2016 Icicle #3: A little bit rainy

The forecast said the thunderstorms wouldn’t start until 3 p.m., but the rain came early Saturday.

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The first leg of Icicle #3 had us close-hauled in 13 knots of wind, so we tried reefing in the jib to drop it from a 130 to a 100 to see if we could point a little higher this week. We made good speed and had a more neutral helm, but we still couldn’t point as high as most of the fleet.

It probably didn’t help that just before we started the race the slug on the back of the mainsail jumped out of the track on the boom, and we had to do some quick rigging with an extra line to tie it back down. I guess we’re going to have to put a larger slug on there.

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The wind then shifted to right off the mark during the second leg, which sent everyone tacking. I saw a couple boats choose to make about 10 short tacks instead of 3 or 4 long ones, and we caught up to a few of them.

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The last leg shifted back and forth between a broad reach and a run and got quite rainy. I wish I had a photo of all four crew members and the dog huddling under a leaky dodger.

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Judging by the time between lightning flashes and the thunder, it was never THAT close to us, but it was still a little unnerving when it would light up the sky.

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Based on performance in the first two races, our PHRF got shifted from 180 to 186, which moved out start time from 11:56 to 11:55. However, due to the mainsail issue we didn’t get started until 11:59. We finished at 2:16 with three boats behind us, which might be the best finish we’ve had so far. More importantly, we didn’t break anything, but we will have to work on the main. I’m also going to have to replace the halyards soon as they’re stretching and chalky, but my budget says we’re going to have to wait a few months on that.

Thank you to Brian, Matt, Shari and Tony for crewing, and special thanks to Shari for bringing kolaches and pulling her phone out in the rain to take a few photos for the blog this week.

My ASA Certified Sailing Instructor

Many of our fellow rum race crew mates are currently or have been American Sailing Association instructors. However, I was surprised when Mary announced to me that she had decided to sign up for the instructor course to begin teaching ASA 101, Basic Keelboat Sailing. Thus began a very intense four weeks of studying and sailing.

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While Mary had passed the ASA 101 class three years ago, it’s not like we sit around discussing the parts of the boat or the center of effort. I mean, half the time when we’re about to tack I yell something like “tally-ho” because I can’t remember what you’re actually supposed to say.

Her books arrived and she spent every waking hour for at least two weeks memorizing names of lines, parts of the boat, rules of the road, and the meanings of all those strange flags with different amounts of dots.

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Many, many years ago at Scout Camp I taught Small Boat Sailing merit badge, but it was nothing close to the intensity of the ASA test. In fact, we had several friends who said, “You’ll probably think you failed it, but it’s made to crush your ego, so make sure you come back the next day.”

Then came the practical. She had to sail solo (which she’d never done before) on small boats with tillers (which she’d never used before) and start and run an outboard (which she’d never tried before). There was a lot to learn, so we spent two days laying down tracks that looked like this.

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It was a rough start. For the first hour, things did not look good, and my coaching and commentary was not too appreciated. Then, suddenly, it clicked! After that it was just tack after tack, jibe after jibe, setting and naming every point of sail. Then came figure eights for the man overboard drills. She was on fire!

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When the weekend of her course arrived, she scored a 96% on the written test and passed her practical and her teaching exam with flying colors. She walked out with a written recommendation from the instructor for every sailing school in the area.

To say that I’m proud would be an understatement. In the past year she’s gone from having anxiety attacks when the boat heels to crewing in rum races, making offshore passages, and now instructing classes.

Way to go, Mary! I love you.

Weekend plans

It looks like we’ll finally have an entire weekend with no rain here in Houston.

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Saturday we’ll be crewing in the Galveston Bay Cruising Association Women’s Regatta. Mary isn’t quite ready to helm Gimme Shelter in a race, so we’ll be on Antares, the Cal 40 we crewed on during the Icicle Series earlier this year.

Sunday we hope to stop by Lakewood Yacht Club for the 2015 Keels & Wheels Show. Who doesn’t want to classic cars and some gorgeous wooden boats while benefiting Boys & Girls Harbor?

Then sometime in-between all that excitement I plan to change the steaming light, mount a wind instrument, run cables down the mast, install a NMEA 2000 backbone, and change the zincs in our heat exchanger … unless, of course, we decide to just go sailing instead.

2015 GBCA Icicle Series begins

With rainy weather in the mid-50s, there were no actual icicles to be seen during the first race of the 2015 Galveston Bay Cruising Association Icicle Series Regatta. However, I was glad I decided to put on a coupe extra layers of clothing before reporting to the boat Saturday morning.

With Antares, the Cal 40 we crewed with last year, suffering from a leaking fuel pump, I crewed for our friends Andy and Jayne aboard their new boat Hippokampus, a Pearson 422. It was my first time sailing with them, and it was their first time racing the boat, so it was a learning experience for all of us.image

All was going well as we approached the starting line. Then we attempted our first tack to begin the race.

That turned out to be a very long tack. The jib wrapped itself up on the furled stay sail, and it never took less than two of us to run to the foredeck and work it loose. Jibes were no problem, but a clean tack proved impossible, and we ended up starting ten minutes late.

Once started, the first leg of the race went well. Then when we were about ten minutes away from the second marker, the wind shifted. That resulted in a couple more very dirty tacks to stay out of the ship channel and make it around the tower.

The last leg would have been uneventful until we were about ten minutes from the finish, at which point the wind completely died. That last ten minutes stretched to thirty as we sped towards the channel at a whopping 1 knot.

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Of course, the day wouldn’t have ended appropriately if we hadn’t had to make one last tack to get through the finish markers. We actually furled the jib and used to stay sail to  make the turn, then unfurled the jib to finally crawl across the line.

It’s interesting how many time during the race that starting ten minutes late made a difference. Of course, nobody was worried about where we placed. It was great just to be on the water with friends, learning the ins and outs of a new boat. Of course, the rum served after the race was great too.

More photos of the regatta can be found here, courtesy of John & Scott Lacy: https://www.flickr.com/photos/lacyphotos/sets/72157649706310299/