Texas 20 warmup (AKA Texas 10)By Eric Comstock #759 (11es 13eo 12ea 12ad 53ar)
Most of us fell a little short of our mileage goals. I'll blame it on the weather. It was a wet and wild day, but it was also some of the funnest sailing I've done to date.
Our plan was to meet on the dike at 8:00AM. Due to several bands of rain moving through town from North to South, we delayed for an Hour. It rained much of the way down. When we got out on the Dike, it was still raining and a band or heavier rain was about to arrive from the North. The wind and waves were also out of the North, a bad direction for the Dike. We decided to unload and start setting up our boats in the hopes of better weather.
By the time we had the boats set up, the rain had stopped and so had the wind. Looking off into the distance, we could see the smoke coming from the refinery was being blown to the NE, a good sign. Before long a gentle WSW breeze had started. We decided it was time, loaded into our boats and launched. Headed were for the base of the Dike, almost 4 miles away.
We had three hulls participate. My son and I in #759, Patrick and his son in #646 and Nick in #705. Nick was off first and immediately started pulling ahead. Patrick and I were pretty even at first, but soon it was obvious that he was going almost as much faster than me as Nick was faster than him. We were getting pretty spread out.
After about 10 minutes I realized that I was holding the tiller at a 30 degree angle in order to go straight. I thought about it for a moment then asked my son to take the helm while I went to adjust the lee board. My lee board is held in place by friction and does not have any sort of handle on it. Adjusting it amounts to leaning over the side of the boat, reaching down into the water and pushing (or reaching farther and pulling) on it to get it where you want it. I noticed that it was down about 80 degrees, which is too far. I pulled it up to about 60 degrees and resumed control of the helm. It was gratifyingly neutral.
After several minutes it was apparent that we were no longer loosing ground to #646, but we were not making it up either. My sail, made from a tarp that I cut in half and taped a dart into, is relatively flat and does not do well in light winds. The wind was still light, but I knew it would be picking up later in the day and had hopes that I might be able to catch #646 when that happened. #646 and #705 both were running Leg-O-Muttons. #646 was on his "bad tack" while #705 was on his "good tack". #705 was the only one running a "store bought" sail, from Polysail.
#705 continued to pull ahead, he was the first one to the base of the dike and the only time I got near him during the day was after he turned around and passed me, going the other direction.
Not wanting to spend the entire day sailing alone, I came about about when #646 passed me on his way back. I got caught in irons, twice and had a lot of trouble at that point. I'm still not sure what was happening, it felt like I was running aground on a sand bar or something, but I think the water was too deep for that. Several times the boat suddenly turned upwind and nothing I did with the tiller would convince it to do any thing else. Eventually I was headed in the right direction and I started closing on #646. When I looked ahead #705 was no where to be seen. He was too far ahead.
We in #759 and #646 were very close for a while. We had a favorable wind coming from just a little aft of the beam. Then I heard a funny noise. It is hard to describe but at the same time I immediately recognized it as a dolphin coming up for air. I looked over to see the the captain of #646 pointing to where he had just seen the same thing. We were surrounded by a pack of dolphins! For the next 15 minutes they were breaching all round us, sometimes within just a few feet of the boat. The highlight was when one came halfway out of the water right in front of us, with a just-caught fish in it's mouth.
The wind was starting to pick up and my flat sail was starting work more efficiently. I passed #646 and started slowly pulling away. Just then a set of rogue waves came in from the North! They had a reasonably long period and were about 3' high. They tossed us around a little but didn't cause us much trouble. #646 was having a tough time with them, he got turned into the wind and caught in irons. As he struggled to recover from that, we pulled a couple hundred yards ahead. #705 was still way out front, to far away to be seen.
The wind continued to build. It was fairly steady and very strong. It is a funny distinction, it was strong but not that fast. It was about 12MPH but had a power that you never see sailing on a lake. The constant and stead push on every inch of the sail seemed to carry a lot more power than 12 MPH winds normally would. We were making very good time and before long we were approaching our launch point, nearly 4 miles out on the Dike. It was during this portion of the trip that I started to regret having forgotten my anchor. This was the only time that my son and I were both on the upwind side of the boat. Watching my carbon fiber mast bend, feeling the wind pushing us away from shore, I thought that this would be a very bad time to suffer an equipment failure, so I started working my way closer to shore. Luckily, we did not have any mechanical failures.
Our original plan was to continue out to the end of the Dike and then back to our launch point again. I continued past our launch point but was a little concerned that I still could not see #705 ahead of (or headed back toward) me. When I looked back I saw #646 pulling in near our trucks. I wondered why he was pulling in, then noticed a dark cloud with heavy rain approaching quickly from the SW. I came about and headed back to our base. Within a few seconds it started to rain. By the time I was halfway back the rain was coming down hard and fast. I had a hat to keep the rain out of my eyes, but that was almost not enough. After a couple of tacks we were back on shore, safe but soaked..
The rain only came down hard for a few minutes. The wind was very strong and we were tired. We agreed to wait there for #705 to return from the end of the dike. While we were waiting we saw a Michalak designed Hapscut approaching from that direction. It turned out to be John Goodman, a Texas 200 veteran, who came specifically to look for us! It was a very nice boat. He mentioned that he would like to sail along with us in the "Texas 20" next month and we told him that we would be very happy to have him along. I hope he does make it, I would love to see his very well made boat again.
After a little while John set off toward the end of the Dike. He promised to keep an eye out for our missing Duck. Not long after, we saw #704 on the horizon. He made it safely back with a story to tell. He had ventured past the end of the Dike, been swamped by the large waves and turbulent water and received assistance from a near by yacht. After lots of bailing, he got underway and returned to join us.
In the end we had a total recorded distance of 6.81 miles (excluding #704's trip to the end of the Dike and back), a maximum speed of 7.6 mph and an average speed of 2.7 mph.
Here is our track: https://maps.google.com/maps/ms?msid=215083256132560168492.0004e2939f34a6dd2276c&msa=0&ll=29.382485,-94.850704&spn=0.024942,0.052314
Although the weather prevented us from making the full 10 miles we had planned, I still consider it to be a successful event. It was a great day to be out on the water having fun!
Now on to bigger and better things!