Sunday, July 29, 2012

Taking the Rough with the Smooth

Well, it's been a quiet couple of weeks in Lake Wobegon...

A few of my Laser sailing friends from Massachusetts who mainly sail on an inland lake have been hankering after some sailing in waves. They tried Buzzards Bay but they said the buzzard was dead. I told them the buzzard wasn't dead, he was just resting. But I also talked up the excellent waves that you can experience at the mouth of the Sakonnet River, either launching from Third Beach Newport (not actually in Newport) or Sakonnet Harbor Little Compton (actually in Little Compton.)

So one afternoon just over a couple of weeks ago when the wind was in the south I drove down to Little Compton to check out the conditions, but the wind was only about 6-8 knots. There was certainly some swell coming in from the ocean (nothing between here and Cuba) but it was just a little too small to be able to catch any decent rides downwind. It was big enough to need some attention to the waves upwind and big enough to rock the boat on a run, and I kept feeling that if it were just a little more windy I would have caught rides. Maybe lighter people would have done so. It was a very pleasant afternoon but probably not exciting enough for my friends to drive all the way down there from Massachusetts.

I tried again on Monday last week and had more success. The swells from the ocean and the wind were lined up pretty well. The wind was a little stronger than on my earlier visit, whitecaps just breaking on the tops of the waves, so I'm guessing it was around 11-12 knots, The swells were also bigger, about 2-3 feet compared with 1 foot the previous time. It all added up to ideal wave practice conditions.

The waves weren't so big that you caught every one every time anyway downwind - you had to work at it a bit. But one well-timed pump and you took off. I found myself moving forwards and backwards in the boat a lot - forwards to help the boat down the face of each wave and then back to stop it submarining into the back of the next one. You had to have your wits about you as the swells weren't totally regular. Sailing by the lee I was going straight down the waves for the most part but occasionally one would come at a different angle and I could catch a ride by heading up on to it quickly. Upwind I really had to work the boat hard with body movements to stop the boat crashing on each wave. Great workout! So I think the next time the winds are forecast to be from the south and this strong or stronger on a weekend I will encourage my friends to give it a shot.

On Tuesday the winds were from the west and around 10-15 knots so I headed over to Colt State Park in Bristol. On the drive over the weather radio was talking about a Severe Thunderstorm Watch for the area. But, hey, that just means you have to keep a watch out, right? The sky was clear when I launched but after sailing for 20 minutes or so the sky started to get darker and darker from the north and the wind picked up. By the time I had sailed back to the boat ramp the wind was around 25-30 knots and big juicy waves were crashing on to the ramp. It was a challenge getting the boat back on to the dolly by myself on a lee shore in those conditions but somehow I managed it. I turned on the weather radio in the car and it was talking about a nearby storm which had the possibility of 60 mph winds and giant hailstones not to mention continuous cloud to ground lightning. Actually I never saw anything like that but decided that discretion was the better part of the valor and headed home for a quiet dinner with Tillerwoman.

On Wednesday the front had gone through, the winds were in the north, the humidity was low, and the sun was shining so I went over to Bristol again and launched from Independence Park. What a superb day! It was probably one of the most delightful days of the summer. I sailed out of the harbor and around Hog Island and back upwind again. There was just enough wind to need to hike. There were hardly any other sailing boats out on the bay and I kept thinking, "This is why I retired - to be able to go sailing on days like this."

This weekend, three of the Tiller Extensions are staying at our house.

It's been a quiet week in Lake Wobegon.

Life is good.


Baydog said...

I've always preferred to sail on the off-days, and my current work schedule provides me with that.

Tillerman said...

Right on. I actually hardly ever sail on the weekends on the bays these days (except for regattas and frostbiting.) It's so much more pleasant in the week when the launching areas and the waters aren't all crowded with powerboats.

Pandabonium said...

"This is why I retired - to be able to go sailing on days like this."

Wishing you a long retirement filled with such days.

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