Crew overboard maneuvers and fun while testing our new staysail

Our new stays'l up and flying
Our new stays’l up and flying

As I hoisted the mainsail, Jill stood at the mast waiting to attach the first reef. We were making our way out of Reid Harbor on Stuart Island and the wind had been funneling through the anchorage at about 20 to 30 knots all morning. We don’t regularly venture out into that much breeze to a destination directly upwind of us, but we were looking to give our new staysail a good test and to practice sailing together in those conditions. There’s only one way to do that — go sailing.

Our inner forestay was rigged and the staysail was ready in its bag on deck. Once clear of the harbor I hanked on the sail and Jill hoisted the halyard while I trimmed the sheet. With it and the reefed main full, Yahtzee took off like a shot into an adverse current and I’m sure the smile on my face was as big as the sail itself.

We purchased this new staysail to fill a void in our sail inventory. Our 140 percent genoa is just too big and unruly to handle in anything over 18 to 20 knots upwind and our handkerchief-sized storm jib is too small. Plus, the little stormy just isn’t cut to be an everyday working sail.

For the new sail, I went to my buddy Jim Kitchen at Puget Sound Sails (Doyle), and using measurements that I took, he did an excellent job crafting a beautiful sail that gives us a new arrow in our quiver.

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To be sure, there were some growing pains when we got out of the harbor and hoisted the new sail. We had to figure out the best places for our fairleads and I need to rig a better solution for leading the halyard to a winch, as we could have used a tad more luff tension. Also, we need a better bag for quickly deploying and then folding and stowing the sail, and I’ve got a few ideas in mind on that.

The other reason we need a new bag is because the one it was previously housed in blew out from where I’d stashed it and directly overboard. The plus is that it provided us with the opportunity to practice a figure eight crew overboard maneuver, which we executed to near perfection with Jill at the helm. Unfortunately, the ripping current had other plans and I watched it slither into a whirlpool and disappear before I could grab it with the boathook. Cue the D’ohs.

Our track from Stuart to Jones Island in the San Juans
Our track from Stuart to Jones Island in the San Juans

Overall, the day was a success and our new sail performed admirably. With winds in the 20 to 25 knot range to start out, we sailed fast and Yahtzee handled like a dream without sailing on her ear. As we neared Jones Island, the breeze began to drop and we shook out the reef in the main. This new sail is really going to be an asset when the wind pipes up above 20 and we want to sail upwind, but I’m sure that with two reefs in the main, it’ll do just fine in 30 plus.

If anything, it’s just great knowing that we can head out into nearly any breeze with confidence in the sails we have aboard. And though the new sail may have cost money, that’s a priceless piece of knowledge.

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