Sailing Lake Powell
by Bruce Anderson
It was a pleasure to meet al the folksl at the
Lake Powell Messabout.
We (Randy, Dustin, and I) had a blast! We left Monday. Most everyone
else left Sunday morning. Both Sunday and Monday were BREEZY!!
most everyone else left Sunday morning
We took Randy's boat, and my Pirogue out before noon. We mostly
just tacked about, but you know how things go and it soon turned
into a race of sorts. "Hey, lets go out to the buoy!"
:) "Race ya!!"
The wind was fairly steady, and for some reason I could just
run away from Randy and Dustin and 5 minutes later they could
run away from me. It didn't seem to make any difference what tack
we were on. Maybe the Pirogue was a little faster running downwind,
but it was tough to tell.
for some reason I could just run away from
Randy and Dustin
I would get way ahead of them, and then slow down till they caught
up, and then they would just sail away leaving me in their wake,
figuratively and literally! Any way we were having a great time.
We had sailed over to the cove where they store the ferries when
we decided to sail up lake to a small cove where Dustin could
swim. Just as we left the ferries the wind picked up, and the
pirogue became a handful to sail :o
It was a down wind run to the small cove, and there were times
when I could feel the Pirogue accelerate and could of sworn it
was on a plane!! ;) When I tacked to make the cove I heeled over
and took on about 20 gallons of water ballast. After deciding
that I required more stability, she heeled over again, and filled
the hull with water. Needless to say, she didn't accelerate as
well as on the downwind run. I sailed it into the cove until the
leeboard hit the ground at which point Randy assisted in beaching
the boat. I believe I can claim with all honesty, that I did not
get knocked down, and regardless of the amount of water on board,
I sailed the boat to shore. :)
I bailed the pirogue while Randy and Dustin had their swim. After
a little discussion we decided that since the wind seemed to be
picking up, that it might be a good idea to sail back to the bay
where we were camping.
we decided to sail up lake to a small cove
where Dustin could swim
With Randy in the lead we headed out. It wasn't too long before
they again left me in their wake, which still baffles me to no
end, I mean the pirogue is longer, narrower lighter, and carries
more sail. Could it be the skipper?? I'll have to reevaluate the
skipper's skill level before the next sail! We crossed the bay
on a beam reach (?) just slightly up wind and on that course were
making good down lake progress. I tacked about 100 ft before the
You all have heard about the "Irons" right?? Yea, me
too. Just for information, one of the interesting things about
sailing a light (low mass) boat, that is overcanvased is that
when you tack into the wind the boat stops. First time for me.
Kind of interesting. Especially when you are sitting with a wet
butt in a pirogue so little freeboard that the big wakes from
passing power boats wash your elbow resting on the gun' ales.
sitting with a wet butt in a pirogue little
Having a limited amount of experience to draw upon, I was required
to spend some time contemplating my situation. Let's see, the
boat won't turn upwind. I am being blown into a cul-de-sac of
a lee shore. If I bear off to try to pick up some way, I'll be
driving deeper into the cove, and closer to the lee shore. No
beach. Just Rock. Hmmmmm. HEY if I put in opposite rudder, the
wind will blow be backwards, and the bow will come around into
the wind. Another new term that Randy taught me later that day
is "Hove To" or is it "Heave To" In either
case, the drift downwind slowed, but the bow didn't come around.
OK, well it is a pirogue and I do have a paddle, so I decide
to cheat, and break out the manual boat propulsion device. A couple
of good strong paddle strokes, and I realize I still have the
rudder over the wrong way, and She grabs the wind and races for
the shore!!. OOPS OK TACK!!!! Dead stop, RATZ Ok a little more
port rudder and some more paddle strokes and the bow comes around
through the wind!!!.
Things get kinda busy right about now, I have to stow the paddle,
sheet the sail, control the rudder, and wouldn't you know it a
gust blows MY HAT OFF!!. Oddly the same gust heels the boat WAY
over when I try to reach the hat. How does that happen!! ..........
Hey is that more fluid ballast coming aboard?? Oh good.
Those who have seen my hat will understand
At this point, an old nautical saying comes to mind, "One
hand for the boat, one hand for yourself............and to hell
with the hat!!!!" or something like that, I couldn't quite
remember it clearly then. Those who have seen my hat will understand
my next maneuver. I tacked back the way I came when I entered
the cove about an 1/8th of a mile (about as long as it takes to
reduce the cargo I was transporting back to Arizona. I decided
that what I had in the boat was not enough to combat the drought,
so out it went) and tacked back to get my HAT!!!
After recovering the hat, I realized that perhaps doing so was
not the better part of valor. There I was back in the same cove,
in the same predicament only MUCH closer to the ROCKS!. HA I have
experience on my side now!! I stow the hat.
The "exit the cove" evolution went well, and off we
go on an up-wind tack, and back on a course that will take me
back to the safety of our bay. Hey is it blowing stronger now????????????
