My friend John recently got his ASA Basic Keelboat sailing certificate. When he said he wanted a sailing buddy to help him out on his first day-sail in a keelboat without an instructor, I jumped at the chance.
John told me he’d be happier going out the first time with someone who knew how to sail.
I wouldn’t profess to be a sailing expert, but I’ve done a fair bit of sailing in my time. I started sailing at a young age, I’ve owned a Nordic Folkboat which I sailed in the Solent, I’m a RYA qualified dinghy sailor up to (but not including) instructor level, I’ve spent more time than I’d care to remember sailing the rivers and broads of the Norfolk Broads. Anyone who can sail a 30ft. yacht upwind on a 35ft. wide river deserves some recognition for their sailing skills. I had the privilege of spending a day crewing a 50 ft. ocean racing yacht. I’ve sailed the Solent in January with ice on the deck, and I have had the rather ignominious experience of abandoning ship in a gale while still tied up in a marina.
I guess I fitted the bill of an experienced sailing buddy, though I didn’t tell John the tale of abandoning ship until we were on the way home!
John picked me up shortly after 7:00am and we collected the rented yacht, ‘Cornucopia’ a Frank Butler designed Catalina 25 with a swing keel, from Stockton State Park Marina. It was pretty breezy, 20mph gusting to 25mph and above, so we set a reefed mainsail – my experience is that it is better to start reefed and let it out later than find out you need to reef once you’ve started. Especially with an unfamiliar yacht. As it happened we stayed reefed, it made for a comfortable day’s sailing and we didn’t put any strain on the gear (well hardly).
After a couple of beats across the lake we took off downwind, north, up the lake to where the Little Sac and Big Sac arms of Stockton lake meet. There John had his first taste of waves as the chop was building up nicely along the arms and met in the middle. My response was ‘you call these waves?’
A few words on the video – I got a lot of flak from Ginger and Lanie on my choice of music. It wasn’t my first choice either. That would have been this: Captain Pugwash
We had a great day sailing. It was almost uneventful – though in my experience no sailing trip is entirely without surprises. This trip’s surprise happened to come when I glanced down into the cabin and saw water on the floor. As I hurriedly went below for a closer look we got hit by an extra strong gust that laid the boat far enough over to get water on the side deck. To my relief it turned out that water was leaking from John’s insulated food bag.
We also had a little bit of fun involving a stopped ski-boat. We were trying to get into some quieter water, sheltered from the wind, to lower the sail ready to motor back to the marina. John seemed intent on running the parked boat down. Not wishing to see the ski-boat impaled on the front of our yacht I had to fight with the desire to grab hold of the tiller (not that I’ve told John, but he’ll find out now). I didn’t need to worry though, John tacked us away from the ski boat to get us some more room.
At the end of our day out John did a superb job of bringing us back to the pontoon, all I had to do was step over the side and tie us up.
What a great day.
That’s not quite the end of our day. On arriving home Jim had visited and installed Ginger’s new Blue bottle Tree – wow!