We took Billie down the hill to a lower elevation lake today for her first sail. My first sail in a dinghy. At Lake Natoma winds were light and variable, just as forecast. Anywhere from 0 to perhaps 6 mph with stronger gusts, swinging from south to west and back again on a whim. Temperature about 70 degrees. Commodore and Ship’s Photographer Katie stayed on shore and took photos. It was nice to have her along to help with the dock lines, but I wasn’t comfortable having crew just yet.
I was nervous to cast off, but as soon as we did it felt great.This first sailing picture is right after cast off. (You can click on the photos for a better look.) I had one reef tied in and the boat still moved with only a whisper of wind.
And went where I pointed. Whew! Only when I attempted my first tack did I remember that the rudder board was only half way down. Putting it fully down helped a lot with tacking. This boat is responsive. When gusts came up it really took off, even with 100 lbs of ballast and a reef. The ballast I used was rocks from our property, just like they used to do with dories. I’ll need to secure it better because it shifted some during transport.
One of the many things I need to work on is where to position myself. I felt most under control when kneeling behind the middle thwart. That’s hard on these old knees. I haven’t even begun to think much about sail trim and such things. That will come later. But I already can feel the potential in this little boat.
This time out I stayed pretty close and just practised moving about and tacking. Getting back to the dock was a bit of a challenge because it was up wind and shifty, and the dock is in a narrow channel. I thought about dropping sail and mounting oars but in the end after several tacks and a 360 I got a favorable gust and ghosted into the dock, almost like I knew what I was doing.
I know. The fender is out and dragging. Jeez.
One modification to the boat that I’m contemplating is a notch in the transom, to use as a mast cradle when trailering. This would make it more secure and make it a little faster to launch and retrieve because I wouldn’t need the sail ties to keep it from shifting to the side. I may also try backing the trailer in farther at the ramp to float the boat off. So far I have just backed far enough to get the wheels to the edge of the water and shove/pull it off and on. This takes some effort with my new ballast.
I can’t wait to get out for a longer trip, perhaps all the way up Lake Natoma and back. Ideally with a little more wind. But I’m not going to whistle because I’m not ready for a lot of wind yet.
One other thing. I got a foot wet while getting the boat off the trailer. The boat itself was leak free. This time.
One other other thing. I made an appointment for next week with DMV because California is clear about the rules. boats over 8 feet with a sail should be registered and get a registration number. At the California State Park entrance, the worker asked if it had a CF number. Because it didn’t yet, she didn’t charge a fee for launching. She said the rangers there don’t ticket for lack of a registration, at least for sailboats. I think our other local lake has the same policy. So now, do I register it or not? Spend 30 bucks to register it and another 10 bucks for each launch because it’s registered? Not sure why I would do that.