A Little Bit of Me

Jottings and Writing, miscellanous misgivings

Father & Son sail together

title1SUNDAY SAIL AT PORTOBELLO     6 September 1992

As I write this with my bloodied and blistered hands – a sure sign of a brilliant and punishing sail, I am both physically and mentally fatigued.  What a pity it started so early in the morning.  Unfortunately I didn’t sleep well last night because I forgot to open my windows and so I was awoken, at what seemed an inhuman hour,  with my cup of tea in the infamous Stewart Island mug.  My only reply to this generous and loving gesture from Graeme was ‘It’s too bloody calm to sail, what are you waking me up for!’ without even looking out the window.  He smiled his all knowing smile that adults seem to have perfected and said,’ Fifteen minutes!  Get up, come on, it will be great.’   For once it was me who needed the convincing and after I had my cuppa and listened to some music I was rearing to go – only I acted is if it was an inconvenience so as not to let Graeme know that he was right and I was wrong!  I complained about the empty teapot, the last person who folded the genoa, how close the Alfa was parked to the Triumph, the state of the weed on the boat , how short crewed we were (me, Graeme, and Val) how much work I had to do, how slow Graeme was in winching in the Foresail, the halyard tension on both the main and the foresail, the new sail and how it just didn’t look right and generally anything else I could think of!   Despite this we managed to motor over to the start in Lower Portobello Bay underneath an oppressive grey morning sky with little sign of the long awaited spring. Amid the largish fleet of yachts there is a friendly  camaraderie that only the factors of Dunedin and people mad enough to sail in winter can produce.   Luckily the wind was almost perfect for Faith’s new sail, about fifteen to twenty knots, the lee rail was just occasionally dipping under water, the woollies were all flying straight as arrows and the helm was as light as a feather.  The log was steadily whirling and showing an average five knots of boatspeed.  The start is usually a great strain on the friendly camaraderie that precedes a race.  Suddenly boats are crammed together as the top skippers and the people who think they are the best skippers vie for the best position on the start line, unfortunately twenty boats won’t fit into ten metres of water and with monotonous regularity boats exchange french kisses and skippers exchange something far removed from kisses!  We tend to try and start apart from everyone else but today we were on the outskirts of a scuffle between a twenty foot trailer sailor, a forty foot ketch and a Laser sailing dinghy – guess who won?  We watched astonished as the trailer sailor tried to pass in front of the ketch without actually being ahead.  It was quite comical to watch the crew of the trailer sailor try to push(!!)  a rather large and solid bowsprit out of their cockpit.  We have an uneventful first beat and get to the first mark and it’s time to launch the spinnaker – a hard enough job sometimes with a full crew.  We weren’t to have an easy time with this sail all day, a lion tamer and Edward Scissorhands would have helped in some of our moments of woe.  We launched it with a wine glass that would not come out, (instead of looking like a balloon it looks like a figure of eight) and so while it was fighting like a caged animal we were losing ground to corinna .  A complete and utter waste of time launching the spinnaker because we only have it up for about five minutes before we have to drop it again to go around the bottom mark and reach off towards the start again, the reach was really good for us though, by continually dallying with the sails all the way down this leg we managed to overhaul earenya who just set their sails and pointed for the mark – lazy buggers!  The second beat into the wind was magnificent, the wind was very kind to us and as we approached the buoy it continually lifted us higher and higher, much to the dismay of our fellow competitors!  At this stage in the race when everything was just beginning to come together in perfect harmony the sun knifed through the evil sky to fry the hapless sailors who dared defy the sun’s tyrannical rule over the temperature.  It is a hard life sailing every weekend!  So another successful beat and then a shocking spinnaker hoist again, no excuses – I didn’t do it!  Despite the bitching and carrying on by our usually (when fully crewed) well behaved spinnaker (blood frenzied demon from hell) we manage to get it under control for half the leg but the Demon had another chapter to write in it’s book of spinnaker mishaps.  As we rapidly approach the mark it becomes time to drop the caged terror (we were hoping it would get itself down and into it’s bag!) and even though the genoa is up inside the spinnaker, blanketing it, it is a monster on steroids.  After the pole was taken off it was time to lower the spinnaker to deck – this may sound easy but this is only thought by the truly naive!  Spinnakers have minds of their own and when they decide to cause mischief they can bring obscene language to even the most gentile crew member who has the misfortune of trying to tame the beast.  (Usually the youngest or unluckiest!)  As I held on to the foot of the sail for grim life, almost going overboard, I was heard to exclaim ‘ You @*!!@*! !@#^ *& a @*!!@*! %$#&@ of a sail!!!!!!’  Before my poor shoulders were about to finally break the halyard was released and instead of being wrestled over the leeward side of the yacht I was on my back on the windward side under a mountain of now tamed sail and all the thanks I get for it is ‘Quit playing around Demian and get back and bring in the genoa!’ and an extremely large bruise on my shoulder.  Unfortunately even the sheeting in of the genoa turns out to be a major chore.  The cockpit was a mass of slithering snakes of sheets which made it impossible to do anything major like tacking so while I was taming the serpents the skipper was muttering about ‘wrong way’ and ‘nobody else is going this way’ and ‘running out of bloody water’ and ‘have to tack soon.’  Finally we tacked and although nobody else was anywhere near us it soon became apparent to the delight of us and the utter disbelief of our rivals, that we had miraculously passed our nearest competitors and rounded the mark well up on our proper place in the fleet!  Ha!  Suck!  ‘We did that on purpose’, ‘Why did all you guys go the wrong way?’  The grins on our faces did nothing for the now exasperated skippers of faster boats behind us, nothing however could remove the evil and despised U’s that marred our faces that were usually pictures of pretended concentration.

The buoy now rounded we were again in the wild beasts territory, only an executive decision saved us (thank goodness) so we run under main and genoa alone. I don’t know if my hands and shoulders could have taken another beating!  Two places back and two legs later we roared over the finishing line quite spectacularly as the wind increased so we finish with masks of concentration on our faces (so as to look good for the committe boat) and the log hits eight knots!  After a splendiferous sail back home with me on the helm (only to stop me from complaining I think!)  I even managed to do a perfect piece of marine manouvering and have the boat drift on to the mooring and stop practically dead on the buoy as the wind opposed our forward motion.  Ha!  What a great day, although I’m not admitting it to anyone (‘just normal mundane average sail’ I’ll say to anyone that asks!).  Demian. (the son)

A word from the skipper (the father)

Despite the lads protestations he was successfully roused from his slumber in plenty of time for the race. His sister, however, was a different matter. Lying in bed has become something of a habit for Naomi and this disgusting habit is not helped by staying awake until after midnight watching sweating, overmuscled men throw a piece of leather and each other around a paddock. Naomi had been up the night before to watch the league semi-finals on the box and there e was no way she was going to rise to the occasion.

Sailing shorthanded on a day like this does not allow one to either make mistakes or to relax. The spinnaker has been described as something on steroids , but I can assure you that the genoa is also virtually uncontrollable when the wind gets into the 10-15 knot region. Trying to put the spinnaker up alone is also rather difficult and in the switching wind ( from the North mostly but occasionally going into the Northwest) it is difficult to predict which side of the boat the pole will go, out and I was more often than not, launching the spinnaker inside the genoa . This resulted in more than a fair share of snarl ups , crossed lines, tangles in the jib hanks and other assorted nightmares.


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