My Summer Goal - Becoming a More Proficient Sailor

One of the biggest problems that I have due to my love of sailing is that I don't practice enough. When the wind is nice and I am on a great close hauled course, I could sail that way for ever. But, sailing isn't really about nice close hauled courses (well maybe it is, but there are other important skills). It is about maneuvers, like docking, reefing, picking up a mooring, anchoring etc.

I was reminded of this last week when Jay FitzGerald stopped by and made a quick, pointed comment to my blog.
Hi Bill, it Jay.

Beautiful boat, I know your harbor and it looks like a lot of fun.

Too much power in the headsail and not enough in the main. You need a blade jib and a powerful vang.

It would be easy to pat myself on the back and focus and the first sentence but the wisdom was in the second. In many way I am a bit of a hack. Lacking in some of the required nuances of sailing technique. So my summer goal is to work to develop and enhance my sailing skills.

  • Sail Trim - The straight skinny is that I know the basics of sail trim and on a scale of 1 to 10 might give myself a 6. My old boat didn't have much in the way of sail trim controls but Bolero has almost all of them. And my lack of knowledge of these new tools is readily apparent. My improvement plan consists of two parts. First study like hell. There is no shortage of great info on sail trim and I have more than enough references. But second I am thinking about getting some on the water training. For some reason, Lopez Island island is a mecca for great sailors. World champion in this class. Or an America's Cup sailor, or North Sails guru. The list is quite long. So I am hopefull that after a bunch of studying I can coerce, pay or kidnap someone to come on the water with me and set me straight.

  • Casting off the Mooring - There is almost nothing that I really like about my casting off procedure. Neither Bolero or my old Bluenose really liked to point into the wind and they will try to start sailing when the mainsail is about half way up. Currently it is a bit of a circus of raising the main and going aft to untangle the main sheet or correct the tiller to keep the boat into the wind all the while trying not to run over the mooring and then back to the mast to finish raising the mainsail. Then I quickly raise the jib, back wind it to fall off away from the mooring and cast off. Okay it isn't always bad. Sometimes it goes very smooth. But I want a better more controlled procedure. One that works in really light air (which is often worse) and heavy air.

  • Picking up a Mooring - Not surprisingly, I do this as much or more than casting off my mooring (I actually practice this one). I am pretty good at it. But still there are times when I suck at it. And there really is no excuse for doing something so often and doing it poorly. No matter what my success ratio is. So I am going to try to find out why it can get messy and fix my procedure. I am also going to really, really learn about the amount of way Bolero makes under various speeds. Which means I need to learn, without electronics, how fast she is going.

  • Reefing - I think it was Rod Stephens who said something to the effect "that if you can't reef in less than a minute either your system is wrong or your skills are poor". Enough said. My goal is to really streamline my reefing system and skills.

  • Docking - The further down this list we get the worse my skills. I dock three or four times per year. Mostly as a result of launching and hauling out. I have, knock on wood, been pretty successful with this. But there is not way I can attribute this to skill. All of my docking has been into the wind or a beam wind coming off the dock without much boat traffic. So this will also be the year of docking practice. We have plenty of docks situated in every possible orientation to the wind. This will really be boring.

  • Anchoring Under Sail - I have done this twice. There, I said it. No experience at all. Plenty of reading and my plan will be completely stolen from Jay's books. Bolero is really my first boat with a permanent anchor system and the ability to spend the night away from the mooring.
Well this should make for a full summer, and then some, of sailing.