Monday, July 22, 2019

Our First Sail

In my last entry, I wrote about our first time taking the boat out of our slip at the marina and motoring around the river. That was a good first step, but this is a sailboat, and the motor is auxiliary power. The main power is provided by the sails and we were now ready to take her out into Tampa Bay and actually raise the sails and see how we would do.

I learned how to sail only last year. I have sailed about 200 hours on the Hunter 22 that we just sold. I had gone out once on a Catalina 34 and then we chartered a Catalina 40 in Gulfport, MS last fall. That is it! That is all the real sailing experience that we have. I have studied sailing in books and videos almost every day for the past 2 years. Anyone that knows me, would say I am obsessed with sailing. Now it was time to put all of that book learning into practice.

I was watching the weather closely and it seemed that Monday, July 15, would be perfect. We were expecting about 7 knots of breeze out of the SE in the morning then diminishing to about 2 knots around noon, then turning to a westerly breeze in the afternoon between 5 and 10 knots. I now know this is the same forecast almost every day in the summer around here. The wind is a SE trade wind coming up from the Caribbean in the AM, then the land heats up and wind comes from the gulf back to land in the afternoon, which causes BIG thunderstorms almost every evening. You really need to be off the water by around 4 PM or be ready for what could be a dangerous storm.

I was up early and had a quick breakfast and then started getting the boat ready. Kim was right behind me. It is much like moving day in our RV. She took care of securing the cabin and galley and I worked on deck to get ready to go.

We backed out of our slip without incident and headed out the river. It was a beautiful day and it was very comfortable on the boat. We had a nice breeze through the cockpit. We have about a 5 mile motor out to open water. The channel is very narrow making sailing a bad idea. The tide was going out which added about 3 knots to our boat speed, so we were out to the bay in no time.

I was very excited when I turned over the helm to Kim and began working to raise the sails. It was a light 7 knot breeze, so I decided to deploy all three sails. The boat is a cutter rig, so that means we have two head sails forward of the mast. I was learning as I carefully raised the mainsail to the top of the mast. That went well. As Kim turned the boat to let the sail catch wind the main sail set with a resounding "thump". The boat speed immediately picked up to 3 knots. I went back and shut off the motor. Now we had the beautiful silence that only comes on a sailboat. I unfurled the staysail first and it set perfectly. It is a self tacking sail, so it does not require me to do much with it. Then came the big 135% Genoa. I unfurled it all the way and it billowed with the light breeze. I winched in the sheet and I glanced over at the knot meter and we were moving right along at 5.5 knots in 8 knots of wind. That is pretty good. Now to put this in perspective, you would not get a ticket in a school zone for going that speed (actually they would ask you to speed up) , but it sure felt awesome to me.

It is really hard to take a picture of a sailboat while you are on the boat, but you can see the leading edge of all tree sails in this shot. 
We sailed across the bay in the direction of the famous Skyway Bridge. It is a beautiful bridge and we hoped to sail right under, but before we got there the wind died as predicted.

That is the Skyway bridge off our starboard bow.
I took full advantage of the dying wind to play with my reefing systems. That is the system I will use to reduce sail when the wind pipes up a bit. I am glad I played with the systems because I found some things that needed some maintenance. Oh boy, more goes on the "to-do" list. That list is growing every day. Oh well, I was expecting it.

After about an hour of almost totally calm conditions the wind picked up and we were heading off in the opposite direction. We sailed for a few hours, made a few tacks and even had lunch in the cockpit while we moved along. It was an amazing day.

Kim at the helm, doing an excellent job. Notice those awesome binoculars hanging from the binnacle, those are a gift from Kim's Dad. We are using them all of the time and love them. Thanks Richie!
Here is a shot of me that Kim took while I was working at the mast. We both love to ride up on the foredeck. 
We saw the storms building to the east, so it was time to head in. We had a few issues putting the sails away, but that is all part of the learning. I got some great advice from a boat neighbor when we returned to the dock. Dave is a very experienced sailor and is always willing to answer my many questions.

That is enough for now. In my next entry, I will write about our next objective: A destination!


  1. Very good. Enjoy the new adventure. Looks like fun. Be safe.

    1. Thanks Darrell. We are having a blast. It is not without a lot of work, but anything worth doing requires you to work at it.

  2. How exciting is that!?!? I am sure you are learning lots about your new boat and things will become second nature to you before you know it!

    1. The amount of learning we are doing is amazing, but that is what keeps life interesting. Just like your project, we always want to do things we are not sure we can do.