I’m a Dreamer. And a sailor that only knows enough to be dangerous. Lately, I have begun to dream the offshore dream in IMAX High Definition 3-D – I used to say I dreamed in Technicolor, but no one knows what that is these days.
And although I’m a Dreamer, I’m also grounded in reality, so my offshore dreams always include a storm in the middle of an ocean passage. In my sailing career to date, I have always taken the sails down and motored home when the winds were too much. That likely won’t work in the middle of the ocean…
Enter M.I.S.T. – Mid Island Sail Training. A full day of discussion about how to handle unmanageable weather and then a full day of practicing reefing sails, heaving to and man overboard – thank you Mother Nature for the perfect day with 18-knot winds and glorious sunshine. BCA vessels from Nanaimo, Victoria, and Vancouver all made the trip to attend.
Saturday morning found us picking a sunny spot to gather around amiably, campfire style, where Tony Gooch shared his extensive expertise with us through a document that he wrote for the Ocean Cruising Club, along with many stories and practical advice. As we moved about Newcastle Island following the sun, Rob Dodge, Anders Lonnqvist and Elizabeth Angst also shared their stories and practical applications of foul weather tools.
Discussions complete, we went to the dock to see reefing systems, a series drogue and other heavy weather tools.
For the evening we dinghied over to Rob and Grace Dodge’s charming home on Protection Island for a potluck dinner.
On Sunday many folks took advantage of the challenge invitation to sail off their anchor/dock, try some pieces of equipment that came with the boat but had never been wet, and practice sailing maneuvers that they don’t use very often in their local waters.
Here’s what I learned this weekend:
- It’s good to have weather information – take advantage of it if you have it, but technology can fail. Be better prepared with the knowledge of how to deal with foul weather and have good equipment – reefing system, smaller sails, and drogue of some sort – apparently even an old tire is a useful resource. Have this equipment ready to go if your weather sense starts twitching.
- Based on the experiences of those who have traveled extensively offshore, they rarely encountered winds in excess of 25 knots. And apparently you can travel beneath a typhoon and live to tell the tale, although it is not recommended to test this!
- Heaving to and riding out rough weather is perfectly acceptable. Don’t put yourself in the position of having to keep to a tight schedule.
- Reefing works! In practice on Sunday with full sails in 18 knot winds, we were heeled but still only making about 6 knots. With both sails made smaller, we were perfectly upright and still making 6 knots in much more comfort.
- Heaving to is awesome!
- Women worry about what they would do if their partner was swept overboard. We talked about ways to retrieve someone from over the side. It comes down to what you have available on YOUR boat – and practice what to do till you feel confident that you can make it happen. I found it very interesting that men do not seem to have the same concern.
- The most entertaining sailing stories have high wind, broken gear, and someone gets wet – no one tells stories about a 35 day passage where nothing broke and the worst thing that happened was sleep deprivation and a lack of reading materials. If you are going offshore, be as prepared as possible. Many people sailed around the world long before weather maps, GPS, furling sails, and watermakers. Have a secure backup plan for technology/equipment failures.
- Everything on a boat should have four different uses.
- Any time two or more boats are in close proximity, it is a race.
Many thanks to Tony Gooch and everyone in the Nanaimo group who worked on putting this event together – the warm camaraderie of the boating community that is fueled by the sharing of dreams and expertise was definitely taken up a notch this weekend.