Nice weekend sail….

The weather is getting cooler as Halloween approaches, fall is in the air, and I have weekends off again.  We took full advantage of the situation Saturday and Sunday….  Since Corpus has some neat destinations you can reach in a few hours, our little crew cast off just before noon, sailed to Port Aranasas and was docked before 5PM.  The morning’s nice breeze steadily turned to wind as we gained momentum on three long tacks beating to wind in Corpus Christi Bay.  We didn’t see much over 2’ seas, but beating to the waves at 7 knots is considered an “active” ride in anybody’s book. 

Ride comfort became more important than the captain’s best point of sail.  There’s always that sweet spot angle you can find where a catamaran walks most comfortably into the ranks of the relentless wind driven soldiers on that upwind battlefield.  It’s a little different every time because of the distance between waves, but normally when seas reach 2’ I like to fall off my best point 8 or 10 degrees, ride quality is significantly better and “Otto” the autopilot enjoys it too.  On a “full wind” day I like to set the main a bit tighter than the jib so the slight imbalance drives the boat a little higher and faster in the puffs.  That setting helps a cat take better advantage of apparent wind and gains angle of point automatically when it’s most appropriate to do so.  If I’m 8 degrees off best point and we get a puff, a tight main points my bows up closer to best point of sail and squirts me right along…..  Conversely when the sails aren’t as loaded….  angling away keeps stabilizing pressure on the sails and lessens the severity of blows on the bow.  I guess what I end up going for is consistent pressure on the standing rigging.  Nothing makes a cat buck as much as getting too high in a seaway.  When your sails aren’t driven hard and the bows see more pressure than the keels… yeeee-haaa.

My little boat points really well (for a cat).  If I’m out rodeo-ing (racing) upwind in 25 to 30, I can point as high as any boat near my length.  My cat has a bit of an advantage when the wind pipes up because its upper speed range is a bit higher than similar sized displacement boats and she has a heck of a strong rig.  Above 25 knots most displacement hulls limit out, but my boat will lift and go over more water than it plows through given enough horsepower.  During the summer I sailed with (unofficially raced) a nicely kept and often raced 36’ Catalina in an upwind slog across Corpus Christi Bay.  I came upon him low and from behind, winds were gusting to 25.  I think he made a tactical mistake once he saw I was gaining on him.  Sailing on the same heading he could see I was faster so he kept falling off to load his sails attempting to speed match.  He should have fought a pointing battle and stayed high because no matter how much you load your sails a displacement boat has a given top speed.  It appeared that he stayed close hauled, steered down to the point that lee slippage was his only payoff.  When I passed his stern I was well above him, we were rafted up to the flotilla about an hour before he arrived.   If the waves aren’t too choppy and short I have a sweet spot upwind that I’ll pair against a 40′ cruiser.

Back to the weekend sail… When we reached the calm water of the Aransas Pass the evening winds had built to 20+, happily we could hold point in the calm water of the Aransas cut and sailed the second half of the trip on Port tack alone.  SYL spent the evening and night tied up at a nice little dockside restaurant… Being part of the ambiance tied up at tableside was fun for us as well as the tourists.  We all enjoyed the local cuisine and caught up with good friends over dinner.

With flight reservations to meet in the early evening on Sunday, we ate a late breakfast and departed Port A at 10:30AM.  The day was less cloudy and to paint the first corner of the weather portrait for you …. I raised the main before I untied the dock lines with the wind at my stern…….  Yep.. nada.. no wind.  I knew it would go lighter on Sunday, but I wasn’t expecting two knots!  I lit both Yamahas and drifted out of Port A Harbor heading into a slight outflow.  Almost half the trip home happens in the channel, so tide plays a big part in your progress.  This day the conveyor belt was going to sea, not to Corpus.  Luckily we were near slack tide so it wasn’t screaming out, I guessed we were losing a half a knot of ground speed due to current.  I like to stay on the North side of the cut in the shallows driving against an outgoing tide.  In a slow outgoing current the North bank is near neutral, and when it’s roaring you actually get a little counterflow.

All of the cut and most of the bay crossing was dead flat.  Laying on the tramp and watching for dolphins was much more the focus than sail trim as we motored along.  You could follow your wake all the way to shore… it was that flat.  The sights were different on the way home, no tacking… no surf… no angles of attack…. just burn gas and watch your wake, the jellyfish and the butterflies.  Did you know that butterflies can outrun a sailboat at 5 knots?  I’m here to tell you it’s a fact.  I had butterflies outrun me in the ICW coming home from Florida last time…. and not just running downwind either!  I saw the little grin on his pointy face when he passed me Sunday in the cut….  He passed me several times in fact just to prove he could.

Linda made a great salad for lunch and I turned off the motors to ghost along at 2 knots while we ate.  I even turned the radio off to get the full effect of “quiet”.   The water rippled behind the sterns as we coasted along 3 miles out of the harbor for half an hour.  It’s a pitty we had a flight to meet or the rest of the day would have been at that same volume.  Eventually I cranked back up and as we all know how it works…. The wind filled in strongly as I was docking the boat….  The only time I didn’t need it… lol

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