Friday, August 04, 2006

The second sail

We went sailing again this week. It was a little trickier this time, not because it was more difficult, but because we were aiming higher. Rather than simply moving the boat, we wanted to sail well, and we’re still missing some of the finer points of the art. Believe it or not, after sailing twice, we’re not the world’s best sailors.

For me, the major point of dispute is the heeling. For you landlubbers out there, heeling is when the boat dips away from the wind, sometimes so much that the sides of the boat, the gunwales, are actually touching the water. Our boat, a 1971 Ranger 33, is a racing cruiser, but according to those who know, it’s actually a racing hull. This means it heels. A lot. I’m beginning to understand why cruising sorts want thicker, heavier, wider boats—trying to live in a house that’s always tilting on its axis is a little tricky. Even getting sandwiches out of the icebox when we’re up on our sides is tricky. It’s more a matter of pulling yourself, hand over hand, below deck, and then pulling yourself back out again.

I’m convinced we’ll get used to it. We’re not trading this one in on a cruising cruiser, no matter what, at least for the next five years. It’s not really that uncomfortable, either. It’s exhilarating, bracing yourself against the power of the wind. It’s just confusing because I’m never sure, when at the helm, if the boat’s actually supposed to heel that much. Am I doing something wrong? Should I be heading more into the wind, or farther away from the wind? Should our sails be pulled in tighter, or let out looser? These are the questions we ask ourselves every minute that we’re out there, with no one to answer them. It will all come with experience, but it would be nice to have something else to rely on other than our own trial and error. Not that we’ve relied on anything else the whole rest of the way.

It’s an amazing feeling, though, standing at the tiller, feeling the water beneath you pull against the rudder. Feeling the wind resist you and then give in, as you push the boat towards it. Feeling the vast power you have filling the sails as you attempt to sheet them in. It’s amazing, controlling this huge half-alive machine, using an ancient art. I feel like we’ve resurrected her, our boat, and she’s as thrilled as we are to be out there, pulling against the wind, coasting down the side of each wave. Sure, she has some pockmarks, some scars, but we already love her warts and all. I can only imagine how people feel about boats they build themselves.

We zigzagged back and forth across the bay a couple of times on Tuesday. We finally exhausted ourselves and decided to take a break by taking down the main. The boat sails so fast and heels so much with both sails up that we sometimes feel a little out of control. Taking the jib down is a way to slow down without having to stop sailing.

We finally came into Pocasset Harbor, almost directly across Buzzard’s Bay from Marion, and anchored somewhere in Red Brook Harbor. We don’t have our anchor light hooked up yet, and I’m not really sure where exactly we’re supposed to be anchoring, but we’ve done it successfully twice now. We can call it stealth anchoring, like we used to stealth camp. As far as we know we’re doing nothing illegal, but we haven’t exactly studied up on the rules, either. We had a delightful evening, jumping in the water to escape the sun, then meeting Karl’s friend Dave at the Chart Room in Cataumet for a lovely dinner of shrimp and swordfish. On the way back, rowing our dinghy across the harbor, we could see thousands upon thousands of tiny jellyfish, each one glowing as the stroke of our oars hit it.

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