Spinnaker Virgin

Read the book, seen the film, but never been there......

Bought the boat, looked into all the lockers, lots of tins, ropes and a large bag! Opened the bag, found a large cloth thingy, a sail, yep, but not just any sail!!

It was a green red yellow and blue sail in very light cloth, so big it seemed to want to fill the boat......

A spinnaker.....

A spinnaker, what am I to do with that? A little jib was fine, a genoa was something to be proud of, but a spinnaker.......

I shout for help. Lots of advice, some out of the text book, some simple, one saying don't do it! Diagrams, sketches, this how you do it, don't do this don't do that.

I take the cloth bag full of this 'sail' home, drop it onto the lawn, pull the sail out of its bag, it covers the whole lawn, and more. Read the book, make sure I separate out the starboard and port clews, yes they even come in green and red colours. Stuff the sail back into the bag, leaving the three corners on the top.

Ready to hoist....

Back to the boat, this time the bag gets put gently into the forepeak, ready for use. When is not decided, how has been mentally rehearsed many times. Even a dry run in dock, with ropes, uphauls, downhauls, sheets, lazy sheets, all going round in the mind.

Lets wait and see, maybe there will be too much wind, maybe not enough, may not dare, maybe chicken out....

Lovely autumn Sunday, out to sea alone, gentle wind, just a 3, the boat sails itself, it loves tacking gently through ninety degrees, it loves gybing gently, as if practicing for a big wind. Reached into the bay, autopilot on, anchor chain ready, jib down, into wind, easy when its calm, and not in a hurry. Scald the main, drop the anchor. Main down, cook lunch. Beautiful day, snooze in the cockpit, no thoughts about big sails..

Wake up, sun still shining, thoughts move to a sail down the coast, through the overfalls, and on to another bay. Main up, pulled tightly in, anchor up, jib back up. Sail off through the moorings, tack and gybe, gybe and tack. Reach the open sea, turn west, through the gentle overfalls, must be neaps. Into another bay, time is marching on, must turn for home.

Wind is now behind us, got to get back for the last lock in, just a straight sail home.

Wind is between a 2 and a 3. Dare I ??. No, you can't by yourself, its not done, especially if you've never done it before. Go on, I dare you. Don't be silly No. Ok lets sail home, gosh the winds a bit on the light side. You won' get another chance like this, Go on do it.

The body gets up, looks into the forepeak. It's there smiling back at me, the bag with the big-un in it. Well, we could have a go, just see what its like. OK, fix the autopilot, take the bag, go forward.

Take down the jib. Stuff it down the forehatch. Grab the spinnaker pole, clip it onto the mast. Use the jib halyard as an uphaul. get the pole horizontal. Tie the spinny bag to the side rails, Untie the halyard, and clip it on.

Fetch the sheets, thread them round the front of the forestay, back to the blocks at the end of the boat, never used these before. Adjust them to suit. Still time to quit, no one has seen me, time to chicken out!

No, we go on, wind only a 2, perhaps a 3, perfect timing. here we go, grab the halyard, pull like fury; Time Stops!! This huge green red yellow blue thingy springs to life, it really looks like a spinnaker, it catches the wind, as if it was a friend, it greets the breeze with a crack, and a hard pull on the halyard. I wake up, got to control this beast, haul on the halyard, heavy, winch the halyard, the sail wants to go by itself. Hauled up and tied off.

Back to the cockpit, autopilot is working well. I try to adjust the sheets, Can't, the sail is too strong. I wait for a lull, move the sheets onto the winches, now I can control it. Let the port side out, haul the starboard in, yes it really works, the boat is surging along, happy to be with its mate, running free, surf spraying either side of the bows. I am being taken along, this sailing machine has a life of its own, I am a passenger in the craft.

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Sun is radiant, its warm, suddenly the sail yaws up into sky, I have to haul down on the sheet, I have to soothe its liveliness. The wind shifts a few degrees, this sheet in, that sheet out, adjust the autopilot, relax, just moment, tune it all again.

Time comes to drop the sail, fun is over, have to get home. Always reckoned this was the tricky bit, how to overcome this voluminous beast, read the book, pull it in, don't get it wet. Here goes, ease the halyard, let go the windward sheet, pull furiously on the lee-sheet, bung the green yellow red and blue thingy into the cabin. It was tamed, just a bolt of cloth now, I am once again master of my own vessel, in control again.

Jib back up, spinny back in its bag, stuffed in triumphantly, laughing and cheering, done it.

Read the book, seen the movie, and been there !!!!

Just dying to go there againnnnnnnnnn................

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