I got my 1st sail of the year in this weekend – probably my earliest sail ever to start a year. my spring and early summer is usually busy with sports for the boys and the end of the school year, and it is often colder than I currently have gear to deal with. for Memorial Day weekend, we were heading down my in-law’s house, a little bit south of Fort Wayne, Indiana. right in the middle of flat farmland, without any real lakes close by.
I did some preliminary scouting online prior to heading down there: there was a pretty large lake not to far away across the border into Ohio – but a little digging on The Google revealed that there were water health issues at that lake – harmful algal blooms (HAB’s… for more information, see this .pdf file), enough to warn against any swimming or boating activities. a little closer to my in-law’s house, there are (2) reservoirs, Salamonie and Huntington – so long, narrow and winding dammed up rivers to make lakes that might have wide enough sections to maybe make it worth sailing on.
the down-side to those (2) reservoirs, of course, is that we’ve had probably the wettest spring in 30 years in this area, so the rivers flowing into those reservoirs were full or flooded, meaning the reservoirs would be quite high (if not flooded), and gunked up with all kinds of debris from the rivers.
since we camped last year at Salamonie, I decided to drive over and check out the Huntington Reservoir (or Roush Lake). as I got to the entrance to the state park – the check-in station was boarded up, and the road to the park area was closed due to flooding. the boat ramp access road was open, but signs were posted saying that the ramp was closed. I drove down the access road to check things out – the water was very high, up into the parking lot areas, and debris was all along the shoreline – large branches and other garbage. I probably could have used my sunfish PVC dolly to launch there, but I also didn’t have the DNR boat sticker required to sail on the reservoirs, so I decided to skip sailing on the over-full reservoir.
luckily, my father-in-law had mentioned there was a small lake nearby, so I drove a few miles to check it out. Clair Lake is an old gravel pit that filled up with water – in fact, my father-in-law mentioned that one of the cranes they were using to dig the gravel pit still sits at the bottom, because when they hit water, it filled up the gravel pit so fast, they didn’t have time to get the crane out!
the lake was very full – in fact it was over-flowing a little bit on the southwest side, spilling into Broadway Street. but there was only 1 fishing boat on the lake, and a nice breeze coming from the south, so I thought I’d give it a try. I set up and launched from the small boat ramp, and was underway.
I quickly realized that this was indeed my 1st time sailing this year, and I was a bit out of practice! first and foremost – I forgot to bring both my GoPro video camera as well as my DSLR – so no video or pictures, or than the cell phone picture I snapped (above) before I left to go home. on top of that, I had forgotten to bring my collapsible paddle, so I had to be careful I didn’t get stuck somewhere – although I probably could use the daggerboard to paddle if I really needed to.
then, I realized that I had fed my mainsheet into the ratchet block backwards – not a deal-breaker in the light winds, but no “ratcheting” action to take advantage of – so I fumbled a bit and switched that around. about 30 seconds later, things still seemed weird, so I looked up and out at the lower boom, and realized I had fed the mainsheet through only (1) of the boom blocks. again, a bit more fumbling, as I pulled the mainsheet back out of the ratchet block, finally got it through the boom block, and then back again through the ratchet block (the right way this time!).
after that, things went pretty well. the lake was pretty small, so I had to turn around quite a bit, but I didn’t mind the practice sailing on different tacks – a beam reach for a while, a close reach, a little bit of downwind. the wind was shifty, and would come and go, but I got the Sunfish planing on a reach more than a couple times. I pretty much had the lake to myself, as the only other boat was the one fisherman who stayed up next to the shoreline at the south end of the lake. several other people were fishing from the shore, but that was it.
other than the sloppy start with my planning and setup, it was a nice first sail to start the year. temperature was in the mid-80’s, and one of the few days lately that hasn’t had rain. I was actually quite warm in my swimsuit and rash guard shirt, and the water was cool enough to be refreshing, but it didn’t look too appealing for swimming – a little too much rainwater lately had brought enough silt and a little bit of debris, so I skipped out on swimming in it.