11 February 2008

What a Difference a Day Makes

I sailed on Oceanaire (my Hawaii ride) this weekend. It was really the first time I'd had a chance to take the helm, get used to the cockpit layout, and just feel the boat. The previous sail had a ton of people, a bit of chaos, and a purpose that wasn't "get Edward used to the boat."

Well, the short story is that this boat is different. It's big and heavy, ridiculously overpowered, and not the nimble agile machine that Lady Bug is. Seriously, Lady Bug sails like a dinghy next to this beast. The best part of this short story is that, yes, this boat is different but wow, what a great boat to sail.

The first difference that just jumps out is you can't feel the helm as much. It exposed my tendency to pinch but I'm not sure that's a bad thing. On Lady Bug, I feel the speed drop as soon as I pinch, on Oceanaire it took longer to feel it. I took Lady Bug's faster feedback as a sign that it was OK because I could also get back to speed faster so I just tried to live as close hauled as possible. Driving Oceanaire will force me to not rely on that feedback as much and instead practice just staying in the groove and stop hunting for that extra degree of point.

We were out on a light air day, 5-10 knots of wind. And we had the full mainsail up and a ~108 jib. When the wind went to 10 knots (apparent 15) it was getting overpowered. You can't feel the weatherhelm really but you see that kingspoke way over and see the rudder angle at 5-10 degrees and you know there's something wrong. At less than 5 degrees I couldn't feel the drag at all, but by 10 degrees you could really feel the rudder slowing you down. What I need is more time on the wheel so I can feel that first 5 degrees. It's interesting the difference in how weatherhelm affects you on a tiller vs. a wheel. I would never accept my rudder that far over on a tiller; I'd have a reef in there in no time. We probably would have on Oceanaire too but the 1st reefpoint isn't built into the main yet, that's the next step.

The third thing that became apparent was the loads. This thing loads up tremendously. The previous largest boat I'd sailed on was a Tayana 37 and Oceanaire must have double those loads. Whew. Garrett kindly walked me through all the steps on basic maneuvers on the boat. In honesty, they're exactly the same as on my boat but the timing of some of it is driven more by the loads rather than the quest for speed. On Lady Bug, I can start driving the boat for speed after a tack while the jib trimmer sheets in and we can bring the boat higher in coordination. On Oceanaire, we have to get that jib in before the load gets too high so I don't have the option of dropping below close hauled to get speed first. It's the same, just different.

I'm pretty sure that sailing Oceanaire is going to help my sailing, maybe break a few of my bad habits. What I know for sure is that I enjoy this boat. Once the 1st reefpoint is built and I can feel it properly powered in 10-15 and then in 20-30, she's going to be a joy to sail.

1 comment:

bonnie said...

What a good writeup - very vivid. Almost sounds a little bit like working on the Adirondack (80' passenger schooner). Sweet boat, built for the passenger business so built to be very safe & easy to sail, but just a big big boat & some forces involved you just couldn't argue with. If everybody did their parts in a manuever right, at the right moment, it was easy and really pretty nifty - but if somebody missed a beat on a windy day, yuck, there was no fighting it - at best, it would just look sloppy; at the worst, people could get really get hurt.

They took inexperienced crew (otherwise I never would've gotten the job), but there was a training process that was taken very seriously.