Tuesday, July 1, 2008

BFU rules in effect

(battery 2) Went out for a sunset cruise with Terri and Candy on a beautiful Monday evening. Originally was going to include Candy's coworker Fred on this outing, but he had hurt his back the previous weekend and had to bow out.

We got to the marina around 7, and the conditions on Lake Muskegon looked a little bumpy. Choppy waves with occasional tiny whitecaps, gusting winds from the north, and very few boats out on the lake. I decided we would do some practice reefing to start out with, starting with the smallest sail area on the main, and then moving up as we felt we needed it. I was also not quite sure we had the reefing lines set up correctly, and we hadn't had an opportunity to practice our reefing skills in several years, so it was a good opportunity. We put in the first reef (just finding all the reefing lines was an adventure in itself), and puttered along at a very slow rate of speed, but as I continued to look at the reefing set-up, I became more and more convinced that I had done something wrong. The sail shape wasn't effective, the gathered sail on the mast looked lumpy and mishapen, and we just couldn't seem to make any speed. It took me until the end of the evening to figure out that I had installed the reefing lines (and probably had done the same thing the previous year) not in their proper spots on the outer edge of the sail, but in the first set of reefing holes in the middle of the sail. No wonder we kept having trouble with sail shape on the main for the past year or so.

Eventually, I put out some headsail to help with the speed as we approached the channel entrance, and then as we started traversing the channel, and the wind started dying down a bit, I took out the reef, opened up the main and let out the rest of the headsail. It was a slow process, but we managed to sail the channel for the second time already this year. Amazing the difference in wind and waves from the little lake to the big lake this evening. Gusting winds and choppy waves on Lake Muskegon, and once out on Lake Michigan, it was a light but steady breeze with barely any waves that allowed us to slowly but comfortably sail quite a ways out before turning back around 9 pm.

As we were heading back towards the channel, we heard a 'securite' announcement on the VHF which we interpreted as a tanker preparing to leave Lake Muskegon, and kept our eyes peeled, and our binoculars trained on the channel. After a long time of looking and sailing towards the lighthouse, we started to think we had misinterpreted the message, but as we got about halfway through the opening channel, we finally saw what was coming, and boy, was it a big one. I debated on whether or not to try sailing next to it (we've shared the channel with the Ferry and other freighters before), but as it got closer, I realized that this was bigger than anything we've run into before, and pulled away into the anchorage area to get out of the way at the last minute. We did a big circle in the anchorage as the ship passed (along with a few other powerboats who also got out of the way), Terri handling lines while simultaneously snapping photos.

We probably could have sailed back down the channel again on the way home, but it was getting dark, and with the sun down, considerably chillier, so we rolled up the headsail and put on the engine for the ride home. On the way back, we did a few necessary adjustments, fixing the port bow light, which wouldn't come on. Terri had the magic touch, and after taking one of the screws out and jiggling it, it popped back on. We also finally figured out the reefing lines and strung them in their proper configuration before flaking the sail, with Candy at the tiller heading us back toward the marina. It was after ten when we pulled into the slip, getting pretty dark, but did a pretty good job of tucking Fanny away for the night.

A beautiful night, worth the wait.

(photos) (1) A beautiful sunset tonight, with a fellow sailor motoring out the channel (2) Tim at the helm trying to coax a little more speed out of the improperly reefed main (3) Terri and Candy on the lookout for the freighter (4-8) the "BFU Rule" is in effect here: Despite the normal 'rules of right of way', you should always yield to anything Bigger, Faster or Uglier than you.

The freighter, the 1000 foot 'American Integrity' (see more information here at Wikipedia and this news item from last year when this ship became stuck in the Muskegon Channel)

No comments: