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Essays


 
How to Break a Bahia Mast

by Peter Kuhn

 

It's time to remind Bahia skippers and crew how to break a mast.

Here's how: when you capsize, don't get your weight off the boat. Just
don't jump into the water. Don't swim around to the bow, furl the jib,
put the anchor down, then go up the hull to the centerboard. Not doing
those things is the most important part of how to break a mast.

Instead, try to stay perched on top of the boat as it tips on its side.
Use your weight to tip the boat further over, and then try to get up off
the top and onto the centerboard as the masthead float hits the mud.

If you do end up in the water, climb up the cockpit using the hiking
straps, and try to make it over the top and onto the centerboard. Take
your time, and lever yourself over the boat once the masthead is solidly
stuck against the mud.

If that doesn't break the mast, try to right the boat with full mainsail
and jib in 20 knots of wind, without anchoring, even though your crew
has gone batshit crazy and you weigh less than your bicycle does.

It's fun and it's easy and lots of you will enjoy doing this.

Once the dayleader has towed you back to the dock, have a cup of hot
cocoa before you tackle cleaning 50 pounds of bay mud off your
broken-masted boat. Then get on the cellphone and call everyone you've
made plans to be with on the next two weekends.

On those two weekends, you'll be splitting your fingernails apart on
cotter rings and gagging on rope cutter smoke as you transfer sails,
sheets, shrouds, cleats, halyards, float and lots more from your broken
mast to a brand new unrigged mast that you'll take down from the top of
the PFD locker in about the second day of your travails. (We got 7 of
those, courtesy of the Department of Boating and Waterways, to teach you
and others how to boat safely.)

It's really only about two hours' work to fix a broken mast, but you'll
need plenty of advice from the club's wise old ones, and listening to
them argue and backing out of blind allies they'll send you down and
looking for parts we don't have and tools we lost two years ago will eat
up all the rest of your daylight.

But it will be a learning experience, and afterwards you'll vow never to
do that again. In fact, if your significant other and therapist ever
let you go near CSC, and you ever take out a Bahia again, and you
capsize in strong wind, you will hurl yourself into the water, yank your
crew in too, threaten to drown them if they climb the boat, shoot to the
bow like an Olympic swimmer, furl the jib, deploy the anchor with the
greatest of care, and climb gingerly up the hull's former bottom side
onto the center board before righting the boat.




How to Keep a Boat Capsized
by Peter Kuhn
 
Let's assume that you just can't quite get the mast broken on your
dinghy, but you'd like to ensure a cold wet rescue. After all,
righting the capsized boat and sailing off in to the sunset is so last
week. Rescue is the new black.
 
It all starts at the dock. Make sure that the boat rigging is a mess.
Wrap the spinnaker halyard around the jib a few times. Make sure
than anchor line is a hopeless snarl. It helps to go out in massive
wind. When you evaluate the conditions, the more wind you have the
better you chances of going down and staying down.
 
Before leaving the dock, make sure to carry way too much sail. DO NOT
REEF. If you don't reef, you might never capsize in the first place!
Full main and jib are recommended. Over-trimmed for maximum heel, of
course, because we all know that more heel = more speed, right? Cleat
and drop all sheets in a big mess in the bottom of the boat since you
won't be needing them again.
 
So you finally find a gust that is big enough and you're swimming.
You've followed Peter's instructions for mast breakage by not
anchoring, but you couldn't hold on to the boat and fell in the water.
It's best if you do this near a lee shore to give the situation some
urgency. DO NOT ANCHOR, since that removes the urgency and you might
actually have time to right the boat.
 
Since you're in such a big hurry, don't uncleat the main or the jib.
Don't run the main sheet all the way out. Don't roll up the jib on
the Bahia. Whatever you do, don't drop any sails. This way you can
be certain that if you get the boat back up, it'll be blown over
immediately before you can even get all of your crew aboard.
 
Don't point the bow in to the wind. If the boat should come up, you
definitely want it to either sail away from you on a run and capsize
again, or just get blown straight over again on a beam reach.
Do not have someone float in the water next to the cockpit, ready to
move in to the boat and to the high side as the boat begins to come
up. What fun is it if the boat comes up and someone is actually in
there to CONTROL it??
 
After several failed attempts as described above you should either be
on the rocks or too tired to even think about another attempt to
recover your capsized boat. If you've managed to do this outside of
the Junior area where the day leader can't see you, or on the rocks
where the skiff can't get to you, congratulations, you've earned an
even longer delay before possible rescue.
 
 

 
How to Keep a Boat Capsized (ADVANCED)

by Peter Kuhn


If you're gonna take a boat out, be sure to head for the corner of the Jr area that's farthest from the clubhouse without tacking, warming up your crew for tacking, telling them you might capsize, or even checking the boat over for missing parts. 

Best move in preparation for your 3 hour tour: prance onto the boat, remember your cell phone in your pocket, prance back off the boat, and tell your landlubber crew to hop aboard while you park your cellphone with the concierge at the burger counter in the clubhouse. Then give a tsk tsk as your clumsy crew pratfalls into the muddy waters of the Bay.

Once you get your boat way out beyond the dancing whitecaps, sing out "helm's alee!" with greatest glee, slam the tiller over while your soggy crew stares at you in befuddlement, and watch them slide to the lee rail. Presto Capsize-O! All's a-tumble and jolly as hell, as the waves bounce you around, and the wind shrieks in the now-horizontal shrouds. Yell out "hang onto the hiking straps! Swim around to the transom! Come over to the windward side! Keelhaul the bilgeboards!" and watch the terror mount in your crew as they dogpaddle franticly trying to free themselves from all the tangled lines.

Meanwhile, back at the taxi dispatch in the clubhouse, ho de hum. They can't fucking see you. You are hidden by 3' high waves. Your hull barely appears from time to time, looking like a windsurf board on the water.

But you are busy as a very, very busy beaver, mounting the centerboard, screaming mightily, and rolling your boat upwards and righting its mast into the shrieking wind, the sails luffing with a noise like cannonfire, because of course you haven't bothered to lower the sails or anchor. And over your unplugged boat goes, full of hundreds of pounds of sloshing Bay Brown that send it over and back down, so you can climb over, and (if the mast doesn't break) onto the centerboard to right that boat again, with one of your crew demonstrating how to attract sharks about 30' upwind of you.

Alas! Berkeley's wind is fickle, and all good times must come to an end. Once your crew has mentally revised their will for the thirty-seventh time, the wind drops and allows you to get the boat upright and occupied so that you can haul everyone aboard and plod back to the dock. All that's left to do is sell your boat to some fool dumb enough not to notice that it's sitting low in the water, collect your cellphone from the maid, and head home to regale all and sundry with tales of your nautical adventures. 

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