Plug for a lug

Last week I took my Faering Cruiser (with balanced lug sail) out for what was supposed to be a pleasant spin on the South River, a Chesapeake tributary. The weather report  was 3 hours old, but I thought that was OK because the weather guessers had been predicting 5 - 7 mph winds that day for the last 3 days. It seemed like a pretty reliable forecast, it's what the wind had been doing all day so I thought I could trust it. Hah!

I was tacking back and forth across the river (about 1/2 mile wide at that point) when out in the middle of the river the wind started picking up (it was coming right up the river from the Chesapeake). Then it started picking up faster. I decided that after the next tack I'd head directly back to the marina, especially since I was seeing the occasional whitecap. The boat was handling it just fine, I was just concerned by the rate of change. As I got close to where I'd been thinking of tacking, all hell broke loose. The wind jumped to what I estimated was 30 mph (later found out that it was officially 24). All the flags on shore were straight out and there were whitecaps everywhere, with stream lines in the direction of the wind. If Jesus had been there He could have easily stepped from whitecap to whitecap. The waves were only a foot or so, but they were steep and slapped the side of the boat very hard, with lots of spray.

There was no way I'd have been able to tack with that kind of wind, so I decided to gybe. Unfortunately, I'd never gybed a sail that big in that kind of wind and wasn't prepared for the violence of the boom movement. It yanked the sheet right out of my hand and unrove one of the 4 lines in the sheet tackle. So there I was looking at the luff with the leech flapping in the wind ahead of the bow. Turns out that wasn't such a bad thing. The wind was still going strong, and when I got hold of the sheet and started to pull it back the boat was obviously overpressed. So I let it fly again and concentrated on steering while running before the wind.

The good news was that I was in a beach cruiser and the shore ahead of me was mud and reeds, so I steered between 2 moored boats, aimed between 2 logs on the beach, pulled up the centerboard and ran right up onto the mud. Of course, once I'd landed the boat broached in the surf that hadn't been there 10 minutes before, but there was enough mud for the whole length.

I secured the boat and waited a bit over an hour for the wind to die down and was able to get off parallel to the lee shore, tack a bit and safely sail back to the marina.

The point of posting this is to encourage anyone who's thinking about a balanced lug rig to go for it. It took a very violent gybe with no damage at all. If there were shrouds I'd have been knocked down. If the rig had had a gooseneck, it would have snapped. The jaws on a gaff would have snapped. Of all the rigs I've sailed, the only one that would have stood up as well is a boomless sprit and that may have led to a knockdown because of the lack of twist control.

I've never seen a sudden gust come up like that outside of a storm (the sky was clear and blue) so I was quite surprised. But I am very glad to have learned about this kind of windstorm in a balanced lug boat.




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RE: Plug for a lug

Thanks for sharing, Laszlo.  Having been in and around a lot of sailboats of all sizes in my younger years, in all sorts of conditions, yet I've never sailed a lug rig.  So it was with a leap of faith that I chose the Skerry with lug rig -- I'm hoping to wrap that baby up by mid-June and launch it into Spa Creek (in the final coats of varnish and paint now!).  And while your tale adds to my confidence that I made a good choice, I'll still hope I can avoid that on day 1.


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