We took the yawl out on Claytor Lake yesterday for its first sail of the season. The sky was a brilliant blue, the clouds a crisp white, and the wind made us fly over the water: we ran wing on wing from launch down to the dam, farther and faster than we’ve been before.
Of course while we were doing this, we knew we’d have to get back up to the ramp, tacking back and forth into the wind. As we ran with the wind at our backs, we didn’t care.
When we came about and the first crash of frigid lake water soaked us to our skin, we felt a little differently. As we tacked back and forth, making a bit of progress up towards the ramp, then cutting across the lake for our next leg and seemingly going backwards, the wind became gustier, the water rougher, and my shivers less controllable. It was 80 degrees and sunny! I should not have been cold! But I was. I put on the life vest for an extra layer of protection from the splashes coming over the bow and tried to keep my teeth from chattering.
“I should have brought a rain jacket.” I wore short sleeves and shorts, both of which were drenched. I sat in a puddle of water in the boat that sloshed back and forth with each gust that tipped the boat. I clasped my hands tight around my knees, my legs and arms slippery with wet sunscreen.
There were other boaters on the lake; I didn’t feel like we were in too much danger. But as the chop built to white caps, and the gusts came up fast, I wondered. More than once I was glad I wore the life vest. One gust put our gunwhale in the water and tipped us to a point that made me squeal involuntarily.
My husband’s eyes never left the mainsail and the wind and water beyond it. “This wind built more than I expected — it’s too much for the boat.”
“We really need to start thinking about exit plans before we go out. What do we do if we can’t get back?” The hull slammed against hard chop as we tacked and he eased the sail so it could take the wind.
I was not excited about this option.
Luckily, we made it back, safe and without breaking the boat. My husband skippered — I’d already forgotten everything from last year — and after the adjustments he made to the rigging and other parts of the boat, along with our sailing lessons, I felt much safer and more comfortable even in rough conditions than I ever did last year. We did learn some lessons on this first sail of the season, though I’ve already forgotten what they were. Something about safety and responsibility, and oh! Heading up wind on the way out rather than downwind. We knew that this time, but it was just so fun to run with the wind at our backs, far and fast.