23 April 2011

Our Intro to Sailing

Finally, our first sailing lesson.  It seems like a lot longer ago than four months that we decided to embark on this adventure.  And it has not gone by fast, but as Jane said on the way home from Hoofer Sailing Club, we are on our way.

The lesson itself was as much an introduction to how to sail at Hoofer as it was how to sail in general.  We spent the first half hour or so learning about the wind clock and the points of sail, but most of our time was spent getting us in a boat and the boat out on Lake Mendota.  Hoofer has special sloops that hold up to six people, three on either side of the centerboard.  This is generally a good plan for balancing the boat, but as we discovered, rapid side-switching by the "middle-man" is a regular occurance.

It was pretty windy on the lake and our instructor didn't want to chance losing anyone overboard, so we sailed under jib and a mainsail designed for a smaller boat (apparently reefing is not an introductory concept).  Everyone who wanted to got a chance to try their hand at tacking.  I volunteered to go first and in doing so  provided a salient demonstration to my fellow crew members of how not to tack.  I can't exactly remember the details, but it seems I managed to simultaneously get my foot caught in the toe straps, get whacked in the back by the tiller and/or be bludgeoned by the boom.  I see now that I have been egregiously underappreciative of steering by wheel.  If nothing else, my pluck did serve to show our instructor that a more step-by-step explanation of tacking was in order and the other two or three students who had a go after me  made a much smoother job of it.

Bringing the boat back to the dock was more interesting (though not more challenging) than I thought it would be.  I would have thought that docking on the windward side would be the way to go as the wind would drive the boat toward--as opposed to away from--the dock.  This is, apparently, not recommended for that very reason.  Smashing the boat into the dock has deleterious effects on the former.  This means that one has to get  the boat to sail upwind at just the right speed and angle as to sidle it up against the dock without either bashing into or else never quite approaching it.  Our instructor got it done on the second try (not uncommon, he assured us).   And the brave sailor who volunteered to wrastle with the jib while crouched down on the bow sprung onto the dock and looped the bowline over a pylon at the last possible second before the rest of us  sailed haplessly away.

Now we are back on land, back home, and signed up for ASA 101 over Memorial Day weekend.  This comes right on the heals of our charter in Annapolis.  We are counting the days until "live-aboard."  There are 283 of them.