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Man, oh man, what a humbling experience this jaunt turned out to be. After putting off my initial float date for one day due to high winds, I had hoped to evade the worst of Mother Nature’s wrath. I suppose I did, after hearing about Tuesday’s weather from other folks around the lake.

Anywho, Bob, who’s sailed with me in the past, arranged to meet me at the ramp to help set up the boat, which was done in reasonable time. He even brought lunch!

The winds at the ramp were a bit intimidating, so I elected to set up the mainsail with a reef before we even touched the water. It’s a lot easier to shake out a reefed mainsail back to full sail, than to reef while underway. We got out onto the lake by about 1400, with Bob at the helm.

Waves were close to two feet high, with what seemed to be 20 MPH-plus winds coming from the North, then NW, then NE, then West. Not what I’ve come to expect in my limited experience on this lake.

I’m locking down the keel, just in case.

Bob was in his element, pulling in on the tiller when I’m usually pushing it back, and we kept a fair degree of heel most of that afternoon. There was one other sailboat out there, with a full mainsail and a reefed foresail, so we had an impromptu race with them. My Mac 25 was somewhat faster than their boat, being lighter and all, and we started to pull up on the windward side of the other vessel. “Gonna steal their wind”, I remarked. “That’s why I’m taking this tack ” replied Bob.

We’re on a port tack, moving along at a pretty good clip, when an extra puff of wind comes from somewhere closer to our beam, putting the starboard rail almost into the water. I’m looking at Bob, and the tiller is STILL up against his chest! Holy Mackerel (or something to that effect)!

The boat finally does round up into the wind, after what seemed like an eternity, and I think we lost the race at that moment.

I left Bob to his tiller to go below and tidy up the stuff that had shifted or flown about, and moved all the heavier things to the center of the cabin. Yeah, sure, that’ll help.

With the winds doing all this clocking around from West to NE, it can make for a fairly busy time maintaining a consistant heeling angle. For the helmsman, one hand on the tiller, one on the mainsheet, and the trimmer’s hand on the genoa’s working sheet, ready to uncleat. I think Bob sensed my uneasiness, because that was the only time we dipped a rail that day.

A bit later, Bob says he’s got to get on home, so back to the ramp it is. I hope I wasn’t too much of a buzzkill!

The winds were still pretty strong when I made my way into the marina, and I put some good marks on my hull bashing into a slip.

I should probably invest in some bigger fenders.

Day 2-

I’ve still got some of yesterday’s wind to deal with, so I try to let the boat heel like my hero Bob had done the day before, but quickly revert to my old ways of chickening out. There’s still a lot of wind shifting about the compass, and I spend a lot of time practicing heaving to. It’s a great way to take a break from the excitement, no…terror, of sailing in higher winds. There were a few more boats out on the lake that day, one of which approached me whilst hove to, asking if I was alright. “I’m fine, thanks. Just taking a break.” The woman teaches sailing through The Sailboat Shop at Pleasant Harbor, taking clients on “three hour tours”. I thought that was pretty funny, Lynn. Thanks again for checking up on me.

After bookin’ all around the lake the rest of the day, I started looking for a good place to anchor out, so I head up Castle Creek. Things had calmed down to where I felt much more at ease, and I was able to ride clear upcreek under sail alone. Coming to the end of the navigable part, just past Castle Creek bridge, I turned upwind behind a small island and dropped anchor. There were a number of fishermen and women there, and a dirt road on the West side. Some youths with a fishing bow and arrow get-up were stalking any kind of wildlife they could find. Rather loudly, too, so I think that went toward wildlife’s favor.

The winds that night were predicted to be out of the South, turning East after midnight, so I figured my position here would prove okay, if they clocked around the South.

Big IF.

I made some dinner and settled down in the cockpit with my iPod as the giant gas ball in the sky set. You know how things are much louder at night than how they sound during the day? Well, true that. Cars kept coming down that dirt road, kept stopping and folks kept getting out of said cars and noisily making their way to whatever was on the other side of that bridge, most likely more of Castle Creek. The iPod drowned them out well enough, but I couldn’t tune out those darned headlights very easily.

Turned out the decision to move from that spot was made for me by the wind. Yep, instead of moving from South to East in a mannerly fashion, they took the long route, which would put my boat upwind of my anchor setting. Which means I’d drag right onto the small island, most likely. It now being dark, I hauled up my anchor, switched on my navigation and steaming lights, fired up the outboard and made my way around the South side of the island. With the wind at my back, I realized that I could shut down the motor, raise the foresail, and I ghosted down the creek past a bunch of campers sporting a “white-man’s fire”. Big flames, big smoke. I doubt they saw me, even with the full moon.

Back out on the lake, I headed East towards the next cove, and saw an area with some bouys marked “REEF”. I could see the bottom, and I had enough area around me to give me some time if I happened to drag anchor, with the winds from the North or East. This is only the second time I’ve slept out on the lake, sleep being a relative term. I’m up most of the night, checking wind direction and position, for fear of awakening with my boat beating up against a rocky lee shore. Long about midnight, it seemed that my anchor was holding fast enough, and the wind steady enough, for me to get some kind of sleep.

