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|October 27, 2014 Post 51|
It's been a while since we ran a sailing story so here's one to read as the sailing season draws to a close here. Hopefully we'll be back on our mooring again in 2015!
During a recent summer cruise on Lake Ontario with our elderly gaffer we were pleased to find a couple of yacht clubs with empty guest moorings. We can and do dock our little schooner “Sara B” with her six foot bowsprit, and to date, we have all survived the process intact, thanks to her low speed high torque old diesel. Sara B makes left turns under power really well (using prop walk and the shifter) but don't ask her for a real tight right turn. A mooring sure does reduce the stress level for all of us, engine included.
Picking up our mooring at Youngstown Yacht Club in the Niagara River with a two knot current was a walk in the park compared to docking. And we loved the seclusion and tranquility of our Aquatic Park Sailing Club mooring tucked away in a cove behind the Leslie Street Spit. Here, a short streetcar ride from downtown Toronto, we watched beavers swim by, marveled at the huge and noisy resident cormorant colony (thankfully to leeward of us that day) and admired the city's colorful night skyline.
Regretfully moorings on the New York shore of the lake are not as easy to find as they once were. So when the waterfront restaurant we dock at put a half dozen moorings out for the use of visiting cruisers, we asked for and got two for the season and placed Sara B and Titania on them. Before long we began hearing comments from the marina neighbors and restaurant customers to the effect of 'your boats look so pretty out there'. And they do. They dance with the wind turning this way and that, like works of kinetic art. A yacht at anchor sits upon her mirrored reflection on the calm water like a graceful water bird- poised for flight but at rest for the moment.
It was also great fun to lounge on the waterfront restaurant dock with drink in hand and watch a skilled sailor glide into one of the moorings under sail, bringing the boat to a halt at exactly the right moment to pick up the mooring line. It's probably a lot more fun to watch us do it, though. You never know what's going to happen when one of the Gateley boats comes in for a landing under sail. The waterfront restaurant owners have informed us of our entertainment value several times.
While single handing Titania, I have run over the mooring and wrapped the line around her rudder, have missed the mooring entirely, and on one occasion, came in too fast, hit the dinghy broadside and flipped it upside down. I've had a telescoping boat hook fall apart and have seen amazing fumbles and acrobatics by greenhorn crew members as they try to snag the pennant with the boat hook. Occasionally blood has been shed.
I can do six perfect solo pick ups under sail in a row and then botch the next one. It's never routine. There are way too many variables for my limited processing capacity. But when I succeed it is incredibly satisfying to manage a perfect pick up, bringing the boat up into the wind, luffing her to a stop, and connecting the pennant with deliberate ease. That's what it looks like from the restaurant anyway.
I rarely sail 38 foot Sara B alone. The few times when I have, I used the motor to get on the mooring. Even with two or three people aboard picking up our familiar home mooring under sail is a chancy proposition at best. For one thing there's so much more visual clutter between the helm back aft and the foredeck with a two masted gaffer. It's hard to see anything up there, let alone a mooring. And all the head gear associated with the bowsprit makes threading the pennant up onto the deck more of a headache than dealing with a simple bow pulpit. Nonetheless, after our water pump died we actually did sail on and off the mooring several times.
Getting off was simple. After the main was raised Sara B would just sit there with her long keel and that expanse of mainsail way back aft. She pointed her bowsprit into the wind and waited patiently. Raise the jib back it and off we went. Returning to the mooring was not so simple. I consistently underestimated how quickly all that windage aloft slows a gaffer down when she turns into the breeze. Other helmsmen underestimated her turning radius under sail or, like me, started stopping too soon.
One Sunday afternoon, when the restaurant deck was filled with diners no doubt watching our every move as we approached our mooring under full sail, we made the swing up into the wind and stopped. Way too soon. Although we kept inching forward for an amazingly long time, we were still a good half a boat length away from the tender when the boat's head began to fall off. In desperation I crawled out on to the bowsprit with the boat hook knowing I risked going overboard if I did manage to hook the dinghy and had to hold ten tons of schooner with one hand.
I still couldn't quite reach it. Oh great- can we get steerageway again before we drift down onto the restaurant dock filled with boats? I doubt it! Mindful of all the people watching I yelled back aft “Start the engine!” (We knew we could run it for a few seconds without the water pump). Old Thorny thundered into life and we edged up and captured our mooring. When we went ashore one of the restaurant owners smiled and told us “Ah, no one saw that little puff of smoke.”
When we have been successful on a Saturday afternoon getting Sara B back on her mooring without the assistance of the Thornycroft, we feel like real sailor men. We bask in the glow of achievement and imagine all the diners watching with admiration. Then reality sets in and once again we are humbled as we begin the tedious and frustrating task of putting the four sail covers on.