Monday, November 9, 2009

If A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words

How many words is a camera worth? A cellphone with a camera?

There won't be any sailing pictures with this post. The reason will become evident soon enough.

K had things to do all Saturday (Halloween) up in Mito City, so we decided to go sailing on Sunday. But Sunday morning, K was having cold feet. She was waiting for something she ordered, which of course didn't arrive until almost noon. So we were going to have a late start. It was our 5th Anniversary and we had dinner plans in the evening - would a lunch at Mama's spoil our appetite? Would be be late getting back, etc. etc. - woman logic. Perhaps the visit to the beautician Saturday played a part.

Anyway, I had already put all of our gear into the car as was ready to go. I went into grumpy Panda mode (sorry O Docker, this is about the most drama I can come up with). I told K we could skip lunch and if we got hungry we could have SoyJoy bars and cold tea while sailing and be back plenty early for dinner. Finally, she relented and off we went to the lake.

The weather was warm with scattered to broken cumulus and light winds at around 2 to 4 knots. It was forecast to stay that way until picking up to 6 then 8 knots in the late afternoon. K was wearing her new wetsuit and boots, I had my usual garb and new neoprene boots.

When we launched the wind backed off quite a bit with just a patch in the middle of the lake. When we reached the other side and turned around, I searched out that patch of wind. Be careful what you wish for. Suddenly things began to change and we soon found ourselves hiking out as far as we could while I was busy with the main sail and tiller. The wind was building fast until reaching about 15 knots or so. 15 knots is about the most a Lido 14, a family boat, is comfortable with. It is also at the edge of the envelope for my capabilities.

More experienced Lido 14 sailors can handle wind like this. In August of last year at the 51st Lido 14 Class Championship on lake Fern Ridge Lake near Eugene, Oregon they had 18 to 20 knot winds during a practice and 15 knots during the race. "We had a hard time keeping the boat under control," said Mark Schroeder, a local veteran.

This was certainly more than we could handle and we headed back toward the dock. It was going to take more than one tack as getting anywhere upwind was a struggle. The wind speed continued to increase and many times I had to let the main so far out that it was against the shrouds, yet we would still take on water. Then the big gusts came, and it was game over.

We both made some mistakes which ultimately kept us from righting the boat. I should have stood on the centerboard trunk and climbed over to stand on the centerboard, while K moved to the bow. But I jumped in the water instead and made my way around to the centerboard. K however, went after our cooler, letting go of the boat and so got separated from it as the wind pushed the hull along. I tried for the centerboard from the water, but did not have the jib sheet to grab onto and so slid right off as the boat started to right. The Lido has a lot of buoyancy so centerboard is pretty far above the water when the boat is on its side. At least the mast float was preventing us from turning turtle.

I then made the mistake of trying to grab K while holding onto our stern line. She was already too far away for that to work. Realizing that was foolish I went around the boat again to throw the jib sheet over the side for something to grab on to. Then once again went around to the centerboard to climb onto it. By this time, all the swimming around had tired me out and I couldn't pull myself up on the centerboard any longer. Time to wait for help.

K was trying to use her waterproof cell phone which was on a strap around her neck. With the wind whipping the water, she could not see the screen well enough to make the call. (Lesson - before sailing, ready the help number so you just need to press one button). By this time the boat and I had been blown 50 meters or more downwind from her. Some fisherman in one of the long wooden boats that are so common here, had called it a day and were on their way across the lake when they spotted K and picked her up. They tried to pick me up as well, but I couldn't make it over the high (it seemed at the time) side of the boat.

One other sailboat was also caught on the lake. It was a SeaHopper (Laser-like Yamama) sailed by Mr. "I". I-san came over and picked me up, it was easy to get into that boat. It took several tacks to get back to the dock and we nearly capsized twice in the process. It wasn't the strong wind for the SeaHopper so much as the gusts. When we got near the dock, I jumped off to wade the rest of the way in, so I-san could take his boat over to the other dock.

Normally, when someone has trouble, Hakuta-san or his son launches a jet ski and help is on the way fairly quickly. This day, Hakuta-san was half a kilometer away on a community weeding project and his son was busy teaching a licensing class, so Hakuta-san didn't get back until we had already arrived at the dock. He went out on a jet ski and towed Bluesette back. The mast float kept the top of the mast from going under, and I had lowered the jib and partly lowered the main, so it wasn't so difficult to tow. Once back at the dock, sheltered form the wind by the trees, it was simple to right her.

