sailing log: 2009-07-11

my 2nd sail of the year was just a couple days after my trip out on Portage Lake with Micah.  my wife and I took all 3 boys out to Kensington Metropark, near Brighton, MI, for a nice afternoon of sailing, swimming and playing on the beach.

link to maps of Kensington Metropark (.pdf file)

the lake there is Kent Lake, which is also home to the American Sailing Institute (ASI).  as an aside, I’ve thought about signing up there to take lessons (they sail 17-ft Interlakes), but haven’t been able to set aside that much time… maybe in future years?  a co-worker’s husband has been a member for a few years, and enjoys it, so maybe I should give it a chance, plus it’d give me some experience on other sailboats.

Kent Lake is nice because there is a no-wake or 5mph speed limit, which pretty much limits boating traffic to small fishing boats, canoes/kayaks, paddleboats, sailboats, and the occasional windsurfer.  no jet-skis, powerboats, or water-skiing to have to watch out for, which makes life a little less stressful out on the water in my little Sunfish.

honestly, the setup the park has on the east side of the lake is a bit of a pain.  since I was going to start out sailing solo, I needed to drop off my wife and 3 boys at the beach/swimming area, but we had already driven down by the boat launch.  we debated them walking over to it, but it was a pretty hefty hike over no apparent trails, and my wife wasn’t too eager to drag the 2 older boys and push the 14-month old in a stroller loaded down with water bottles, swim toys and towels all the way there (and eventually back), so we drove the truck and trailer out and up to the beach area, where I dropped them off, and then I had to drive all the way back out and around and back to the boat launch area… not exactly convenient.  also, it then meant I was launching the boat, parking the truck and trailer, etc by myself – again, not that hard, but just a bit more frustrating, and it takes that much longer to get going (and less time on the water).

finally got it all set up and rigged – I had adjusted the halyard position on the upper spar and the gooseneck position (I really need to get me one of those quick-adjust levers!) so that the sail was rigged a little higher up, making it a bit easier to see under to scout ahead for other boats. wind strength was pretty strong coming across the lake, mostly heading north-east. I remember looking at the wind forecast and thought it had said 10-15mph with gusts, and I’d guess it was at least that… probably with gusts closer to 20mph… and the gusts were pretty random and frequent. made for some interesting sailing!

I got off to a great start, and headed north up the lake towards the swimming area. I planned to sail mostly in that area, and if the opportunity arose, would be close enough to pick up my older son. I sailed solo for about an hour, making several laps out in the area to the west of the swimming area. one real frustration was the presence of weeds in the water. Kent Lake is quite heavily weedy, mostly underwater (where it’s hard to see them coming!), but some areas with surface weeds as well. I actually got blown off course, and right into one of these big patches of surface weeds – got myself stuck pretty good, too. I eventually just popped the daggerboard and rudder both up, and the wind was strong enough it quickly blew the boat sideways out of the surface weeds, and I was able to drop the daggerboard and rudder back and get sailing again.

this was probably one of my fastest sailing days ever – on one stretch, sailing pretty close-hauled, I was able to get the boat to plane for quite a long stretch. I wasn’t pushing the limits on hiking myself out, though… I need to get in better shape to be doing that for extended periods of time!  after about an hour (I’m guessing – I’ve realized that a waterproof watch is a pretty important piece of equipment that I need to really make sure I remember for future sailing trips), I headed into the beach to see if my 8-yr old son wanted to join me. he was already waiting there with a big grin, so as soon as I waved him out, he was wading out to me and getting his life jacket on (I had wrapped his life jacket around the mast to carry while I sailed solo). unfortunately, I had poorly planned my landing point: to leave the beach, I had to head either straight south/south-west, and basically hug right along the coast of the lake, OR, I could sail straight out, but risk being blown into the swimming area if I didn’t get her sailing right away!

as such, before we were even 50-feet from the shore, we tipped the boat over THREE times! luckily, my son didn’t seem to mind at all, and as the water wasn’t too deep, it wasn’t too much of a deal to quickly right the boat, lift my son back in, and try again. on the 4th try, we finally got going, this time heading straight out from the shore. we sailed a good stretch close hauled, and I initiated our first turn to tack, and dumped it right back over again, this time in much deeper water. I made sure my son was alright, and then righted the boat, got him back in, and then it dumped right back over again!  this time, the mast started to sink under, and even got tangled up in the nasty weeds.  my son kept swimming along side me, though, pretty good spirits, too, as I righted the boat again (slower this time due to the mast tangling up on the weeds).  after that, I took it easy, and we didn’t tip again.  in retrospect, I think I will have to talk with my son more about how to handle the tipping – such as, what to do, where to move, and how to handle it if he got stuck under the sail – we were lucky this time that things went well, and he was able to swim well enough with the life jacket helping, I’m sure.

we sailed together for maybe 45 minutes or so, and then started beating our way back to the boat launch.  that’s when the hidden weeds struck again.  this time, I had just tried to initiate a tack near the series of slips used by the sailing school, and just flat out stopped… not in irons, but tangled up on the weeds.  I didn’t have really any option to turn the boat that I could figure, so I ended up dropping the sail, and jumped off the boat to swim her up to the nearby boat slips.  2nd mistake here – the weeds make it incredibly difficult for me to even swim!  I was pretty whipped by the time I got it to the dock, where a kind man helped me unload my rudder, daggerboard, sails & my son.  I then used my telescoping paddle to slowly maneuver the stripped ‘Fish back to the boat launch.

we loaded the boat up on the trailer, picked up the sails and hardware from the docks, and made the drive around to pick up my wife and 2 other boys.  I was pretty exhausted at that point – a couple hours of hard sailing, the 5 times righting the boat after tipping, and then the awful swim thru the weeds really took it out of me.

all that being said, this was by far one of my most exciting sailing adventures – I felt that I was really sailing well at many different angles – I lost the wind a couple times, but I think that was more due to gusting, and the subtle changes in wind direction due to the small lake.


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