I wonder that I survived it! There was also the time I pitchpoled my El Toro sailing dinghy in the middle of the lake very early in the morning, before my parents were awake. High winds again. No one on the lake to see or rescue me. No chance of bailing my swamped dinghy alone. Fortunately I was a reasonably strong swimmer, wearing a PFD, and it was warm. I swam to the far side of the lake towing the dinghy behind me and hauled the boat out on a convenient dock. Where I found that I had completely destroyed the gooseneck. Unable to sail back home I stood there, soaking wet and shivering, wondering what to do next. At which point I was spotted by a family living aboard a beautiful Feadship. They took me in, dried me off and drove me home. Later I was able to get the parts I needed to fix the boat and sail back. Lots of adventures back then. I wonder if my son will have those same opportunities when he is that age.

  13. #13
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    Default Re: An Adventure, A Lesson, Maybe A Laugh

    Thanks Bernadette, I'm glad you liked it.
    A shipment in coastal cruising told me: "It's not an adventure if there are no challenges".

  14. #14
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    Default Re: An Adventure, A Lesson, Maybe A Laugh

    In my book, the PFD is always worn, period. The moments lost trying to put in on while in the water (have you actually tried that?), in chilly water with bits floating away is not worth it. My 2 cents.

  15. #15
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    Default Re: An Adventure, A Lesson, Maybe A Laugh

    Quote Originally Posted by johngsandusky View Post
    Thanks Bernadette, I'm glad you liked it.
    A shipment in coastal cruising told me: "It's not an adventure if there are no challenges".
    Thanks for sharing your sailing adventure. We all see moments of yours in our own - those few oh damn seconds stretch the mind's minutes. Reflecting on them later brings you another level of sailing wisdom and self truth. Let's hope you get her out soon again on another sunny day this winter.
    King Moonraiser:
    A toy is never truly happy until it is loved by a child.


  16. #16
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    Default Re: An Adventure, A Lesson, Maybe A Laugh

    My father claims he followed the child rearing principle of "benign neglect," and like Chris, I was turned loose pretty early. But I had an advantage, growing up in coastal Maine where the water community looks out for one another pretty closely.

    When I was about 8, my father and I were out in his Beetle Cat when a line squall flipped us so fast we never knew what hit us --and then went on to tear a bunch of boats loose from their moorings in the Hinckley anchorage and drive them ashore, so it must have been a lulu. I don't think we were in the water five minutes before a fisherman was there along side, helping me aboard his boat and then helping my father right the Beetle Cat. There are always eyes on you, in those waters. That was when I really realized that when a lobsterman waves at you --generally just the slight raising of a hand and a curt drop-- it isn't so much his saying hello, it's "I see you," and "I'm watching," and "if aught goes amiss, I'll be coming your direction with it right in the corner." The sea can be a big place. Unforgiving, too. It's important to look out for each other.

    When I was 16, the first year I had Bucephalus, in September I blew off my high school's senior orientation and went on an overnight cruise from where I lived, near Southwest Harbor, around the corner, across Bass Harbor Bar, and in to Mackeral Cove on Swans Island --a ways outside my usual stomping ground. It was dirty weather, and B and I got kicked around a bit, both on the bar and crossing Blue Hill Bay. It felt like work, and we dropped the hook pretty late, around sundown. I found out later, once I got home, that that evening a fisherman on Swans Island had called a friend of his, another fisherman in Bass Harbor: "Y'know that crazy Greenings Island kid? (I apparently had a bit of a reputation.) The one Ralph built that little sloop for? Y'might let his old man know he's in safe." The Bass Harbor fisherman called another fisherman in Southwest Harbor, a friend of his, Danny Chalmers, who he knew knew my father, and passed the message. Danny, a good friend (I dated his daughter a couple years later), then passed the word along to my father. My father noted the time, and we figured out later, looking at the log I kept, that I hadn't had the anchor down more than 30 minutes before my father got word I was in safe. Jungle telegraph, Down East style. It's been thirty years since that cruise, and I have no idea if any of that culture remains the same, but it sure was a fine way to grow up.

    Alex

  17. #17
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    Default Re: An Adventure, A Lesson, Maybe A Laugh

    I sailed again today. Conditions and forecast similar, air and water ten degrees colder.
    This time I wore a wetsuit, left the jib furled, and sailed in a smaller harbor. I almost aborted when I arrived to see the harbor full of whitecaps and the float docks rocking. But I knew I could run or drift down to a marshy beach if I had trouble. I also had a good opportunity to embarrass myself, as there were lobstermen and the bay constable on the dock. Getting away was a bit wild, but I settled the boat down and headed for the back harbor, which is ringed with marsh and fairly shallow even at high tide. I beat up toward the inlet, passing a clamboat and two duck hunters. I took it as a salute, but they probably were just shooting at birds. The wind let off some, I decided to sail out into the Sound. Ebb tide pushed me out with few tacks. Just outside, the wind fell light, letting the current set me east of the inlet. Hmmm. Now I need to beat against the tide to get back. I could still strike sail and row in, or beach her on the outside and try to get her up to the parking lot. I stood on the wind, getting some puffs, heading up current but also offshore. I was surprised how far out she went, but I passed the inlet and tacked over. The current at the elbow is around 4 knots, so I took a while to get through, but the wind was right astern and she crawled through. Now the sun came out, and I ran down toward the ramp. The breeze was gentle to moderate, I was tempted to keep sailing. But sunset is 4:30, and there was a gale warning after 6. I decided to put a win in the book.
    It was a great sail, challenging, fun, beautiful. At one point I sailed right up to some Old Squaws, and saw Loons and Mergansers. I would love to show you some pics, but I left my phone in the car.

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