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Day 3… Best Day EVER! (Part 1)

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Yeah, the seas look a little different from the day before, don’t they.

The morning started out with Shelly and I not only very nervous about passing our sailing drills and the written test, but when we got to the harbor, hearing the wind whistling through the wire rigging of all the sailboats and seeing the rough sea state beyond the safety of the harbor walls, we quickly realized that we would be sailing into the absolute worst conditions we have ever sailed in. EVER!. Wind speeds were at a constant 20-25 knots with gusts up to 35 at times and it was ripping the tops off the wave caps.

vlcsnap-2016-03-27-10h42m53s331In the office we met Darren (on the left) our sea trial instructor for the morning, and he warned us that conditions on the water were pretty rough, but he had confidence in our ability to handle it.

Once on the open water and away from the shelter of the harbor walls, I turned the boat windward so Shelly could raise the mainsail (no jib sail today because the conditions were so extreme that a second sail would have completely overpowered us and capsized us into the 55 degree water). That was when the power of this wind truly sank in for me. I had to fight the wind with the motor, revving it up to full speed, just to make incremental adjustments to our heading because the wind was pushing the bow hard to the left or right (which ever part was exposed with the most surface area that moment) and making it nearly impossible to keep a windward heading. It only took a few inches this way or that to give the wind enough purchase to shove us hard to the left or right.

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It doesn’t seem like a big deal until you factor in a swinging aluminum pole (the boom) that was whipping back and forth with enough force to snap someone’s neck like in this picture.

With the main raised to the first reef, Daren had me execute the first of our test maneuvers — a downwind jibe from starboard to port (right to left). Unfortunately, I wasn’t quite prepared for such high winds hitting our port side so quickly and forcefully and I almost rolled our little sailboat over on her side.

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Pucker moment #1 of the day. You really can’t tell from this GoPro shot but the starboard side of the boat is under the water and Shelly is grasping to stay in the boat. There’s nothing like a really good “Oh Shizz!” moment to remind you that you’re alive and loving it!

Daren kept his cool, though, and told me to remember to “dump the main” (letting the mainsail loose and away from the wind) when we were overpowered and gave me a few minutes to regain my wits before asking me to repeat the maneuver — which went a lot smoother this time. With that lesson learned, I was way over cautious the rest of the morning when seeing gusts coming up on us and kept my hand on the mainsheet ready to let the sail loose at any moment.

Later on we figured out that Daren was a racer, and a winning sailboat racer at that, so he loved the extreme conditions for the wicked speed.

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After that I ran through a series of sail pointing skills: sailing windward, on a beam (perpendicular to the wind), and on a reach (almost downwind but not quite). We couldn’t make a downwind run because the winds were just too overpowering.

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You can see the waves breaking over our bow here as I tack to the portside across the wind and the boom swung out violently (did I mention with enough force to snap someone’s neck?).

vlcsnap-2016-03-25-14h27m47s972Soon it was Shelly’s turn so I put us in a windless state (hove to) and we all enjoyed a break from the work for a moment while Shelly took over the helm.

 

 

As a side note, Shelly and I have been watching a lot of YouTube videos over the last year. People like HaveWindWillTravel, s/v Delos, LaVagabond, FollowTheBoat, and many more, and with the conditions on the water this day it really gave us a new appreciation of what it’s like when they mention rough seas and heavy wind days. It’s something you can’t really grasp until you experience it.

Our break was over a little sooner than we hoped and Daren had Shelly start her drills by running through the same maneuvers — starting with the dreaded downwind jibe.

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Yep, you guessed it. Pucker moment #2 of the day. We almost rolled the boat over again and we all ended up with cold, wet butts!

Shelly righted us like a pro, though, and we exchanged smiles and laughs. She told me later that she didn’t feel so bad about it since I had done the same thing less than an hour earlier.

So with the dreaded jibe behind her, Shelly began her sailing point skills test and while she was holding a good beam reach (sideways to the wind), Daren noticed the jibsail coming out of it’s storage bag on the bow.

