Thursday, December 07, 2006

Rhode River to Knapp Narrows, MD

19.6 nm
Wind: WSW 5-10 knots, gusting to 15, shifting out of the NW and building to 20-25, gusting to 30
Seas: Building to three feet
Maximum speed: 7.1 knots
Average speed: 4.6 knots
Latitude: 38°44.41’N
Longitude: 076°19.34’W

I’ve been thinking a lot about Lin Pardey lately. Karl’s finally got sick of me saying, “Well, the Pardeys say that…” and has forbidden me from mentioning them, so you’ll probably hear me talking a lot more about the Pardeys. I have to take it out on someone. What I’ve been thinking about is that Lin Pardey is 4’10”. I am 5’10”, so I have exactly a foot on her.

I imagine that this makes things very different for us on sailboats. For instance: sailboat length. Larry and Lin circumnavigated in a 24’ wooden sailboat before upgrading to a 29’ boat. Our boat is 33’ long, but not even as wide as theirs, I don’t think. If I’m a full foot taller, then how much extra space does that translate to, percentage-wise?

That isn’t exactly what I’ve been contemplating, though. Karl and I have plenty of space on our skinny 33-foot boat, despite our frustrating attempts to pass each other in, what for lack of a better term I will call the hallway. No, what I’ve been thinking about is her claim that she can reef their mainsail single-handedly, while under sail.

I have yet to reef our main. Or our jib, lately, come to think of it. In fact, it takes Karl a full HOUR to reef, or take a reef out, under sail or at anchor. I kid you not. And on Seraffyn or Taliesin (the Pardeys’ two boats), Lin, a 4’10” 90-pound weakling, could do it single-handed. With one hand tied behind her back, too, I imagine. This morning, it took Karl an hour to take out our double reef from yesterday, with such effort that in the forty-degree winter weather he stripped down to his shirtsleeves.

Yesterday, double reefing the main was so much work that he again stripped out of his warm clothes, despite the thirty-knot breeze. I’m just guessing, but this doesn’t seem a very efficient way to sail. This point was proved rather effectively during today’s sail, when we set out with no wind, under full sail, with our new brand spankin’ new 130-percent genoa, and the wind suddenly shifted out of the northwest into a full-blown winter gale. We had known it was coming and were prepared, or so we thought. In fact, our plan was to just pop on down to the next anchorage, getting a couple more miles in before the weather took a turn. But we might have been a little safer if we had been capable of actually reefing our main in less than an hour’s time, instead of carrying full sail (we dispensed with the genoa, of course) and zooming into land at seven knots.

There’s a line you’re supposed to use for reefing, the use of which (I haven’t quite figure it all out) makes it called “jiffy reefing.” This was the line we didn’t know about on our first day of sailing, when we thought reefing involved simply tying some reef knots, which we had dutifully learned. Our reefing is definitely not jiffy. In fact, it is anything but.

There are definitely some times where I know we haven’t prepared enough, and that is perhaps most true when it comes to reefing. We didn’t even know how to reef when we left. We still barely know how. Gales are certainly not going to give us an hour’s warning, and Karl, hanging out up there by the mast for a full sixty minutes, is not exactly a model of boating safety. He does his best, but that’s not the point.

The point is that the Pardeys sail without an engine, and until we can figure out how to adjust our sail to suit the existing wind conditions, we’re up the proverbial creek without a paddle. We have to be able to sail with the wind that is, and then adjust our sail to suit the wind as it changes. We shouldn’t have even had the genoa up after about an hour of sailing. We should have been able to switch to our sturdier 110, the lapper, (that would take us about four hours) and then we should have reefed. Right now our only option is running away with the wind behind us and flipping on the diesel when things get rough. One of these days it’s going to get the better of us.

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