Joe Wheeler Lake Sail

My second outing - and first real sail was to Lake Joe Wheeler in North Alabama. I put in from Bay Hill Marina. This was fun but also a test of wills.

Putting in

No Strings Attached lies at the ramp after launching.

Setup took 1 1/2 hours. This is because I had quite a task sorting out the various lines in the sprit rig. I've only done this maybe 3 times. I think if I further practice and develop a set routine that I can get the setup time to 30 minutes.

As soon as I put the boat in the water and started pushing it off the ramp I realized that I had a very shallow ramp. It was difficult but I got the boat off. Next, I climbed onboard. The wind was blowing from left to right in the picture. On the left was toward Lake Wheeler. On the right was a turning basin. The plan was to let the boat drift down a bit, then start the motor, line her up, and bring her nose near the trailer where Debbie could grab it.

This didn't work out exactly as planned. The channel is quite narrow. The wind caught the bow of the boat and forced her to point toward the turning basin. I quickly realized I could not easily turn the boat while in the channel. So I motored down to the turning basin. I barely had room to turn there. At this point I remembered I had to push the tiller back to turn the rudder at the sharp angle necessary for turning. The plans mention that while sailing it is not necessary to turn the rudder more than a moderate angle to effect steering. More rudder angle results in the barn door effect which slows the boat down. While running the trolling motor things are a bit different. Here I don't want to go fast but I want to get the boat turned around. I vectored the trolling motor thrust and put it into reverse. The long skeg (per the plans) makes the boat not turn as readily as the flat bottomed Daniel G would. As it turned out the boat turned best with a bit of headway on and the rudder turned over hard.

After about 10 minutes of this I maneuvered the boat up to the boat ramp. To make a long story short I tied it off to a rock. This boat ramp was primitive - it had no dock or specific place to tie it off.


After parking the trailer, Debbie and I climbed in. Again the wind caught the bow and turned us around. I tried to turn in the channel but ended up going up the bay between the covered boat docks of Bay Hill Marina that you see in the picture. Then the wind blew us agains the dock. We had to fend off. The mizzen got caught on the bracket of a satellite dish - probably the only one in the whole danged marina! And the main scraped against the roof of the dock. I pushed us back out to the channel using paddles to shove off. Then I was able to get the bow pointed toward the lake. The wind was still blowing toward the turning basin. I motored about 200 yards out into the lake before putting up sails to give me enough sea room.

I managed to get a fairly decent trim to the main. I realized though, that I still need to put grommets in the luff and lace it to the mainmast.


I also got the mizzen to a good trim. The sprit rig has a bit of a learning curve.

We had a good breeze. While reaching I acheved a consistent speed of 3.5 knots and as much as 4.3 knots. The boat really came alive. Debbie said water was spurting into the cabin from somewhere inside. I looked and saw that it was coming out of the top of the centerboard case. I decided it wasn't a big problem. I later had to sponge a gallon of water out. I put on my todo list to seal up the centerboard case with silicone II and screw it down. I don't think I will be removing it very often but if I do it won't be difficult.


Debbie enjoys the sail.

We sailed across lake Wheeler - about 1 1/2 miles or so, then tacked back. I was sort of ready to go in but I was downriver from where we put in. I was not sure the trolling motor would carry us back to the ramp. So I tacked again. I sailed all the way across, then tacked back. I had to use the trolling motor to aid the tack but that was because I don't have the mainsail laced to the mast yet. I arrived just upriver from the inlet. I lowered the sails and started the trolling motor to come in.

I came to the realization that I need to install two additional cleats so that I have a cleat for each of the brail line, main halyard, and jib halyard. I found in several instances I was having to undo one or two cleat knots and holding the lines while adjusting one line - which was tedious and time consuming.

Taking out

Getting the boat out of the water proved difficult too. I backed the trailer down the ramp at an angle. I did not consider it of any major consequence until I tried to get the boat centerd on the trailer. After wading chest deep in the water to get the boat centered, I realized that one of the bunks was sticking out of the water. I pushed the boat aside and channeled my frustration into lifting the trailer and moving it so it was perpendicular to the shore. I was then able to center the boat and have Debbie turn the crank and winch it in. All the while someone else was waiting to use the ramp. They left before I finished. With great relief I pulled the boat out of the water. Also on my todo list to install centering aids on the trailer. I'll take the marine surveyer's advice and put pvc pipe guides on the sides.

I wrapped things up. As I approached home I realized the truck's gas tank was nearly empty. I think I trailered the boat about 100 miles - on 10 gallons of gas. Indications are that the trolling motor battery was discharged only about 17 amp hours though.