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He had to go forward and secure it and while it wasn’t in any danger of happening yet, it had to be secured because if it had popped out, it would have either went into the ocean or opened up in the wind. Either outcome would have disastrous results: women and children screaming and thrashing, the ship sinking to the bottom of the bay, cats and dogs sleeping together… Well, not really, but it would have been bad either way.

When she was finished with her skills test, which she completed fantastically!, it was time for the MOBD — man overboard drill. Our little friend, “Bob” (an old and broken lifejacket) would be the sucker for the day and spend his time in the cold drink for us to rescue.

vlcsnap-2016-03-25-14h40m39s261Once we were set and ready, Daren threw Bob overboard and with Shelly already at the helm, she was first to test her figure-eight skills.

 

 

“Man overboard!” she yelled. “Throw the type-4 (a form of life preserver)! Daren keep sight of ‘Bob’ and prepare to tack!”

I have to say, though, with the wind blowing as hard as it was, it was extremely difficult to not only keep track of “Bob”, but to keep control of the boat, to maintain heading to make sure we were setup for the figure-eight maneuver, and keeping an eye on the wind to make sure a hard gust didn’t capsize us (like it had been trying to do all morning)… I can see now how people sometimes loose their boat in conditions like this while trying to rescue someone who’s gone over.

vlcsnap-2016-03-25-14h43m54s708At one point we actually did loose sight of “Bob”, but Shelly quickly found him again. And though I hate to say it, I couldn’t have seen him in that choppy water unless he had been holding up a flair with his stubby little lifejacket arms. But, a few minutes later Daren had “Bob” rescued with the help of a gaff hook.

With “Bob” safely back aboard, Daren clapped his hands together and with a grin on his face, told us, “Alright! Congrats! You guys did great! Let’s head back to the harbor and get out of this chop.” Shelly and I exchanged big smiles and headed in.

When we got back Kathy congratulated us, too, and did a quick review of the academic material before giving us our 100 question tests. Thankfully it was multiple choice and matching — something we had been worried about and afraid it would be blanks and essays. She told us to take our time, there was no clock to race or time pressure, so we took deep breaths and dove right in.

We honestly thought it would be harder than it was, but I guess it’s something that we had built up in our heads… “Ohhh, the dreaded test!” (not to mention that we haven’t taken quizzes since college — and NO I’m NOT telling you how long ago that was!)

Not that it was actually easy, though, but Kathy’s teaching made it easy. With almost every test question about sails, rigging, and rigging the sails, I could picture in my mind that little model sailboat she used to teach us with and remembered her voice going over the clue, foot, tack, luff, and head. Honestly, her fantastic style of teaching made the test easy to take.

It only took us about 30-40 minutes to get through the test, another 5 for Kathy to grade them both, and by 3:00 she was walking back through the door with a big smile on her face. We had passed! And passed with flying colors, too!!

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Our ASA101 course certifications!!

To add more excitement to our “Best Day EVER”, at that same time (literally while Kathy was congratulating us) my cell phone rang. It was Kevin, our boat broker from Edward Yacht Sales calling to see how our afternoon was going and asked if we wanted to celebrate with drinks and some “real” sailing on his own 36ft Pearson Yacht.

A chance to experience the same weather conditions as we did that morning on the same size and style boat we were going to buy and be living on for the next few years? Plus our first chance to get out on a real sailboat and see how it’s done by the big boys? Not just step aboard in a calm marina, but the chance to really get out in the action?

There was only one answer. Shelly and I both gave a resounding, “Hell YEAH!”

So Shelly and I hugged Kathy goodbye, thanked her and John for such a fantastic weekend and for being such great instructors, and we headed back to the BnB to change into more relaxed (and dryer) clothes and ran back to marina to meet Kevin!

Part 2 coming soon… (I get to sail a 36 foot yacht)

Sailing Into The Blue

Lance & Shelly