Bird Island II

I really wanted to get in one more sail boat outing before winter set in.  And so when the opportunity to go sailing presented itself on Saturday I jumped at the chance.  Even better, most of the Earl crew decided that they wanted to go with me.  KaeLynn (my wife) doesn’t like small boats.  Of course, she didn’t mention this to me until I was half way finished building Nephi’s Courage.  Otherwise, I would never have taken up sailing as a hobby.  Brooklyn (my oldest) is too busy for small boats, and Sam (the baby) is too small to be considered as crew.  So they didn’t go with us.  However, even when the Earl clan is down three members there are still enough of us to fill a Puddle Duck Racer and a Mouse Boat to the point where it is probably dangerous to sail.

It took me the entire morning to get ready to go sailing, but the wait was worth it.  At long last I was getting ready to put Nephi’s Courage back in the water.  The new scheme to store the sails and spars all together properly hooked up saved about a half hour in rigging time.  Soon enough we were on the water.

I have Eliza to thank for the wet weather gear. It started to sprinkle a bit before we left the house, and so she rounded up all of the ponchos she could find, and then when she couldn’t find enough ponchos she fashioned makeshift ponchos for the girls out of garbage sacks. I am fat enough that I didn’t get cold, but my kids would have probably been in serious trouble without their trash bag wet weather gear. Plus, they looked amazing.

The ride out to Bird Island was pretty thrilling. The wind was blowing hard enough that we were really cruising. And the PDR was loaded high enough that it took a lot of balancing on my part to keep water from coming in over the sides. Looking back at the videos I am not entirely sure what I was thinking. We were all having an absolute blast, but it is pretty clear that there is very little margin for error. I’ve got almost no extra freeboard on the overloaded PDR, and if I had capsized the boat in that sort of weather my kids would have been very cold before we got safely back to shore.

This next video gives a pretty good taste of what it was like being packed into the Puddle Duck.

We then gave the camera to Eliza so that she could film from the mouse boat.

The one real advantage of towing a mouse boat behind the PDR is that it becomes very easy to get action shots of the boat sailing. Unfortunately, all of the shots are from behind. Still, you get a real feel for how fast we were moving.  The GPS clocked us at a maximum of 6.72 MPH, and the speed/time graphs look amazing.

The graph of speed over time makes it pretty clear when I ran Nephi's Courage aground.
The graph of speed over time makes it pretty clear when I ran Nephi’s Courage aground.

So, as you can imagine, it wasn’t long before we had arrived at Bird Island.

Arriving at Bird Island actually presented a bit of a problem. By the time we arrived at Bird Island the wind was almost directly behind us. I was spilling as much wind as I could, but I knew that with the girls in the way that there was going to be little chance of me being able to drop the main sail. So I had Zachary furl the jib, and then I simply raised the leeboard and tried to spill as much wind as possible. At the last moment I turned the boat into the wind and I beached the boat sideways. The beach was rockier than I remembered, and I felt the hull buckle a bit as it rode over some boulders, but that’s why I opted for 3/8 inch plywood for the bottom. I brailed up the main a bit once we were safely aground, and called it good. Abby hurt herself getting out of the boat, but I still think that this is one of the best pictures ever. I am pretty sure that I am biased though.

We only stopped on Bird Island long enough to take a picture. Abby had fallen and hurt her hand, and all of the kids were wet and cold.
We only stopped on Bird Island long enough to take a picture. Abby had fallen and hurt her hand, and all of the kids were wet and cold.  You still mostly see smiles though.  The kids assure me that the trip was super fun.  We are an adventure club after all.

Getting away from Bird Island turned out to be a bit of an adventure all by itself. Launching from a lee shore is always exciting. Launching two boats tied together is more than twice as exciting. Luckily Zac was now in the mouse boat, and he could be relied upon to keep the boat off of the rocks. I pushed Nephi’s Courage out until I was waist deep in the water, and then I jumped aboard.  Some quick thinking by Eliza kept me from swamping the boat further.  Once in the boat I proceeded to row like a madman away from the island.  Fortunately I was able to make a bit of headway even rowing into the wind.  I did make the mistake of lowering the leeboard too soon.  One particularly large wave dropped us straight down on a rock.  Not only did I do a bit of damage to the leeboard, but I had to wait for another wave to get us unstuck from the bottom of the lake.  Eventually, however, we were tacking away from Bird Island, and I was preparing for a long slog to windward back to the harbor.

Then inexplicably the wind died down completely.  You can see the calm on the speed/time graph above.  I tried ghosting along, but with a mouse boat in tow, and with the waves from the earlier heavy winds, it seemed like we were going sideways more than forward.  I pulled the boom up out of my way, and began rowing.  It was going to take us a long time to get home at 1.5 MPH though, and I started to worry.  After a few minutes of rowing Eliza said a prayer, and almost immediately the wind kicked back up again, this time from the north.  Next thing I knew we were running downwind towards home.

As you can see from the graph we didn’t travel quite as fast on the way back as we had on the way to the island, but we were still crushing it.  There was no way that the PDR was going to plane with that much weight in it, and I suspect that we were pushing right up again our hull speed nearly the entire trip.  Even wet and cold we were all having a great time.  Stella, in particular, sat up in the front and ate stuff out of the snack bucket like it was going out of style.

Zac managed to fall out of the mouse boat once we got back to the harbor.  It was my fault, I was rowing and asked him to move because he was digging the bow of the mouse boat into the water.  He was tired and he miscalculated and fell in the water.  Almost immediately he started to shiver.  I learned on our trip down the Colorado that he is very susceptible to hypothermia.  He simply doesn’t have enough body fat to give him much of a cushion against the elements.  Luckily were were only 50 yards from the dock in only about 2 feet of water.  I was able to get him into the running car within just a few minutes.  His sisters soon joined him there.

That left me to clean everything up, but that’s OK.  Putting the boat up is sort of fun.

We went home, showered, and then, as per tradition, we went to Baskin Robbins.

Best Day Ever.

I think that the GPS cut out before we got to Bird Island. I can verify that we did, in fact, land on the island though.
I think that the GPS cut out before we got to Bird Island. I can verify that we did, in fact, land on the island though.

Did you like this adventure?  Read about the first time my family and I made it to Bird Island.

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