08 May 2012

Man Overboard! (and Other Observations)

Winds were forecasted to run 9 knots most of the afternoon so my son Zack and I headed down to the marina for some sailing.

At the docks we ran into Todd Frye of the Bonneville Sailing School. He is planning a group charter to the San Juan Islands in October that I'd like ke to attend if possible.

I've been thinking about moving up to a larger boat lately, so we imposed on Todd for a tour of his Catalina 27. I have sailed a Catalina 270, which has the perfect layout for the day sailing/occasional overnighting I do, but they are out of my budget so I thought I should look into one of the older 27s.

I was really impressed with what I saw. Although I'd like to go bigger, the 27 is as big a boat as can realistically be sailed on Utah Lake given the current constraints of trailer launching and slip sizes. And the prices of the 27s are really hard to beat, they are usually a little lower than a same-year Catalina 25.

It took us about ten minutes to hose off the boat, due to a large accumulation of bugs the last few weeks. The scupper vents were covered with dearly-departed mayflies, and a few entrepreneurial spiders had built an aft sail from spiderwebs. The dock hose and deck brush restored bristol order to things without much effort.

Zack did all the sailing tonight. He wants to be able to captain the boat on his own, and he's well on his way. We sailed several miles west, crossing between several other sailboats on the way.

We thoroughly enjoyed the steady 8-9 knot winds. Utah Lake can be whipped into 5 or 6 foot waves when winds reach the mid teens. Although exciting, all the rolling is tiring in a 6,000 lbs boat. But 8-9 knots is just right.

Eventually we tacked back on a northeasterly heading and watched as Todd took his students through a man overboard drill. There are few things more stressful or more frustrating than a sailor's first man overboard drill. It comes at that time in his nautical pedagogy when he is beginning to feel that he "has this sailing thing figured out. "

But after several misses (followed by several not so near misses) he realizes he doesn't know any where near as much as he thought. Although the still-floating empty life jacket eludes him, the newfound humility does not.

Sailing is quick to teach the humility lesson as soon as the sailor forgets his place. The cycle of pride and humility is the familiar rubric of old salts everywhere. No need to write it down, when you forget your place, the sea will remind you.

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