The more we sail Spy Hop the more impressed I become with her. Also, the more I realize that we need to improve the way we handle her. The last time that we took her out we realized that there is a lot of potential in the boat that we aren’t tapping into simply by the way we were sailing. The biggest change that we need to make is the ability to hike out onto the deck to better distribute weight when the wind gets a bit strong. Spy Hop can be depowered pretty quickly if needed, by easing the main and jib sheets, but it isn’t all that much fun when you end up loosing a good portion of your power potential.
The first time I hiked out on Spy Hop I realized that the Daysailer probably has more in common with dinghys than with yachts. This whole year I have been trying to sail her as if she were the Catalina 31 that I learned on, but the reality is that she isn’t. There isn’t a keel keeping the boat upright, instead she has a crew that acts as the ballast to keep her upright. That is all a long winded way of saying that we have some improvements to make to our little boat.
Three improvements that immediately come to mind:
1 – The coamings need to be modified so that the crew and skipper can quickly and comfortable get out onto the deck to move weight outwards
2 – A tiller extension needs to be added. (I have fairly long arms, and from the deck I was using my finger tips to control the tiller)
3 – Hiking straps (like on other small boats, it is helpful being about to be able to loop your feet through something to be counter act most of your weight being over the side of the boat.)
This late in the sailing season I have resigned myself to the fact that most if not all of these projects will end up happening next season rather than this season. These three improvements will have to get added to the growing list of winter projects to prepare for next year. But, that does allow for a good amount of time to actually get the work completed.
Tides weren’t something that I paid much attention to this summer. When planning a sail or a time to sail tidal flow was a factor just not a large factor. The first time we took Tiger out in Barnstable harbor there was plenty or wind, plenty of time before low tide, and still plenty of water depth to sail comfortably. Also in our favor we didn’t venture out to the mouth of the harbor. Recently we learned the magnitude of all of these factors at a time when we had none of them.
Around mid October Cape Cod was experiencing a longer than normal Indian Summer which means the weather conditions stay pleasant well into October and air and water temperatures are still pleasant enough with a wetsuit. This particular day was also a little abnormal since the winds were out of the south rather than the north as they had tended to be. This meant smooth seas both in the harbor and out in Cape Cod Bay. The temptation was irresistible. In the back of my mind I was thinking that this would be the last Tiger sail of the year so was more anxious than normal to take her out. The tide was already going out when we launched but we had several hours before low tide. So, we played it safe and set conservative time points to turn around and head in.
The sail itself was awe inspiring. Asya and I were all but rendered speechless by our first outing into Cape Cod Bay. We rounded the tip of Sandy Neck and headed west toward Sandwich, MA. Soon we could clearly see the Sagamore Bridge in the distance, but we also hit our turn around point. We snapped a couple more pictures and tacked back toward the harbor. From our turnaround point to the tip of Sandy Neck took less time than we had planned for so I decided to stay out and sail around the shoals at the opening to the harbor. In hind sight that was a dumb idea.
We ended up in a part of Barnstable harbor where even before low tide a kayak draws too much water. Tigers rudders didn’t stand a chance and soon enough we had to walk the boat across the shoals. Not a good ego moment, but a good learning experience. Eventually we got the boat into the dredged channel leading from the Bay into the Harbor, but were promptly met by our friend the tide again. There was plenty of draft but the tide was moving so quickly that we couldn’t make any forward progress. In our minds that was due to wind direction, to stay in the channel we were virtually head to wind and tacking Hobie Cats in tight spaces isn’t the easiest thing to do, surely not against the tide. So we beached Tiger and opted to walk her around the tip of Sandy Neck. There is no great way to describe the tide. The amount of water moving by and the force of it was absolutely incredible. In fact we rounded the point saw the sails fill with wind, jumped on the boat and went no where. There was just enough wind to fight the current. At least we weren’t going backward. The real odd thing about this was that the tide was moving so quickly that if we looked at the sails and the water we believed we were sailing, the sensation was exactly they same. But, then we looked up to the nearby shore and realize that we weren’t moving, very disheartening.
We were held captive by the tide for about an hour, while the sun went down, before the tide changed and we had just enough wind to make it back to the boat launch and pull tiger out in the dark. We did have a flashlight with us which was nice, but it wasn’t nearly powerful enough to do anything worthwhile, and in MA boats of our size aren’t required to have running lights at night, just a flashlight, so we were compliant but I don’t think either of us felt safe with our little flashlight. Our planned three hour sail ended up being five hours when all was said and done. But, I wouldn’t trade it for anything. The sailing was incredible and the lessons learned where equally valuable. And now I have a much better appreciation for the effects of the winds and tides.