Oh $#^% Sailing

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