Monday, 31 May 2010

Back in the Saddle

Its been a long and interesting winter. SWMBO is just as much a Mom as you could hope for, Buddy has started using more words and stringing together phrases. Chuck has developed from a kid to a preteen, and my career has taken a new path. Iris has been fully repaired by the marina, and after some haggling and haranguing, I managed to get her hull polished and new bottom paint on her. The boat went in the water a little later than last year, and I missed the first club races of the season since our launch date kept getting pushed back.

Iris was launched on Friday. Then on Saturday afternoon I sailed her up to Jackson’s Point from Cook’s Bay. It was a great sail. As I rigged the boat and set things straight aboard her, the wind was fresh and building. Power boaters at the marina were asking why I wasn’t out there, and I was hurrying myself along for fear I would miss the best conditions. Over the lake I could see kite-boarders skimming the surface as the wind pulled them along.

After spending about 2 hours prepping the boat, I was ready to go, and with a couple tugs on the starter, the outboard came to life. Iris pulled away from the dock, and the season had officially started.

By the time I reached the lake, most of the power boaters were coming in. I imagine the waves were too rough for the smaller boats, but a couple of the big boys stayed out. I carefully hoisted my jib, thinking I would sail under reduced canvas, but it seemed so mundane that I put the mainsail up almost immediately afterwards. With the old cruising sails, Iris was less than exciting to handle, and I was greeted with heavy luffing as the old sails flapped along the back foot or so of their surface. Then the wind built.

All the powerboats in Cook’s bay headed to their marinas and the only boats left out on the bay were a handful of sailboats, most sailing under main alone. Iris was happy to fly a full suit, and I was happy with her. For a little bit she heeled hard, and let the wind push her around, so I eased the mainsheet until she stood up nicely, and with all the luff worked out of the sails, we shot out of Cook’s Bay and into Lake Simcoe. For most of the sail we heeled at about 10°. Sometimes that was pushed up closer to 20°, Never did she try to round up or fight me on the rudder.

A little excitement came up on Cook's bay when a Rhodes 22 on starboard tack crossed under Iris as we flew by on port, but there was enough separation that a quick wave, and a shout hello was all that was necessary.

The trip to JP included 2 interesting surprises. First, as the wind and waves built on the crossing, the water would break over the bow, sweep up the boat, and crash down on the mainsail. Both the jib and main were soaked to the height of the reef points from waves coming up and over the boat, but the cockpit was completely dry. It was like I was in a tunnel that the water couldn’t penetrate. Eerie, but cool.

The other surprise came about 2/3rds of the way through the trip. I looked down at the GPS in my hand while on a broad reach with quartering seas and very consistent wind (a rarity for Simcoe) and the speed by GPS was over 8 knots. Maximum theoretical hull speed on a Catalina 25 is 6.31 knots. The boat has a displacement hull, and is not supposed to plane. I figured it was a blip in the GPS, so I kept an eye on the screen. The speed dropped to 6, then came back up over 8 knots, and sustained itself for about 10 minutes before dropping off, and coming up again. I would explain this away as GPS error if it only happened for a quick blip and was over, but because it was sustained, I have no idea how it was possible. Was my un-surfable boat actually surfing? Did the keel repair give me a different underwater profile? Was my rig tuned that well on my first sail? Was the wind, waves and point of sail in harmony so perfectly that I could pull this off? And finally, how do I repeat this?

It was a great first sail, and the boat feels like a friend again. Here’s to a new season and all of its possibilities!

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