Thursday, July 21, 2011

Tacking Practice


A heat wave has descended on the midwest, and we've been experiencing temps in the high nineties all week, so me and Terri escaped out to the boat to cool down on a rare schedule-free Wednesday afternoon (Terri starts her new job on Monday, so midweek sails will have to be confined to sunset cruises for the foreseeable future). A little nervous about the engine after our last outing, but we kept an eye on her temperature gauges all afternoon, and she seemed perfectly fine. Lake Muskegon seemed a bit choppy and gusty (and still pretty damned hot), so we decided to wring out the engine and motor out to the big lake in search of cooler temperatures.
Out on Lake Michigan the breeze was steady from the southwest at about 15 knots, with waves about 2 to 3 feet from the same direction. We set up for a beam reach and headed out into the lake at a steady 5-6 knot speed. Fairly comfortable sailing, with an occasional big wave to keep the thrill level high enough. Very hazy conditions today, and not very many other boats on the water. On our way out, we noticed another sailboat on the return trip, and I was marveling at how close hauled they were, heeled way over, and seemingly struggling to find a good tack (and I should have seen it as a warning).
We didn't quite make the same distance outbound that we did on our last sail, but turned around after about an hour (maybe 4 and a half miles out?). The return tack was a bit more difficult, with the wind and waves conspiring to push us northward off our course, and we ended up tacking back and forth 3 times (and taking twice the time to return at a much reduced speed) to get back to the channel. Close hauled, and sometimes heeling over enough to cause a squawk of alarm from Terri. We also had to avoid close encounters with both the sightseeing boat out for a dinner cruise, and the Lake Express Ferry both returning to and leaving from the channel (when it was leaving I had a jolt of adrenaline as it looked like we were right in the way of their intended path - but they managed to avoid us, and I quick snapped a picture with our cell phone -- and it felt a lot closer than it looks here).
We made some record speeds down the channel under sail, at least as far as the submarine dock, when the wind died and we ended up motoring the rest of the way back to our slip. A minor mishap on the way across Lake Muskegon, when we were adjusting the headsail furling, and one of the headsail sheets came unshackled (I had visions of the same problem we ran into in the Virgin Islands, with the sheet wrapping around the prop), but we managed to cut the engine in time and retrieve the line. Nice re-entry into the slip this time, and after a few minor repairs we were on our way to enjoy a very hot and sweaty hour or two at the Berlin County Fair, seeing a friend's band play, and checking out the livestock.

(battery one)

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