Reefing refers to foreshortening the sail, having less sail exposed to the wind. Mike's been working on a system for the mainsail and we wanted to test it while the weather remained calm. So off we went, setting up the sail with one reef. Our mainsail (and most others too, far as I know, at least on boats our size) accommodates two reefing points, so that you can shorten the sail twice before you just haul it all in and hope for the best. You can see the reefing grommets next to the mast in the picture (not their proper nautical term, but you can see what I mean) and the reefing ties spread across the sail. You pull in the sail until it reaches that first grommet and hook it onto a reefing hook (which is the correct nautical term) on the boom. Then you tie the rest of the sail to the boom, leaving 2/3 of the sail still in the wind. A second reef would leave 1/3 of the sail exposed. We cheated, having already set the hook and tied the sail at the first reef before we left the dock, but the idea is to have the ability to reef when the weather/wind turns on you.
And lucky we had done so, because the wind decided to do its surprise gusting on this day too, so it turned out to be a great day to sail with a reefed sail.
And not so great for trying to anchor. According to our chart and the GPS (which also provides awesome charts), Willow Cove looked like a good place to try to anchor. We managed to battle the wind and get there, but just as Mike's about to head to the bow to drop anchor, I look at the GPS and see red anchors with an X through them. This means we've found a 'no anchor zone' and we really shouldn't toss the breaks overboard. I call Mike back, we determine that we've made it to the patch of oil (according to the buoy) that stretches across part of Willow Cove, and we turn the tiller, heading back out into the bay. The wind, meanwhile, has continued to bluster and we decide that perhaps this isn't the best day to attempt our first anchorage.
So we saved that for the next day, which cooperated better on the weather front.
We're going to try for Carol's Cove instead this time, mostly just straight out from our marina. Over we go, motor's on slow, and Mike heads up to the bow. His job, besides tossing the anchor overboard, is to let me know, back at the tiller, when he can see bottom so that I can cut the motor. My job, keep us heading into the wind and ready to put the motor into reverse when the anchor is set.
So when I can suddenly see the bottom, and it looks terribly close for our 4-foot draft, I shove us into neutral, then reverse, as Mike waves us away from the approaching shallows. Now I get to learn about how the motor makes a clunk every time it changes gears -- forward to neutral to reverse. I did not know it did that, so I'm thinking I've gone and broken the motor and we're far too close to shore. Yikes!
Mike calls out, "Are we in reverse?" To which I respond, "I don't know!", somewhat freaked out that we'll bottom out. He lays the anchor, comes back, reassures me, and we get settled, me now somewhat more knowledgeable about the motor. We stare over the side of the boat into very shallow waters. Mike creates a makeshift depth finder out of a heavy block tied to a rope, and we determine we currently sit in just shy of 5 feet of water. Just enough to accommodate our keel.
We lie at anchor for a few minutes, just to make sure that our anchor does indeed hold us, then very gently begin the process of hauling up the anchor. This involves me motoring the boat slowly toward the anchor chain so that, once we're pretty much above it, Mike can pull it up, then me quickly steering away from land and back toward the bay. Remember, we're in barely enough water for the boat, so we've got to get this right, because I don't know if I can steer us back again without hitting bottom if we miss the first time around.
Happily, this all ends in our successful first anchoring experience, our boat is still in one piece, no extra scrapes on the hull or keel, and we now have a depth finder for the next time we find ourselves in shallow waters.
Back to the dock for us.