May. 2, 2017

We Test Our Boundaries

April 29, 2017

Sometimes things just fall into place.

Saturday was just one of those times. Everything lined up for a nice long sail. We drove over to Regatta Pointe Marina friday night, and made a quick trip to West Marine Saturday morning- we were looking for the solenoid to hook up the new, correctly sized propane tank I had ordered from Home Depot. As often happens, what was available online wasn't in the store (so I still can't cook, too bad), but while we were there, we picked up some paper charts and a cruiser's guide.

Robert had ordered paper charts online a few weeks ago. Boy, were we in for a surprise when these arrived at our home in Ocala, Florida. They were HUGE. Suffice it to say ...these charts would not even fit ON our boat.  If anyone has an interest in some nice charts to be used for wallpaper in a nautical theme, get in touch. I can hook you up! No kidding, you could wallpaper a ballroom with these puppies...

But I digress...Discovering we had a huge window between low and high tide, and the marine report indicating "windy" conditions.... we hurried to shove off. Bonus sailing day!

Maybe we hurried a little too much. In my haste, I untied the springline out of order, so I was on the dock holding a line and watching the boat leave without me. I waved. Robert was not amused. Ok- that's never happened before.  I just got a little too excited. Robert put the boat in reverse and this time, the boat left with me actually aboard. However- because of the awkward exit, I then missed the hook with the bowline and dropped the line in the water. Strike two! This will add a degree of difficulty on our return......something we will find later that we DON'T need.

However, as we exit the marina and head into the Manatee River, I can only describe the conditions as perfect. 

When I daydream about sailing, which I do, A LOT, it's always about a day like this- nice wind, sunshine dancing off the water, and light to no boat traffic. It's a funny thing about us sailors vs the motorers. We hear windy and say, yay! They hear windy and say, nope. They pass us making all their noise, and probably think, "look at those guys poking along!", and we wave and think, "look at those noisey, stinky things!." The motorers are inevitably blaring loud music and speeding full throttle ahead, and the sailors are cutting their diesels as soon as possible to enjoy the serene peacefulness of the sailing experience. 

We are able to get under sail almost immediately. We sail under the Sunshine Skyway bridge into Tampa Bay, something we have wanted to do for some time. The paper charts make it so much easier to plot the course, and we have new-found confidence. The Bay after the bridge is wide open water, and the wind is kicking up, so I decide to cut loose. I ask Robert to trim the sail, and he does and the boat lunges forward like a racehorse leaving the gate. Still just under the jib, we reach another speed record of 8.4 knots! The heel is pretty extreme at this point, and with everything crashing down below, I look up to see Robert at the starboard rail, grinning ear to ear- The port deck is going into the water,  and I decide to turn off and ease up- although a part of me wanted to see just how much I could get out of her.

We cross back under the bridge and plot a course out into the Gulf of Mexico, where we put up the mainsail, and spend the next few hours practising adjusting the two sails to work together. We learn so much! Yes... the textbooks and the classes taught us these drills, but there is nothing like hands on trial and error to discover what works. 

Robert and I are very different in our style. While I rely on feeling, intuition and instinct to make slight adjustments to the boat to maximize the wind, Robert is more likely to use the gauge and textbook points of sail to adjust the sails to maximize the wind. I think we complement each other that way..maybe he will keep me from sailing off the edge of the earth! (the books say don't do this)

Robert takes over the helm to start back, and then, looking behind him at the sky,  I realize the sun is really low- I mention it to him and he looks at me and nods when I say- "I don't think we are going to make it back before dark." He can feel me start to get nervous and he calmly says, "We will be ok...."

It has been such an awesome day of sailing...I kind of hear a mom voice in my head, saying "It's all fun and games till someone puts an eye out".....maybe it's my voice. But I don't like her tone, not one bit.

Coming into the marina after dark...this is a frightening concept. We have never sailed after dark...

Stay tuned for part 2......