Friday, June 04, 2010

Practice Makes Perfect

But practice takes time, and we are running out of that.

A thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail is at the top of my bucket list with retirement looming in a couple years. I’ve read many times that one need only to get used to the pack weight on your back, that the start of this long hike will be training enough in the end. Paul and I will have our first real sailing adventure together in a couple of weeks. I’m not feeling totally skilled, prepared, or ready for this adventure, so am hoping its also okay to let this trip be some of the added lessons towards my training.

Paul and I, like Steve who keeps the blog 'The Log of Spartina', (and who we hope to see a good bit during our sailing trip), all like the anticipation, enjoyment, and fun, of planning and even training for our upcoming trips.  Makes the event last much longer than just the week of travel, and the planning is done in a way that's fun rather than hard work right before the trip.  But it can be a double edged sword if not enough time is given, or you run out of time.

Our sailing season this year has had a bit of a late start. When Paul and Alan did their marathon build of our Core Sound 20 “Dawn Patrol” in time to race it in the 2008 WaterTribe Everglades Challenge (EC), they never REALLY finished it. Paul has been determined to get a few things done on it before this season. Then this past winter, I’d kept him pretty busy with the build of a new wooden kayak (a B&B Yachts Grand Diva) hoping to use it in this year’s EC. That’s another story, and the unfinished kayak still sadly calls us from the basement.

So Paul’s been spending all his free time the past couple months trying to get his boat work completed. Much of this involved epoxy work needing the warmer temps of spring. His very long list is not finished, but it’s good enough for now. Boat maintenance never gets finished, and I’m learning the hobby is not just about sailing, but also includes all the boat work too :)

Anyway, this past weekend was really the first time Dawn Patrol hit the water this year. With our week long sailing trip coming up in 2 weeks (YIKES), we really needed to get out there, get some sailing in, and start some equipment/packing/organizing dry runs for our trip. And either this coming weekend, or next, we are planning some rescue scenarios, a man over-board drill, and even flipping and righting the boat as final preparation.  I’m still a bit concerned about my being able to rescue Paul if he’s swimming and I’m solo in the boat (but I guess the warmer summer water temperatures help my concerns a bit). And I keep trying to remember, this is a vacation, not a race or challenge, we’ll just sit tight, relax and enjoy the down time of inclement weather.

I returned from my paddling trip Friday, lots of chores to do etc…, we finally got to the lake on Sat. All weekend we had 5-10 mph winds, luckily none of the predicted rain or t-storms, and quite a bit of heavy chop with all the holiday boat traffic on the water. The sailing was great, my preferred wind speed these days is 10-12 (I've not had that much experience during either my lessons or other sailing in high winds). In fact I’d had so much fun, both sailing and relaxing, that on the way home I realized for the first time in our sailboat, I’d had more fun than stress. This is a very good thing, my increasing experience and confidence is allowing me to enjoy our sailing so much more.  And I love to camp, and am really looking forward to the late afternoons reading books and chilling.

My complaints are usually about leaving and returning from the dock. I WANT a motor. We left from a small bay with headwinds, and with lots of other boat traffic leaving the boat ramps/docks. Getting out to the open lake required lots of tacking. I just hate it when it seems you actually lose forward headway with some points of tack, and especially when that lose seems to direct you back to shore. In a small bay the winds get squirrely too, making it even more a challenge. The return was a bit easier as we practiced taking the sails down and rowing in a few hundred yards from the ramp.

I do think I’m making some headway in my arguments for a small motor, this based on a few discussions with Paul.  Unfortunately it won’t happen before our trip.  I believe our lack of motor will make some of the planned routing difficult for us within the timed schedule, and we are planning to be able to quickly make some routing changes during the trip if necessary.  Both Beaufort or Oriental could present some challenges without a motor, especially Beaufort with its narrow Taylors Creek and strong currents, and of course there is the bridge into Nelson Bay (with lots of tidal current).  Most of this Paul has already done with Alan in the previous WaterTribe North Carolina Challenge sans engine, so he sees no problems.  It's all my problem, in my head, but after all, this trip is a vacation not a challenge.

