A man’s first sail

That’s Larry on the right. He and the missus just retired from Florida careers and they’re touring North America by motor home. They have no schedule, they can go where they please. This month they’re visiting Charlie’s house, which means they’ve watched the Boat People traipsing up and down the dock out back as we continue to fit out Ravenswing for sail. At midnight on Saturday the depth finder came to life as the last real must-have to navigate out the long river and through San Pablo Bay. Larry was happy to join F27 skippers Jim, Charlie and me for the F36’s first sail. A nice summer day outing and Jeanne would pick us up at the marina in Richmond. Larry’s never been on a sailboat before, but hey, what could go wrong? :)Woke up to a super minus tide. Boat lying in the weeds…

Once floating (and breakfasted) and bottom semi-scrubbed from the kayak, we pulled out at 9. The motor mount fix made a major (good) difference. We still need to try the higher pitched prop and get that aspect dialed in. Well, in all the excitement some unnamed boat builder forgot to check the two 3 gallon gas tanks. About an hour motoring down river tank 1 ran out, and guess what, tank 2 had less than a gallon. And the Vallejo gas dock is closed Sundays. 

Enter another Ravenswing hero, Goose. He had planned to intercept us as the photo chase boat once we hoisted sail in the Mare Island Straight. Good thing his West Wight Potter 19 can plane with it’s 50horse motor!

Thank you sir, for running a couple gallons upriver!!!  (And yeah, his coach roof is the entire sliding hatch section of a Catalina 30; wow can this guy mod a boat with gusto and results!)

Back underway, Ravenswing’s final obstacle to sailing was the Mare Island bridge. The flood was ripping, the wind on the nose, and our 60 ‘ bridge raise request held up cars for ten mins as we struggled for decent headway. 

After the bridge, 21 years of anticipation became the moment to set sail. But our fantastic looking lazyjack system completely fouled the main hoist on any point of luffing towards windward. What a mess, with Goose’s camera clicking away. More humble pie. 

We cut the lazyjacks free and in the building breeze set the main at the first reef. In the flat Straits water the boat took off like a scaled cat. A sailboat at last, hallelujah. 

Exiting the Vallejo reach at the Carquinez bridge with no jib yet, we just wanted a feel for the helm and boat responsiveness. In a few minutes the apparent wind was above 20kts and the helm too weather heavy. Hmmm, rudder angle or too much mast rake? But we’re moving too fast and we need to tack away from those oil wharves now. We’ll take a leg to weather and gather our wits for the jib hoist. Another minute or so to clear the wharf and we hit the infamous San Pablo Bay chop. Charlie and I (and a number of you) have raced the f-boats here and been pounded silly by that short steep chop water. The F36 is much bigger and she slammed through instead of lurching skyward. That’s fun. But somewhere in those opening minutes a wave came through that completely firehosed the full crew. Welcome to summer sailing in San Francisco, Larry, the place where we soaked your Levi’s and shoes with icy cold water to start a 30 mile sail. Bad manners from the boat host. And so glad Jeanne is not seeing her new boat this way!

We beat up to Marin without the jib. The boat was very unbalanced, the helm a struggle to keep from rounding up, and without any good plans to hoist and reef the new slab jib. Let’s just muddle through and not break stuff. (The open bottom boom needs more cross bracing where the reefing straps sit under the reefed clews). Near Point Pinole the water flattened out a bit and with reefed main only we were hitting 12kts upwind. This rig pulls like a freight train. 

Got the jib up, full hoist, at the Marin Islands. Took a bit to find a groove, but for a while just south of the Richmond Bridge, Ravenswing hit her stride for the first time. Complete magic as she rose up on plane and accelerated like crazy. This is one powerful cruiser/ocean voyager and I want to dial it in and see what’s possible!!!  There are race courses in her future :)

After a few minutes of fun we hung a left in to the Richmond channel. Jim steered around big tugs with, as Charlie said, the ugliest possible vessel (Asian car transporter), handed over the reins and we tucked in to Marina Bay’s office dock to begin a two month cruise-outfitting and shakedown period.

Today saw hours of 25+ apparent, and it’s the same story you’ve heard here. We’re having a very windy summer, and we’re being reminded to respect the weather as we bring this sailboat to life. But if the dodger had been finished today could have avoided a full frontal soaking.

Thank you Jeanne for handling the bad traffic and picking up the tired crew. Nothing broken, nobody hurt, and Larry a bit wide-eyed. So of course as my lovely wife walks up the dock to our first ‘grownup’ boat slip ever, her eye goes right to the rig and she says, 

Honey, why’s the topping lift way up in the rigging like that? Did somebody let go of it?”  Well, um, that would be me and it’s a long story back near Vallejo. Let’s go get a beer and burrito at LaCasa in Sonoma on the way home and I’ll tell you all about it…

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3 thoughts on “A man’s first sail

    • Start thinking about you two coming to the boat in Mexico perhaps mid November. Cabo San Lucas, and we’d sail up Sea of Cortez a bit to get away from the crowds. Could something like that be a reality? January could work too.

      Sent from Greg’s phone 707.486.3954

      >

  1. Greg, I just love the way you bring the reader onboard ! You all look like your having so damn much fun…Say a hiya to my younger brother Jim..Well, back to re-roofing this place :) and getting things together for this weekend’s sailing classes.

    bob

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