Sunday, August 10, 2014

The Siren

I have four dresses in my closet. There is my work dress and my nice dress for those light breeze days and then there's my party dress, my gown. My Skipper has yet to ask me to wear it. Until now. It was sure nice to get all dressed up and go dancing. -Corleto

The sailing this summer has been very good. We have cruised to places we haven't been before and done things we had never done before. Yet for me something was still missing.
In my sail bag arsenal I still had one that was calling my name. It was the Spinnaker.

The spinnaker sail is the one I loved to watch when I was land locked, looking at the boats on English Bay, wishing I was out there. It is a sail that a lot of cruisers shy away from because of its sheer size and its potential for disaster. They have heard the tails of broaching and wrapping, of tearing and tangling. Hell a young lady I once worked with told me a story of a spinnaker filling with water and almost sinking the boat. Well perhaps that was an exaggeration, but the story itself left me with some trepidation about sailing a spinnaker.

But the bag kept calling, like the Sirens of Greek Mythology calling out to Odysseus, I could not resist.

I would have liked to have tried flying it last season, but getting to know Corleto and how she sailed was really the main priority. Before I knew it the sailing season was over and the Spinnaker had only been taken out of the bag once and that was to wash it. So when this season began, I boldly stated on this very blog that I wanted to fly this kite before the end of the summer.

I had hoped to attend some course or clinic to learn about the mysteries of the spinnaker, but I was too late, they were filled or the courses weren't until the fall. So I did what everybody does now, turn to the Internet, YouTube and sailing forms to see if I could learn about this mysterious sail that sat alone in the V-berth.

During the past several weeks I watched, read, reread and re-watched everything I could on the subject. It was now time to see how this beauty worked.

I called my friend Kinc, the guy who helped me deliver Corleto home from Bellingham 18 months ago, to join me on this adventure. He too had never flown a spinnaker and was excited and willing to give 'er a go.
Before casting off, I briefed Kinc on hows and the whys of the rigging and pole. We went through the details of the hoist or set of the sail and basic trimming. And with a nervous anticipation we cast off and headed towards English Bay to go fly the kite.

The winds were inflow/ sea breezes of about 6-9 kn. Light by any one's standard, but perfect for two nubes with a spinnaker.
I went forward to rig the pole and attach halyard and sheets. Kinc opted to stay in the cockpit minding the helm and sheets. He handed the helm to our friend Otto (the Autotiller) as Corleto began to make her course downwind.
"Ready?" I said from my position amidships at the mast with halyard in hand.
"Ready!" Kinc replied.

I began to run the halyard. Kinc began to sheet in. The magnificent sail filled. I cleated the halyard and scurried back to the cockpit and tensioned and adjusted the after guy and pole. A quick glance at the sail and suddenly Corleto was alive. The boat accelerated. The spinnaker was set.
We looked at each other with nervous smiles, high five'd and shook hands. We had successfully set a spinnaker and it did not tear, the boat did not broach or round up. We were elated that we had both accomplished something that we had never done before. It was a magic moment.

Taken moments after the first "set"

We each played with our respective control lines to see how it affected the performance of the sail and the boat. I observed the speed of the boat was now 5.7 kn and climbing. We were having a ball. We could not believe how calm the boat was, very comfortable and sailing with speed.

Watching the knotmeter climb.
I sent a message to Charlene who was watching from Second Beach in Stanley Park. She answered back that she could see us.
By now we had been going about a half hour with the spinnaker blasting us along towards Stanley Park.
Kinc said to me, "This is great. But tell me again how we are gonna get this sail down?"
That was indeed a very good question and it was the part of spinnaker flying I feared the most.
I explained I would go and free the pole and guy by undoing the snap shackle at the sail, then I would free the halyard, while he was to haul in his sheet and the clew of the sail and keep hauling until the sail was down and in the boat. And that this would have to be done with some speed and coordination to keep the sail out of the water.

We got ourselves ready, but the wind began to shift or Otto lost his course and the sail began to de power. We just went into take down mode and surprisingly without a hitch. Kinc had that sail into the cockpit in about 10 seconds. We both kinda laughed as Corleto had dictated the takedown as we had not.

Well that was fun lets go back out to the mouth of the bay and come back! We agreed. I headed below to repack the sail. I had never done it in such a small space. I feared that I would pack it with a twist. Only the next set would I know if I had packed it right.

No twists on the second set!
The second set was as easy as the first. I had packed it right.

The second run, was even better than the first in that it was longer and we went a bit faster. The wind had picked up. The second douse went somewhat better in that we dictated the takedown, not the wind or the boat.

Now filled with new found confidence, we headed out to the mouth again for a third and final run. This time we set the pole on the port side of the boat. Again a good set, good speed and big smiles. Our course was now set for Dunderave in West Vancouver. We were going pretty good when the sound of a tug's horn got my attention. He was inbound with a barge in tow and his blasts were for a sailboat who was crossing his bow. We figured his distance at about 1.5 nautical miles off our port quarter. We would cross his course as well I figured and after observing him for several moments, I made the call that we would need to Gybe the pole and change course.
"Well he's still way back there." My helmsman replied.
"Yes but we have never gybed the pole before and I would rather do it early as opposed to wait. Slow and sure then there's no conflict"

The gybing maneuver was perhaps the most rewarding part of the day as we altered course and avoided a potential conflict with Theodore the Tug Boat and our new course now took us toward Kits beach. This gave us a nice sail pass by Charlene's position on the beach and my Mom's balcony on Beach Avenue. With a wave to Charlene on the shore and a call to Mom to get her binoc's, Corleto was a happy boat.

Kinc tending his sheet.
For all those years that I would look out from the shore and wish that I was out there, now the rolls were reversed. I was out there. Spinnaker full and looking good. And I got to share the experience with 3 of the people who encouraged my dreams of sailing. Two ashore and one with me on the boat. I can't stop smiling and I can't wait to get out there again.

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