Found I was to be close to the sailing club Saturday, so decided to call in even though the forecast was not great. Problem is that the forecast can be quite variable, so what it is at home can be quite different at the club. As I drove along the shore, the water was full of white caps under a gusty Northerly. White caps generally mean about 20 knots of winds - approximately 40 km/hr. If it is steady, then that is not to bad - they sail in that a lot on the Lakes in NSW. But down here, at the top of the Bay in a Northerly wind coming through the city buildings it is anything but steady. The forecast for the Bay was 15 - 20 knots rising to 20 - 25 in the afternoon with gusts to 35. That means that the gusts can be 40% stronger than the average - expect gusts up to 50 knots. Way above the boats capability let alone mine. Discretion being the better part of valour, I didn't even get the boat out. Some of my friends did and had their boats rigged, lots of discussion about whether to sail or not - boat breaking weather. The Race Officer read out the forecast plus the standard that it is at the discretion of the skipper whether to sail or not. Some hardy souls were going anyway. One of them - good boat, I used to be competitive with him until he built his new boat as a recovery exercise following his surgery - headed out. Wind swinging from North East to dead North, lots of bullets - small localised gusts, wind largely straight off the shore. About a hundred meters off the beache, he got hit by a gust, the nose of the boat pitched down loading up the mast which kinked about half way. Masts can do that and flick back, he straightened up, so did the mast, then it kinked back. As he limped back to shore the mast flicked from side to side at the kink, quite flexible but no break on the outside. What the inside was like, who knows? Hardy souls caught the boat as it came in, tipped out the water and carried it onto the shore. Fortunately nothing more than a new mast section and a day and a half's work setting it up. If it had snapped at the kink and gone through the deck - it would have been really expensive. Those with their boats still on shore de-rigged and put them away - discretion is definitely the better part of valour. There was a time when I would have gone out - I know my boat, I know the mast, it would take it, but these days - why risk it and yourself. After cancer you look at things differently. Sailor A wet sheet and a flowing sea, A wind that follows fast, And fills the white and rustling sail, And bends the gallant mast. Allan Cunningham,
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