last week's adventure...

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last week's adventure...

Postby navahoIII » Tue Jul 26, 2011 5:57 pm

Last week,, my son (22 yrs) and I sailed out of our cove on Lake Champlain into a larger bay. He was at the helm and I manned the jib.

Out in the bay the wind picked up suddenly. We were alternating beam and broad reaches. Numerous whitecaps appeared with 2-3 foot seas. This tested our resources quite a bit. Though the wind was somewhere between (I'm guessing) 15 and 20 knots and manageable for a Daysailer, certain factors made the going less than comfortable. It was also, by the way, our first time out in her under those conditions.

We weren't too concerned about the boat, as it was handling fairly well (the helmsman earned some points out there!). Only one time did the leeward rail kiss the water. I quickly learned the virtue of a well-timed hike-out (and wished that our beloved coamings would bend just a little as I sat over them). The bothersome thing was watching how the mainsail reacted. I should mention that it was NOT reefed (we have roller reefing and it should have been done back at the mooring -- certainly not out in that water!) and the precious boom vang was not in use! On top of that we lost two battens as they worked their way out of the pockets -- zing -- (I'd like a word with Neil Pryde) thanks to the irregular flogging the main was taking.

We could do one of three things: turn to port and head into the wind but with even worse conditions ahead; gibe to starboard and risk losing whatever control we had; or hold steady and head to the opposite shore where the waters were calmer, which we did. At that point, we did a controlled gibe and made as direct a heading for the cove as possible. We got back, and my normally imperturbable son said 'That was a bit more than I was expecting'. Anyway, had I been at the tiller we may well have capsized.

We learned something...not quite sure what, but I bet that having the main reefed, the vang trimmed and the battens in place would have made for a somewhat less anxious outing...

(at least I got a good soaking while hiking out for all I was worth)

Words of wisdom, advice??
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Postby rnlivingston » Tue Jul 26, 2011 8:27 pm

Although reefing would have made your life easier,I usually take down the jib when it gets too windy. My rig is nicely balanced and I have a cunningham, so I don't get too much weather helm and the boat is much easier to handle. I've even raced with just the main and won.

While roller reefing was a nice idea, it is not too practicle. Reef points on your sail would have allowed you to reef on the water...even in high winds. Get a vang on your boom and a cunningham if possible.

Enjoyed your story.

Roger Livingston
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Postby kkearns » Tue Jul 26, 2011 8:33 pm

I too enjoyed the story. Sail for enough years and we all will encounter a situation like that at least once. It sounds like you did the right thing by heading for calmer waters to execute your gybe, then heading for home.

I agree that a better reefing system might be in order if you plan to sail in those conditions again. I plan to install a single line jiffy reef system this winter. Now I usually reef at the dock, which is ok if the conditions hold steady, but I would like a better system for reefing under stress. I've not sailed with main alone, but I hear that the boat handles reasonably well in a blow without the jib.

I'm glad you came back in one piece and with a good story to tell.

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Postby bdpvt » Tue Jul 26, 2011 9:06 pm

Lake Champlain can be very challenging under those conditions. The worst part is the 2 to 3 foot chop on the big part of the lake. My wife and I sail there often, usually out of Converse Bay or Shelburne Bay. I put a reef in when winds are around 15mph. Failing to do that, I drop the jib and pull the centerboard up a bit and the boat handles surprisingly well. Curious where you sail on the lake. We are out there every week and have yet to come across another DS. Its a great place to sail!
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Postby TIM WEBB » Tue Jul 26, 2011 9:50 pm

I agree - great story, and we've all been there!

The first couple years I had The Red Witch (or did She have me?), I was trying to sail around with old blown out sails, roller reefing, no cunningham, and no vang (which doesn't work with roller reefing anyway). Over time, as I've remedied each of these shortcomings, handling the boat has become easier and easier in all kinds of conditions.

