Port Townsend 2
12 May 2010
We've been busy these past few days getting our boat rigged for ocean sailing. We have a fabulous new suit of sails built by Carol Hasse & Co., and we have new hardware to fly them with...now all we have to do is learn how to use everything! Yesterday we took a climbing lesson and learned how to ascend and descend the mast if we need to inspect or fix anything up top. Sailors have borrowed gear and techniques from rock climbers and so we'll be wearing a climbing harness, using an ascender and a descending tool so we can perform this task independently and safely. For the last year or so we've been reading offshore cruising encyclopedias, watching sail trim and rig tuning videos, and attending seminars, so we know that that each time we set off on a major passage we will want to inspect our rig from top to bottom, checking all the fittings and lines for any stress, wear or chafe. So much easier to fix it before leaving than once it has failed, at night, in the middle of a storm (because you know that is when everything is going to go wrong that wants to go wrong.) Today we got a sailing lesson at the dock, learning to hoist and douse our new Asymmetrical spinnaker (or Aspin). It is a colorful, very light weight sail (once we actually fly it we'll be sure to post a picture) that helps us keep moving even in light airs. Traditional spinnakers are actually quite fussy and require a few hands to sail them correctly. This one will let us sail on a broad reach to downwind position without a pole and the fuss of balancing the sheets. Finally, we set up one of our most important sails, the storm trysail (pronounced trys'l). This tiny triangle replaces our mainsail when the winds are blowing too hard for a double reefed main. It flies free of the boom and is sheeted straight back to the cockpit. It has a swatch of Day-Glo green on the top of it so other ships can distinguish our sails from ocean spray - comforting. According to Carol, we can and should use this sail often, for example while motor sailing dead into the wind (to give our boat stability) or when sailing in the dead calm of the ITCZ (formerly known as the doldrums) when the boom can often slam back and forth with little wind and sloppy seas. If we use the trys'l in these situations, we'll be much more comfortable with it should we need it for its original purpose (surviving the storm.)
The kids have had it a bit rough trying to keep themselves occupied while we focus on details above and below decks. We get them out to walk the beach in the morning, they've been busy coloring in a fancy prism coloring book, and they also play Airbender the Last Avatar (a cartoon superhero) in the dinghy. Our youngest, Freya, always seems to be the child to break in something new (stitches, broken bones) so it is fitting that she is the first to fall over board into the excruciatingly cold marina water. She always wears a lifejacket - this is one thing we are very strict about - so she did just fine, but it was a shock all the same. After she was dried off and warmed up again she said "I think next time I'll wait for an adult to get in the dingy with me." That lasted until the next morning when she was back to jumping in the dingy off the dock and having a great time in her fantasy play.
The dinghy is a rather exciting addition to our rig. We have a 10 foot, aluminum hard body, AB inflatable. Quite light for a boat that size, 80 something pounds, and with our 9.9 Yamaha outboard we can really "get it up to horsepower" as the kids like to say. Two nights ago we motored into town for some dinner and it was the first time the kids had the chance to ride in it. Finn, our more sensitive middle child, was screaming "don't make a wake, go slower, I can't take it anymore" and Freya was yelling, "wahoo, go faster Daddy, get it to horsepower, I want horsepower." Sophie was smiling, taking it all in, feeling the wind in her hair.
We've also had our first lesson in the gift of time. We have all this gear and we've been going to school, but the most important element in safe passage making is time. It is important to stay in port when you should stay in port, it is important to take the time to do a job right before you set out, and it is important to let the trip unfold vs. forcing it to fit one's agenda. This is an about face from our usual mode of operation. Our original plans included getting out of Port Townsend by today, but tonight we learned that our new wind generator didn't ship out right away so it won't be here until Friday, and we learned that we likely won't have a weather window for our departure to Neah Bay and beyond until May 20th (about a week later than we had marked on our calendar, a few months ago, in ink.) So we decided to hunker down for an early night, drink some Coal Ila (aka the good stuff) and reflect.