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Steering Lesson

Schooner Woodwind saililng upwind
Schooner Woodwind sailing upwind

It was hot at the dock as we left for our 1:30 cruise.  The freshening breeze and the water cooled us down as we tacked out of the harbor.  One of our guests, Matt, asked how the rudder turned the boat.  I replied, “Come on up and take the helm and you will feel and understand what is going on.”  I told him to hold us on a steady course by adjusting the wheel.  He looked perplexed so I told him to focus on an object on land so that he could tell which way the boat was turning and then use the wheel, in small increments, to stop the turn.  He did as he was told and was delighted with the response.  Now I told to change course away from the wind (to the left) by turning about 4″ to the left.  The boat turned very slowly left.  I eased the main and we much more rapidly bore away to the new course.  He said, with a smile, “So it is not just the rudder that makes the boat turn?”  “Correct, like flying, it is the coordination of both sails and rudder that controls direction,” I answered.


We had been paralleling Woodwind to leeward and from behind as we close reached back to Annapolis from the Bay Bridges.  The passengers asked if we could pass the other boat.  “Probably not, but we can try.  I will need your help.”  Fortunately, Woodwind was fairly far upwind, which minimized her wind shadow.  Glenn (crew) was guiding one of our guests at the helm, freeing me to set sail trim.

Ospreys nesting in Annapolis, Severn River
Ospreys nesting in Annapolis, Severn River

We asked all our passengers to move to the windward side of the boat.  Some were reluctant at first but with some guidance and an outstretched arm, we moved everyone to windward which added to our stability and made the difference in speed.  Slowly we made gains on our twin.  The photo is not as in focus as I could have wished, but you get the idea of what we saw.

We turned into the harbor to see our Osprey feeding their newly hatched young (Photo thanks to Chantelle Delaney), which was a nice bonus to end an exciting trip.

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Schooner Woodwind