Where should I start? Things have been going wrong all week. I thought this weekend would give me a chance to start over and get things back on track, however I should have known better when I found myself tossing and turning all night. I could not sleep. It has been over three months since I have had a chance to sail, but this weekend the wind is going to be between 10 to 15 knots. This is perfect for my Nacra 20 and it is what I have been patiently waiting for.
The alarm goes off at 4:00 am and I slowly crawl out of bed with only three hours of sleep. I quickly jump into my wet suit and gear up. One thing leads to another and before you know it, it is now 5:00am and I am still not on the road. After several trips back and forth to the shop for missing parts, I finally load everything up and hit the road. I immediately roll down all four winds because two days ago I spelt milk in the front seat and the smell is unbearable. It is a smell that I cannot even put into words…but I press on because I have to get on the water because wind like this is rare.
I pull into the boat launch at 6:30 sharp. I quickly pull up to the boat launch and jump out to feel the water. The air temperature is 60 however the water temperature is 70. I think Great…….I can just wear what I have on and I don’t have to put on that dry suit. I then quickly pull the boat into the parking lot and start putting things together.
The first problem I run into is with putting up the jib. I fight with it for over thirty minutes trying to zip the thing up and cut all the thread that has pulled out of the seams. I finally get is zipped all the way to the bottom to only find that some of the zipper has broken off and the zipper head comes off. With the head off, everything comes unzipped…….so I have to take it down and start all over again. At this point I am wondering why in the hell I have not bought new sails. I swear if there was someone in the parking lot sealing sails that morning I would have paid top dollar for them.
After a lot of work I finally have the boat ready and I back it down into the water. In my rush to launch I forget to unstrap the boat, so I look like a dork and have to drive up and pull the boat out of the water to remove the trailer straps that are holding the boat to the trailer. With that aside, I get the boat tied to the pier and quickly get it in position and raise the main sail. To my surprise, I quickly get my gear strapped down and my harness on and launch. It was a perfect launch and I am off…….finally……
Within 20 minutes I have sailed all the way to the Southern Yacht Club. I see at least forty sail boats making their way out of the harbor. I make a long sail down the levee and turn around and sail back to the mouth of the harbor. By now there is a steady stream of boats coming out of the harbor heading out to the race course. I quickly blow by them and turn the boat around to make another pass. I am going to cut right by them and then fly my hulls as I blow past them to sail out to the race course with them. I am now hanging off the side the boat, I have the hull in the air and I am flying…..everyone on the boats are watching me as I easily sail past them. POW !!!!!!!!!!!!!! wait, what is that noise……..why is my boat slowing down……..WTF!!!!!!!!! I quickly look around trying to find the source of the that noise when to my horrid surprise, I see that the bottom of my jib had broken lose. The rope that I had used to tie it to the roller furling has broken. The only thing that is holding it on is the broken zipper that I spent over 45 minutes putting together on shore. I quickly slide back onto the boat, turn up wind to release the stress on the Jip and release the sheets. A thousand things are going threw my head now as I try to figure out what I am going to do. The lake is surrounded by concrete so I cannot just go to shore and repair it. I am thinking of some crazy ideas of crawling out on the pontoon and trying to tie it back as the boat bounces up and down in the waves, but sanity comes over me and says that would be a Stupid idea. I want to fix the e boat, not fall off and watch it sail away as I drown.
Last year when I was sailing here I remembered seeing a small patch of beach. It was not much, maybe only 20 feet long but it was better than nothing. Going back to the dock in this condition would take two hours, but the small beach is only 20 minutes away. I let the sheet out all the way and make head towards the spot. The wind is blowing a steady 10 knots directly into shore so I was able to quickly land the boat.
It takes me 45 minutes to make the repairs to the Jib. I did not have any spare rope so I had to cut some from my righting pole. I figured if I turned over I could figure something out. Well now I gear up and put the boat back in the water. The wind is blowing directly to shore and there is concrete jetties that go out 100 yards on both sides. I only have a small 60 to 70 yard window of sailing area to sail out. As I am pushing the boat into the water, the sail loads up with wind and the boat launches forward dragging me. I am behind it trying to hold on but there is nothing to hold to and the water is getting deeper. I quickly grab the main and jump up on the back on top of the steering poll. Yes, by now you have already guessed that the steering poll breaks and both rudders go in opposite direction. This combined with the waves pushing th e boat back the boat quickly starts to turn around and sail back to shore. To my surprise there was some iron pillions that were driven into the ground next to the beach a few yards away from where I originally landed. Yep, the boat goes straight for them and there is nothing I can do since I cannot steer. The boat drags against it and is beaten by the waves. I quickly jump off the boat and push it down the shore away from the boards and steel. I managed to get it on shore and turned into the wind to keep if from trying to sail away.