Our back up system is rowing, and we have some beautiful oars.  'Dawn Patrol' is set up nicely for rowing with oar locks in 3 different locations, the third at the transom which would allow for sculling.   In general I’m okay with rowing as our backup system, it’s a nice workout and I like to row, but it’s not without it's challenges if sails are up and still effected somewhat by the wind (even when set loose). The person rowing in our boat can’t see where they are going (sitting in front of the cabin) so it’s a two person process requiring some really good communication (not easy for me when I start getting stressed).  It’s not always fun.  Did I tell you Paul is a saint and has lots of patience. We’ll be married 28 years next week :)

Many of my fears about sailing really make little to no sense, and are based in ignorance and lack of experience.  None of the horrific problems my very creative imagination creates would really result in our  being seriously hurt.  But our sailboat would be (and possibly another boat), leaving us okay, but with all the unexpected, and having to deal with what to do next.  It's the feeling of being out of control that often has me so fearful.  I always feel in control of my kayak, even in big winds, big waves, and strong currents.  I can choose what to do and where to go, and can easily make it happen.  In the sailboat, I still feel totally at the mercy of the wind (or lack of when in irons) and the current.  Though I’m told this will change over time with experience, and indeed my comfort level has greatly improved.

Back to our weekend; I spent much of the time as Captain, and took the opportunity to experiment a lot (it’s not like we had a destination), comparing jibing vs. tacking in different situations, seeing if I can make a particular direction, and working on optimizing sail angles. There is so much more to learn, and get comfortable with, I’m actually looking forward to a whole week of working on it. Paul seems to have all the knowledge and experience we need with anchoring so no worries there (that will be more future lessons for me), and he’s explained about anchoring and wind direction, and the need for 2 and or 3 points of stability, so I get the basics.

We camped in the boat Sat night in a nice little cove, experimenting with some camping gear, sleep systems, our kitchen gear, and cooking on board (shrimp stir-fry over rice), etc…  I’m kicking myself a bit for not having made our cabin cushions yet.  I’ve priced out all the materials, and to do it right with marine quality foam and fabrics, it’s quite costly; I’d rather save towards a motor :)  Our camping gear includes quite a bit of different options regards sleep pads and bags, and all will work nicely, it just makes for some extra work each evening and morning taking out and putting away that permanent cushions would save on. Not to mention adding color and decoration to a very stark cuddy cabin.

We also bought a portable potty system for the boat.  I’m a fan of Wag Bags, so we bought the PETT system (more comfortable than a bucket), and will modify it slightly to work nicely in the privacy of the cabin.

Planning packing for a kayaking trip is a bit simpler, as I really minimize that gear, and packing options are limited, either back or front hatch.  We also try and minimize gear for the sailboat, but it’s still a bit bigger in scale (i.e. a larger tool kit etc…), and the bigger boat allows more for comforts.  We still have some work to do to maximize efficiency in where things are packed.  This past weekend was a great run through for that.  Paul has adopted one of Steve’s ideas, using a diagram of the boat, we document on it where things are packed, makes for much easier remembering and searching for stuff,  our boat has lots of hatches (5 in cockpit, and 5 in cabin).

We’ll get in some sailing again in this weekend (maybe even next), possibly another camping night Saturday (helps with packing plans).  I’m still waiting on delivery of some materials I need to make the small screened in area of the cockpit I plan, this mosquito and no-seeum protection (but a luxury we could do without if needed), and I'd like to make a new cabin door.

There is still some research and planning needed for our dinner meals.  A nice dinner while camping can really add pleasure to the trip.  Breakfast and lunch will be easy and simple camping food.

We’re back debating about spending $$ on inflatable vests. I’m a believer in wearing PFD’s, but our kayaking PFD’s are bulky for the movements we do in the sailboat.  Our hesitation has always been the difficulty of adding some necessary (as we see it) safety gear onto the inflatable models.  We may decide it’s just not worth the $$ spent yet, but are thinking about it.

Paul’s done a bit of chart work, I’m fairly familiar with most of the area we’ll be sailing, but I’d like to make a nice notebook with some laminated pages from Google earth and NOAA charts covering some of the areas, in addition to our waterproof Charts, and the Blue Chart maps on our GPS.  This mostly for fun than actual navigation.

So... still lots to do, and likely time better spent than blogging :)

1 comment:

Michael said...

Ah, you're going to have a wonderful time, you'll see. In fact reading this has made me terribly jealous! When you return and re-read this post, you'll smile, wondering how you could have worried so much with your new-found skills in place. Enjoy every moment!