Sailing, Self-steering

Life is good today!

Friday afternoon, 1330, and I’ve had more than my fill of work for the week. On the boat by 1400, mooring lines pared down to just the bare essentials, covers off, safety gear in place, motor warmed up. Now we wait for the crew to arrive.

It’s blowing a steady 15-18kt SE’ly, gusting the odd 25kt on rare occasions. Sea state forecast to be about 3m SW’ly swell each 10-11 seconds. Looking forward to casting off the dock lines for a change. I can’t remember when last we went out? It’s been too long.

Sandy arrives and we set off just before 1500 with Stan already clearing the fenders as we gather speed down the channel. I must remember to back further out from the slip before going ahead and making the turn. We do the turn with no real danger or drama, but if the SE’er were stronger we’d maybe not have cleared Calypso’s stern. So, note to self – back further out and right across the channel before going ahead.

As we approach the harbour exit we debate whether to put in a reef or not. There are a few boats out, some reefed, others not, the one’s beating sailing with quite some lean. Considering we’ll be broad reaching out toward Blouberg, we opt for a full sail plan and the boat surges ahead with Sandy on the helm.

Life is good and I try out the sheet-to-tiller system for a while. I get the odd 5 seconds of success, but overall am finding it difficult. Perhaps it’s the point of sail, perhaps the sea state, perhaps the gusts, perhaps the attachment point to the main sheet? All I know is I feel my frustration rising and pack it in for the afternoon. We’ll experiment another day. Right now I just want to enjoy the sail rather than fiddling around.

We gybe ‘Blue around the stern of Ocean Carrier, rolling like a pig at anchor in the swells, and head west, aiming for the channel marker. Rounding the mark we harden up towards Green Point but are very soon becalmed, in the wind shadow of a 1000m wind-break. So we tack the boat and head back toward Milnerton light.

A gust in the high 20’s lays ‘Blue on her side and we reef the main and roll away half of the genoa. Back on her feet ‘Blue beats magnificently back toward the Ocean Carrier, maintaining 5.5kt, surging to 7kt on the back of the swells. The sailing is wonderful and we all are glad we made the time. “This should be a regular Friday thing” we all agree.

My only regret – the tiller-to-sheet didn’t “just work”. But then I knew that would happen. It’s going to take a lot of experimentation. Another item on the list of things to do.

Life is good today!

Sheet-to-tiller Mk.I



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