Tuesday 9 June 2015

Back on the road

 It took a while, a hypersensitivity to dust slowing things down, but at last Onawind Blue was ready for the water. I'd photographed all her deck gear before she was stripped to ensure that I could replace everything just so. However, those photos had disappeared from my mobile phone and I had to rely on memory, the very thing that I had outsourced to the sodding jellybone.

the final coat of varnish
Happily, in this case, memory served, synapses snapped and crackled and connections were made. With plenty of silicone on each screw the deck gear was replaced, the sails then laced to their corresponding spars, the cockpit accoutrements and comforts stashed and the whole transported to the beach, clumsily heaved and shoved over the sand from which Onawind Blue elegantly and silently entered her element.

'It's like riding a bicycle, innit?' I said to myself as I set the sails. Somehow it was necessary to vocalise each action in order to dredge up the knowledge stored in muscles remarkably smaller than the ones in which the information was first stockpiled. But that's the good thing about muscle memory: size has nothing to do with the quantity of data stored.

'Haul on the halyard, that's it, that's it, now cleat it off. All good. Loosen the topping lift. Tighten the downhaul. Good. Now...loose off the mizzen sheet, back the main sail to starboard, rudder blade to starboard too, that's right, now she's reversing and coming on to starboard tack, let the main sail across to port and sheet in, rudder to port, sheet in the mizzen, and she's off...Oh do shut up.' Quite fed up with my banter OB flew away on 8 knots of breeze. I hadn't remembered just how wonderful the sensation of briskness was. After an hour practicing points of sail, laying and weighing the anchor, reefing the sails while lying to sea anchor, lowering and furling sails all to a running commentary I faced the more difficult task of getting the boat back onto the sand and up the beach.

I have my blocks and tackle and the only other thing I need is plenty of time. Time enough to take it slowly. Ground can be covered centimetre by centimetre with no risk of damaging boat or person, just as long as there's no hurry.

Two days later I put the boat on the road trailer, finishing as it got dark, and the next morning drove to a beach just north of Tarragona. Making the most of the breakfast quiet I unloaded OB onto the sand and rolled her, on fenders, to the water. Amazingly I still had time to spare before my friend Ricardo arrived and so I slipped off for a coffee and croissant with a sea view. Motor boats and jetskis whizzed white lines back and forth across the calm blue.

Ricardo arrived and we set up his Dudley Dix 'Argie' Red Wine with a recycled aluminium mast and new tanbark sails. We launched, each to his boat, as the wind arrived and set off towards the tankers waiting off Tarragona. I found that I had to spill wind so as not to get too far ahead. By tacking as slowly as possible I managed to get OB to fall back into step. The 'Argie' is a deep, wide boat. A flat bottom and two chines rising to the stem, with a square transom. Seaworthy, easy to sail and capable of carrying up to four people.

We sailed up and down for an hour admiring each other's rigs and then I set a mizzen staysail. This is the same sail that I once tried as a jib to little effect but as a staysail it becomes OB's secret weapon. She shot off pointing high, a turn of speed that surprised me. I've had the staysail strapped to the base of the mizzen mast for a long time but had never tried it, thinking it probably wouldn't do much more then make OB gripe. However what was already good performance is enhanced with another square metre of sail cloth. Sailing so effortlessly I began yearning for the horizon, for a well-stocked, self-sufficient OB, a vaguely formed plan and no time boundaries.

The staysail

We had a fairly concrete plan though and in the early afternoon headed back to the beach where we barbecue sardines and tuna steaks. Stealing admiring glances at our boats between mouthfuls we watched the wind peter out. With the calm came a sense of mild relief. Now I could go home content in the knowledge that I hadn't wasted any of the breeze.

swimming from Red Wine

sailing with Red Wine

spilling wind