Hmmmm I aaaahh can't seem to make much headway upwind and it looks
like more of the water wants to be hauled back to Arizona.
off we go on an up-wind tack
OK OK OK so lets see, I if I recall correctly when the boat heels
too much, let out the sheet, and/or turn up wind! Hmmmm the boat
doesn't seem to have any way any more............... Ok, sheet
in, and WHOOOOOAAAAA look at this thing heel, Ok, I gotta do something,
so it's downwind I go. Rudder hard a'port and even with the sail
out THIS BOAT CAN ACCELERATE DOWNWIND!!!.
The new system that I rigged to operate the rudder works great.
In fact you can just grab the rudder line, and give it a little
tug one way or the other, the rudder then moves and holds it's
position. Almost like having an autopilot. Or not.
So where were we, oh yea, the rudder is hard a-port and the boat
is accelerating like a scalded cat. Ya know if you are in a narrow,
overcanvased low freeboard boat with a rudder that will happily
stay where it is unless you do something REAL FAST will just gently
roll toward the outside of the turn as it makes the turn. In fact
IF you don't act REAL FAST, the boat will continue that gentle
roll until the starboard gun' ale is quite a bit below the mean
water line. At which point the boat ceases to perform the functions
of a boat, and begins to act more like a submarine.
Yep I didn't so much get blown down, as I capsized the boat as
a result of poor seamanship. :( Unfortunately, there was still
enough forward momentum in the craft that when the mast hit the
water the resultant forces exceeded the strength of the mast partner,
and the mast and the boat parted ways.
KaTOOSH could be used in any description of the above scenario.
Kind of an interesting side note is that about 30 seconds after
I was demasted and floundering in the middle of the lake a Large
Power Boat motored by not 100 yards away with out as much as a
"how do you do?". But then again I could have been a
little sensitive to such a situation at that time. Treading water
amidst the debris of a demasted vessel doesn't seem to be the
place for charitable thoughts concerning those who don't Heave
To, and render assistance.
Not to worry though, as soon as the mast separated from the pirogue
she righted herself and sat there full of water but happy as a
clam to be free of that damn canvas! After gathering my thoughts,
I began to wrap the mast booms and sail in it's own lines. During
that process Randy shows up, He had been keeping a weather eye
on me and had altered course to begin rescue operations as soon
as he saw me go over. I asked him to remain in the area incase
I could not self rescue, and continued the process.
Randy had been keeping a weather eye on
Once the sail was secured alongside the pirogue, I boarded her
from the bow after a little rest period. :) With the rudder and
leeboard in the water she was stable enough to get aft of the
center brace and begin bailing. Initially the on-board flotation
just kept the gun' ales above the waterline with me aboard, so
out one bucket, in one wave. I turned her into the wind and was
able to gain ground after some furious bailing. Soon she was high
The next order of business was to stow the sail assembly on board
so that it didn't interfere with paddling and operating the rudder.
A quick inventory revealed that not only did I recover the broken
part of the mast partner, but I also had my hat. :) Nothing lost
In the mean time Randy was "hove to" about 200 yards
away. I hailed him and asked him to come on over and toss me a
line. Seems that this was the first time that Randy had practiced
that maneuver and was having so much fun holding his position
that he told me to come to him????????????? Yes you are right
it was decision time. Either I paddle 200 yards in a crosswind
in confused seas, or Paddle maybe a mile in confused seas and
a crosswind. It did take me some time to analyze the situation,
and I decided that if I paddled to Randy, it would give him a
chance to practice another skill he had never tried in his new
The towing operation went well. Seems that if the towed boat
doesn't turn inside the towing boat when it's tacking up wind,
it can pull the towing boat into the irons. Huh how but that.
It only took three times before I learned that lesson. After 2
or 3 tacks, we beam reached right onto the landing point.
By definition, since I had to paddle to reach Randy, I had Self-Rescued.
The rest of the operation could be classified as a recovery. :p
In any case. With the Pirogue beached, Randy dropped off Dustin
and went back for another 3 hours of great sailing! I bailed the
Kayak, and went for a nice paddle in the sheltered waters of the
bay. Those little fingers go WAY back. What I thought was going
to be a mile paddle turned into about a 5 mile paddle, but it
was really mellow and a lot less exciting than sailing the Pirogue
in high winds. ;)
Those little fingers go WAY back.
The wind continued steady until late that night, and started
up with the sunrise. We had to pack up and leave on Monday, but
it sure seemed that Monday was going to be a great sailing day
The loading leaving and getting home was pretty uneventful. One
more thing. If the ferry you are trying to catch is going to leave
on odd hours, it's a good idea to change your watches to the same
time zone as the ferry. :) But then again sitting around an extra
hour waiting for the ferry can go by fast when you are watching
a stuck diesel Semi Tractor Trailer Truck in the water at the
loading ramp with a houseboat askew on it's submerged trailer
sinking. Don't know how that drama ended, the ferry showed up.
The wind continued steady until late that night
That was it. It was kinda a shame that the only good sailing
wind came after most folks left.
Lets do this again next year!