Skerry sailing lessons


First, now that I'm done with my build and sailing it now, I changed my sign-in name from "Sawdust" to "Mummichog", the name I picked for my Skerry.  

The mummichog is also known around here as a "mud minnow" and is a small killifish endemic to the estuaries of the East Coast.  It is very robust and survives in nearly all waters.  It was also the first fish in space (look it up!).  

I was trying out some further adjustments today off Annapolis and have a new respect for the skerry's seakeeping and the wisdom of an early reef.  While in the harbor, I was sailing with the full lug sail, but as I headed out to the Bay, the southeast wind was more fully exposed: 16 knots true, gusts to 18 per TPLM2. 

Anyway, on a close reach on starboard tack out of the Severn, I made it out past Hackett's Point and realized I needed to get on port tack to make it back into harbor.  However, with the nasty chop and that much wind, I just couldn't get it to tack through. I know this is technique, but I've been there even in a keelboat and it can be hard. So, I tried to run down and jibe around, only to find that with that much wind, a skerry is way overpowered and not being a planing boat, gets uncontrollable about 6 knots of boat speed.  If I knew the boat better, I should be able to do a quick jibe from reach to reach, but if I screwed up I was going in the drink.

So, time for that reef I hadn't put in yet.  The good news is, once the sail was down, the skerry "lies a-hull" well.  That is, drifts sideways downwind, bobbing on the seas.  I was drifting at nearly 1.5 knots.  So, with the sail down in my lap, I could tie in the reef and rehoist on port and make it back in with no worries.

Lesson:  Reef early, cause this thng accelerates VERY fast in big breeze.


3 replies:

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RE: Skerry sailing lessons

Sometimes I consider an other name for my Skerry, especially when I sail with a lot of wind, the flat bottom hits hard on the waves and I try to tack. Those are the moments Scary is a good name for her.

RE: Skerry sailing lessons

   For me, the failed tacks weren't scary, just frustrating.  This chop was big enough (2 feet or so per CBOFS buoy) that the boat was getting lifted with only a few real slams coming off the backsides.  I just couldn't get the timing of speed and turning rate to tack it through.  I guess I could have tried harder once in irons to try backing it down onto the other tack, but I needed the reef anyway..

That said, I have a background of racing and cruising keelboats, and my last dinghy (Sailfish) was as a kid, so I'm guessing I need to develop "the touch".  Can you roll tack a skerry?

RE: Skerry sailing lessons

   I got stuck in irons pretty often in the first months with my NE Dory. Somehow I have gotten the feel of it and it is less common (though I never face as much chop as you do). So maybe it's technique and you just need time. The only tip I'd give you is to experiment with weight distribution. These boats are so light that where you sit can make all the difference. I find that moving a bit further aft helps in the chop. . . . Or you can sail the boat hard enough that you ship some water. Then you can tell how to keep an even keel by where the water accumulates.

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