Big Sunday

A breeze blowing upper teens to 20’s and gusting to 30+ ahead of an approaching storm, two Sunfish and Silverbell Lake. Sailed fast, got wet, had a blast.

Big Sunday started out as a big mistake. Sunday was a Lake Pleasant racing day. I woke up before the alarm with the unsettling realization that I had told my crew we’d be leaving the slip at 11, the usual time. That is, for a Saturday, when the races start at 12:30. Instead of leaving Tucson at 8 as I planned to do with Peter Burgard, we should have been leaving the slip at 8. Anyway, unable to reach Peter before he left Green Valley, I met him at his office and proposed an alternative–we stay in town and sail my two Sunfish on Silverbell Lake. The wind was supposed to build ahead of another storm and we could sail without driving 300 miles round trip.

By the time we launched from the shore, the wind was gusting so much it was hard to hike hard for any length of time as the wind speed would drop as fast as it gusted. There were times sailing upwind though when the hull, from the bow to aft of the mast, was out of the water as I took advantage of the new hiking strap. After more than my fair share of light air sailing, to be hiking and see water under the hull was amazing. Sailing fast on that small lake also meant tacking often and doing everything twice as fast.

Sailing downwind was challenging. In light to moderate conditions, I heel the boat to windward to reduce the wetted surface and neurtralize the helm. On Sunday, gusts were lifting the sail and driving the windward rail into the water. No need to induce windward heel.

Initially the constant puffs were unsettling and it was hard to get into a rhythm. To maintain some semblance of control as I was approaching the shore on my first starboard tack, I did a down speed tack that totally backfired. The Sunfish stalled as it was turning into the eye of the wind and, in irons, I had to backwind the sail and sail backward into a port tack. Then, trying to catch Peter who ahead of me and to windward, I cut it too close to a “point” of land in the lake and ran aground for a few moments until I raised the centerboard. As if to get everything bad that could happen out of the way in my first 5 minutes on the water, I then snagged an invisible fishing line that was attached to an inconspicuous rod that was lying on the ground with no fisherman nearby. (Public Service Announcement: I do avoid fisherman, and their lines, when I see them.) I learned of this malfeasance only when another fisherman further upwind started shouting that I was dragging a pole. That meant turning around in another gust, raising the center board to free the line, expressing my condolences to said pole’s owner, who appeared out of nowhere, and sailing off to what I hoped would be the tranquility (figuratively) of the center of the lake.

After that, it was the most fun I’ve had sailing a dinghy. By the time we beached the boats, I was looking forward to the next big air day and building on what I had learned the only possible way–by doing it.

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