Five O'Clock Somewhere

Welcome to Five O'Clock Somewhere, where it doesn't matter what time zone you're in; it's five o'clock somewhere. We'll look at rural life, especially as it happens in Rio Arriba County, New Mexico, cats, sailing (particularly Etchells racing yachts), and bits of grammar and Victorian poetry.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

My biggest mistake

Only some people have the privilege of learning from other people’s mistakes; the rest of us have to be the other people.

Tillerman has issued a challenge to his loyal readers: Write about your worst mistake or most embarrassing moment while sailing. Then read about others’ mistakes and engage in a discussion of how to avoid them.

I had a couple of episodes I thought about sharing, which I have already covered in this blog, such as the time I got clocked by the boom or trying to compete in a major regatta with crew recruited at the last minute. I even thought about the dismasting episode, but that doesn’t really count, since it wasn’t my boat, I wasn’t at the helm, and it didn’t really involve a mistake.

But I would have to say that the most catastrophic event was the day I punched a hole in the bow. We were relatively new to the boat, and Pat in particular was green as crew, and the conditions were stiffer than we probably should have been out in. A thunderstorm came up, and we were trying to come in to the dock, but we had trouble with major wind shifts and gusts. There was the additional problem of communication with the crew. I was making an approach to the dock, but I could see that we were coming in too fast, and so I yelled to the crew that we were gybing in order to come around again. Well, actually all I had time to yell was that we were gybing – there wasn’t time to explain why. The crew didn’t let out the sheets in time, and so we rammed the pier.

Normally, that wouldn’t have been so bad; Black Magic has a streamlined bow that usually just runs up on the pier and then slides back into the water. But we had the bad luck that there was a cleat at just that point. So we ended up with a hole in the bow, exactly the size and shape of a cleat.

Fortunately, the hole was above the water line. Fortunately, Tadpole and I learned that fiberglass repair isn’t too difficult. We even got a chance to undo some really awful fiberglass “repairs” that one or more previous owners of the boat had done.

Other things I learned from that incident: Don’t take the boat out if I don’t feel comfortable with conditions, no matter how much pressure I get from the crew to do otherwise. Have some sort of pre-arranged command for the crew that they can obey immediately without having to ask why first. And there’s just plain the whole idea of getting more skill in handling the boat, which I’ve been working on.

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