Wednesday, September 26, 2012

A Tough Sebago Cup and a Serene Sunset. So Long, Summer 2012.

So as I mentioned on Monday, I did, in the end, finally get to sail in my first Sebago Cup on Saturday!

I wasn't sure I was going to until I got there. I woke up and went on line to find myself looking at a sort of a Goldilocks and the Three Extra-Bad Bears of a forecast situation. No this one's too little, this one's too much, and this one's just right. Oh, no no no no no. This was this one's just right, and then the other two are "a little more than I'm sure I can handle" and "forget it, I'm taking my kayak so I don't die".

 There are 2 forecasts I usually look at for Jamaica Bay. There's the NOAA graphic interface one that you get to via - you plug in the Sebago zip cope (11236), scoot the map over to show the Rockaway Inlet, click on the water outside the bridge and it gives you the marine forecast. That was saying 10 - 15 kts. That's fine. Next stop, though, was, and that was still pretty much saying what it was saying on Friday:
Yikes. The worst gusts weren't supposed to come in until after we'd most likely be done, but still. Yikes.

 So then I looked at the older text version of the NY Harbor marine forecast that I link to over in my trip planning tools. That was midway. 10 - 15 gusting to 20 I think it was. Hm. The gusting to 20 part was intimidating. It would be challenging - Maybe.

One way or another I was going to go out and enjoy the Sebago Cup - either racing in a Sunfish, or in my kayak hanging out near the basin and taking pictures of the real sailors. :D

Figured I'd leave the call until I got to the club and talked to our sailing co-chairs, Jim and Holly - in a situation like the one I was looking at I actually trust their judgement as to whether I should sail or not better than mine.

 First thing Holly said to me when I got to the club? "You should sail!"

 She said that the NOAA forecasts were generally to be trusted, and she also pointed out that the wind was going to be from the south all day, so if I did get to feeling overwhelmed at any point it would be easy to go home. In fact that point was repeated at the skipper's meeting for everyone - there were a number of us who were going to be pushing our envelopes and I think Jim and Holly wanted to have that "if it's too much, just turn back to the club, getting home will be the easy part" idea planted before we set out.

 Holly also told me that Jim was going to be out in the safety boat instead of sailing - that was all I needed to hear. I picked Baby Blue and started rigging.

 Here was the course of this year's Sebago Cup. Red nun #16 was the only mark that had to be taken a certain way - you left it to port going out and starboard coming hime. Jim had laid it out with the idea of keeping us out of the biggest of the wind and the waves, and it ended up being a very good plan for the day.

High water was going to be a little after 2 in the afternoon, so the current was going to be coming in for a while - dark blue arrows.

If you did it in a kayak, the course would be around 8 nautical miles. If you did it in a kayak, that is. Muahahahaha. 

We had the skipper's meeting, got our instructions, and then it was down to the dock. The wind was already picking up pretty good. I thought one last wistful thought about Trusty Romany and then Holly gave me a good shove off the dock and me and Baby Blue were off.

It took a while for everyone to launch, which was good 'cause I got out pretty quickly and had some time to warm up. And cool down. It was supposed to get up to eighty, but wow, the spray. I was glad I was wearing my Farmer Jane and it wasn't too long before I pulled out the windbreaker I'd brought along. Wasn't  really planning to use it but boy was I glad I had it. I was then glad I had a few more minutes to figure out how many pieces of the boat the windbreaker was likely to snag when I tacked if I let it (pretty much all of them). It was definitely blowy out there - people were getting knocked over here and there; I didn't get knocked over but I did at one point slide backwards off of my boat into the water in a completely ignominious fashion(I think a gust had come up suddenly and I'd leaned to keep from capsizing and then the gust left just as abruptly and there I was completely unbalanced).

I chugged a bottle of water 'cause I didn't see how I was going to do it under sail.

I considered putting on the gloves I'd brought but decided against it because again, I didn't see how I was going to take them off if I didn't like them.

I didn't really try for a good start 'cause I was still finding different things for my windbreaker to snag on when I tacked, and I didn't want to be in close quarters with the tiller extension stuck up a sleeve or something (I did eventually sort that out but I was still working on it at the start).

So, a so-so start, in the interest of not breaking anything, and then the first bit of the race was fine. A few tacks to get to the buoy, and then a nice reach along the north shore of Canarsie Pol. Whee.

Then we rounded the corner & started south.

I decided to hug the shore of Canarsie Pol instead of going outside the little marsh islands just to the east. I saw a lot of other people going outside - I probably should have followed them 'cause my choice involved an awful lot of tacking. Oh well. Cleared Canarsie Pol and to Ruffle Bar!

And how was that? Well, I wasn't carrying a GPS so I don't know for sure, but my course felt like it went roughly like...oh...THIS: 
Jim later referred to the upwind leg as "a murderous beat". The word "Sisyphean" also springs to mind. Afterwards, anyways. All that really sprang to mind during the beat were puppylike whimpering noises.  Holy cow. I thought the sun was going to go down and come back up and I was still going to be tacking towards Ruffle Bar. The Paerdegat was clearly in view a lot of the time. Soooo tempting. Midway through I saw another dinghy looking weird and as I closed the distance I realized it had a broken mast. I thought about going to see if they were OK but as I got closer I could see that they did appear to be making slow headway back towards the club, and I couldn't think of any way I could possibly help them, and our race committee (Jim and Colin) were coming along in the safety boat pretty soon, and having thusly rationalized keeping going, I kept going...mostly I just didn't want to stop 'cause I was afraid once I did I wouldn't want to go again. So I kept tacking and tacking and tacking and tacking and tacking. My eyes were burning from all the salt splashing on them. I was getting hungry, I had a Luna bar in my lifejacket, appropriate choice 'cause it might as well have been on the moon. I kept tacking.

