Ok, here’s my summer event, for your amusement even though it’s only indirectly connected to Wayfarering….
There were three of us: my brother, a hired instructor and myself. The instructor is a young guy, but very experienced in various dinghies and keelboats, currently a student of naval engineering. It was unusual for me to hear that he knows a bit about the Wayfarer, as I’m still probably the only W owner here. The boat, a modern 18ft design, 500kg, extremely wide hull with twin rudders (French style) and a heavy but quite high aspect centerboard.
We set out in a moderate bura wind which means gusts from around NE, oscillating somewhere between 20 and perhaps 30 kt. Maybe a bit more, wouldn’t know as we’ve only measured the windspeed ashore, much before departure with a small handheld unit. The waves are not a concern as there is only about one mile fetch from the other side of the channel across which the wind blows. Some photos here:
We set out from a tiny harbor on the lee shore, with the help of outboard, and once we’re enough from shore lower the centerboard, insert the rudders into their slots and proceed to raise the main. I ask if we should have it reefed immediately, but the instructor thinks we might get away with full sail. It’s not a wrong decision but one made on purpose as we’ve come with the intention of testing/learning what it’s like when pushed hard. I thought it might be doable also because I’ve had the experience of sailing the same boat double-handed under full sail in what the instructor then thought was about 30kt. Just for the record: it was a different man, one whose judgment could not possibly be doubted as he’s got a number of medals from around the world, sailing dinghies and keelboats, and even participated as a member of Americas Cup team. If I got it correctly he’s currently in one of the TP52 teams… So back to our story, full main raised, jib unfurled. Very soon it becomes clear that we really need to reef the main. The plan is to first furl the jib so the boat heads into wind naturally, then lower the main into the cockpit (the rig is too racy and main can’t be reefed under way W style), then do the reefing and hoist it again and finally open the jib again.
But, just like in the stories from the books about heavy weather sailing, the furling mechanism fails . The instructor makes a brief and impossible-to-literally-translate comment about the cheap Ronstan furler, jumps to the bow and tries to sort the thing out. The boat heels and rocks too much for him to do much, so it’s decided that my brother and I lower the main completely. Now it’s a bit better but the bow is falling off the wind as there is no mainsail to counter the forces on the jib. So we have the outboard started to help keep the nose into the wind and avoid being thrown by the wind and waves back onto the rocky shore. The instructor at the bow and my brother assisting from the cockpit, try all possible tricks to furl the foresail. But every time it looks like they’ve got it, the next gust shoots the thing back and makes it flog madly again. I’m at the back of the boat kneeling on the mainsail to keep it inside the boat, and try to steering the boat but with poor results. I realize that steering troubles must be due to a combination of shallow draft, high aspect centerboard, very smooth bottom of the hull (there’s no keel or bilge rails), and most importantly the propeller is not throwing water onto the rudder as the outboard is mounted between the rudders. I switch to holding the tiller with one hand and using the other one to steer directly with the outboard. This way some control is gained. No spare hands to hold onto the boat, but it’s so wide and stable that it’s not a problem while sitting on the floor. By the way, the outboard (Mariner) has a wonderful feature that it has small integral tank but can also be fed from an outside tank. So as the time passes, my brother gets the tank that we’ve put away into the small cabin, and attaches it to the motor to minimize the trouble in case we waste the fuel from the integral tank.
As the jib freaks above our instructor’s head, threatening to beat him with a double sheet block attached to it’s clew, the sheets get tangled badly and prevent his furling efforts completely. He decides to remove the sheets by running them out of that block. Just as he finishes this, and returns to work around the furling drum, the aforementioned block fly overboard. They were attached to the jib clew with a shackle which must have come undone by all that flogging.
After some more efforts, it was decided that the jib can’t be furled. When I asked if we could lower it down, the instructor says it cannot be done in such wind. I trust him, firstly because he’s very experienced in all kinds of boats and this one too, and because I know the boat has an very ‘unusual’ way of jib attachment. The jib has a sleeve, which has a zipper! Yes, the zipper like on trousers or on your jacket. The zipper encloses the forestay so we would need to have it undone. As I’ve had a few misfortunes with zippers in my life, of which some have been a little painful, there was absolutely no wish to fiddle with such thing here.
From our departure it took about an hour and a half, so next decision was to sail downwind, round a headland and into a small bay where we would have less waves and much less wind, and try to sort things there. We managed to do this, and had the boat tied to a small concrete breakwater. After eating some snacks, reorganizing the blocks, sorting out the sheets and raising the main reefed, we set out (using the jib too of course). The wind kept it’s strength for some hours which gave us exhilarating sail back towards our base of the day before, 30 Nm to NW. By the end of the leg the wind decreased significantly, but all in all it took less than 6 hours. At times (close reaching) the boat flew at 10 kt which in my experience is quite extraordinary for a 18ft boat while under white sails only. We had great time. Earlier in the morning, while in the midst of problems, there wasn’t much drama between three of us. Our instructor’s calm but still quick and energetic moves, and clear commanding made my brother and I totally confident in him. Of course, no one could have been drowned in such small space there, but still if some big mistakes were made the boat could have been ruined on the rocks, someone could have been a bit injured. The most serious risk was perhaps taken by our instructor: the possibility of being knocked unconscious by the blocks on the flogging jib clew and dropping into the water. He proved to be a guy I’d sail anywhere with.
I think this little story shows the clear difference between sailing and seamanship qualities, in design, setup and maintenance. Which are not less important than handling. Just a little time before this event, I had to set off from the same spot in very similar conditions. Together with my friend and crew Davor, who spent only 5 or 6 days in a dinghy before that, made it without a slightest glitch in my beloved Wayfarer. And perhaps it should be mentioned that we didn’t carry an outboard.
Returning from shore where we just measured a 32kt gust peak, average was in the twenties:
And a little before setting out: