Saturday, June 4, 2011

A Sail On the Bay

I think this may have been May of 09 that I headed out to the Bay for a test run with sails.  It was a memorable day for me. 
This past Monday I took the hogged backed OT out to the Bay, a couple of connecting ponds on the upper Blackwater.  My goal was to sail the bugger in prep for my up coming trip down the coast trip of Maine.  I had two sails with me, the Spirit Sail, a smaller sail that mounts on my center thwart and then my big sail, which mounts on my canoe as fixed mast, a 12' pole with a 10' boom , leeboards and my newly designed rudder.

The Bay is on the Blackwater in Salisbury,NH.  It is two connecting ponds with the river proper coming in from the top and feeding out at the bottom back into a river again for a run down to the Contookcook.
I arrived at the Bay and the winds were absolutely howling in my face  The weather called for 8-13 mph winds but it was more like 20 mph when the gusts came up.  I needed to paddle about 2 miles upstream into that in order to sail back down to test out my leeboard setup, my rudder setup and both sails.  Now, the Disco is not a great boat for wind nor upstream work but I've been tested for years now with this beast and under two hours made it to river proper.  Out of the winds grip I hoisted my big sail and then the Spirit Sail rig and started paddling back down to the open waters of the Bay and the waiting winds.  In the upper pond I quickly realized that the big sail was going to be too much and also had to stow the leeboards away as the water was too shallow.  I realized my test run was coming to a quick end.  I pulled into the weeds where I could almost beach the boat and took down the pole and boom.  I now had to rely on the short sail, having nothing left to test but the rudder system I had spent several months building.  I took a break for a Duckhead beverage and then screwed up my courage to get back into the gusting winds. 

Rounding the bend into the main pond I found that the wind was now in my face.  I almost wanted to cry.  I turned the canoe every which way in order to try to catch some wind in the small sail and if finally worked. The wind had once again twisted and came roaring down the Bay catching the small sail bending the rods of the sail and sending me flying enough to make the bow of my canoe bounce up and down a froth forming off it.  I was moving at such a pace and then a big gust came in and almost brought me over on my side.  It was then that my rudder system failed.  I can not describe the gyrations I had to perform to prevent a capsize and then a reach back to pull the whole rudder out and into the boat.  In the meantime the sail was pulling me at a furious rate and the canoe was twisting every which way.  I ended up pulling out a paddle to steer and my camera to try to record this mess.  The paddle worked but not the camera, the upload for the pics failed so I have nothing to show.  I had to fight hard with the paddle to get back on track fighting the sail, the canoe and almost tipping.  My heart was pounding pretty hard and when I finally got control I found myself shaking a bit.  I'm not brave, just mostly stupid when it comes to this stuff.  I do think a bit of stubbornness fits in this equation as I need to find out what works and what doesn't and if I have to do it solo it will happen come hell or cold water. 

I finally got corrected enough in the wind and water to at least calm my quaking hands with another sip of Duckhead beverage and enjoyed the winds and the speed of the ol' hogged backed Saint.  She was like a diamond in the rough as long as the the ol' Captain could maintain in the ever shifting winds.  Coming into the area of the takeout I was roaring with the winds, it was amazing to me at how fast I was moving with control for the first time in the day.  A huge grin was on my face. 

The kayakers at the putin who saw this whole thing were amazed.  They said they had never seen a sailing canoe before and offered me many kudos except for an elderly gentleman who said, "You were lucky out there, weren't you?"  I can honestly say that I was humbled before his one sentence.  It wasn't a reprimand, it was reminder that one should be more cautious.  He had twinkle in his smile and eye that told me that maybe he had done something like this before.  I replied, "Yes Sir, I was."  It was an acknowledgment of sorts between two paddlers or so I felt.  As he entered his kayak he looked back and said, "Nice job on the homemade gear." 

I packed up with the elderly gentleman's words on my mind as well as the days events.  Both share a place for me to mull over in the future.

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