Sailing (and why we don’t) Part 2

We occasionally did day sails with friends – over to Taylor Bay on Gabriola Island but mostly we did 2-3 week trips by ourselves. I installed a solar panel so that we could run the fridge and all the electronics indefinitely without having to go to a marina. Sometimes I would take the boat out by myself for a week in the winter and Julie would meet me somewhere with the car (e.g. Ganges on Saltspring). However, after covering all of the anchorages in the gulf islands and Desolation Sound multiple times, the interest wained and grandchildren arrived. You still have to take the boat out of the water each spring to re-coat the bottom, change the sacrificial zincs, polish the propeller and wax and polish the top-sides. When you realize that you are spending more time working on the boat than enjoying it – maybe it’s time to sell. A common saying: “The happiest day in a sailor’s life is the day he buys his sailboat – and the second happIest day is the day he sells it”.

It would be nice to charter a boat for a week or two to take the grandkids out but there is certain skill set required for safe sailing that you gradually lose with time.

Sailing and anchoring are relatively easy. However, docking can be a challenge under windy conditions. They rarely assign you an outside dock so there can be a lot of twists and turns. The front end of a sail boat has a lot of area to catch the wind and the motor & tiller only really let you control the back end of the boat. A Catalina 320 weighs 11,000 lbs so there is lot of potential momentum to wreak havoc. The rudder only gives you control if the boat is moving (water going over it) so if you go too slow, you have no control. Because of that you generally only have one chance; you can’t just stop and change your mind.

One skill is the use of prop walk. A quick burst of speed either forwards or backwards will cause the rear end of the boat to go left or right without going forwards or backwards that much. If you know what you are doing you can do a 360 – more or less in one spot.

Another skill is knowing the wind and adjusting your strategy accordingly. If the wind is pushing you into the dock you can afford go slow, stop a foot or so away from the dock and let it push you the rest of the way in. If the wind is pushing you away from the dock, you have to be more aggressive.

Another approach that can be used in some some situations is to temporarily loop a dock line through a cleat and use the engine to pivot around it; a single line with the engine pushing against can force the front of the boat towards the dock. It can also be used to push the front or back end away from the dock in order to get out of a tight space.

A smaller boat (say 27-30 feet) with a tiller is much easier for single handing so might have lengthened the time I sailed. With one hand on the tiller you can tack and work the appropriate winch with the other hand. With a steering wheel it can still be done but is a lot more cumbersome – and larger boat, more force on the sail – harder to handle. Things can get out of hand if you don’t have your wits about you and at some point as you get older – you probably don’t.

Applying a new bottom coat
Polishing the propeller and adding new sacrificial zincs
Early days with Julie – Catalina 27
With Ron on one of our trips
Catalina 320 – Desolation Sound

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