Sunday, July 20, 2008

Bobcat sail #1

My in-laws came to visit just after I bought the boat. I spent a couple days sorting out the lines, deciding how I wanted to bend on the sail, etc. I probably put the mast up half a dozen times, getting things worked out.

I had never driving with a trailer before the day I bought the boat. Launching requires backing up, so my father-in-law and I went to the high school parking lot to practice backing up. (It's summer, so the lot is empty). I got the basic feel of it, enough to try the real deal.

I tried to find a used life vest, because I really don't like buying new things if I don't have to, but I didn't see any at the "Marine Exchange". However, they did have cheap, ugly galvanized cleats, so I bought a couple to put where there were some matching holes. I ended up getting a new vest at West Marine (and I hate buying at chains, too), but I wanted to get on the water. $30 got me an annual launch pass (but it's only for the next 6 months).

The missing cleats would have been a good spot to tie fenders. One fender ended up on a halyard cleat. One on the pin that holds the centerboard up. One on the mainsheet cleat. Also, no cleats aft for dock lines, so I put one on the CB pin. Make do with what you've got, right? Unfortunately this allows the boat to spin around its center. Oh, well.

My father-in-law helped me rig the boat & launch. As I sailed away from the dock, I discovered the first quirk of sailing this boat: if you are trying to turn downwind from a broad reach, at low speed, well, you can't. The long sail, sitting way out, creates a lot of weather helm. The rudder, being pretty small, doesn't do much at low speed. So, instead of turn downwind to head out of the channel, the boat just sailed straight towards a hard thing. With a few feet to go, it picked up enough speed to make the rudder work, and turned.

I sailed around inside Boat Haven, and then, with a little confidence, headed out of the marina. A couple small loops, and then made my way back in to the marina.

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Now, I'm not an old salt, but I've sailed a number of boats in close quarters, and almost every time I docked under sail. I've done it in boats from 8' to 35'. But today was apparently not my day. I was trying to tack up the channel, and suddenly everything went wrong. The boat didn't move the way I thought it would. It wanted to run in to hard things. I was totally confused. I decided to fall off, head out, and try again, and had to fend off hard things because of the quirck I mentioned before.

The second approach, things started to go haywire again, so I fired up the little electric motor. It's mounted oddly, well outboard, and causes the boat to turn to port. It also blocks the rudder's full range, which makes compensating difficult.

Finally the boat was moving under power, things seemed to be going smoothly, and I was headed back to the boat launch. I decided to add a little more power, turned the motor up to full, and wham! the motor jumped off the mount! It fell in, completely submerged, hanging by the wire, and continued to run, spinning every which way. I reached in and turned it off, coasted to the dock, and tied up.

The remainer of the trip was without incident, which is surprising, since I had never retrieved a boat on to a trailer before.

30 minutes of sailing across a 5 1/2 hour trip.

Several people approached or called out and asked about the boat. It seems to get a lot of comments. I enjoyed the attention.

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