Day 3-

I awoke in the same spot (Yay!) and made coffee. Folger’s Instant, bleah. Maybe I’ll invest in a polycarbonate french press. After some breakfast, I commenced to putz around with various chores on the boat, and became so engrossed in one thing or another, I hadn’t noticed that I was now about a hundred yards from my anchorage! Sure enough, I was adrift, with my anchor hanging in the depths below. Thankfully, I had enough room to leisurely haul in the rode, clean the danforth and stow it below before I put up my sails. I do believe the purchase of a more effective anchor is in my future. I was fairly tired because of the lack of sleep, so I set off downlake towards Pleasant Harbor Marina to drink their coffee. It’s not much better than the Folger’s.

A pretty young girl, who works the rental business at the marina, was on hand to watch my attempt to dock in the building crosswinds. She came to help, but the damage was done. The boat’s fine. It was my pride that really got hurt. After my morning ablutions, I got ready to head back out onto the lake. By this time, the winds had gotton even higher, and I was fairly close to a lee dock. Thinking I had enough room to back out and throw the outboard into forward, I did just that.

No way, Joe. The boat was pushed hard into the next slip downwind, and my trying to fight that crosswind just made things worse. Bash, crash! Son of a…That same young girl was right there to witness this folly, again! Fuming, I turned the outboard to where I wanted to go, set the tiller the same direction, and powered out in reverse. “Good judgment comes from experience, but a lot of experience comes from bad judgment.”

It’s that way in skydiving, too.

A relatively uneventful day otherwise, as the winds stayed pretty consistent. There’s another marina on the lake, called Scorpion Bay, where I missed the chance for a meal during my last outing. About 1700, I put into their harbor and looked for a place to park. Staying downwind, I made a couple of passes of their Southern docks and checked out the depth of the dock’s superstructure. It looked shallower than Pleasant Harbor’s depth, so I cranked up the keel a few turns and made a safe dock. There’re a couple of gentlemen in the office, one of whom introduces himself as Dan. “A buck a foot.” Seems reasonable to me, and not just because I need a good night’s sleep. They’ve also got hot showers!

I spend the waning daylight looking at all the sailboats in the marina. Saw one with a unique bowsprit.

The photo doesn’t quite do the fancy scrollwork justice, IMO. There was also a Hunter 38 with an in-mast furling mainsail, a huge arch over the cockpit where the traveler was mounted, and for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out why that boat was here in Arizona. If she were mine, we’d be long gone. A photo of her would do her no justice.

Day 4-

The next morning, the winds were right back to pushing whitecaps off the growing waves, and one little sailboat was underway _inside_ the breakwater. I was impressed with this sailor’s skills.

He performed a downwind dock with some pretty decent wind at his back, and I met up with him there.

By the time I got that shot, things had calmed down to where I felt confident enough to get back out onto the lake. Mike, you’ve got mad skills, it seems. He’s a criminal defense attorney from Montana, if I recall correctly.

Tonight’s forecast calls for light winds from the South, becoming West after midnight around 5 MPH. I’m loving that. It was also a good day to fly my spinnaker once again.

That sail is fun and challenging to fly.

Long about sunset, I’d found a nice enough place where I dropped anchor for the third or fourth time in my life, After passing a few campers/fishermen on my way back into the wash, I found a place with no other people visible, visible being the key word here. But not too long after setting the anchor, a Ford pickup backed down the nearby rise and let out a couple of dogs, a woman and a man. Okay, it’s starting to get more crowded, now. I’d already finished cooking dinner, and after cleaning up, I settle down in the cockpit for the night’s starry display.

BRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR

WTF?! They fired up a god-damned generator! What are you doin’, watching TV??? Alright, I’ve got my iPod, so I flick the switch, and the low battery amber light comes on. Ay-yi-yi…I need a 12 volt adapter plug for this thing.

I go below, where the noise of the generator is a bit less pronounced. Then there’s a voice on the hill, calling for the dogs. It’s now quite dark, and they’ve lost their dogs. With 3 dogs myself, this is a kind of problem with which I’m quite familiar. Somewhere over the Eastern ridge, someone else is trying to start an engine. Coyotes howl. Donkeys bray. A bright light sweeps the nearby shore, with whistles and calls for the lost dogs. Again, the distant engine won’t start.

This goes on until I fall asleep.

Day 5-

I have never slept better at anchor. I know, with my limited experience, that’s not saying much. The winds were most kind throughout the night, and that’s a new one on me. Sticking my head outside the cabin, I noticed that my neighbors were gone, having left sometime after I’d fallen asleep.

I hope you found your dogs.

I hope your generator goes out with a whimper.

Heading back downlake, I set the sails into a wing on wing configuration, and travel the 4 or so miles back to Pleasant Harbor in about an hour. The woman who works the restaurant/bar there told me that her bloody marys are the best, with a rimming of celery salt, Worchestershire sauce (not too much), Tabasco sauce and Major Peter’s mix. Oh, and vodka. I nursed one with my breakfast there. It _was_ pretty good.
Spoke with some sailors a couple of slips down the way, who were trying to wire in a new bilge pump in an old sailboat. Not too long ago, she had water up to her sole. I stuck my head in to see the damage, and they’d gotten most of the water out, and it was slowly filling back up again. The boat’s name is “Jane’s Migraine”, and yeah, that’d do it for me, too.
After a bit of jawing I figured I’d better get back to Tucson, what with being married and all. Although, in my absence, Pam had successfully cleaned out the debris in the vanes of the swimming pool pump. I knew she could do it. I had spent about an hour on the phone talking her through the procedure. Back at the ramp, I uneventfully hauled out, and took the longest time tearing her down for trailering. One of the Pleasant Harbor security guys drove past and asked me “Where’s your helper?” I smiled back at him and said “It’s about time you showed up!”

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