Though incredibly energetic and fairly coordinated, I was not very talented with sports as a child. I was, however, raised in the 70′s and 80′s and always had access to video games. Through console and computer gaming I learned the distinct pleasure of achievement, normally reserved for children engaged in more practical activities, like baseball or soccer.
Often, in the realm of gamification, we refer to achievement as ‘leveling up’ -after a fair amount of effort the player accomplishes a difficult task and is given more ability and new tools to ‘sally forth’ and discover more challenging opportunities to level up. Like most people, I like leveling up. That’s why I was quietly beaming with pride and excitement yesterday when I was given the opportunity, and responsibility, of access to the larger cruising boats at my sailing club. I didn’t waste any time seeking new opportunities…
J24 image courtesy of Sail-World.Com
The weather was absolutely perfect for a day sail. Winds were gusty, 5-15 knots out of the East. Skies clear; seas light and choppy. I decided to take out a J24, a larger and much faster boat than the club’s Rhodes 19′s I’ve had the run of up until now. The plan was to head out past Castle Island and do some tacking around the mouth of the inner harbor to see how she handles and then maybe do a loop around Spectacle Island if we had time.
It may seem like a small thing to the uninitiated, but the veteran sailor may keenly recall their first experiences with new equipment and expanded cruising grounds. First, I had to figure out how to rig a new boat, which included varied options for different sail configurations. After taking my best guess I asked one of the cruising instructors to inspect my work and discovered I had run the Genoa sheets through fairleads for a small jib sail and a ratcheting block for a spinnaker. After some quick adjustments and orientation Jackie and I were off the dock at Courageous Sailing at 2:30PM.
We pulled up into the wind in the harbor off Pier 4 and Jackie got her first taste of keeping the boat pointed into the wind under power while I went forward to lift the mainsail. I worked at the mast, feeding the sail while hauling down on the main halyard and Jackie tailed the halyard and steered the boat. All and all, it went quite well though it felt like the J24 helped a little with a natural propensity to point upwind. The Genoa also went right up and we fell off and got underway without incident.
Aside from some fairly significant weather helm, the boat was lively and seemed to enjoy the gusty conditions. I probably should have reefed in the main but I wonder, and need to remember to ask a more experienced sailor, being stuck with the hanked on Genoa, how will reefing the main affect the boat’s performance upwind? Jackie started off pretty intimidated by the power behind the larger sails on this new, more athletic boat. She was also initially confounded by the use and timing around tacking with winches. However, after an hour or so her ability was markedly improved…Though I don’t think she was giving herself much credit for how quickly she learned.
Once outside Castle Island we settled down for a couple long tacks to round Spectacle Island. Although I’ve been on Boston Harbor hundreds of times, this was truly the very first where I was the senior sailor, completely responsible for the boat and crew. The first time it fell to me to decide if it would be prudent to take the longer planned route or turn back, based on time, currents, tides, and all the other conditions a skipper must consider. Although we had fought gusty upwind sailing against the tide to get out of the inner harbor, the J24′s speed had left us plenty of time to range out further and the wind, tide, and current would be favorable on the return trip.
The wind seemed to settle slightly and we had a truly memorable afternoon from there on out. The trip around Spectacle was comfortable and uneventful except for giving Jackie her first lesson on checking charts and figuring out our location and water depth. We sailed back in on a downwind run, the only trouble being directly into a gorgeous, setting sun…And keeping the lively Genoa winged out without a spinnaker pole. We doused sails abeam of the Custom House and motored in for a flawless docking, in spite of me forgetting an important little detail resulting in a last second ‘fender fire drill’. (-5 points)
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