Today had the first trial of the new cruising spinnaker on the new boat. Spent some time with the sail maker yesterday and then some more time with the Boat US store this morning. $80 for a snatch block (or as the guy said, a scrank block. Yeah, whatever)! And that was the cheap one. Then $80 for lines. Total bill $220! --ygbsm!!!
Anyway, winds were light this afternoon so called Rotor Campbell and we set out to try new sail. Spent some time setting the rigging (like we knew what we were doing), and then we were off. Well, winds had been light, but by the time we got on the bay, they had picked up just a bit. Well, maybe more than just a bit. May have been due to the line of thunderstorms moving in from on shore. The marina disappeared in a squall line. Not a problem. Turned the nose into the wind and brought all the equipment out on deck. Then fell off onto a broad reach and prepared to set the sail. Rotor made the comment "Don't you think we should wait until the white caps stop breaking over the bow?" Nah! because if something is going to happen, it's going to happen out there.
So we set the spinnaker. It goes up almost flawlessly. It's beautiful. It feels like the boat has lit it's afterburner. And lit it hard! We are off like a scalded ape across the bay. What a great experience. Last time I was on a boat with a spinnaker, it was with Scud in the mid-80s while he was racing and I was on the crew. So we cruise along for a while headed due east towards the mid bay bridge and Freeport/Panama City. Then comes the $64,000 question--"Well, what should we do now." "I 'dunno." "Think we should turn this thing around and go the other way for awhile??" Watching the storm line, we agreed that it might be best to try and get the sail in and turn around. Winds were probably 20-25 knots on a stbd beam reach with about a 4' swell. So we try to douse the sail with the down haul line on the sock, but the sail has other ideas-it won't budge. We continue east at hull speed. So we try coming up wind and letting slack on the working sheet and try again to douse the sail. No luck. In fact the working sheet tangles impressively with the lazy sheet while the sail is pulling us quickly towards Panama City. So we work to untangle and then try again falling off and pulling on the dousing sock again. No luck. So we try to collapse the sail by slacking both the halyard and sheets. The sail scoffs at that and drives us faster. Then we try pulling up on the halyard and slacking the sheets. No luck. Then slacking the halyard and pulling the sheets again. No luck, except we put the foot of the sail in the water.
We can control the sail when it's out--we just can't get it in! I guess it's like being in control of an out of control situation. After about 15 minutes, we begin to get serious. Well, of course, so does the weather as the winds kick up even higher as the line of thunderstorms gets closer. And did I mention the lightening?? By now, I am thinking that we may have to put the sail in the water to get it doused and then haul it on-board. That or continue on until we run out of wind and make a phone call for somebody to drop us some beer/food as we pass the Freeport bridge.
We start shouting and fussing at each other over options and ideas. It was kind of like sailing with Scud and his spinnaker--but with a little less cussing! Several power boats go by and give us the thumbs up. We must look really good, but little do they know!
Finally, climbing to the very forward position on the pulpit and with waves breaking over my feet, we get the dousing line to work down the sail. The sail slowly collapses and we turn back towards Marina. I get it stuffed into the forward V-berth. The wind continues and we actually try to sail with the standard sails to have some fun. Then we loose sight of the shore as the storm hits us full force. The rain comes hard and the lines are so screwed up from the spinnaker that I have to go forward and I get very wet getting everything untangled.
We make it into the slip unbowed and unrepentant. It has been a great voyage and a true success. We got all the people back with all their fingers and toes and we didn't damage any equipment.
It doesn't get any better than that. And the bottom line--Sailing would be great if it weren't for the damn wind.