Use The Force
When we sail we use all our senses, but the one we rely most heavily on is our sight. This was brought home to me when I took my first Wednesday night keelboat lesson several years ago. I had grown accustomed to using the telltales on the shrouds to get a general sense of the wind when sailing the dinghies. I even carried some bits of yarn in case the boat I was on didn’t have any. I took the helm on the keelboat on a dark night and--oh crap--I couldn’t see the tell tales. I struggled that night, but realized that what had started as an aid had become a crutch.
The last Monday night advanced dinghy class, we worked on sailing without any sight at all. But you don’t need a class to try it. First make sure you have decent crew who is not blindfolded, and that you’re in an area with a lot of space (few boats and no obstructions). Pick a day with moderate wind. Put a blindfold on and try to hold a course. Your crew can give you feedback. Try to feel the puffs of wind before they hit the boat. Pay attention to the balance of the boat. Listen to the sound of the boat moving through the water. Play with the main sheet. Can you tell when the boat accelerates and decelerates? Smell your gear, yeah, you should probably wash it. Try sailing different points of sail. If you’re feeling confident try a tack.
It’s as easy as bagging womp rats back home in Beggar’s Canyon.
Thats a great idea! I used to do that when I was learning to windsurf. If I was having some inexplicable problem with sailing differently port and starb. I would close my eye for 10 seconds at a time, and my body adjusted to a more balanced position - and then I would open my eyes very slowly, and try not to change anything.
Sometimes, you have to find a way to push your ego out of the way of your body's natural instincts.
This was a great exercise in the advanced dinghy class. I figured out that the tension on the mainsheet was the clue. Head up until it slackens, and then head down until it tightens. And keep repeating. It's a little like flying "with the hood" in an airplane, except you're using different senses. Instead of the instruments, you have the wind on your ears, the tension on the mainsheet, ecc.
Very useful comment, John. I was there but I didn't figure that out.
By the way, Seamus, what the f*** is a "womp rat"?