Strong Winds and Skidding Dogs

Sunday October 17, 2010

This morning I woke up and there were icicles on my eyelashes keeping my eyes from opening.  Ok, I’m exaggerating there, it really wasn’t that bad of a night.  We came prepared this time with sleeping bags guaranteed to keep you warm down to 20 degrees, plus I was layered in long underwear, sweats, and even a winter hat.  We were worried that Mazzii was going to have trouble during the night, but with her layered in a sweater, coat, and wrapped up in about 3 blankets she seemed to do fine as well. With no immediate reason to jump out of bed we brought her into the v-berth and just lounged for awhile having a lazy Sunday morning.

Of course when we did have to get out of bed and get changed it was that little dance where you hop around trying to get one piece of clothing off and the other one on as fast as possible to prevent any part of your skin from being exposed to the cold air for too long.  Or maybe this is just something I do, because Matt in all his manliness was walking around without a shirt for some time.  We took Mazzii to shore before it got to the point where she would need to pee in the dinghy again.  Once back on the boat we got Serendipity ready for her last sail of the season.  Thinking it might be possible to get out on Lake Michigan we motored down the channel, but as soon as we were nearing the breakwalls we could see waves about 4-6  feet.  Normally not that big of a deal, and our boat has handled much worse, but with the high winds and cold temps we decided to turn around and stay on Muskegon Lake.  Mazzii had to have been happy about the change of venue because even going though the new channel she was so cold that through the mound of blankets she was under her head would just shake and shiver.

 

Please make me warm!!

Ahhhh, sun on my face

Although the winds were still near 20 knots on Muskegon Lake there were barely any whitecaps on the water, so we unfurled the jib to start zigzagging our way across the water.  Heading north past the dunes we were taken off guard when an unexpected gust of wind hit us and threw us from a 5 degree heel to a 25 degree heel in just a few seconds.  Poor Mazzii was on the windward side and the sudden angle put her into a panicked struggle of sliding and skidding trying to stay upright but unfortunately landed on the floor of the cockpit.  With a few more strong gusts coming up on us we decided she might be safest down there and would also be blocked from the wind and we padded the area with her bed and blankets.

There were still a decent amount of boats out considering how late it was in the year.  With me steering behind the wheel we watched the other boats go by, getting a lot of entertainment from a trimaran that could speed from one side of the lake to the other in what seemed like two minutes, most of the time with one hull out of the water.  At one time it was racing a hobie cat, and though it was neck and neck for awhile the trimaran pulled ahead in the end.

While Matt and I were headed back on the last stretch before the mooring, he decided he would also like to race the boat on the same course next to us.  With the other boat on our port side (about 1/4 mile away) and being on a starboard tack, the wind was filling the jib on just the right angle to where I could neither see the boat we were ‘racing’ nor our exact heading.    Since Matt was sitting on the port side and could see under the sail I told him he had to be my eyes, and he would direct me a little bit left or right to obtain the fastest speed.  Of course this perfect position was at a 20 degree heel, which still scares the crap out of me.  Matt loves the thrill of it, but since I’m still learning sailing I’m always afraid we’re going to go all the way over.  And since I’m the helmsman that would need to correct the course, it doesn’t settle my nerves at all that I don’t know exactly what I’m doing.  But once we got to that furthest point of heeling without going any further I was able to calm down a little bit and hold course.  In the end the boat that didn’t even know they were racing us won, and we veered off toward the mooring field without either of us feeling too defeated.

Since Matt was feeling proud of my racing abilities that day he chose to continue the lessons an wanted to teach me how to pick up the mooring from the helmsman point, which is when I normally hand the wheel off to him while I run up to the bow with a boat hook.  Since I’d never been behind the helm at very low speeds or coming up on an object he explained how I would need to throw it in neutral and eventually reverse once we hit the mooring.  Attempt one was a miss with me straying too far from the mooring ball in an effort not to actually run over the thing.  Attempt two was barely closer, but Matt was able to grab the lines and start hauling them on deck.  I wandered up front to start helping, just grabbing at random lines that I assumed needed to be held.  We still don’t know which one of us was lacking in communication for this incident but as I was holding what I thought was every line, Matt asked me if I had the one for the dinghy.  We both looked down at my hands and then at the water to see the dinghy slowly creeping to the back of the boat.  Have it I did not.  At the moment I was half tempted to jump in after it and swim it back to the boat, and even if it were still September I may have, but I thought better of it and raced to get the boat hook instead.  By this time of course it was too far to be reached and would need to be rescued by Serendipity.  Starting up the engine and throwing the lines back in the water I let Matt take the wheel while I stood at the bow with a boat hook, ready to go.  Again, the second time was the charm and I was able to grab the line and held onto it while we went back to pick up the mooring lines.

Part of me was sad as we packed up our things up for the night knowing this is the last time we’d be on the water until next summer.  The other part of me was glad to be spending all of our Saturday nights in a warm bed and have a few Sundays under layers of blankets on the couch watching tv and movies.  It was a really good season on the water and I’m sure I’ll be longing to get back out soon.

I love dinghy rides!

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  1. Pingback: Putting my Money on Goodbye Shea | Matt & Jessica's Sailing Page

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