Hang 10 On a Sail Boat by Richard Jagers
It was a windy gusty day and I decided to go to the lake for some fun. For the first time since passing my water/ written test and actually being a rated sailor I was actually a little apprehensive and decided to leave my favorite lady in her slip. She rebelled later, and made me work! That is a different story! So I guess the first lesson is be true to her, and she will reward you later.

Along came a student and asked if I could take them out. I’d sailed with this person before and felt confident that we could handle the challenging conditions.

We set off for the west side, and on the way decided to practice some jibe maneuvers. The student was doing great, boat balance was key, but I really thought they had mastered a jibe in windy conditions. Then it happened, what started out to be a perfect jibe, from beam to beam, sail just past the center, in control, and suddenly the rail was in the water. Water was pouring in over the rail. I saw at least 3 inches of water over the top of the rail… Oh no! I’m going to get really wet! I’ve had one challenging experience with capsizing in the ocean, and didn’t really want to experience another! The reason I took the course was to avoid this experience at all cost! Kent lake is much calmer then the ocean, but how embarrassing would that be. Exactly one week after passing the test, it looked like I was going for a swim! That she wasn’t happy and was going to show me her underside! Instinctively I let the jib fly, jumped up on the high rail to Hang 10!  Fortunate for us the boat righted itself, and back to sailing we went. I then stepped back into the boat. Heroic as it seemed at the time, I also thought about how stupid that was! Doing a Hang 10 on the rail of a sailboat!… yes, I saved the boat and our egos, and we both will still sail, but here I was surfing on a sailboat! I can barely walk a curb without falling off! What was I thinking, or maybe that was it, I wasn’t thinking. I thought about what would have happened if I’d fallen overboard! The poor student would be sailing all by themselves with a boat laden with water!

I don’t think they realized the stupid Hang 10 move I had just done! After the student took a few breaths, I asked if they wanted to bail or keep the helm. They decided to bail frantically, full buckets at a time! Suddenly in all the commotion Bailer decide he’d had enough and literally bailed overboard for a swim. So here I am sailing a crippled boat, student bailing buckets and Bailer floating away. I say crippled, because the jib had come completely out of the blocks, so a heave-to was out of the question! All that water made the boat balance very challenging, and steerage was only a word in the dictionary. Another club member sailed by, and yelled out “that doesn’t look like fun!” What next I thought? Oh yeah, drop the center board for stability! So I put the center board all the way down, headed closer into the wind, and then this terrible grinding noise. The student looked at me and said “what’s that?” I said “only the road” Road they replied??? What are you talking about??? Have you lost it??? We are in the middle of a lake!!! There are no roads in a lake! Obviously they didn’t know about the Kent Lake road!  So here I am dragging on the road, no jib, crazy steerage and Bailer is floating away!

As my student continued to bail, and I got closer to irons, I was regaining steerage and some calm. They told me that their heart was racing, so was mine!! The key was to at least act calm and in control! My heart and my brain were racing, after all I’m the “rated sailor” I should know what I’m doing… Don said I knew enough to be dangerous!

So we fixed the jib, adjusted the center board, and suddenly I realized all would be well. We had wet feet, an experience and only bruised egos. Oh I forgot about poor Bailer? He was about 15 boat lengths away, I guess now would be the time to do a real MOB! My student was still a little shaken, so I headed back towards Bailer. Since Bailer only floats and never learned how to swim, we had to get real close. First pass 4 feet away! Go around again it was great to have a boat that actually handled correctly. Second pass 2 feet away, gosh I wish someone would teach Bailers how to swim! I should have just run him over! Still to far out of reach, so I grabbed the paddle and whacked him on the head and pulled him close. Guess if you sail with me and fall overboard plan on coming towards the boat or you too might get the paddle!

In all this excitement and lesson, I was happy that the student settled down and went back to sailing. Jibes were much closer: broad to broad, and less eventful. What lessons did we learn and laugh about?

Hanging 10 on a sailboat is a really stupid idea! If you must stand on the edge to save the boat, hang onto something like the shroud!

Never hold the main sheet tight on a jibe, control is one thing, but hanging on or having it cleated is a disaster waiting to happen, especially in high winds. Let it flow freely under control. Freezing for even a few seconds and stopping the main from going out which in our case was most likely the root cause is just like cleating! If you start to tip, and you have no other answer let the main sheet all the way out or worse case let it fall out of your hands. Hang onto the tiller and head up! Someone suggested just let go of the tiller and the main! That must be like just throwing in the towel, giving up, and let the wind take you where it wants! Someplace in our training we learned about control, and always have control of the boat… theoretically letting go of everything works, but talking to some of you more experienced sailors the result could be another disaster. The boat could start sailing uncontrollable spiraling circles, and then you might be sent to the circus!

Leave a tail on your figure 8 (stopper) knots to keep them from coming undone under severe stress and flying out of the blocks.
Try to shift your weight to the high side! Remember to hang onto something!

I totally understand why people have momentary loss of brain function and freeze, especially when water starts freely flowing over the side! Everyone should experience it at least once in their sailing life! Where is a boat mounted camera when you need it? Look for that next year as I have all the equipment.

I lost my mind too! For anyone in there right mind would never Hang 10 on a sailboat!

Time to Move On
After this last experience I told several people I would sail one more day in Michigan this year (2010), and then I would be done! Wet feet and bruised ego the reason? Several thought it was fear of students, or a bad experience? Well students challenge me and experiences are part of the journey we call life, so why no more sailing? I might even be an instructor next year, so my reasons are elsewhere. (Yep, I signed up to teach the intro classes... and ended up helping with both shore and water classes! So temporary insanity has kept me sailing with a variety of people! So all you lucky people have benefited or been disadvantaged because of my temporary moments of insanity!)

I’m off to Barbados Sept 2010! Yes, it is finally true! I’m going and I hope to sail, scuba, work, take pictures, blog and enjoy. I hope some of you can arrange to come down and visit, and if you can that would be a great time! Find out more, see pictures, blog, at http://barbados.livelovelaughtv.com sorry I have more pictures then time, plus writing and updating my blog from Barbados was challenging.