On Friday I went back to Lake Whippersnapper for another afternoon of small town small lake sailing, just like the sail reported in Real America. Same place, pretty much same crazy wind and same cool weather. But no two sails are ever the same, and this was no exception...
At the launch ramp on Friday, I didn't meet any non-sailor small town citizens like the ones who looked at me like I was nuts the day before and who stood by while I sailed, cell phones at the ready, prepared to call out the emergency services when the crazy old dude sailing that silly little board boat got himself into trouble in the frigid waters of their small town lake.
No, on Friday I ran into the coach of the small town high school sailing team, a guy about my age, and himself another Laser sailor to boot. In fact he was one of the sailors from the Just Six Laser Dudes Racing Round a Sausage practice sessions at the end of the summer, and one of my closest competitors at my one regatta win of the year Just One of Those Days. He was waiting to meet some of his team to prepare some of their boats for the winter. The team had stopped regular practices at the beginning of November.
The coach was a bit more understanding of why I wanted to go sailing in such cold weather than the concerned small town citizens that I met on Thursday were. But he did check that I had a drysuit. As I rigged my Laser, we chatted about our experiences in teaching kids how to race, what the other Laser sailors from the small town sailing club were up to these days, and swapped ideas on cold weather sailing gear, especially gloves.
As I sailed out for a bit of Lasering practice in the middle of the lake I was thinking that it was no bad thing that the coach and some of the sailing team had seen me. No doubt I will have to come back here next year and defend my title as Small Town Annual Laser Regatta Champion. Now the word will spread that that batty old geezer who won the 2008 regatta was out practicing on our lake in icy weather, weeks after the high school team had packed it in. They will exchange tales all winter about how that weird guy with the English accent just never stops sailing. If they think I am totally bonkers about Lasering it will definitely give me a psychological advantage at the 2009 regatta.
The coach and I had agreed that neither of us had good gloves for cold weather sailing. I was wearing a pair of three finger gloves and, as expected, after twenty minutes or so the four fingers not gloved were unbearably painful, and the six gloved fingers were merely excruciatingly painful. I stopped in the middle of the lake for a while and sucked my fingers and waved my hands about wildly to try and restore the circulation. The strange thing was that once the blood was flowing to my finger tips and I started sailing again my fingers didn't get cold any more. Anyone else had that experience?
The shifts and gusts were just as random and vicious as on Thursday but I seemed to be coping with them better. Considering that much of my small boat sailing experience has been on small lakes at Where It All Started and Goose Poop Beach Sailing Club, I'm really bad at dealing with typical small lake shifty winds these days. But, as with all things, the more you practice the more you reinforce your own bad habits. No wait, that can't be right. Can it?
It might have been a tad colder. Or maybe it was because I sailed a bit longer on Friday than on Thursday. Because, after a while, I noticed that the sheet and the control lines were becoming rigid, and the ice on the sheet was starting to accumulate in the block on the boom. I know from experience that it's only a matter of time after this that there will come a point when you want to sheet out in a gust and you release the sheet ... and nothing happens. The boom block is jammed with ice and you're toast. Very cold very damp toast usually.
So I called it a day and sailed into the ramp.
87 days of sailing this year. Time to replace the Mr Troy Polamalu #1 fan picture gallery in the sidebar for something more sober. Or maybe not for a while.