Of course, I realized how foolish it was that we had never practiced capsizing and righting the boat. Our safety gear worked well (always wear a lifevest on the water!), but we were not prepared to handle the situation, and for that I have no excuse. Had we been ready, it would not have been difficult to right the boat, perhaps bring down the main and sail back on the jib. Or if we could not get back on our own, K could have made the call for help to the yacht harbor from the boat. As pointed out in the previous post comments, some previous practice with the anchor might have also been useful while waiting for a tow.

The main sail was slightly damaged in the knock down. Up near the head of the sail, a 16 cm stretch of the bolt - a line that is stitched into the luff of the sail to keep it attached to the mast - was uncovered as the material around it was torn out. The sail is being repaired now at North Sails Japan in Yokohama and won't cost much - about $35 plus shipping.

K lost her new waterproof cellphone. Perhaps it came off while she struggled aboard the fishing boat. It was insured, so within a few days she had a new one at about 1/7 the cost of new. Hopefully we won't be charged for calls made by some flounder.

Most other things in the boat were tied down or well stowed. One exception was the most expensive of course - my new Olympus camera which K had been using on the way across the lake. It was in the cubby up in the bow, but now resides at the bottom of Lake Hinuma. Ouch. I now have devised a way to easily keep it secure anywhere in the boat, yet convenient for use. At least I won't lose my other camera now.

We have always been fairly well prepared for the expected. The lesson here is to be prepared for the unexpected. And safety drills are not to be put off, but discussed and rehearsed early on and repeated. K has learned not to go after drifting items, but to stay with the boat.

That night I got the wind records for Tokyo International Airport at Narita. Narita is about 30 miles from Hinuma, but was directly upwind on Sunday. What we experienced would have passed Narita about one and a half to two hours earlier. The chart is interesting.

Wind speed in knots along left edge.

After showers and a change, Mrs. Hakuta served us some hot tea and we talked with I-san and Hakuta-san about what had happened, the mistakes we made, and things we did right. We expressed our gratitude for all the help extended to us.

A Sweet-Bluesette post should always include food...

We made it home in time for our dinner out at an Italian restaurant in Kashima (our fair city) called Trattoria Cinquecento (there are two old Fiat Cinquecento cars parked out front). We had a wonderful feast of Italian style smoked fish, various shell fish, and wood fired oven baked pizza. We were waited on by the owner and his son while other family members did the cooking. They restaurant is in a wing connected to their house.

They grow their own herbs and when K declined the offer for a free espresso as it might keep her from sleeping well, the owner made a special herb tea for K which contained apple, mint, oregano, and lavender, for a good night's rest. Before we left he brought out mason jars full of the dried herbs and mixed a baggie full of the blend for us to take home. ("no really, officer, it's just herbs").

We had a table by the bay window.

Quite a day with much to think about and much to be grateful for. We should be back on the water in a week or so. Be safe out there.

Until next, sweet sailing.


O Docker said...

Sounds like you had drama enough.

Our dinghy carried more sail than the Lido - 150 sq. ft vs. 111, so, when I was single-handing I couldn't hold it down in much wind (I weighed about 140 back then). I often sailed it under main alone. The sailplan looked a lot like the Lido's, so I'm guessing you could do the same if you were overtaken by sudden heavy air, providing you could get the jib down easily while under way. You may want to look at rigging a jib downhaul line that would let you do that from the cockpit.

I even took the mainsail to a sailmaker and had reef points put in. I was a wuss, but a dry wuss. Thankfully, I never ran into 35-knot gusts, though.

Glad you both made it back safely with your sense of humor in tact.

Pandabonium said...

We could have brought in the jib I think and we have a line for "reefing it" - ie wrapping it up and fixing it to the deck as we do that when we launch and retrieve the boat. Would have been a good idea in this instance.

Reefing the main, assuming one was so equipped, seems like it would be quite task in a stiff breeze.

When I was a teenager and weighed 140, I used to single hand a Snipe with 50 lbs of lead ballast in the boat.

Anonymous said...

When you were single handing that Snipe, cars where as small as that Fiat!

Glad there were no injuries (except hurt pride, perhaps, but reading your report, I don't detect any of it) and generally more of a "lessons learnt" kind of experience. I know we were cutting it close on Oct 2 but I am so glad my first Lido experience was not like this. Pity about the camera.


Anonymous said...

I should add, do hope you get back onboard soon. This is my favourite blog (including the food talk)!


Pandabonium said...

MF - well, the cars in Italy were that small, but not my parent's giant Detroit irons.

October 2nd was mild by comparison.

I'm looking forward to sailing with you aboard again. Thanks for the kind words.

I feel better about us capsizing after reading what happened to the folks in my next post. Stay tuned.

HappySurfer said...

Glad you and K are okay. Sorry about your camera though.

Pandabonium said...

Happy - thanks. I feel dumb for losing the camera. Should have been tied down or in my pocket.