by CHRISTOPHER GILL
Last month I wrote about fall sailing and getting the most out of the late season, and I’ve been fortunate to do just that. We managed to get out on the water just about every weekend to enjoy all that makes fall sailing wonderful. Regardless of the fantastic weather we’d been given, over the past few weeks I have been growing a beard (much to my wife’s dismay) in anticipation of the oncoming winter freeze. And, as if the nearly complete state of my facial hair served as some sort of taunt, we also got a taste of what’s to come and an opportunity to practice humility in the face of Mother Nature.
While out for a Sunday sail that began under clear skies with an unseasonably warm breeze, I began to think of articles that we had in store for upcoming issues and how many dealt with the close of the season (winter sail care, holiday gift guides, yearly awards, etc.) Just as I decided to shake away thoughts of work, we were blasted with a squall packing sustained winds of 33 knots true, along with plenty of rain. Cold, stinging rain.
My mind shifted to tasks at hand. Although we were only broad reaching with main and the genoa 1/2 rolled out on its furler, the squall descended upon us so quickly that it was difficult to furl the headsail. Since there was no need to do otherwise, we fired up the engine, ran off downwind, blew off the sheets and ground the sail in, then motored back to the harbor. In such situations, I am always thankful to be aboard my boat, which is capable, safe and comfortable. The systems work (the furler, the engine, the winches, etc.) when called upon to do so and they did that day.
With our lovely Indian summer seemingly whisked away in a moment, my shipmates soon retreated to the warm, dry cabin. Alone on deck for the 20-minute trip to the dock, I contemplated what I may have done differently in that situation if, instead of having a few racing buddies aboard, I had been double-handing with my wife. That returned my thoughts to how relevant all of the advice that we’d have in the upcoming issue (this one) was to me, particularly “Easy Upgrades for Safer Shorthanded Sailing” by our Contributing Editor Joe “Coop” Cooper. The first installment of this excellent multi-issue article begins on page 34.
Back at the dock, the squall had passed so we decided to relax aboard for a bit – still down below because the cold temperatures that came in with the wind and rain decided to stick around. We chuckled at the fact that although we’d collectively logged thousands upon thousands of miles, and endured far worse conditions, we had decided to cut and run instead of trying to outrun the squall or toughing it out. Well, it was the easiest thing to do and there was simply no reason to do anything other than what would have the lowest impact on body and boat. I recalled the many times that I have encountered rough weather under full sail, or racing offshore – much further offshore. I also thought about the ‘procedures’ in such situations, and that being able to start the engine and furl in the headsail was quite a luxury.
Finally, with boat and gear stowed, we ascended the gangplank from the dock to return to our cars. My thoughts returned to WindCheck editorial content once more. Oddly enough, I thought of the “Sensational St. Martin” article by regular contributor “Nautical Mom” that I’d just read [page 26] and what a pleasure it would be to savor the sights, sounds and tastes of that lovely tropical island.
Alas, I won’t be shedding the mangy, more-salt-than-pepper beard. It will have to serve its purpose here in the Northeast, because at this time there are no plans afoot to deliver me to warmer climes. So, the beard stays put and so do I. Without a doubt, there is still plenty of ‘boat stuff’ to do right here. Frostbiting is in full swing, there are lots of seminars coming up, and, of course, boat improvement projects. I guess I will get started on that sail care checklist…
See you on the water.