I got a call first thing Saturday morning from the Club Nautique school director, who confirmed that there was enough wind that I could test for my Crew Overboard (COB) skills. Now normally, this skill would have already been tested for as part of the Skipper role, as well as a number of times previously. However, when I tested for Skipper, my COB demonstrations were less than stellar. I would either get to the “victim” (an inanimate object like a dock fender) moving too fast, or I would stop the boat before I got to the victim. So, I had to test for it separately, and had to prove I could do it expertly before I could be tested for my “tag”.
And of course, I was assigned the most demanding instructor to evaluate my skills. I had practiced and practiced, and indeed, discovered that my judgement about when to turn up into the wind to approach the victim did need some improvement. But now I had it down. I brought Rick along on this test so he could handle the lines for me (we have normally practiced with a crew of 4, each handling a different aspect of the COB recovery, with the person being tested at the wheel). It was a lot to ask Rick to handle all the lines, so I was hoping maybe I could elicit the help of the instructor as well.
So, Rick and I drove over from Sausalito to Alameda Saturday morning to check out a boat and prepare it for the instructor’s arrival. We took the boat out of the slip and into the Bay, and the instructor threw in a few other tests, like what to do if the motor fails while hugging the breakwater and no sails are up. I managed to respond in a way that kept us from the breakwater, but technically, my response should have been different. That was one lesson that came in handy when this same instructor asked me to do it again, in the real Tag. Good thing I learned then what to do! (BTW, you immediately steer away from any obstacle like a breakwater, then deploy the headsail for directional control, sail away from danger, and then deploy the mainsail after that).
So we get out into the Bay to demonstrate the COBs, and the instructor says to me, “So, it is just going to be you and Rick when you go cruising, right?” I said yes. “So, if Rick goes overboard, you are alone, right? In that case,” he said, “show me a single-handed COB rescue!” WHAT??? I was used to having 4 crew members to help me. How in the world do you do it single-handed, I wondered? Fortunately, the instructor actually instructed, and walked me through the steps of doing it single-handed. Some tips are that you use every available lull in activity to do something; for example, when you come about, you can throw the wheel over, and then use the few seconds it takes for the boat to come through the wind, to step away from the helm if need be, and turn on the motor. Some time during the maneuver, you throw the boom vang too, to depower the main. You let the jib backwind when you come about – no time to release one jib sheet and haul in another. And it is fine to use the engine to hurry or slow your approach to the victim, as long as you have it in neutral when you come up on the victim. Well, I did it, single-handed, perfectly, twice using the figure 8 approach and twice using the Lifesling-button hook approach. One more skill, checked off.
We got back to the dock and then stayed for a party that Club Nautique was throwing for new Coastal Passage Making students. I spoke to the group about what the program was like, we drank some wine and ate some goodies, and got back to the boat late that night.
I suspect that Sunday we spent tidying up the boat and starting to do the final touches in preparation for our Tag.