Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Real Thing in real sailing.

Sunday started off as they typically do for us with me flipping pan cakes for our breakfast, while we listen to "Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers" on NPR's "Car Talk" via the internets tubes. A cheerful break from the weekday NHK/BBC news. But nowadays there is something new on the Sunday agenda: sailing!

Due to road construction, it took a bit longer to get to Lake Hinuma. K dropped me at the Hinuma train station and I rode my "Hinuma-cycle" to the Yacht Harbor. I put the bike into use even when we go by car, so that it gets maintained mechanically and also is absent from the station from time to time and changes parking spaces, so anyone "casing the joint" will know it is not abandoned. In the last week, the police have removed the obviously abandoned bikes (with rusted frames and flat tires), so I know they are at least making the rounds there. On the way to the harbor, there were perhaps 50 cars parked at one section of road. K found out that people were there to pick shijimi clams from the lake.

Shijimi fresh water clams. Only about 2 cm across, they are delicious in miso soup.

We had brought some things for working on the boat and stowed most of them in our locker. I added some velcro patches to the seats to hold a couple of seat cushions for K, which double as additional life preservers (the velcro didn't pass the real world sailing test, so back to the drawing board on that one). The wind was promising, but not very strong yet, so we put up Bluesette's mast and got her ready to go except for the sails. Due to our late start and the road construction traffic delay it was already close to noon. Rather than sail a short time and have to break for lunch, we decided to get lunch out the of way first. Besides, Mama's Kitchen was "calling" to us.

We enjoyed yet another superb lunch from this modest looking roadside restaurant. I had oil sardine pasta (don't let the name fool you - it also had peppers, asparagus, oregano, capers, and more and was "ono-licious" as they say in Hawaii) while K had a huge omelet with rice, potato croquettes and lettuce. Of course the menu included the salad bar and a special desert - a tart with cherries and chocolate baked in, served with a fresh cherry and slices of kiwi and other fruit. It's a good thing we don't live any closer.


The wind posed a challenge today as it was blowing almost 180 degrees from the normal direction which meant docking needed to be done on the opposite side of the dock from the launching ramp. Mr. Hakuta and his son took time to brief us on how best to leave the dock and return under these conditions. It was also kind of gusty, but not too strong, at between 6 and 10 miles per hour. That's a lot stronger than we had experienced before, but not unmanageable and I was happy to have some real wind for a change.

There were two other sailboats that launched today from the yacht harbor. Both were FJ class ("Flying Junior", a Dutch design about the same length as Bluesette), with high school sailing club students on board, assisted by their instructor in a motorized dingy. There were also many jet skis and wind surfers from the other side of the lake enjoying the wind and water.

An "FJ" sailboat.

We didn't get a lot of pictures, sorry. The ones we got may seem somewhat similar to previous posts, but with the wind as it was, we were kind of busy sailing the boat to get very creative with the camera. But then, that was a good thing for us.

K was a bit nervous at first. Every time the boat would heel over and the lee rail get into the water, she would cringe and say "oh, no". But I showed her that by letting out on the mainsheet and sitting up on the windward rail, we could keep the boat from capsizing and control the angle of the heel. Knowing that she had some control over the situation helped a lot and after a while she got the hang of it and started sitting on the rail whenever the wind picked up.

K, enjoying herself.

That's not to say that the occasional gust didn't get the better of me and put several liters of water in the boat, but for the most part, we managed it just fine. A downwind leg gave us time to bail out the excess, and take a few sips of cold tea. Our laundry-detergent-bottle-cum-bailing bucket isn't fast, but it gets the job done without tiring the crew (that would be K).

During this time, the students on the FJs were not having such luck and repeatedly capsized. A learning experience for them to be sure. At some point in the future, I want us to practice capsizing Bluesette deliberately - when I am sure we can handle it and after a careful program leading up to it, especially for K's sake, but also for my own - as it is bound to occur by accident at some point and it would be best to know what to do ahead of time. For now, I'll try to keep things more tame as we gain experience.

An FJ righting after a capsize. A student is standing on the centerboard with a hand on the windward rail.

The student climbs back in.

The wind whipped up a bit of chop and there were wakes from jet skis and a ski boat to contend with at times. K got very wet from all the spray. I joked that such is her job - to shield the skipper from the spray! Actually, I got plenty wet too - nature of the sport.

K learned a lot today as did I. She gained a lot of confidence too. She went from sitting in the cockpit on the seat and saying "oh, no" when we heeled over, to hiking out on the rail and saying, "OK, there's more wind coming". She's also more attentive to what the jib sail is doing and learning when to trim it in or out.

Our new wind vane and telltales.

I spent a good deal of time today studying the new wind vane, as well as the telltales we installed earlier, getting a feel for how high we can tack into the wind and how to keep the airflow going smoothly over the sails. The additional traffic on the lake kept me busy keeping track of that as well. And the gusty conditions meant constant adjustment of our positions in the boat and of the sails.

Coming back in went very well. We couldn't quite point high enough to make the dock on the first try, but after another tack we made it to just the right point off the end of the dock. To make things easier I give K the "hook" to catch the dock's line and took over both sails. As it happened, Mr. Hakuta was there to catch us anyway, so no hook needed. I was able to swing Bluesette into the wind at just the right moment to coast right up to the dock. (It was like piloting my Cessna in days gone by and making a particularly satisfying landing).

Safe at the dock.

After we disembarked, it took some juggling for Mr. Hakuta and son to get Bluesette around the dock in the winds and onto her "sendai" dolly. K and I then put the sails away and washed her down (Bluesette that is, not K). After we got her put away, we each enjoyed a hot shower and spent some time talking about our day with the Hakutas in the club house.

We didn't leave the yacht harbor until after 17:00. On the way home, we picked up some groceries including some fresh scallops (which K cooked up for our dinner while I walked Momo the Wonder Dog), along with a Sauvignon Blanc from Bordeaux.

Life is good.

Until next, sweet sailing.

1 comment:

HappySurfer said...

Life is good. Yay! Thanks for sharing your day.

Practise capsizing? Oh boy!