A Sad Day in the Jones Navy

This was sailing weekend. Ever since I finished the rudder and dagger board for the V15 Frankenboot I’ve been on a sailing binge. Took the kids out to Upper Mystic Lake for a light wind sail… and The Dutiful Son suggested he’d be more into it if he could go fast.

Famous last words.

Sunday was our day. We’d already been out on Friday for a brief sail that ended with the tiller breaking, in a way that I should have anticipated. I was able to make a quick repair on the water, and I spent Saturday building a new one, and also installing a new inspection port that had a removal storage bag that fit into the threads, which I thought was pretty cool. J was tagged to pick up friends at the Airport Sunday evening, which is basically where we were going, so we took two cars and the canoes so that J and Reluctant Son could paddle around.

The wind was forecast to be about 17 mph. I didn’t know what that was going to be like, but it felt manageable from the shore. Having set everything up I dropped my phone into the storage bag along with my wallet and keys. We put the boat in and finished setting up at the dock, but when I opened the inspection port back up to grab my keys I realized that the bag was not water proof, and whatever water had ended up in the bilge had been enough to soak my phone. Maybe I should have called the expedition right there?

Ignoring the omen, we headed off from the ramp, through the mooring, wing-‘n-wing, at a good clip. Entering the channel we reached along the shore having fun riding waves. We got a good heel going, and Ellis seemed to enjoy hiking out hard. But then I suppose he got a bit tired and perhaps trepidatious, so he suggested we head back. I agreed, because it also seemed like the wind was picking up.

Unfortunately, we couldn’t get a good line back to the ramp. We were beating along fine, but the tack that brought us in was close-hauled, and as the wind continued to pick up this became a dodgier and dodgier proposition. At one point I was sheeting in just enough to get forward motion, only to have to dump air to keep from getting blown over. So we’d go forward, then slide sideways, go forward, slide sideways. And in the mean time there were hazards around that I was trying to avoid.

It ended when we got hit with a gust. I dumped the main, but Dutiful Son held onto that jib sheet. I let go of the tiller and it went hard over. We cartwheeled, and went into the water. Immediately I swam around to get up on the dagger board. But I couldn’t get the boat upright. The wind was blowing hard and wouldn’t let the boat up. Meanwhile, we’re getting blown down the channel. After several tries to right the boat, which ended in it going right back over, a fishing boat came by and offered help. I asked Dutiful Son to swim the tow line over, but he didn’t understand and just went for the boat, leaving me there, wrapped around the dagger board, trying not to let us turtle. Then the harbor master came by. We got the main down, and they were able to hook a shroud and pull us up. Seeing they had it in hand, I swam for the fishing boat.

J observed from the shore of the island to which she’d paddled. Having seen the tragedy unfold, she paddled in to meet us back at the ramp where Dutiful Son and I had arrived, wet and weary. And now we faced the question of how to get home. I was without phone and without glasses, and we were in two cars. Also, J still had to pick up her friends from the airport. So she wrote down directions from her phone to get me back to 90, the blind guy driving and the deaf kid prompting (E had to read all the road signs to me).

We did get home safely, and I truly wish that were the end. But pulling up at the house a neighbor came out to let me know J had texted about an hour ago… she had left her keys in the pocket of her PFD, which we had loaded into my car to make room for her friends’ luggage.

Yep. Lessons learned:

  1. It actually is a good idea to keep a spare pair of glasses in the car. This is something I’d meant to do, and now I’m prioritizing it.
  2. I now know that I am NOT good enough of a sailor to handle 17 mph wind (I really do think it was more like 20+) in Boston harbor, in a V15, with a kid who’s sailed exactly three times in his life.

I take this as a challenge to practice hard, keep learning, and keep experiencing. As Dutiful Son rued, indeed “this was a sad day for the Jones Navy.”

The V15 Frankenboot

I suppose this is the first post on this blog that isn’t about a skin on frame canoe. Not only that, it’s about a fiberglass sailing dinghy, which I hereby dub the “V15 Frankenboot”. I acquired it free from Craigslist. The guy wanted to replace it with a Laser, but couldn’t sell it. I offered to haul it off for free, but he felt confident he could get something for it if he tried hard enough. Three months later, the guy contacted me to find out if I still wanted it.

Part of the reason it was free is that the seller had misplaced all the blades (daggerboard and rudder / tiller assembly). Replacing all that would have cost more than the boat was worth, so I decided just to make them. So while I’ll never sail it competitively (who wants to anyway since they are no longer made and the class is all but dead), I’ll have fun hacking it.

Next up for this boat: a single sheet system, like the swift solo has. And after that, we’re gonna trapeze off of this bad boy. And before anyone warns me off of that, I am aware of what the dangers of that are on a boat that wasn’t made for it, and I know what I need to do to make it work, because I researched it.