Raptor UK canoe sailing

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With a good wind, the boat started moving on port tack (i.e. ama and foil to lee) at a fair clip. "That's the business!" I thought, though I had spotted my first mistake of the day. The main sheet ran didn't run freely, being twisted over the furling line. I thought I'd fix that back on land seeing that I had to turn back quickly anyway to let Eivind have his turn. I tacked. On starboard tack, the Raptor is kept upright only by the rather low weight of the ama and cross beams and by the foil. The foil, of course, only works when the boat has some way on, so when tacking from port to starboard, the procedure is to fall off quite a bit and sheet in gently, to get the boat moving on a reach before heading up and sheeting in more. The tacking and falling off worked fine, but the binding up of the main sheet got worse. It was obvious in retrospect, and not predicting that was my second mistake.

I swiftly proceeded to make my third mistake, which was going forward to fix the problem while on starboard tack. Did I mention that the foil needs some water flow over it to keep the ama down on starboard tack? Well, it tends not to do that job when the boat is stationary, and the weight of ama and cross beams is just enough to keep the boat upright in 15 kn, but if a gust hits, the drag of the mast and flogging sail is a bit much (remember that the furling line was bound up with the main sheet). I did get such a gust.

Three mistakes were just not enough. The proper procedure, if you insist on capsizing the boat, is to slide gently into the water on the starboard side, so that you can grab the daggerboard and pull the boat upright again. I was a little slow, and went in on the port side. Mistake number four. The water tends to be a bit chilly in Trondheimsfjorden in October, but I had thrown money at that problem until it went away before I started sailing here. A drysuit is a wonderful thing. Only, between the buoyancy aid and some air still in the drysuit, diving under the hull didn't quite work. I thought it would be quicker to swim round, but the boat, feeling neglected, went belly up. I pulled on the daggerboard, not really expecting that to be enough, but (mistake number five) I had not fitted a righting line to the crossbeam. My expectation was fulfilled. Not a problem. John Slattebo, the designer, had foreseen that someone would forget this, and recommended using the main sheet. I did that, got up on the hull to start pulling, when I spotted this bit of blue fabric sticking up out of the water. I was horribly reminded of capsizing a Hobie 14 in surf, not putting it back on its feet quickly enough, and the pounding broke the mast. Then, without the buoyancy of the sealed mast, righting the boat was impossible. But the water was at least 50 m deep where I had capsized, so a broken mast was just not very likely. Could it possibly be that I forgot to tie down the mast foot with the signal red line the designer had so thoughtfully provided? Brilliant deduction, Holmes! How did you ever think of it? Oh well, never mind, it'll make a nice sea anchor. I seemed to be drifting rather quickly anyway, rather faster than I felt I should (I had forgotten that the tide was still rising, and the current was carrying me further inland). Meanwhile, I fixed the mainsheet to the crossbeam. I pulled a bit, and the boat came up very nicely. I climbed up again and collected the rig. Which way round do I roll it up again? Ah, right.

I got myself sorted out, but didn't fancy trying to insert the mast into the mast foot with the boat bouncing around a bit in the chop built up over a fetch of about 10 nm. Well, that's why I've got a paddle, and a boat that you actually can paddle efficiently. Not to worry, there's another bay, and it has a boat ramp, where I can set up the rig again in peace. It was also a bit upwind, but I got there. But then a wind shift nearly blew me into a rather unforgiving looking concrete wall, so I thought bugger that, the water is calm here, I can put the mast up again right here. So I did.

All this took a while, and Eivind had gotten a bit worried. He later told me that he had actually tried to take one of the dinghies out to help me, but found the wind was far too strong for that kind of thing. So he called out the lifeboat. They arrived from Trondheim, about 5 nm away, just as I was starting to sail again. I scraped together enough Norwegian words to assure the crew that I was fine, underlining it with a cheerful smile and thumbs up. For some reason, they didn't appear convinced. I sailed out on the fjord again, mama lifeboat watching anxiously over her little duckling. I had partly reefed the sail, which slowed down the boat a bit, so I didn't think tacking would work and wore around. The lifeboat followed me for a bit longer, then they went home. I ended up just marginally upwind from where I had started. "This is ridiculous," I thought "the boat can do better than that, even reefed down!" I mean, sure, a reefed sail has less lift, while windage from mast, boat and crew remains the same, so the boat doesn't point that high, but it should be better than that. (I think it was the current again.) I tried paddling once more, gave up on that and started sailing once more. I was still stuck on the notion that reefing was generally a good thing and was carrying only about 3 sq m out of 7. That was fine on port tack, but on starboard, a bit more speed would have been better to give the foil a better grip. By the time I got back to my starting point, Eivind had gone home already, being reassured by the lifeboat that I was alive and well and happy to carry on without assistance.

It took me a while to think up a moral of the story, seeing that a moral has to be short and snappy. That was a bit difficult in this case, because the conditions were well within the capabilities of the boat, and it took a serial cock up like mine to make a minor drama out of it. Still, I found one that applies: Learn from other people's mistakes, so that you don't have to learn from your own. In this case, everything that gave me a problem was covered in the owner's manual.

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