By now I am wore out and I can even breath. I take all my gear off and collapse on the boat. The reality of the situation hits home as I am now 15 miles away from my truck and there is no way to get to this small beach even if I had the truck. All the gates are locked by the state. My steering is broken and I soon realize that my 150 dollar hiking stick has fallen over board …….. WTF !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Ok, I don’t have a phone, and my boat is broken. I have to do something and the only way I am going to get out of here is if I fix this steering poll. I take the two parts off the boat to figure out what I can do. Since the poll is hollow, I think if I can find a piece of wood I can jam it down into it and it should help support it. At least then it would be in one peace. Things look up when I find a small wooden stake that was the perfect size and shape…….what luck ???
Ok, I now have the poll in one peace again, but it is still weak and what am I going to use to steer it with. I lost my hiking stick. Behind me is a old house that has burned down and there is caution tape and a orange plastic fence stretched around it to keep people out. I walk over to see what I can find that could help. By this time I am kicking myself in the$$ for not bringing duck tape…… I dig around the rubble and find some conduit pipe. I am thinking I can fix this like to fix a broken leg. Just make a split and tie it tight and it should hold together long enough to get out of here. As I am walking out of the building I realize that the orange plastic fence that is in place is being held up by new clean conduit pipe that is the perfect length and size. I quickly look over my shoulder to make sure no one is looking and stag two pieces. I also grab some electrical wire that I had pulled out of the conduit that was in the rubble. I figure I could use this wire to hold everything together.
I lay the first piece of conduit down on the steering rod and use the electrical wire to tie the ends. I quickly found that the electrical wire was for too stiff to hold it tight. It held but it was lose. I needed something to tie the conduit to the rod……so once again I go back to the building. This time, I took (borrowed) a long strip of caution tape that was part of the fence. I had to wrap it around the conduit and steering poll several times but I finally got it tight enough to my satisfaction. To keep the poll from pulling apart long ways, I once again cut more rope from my righting poll system under the boat.
Ok, the steering rod is now somewhat fixed and looks like it will hold fine, but how am I going to steer it. I look at the second piece of conduit and think this is perfect, but how can I attach it. I don’t have a way to drill a hole. Well, one thing I do have is a lot of concrete. I find two big chucks a few yards down the beach. I place one end of the conduit on the concrete and use the other to beat the end flat and fold it over on itself to make a hook on one end. I return to the boat and borrow a short peace of rope from a tie down that I had. To my surprise it looked great and worked even better.
Ok, now for the hard part, I have to sail out of this hell hole without breaking the boat yet again. This time I tighten the sail and I push the boat from the side so I can jump on without breaking anything. Just a few feet into the water and the sail loads up and the boat takes off. I am dragged but I quickly jump on and pull my way onto the boat. The waves are trying to push me back so I quickly put the rudders down. I can hear them drag along the bottom of the ground……..yet more concrete, but all I can do is pray and try to sail my way out of here. I quickly run out of room on my starboard tack so I turn, but it stalls and the waves push me into the concrete jetty. I jump off the boat onto the concrete and push the front of the boat around and jump back onto the boat. The sails loads up again and takes off. I am gasping for breath as I struggle to turn the boat and keep it on coarse. I realize that my current coarse is not going to be good enough but I cannot turn more into the wind because I will lose power and the waves will just push me back into the iron pillions. I learned from my first mistake of trying to tack into the wind so I quickly make a 180 by turning down wind. This time I lost a little ground but I quickly got the sails loaded again and back under power.
After a few more turns I managed to sail out of that hell hole and I was back into open water. My steering rod was working great and I felt confident that it would hold. What I was not sure of is how much damage was done to the pontoons when it crashed into the pillions and concrete. All I could do is work hard to get back to dock.
Long story short, two and half hours of sailing I finally make it back to dock. I managed to dock the boat easily since once again the wind was blowing me directly into shore. I quickly get the sails down and back the truck down and load the boat. I pull the boat out of the water a few feet and then get out to tie it down before I go any farther to keep it from turning over. To my horrid surprise, I see the two long gashes / holes in the side of the boat……..WTF!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!! Ok, I am now officially SICK to my stomach. I take the back plug out and water rushes out. I did not realize it but my boat would have sank if I had stayed out there any longer.
Below I have photos of the damage and my creative engineering skills for patching the steering rod. It is going to take me a month or so to get everything fixed, but I assure you this will not stop me from sailing. It will however stop me from sailing in that dam lake………cats are make to sail from the beach, not from a boat launch in a lake surrounded by concrete………..
I made it back home in about an hour and half, however I still had to smell that dam rotten milk smell all the way home.
Read the full story with photos at: http://sailinglouisiana.com/