Sunday, June 24, 2018

Our First Month of Sailing

I am writing this from the ranch on June 24. It has been almost exactly a month since we launched the sailboat in Stockton Lake. It is amazing to think that on April 16th we bought the boat and brought it back to the ranch for a month of cleaning and refitting. I took my first lesson on May14, and now a month and a week later, we have accomplished so much.

Notice that we are still calling it just," the sailboat". We can not agree on a name, so for now it will have to be, "the sailboat".

Sailing has many aspects. If the winds are constant and light, it is easy and relaxing. The problem is that you don't go very fast and therefore can't go very far. We want to explore new places, so some good wind is needed.

We have done many light wind days and they have been great for learning. Another problem with light wind days is that it is hot in the boat. The lack of breeze can be a problem for passengers and crew. It does not take long before you are looking at that cool water and looking for a cove to drop anchor and swim.

Kim has jumped out of the boat a couple of times when it appeared that we were barely moving. She found out quickly that it is tough to keep up with a sailboat that is going even 1 knot. She has learned to throw out a line to hold on to and drag behind the boat. It is really very relaxing up to about 2 knots. Above 2 knots it is not possible to hang on for long. That is when I get to practice the "man overboard" drill that I have learned.

I do have to be honest, one thing I have been working on is how to be a good captain. We have had a couple of incidents that required quick thinking and a cool head. My thinking was not quick enough and my head did not stay cool. I am aware of my weaknesses and with confidence I think I am getting better. You will have to ask Kim to see if she agrees.

I have been keeping a log and we have been sailing 15 days out of the last month. We were staying at the COE park about a mile from the dock from May 31 to June 14. It was so easy to just drive over to the dock and cast off the lines and head out. I can see why many people have their boats in a slip at the lake. The sites at the COE park are huge and we loved our time there.

That is the lake through the trees. The campground is on a peninsula. 

We had a number of visitors while we were in the park. First up was our two grandsons that live in Arkansas. Connor and Cameron are 7 and 4. Connor loves to fish, so we did a bunch of that.



We had the boys for two days while our son Michael and DIL Audrey had a couples weekend in Branson. Michael and Audrey came up on Sunday and we all went sailing. The wind was stronger than I had seen and it was a bit hectic. Winds were 15 to 22 knots. The bad news is that we ended up putting a big tear in the mainsail. It was one of those experiences that was good and bad. I learned a bunch of what NOT to do. I would do much better the next time we went out in strong wind. They make something called "sail tape". We were able to fix the main fairly easily, but we now knew a new mainsail was in our near future. I wondered how much that was going to cost...

We had the pleasure of our good friends Dick and Cathy joining us in the park for a few days. They are on their way to Alaska. We had a blast catching up on our travels over the past year and we went out in the boat two evenings for a swim. The winds were very light, so sailing was not going to happen.

Dick in the cockpit with me

Cathy enjoying the ride on the bow.
Next up was a visit from our grandson Will. Will is 8 and he took to sailing like an old pro. We sailed 2 days with Will in all kinds of wind and he did great. He took the tiller for long stretches and when he was not driving the boat he was running a jib sheet. It was awesome to have him on the boat. 

Will on the tiller.
I love this shot of Will looking out over the water as the sun goes down.
Just a random sailboat shot in the marina after a long day on the water.

Kim and I were in the park by ourselves on Sunday, June 9. We had very strong winds and I went out to the point at the end of the campground to look over the lake. The wind looked pretty scary. I also noticed that no other sailboats were on the water. We decided to wait to see if the wind would subside as predicted.  We headed out at about 3 pm. We have two head sails and I chose the smaller one. (A 100% jib) I also took a reef in the main. That means we reduced the sail area by about a third. This reduces the power of the sails and should make the boat easy to sail in stronger winds. As we headed out, we waved hello to Jerry, who has a Catalina 34 docked right across from us. He was just coming in after a brisk sail. He has been great and provided some excellent advice. He told me later he was happy to see my conservative sail plan and knew I would be fine. We had an excellent sail for the first 2 hours. We kept a pretty constant 5 knots and were able to move quickly up the lake into the wind. The winds were a challenge, but the boat felt balanced and we handled her with ease. After that, the wind died and we shook out the reef and cruised home at about 2 knots. It was an excellent day because we felt comfortable and learned to be conservative first. We did find three more small tears in the main when we were putting the sails away. I guess it is time to spend some money.

We had an excellent month of sailing. It has not been without challenges, but all in all it has been great. We are learning to love this activity and I can't wait to go sailing again. Our confidence is gaining very quickly and we now are excited about strong winds and some white caps on the water.

In the following weeks we have had a number of more "Firsts". I can't wait to write all about it.


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