Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Big Blow

It was our custom to have group sailing on Wednesday nights and Sunday afternoons. The Captain didn’t like to overcrowd the sailboat, so he set a limit on the amount of mates that could go on a Wednesday or Sunday sail.

On Wednesday nights we would start out at 1800 hours, return at dusk and then sit and drink and eat for about an hour. One Wednesday night in August 1981 the breeze on the Lake was beautiful and someone mentioned that it was a perfect wind for a sail up to Waukegan. We could eat breakfast there and then head back to Chicago.

The Captain and my cousin the Admiral thought that it would be a good idea. I said sure. Two young ladies who worked for Quaker Oats decided to play hooky and joined us. We pulled out of the harbor at 2030 hours and began to sail north.

We took turns sleeping. The Captain and I took the first watch as it was impossible for anyone else to sleep while we were sleeping. Both of us snore! The Admiral once described sleeping down below with the two of us as a “night in hell”. When one of us would stop snoring the other would begin and then we would snore simultaneously (Stereo).

We reached Waukegan early that morning and spent about an hour at the Yacht Club.

The winds had died down and were now coming from the northwest. As we headed back to Chicago we decided to do a Spinnaker run. The Spinnaker is a beautiful multicolor sail that aids forward movement in light winds. It does require some work to set it as you must first put up a spinnaker pole. This is why we rarely hoisted the spinnaker.

It was early afternoon and the two young ladies and I went down below to the cabin to play gin rummy. I originally suggested strip poker, but they weren’t too hot about that idea. I guess neither one of them wanted to see me naked.

Out of nowhere a very strong wind came up from the North. Suddenly we were heeled over and water was coming over the gunwale and into the cockpit. The Captain was screaming for me to come up from the cabin, and was yelling commands.

The first thing that we had to do was drop the spinnaker. The Admiral was already on the foredeck attempting to knock down the spinnaker pole. Unfortunately it requires a tall person to accomplish this act; the Admiral wasn’t tall enough to do so. He was jumping at the pole trying to knock it down while the Captain was at the helm still screaming orders to the crew.

I worked my way to the spinnaker pole slowly, because of the heel of the boat. I was holding on for dear life and the Captain was barking at me to move faster. At this point in time the Admiral had given up on trying to get at the pole and was preparing to drop the main sail on the Captain’s command.

Although it seemed like it was an eternity for me to reach and drop the spinnaker pole, it was probably less than two minutes. We doused the spinnaker and then dropped the main sail. A collective sigh of relief came from the Captain and the crew. We immediately grabbed a beer and sat looking at the Captain, waiting for him to speak.

He told us that it was a job well done. We saved the Valiant! The worst case scenario would have been a knock down with us clinging to the hull. There was also the risk of snapping the mast.

Under the tutelage of the Captain we had all learned how to react to a dire circumstance. He had taught us well and we all lived to tell the tale.

The Beach Bum

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Anonymous Richard Feder, Ft. Lee said...

Next time you get knocked down, you might consider blowing the spin sheet and the vang instead of getting blown below.

Fri Nov 16, 06:21:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not the kind of BLOW I like!!!!!!!

Fri Nov 16, 09:17:00 AM  
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