I thoroughly enjoy flying and love take-offs and landings. And as exciting as that is, I find the same sort of fascination with take-offs from a dock and landing at the dock. Seems that is the one exciting moment of sailing for which little training is given. Most of our time sailing is not spent around the dock anyway.
|Dock work in a less frenzied moment.|
But it is at the dock where exciting things occur. Back in the days we sailed our 47' Beneteau in the British Virgin Islands with the Moorings, the re-entry to the crowded docks was always filled with apprehension for the expensive new boats. The dock-hands were so capable at wheeling the vessels around the marina that if you so wanted, they would come to your vessel and dock it gratis. And, stern first to the dock. With their help, there was no question that all would be safe. But this isn't always the case, and we don't all have that luxury. Nor are we always sailing in such wonderful environments. It doesn't take much for calamity to occur around the docks. I look at them like landing strips!
Most of us common folk with smaller boats, have to always re-enter the marinas on our own with sparse help available. And it never fails that our apprehension is in direct proportion to the weather at hand. Wind is a great asset to a sailboat but can turn into a cruel brute if permitted the chance. When the wind is blowing you directly back into the marina you have a terrific adventure ahead! Plus, the less practice one has, fits conveniently in one's handicap for this event!
So this really makes for the need for great take-offs and careful landings at the dock. I think I learn the best when things go terribly wrong and I have to adapt instantly to a shift in wind, a line getting wrapped around a nearby dock post, the main-sheet traveler getting caught and holding the sail against that burly gust of wind, and pushing the Dory perilously closer to the shore rather than to the open water! And this happened to me recently when I thought all was well. I knew the angle of departure would be slight and I knew the dory's ability to snatch that angle would be slim, but I was ready to test her limits and mine, so I was game. Perhaps I should have just mounted my motor, but that came later.
When the wind arrived that morning, I didn't have time to feel sorry for myself though that selfish thought crossed my mind. The gentle 5kts of wind suddenly scaled-up in a gust to a blistering 8kts and blew us hard against the dock. People always seem to estimate wind at twice its velocity thus 8 was 16? No, but in the moment, it seemed so. Perspective is important in these moments...
I hardly had enough angle to make way and I suddenly found lines tossed awry, tiller driving me wildly toward danger, and sustained gusts to my surprise which would not relent. Meanwhile, some Flying Scots were happily carving off their angles and sliding out into the lake while Baggy Wrinkles grunted and hugged the dock, her rig in a mess and a very embarrassed look on her bow that suggested she might have to start her motor to overcome this disastrous take-off. After all, with 8 kts blowing 2 thousand pounds against the dock, it is highly unlikely that you might be able to persuade the wind against its will. Technique and tricks might be employed however.
After reading Loki & Loon, the adventure of Gifford Pinchot's sailing his 24' sloop across the Atlantic without a motor, I'd been a bit more attentive and conservative about the use of my 2.5 horse Yamaha. But this morning I was so flummoxed with wind, sailcloth flapping, lines askew and misbehaving themselves by catching every block, corner of teak or dock itself, that I retrieved the iron genny from below, mounted the bronze device on the stern deck, and fought back against the onshore blow, now with a bit of determination.
It was brute power and against power. Horses, two and a half of them, against nature's breath. We won! The ferocious dock disappeared as we propelled swiftly out into the cove, the brute wind now less mischevious gave way to being underway with power.
With the genoa down and main fluttering, I was able to power out and get on a close reach, tie the tiller and haul up the genoa. Sails up, motor purring, and the winds turning us on our tack, I thought what a great thing it is to have just been bumfuzzled for what seemed relentless dockside torture yet avert certain embarrassing disaster in an unintentional grounding at the marina. Or, worse yet to be blown into a neighbor's yard or a fellow sailors yacht!
I pulled the motor off the stern and tucked her down below near the compression post, sat back in the gentle wind and betrayed a bit of consternation that the angry gusts which had whipped us around a half hour before were nowhere now to be seen. And that's the way it is, nature serves up whatever is necessary to keep us alert and sometimes humble, keeping us on our toes and reminding us that our experience will always be a handy toolkit for just such times as these moments, whether taking off or landing, critical times to be well planned and execute one's maneuvers with precision if at all possible.
Our pride may suffer more injury than anything else on these events. But it has been my experience to remain humble about such things because no one is going to do everything just right on any take-off or landing. But resolving issues while underway is where the matter should focus. I must have looked rather harried as I tumbled, tossed, pushed the dory away from the dock while the wind whipped at the rigging and I cringed at the thought of more plastic from the dock rubbing onto Baggy Wrinkles' free-board.
And, it was a rather fun, however quite a bedraggling event!
|It can look so quiet dockside...|