Monday, 12 April 2010

Billy the Fish

Far be it for me to make a big fuss over something small but on Sunday I had my second Moth sail of the year and nearly last ever. The internet said force 3 blowing from Weiden down the 16KM long lake to Hungry. The air temp was just about 11 degrees. Not the best conditions but I had a day on my own for with nothing planned other than sailing. So off I went to that lake thinking nervously about the lack of rescue cover and wing man on the way.

When I arrived at the lake it was suitably empty due the the less than spring weather. The wind was very off shore and gusty. Do I pussy out and fear that I will need rescued or do I get out there and double my training for the year?

I went out since the wind was not very strong and I sorted a 4 o'clock safety call. "If I do not call by 4pm I am either dead, drifting to Hungry, or my phone battery is flat." There were people in the sailing school and their rib was on the jetty. Since I helped 2 of their capsized Laser 16s that where in trouble last summer (one badly) I thought they will keep an eye out in return. There where 2 buoys off the school one 50 meters out and another 250. Ok I will sail around there in front of the main beach where everyone could see me if there was anyone.

So I had a frustrating but good learning curve training sail trying to constantly change mode for the wind speed and strength. Not very easy and I was making a mess of it most of the time but it was good training. I was temped to sail off out into the lake for more constant wind but the pussy in me said no. Then as I go a nice gust into the further out buoy BANG, nose in air, very light tiller, Shit where has the rudder gone? CRASH.

Shit I need to act fast not panic and most importantly do not do something stupid. I had spend a lot of time in the car here thinking about what to do if this happened and not really come up with a good answer so I was a bit nervous at this point to say the least.

Quick Appraisal of the situation: 800 Euro rudder in water 30 meters back along the broad reach. Bouy 20 meters in front along same course. Tiller and its extension in hand. Bits of gantry hanging out the back of the boat. Cold water. 250 meter swim to beach upwind.

I decided to grab the forestry of the boat and swim like Fuck for the rudder without dropping the tiler (again). Nearly got it but boat is now gong downwind faster than the ruder which has turned into breaking position. OK swim for rudder and then get back the the boat I hope. Got the bits together and so it was time to lashed up the tiller and rudder to deck of boat with spare rope in life jacket. OK swim to buoy and tie boat to Bouy. Shit. No chance it is now upwind and too far away. I can risk the swim to land leaving the boat but not 100% sure if I would make it with cold water and deceptive "does not look too far to swim" distances. I probably would but leaving the boat felt like one of those tempting stupid things to not do. Shall I wave good bye to potential onlookers and what will they do other than wave back? Do I wait for the worried 4 o'clock phone call system to kick in in an hour and hope that someone would come looking? Do I de rig and try to make a paddleable raft? Taking the mast down also seamed like potentially a stupid action. Could I sail without a rudder in a very gusty upwind course? Would one of the very few boats out come close enough to hear a call for assistance or understand a wave.

I decided to try to sail the boat as I remember trying something like that 20 years ago. It was not easy and did not look possible but with a bit of experimentation (loosening kicker and sitting far back with the windward wing in the water I could kind of sail upwind. After a while I realised it would work and I just needed to concentrate hard and I will be able to self rescue will all my bits. I was Fucking relived I would not spend a night on the lake.

I remember an expression that: "It is not the fittest that survive it is the ones that adapt to changing situations". This makes me feel quite smug until I started to wonder what broke the rudder? Maybe the fish are adapting as they are fed up with getting hit so they get their biggest one to take be out? This is a worrying thought as Billy the Big fish did a lot of damage.

So back to the workshop again.

What have I learnt from this? Well I think it is OK to be a bit of a Pussy. You do need some kind of backup and the best I think is a wing man and someone on shore who expects you to come back. Spare rope is a must and all the toys like radio, flares, GPS, helicopters (standard Moth gear I hear these days).. are nice to haves.

I told my story to Niki and he said "That is nothing you pussy. I have walked for 6 hours in the lake with my broken kite. I got to a beach on the opposite side at midnight." So I have also learnt that Niki is maybe not he best wing man to have, but with Billy about what should I do.

1 comment:

Simon Payne said...

Crazy fucker but well done on getting back. I always take a mobile phone out with me in a waterproof case these days when I'm on my own.