Posted by: wrmcnutt | November 24, 2009

Ship’s Log: September Blue -Nautical Commands – A Need for Clarity

Ship’s Log: November 21, 2009.  So I’m out on the river on September Blue, only the second time out under sail, and I send my faithful crew down below to prepare the daggerboard.  On a West Wight Potter – 19, the dagger board is a 450 pound slab of steel that is lowered through the bottom of the hull to supply both control and stability.  It helps keep the boat going straight, instead of sideways, and helps old it right side up.  If fact, the manual warns the reader very sharply that under no circumstances should you raise sail unless the dagger board is down.  In any case, F, my crewman, went below and released the retaining pins that keep it up in storage mode, and I lowered it using the winch at the helmsman’s station.  F then proceeded to apply the second set of retaining pins that hold it in the down position.  Not normally an issue, these pins hold the daggerboard in place should, God forbid, September Blue turn turtle (capsize) due to a sudden burst of wind.

F is somewhat . . . methodical in his approach to safety gear, and that’s generally a good thing.  But since the dagger board was down, it was now safe to raise sail, so I went ahead and deployed the main, whilst F was fiddling with the retaining bolts.  And we got under weigh.  The air was light that day.  Very, very light, but it was enough to get us moving just under the mainsail, so I maneuvered the boat about the lake while waiting until F came back to the cockpit to deploy the foresail.  We were sailing down wind under a quartering “run,” and I wanted to get to know the boat a little.  So for no particular reason, I changed course.  The sneer quotes are there because the tiny zephyr I was sailing under could hardly provide a “run” of any kind, except technically.  Now as it happens, this course change would bring my stern across the eye of the wind.  Jibing, is the jargon for this maneuver.

Under normal circumstances, jibing is introduces controllable hazards in sailing.  First, as the stern moves through the eye of the wind, the boom will move, often sharply, from one side of the cockpit to the other.  If you’re not paying attention, you can get a sharp crack on the head.  Even if the boom misses you, there’s a shifting of sheets and other tackle that can cause you to trip or lose your balance.  A secondary effect of a jibe is that, again, under normal circumstances, the movement of the boom and sail from one side of the boat to another causes the boat to stop heeling (tipping) one way, and to heel in the other.  The humor ensues when you come to understand just how slowly everything was moving.  When I executed my jibe, the boom moved sedately from one side of the center line to the other.  The wind was so light that September Blue was not heeling at all, so there was no change in the orientation of the cabin.

But it was a new boat, and I was playing, so I executed the turn as though we were running under a stiff breeze.

I barked to the crew below, “Prepare to jibe!” so that he would be able to brace himself.  Nothing perceptible happened, but I noticed he was a little startled.

F was below decks, facing away from me, has tinnitus in both ears, in different pitches.  So he doesn’t hear very well.  What he had heard me holler, his brain interpreted through the filter of all those submarine movies he’s seen.  What he heard was all those Executive Officer’s hollering “Prepare to DIVE!”

When you are in the cabin of a small sailing yacht, this can be some cause for concern.  When he came back above the deck, he explained what had gone through his mind.  Not “Wait, no, I’m on a sailboat.”   Not “Wait, no, this is not a submarine.”  No.  The first thought to go through his mind was, “You can’t dive.  The hatch is still open!”

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  1. I love this boat already, and I have yet to officially meet her.

    • She charms all those who meet her. And the galley isn’t even online yet.

  2. […] Continue reading here: Ship's Log: September Blue -Nautical Commands – A Need for Clarity … […]

  3. I laughed out loud about the “dive”. Sounds like you are really enjoying your Potter 19.

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