Having had trouble tacking the boat in small quarters, I went looking for help. An aquaintance here in Port Townsend has been boating here and elsewhere, on a variety of boats, for many years. He has a boat in the marina. 4 boats parked next to his house. A couple in the workshop. And an inflatable in the garage. Sheesh.
He offered to come out sailing with me and see how the boat did. We loaded up, headed down to the marina, and got in line for the boat launch. Normally I rig the boat first, and then get in line, because it takes me 35 minutes to put everything in place. Plus, I usually go on weekdays when there's no line. But we figured we could rig the boat quickly together.
So, we got in line, unhooked the bungees that held the spars in place on the road, and then the line moved. I started the van up to move forward, but it wouldn't shift out of park. Weird. I had never seen this before, and wasn't sure what to do. We waved the next people in line on by, and started trying random things. Fuses seemed like a good bet, so I checked each one in turn. In my tow vehicle (the family minivan), there are some fuses by the engine, under the hood, and others in the cabin under the steering wheel. After checking the first set, I found myself in the awkward position of putting my head where my feet normally go to look at the inside fuse box. Lucky me, I was also sitting on dog shit that was deposited in the road. I figured that since the shifter won't go out of park without the brakes on, maybe I should look at brake-related fuses. Sure enough, that one labeled "STOP" was blown. Replaced it, shifted in to D, and pulled forward.
I later figured out the problem: one of the wires to the trailer lights had pulled out of a butt connector, and I had twisted the wires together in a hurry to get going. The bare wire had hit a ground, shorted out, and blown the fuse.
Anyway, we rigged, launched, and parked the van. Then we noticed that the motor wasn't doing nothing, as the battery was dead. Still don't know why - it has been holding a good charge otherwise. Oh well, we can sail on and off the dock, right?
Headed out of the marina, and played for a while, taking turns at the tiller. We studied the way this boat tacks, shifting our weight around for different effect, and getting stuck in irons. Wow, getting out of irons in this boat is a pain. After I had trouble with it, my friend took his turns, and was also frustrated with it. Well, glad to know that I'm not the only one.
Figured out 2 important rules for tacking this boat, especially when going slowly: don't steer too much, or the rudder will stall and just be a brake, and make sure you turn far enough that you can start sailing again, or you'll just get stuck.
What I later figured out, after much pondering, is this: the rudder in this boat is small and oddly shaped, which makes it work well when going fast, but it does nothing while going slowly. Also, when the wind pushes on the sail, it wants to turn the boat in to the wind (presumably because the sail is out to one side, off-center). When the boat is moving very slowly, the turning force of the wind is still there, but the rudder is doing nothing, so the boat turns in to the wind. So, if I tack badly & lose all my speed, the boat then tries to turn upwind and tack again. If I try to steer to counter the effect, the rudder stalls, brakes the boat, and makes the situation worse.
So: turn far enough that I can get speed up before the boat weather-cocks and tacks again, and steer gently until I have that speed.
My friend sailed us back in to the marina, around it a few times for practice, and then headed for the launch dock. He got caught in irons a few times, the situation being worse because of the squirly wind in the marina. But he did figure out another trick for dealing with the situation: get out the paddle and do a sideways stroke over the transom. This will kick the stern out, completing the tack, and let you get going again.
I'm very grateful to him for coming out and helping me learn to sail this boat better.
He has suggested that I build a new, larger, deeper rudder to replace this one. A taller one that lets the tiller come over the transom, instead of through it, so the tiller can be hinged up to get it out of the way. I'd really like to master the boat as-is, but I also want it to sail well. I'm going to build the new rudder as an exercise in boat building, and to hopefully make the boat handle well, but I don't know which rudder I'll keep using. We'll see.
I was amazed by how many people recognized him & said hello. Guess he's spent a lot of time at the marina.