Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Land at the Dock, Don't Crash, Use Good Judgement, Know Where the Wind is.

A large part of seamanship is about judgement.  Recently we've had some great red flag days during the junior program.  This always increases the number of capsizes, and hard landings at the dock, especially when the breeze pipes up.  One of the basic and surprisingly difficult skills to master in the first few weeks of sailing, is knowing where the wind is coming from and therefore "what point of sail am I on".  Many a novice sailor has made landing their Cape Cod Mercury seem something like a cripled jet landing on a rolling aircraft carrier. This happens when they aren't sure where the wind is coming from, and they approach the dock on a run or broad reach and land "come hell or high water".  It's hard on the boats and potentially dangerous.  So in the junior program, when the wind is piping up, and comes from the NW, which is perpendicular to the face of the dock, we teach the kids to lower their sail before passing the point of the island. That way they slow down and make their way to the dock with very little drama.  What a great concept and skill to master early on the in learning curve. So if you are not a member of the junior program but are having similar issues with landing at the dock on a breezy day, when the wind is blowing onto the dock, remember that it is easy AND good seamanship to lower your sail before landing.  Come back to us nice and slowly and in control.

A humorous footnote - This works when the wind is blowing onto the dock.  Not so well when it is blowing off the dock. One day when the wind was out of the E, blowing away from the dock, Amy Lyons, our Junior Program Director, looked out to see an entire "Learn to Sail" class drifting towards the Longfellow bridge with their sails down.  What? Why? How? were questions that went through her mind.  The day before was a strong red flag day out of the NW and the kids had been taught well how to land safely by dropping their sails.  I guess they assumed it would always work. I think it was a teaching moment and the kids had a few lightbulbs go on about wind direction.



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