Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Charter Day 4 - Part 2, The Return Trip and A Decision

So, when I left off we were at anchor, but not a comfortable anchor.  Even in this "protected" cove, the wind was coming over the land and blowing us around pretty good.  We accomplished our impromptu goal of heading somewhere and anchoring (even if it was just for lunch so far) so we decide to pull anchor and head back.  No reason to spend an uncomfortable night when you have better options, right?

So with my wife at the helm motoring slowly forward, I begin to haul up the anchor.  Do you recall I mentioned that there is no windlass on this boat?  Or that we had out more rode than we needed?  Well those two bits of information combine to make for a bit of a workout. Good hand signals are a necessity when doing this, and so is remembering that you can't hold the boat still by hand when being blown by 20 knot winds (note to self: don't have wife shift into idle with high winds). After a little work and a couple mistakes that caused us to lose ground, the anchor was back on board AND I still had all my fingers.  I'm definitely proving this lifestyle will be healthier for me than sitting behind a desk all day.

We might have been able to sail the channel from the anchorage to the main part of Tampa Bay, but it was rather narrow and we didn't want to chance it.  We decide to motor down the narrow channel cut into the shallow bay until we hit the deeper water.  We then unfurl the main just as we did for the trip down and we are again sailing.  This time we did add a bit of headsail as well.

Our course back to the marina puts us close hauled for much of the trip.  For those not familiar with what this means, basically we are sailing at an angle into the wind.  This means the wind "feels" stronger as you are moving into it.  The position of the sail on this point of sail also means that a larger percentage of the force created by the sail is perpendicular to the direction of the boat, causing the boat to heal a bit more.  Heading into the wind also means you are heading into the waves.  Of course by now we pretty comfortable with the boat so none of this is an issue.  It does teach me that a mono-hull, or specifically the angled deck when healing, can be more fatiguing to sail than I expected it would be.

On this trip we were accompanied by some dolphins, but they seemed to try and avoid being seen by my wife.  I'd see them on one side of the boat, she'd run over to look, and they would switch sides.  Not sure if they were having more fun playing in the pressure wave or playing hide-n-seek with my wife but both they and my wife seemed to be having fun.

Other than the dolphins, the trip back to the marina was uneventful and we made pretty good time under reefed sails.  We made it back to the marina just after 5pm.  From the time we left the marina to the time we returned was around 8 hours total.  A couple hours of local practice, the trip down and back, and a little time spent at anchor for lunch sure added up.

We got a lot accomplished and did learn quite a bit on this little trip.  We learned that yes, we can manage to navigate ourselves.  It wasn't that far and it was within sight of land at all times, but it was something we hadn't done by ourselves before.

In addition to my wife being initially uncomfortable with the heeling of a mono-hull, we also learned that heeling can be quite a bit more fatiguing than we estimated.  On our trip down when we were on a broad reach it wasn't too bad, but the close hauled course coming back caused some deck angles and bounce that really do make it difficult to just sit or stand at the helm.  Walking around and working the lines isn't any easier.

Now I don't know if it was the relatively short length of this boat or the difference between a mono- and a multi-hull, but this Catalina 309 was what I could only describe as "squirreley"... more so than the J22's we learned on.  At anchor it seemed much less stable than the cat, "sailing on the hulls" or swinging thru about 120 degrees.  And when it swings so the waves hit the beam instead of on the bow, it can really rock the boat.  We also found the boat very easy to oversteer when tacking.

So it seems we have fulfilled one goal of our trip - an important decision has been made at this point.  While the mono-hull sailboat has that classic, sexy look; the practicality of comfort in most conditions has us voting in favor of a catamaran for a long term live-aboard platform.


  1. You will find later on that 99 percent of the time your at anchor. Also Mr autopilot stands at the helm not you. Whatever boat you have you will learn to balance the sails soon enough. Also a beer can boat like a Cal 309 is hardly a large heavy cruising monohull. We have apples and oranges going on here.

    1. Granted that it is a home most of the time and transportation only 5~10% at most...something I've stated several times before. And it is true that the autopilot, when working, will likely be steering the boat. But, traditional sailboats heal and regardless of what you are doing, it is more fatiguing to do it on a non-flat surface...be that steering the boat, cooking dinner or just moving about. Even sitting is different when the seat is at an angle. Don't believe me, go cut the two left legs off of your favorite chair and see how it feels to sit there and read a book.

      The comparison I was making was two identical activities on the boats...an activity I spent some time doing on both and it was noticeably more difficult. And it wasn't the steering that was more difficult or fatiguing (once on course, maintaining that course wasn't significantly different. The difference was a level deck versus one at 15 degrees. Unless you have one leg shorter than another, I'll hypothesize that many things are more fatiguing at an angle.