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canoeing, kayaking and other adventures

canoeing and kayaking adventures born in the Southeastern U.S. and now centered in Scotland...

Sunday, September 20, 2009

RYA Competent Crew Weekend #2 - 6/6/2009 - 7/6/2009

For weekend 2, Greg was our instructor and a very different personality from John. I got the impression that the two of them probably wouldn’t be sailing buddies. The routine was pretty much the same as before. Slept in the boat in the marina on Friday night and made a relatively early start for Saturday morning. The boys minus Brian were disappointed that they were not allowed their bacon rolls for breakfast, but looked forward to the promised bacon roll brunch once we were underway. Greg was much more thorough so we did an abridged repeat of the safety briefing and set out from Largs marina about mid-morning. Unlike the previous weekend, Greg drove us out from the marina.

This weekend, we started off with plenty of wind. The previous crew had put two reefs in the sail and we left those in when we raised it. We took turns helming and I was second up. Our course wasn’t quite upwind so we didn’t have to tack. The wind was gusty, though, so every so often, I would get knocked off the course that Jon and John had routed. Greg explained how to look for the gusts of wind and anticipate them with steering corrections, which helped a lot. I felt like I was flailing before then, just getting bullied by wind. I broke the previous week’s record with a new one of 8.2knots, which was soon broken by Jon when his turn to helm came around.
Our plan for the day was to sail to Cove Bay, practise some skills and then have dinner at the hotel. The original plan of a stop at Dunoon was scrapped for lack of shelter from the wind. It was less northerly than the forecast promised. The omnivores’ promise of a brunch with bacon rolls was blown away by the wind.

The same promise of bacon roll brunch evaporated. Brian and I didn’t care but the rest of them had been looking forward to it. We continued north, past the Holy Loch and lunch became a working lunch. We arrived to Cove Bay in the mid afternoon and found the area quite sheltered as we had hoped. We had a "proper" late lunch and made reservations for dinner at the hotel.

With the time we had left before dinner, Greg taught us a bit more about how to cope with a man overboard. The boys weren’t too pleased that it was always a man overboard. My answer (women are usually too sensible to throw themselves off a perfectly good boat) was not appreciated. Greg showed and talked us through the process for recovering someone under engine power. Then he let Jon and John each have a shot. Most everything made sense to me, including why one would choose to recover the casualty from the leeward side (it’s more protective) but I didn’t quite get from their angles of approach why their side was the leeward side.

Dinner time came soon enough and Greg took over helming again. We picked up one of the hotel moorings and then assembled the dinghy to ferry us across. And again, lots of watching once it was assembled. Greg shuttled us across in 2 groups and we hiked up the bank to the hotel for a nice dinner. Brian amused me by being the high maintenance diner of the evening. I had choices on the menu, but he didn’t like any of them. After dinner, we repeated the dinghy procedure while trying to avoid the midges and stowed the dinghy for the evening. Part of the Competent Crew course involved some playtime in the dinghy. That playtime would be on the schedule for first thing if the wind continued to cooperate.

With several hours of daylight left and attention spans for sailing fading quickly, I introduced the rest of the crew to Pass the Pigs while Brian plied them with whisky. Pass the Pigs is Yahtzee with pig shaped dice, perfect for secluding us across the harbour from Dunoon, the apparent swine flu capital of Scotland. After lengthy rule explanations, playing as we rehashed them, Greg perfected his pig rolling technique and thrashed us all. Bedtime followed soon after.

The next morning, we followed another quick breakfast (with more promises of bacon roll brunch) with the expected dinghy adventures. Tom, Brian and I each got a shot in the dinghy. Our mission was to paddle around the boat and then paddle in to finish. Both Tom and Brian struggled with paddling it like a rowboat. To be fair, the oars for it were pathetically small and awkward. We were essentially rowing a raft like a rowboat with six inch wide oars. Rowing with too much commitment was likely to end in some mistake with oar placement in the water or, better, the oar falling out of its slot completely. In my shot, I rowed the dinghy like a proper rowboat. Slowly, else all of the bits might fall off, but reasonably effectively, I worked my way around the boat and even managed to make the turn at the bow reasonably tightly. On the other side, I had to row into the stern of the boat to finish and that’s where it went wrong for me. I don’t see very well behind my back so I went by sound. And missed. I set up again and went for it, just barely crashing into the stern sideways.

Dinghy adventures out of the way, Greg had us sail off the mooring and do the sailing man overboard drills. The procedures for recovering a casualty under sail were much more complicated so I appreciated the value of the under engine recovery procedure immediately. The two methods under sail involved either tacking or jibing and some other sailing terms for how to return to the casualty and keep him on the leeward side of the boat. Once again, Greg showed and talked through it before letting Jon and John have a shot at each method.

Man overboards pretty well done to death, we began to head back toward Largs under sail. After MOB practice, sailing made a bit more sense. Along the way, Greg discovered a problem with the head (sailor speak for toilet) so our sail was interrupted with a maritime plumbing crisis. When that wasn’t resolved quickly, Greg had us sheet in the main and continue the journey back to Largs under engine. During the trip, his diagnosis of the problem shifted several times to eventually identify the problem. Someone at some point had left the diverter valve in the wrong position, a blockage had formed in one of the outlet pipes and the sewage holding tank on board was not only full but under pressure. Brian and Greg spent at least the next hour attempting to first release the pressure on the tank and then clear the block. The expected niceties came spewing out the release valve several times.
At one point, a seal popped up behind the boat to see what we were up to. It didn’t stay around too long.

We cruised past Largs and stopped for a quick lunch on a borrowed mooring. One again, the omnivores were denied their bacon rolls in favour of a quick meal. The mooring wasn’t really intended for a boat our size, so we didn’t linger. We returned to Largs where Steve, the boat’s owner met us and proceeded to clear out the holding tank with the shopvac. Brian continued to help.

The task of mucking out the holding tank was not a glamorous job. I didn’t realise at first, but Steve intended to vacate the entire contents of the tank into the marina, which didn’t make me happy. The lack of much current meant it would have had plenty of time to fester there. On the upside, perhaps the inevitable fuel spilled from the fuel berth would have something else feeding on it. Brian got to witness and experience the worst of it. The first time Steve set up the shopvac, he put the hose on the wrong end. It blew instead of sucked. Brian laughed and set bet you won’t make that mistake again. Sadly, he did and he blew bits of wet excrement everywhere. Brian got a light dusting from about shoulder height down. Steve got the works and I think spit a few times after he managed to turn the vacuum off. When we got to the car to go home, I sent Brian to the shower first. He ended up having to wear stinky sailing clothes home because his on shore clothes were the ones that he was wearing at the time, but at least we didn’t have to smell holding tank anymore.

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