Last Saturday’s forecast: wind. Nuf said. Downside was that I-275 through downtown Tampa was undergoing major revisions all weekend due to the ongoing construction. Forecast: expect 1+ hour delays through town. Ugh.
So I looked at my various options, and the only reliable way to get to Dunedin was to head south on I-75, then hop on I-275 northbound across the Skyway Bridge to St. Petersburg, then up Hwy 19. Road trip! Only problem is that it’s a 2-hour road trip – each way. I got a later start than I wanted (had to help my neighbor round up a couple of stray cows), but was soon on the road.
When I got to the beach there was only one launching spot left. Whew. Made it just in time. I backed the boat to the water’s edge then started rigging the mast & sail. I have a system where I can raise the mast & sail fairly quickly. But it had been a few weeks, so I had to take my time; didn’t want to forget an important step along the way. Finally all ready to go, I pushed the boat into the water and took off.
The first few moments pulling away from the beach are always so cool. The wind caresses the sail and silently off I go. No rumbling motors, no paddling. I just sit there, trim the sail and hold the tiller.
In no time was I really moving. The wind was blowing hard from the east. The skies were clear.
I headed due south, past a couple of small islands in the intracoastal waterway. I could see a few other catamarans in the distance. One was on its side, having blown over. A couple of others were circling nearby as their friend got righted. Then they were off and running again.
I’m still learning the feel of my Hobie. I practiced a few gybes, then tried to tack. Failure. I just can’t tack through the wind – I always stall out and end up having to bail on the maneuver. Ah well. I’ll just stick to gybing.
I sailed north and south for a while, trying to fly a hull. Never fully got one all the way out of the water, but the boat was screaming along. Total fun! Back and forth I raced. My hands were starting to get tired from holding the tiller bar.
I headed downwind, westwards towards the pass between Caladesi and Honeymoon Islands. The downwind sail was very relaxing, and I laid down on my back, looking up into the sail and sun. Nice.
As I was heading into the pass, I knew the return might be a bit tricky. The tide was heading out, and the wind was helping it along. The sail back would be upwind and upstream.
About halfway through the narrow pass I chickened out and decided to turn back. Part of the excitement about having to gybe to change directions is that you usually end up screaming through most of the points of sail. It’s sort of like changing directions on a snowboard – at some point you have to commit, turn your board straight down the fall line, and hope you can keep it turning before you crash and burn. So instead, since the wind was blowing quite a bit, I tried to tack. Wrong move. The boat pointed directly upwind and stopped. Then started backing. Out. Into. The. Gulf.
I looked around and noticed I wasn’t on the inside any longer. I was out past the western edge of Caladesi and Honeymoon. Oops. A Hobie 14 without a jib doesn’t point into the wind very well – probably 50-60 degrees off the wind is the best I can do. Each upwind run is more like a sideways run, and with the current rushing out, I was making little headway. And if I tried to point higher into the wind all I would do is slow down, and the current would take over and I would lose ground. My speed through the water was OK, but my speed over ground was backwards.
At least now that I was out of the narrow channel (but in the Gulf) I could make a longer run, trying to gain as much ground as I could before I had to gybe back the other way. After a few minutes I was back in the pass and had started getting comfortable gybing in the strong winds. I realized it would take a while to get fully back on the inside of the islands, with lots of zig-zags in between.
After about 45 minutes of back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, I was finally in a comfortable spot and started sailing for fun again. My hands were about dead, but the wind was really blowing and I didn’t want to stop. I tried to fly a hull again, but still didn’t get there. Still a bit too nervous to fully commit. I need to mount “Bob” on the top of my mast then give it a go. I think after I flip one time (and get the boat upright again) I’ll feel more comfortable about taking it to the edge.
I finally packed it in, broke down the sail and mast, loaded up on the trailer, and started the two-hour ride home. Turned out to be an 8-hour road trip, end to end. I need to find my handheld GPS so I can see how far / fast I’m going.
Hobie 14? It’s a blast.