Sunday, September 11, 2011

Lake Tarpon Daysail

I took The Goat for a daysail at Lake Tarpon, with WCTSS (West Coast Trailer Sailer Squadron).  Ended up having a great time but it took some effort to get out on the water.  Early on in our sailing life we figured out cancelling trips because of iffy forecasts, more often than not, results in missed opportunities so we don’t generally cancel sailing plans unless the forecast is truly apocalyptic or below 60F.  From the start, I think something was trying to tell me not to go on this trip but I don’t listen so well.  Friday night I was rushing to finish some trailer mods which took longer than anticipated and then I had to jury rig the drain plug ‘cause I apparently lost it.  The whole afternoon had felt like a bit of a fight to get ready.  Finally around 10:30 pm all I had left to do was put a few things in the van.  Our old van gets driven maybe once a month and I had seen a few ants in it last time I drove it.  I open the van and immediately notice a pretty substantial ant trail.  I follow it under some stuff and discover a giant ant’s nest.  We are talking a writhing pile of ants a good 10x18 inches.  Yikes, horror movie music playing in my head!  I can’t drive the van like this.  The ants are likely to devour me before even I get to the lake. So Kristi and I waged chemical warfare.  It was midnight by the time we got done cleaning up the mess. 

Wake up this morning and it’s pouring.  Radar looks like a stalled front is going to sit over Lake Tarpon at least through mid day. 

I was not about to give up, having fought so valiantly to get ready the night before.  Driving to the lake, I was wondering how many folks would show up.  As I pulled into the launch ramp it was great to see that a good number of like-minded damn-the-weather sailors were hanging out under the shelter.  We proceeded to have a good time socializing and playing “who can pull up the best radar plot on their phone”.  The weather was not improving fast but it was improving and we started to get hungry so a few folks jumped in Ron’s Sea Pearl "Whisper", Becky and Ed launched their Adventure Islands and they set off for lunch at the Dockside Sports Bar and Grill.  There was not enough wind for the motor and oarless Goat to make it to the restaurant so I hopped a car ride with Jose and Dimitri.  We had better wind along highway 19 and handily beat the sailboats.  Eventually a bunch of folks showed up and we continued socializing and filling our bellies with reasonably decent food, for a sports bar. 

After lunch Jose dropped me off at the ramp and I got ready to attempt sailing The Goat out of the weed infested, directly-up-wind, channel.  As I was launching, Ron and the AIs came in so there must have been some wind on the lake.  With renewed interest I proceeded to launch and attempt sailing up the channel.  There was a faint breeze but no matter what I did I could not get The Goat to dig in and start sailing upwind.  I don’t know what exactly was going on but I suspect that the huge amounts of weeds grabbing at the board and rudder combined with the pathetic, fluky wind conspired to thwart any windward progress.  After making a general spectacle of myself, but not scratching the boat (thanks Ed!) I dropped the sail and resigned myself to paddling out the channel.  The Goat has oarlocks but alas no oars yet, so all I have is an emergency paddle.  Good thing this was not an emergency as the paddle is very ineffective at propelling the boat.  After trying multiple techniques I settled on paddling The Goat as if it was a standup paddle board.  I’ve tried real paddle boards and they are a good way to exert maximum effort for minimum progress.  The Goat is the world’s worst paddle board.  So after paddling what felt like the length of the Everglades Challenge, I finally got out into some clear air.  Oh, I forgot to mention that the paddle has a hand grip hole in the blade and a funky T shaped handle so that you can use it as a boat hook, in a pinch.  Well that hole would grab weeds and sling them into the boat every time I switched paddling sides.  What a mess.  Since I was on a lee shore and would not have time to drift and hoist the sail I dropped anchor and raised the sail.  The wind was still real fluky so, for added sport, the boat sailed a couple complete circles around the anchor while I was hoisting sail – nevertheless, the hoisting went smoothly.  I weighed anchor, which came up as a giant ball of muddy weeds neatly wrapped in some chain.  As the shore was quickly approaching, I had to start sailing immediately – so, the muddy mess went into the already weed-coated boat.  
John Chestnut park is a nice place with good ramps but lots of weeds.

Finally out on the open lake, I was rewarded with a pleasant breeze and spent several hours lazily messing about at 3-5 knot boat speeds.  The weather had cleared up and it was glorious.  Not having a means to effectively propel the boat, if the wind completely died, I stayed reasonably close to the ramp but still had a great time checking out wildlife in the reeds and just generally relaxing.  Finally, I was forced to head in as the sun got low over the horizon.

Took my time packing up, watched the sunset and headed home.  Had to work for this time on the water but, as always, it was well worth it.

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