The past several days have been busy! Saturday was a bit of a milestone, having pulled out all the sails for the first time. My friend Phil from Sublime Sustenance came over to help me take inventory of my sails, evaluate my running rigging, and help me understand what all the running rigging does. The heat was brutal, but Phil cheerfully spent almost three hours helping me pull sail bags from the depths of the lazarette, lay the sails on the lawn, fold them back up, hoist and lower the jib at least three times because there's something hinky going on with the roller furler, and hoist the main.
Among the discoveries: The main has two sets of reefing points. The metal jib halyard is beginning to split in places and needs replacement. The sheet for the furler is badly worn and needs replacement. Although I do have jib sheets hung on the rail, they look rather tired and will likely also be replaced. (Ouch, all this line is gonna cost me!) Some sail bags were marked as having a 100% jib and a Genoa, but both turned out to be back-up mainsails. The one in better condition I marked as back-up number one. The other may also stick around as a back-up, but when I get around to learning my way around my sewing machine it may become sail bags or a harbor shade. I also have a storm trysail, which looks to be in new condition, and an anchor riding sail for life on the hook. There were no sail ties to be found, and several of the bungee cords being used as sail ties gave up the ghost once unhooked. (So I have a good excuse to buy pretty brightly-colored sail ties at boat show in October.) And the big blocks on the toe rail appear to be placed for a spinnaker, so I will likely need to buy additional ones to install for the jib sheets.
Even though we didn't cast off the lines, it was good to evaluate the sails, know what I have, and what I need to get. That's the first step to taking her out under sail, hopefully sooner than later.
Monday I tried to row over to Port Annapolis to visit a friend and hang out by the pool. I had to begin by bailing out the dinghy, which was half full of water from a few days of torrential downpours. When I shoved off and tried to get underway I discovered the oars are too long. Previously, I had only rowed the dink with friends, so each of us could take an oar and one would sit forward, the other aft. Rowing solo, when I extended the oars to grab each by the handle and not have them crossed, the oars did not want to lift back out of the water after each row. I had to abandon rowing and just use one oar to paddle as if in a canoe. What a chore! The wooden oar was heavy to repeatedly lift from one side of the bow to the other, and the current simply wanted to push me back from whence I came. I made it, but was very glad to just get a dink hop home with my friends towing my dink behind us.
Tuesday was my first real sailing lesson. Well, I took some lessons many moons ago at Community Boating in Boston, but quickly met an instructor who would just take me out on the bigger keel boats and heel us over dramatically. Let's just say it was all flirting and no learning. So, yesterday I headed to the other end of Eastport and had a 3-hour "TrySail" lesson at J World. It was a LivingSocial deal I couldn't pass up, and for the basics getting started it's usually better not to let your dad, boyfriend, or close friends teach you to drive. The class can be up to four people but I lucked out and got a one-on-one lesson. Because I already know most of the equipment terminology we were able to jump quickly to points of sail and understanding wind direction, and got away from the dock pretty quickly.
I was a little surprised to be at the helm from the outset. The instructor did all the sail trim, but only took the helm a couple of times when we got in tight quarters and needed to act very quickly. I was very nervous about how far heeled over we were but the instructor promised me that even if we put the sail flat on the water at 90 degrees, the keel would pop us back up. We came out of Back Creek, sailed around the Severn River, went into Annapolis Harbor, and then reversed course to return to Back Creek. Most of the time was spent heeled over, at times even burying the rail. At one point the instructor noted how much more comfortable I'd gotten with how much we were heeled; I didn't tell him I was keeping my eyes on the tell tales and on my course so I wouldn't look down and notice the gunwale grazing the waves!
I have no sense of direction and often can't even get right and left correct. So the points of sail and judging wind direction was something I was prepared to be mostly awful at. There wasn't much wind at the dock, but once out in the river it kicked up quite a bit. The instructor's tips for finding the wind and knowing when you are directly into the wind, both by judging the wind on your face and by the reaction of the sails, were very helpful. By the end of the lesson I could tell him accurately whether we were close hauled or on a run and had started making adjustments on my own when the tell tales started lagging.
One regret of the day is that when I headed out in the morning I was running late and forgot my phone. It's not that I needed to make any calls, but it would have been cool to turn on my Navionics app and track my course tacking and gybing through Annapolis Harbor and all. So, next time I have to remember to do that!
Although I am glad to get a good lesson under my belt and look forward to going out and becoming a competent sailor, it is still a mode of transportation to me, not an end in itself. I know how to drive, but I don't "enjoy" driving. Driving is simply something necessary in life to conveniently get to places one wants or needs to go. I want to go to far away and interesting places without breaking the bank on diesel, therefore, I need to be able to sail and be able to singlehand my boat. And whether under power or under sail, I will gradually build my seamanship knowledge and skills (which, sadly, are already better than some more experienced boaters I encounter). I would jump right in and do the 5-day basic keelboat course if I had an extra thousand dollars laying around, but I don't. Although racing culture is not my thing, it is a free way to get more experience, so perhaps I'll start signing up to crew for J World's Thursday night races.
In other news... a little update on the air conditioning situation during this brutal heat wave. Although my air conditioning blows cold, the V-berth is always 5 or 10 degrees warmer than the salon. I've tried various and multiple fans both in the V-berth and to pull cool air from the salon and blow it into the V-berth. Nonetheless, I toss and turn with it too warm to sleep comfortably, when only 6 feet away the salon is 70 degrees. Yesterday I picked up a small Vornado fan, which is supposed to create whole-room circulation due to the particular design of the blades et cetera. Vornados are about double the cost of other fans the equivalent size, but I decided it was worth a try. Well, within a few hours the V-berth was cooled off to the point I actually needed to sleep under a blanket! It seems to be pulling the cool air in from the salon but also re-circulating the warmer air from the V-berth out. Every little victory counts!