The orange arrow marked "Phew!!!"? That was the most heavenly moment in the entire race - when I finally made that last tack, came about, and saw that my bow was pointing at open water instead of the beach that I'd found myself looking at for the previous nine-hundred-and-thirty-seven tacks. YAAAAAY!
And that's where I said a big mental "Thank you" to Principal Race Officer Jim, because as soon as I made that last tack and saw that I was FINALLY going to clear Ruffle Bar, I pretty much knew that the worst was over (and like I said on Facebook, I feel completely entitled after that beat to break out the oldest chestnut in the sailing joke book and say "Now I understand why it's called 'beating'").

Clubmate and fellow kayak instructor Dottie and I were at this point vying for "DFL" (dead f____g last if you're not familiar with that fancy sailing lingo!) - or at least it looked like we were, as far as I was concerned at this point I was going to be thoroughly tickled with myself for actually sticking with it through that dreadfully long upwind leg and finishing. Also it was sort of nice to have some company, I'd been off on my own for most of the beat. We had some lovely surfing downwind back to Canarsie Pol - I buried my bow once or twice and then started really leaning back to keep it raised...
I cracked up when I saw this picture 'cause it's two feet off the water, which is maybe overkill, but the boat did stop trying to go pearl-diving (they're working on the oysters around here but they aren't there yet), and I finally passed Dottie when the same thing happened to her - she was flying along and then all the sudden she just came to a screeching halt, slewed around and ended up pointing off in the completely wrong direction. 

Still couldn't eat a luna bar, open a bottle of water or even take any pictures, this was not one of those "one hand for you, one for the boat" days for me, this was two hands for the boat at all times - I'm glad Jim ad Colin were taking pictures 'cause the only one I was able to take all day was during a bit of a lull as I was sailing back to the basin after I crossed the finish line the 2nd time...oops, more on that in a minute!

So Dottie and I rounded the east side of Canarsie Pol again, sailing past 2 other Sunfish - one had stopped to render moral support to another who'd capsized; Jim and Colin were there with the safety boat by then so Dottie and I sailed on by, and headed for the finish line.

I was still ahead of her but she's well known for her eagle eyes, while I'm a little bit nearsighted, and I started having visions of me totally missing the finish line and sailing around in circles while she went zipping across it, so I went on over towards the shoreline and started hunting for it. Spotted it well before I got there and crossed and I was SOOOO happy! Yay! I'm done! I did it! I made it! Yippee...

and then I looked back and saw John, the guy who'd stopped to give moral support to another sailor,  zipping briskly along the shore of Canarsie Pol towards Red Nun #16, which I'd completely forgotten to round before crossing the finish line. AUUUUUGH!

I was so, so tired that my first reaction was "Oh the heck with it" but then I just had to rethink. Not finish the race, when I had been SOOO excited when I finally made Ruffle Bar because I'd actually made it there and was actually maybe going to pull it off, for all my second thoughts about whether I should even sail, because I'd forgotten to round that stupid buoy that was right across the channel over there? Noooo! I was tired but dang, to take a "DNF" when all I had to do was go do the tiny bit of tacking it would take to get around the buoy? No. No no no. Go go go, ya lazy git. 

And so I finished. No style, no grace, no tactics, just sheer, clumsy getting through it - but I think that has to be the toughest dinghy sail I've done so far, and I was pretty happy with myself for just finishing. 
The post-race potluck was wonderful, and I finished my club day sitting on the dock with a couple of friends watching the sunset. Mmmm mmmm mmm. The Paerdegat escapes the sunset design flaw complaints I have about much of the east coast - look, somebody had the sense to put some water in front of the sunset at the Sebago dock.

A perfect ending for Summer 2012. 


Tillerman said...

Wonderful. You capture the pleasures (and pains) of dinghy racing so well.

I love these long distance races rather than the usual short round and round the same old buoy races.

Well done!

Buck said...

Sounds like a great day on the water to me! What a great race synopsis. I feel like I was there. Now I'm jealous :-)

bonnie said...

Thanks! There was a lot of pain in this one, I was seriously reminded of my first fall race series 2 years ago when I was struggling so badly, and there was definitely a point during that long long beat to windward when I thought "This is supposed to be the fun race. Where is fun?"

But boy, as I mentioned, that moment when I finally made the last tack of the beat and realized that I was finally going to clear Ruffle Bar - that was awesome.

I've actually been out on a windier day but that time didn't go so well. This time, I was glad Jim was out there in the safety boat, but I didn't end up needing assistance at all. Felt very good.

bonnie said...

And of course I came away with a laundry list of things to work on.

Out of town this coming weekend but the Fall Racing Series goes on for a couple more weeks after I get back - I was too work-frazzled to go in the first one (that day I just desperately needed to unwind, which I can be much more sure of doing in my kayak) but I'll have to get myself out for a couple more beatings. Er, I mean races.

Jimbo said...

I'm glad you sailed Bonnie! I also have a little video I'll send you, if I ever get the time. It was a fun race.

my2fish said...

bonnie, glad you decided to sail in the race - your narration of the events and your little charts are fantastic. it sounds like it was a ton of fun.

O Docker said...

Sometimes I think half of life is sheer, clumsy just getting through.

But I wouldn't say you did it without grace or style.

Stevie said...

It's a good thing you had the wind to help you along.
If you had decided to kayak, you would have been tired from having no wind to push you along:-)