Friday, September 23, 2016

Sailing the schooner Opal

Ok I was "guest" not "crew" but whenever Opal went sailing there was a call-out for willing hands and I was pretty keen to help out (*).

As noted early, sailing was only attempted when going downwind as tacking a tall ship upwind in a narrow channel full of icebergs isn't much fun. But we did sail on 3 of the 6 full days on-board and tried out 6 of the 10 sails, which isn't bad.

You can see four of the sails in the photo at the top and there were also the two below:
Square rigged sails seem to have a lot more lines to manage and we had a go at almost all of them.

Most interesting was untying the lines holding the topsail and topgallant sails to their respective yards. This involved heading up the mast and then along the yards to the ends, untying knots as you went. The view was very impressive:
This pic was taken from another time when only went to the crows nest (with a glacier in the background).

However, an idea of what it was like out on the yard ends can be seen in this pic of the sailing instructor tying the lines (with an iceberg in the background):
We also hoisted the gaff rigged mainsail which involved lots of swigging and making sure the throat and head went up as at the same speed so the gaff was nearly horizontal.

The final sail was the course sail.

Then we could switch off the engine and properly sail. I had a go helming and remember going about 5 knots down Ofjord trying (successfully) not to steer into an iceberg.

Charts were pretty useless so it was good that visibility was excellent. The difference between charts and reality can be shown in the image below in which radar reflections from the mountains at the edges of the fjord can be seen to be very different from the chart's positions:
The Opal was at the centre of the channel at the time, not ramming into the cliffs. The blobs on the radar plot on the right are of course icebergs.

All in all, a lot of fun.

(*) ok, there was this time that the shout-out went to go up the rigging to furl and tie the topsail and topgallant and I said no thanks as had just had a double whisky and it seemed to fail the key health and safety test (**)

(**) namely, could I tell this story to mum without getting into trouble

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