Oh $#^% Sailing



I though this photo was lost in photo sharing sites past, but found it in an old e-mail.

Mike M Sailing 01 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

That’s a Charlie Wilson photo from a long ago paddler gathering. I was trying to look calm, but I was about to piss my pants; when I came out of the wind shadow a half mile away I was suddenly out in 20mph winds with too much sail.

The Sea Wimp was screaming across the water and the big Spirit Sail was bent over so far over I had no hope of getting it down, or doing anything else except aiming for a shallow sandy beach and running the boat aground.

Trying to look calm and composed afterwards

Mike M 20 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr
Jun 30, 2014
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All super chill like. Yeah man that was really cool. You should try it.


All super chill like. Yeah man that was really cool. You should try it.

Charlie sent me those photos, explaining that he couldn’t resist taking a few when he discerned the “Oh $#!&” look on my face.

Genius that I am I did that twice with the bigger sail before I figured out that I could, if possible, simply steer into some available wind shadow, or at worst briefly turn the hull off wind a bit to spill some air, releasing the tension on the battens, before dismounting the sail.

A very stable genius, if sometimes a slow learner. The second time was potentially worse.

I was out in the middle of a long, wide coastal bay, cruising downwind as the wind got stronger and stronger until I was again in “Oh $#!&” territory. There was a single small island a couple miles ahead, maybe or maybe not in reach on the slight tack I could manage with the big sail bent over that far. If I missed that island my next stop was, literally, one State to the north in Delaware.

There are a lot of nice bayside restaurants and bars along that stretch of barrier island backside in Delaware, so I wasn’t too worried, but I managed to land on the little sand beach shallows and take the sail down. Where I had a calming beer and waited for my companions to finally catch up. “Yeah man, that was cool. What took you guys so long?”

I quickly got better at simple sailing, and even that rudimentary downwind sailing has taught me a lot of nuances in reading light breeze and little surface riffles and barely distinguishable wind shadows and the most efficient angles. With a sail up and a compass in view it was a quick education, validated when I get it right, and a subtle appreciation that translates well when paddling upwind.