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A day on the sea




So I went sailing today. Or tried to. The intention was to take Dart 18 (an 18 foot catamaran with 16 square metre's of sail) out single handed. And I did. I was sailing in my clubs standard races which they hold every weekend. Except on the first outing there was a slight lack of something technically known as wind. After drifting backwards for half an hour a light breeze sprang up with enough strengh for me to cross the start line for forms sake, but not enough for me to be able to turn the boat around. So I got a tow back to the shore.

During lunch the wind rose to a good strengh (about force 3). So I went out for the second race of the day full of excitement and ambition. Before the race began I zoomed around a bit with thinking "hey, this thing actually goes pretty quick." Starting horn sounds. This is were the boat begins to live up to its name, which is jinx, written in black with a picture of black cat next to it. Sailing close hauled along the shore, I realise that I need to tack out to sea or have my rudders removed by an old sewage pipe that lives about 8 inches below the water to catch out the unwary. So I bring the boat around and head out away from the shore. This is where the good times end. For the next 20 minutes my life was filled with things going badly wrong.

About 400 yards from the shore a shackle which holds my mainsail up broke. The sail immediately goes slack and begins sliding down the mast. Oh well I think, I'll just run inshore and abandon the race, no harm done. So I turn the boat around. Unfortunately, the wind is blowing directly onto the shore, making stopping difficult. Especially as I have to lift the rudders out of the water on the approach. However, by sitting on the front of a boat it should swing into the wind. It doesn't. With the shore approaching fast and no way of turning round, I jump in and grab the forestay in the hope of swinging it round and stopping it. This works....sort of. The boat swings round through the wind and starts sailing rapidly away from the shore, with me hanging onto the front beam inbetween the hulls. Great. There is no way at this point to get back onto the boat. Imagine trying to get out of a swimming pool onto a ledge a foot above your head with a strong current dragging you under it. Not going to happen. However, fortunately on these baots the back end is closer to the water, and running underneath the boat along its lengh is a rope, so I slide under the deck and come out at the back and catch the rear beam. Unfortunately I still can't get on because a beam which holds the rudders in place is in the way. Worse, looking along the top of the boat I see the slow handicap, sails set and gleaming in the sun. And my boat, which is totally out of control is heading strait towards them at great speed. I pull down the rudders (which are on hinges so can be lifted out the water) and try to steer it away from them but clearly I have to be onboard to get this to work. One option remains, swing round the back of the rudder and grab a loop which is on the side of the boat (its there for complex reasons, other sailors may understand). So after some gymnastics (you try this when your being dragged through the water) I grab it. It snaps. Stupid rotten peice of crud. This leaves me hanging onto a thin peice of plastic, which if breaks means the boat will just leave me floating here, 100 yards out into southampton water. Fortubately it doesn't and i managed to grab a toestrap and pull myself on board. Stearing clear of the other boats I pull down whats left of the mainsail and limp back to port under jib alone.

Just another fun day at sea.


Shackle: A metal thingy which acts as a clip. In this case, it was meant to hold the rope that holds up the mainsail to the aforementioned sail.

Jib: The small triangular sail at the front.

Close hauled: Sailing so my boat is pointing close to the direction of the wind. So named as it requires all sails to be pulled in tight to the boat.

Tack: turning the boat around so its front passes through the direction of the wind. Necassary as a boat cannot sail strait at the wind

Hull: The main part of the boat. On mine, it has two held together with beams running across the boat.

Slow handicap: The races at my club are held with 4 classes, depedning on the speed and style of the boat. The slow handicap is, as the name suggests, the slowest.

Toesrap: A strap which you hook your feet into so you can lean over the side to keep the boat upright.



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