If you've got more than one sail, who's to say you have to use them all, all the time? We began to experiment with just the main sail, just the jib, big jib, middle jib, little jib (we got some jibs) To make it even easier, and at times more confusing, our boat was fitted with the much sought after "roller furling". "Harken! Cometh the Roller Furling!" Old english? "Furling", a unit of measure? Anyway, the roller furling goes over the forestay. Normally you would "hank" the jib onto the forestay and raise it with the jib halyard. WHY DO THEY HAVE TO MAKE UP WORDS LIKE THIS!!! Maybe since I have a roller furling "Hank" has never had to come by to help put the sail on. Could "Hank" be similar to the "Tooth Fairy"?
With a roller furling one raises the jib and then wrap it around the forestay like a windowshade. The jib can then "roll" in or out. All this is controlled from a line that wraps around a bale at the bottom of the whole thing. If one is good you can put out and retrieve the jib from the cockpit in a "now you see it, now you don't" fashion. This is also how you get the really neat effect where the final wrap is a UV shield the same color as the rest of your canvas. Almost like a color coordinated cover for your jib. Since you can roll the sail up in either direction, if your furled jib, with UV shield, looks like a Barber Pole you've rolled it the wrong way. This is asthestically much worse than running around with your fenders down. The only thing worse is putting your jib onto the furling system with the fat end up, pointy end down. I did this once but IMMEDIATELY took it down as a sail mounted upside down is probably a distress signal. I am sure it signals something. We have slowly begun to amass knowledge and understand the difference between "100%" and "150%" jib sails. The "100%" only goes back as far as the mast. The "100" is known as a "working" jib. Just what does this mean? Sailing with a "100" is work and a "150" is not? Possibly the "150" be the "play" jib? Where does the "135" fit in? The terminology does not stop there. Are you suprised? We have the "jib", the "headsail", the "genoa" and maybe a few more names for it that I have yet to hear. Probably a "White Sail", "Going Out of Business Sail", maybe even a "Chapter 11 Sail" could be obtained.
Fortunately we had a "100", "135" and a "150" with our first boat. The "150" was my sail of choice. The "150%" goes to the mast, and half again beyond. A "200%" would probably wrap all the way around the stern and one would look like a dacron shower stall I suppose. The "150" is more than enough, thank you very much.. Enough tech talk.
We started out for a nice afternoon sail in the river. My wife, myself, our daughter and one of her friends leiseurely tacking down river on just the 150. With every tack I noticed the sail would laboriously shift from one side to the other rubbing against everything on the forward side of the mast and rigging. No problem! Tacking back and forth on the jib was becoming less than fun so I started lengthening period between tacks which would take us closer and closer to each side of the channel as we went along. The eastern side of the channel, however, goes from a depth of 40 feet to "rock" in less than a boat length so it was the less forgivng side of the channel. We're really getting the hang of this now! Approach the bank of the river at a 45 degree angle, snap the tiller over, swing around, the wind carries the sail to the other side, helps pull the bow around, fills, and away we come from the bank of the river at 45 degrees safe and sound. My wife and I sitting in the cockpit, daugher and friend playing in the V-berth, hot, hazy New England afternoon and another new technique mastered. There's really not as much to this sailing stuff as I had originally feared! With just one sail I have probably just halved the number of things that can go wrong! Can you sense a "lesson" coming? Have I done a sufficient job foreshadowing what was to happen next?
On our next river bank approach, I snapped the tiller over to commence the "tack", slippin' sheets and cranking on the winch, doin' that sailin'! The bow comes around, points at the rocks, the sail stops coming across and our new course points right at the rocks along the banks. Not to worry! The jib has caught on something up forward so I went to free it and continue the tack. The sail had caught on a "dammit" and once freed, flagged out of the way to give me a beautiful view of............. ROCKS!!!! BIG ROCKS!!! CLOSE BIG ROCKS!!! Why didn't they put a lighthouse or something here? A quick mental review of the old children's game of assualt, "Rock, Fiberglass, Scissors", has left me about to get my wrist slapped soundly. We are now in the midst what we called in the Navy, a "casualty". Instinct and years of training now take over like a freight train. Tiller! Turn! No effect. Collision immenent! I bellow below for my daughter and her friend to come out of the bow and topside since now I'm probably about 30 feet from the rocks and moving steadily towards them. My wife looks at me quizically, as if I have just lost part of, or possibly even ALL of my mind. PROPULSION!! Start the outboard and back out of harm's way!!!! Foreshadowing once again! Liken our outboard to any escape vehicle in any scary movie. What do you think is going to happen next? Release and lower the outboard, start, and go in reverse..... Easy? Right? WRONG! Our outboard was mounted on a "finger breakin' physically shakin'" contraption which allows me to lower the outboard with a violent flip of a handle, and raise it with back-wrenching gut-busting ease. I slam the lever to release the outboard and the outboard drops.... but wait!!!! It's JAMMED!!!! The outboard has only desended to where just the tips of the propellor are touching the water. If I am going to lose my first boat it will not be for a lack of effort. Maybe the vibration of the outboard will shake it loose and let it extend all the way!!!!! Several swift pulls of the starter rope and.... and..... HA!!! FOOLED YOU! The outboard roared to life!!! I waste no time shifitng the outboard into reverse. FULL THROTTLE!!!! ALL BACK EMERGENCY!!! 20 feet from disaster. I am almost close enough to grafitti the rocks from the cockpit now. My daughter and friend are peering up out of the cabin wondering why Dad is jumping around. The outboard mount is still jammed! The propellor of the outboard is now just a blurred yellow wheel touching the water's surface. It's touching just enough to throw a cloud of river water upward and back over the us and the boat. We looked like "Maid of the Mist" coming out from under Niagra Falls. The outboard threw so much water into the air that I actually had a rainbow over the boat. How picturesque. Since my wife did not come out here to get soaked, she inquiring as to what I am doing. Can't she see we're about to be shipwrecked in the Thames River? I began to explain it to her with a burst of nautical nouns seasoned with explicatives , when... as if by magic.... the bow of the boat swings around away from certain fiberglass distruction and out into the river. Can I handle this boat or what, huh? I believe my wife's only comment was that maybe I should do SOMETHING with the outboard other than spray water all over the boat.
To this day I do not understand all the hydrodynamic forces that saved us from almost certain destruction. My wife does not think we were ever in peril. I replaced the outboard mount the following spring and sailed more with the outboard down than up. I tapered back on the "style point" sailing and now, if I got two sails, I use 'em both. And someone had the nerve to suggest that we take SAILING LESSONS!
Mind Your Helm