Saturday, February 17, 2007

Three Lessons Learned

  1. I found my comfort zone, forced out of it a couple times today, but at least now I know where it is.

  2. I can get that sail down quickly when I want to, and had two unplanned practices today.

  3. There are probably wind speeds and sea states that I am more comfortable paddling in than sailing.

KiwiBird and I had planned a paddling/camping simulation weekend at the lake. And I wanted to test out my Dreamcatcher with the Balogh sail rig to help decide whether to do the EC in the SeaWind or the Dreamcatcher.

Last night I'd brought the Dreamcatcher inside to work on. The Balogh hardware had arrived and Paul had offered to put the aka hull mounts on.

This morning when I woke, it was only 17 degrees, and windy. I got to the lake about 9:30 (finally above freezing), Kristen got there as I was about to put in. We hadn't planned to paddle together as she's much faster in her Sisson kayak, and I was going sailing anyway. It was clear that the winds were going to be too strong for a really long workout (with less than 2 weeks to go, now would not be a good time to risk injury) and it was going to be another really cold night. We opted to just load the boats a bit, get in a workout, then thaw out tonight in the comfort of our own homes.

I paddled into the wind about 6 miles (only averaging 2.4 mph, I did say it was windy right). I pulled off at a beach to set up the rig as I saw Kristen continuing her uphill battle.

With full rig set, I paddled out of the lee, and sail I did. Thank goodness I had double reefed the 33 sq ft sail. I took off. Sailing downwind, I was hitting speeds of 7.5-8.4 mph, double reefed! Surfing some of the larger swells I would often find my bow diving into the swell ahead, putting the bow underwater clear up to the aka. I wasn't very happy.

This part of the lake, quite open and with a larger fetch, was twice as rough as the first 4 miles on the other side of the bridge. I was having trouble bringing in the sail to try and slow me down. Twice I tried to turn off to head upwind, but both times I came close to being swamped when the beam swells would just rock the heck out of my hull and amas. I knew the amas would keep me up, but that water was cold. I was getting pretty scared.

I don't like downhill skiing or rollerblading because there are no brakes to slow you down and stop you. Neither does a sailboat have brakes. I know that with experience I'll learn techniques to help with this, but, it's taking awhile, and I'm running out of time.

Here I was, sailing towards the bridge, and not wanting to go through the pilings at these speeds. So, I dropped the sail. I had to work it a bit, but it did come down, and I slowed down. As I sat there waiting to catch my breath and let my heart slow, my GPS was reading 3.5-4.0 mph surfing downwind without paddling or sailing. Did I mention it was really windy.

Once I was north of the bridge, I still had lots of wind, but not the larger swells. I put the sail up again, and was very happy sailing speeds between 6-7 mph downwind. If I wanted to slow down, I'd just pull in the sail a bit. Seems to me these are still pretty fast speeds with a double reefing. I eventually sailed back to the launch, and again quickly dropped the sail to avoid a crash landing.

John March had just returned from a short paddle and helped me up the beach. He continues to threaten me with an intervention, wanting me to get back to building my skin-on-frame and come out and play Greenland with him.

Kristen was now returning, sailing in with her Pacific Action Sail. She too had had a pretty thrilling day. We both agreed that the conditions couldn't have been better for training, even though shorter than we had planned. Tomorrow is supposed to be colder and windier. But I think I'll go out for a little while again anyway. It seems to get easier each time :)

So what boat am I going to use? My Dreamcatcher! She handled beautifully, she is so comfortable for me, and it just felt right.


Kristen said...

We were sure moving! Awesome day. Thanks, Dawn.

Michael said...

I'll just miss seeing you people off on the EC, I've discovered. I'll be at Tampa airport later that day (3rd). I'll be in Florida the rest of March so, who knows, perhaps we'll bump into each other! In any event, good luck in the EC especially now that your boat choice has been made!

Bill a/k/a SnoreBringGator said...

Somehow the Dreamcatcher looks shinier than it did when Mark gave it to you last year.... Clearly the result of a woman's touch :>).

Looking forward to seeing you and the rest of the group in Tampa.