But, like you say, the trick is to be ready for any and all of them *before* setting out. For example, I ALWAYS run the jiffy reef line up through the reef cringle, down through the cheek block, and forward to the cleat every time I set out, because even though the conditions may look calm, if it gets gnarly out there, I know I can reef in about 15 seconds if I have to ...
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Postby ChrisB » Wed Jul 27, 2011 8:22 am

I'll second the motion on jiffy reefing. Roller reefing is cumbersome and yields a poorly shaped sail. Jiffy reef really is quick, easy, and substantially flattens the shape of the main which is what you want in high winds. I've seen posts here where folks have had a sailmaker add jiffy reefing to their mains for about $100. Well worth the investment in my opinion. Don't even consider purchasing a new main without at least one reef point.

I can also say that the DS sails very nicely on the main alone. I have been caught out in a blow and returned home in 20+ winds with just a reefed main (sailing solo). Under main alone, pull the CB about 1/3 to 1/2 up to move the center of lateral resistance aft and balance the helm.
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Postby navahoIII » Wed Jul 27, 2011 9:51 am

Thanks, all, for your good advice. Of course! -- didn't even think of dropping the jib and adjusting the centerboard -- that would have made a difference! Such an obvious solution...oh well, we'll know next time. Also, reefing with points appears to be the better option (as you all say), and it does allow continued use of the vang.

Having the vang trimmed would have helped some, would it not? Doesn't it help to keep the main flatter? How else to flatten it? -- certainly not the main sheet...

In fact I have sailed her solo with only the main, and posted about it here. I found that when on a reach she handled very nicely (centerboard fully lowered), but close-hauled she was out of balance -- this was because -- as someone here pointed out -- the centerboard was (again) fully lowered when it should have been raised 1/3 to 1/2.

I guess having lost two battens is negligible given the other factors affecting performance that day...

bdpvt - The whole scenery around Champlain is simply stunning! What a glorious place to sail. We were just south of Converse and Shelburne Bays on Long Point. We wanted to sail Converse but never got around to it. We did sail Shelburne and found it to be ideal for the DS. Son took a look across the lake and said it would "easy" to sail over to New York. I told him "What looks like flat water from here is probably quite different out there." After our adventure I think he has reconsidered his take on it!
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Postby TIM WEBB » Wed Jul 27, 2011 10:07 am

Right: the purpose of the vang, as I see it, is to keep the boom down and the main flat(er) when it's *not* sheeted in to centerline. Not really sure what some on the forum refer to as "vang sheeting" tho ... ?

Oh, and some advice: never tighten the vang when the mainsheet is tightened to centerline! Don't ask me how I know ... :evil:

Just suffice to say there is now a stronger anchor point for the vang at the mast base ...
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Postby navahoIII » Wed Jul 27, 2011 11:40 am


Right, I know not to use the vang when close-hauled. I've also heard that it is should not be too tight when running before the wind. Guess it is best for running free.

I can imagine what happened in your case. Hope nobody got hurt.
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Postby TIM WEBB » Wed Jul 27, 2011 8:41 pm

I keep the vang full on tight for running wing 'n' wing - keeps the boom from riding up, and therefore lessens chafe of the main on the shrouds/spreaders.

When I let the sheet out after having erroneously tightened the vang while sheeted in tight, it failed at the eyestrap on the mast stub, under the hinge. But only one screw pulled out, so nothing went zinging anywhere, and the only injury was to my ego ... :oops:

Now the attachment point is a tang that's attached to the aft bolt that holds the hinge bottom in place.
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Replacement Battens

Postby Skippa » Thu Jul 28, 2011 12:29 am

Sounds like you had an exciting day on the lake. After looking at the cost of replacement battens I went to Home Depot and purchased a length of 3/8 wood trim. I cut to size and rounded the ends. They are stiffer than "real" battens but that was late last fall and I had planned on getting new sails over the winter. I found it to be an economical solution.
I learned long ago to reef at the first thought of it, thats when it's easiest.
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