A few days later after this adventure (patience, all will be revealed) i was to have a waking dream, while standing in the shower ashore, of a way to reef the main on our borrowed Enterprise. Any prudent sailor will tell you to reef early, and had we the means at the time, it surely would have made for less adventure. Still, this tale has a happy enough ending, and a decent moral lesson too.
At last telling, we two had set off from our friend the baker’s house into a rising northerly wind. The baker had his motorboat in the water, and offered to come give us a tow if conditions proved too great. We made three long clean tacks to windward, then the squall hit. The wind seemed to burst in every direction, and the Enterprise’s nasty weather helm kept Slacks hard at work to keep us on course. We were endured several forced tacks; the wind suddenly veering would put the headsail aback, and around we’d spin, no matter how firm the hand on the tiller. Forward, i pulled the ‘board up (and aft) a good ways to lessen the weatherhelm and to ease our tripping over it, and feathered the sails as best i could to spill some wind. We were going nowhere… the wind was such that progress northwards was impossible. Still, end of day was approaching, and i was reluctant to run off south and lose ground, or worse yet, take a tow from a motorboat! Casting the mainsheet, and with another veer taking the headsaill aback, we hove-to as best we could, though the main was aflog.
There was only so much our little boat could take… one fierce gust spun us into the wind, and though i reined in the bucking boom as well as i could, we gybed viciously and laid right over. I dropped the mainsheet (i’d tied a stopper in it at such place that it would fetch with the boom just clear of the shrouds), and lept to the weather rail. I’m nimble enough for my size, and with weight on my side (and the boat’s side too), she came to her feet.
We’d shipped 6 inches or more of warm lake, and the boat was wallowing heavily. Slacks thought we should claw down the main, but i was reluctant to; the wind was tending westerly, and the mostly rocky shore was hard to our lee. i had no desire to drift before the wind. I spied a crescent of somewhat sheltered gravel beach, and pointed him to it. While i busied myself sheeting to to wind, and hiked out as far as i could, Slacks was bailing furiously, the tiller jammed against his thigh.
i’d never blame the man for inattentiveness, but for certain it’s hard to bail and hold a course at the same time, and not too soon after, we were tossed on beam-ends again. This time, i caught a glimpse of Slacks in the sternsheets, standing inside the lee side, knee-deep in water, with the weather rail nearly to his shoulder.
Later, Slacks would say that this was the point where he thought us done for. After all, the lake was warm, there was a boat standing by (they’d launched by this time) and the dinghy had no less than 5 float-bags tied down beneath the thwarts and below the foredeck. Given the above, there was little actual risk. But, at the time (and still), i’d not abandon my boat. I leapt to weather once more, this time bodily over onto the side of the boat, and willed her back to her feet.
By then, of course, we were nearly as swamped as could be, and still with a squall about us. That sliver of gravel beach (betwixt two shoulders of rock, of course) was just a 50 yards away by then. Slacks had abandoned bailing, and was hiking now as well. I cast the main halyard and clawed down the main, catching the battens as they fell from their torn pockets. I dropped the ‘board to check our frightful leeway, and tended the heads’l sheet with one hand, while holding ready the halyard in th’other.
The beach looked gradual enough, and not so sandy, so as i cast the last halyard i made ready to leap o’er the foredeck to fend us off. In retrospect, it seems odd even to me that i was so ready to go over to save the boat from a gouged bottom, but not so ready to go over to save myself.
Well, it was all moot, as the beach ended in a plumb drop just a few feet into the surf, and i might as well have jumped into the middle of the lake for all the purchase my feet found. The stem found the bottom before the centerboard, and in a moment, Slacks was in the water to lee, and we tugged the boat up far enough not to blow away. i fussed with the gear, and Slacks set to bailing, but not before he’d asked me where my spectacles had gone. i hadn’t even felt them leave my face!