Duckworks - Outings
The Online Magazine For Amateur Boat Builders

Pictures from an Outing Last Sunday
by Gary Blankenship

This is why sailors can become prolific swearers.

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A sportboat heads back into Shell Point (click to enlarge images)

It was a beautiful, early spring day on northern Gulf of Mexico. It was breezy, but not quite strong enough to require a reef. I had my new 5 megapixel digital camera along, hoping to take some sailboat pictures. Some nice pictures were already on the memory card of a sport sailboat what was coming in the channel to Shell Point, FL, as Le Dulci-Mer, our 30-foot balanced lugger, was leaving. And I had shouted to another sailboat, Dragon Dance, about 32 feet or so, that was departing with me to cruise by after their sails were up and I would shoot some “action” pictures of their boat.

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Dragon Dance comes by for some pictures.

The wind was such that the Le Dulci-Mer’s sail was raised on the “bad” tack, with the yard and sail against the mast. My usual practice is after eventually coming around to the “good” tack where the leverage is a bit better is to crank on the halyard winch a bit more and make sure the sail is all the way up. This time as I loosed the halyard on the cleat, it was clear the halyard was jammed. The scene was ripe for some deterioration in the language department.

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Le Dulci-Mer-I'm the one with the camera
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Le Dulci-Mer

This time, though, pulling on the downhaul brought no snap of sudden freedom as it had before, although the sail did come down a bit. Eventually it became obvious the new halyard had jumped the sheave. The good news is using the downhaul, the sail could be forced down, but, as we powered back in, I sourly contemplated losing a day of perfect sailing.

Eventually it penetrated my limited wit that the spare halyard could be attached out on the water as well as at the dock, even though conditions were a bit bumpy. The spare halyard was actually being used to hold up the lazy jacks/topping lift, but there are two other lines that run to the masthead for just such circumstances.

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A Tartan heads out for some sailing.

There was a pause to take some more pictures of a 30-something foot Tartan that was coming out the channel, and then to the task. There was (as Herb Payson once put it) a lot of hoisting and antihoisting of lines but eventually the spare halyard was attached and the sail was reset. After a couple of tacks, the autopilot was hooked up as we headed out close hauled and I heated some soup and had some snacks.

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A Freedom 32, backlit as it sails by.

The day only got better. Soon I could see four boats coming up behind me, slowly gaining. (When you use a four-sided sail, you get used to the marconi’s catching you on the wind.) The first up was a sharp looking Freedom 32, and a shot several pictures. We got close enough that I was able to shout over my email address so the owner could get copies.

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The Freedom 32 and the “69" boat beat past.

Next up was a boat of about similar size but with a lower freeboard. I couldn’t see a name, other than the number “69" on the bow. I got some more shots, and then the Freedom ducked under my stern and I got shots of both as they sailed past.

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This craft, a sleek looking racer, beats up to Le Dulci-Mer.

By now the Sun was well on its downward journey and it was time to think about returning, as the lower the Sun got, the colder it would get. Both the Freedom and “69" had tacked back, while a Lancer 29 had caught up to me. The Lancer and Le Dulci-Mer tacked back at the same time, and I got several pictures as we both reached back, and was able to give them my e-mail. It turned out this was a poignant sail for them, the test sail for the new buyer and probably the last for the old owner.

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The Lancer 29 heads in, evenly matched for speed with Le Dulci-Mer.

I put the camera away and concentrated on enjoying the sail back, a reach in ideal winds. It turned out that the Lancer and Le Dulci-Mer were well matched on that point of sail. In more than five (statute) miles of sailing, at an average speed of six knots with some bursts in gusts to near seven, our position didn’t change by 50 feet. We covered the distance in 45 minutes.

The icing on the day is I sent some of the picture files to my brother who is a professional photographer and custom digital print maker. (You can visit his website at He in turn sent one back, showing me the latest enhancements he was playing with, which introduce a painting-like quality to the pictures.

And now I look back on that recent day and wonder: Why would anyone ever say a bad word about or while sailing?

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Dragon Dance as I photographed it, and an artistic interpretation by Randy Blankenship. (Copyright, Randy Blankenship)