Morgan Fiddler Sunset OCSC

The Wayward Wind by Trevor Steel

It is an inescapable reality of learning to sail at OCSC in the summer that a south westerly wind will dominate the day in the Olympic Circle.  This is great for new sailors because it provides consistent breeze to sail and learn.  We raise sails heading towards the rock breakwater, bare away towards the south entrance and then tack once we are clear.  We sail out for a while, tack a few more times as we head west and then, when we are far enough away we turn back and gybe our way home.  The problem is, with this seemingly endless supply of south westerly wind we get complacent about the wind direction.  The next thing we know is that we’re not orienting the boat to the wind but to the local geography.  This is never more obviously than when we devious instructors pull a man-overboard-drill on a boat in the early Fall.

In Fall, the wind across the Bay becomes less predictable.  It might blow from the north-west, the south or even just plane north.  That’s fine provided we are aware of that.  With any luck this gets noticed at the dock and the boats raise their sails in a different part of the marina and all is well.  That is until that devious instructor drops BOB (OCSC’s simulated clumsy crew in the form of a detergent bottle) in the water.

What do we do when BOB hits the water? We go to beam reach and commence our well-practiced manoeuver.  The problem is that the ‘beam reach’ we choose is heading us in the direction of either Richmond or Emeryville, after all, that’s what we always do.  Great in a SW wind, not so great if the wind is coming from anywhere else.   The skipper has oriented the boat based on familiar geography, not the wind.  Does this really happen? You bet, we see it all the time.

A basic tenant of sailing is “Always (repeat), always, know from whenst the wind blows” and sail with the wind, and… if you’re out with an instructor, figure out where the boat will be headed on either beam reach long before BOB hits the water.  Everyone onboard will have a much more satisfying day.


Trevor Steel

“Sailing is one of the few remaining, truly honest activities available. In sailing there are no excuses…only consequences.”