| By Bobby Chilek - La Grange,
Texas - USA
Part 2 - (click
here for Part 1)
Friday May 12, 2006 - LAUNCH DAY. A
day I had dreamed about for over a year; the thought
of this day had helped me fall asleep on many of sleepless
nights. Now that it was here I had knots in my stomach.
We arrived at Magnolia Beach a little after noon.
We drove down the beach and saw that a few other boats
for the Gulf Coast Messabout were already here as
well. We checked into our room, unpacked the Mountaineer
and FINALLY headed out to the beach.
danged she floats!
images to enlarge)
Magnolia Beach Texas is a great place for small sailboats.
I have sailed my catamarans here for years. The bottom
of Lavaca Bay drops rapidly to about three feet and
then SLOWLY deepens to a maximum depth of about seven
feet (according to my chart). You would have to walk
a long way to find that seven feet though. In fact
I don’t think I can walk that far.
|Let me see
this rope does what???
The wind today was from the south and blowing pretty
good, maybe fifteen knots or better. A south wind
here is pretty much blowing from the beach straight
out into the bay. I had kind of hoped for a more easterly
wind and maybe more like ten knots for a first launch.
As I prepared Bobcat for her first sail I couldn’t
help but wonder, “Will she tack? Will she sail
into the wind? Is my home-made poly-tarp sail cut
tight? Is the hull going to fall apart when it gets
wet? Is the mast going to snap in two in this breeze?
Is there anything special to sailing a gaff-rigged
boat that I don’t know?” You know all
of your normal concerns when you go sailing.
of sail shape is that?
She was ready for launch fairly quickly which surprised
me, what with all of these lines going every which
way that I barely know what for and not really having
a launch procedure in mind. We backed her down and
released her from the trailer that had been imprisoning
her. She floated so pretty in the water that I had
to have a picture or twelve. I think her lines are
gorgeous. She did seem to sit a little higher in the
water than I had anticipated (which is probably a
good thing). I can always find something to weight
her down with.
is a good listener, I think Itold him
my life story.
I decided to walk her around the dock and back to
the beach on the other side, due to it being such
a narrow channel between the dock and the jetty. A
few more pictures, a quick sip of an adult beverage
to soothe my nerves, raise the sails and I cast off.
It sure was a good thing that I walked her around
the dock, because I now find out that the boat has
very little steerage until you get some headway. The
HUGE SAIL is MUCH more powerful than the tiny rudder.
I almost run into the dock as I take off from the
beach, “come on baby turn, come on baby turn,
come on baby turn”, was repeated a few times.
She finally turns and we head out into the bay, heading
downwind, with a knot in my stomach. “Will she
tack, will she sail into the wind” etc. goes
through my mind.
if I wasn't going to shutup, we might as
Once I am safely away from the dock and jetty threat
I take a look at my sail and see that she is hanging
like something haphazardly thrown over a clothesline
and not a pretty sail. The peak halyard is way too
loose. I am too nervous to go forward and try to adjust
it in this wind, so I decide to get her tacked and
back onto the beach for the adjustment. Tighten up,
get good boat speed, and hard alee…….
come up into the wind ……. and stall. Okay,
fall off, sail backward for a bit and try again……
good boat speed, hard alee…….. stall.
This goes on a few times. “Man what kind of
a boat is this, that won’t tack”, I mutter
to myself. After several tries something in the middle
of the boat catches my eye…….. “What?
A centerboard? Shouldn’t that be down? You big
dummy.” With the centerboard down she tacked
into the wind just fine. I beached her and raised
the peak halyard to get a nicely shaped sail and re-launch.
day, beautiful boat!
As I sail out into the bay this time I notice that
the wind is actually slightly out of the east and
my destination is about a half a mile slightly upwind.
I also notice that the peak halyard is sagging AGAIN;
apparently I didn’t use the right kind of rope.
GREAT, okay let’s see how this boat does upwind,
at least we know she will tack, …… eventually,
…….. if you put the centerboard down.
|What are you
I sail way out into the bay with the sheet hauled
in as hard as I think is prudent on a gaff rigged
catboat. I had read somewhere that you don’t
want to pull the sail in too tight as it does not
help in gaining any headway to windward. The boat
takes the swells and chop better than I had expected.
I get hit with a few gusts and find she handles them
pretty good as well. As she heels she heads up pretty
quickly and in fact the pressure on the helm is quite
strong. After about a half an hour of sailing, I make
it to the beach where the other messabouters are located.
My family and I had a great time at the messabout.
I met a lot of nice people, saw some really nice boats
and received a lot of compliments on my boat. I felt
like a boat builder. I even learned what kind of rope
to replace my halyards with.
not supposed to stand up in a boat!!!
Over the next two days of sailing I learned a little
about my new mistress. She is headstrong and will
not always listen to a rudder input without a sail
adjustment. She is very stable, and predictable. She
is faster than I had imagined. The big boom is not
a problem if you raise it up high enough to not hit
you in the head. She will jibe without scaring you
to death. She will go to windward, not as tightly
as a sloop, but well enough to get you where you are
going. I think I am falling in love.
Since that weekend, I have had sailed her several
times on local lakes. I have found that she will move
in a whisper of a breeze, but she prefers about ten
knots. Over fifteen knots in shifty lake conditions
I am nervous but she seems to take it in stride. I
was hit with a HUGE gust that came out of nowhere
a few days ago and she heeled over a lot more than
I like, but the rail never went under, she headed
up, I released the sail and all was okay. My heart
rate returned to normal eventually. She will accommodate
two adults and a child, maybe two (we haven’t
tried yet). There is lots of storage under the deck
and rear seat. She launches and retrieves in about
fifteen minutes. I love the barn door rudder, it allows
you to launch and sail off without having to do anything,
like fold a rudder down to steer (but do remember
to put the centerboard down eventually). And last
but not least….. she is beautiful.
I am in love!!!!!
to Part 1)