Thursday, December 24, 2009

Rosebud gets launched

Well, after a day’s delay because the dog munched the drain plug, I was all set. A bathplug had to do. Once tied on top of a borrowed pick-up, we were all set to take her down to the lake. Since I was unsure of the "slipway" route, I left the car in the car park and carried dinghy, and all her sailing accoutrements, down over 100 steps (local labour enlisted).

The water level since the hurricane was very high, above the level of the old pumice beach, so Rosebud was already wet when setting up the rig. This involved the not-so-easy task of setting-up the gunter rig. I decided on a boom as the sail is for an Oughtred Acorn which is a couple of feet longer, so the boom would allow a little more control at the foot. It took ages trying to work out where the sprit should be attached to the halyard and how much tension there should be in the downhaul to flatten out creases. Eventually I got to the stage when the sail set OK and decided to go for it.

The first thing I noticed when getting in is that this is certainly a very tippy design; I have been in pond prams that are more stable. I was surprised, as much of the write up about a Prameke 78 was very complimentary on the stability front. I guess this is an entry build boat, and most users first ever boat; I suspect the reviews were written with rose-tinted glasses and few people talk-down a boat they have just built.

No bother, she is tippy, I'll be careful, I’ll learn her ways. Off I went.

She rows rather nicely. Her "V" hull making her track well. Sitting on the central thwart (where the centreboard case is) distributed my weight well, and the front transom was well out of the water when rowing into the nasty chop. I was pleased not to get too many jets of water in my nether parts.

There seems to be a considerable amount of weed a couple of hundred yards offshore that needed negotiation. I really wanted to get the centreboard down, mainly to help the rolling I was anticipating when hoisting the sail. The weed is nasty though, and although from the photos it looks like a think band, much of it is a foot under the water, making rowing or sailing rather difficult inshore. Once I had got out beyond the weed, I was quite far out, I thought.

Anyway, there was a decent onshore wind, and I needed to work quickly if I wanted to avoid being blow back onto the weed. So with eager anticipation and a child's excitement, I stood up and pulled hard on the halyard. Up went the sprit and I bent down to cleat-off when, with the sudden transfer of weight, the dinghy rolled alarmingly to Starboard.....then to Port. The next few moments felt very long, but I am sure they were seconds. A desperate attempt to equilibrate my (considerable) weight involved holding onto the mast for dear life. From this position I could clearly see a non-inserted dagger-board on the floor, together with a large torrent of water entering the boat from the Port aft quarter. The next thing I knew was that I have taken a rather large gulp of water and the sky seemed a weird, but rather comforting tan colour. There was then a very loud "POP" and all sorts of nasty wooden things started poking me in the ribs.

When I got out from under the sail I could see that this was not going to be an easy capsize to rectify. Two oars were already yards from the scene and moving sailing away from me at speed. My lifejacket which was on the floor had fully inflated - I assume this must have been the "pop" I heard. In a way I rather pleased about seeing it there as I thought it was a manual one, but evidently not; the chandlers must have posted me the wrong model inadvertently. I then started to consider how fortunate I was for their careless error, when a wave slopped over me and brought me to my senses; I had a capsize to recover from. (The £15 replacement cost for a new canister was in the back of my mind though).

The boat was still on it's side, and had it not been for the two buoyancy tanks built in either end, it would probably now be on the bottom. I then proceeded to swim after the dagger board, which was also sailing away fast. I was towing a lifejacket, mainly as it is impossible to don an inflated lifejacket when already in the water, and secondly I knew it would sail to the shore faster than both dagger board and oars; in a third-world country anything that washes up on a shore is "finders’ keepers". After retrieving the dagger board, without considerable ordeal, I managed to shove it into the slot; I could then get a purchase and right her. This I duly did, and found myself swimming around what appeared to be the scene of somebody launching a rather less0-than-ergonomic, but overflowing bathtub, into a lake. Off to the get the oars then. One had already drifted out of sight, the other was a considerable swim away, so, logically, I decided to tow all my detritus with me: never leave the boat I was taught. So off I went: panting, painter in mouth, one oar under one arm, one lifejacket in the hand that was attempting to propel me forward, and quite a lot of splashing.....

By this time the inshore lifeboat had been launched. In El Salvador this consists of a willowy man in flippers and a mask. It might not have been the reassurance of a bright orange RIB, even so, I was pleased to see him; having another human in the water next to me was strangely comforting, it was somehow nice to know that this was now a "community" rescue.

"Oh, you Can swim!" He said on his approach
"Of course!"
"Why do you have a lifejacket then?"
"In case I need it"
"Yes, but you don't!”
“But I might – in the future”
“But you don’t, as you can swim! Everybody knows that only people that can't swim wear lifejackets"
"I am not wearing it though"
"Would you mind passing me that oar?"
" ...Yes, but from the shore it looked like you were wearing it and that is why I came to rescue you! Now I can see you can swim, you don't need rescuing – this is a false alarm!"
"umm, what is your name?.... Ok Carlos, you see, in my dry clothes back in the car I have a crisp $10 note, well I thought that if you...."


Blogger Roach1948 said...

correction; it is not a Gunter rig ofcourse!

4:00 PM  

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