January 22, 2012

Puffs and luffs

IT'S A STRANGE THING, but have you noticed how often the wind will start to rise or shift in direction just as you're about to enter a congested anchorage or port under sail? It's as if the weather gods are deliberately setting out to test you.

You know you should reef to reduce speed and heeling, but either you can't leave the helm or there simply isn't room to heave to while you take in sail. So — what to do?

In a puff, spring a luff;
In a lull keep her full.

That's the old advice. It applies to cruisers as much as racers. Feather the mainsail in the gusts by giving it some sheet and pointing up close to the wind.  Then, when the gust passes, fall off well to leeward.

You'll be carving a zigzag course and no doubt alarming the landlubbers watching you from shore, but you will be averaging the required course and your boat will be under better control.

You can't do this for long, of course. It's a short-term expedient to get you out of imminent trouble. If you're planning to continue for any distance, you must find a place where you can tuck in a reef or claw down the sails and fire up the engine.

Today's Thought
All the first part of a voyage is spent in getting a ship ready for sea, and the last part in getting her ready for port.
— Richard Henry Dana, Jr.

A poultry breeder noticed that one of his hens was sick. He wrung the bird's neck, fearing highly infectious fowl pest, and sent it off to a government lab for testing.
Ten days later he received the official report:
"This bird died of a broken neck."

(Drop by every Monday, Wednesday, Friday for a new Mainly about Boats column.)

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