When we are asked about our penchant for engine-free sailing, I try to explain: we originally did it to save money, then to keep voyaging interesting, or to keep us from being complacent. About this time Larry usually interrupts, “Cheap thrills!” he states. I laugh, they laugh and the conversation shifts elsewhere. Last Sunday was one of those days when I had to agree with Larry.
We had a full schedule of ‘should do’s’; should get Tim’s new teak handrails ready so Moppet can be re-launched in time for his honeymoon, should get Taleisin’s varnish work touched up so she will be ready for her planned cruise, should spend an extra few hours editing my new book, Bull Canyon. But the first really big high pressure system of spring turned the day absolutely sparkling. A modest northerly breeze kept calling to us since that meant the wind would not turn cold and leaving our berth would be easy. We succumbed, saying, “give us a chance to check the boat over and add any necessary bits to the work list, or provisions list.” I grabbed a loaf of bread, the leftover chicken and a tomato. Everything else we’d need for lunch was on board including a nice bottle of wine (In fact there are several nice bottles of wine waiting in the cool of the Taleisin’s bilge.)
Sail covers off, tiller secured in place, forward portlights closed, sheets lead, halyards clear and fair, we simply untied Taleisin’s mooring lines and let the breeze shove her astern until she was well clear of her pontoon. Then Larry hoisted the jib while I held the windward sheet snug. The sail filled and backed, pulling her head away from the wind and we were off downwind and out of the cove, headed no where in particular – just sailing. A feeding, frolicking pod of large dolphin, dozens of birds, an Orca whale spouting in the distance, a few water taxi’s rushing to and fro across the gulf, and us enjoying a long easy reach across five miles of Kawau Bay, then a beat to windward, another reach and we were homeward bound, appetites sated by simple food and simple pleasures.
Sailing back into North Cove on a northerly breeze, a headwind, is always tricky. The steep-sided entrance causes the winds to shift, to gust, to die away completely then puff from astern for a second or two. Once inside, the warm land along narrow arms of the two creeks edging our property tend to accelerate any sea breezes. This time we had one more variable to add to our calculations as we took the last few tacks toward our marina berth, it was extreme low tide. At extreme lows, there isn’t quite enough water to float Taleisin alongside. But…and it’s an important ‘but’, the bottom under her berth is very, very soft slushy mud. “Okay Lin, here’s what we do,” Larry said as we swished through the half dozen moored boats. “We’ll take a tack just off Starboard Jetty. Then you get ready to drop the jib to slow her down just a bit and we’ll sail in under full main and drop the main after we get in. She’ll be head to wind.”
His plan made full sense to me. With only about 12 knots of wind, we’d slow right down when I got the jib doused. Easy, I thought as I got the halyards clear and ready to run, and then made sure the mooring lines were in reach, cleated and clear of everything.
Just at that moment I spotted a sure sign of trouble. Dave Jeffrey, a skilled sailor himself, was standing on the afterdeck of his moored boat watching us. Add spectators – you add chances for screw ups. Add the extra 10 knots of wind that gusted down the creek just then, you add a lot of extra speed and make it harder to get the jib down quickly so it stops adding power (speed). Now we were rushing toward our berth at a good five knots and Taleisin didn’t want to slow down even when Larry shoved the boom almost all the way out, for just at that moment the wind not only increased, it backed so the main didn’t depower.
I fully expected Larry to abort our landing, fall off and make a second approach. He didn’t. He rounded Taleisin into the wind to charge directly into our berth. It all happened far too quickly for me to grab the mooring line so I could jump onto the pontoon to cleat the line and slow the boat down. It happened too quickly for me to let the mainsail halyard go. It happened so softly and gently I barely felt it. Taleisin’s keel slid gently through the mud. She slowed but kept moving forward until she was perfectly aligned within a few inches of where she normally sat. Then she stopped as if on command. I looked back to where Larry stood, a grin slowly spreading across his face. “figured we couldn’t go very far wrong with this low tide,” he said. I broke down into shrieks of laughter and could barely contain my mirth when Dave came rushing over in his little inflatable.
“That was one for the books,” Dave shouted. “I looked up when you came flying by and said, ‘they’re out of control.’ But should have known, you guys had it planned all along.” He’ll never know until he reads this that Larry might have planned it, or something close to it, but to me it was one more cheap thrill.
Either way, we’ve always said, any unscratched landing is a good landing. And with the rising tide, by the time we had the sails’ furled, the lines coiled, the covers on Taleisin was afloat and secure. We headed back for a few more hours of “should do’s” feeling refreshed and reminded once again of the saying, “there is a joy in madness that only mad men know.”
Lin and Larry from North Cove at Kawau Island
We will be coming to the U.S. West Coast in March for a limited number of seminars, in Port Townsend, Sausalito and Newport Beach. Click here for more details.