Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Dick's Law

The Indian River
28 18.85 N 08 41.94 W

This morning we slept until 0700. That's nearly an hour after pre-dawn. How decadent. For the past two months, the routine has been to weigh anchor at first light.

Speaking of decadent and lazy, when I'm uninspired about writing something for the blog, I post some pictures. Here goes.

When I'm feeling secure and lazy, this is one of my favorite tricks. I rig some lines and some blocks that let me steer from up in the bow. It's perfect for places like the Dismal Swamp Canal. In the pictures below, you can see how I rig it in the cockpit. A couple of snatch blocks form a pivot corner leading reins from the tiller up to the bow. Below, you see David steering from the forward position.

The actual steering job is very much like riding horseback and steering with reins.

I take a VHF radio up to the bow with me. However, I can't reach the trottle from there, so I can't deny that the practice compromises safety. That's why I only do it in places like the Dismal Swamp Canal.






I discovered this trick years ago while sailing my Tanzer 27 on Sacandaga Lake in New York. I did a lot of single handed sailing back then. I was also completely familiar with the lake and needed no charts.

One day I rigged up the boat to steer with reins. Then I hung a hammock between the mast and the forestay. I laid myself out in the hammock with the reins in my lap. The boat was close hauled. Like that I sailed across the whole lake. I loved it. My control of the boat was exquisite and my visibility was great. I could even heel it way over, let the hammock swing out, and (almost) dunk my butt in the water. I especially enjoyed the puzzled looks from other boats as they saw my strange rig passing. Tee hee.

On other occasions, I would sleep on the boat Saturday nights, then return home Sunday mornings. Usually, Libby didn't come. It would be just me and my dog Pup. Pup was afraid of the boat. He stayed in the cabin and the cockpit the whole time, and never ever ventured up on deck.

One Sunday morning I was steering from the bow with my reins rig as discussed. I was all the way forward with one leg draped over each side; much like riding a horse. I heard a shout, "DICK." I looked over and saw three of my firemen buddies in another boat. I veered over close to them to say hello. To veer, I only had to twist my hands that sat in my lap, so my actions were hardly visible. The next week at the firehouse, one of those friends said, "I just want to know one thing. How the heck did you train that dog to steer your boat?" Tee hee tee hee.

Several years later, I happened to see a list of boating laws for New York State. It specifically listed steering a boat from the bow as an illegal practice. I wonder if I inspired that law. If so, it should be called, "Dick's Law."

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