Shows what frame of mind I'm in when I kept referring to it as 'keeled over', which, as it turns out, is something rather different than heeled over. Heeling over is when the wind catches the sail(s) at a suitable angle to lean the boat to the side, usually gaining better momentum. Keeled over means the keel (the bottom of the boat) is not so much in the water; as in, you've managed to flip your boat and there's the very real possibility that your mast is under water -- obviously not ideal. Ever seen the Robert Redford film All Is Lost? Now, he managed to keel over his boat before it sank.
So we had Freedom Four-Two heeled over a bit. I only started to freak out when I had to put my feet up on the side of the bench opposite me to maintain balance. I also had a death-grip on the lifeline behind me. When I informed Mike that "I'm not liking this ...", he took pity on me and we eased off and headed back to the marina. I have since learned that this position (feet on bench) is not so bad.
Our third sail out, we took Paul with us. Paul is a born sailor. He lives on his boat year-round and would be happy to just take to the seas, drop anchor wherever the winds take him (hopefully somewhere warm), and live day-to-day in perfect contentment. Which he basically does, and plans on doing again this year, just as soon as he gets some things fixed up.
Paul wanted to get to know a Grampian 26 like our boat, as he had plans to go to Trenton with some friends and help them bring back their 'new' Grampian 26. As this is about a 7-day trek, he thought he ought to know any quirks a Grampian might toss his way. For our part, having someone like Paul on board to impart useful tips for sailing was a definite plus, as there's nothing like hands-on knowledge from an experienced sailor.
One of the most interesting things about Paul and his incredible ability to sail lies in the fact that he has a paralyzed arm and shoddy knees. Despite these 'drawbacks', he moves around a boat with more vim and energy than a lot of people, drawing on the sheets, wielding a winch, disembarking and docking single-handed (pun intended), and grinning like a maniac with each precision move, and he makes it look easy. And for this particular sail, I was especially glad to have him.
We slid out into the bay on calm waters and headed away from the sheltered areas. Paul pointed out some good places to anchor as well as places to avoid as too shallow or danger zones. There are some race buoys set up that he showed us (which, seeing as we couldn't find them on any charts previously, made us feel better for knowing what they were all about), and he described how close you could actually get to the commercial docking areas. He tried out our jib sheets to get a feel for the boat as we did some tacking, and suggested better ways to use the winches and cleat off the lines, given our equipment. And he stepped back and let us try what he taught.
The biggest thing we learned on this trip was the capriciousness of the wind in the bay. The wind picked up as we went, and had a tendency to change direction without warning, sometimes easing off entirely, other times whirling when you least expected it. Paul helped us learn what to do when the wind changed in the middle of a tack, and he guided us to better understand just how far to push the tiller when changing directions in order to maintain speed. We also learned how to sail on a partial jib, seeing as the wind picked up enough that we furled part of this sail in. Did I mention that we were only using the jib on this outing, and had kept the mainsail down? So when I say that we were clipping along on a partial jib at 6 knots (our boat's best speed is about 6 knots -- meaning that, if you keep it at full sail beyond that, you won't go any faster no matter where you point your sails, and you're likely to start to keel over), you'll understand just how much the wind had picked up between when we started out and when we got down to some serious sailing. I discovered that the previous sail with its bit of heeling over was nothing. This sail had us heeling at something like a 60 degree angle, if not more -- I certainly didn't get any measuring tools out to see just how close to the water we got, being too busy clinging with both hands to the lifeline and shoving my feet as hard as they would go onto the side of the bench in front of me. Not that the pressure of my feet against the bench did anything other than make me feel better.
Paul's having a blast, grinning like the Cheshire cat (his own words), Mike's really enjoying himself when he's not worried about whether I'm going to totally freak out, and I'm too concerned about not falling overboard and getting the sheets working right with every tack, that it takes until after we return before I realise that I have not felt sea-sick once during this experience.
Eventually, even Paul felt that maybe we ought to head in (although I think it had more to do with an appointment than any concerns about the weather -- did I mention how much fun he was having? And he had a lot of great stories about other sails of his that make this one look like a walk in the park, along with tales outlining various crashes, strandings, and near-misses). This return took a while in itself as now we headed upwind and had to make many tacks against the wind to get close to the marina.
So while I learned that I could sail in shifting winds with whitecaps dancing on the waves, I much prefer calmer waters. Nonetheless, this was an excellent day to have an experienced sailor like Paul with us, and to keep in mind that, even if you start out in nice weather, the winds can change in an instant, and it's good to know what to do then.
On a side note, Paul did make the trip from Trenton back to Hamilton in good time (about 5 days). He and the family of three sailed into the marina shortly after a major storm on a Saturday afternoon. They were greeted with air horns and enthusiastic shouts from various dock-mates. We went over to help them dock, whereupon we learned that, not only had they been caught in the storm and had decided to continue on, but that the water had gone over the bow of the boat as it rode huge waves, and that the wind had pretty much destroyed the mainsail. Paul and Greg (the husband) had managed to get the tatters of the sail out of the way as they concentrated on not losing the jib. The daughter, somewhere between 10 and 13 at a guess, said how it had been a good sail right up until the storm, as she and her mom hopped off the boat and thanked us for our help. Tougher group than me ...