Sailing from Mud Bay (Lopez) to Echo Bay (Sucia).
One of the reasons I'm on this trip is to gain experience and develop my skills. Its working.
It was a good sailing day - lots of variety. Dead calms up to around 15+ knots, with the wind behind me, on my beam and on my nose. No rain today, some sunshine and clouds. I am pretty patient with the sailing, and will often wait for more wind when its blowing one or two knots rather than quickly turning on the motor. I have no schedule so I can afford to take my time. The forecast was for 15 to 25 building in the evening.
Toward the end of the day I was fighting a slight current coming from Sucia which was dead upwind. I was outside Matia, an island to Sucia's south east trying to get to anchor. The boat was heading toward Matia, going upwind in 17 knots of wind, reefed. Everything was just fine. I saw that I couldn't head high enough to miss Matia and allow me to get closer to Sucia, and knew I needed to tack. I was getting closer and closer when I decided to tack early - it was windy and if things went wrong I would have time to fix them. Things went a little wrong.
I have been using my autopilot to help me tack as I am single handing on this trip. So I prepared my sheet lines, told the autopilot to tack and started my drill. I don't know the circumstances yet, but sometimes the autopilot doesn't tack very well. This time it stopped its tack with the nose of the boat into the wind - about 1/2 of a tack. By this time I had the port sheet off its winch and the starboard sheet being brought in trying to get the headsail across. This is when the wind shifted slightly and back winded the headsail. Now things started happening fast. I took control of the helm but boat speed was lost quickly and I couldn't complete the tack by hand. So I had to return the headsail to its starboard tack situation it was in before starting this. This would put me on a coarse back for Matia - no problem, it was still far enough way I could do it all again. So I wrapped the sheet around the port winch and started bring in the sail on the port side again - this is when I got an override on the winch, jamming the port sheet solidly in the winch. It was a good one, solidly built. Pulling by hand on the sheet wouldn't even budge it. (An override is basically the sheet wrapping itself in a knot around the winch. You don't want this.)
At this point the boat is accelerating again, toward land, and with the headsail trimmed I could neither release it or bring it in. The choices I thought of then were to cut the sheet or fix the override.
Anyway, I remember from sailing classes that to fix the override you take the tail of the sheet to the opposite winch, and grind it out. This worked. Thanks Chris! In moments the sheet was free, I organized the cockpit, tacked again and everything was fine. There was very little drama - although it was a situation full of potential drams…
There were a few problems. The original tack didn't complete and I didn't notice quickly enough to finish it by hand. I had been doing this all day, but missed this one. Oops. When I brought back the backed headsail I put three wraps around the winch rather than two as I was working quickly and I was influenced by the slapping sheets and sails. Three wraps leads to overrides, two is better. All day I'd been using two wraps around the winch, adding one or two more when most of the sheet is brought in. Oops again. Tacking early was a good choice. Yay . Getting the override free was pretty quick. Yay again. From there the mini crisis was averted.
To follow this up, after I got closer to Echo Bay and had the sails put away I heard a call on the VHF from a sailboat that had gone aground on a charted reef on the south side of the entrance to Echo Bay - from where I was, it was "right over there." Here I was single handing a keel boat - nothing I could do. Luckily I saw vessel assist motoring out of the bay toward the sailboat - he was on scene within 5min. Good timing for the owner.
Sorry for all the sailor talk, but there is a sailing theme on this blog eh.