2009 Sailing Report Card

Way back in April I came up with a list of goals with the intent to improve my sailing skills. They looked something like this:
  • 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.

I thought that it might be beneficial to have a post season look back at this list to see how I did. Maybe grade my efforts.


Sail Trim - Grade C

I did spend a fair bit of time this winter and spring honing up on my sail trim theory. In addition I actually tuned Bolero's rig to the class specifications. And once we were launched I used her sail and rigging trim systems far more often and with better results than I ever have on any boat that I have owned. I particularly used the backstay, outhaul, halyards to power and depower the rig with fine results. But I never did manage to get one of our local sailing experts on board to school me and I still feel like I don't know squat about sailing a Shields or the nuances of sail trim.

Casting off the Mooring - Grade B

This simple and often occurring task went very well this season. I kind of laugh just thinking it is on this list. I mean just how hard can it be to cast off of a mooring? Boats do it all the time without any help at all. But Bolero, and my Bluenose before, love to sail and they point well. So pretty much as soon as the main goes up they want to sail. And since I like to have a balanced sail plan prior to casting off I need to hang out on the mooring long enough to get the main and the jib up. This had been quite problematic in the past. But this year we pretty much licked it by using the topping lift to depower the main and keeping the main sheeted in. This way Bolero stayed pointed into the wind until we back winded the jib and cast off. Pretty easy.

Picking up a Mooring - Grade - C

Picking up the mooring continued to challenge me all through the season. It started off pretty bad and got consistently better but with some nagging relapses about every time I thought I had it nailed. I still need to get a better handle on sailing slow and how much way Bolero will carry at various speeds and wind conditions.

Reefing - Grade - B
Reefing was definitely our best effort of the season. I installed and tweaked a reefing system that I quite liked and that worked very well. In addition the wind almost always seems stronger as it funnels through the anchorage so I decided to always tuck in a reef prior to sailing into the bay unless the wind is very light. This means we reefed a bunch. I can reef quickly and easily single handed. And I have a slight additional tweak for next season that should make reefing even a bit quicker.

Docking - Grade - Incomplete
We docked under sail exactly one this season. Just a practice run, docking in light air and we still manage a poor attempt.

Anchoring Under Sail - Grade - Incomplete

Another lack luster attempt as we didn't work on this skill at all.

Navigation & Situational Awareness - Grade - F
Okay, I know this wasn't on my list but since I cleverly managed to run Bolero up on the Yellow Island Reef at 4 kts  it definitely should have been.
Overall pretty poor marks for a summer where I spent the better part of 125 hours at the helm. Especially since I sail engineless and I am committed to sail and maneuver every where that I want to go. So it looks like I have to continue to force myself to enhance my skills in addition to going out for lovely daysails.