Taking the Tiller: Taking it up a Notch

Jibing is the topic of CW associate editor Kitty Martin's fifth sailing lesson, and it was a booming success.

The honeymoon is officially over. We'd barely left the dock last night when Kate told Bob and me, in no uncertain terms, that she didn't want to see any accidental jibes. The pressure was on. We saved practicing jibes-which was not entirely successful-for the end of the lesson, but to our credit and Kate's relief, there were no accidental ones. And who wants to get hit in the head with the boom, anyway? It's a darn good reason to pay attention, which, when you think about it, should be a given.

Immediately after our no-accidental-jibes warning, Kate told Bob and I that one of us would be handling the mainsheet and the tiller simultaneously while the other person trimmed the jib. Wisely, Kate had put a reef in the main before we left the dock because she didn't want us to be overpowered as we tried to master this new skill.

I was first at the tiller first, which was fine with me because thus far, I'd only done the jib once. I was apprehensive initially, but handling the tiller and the main at the same time wasn't nearly as arduous or complicated as I had it pegged to be. Bob picks up things very quickly and he seemed quite comfortable with the jib. We seemed to be working well in unison, and I knew were doing something right when Bob yelled out with sheer delight, "This is so much more fun than powerboating!"

When Bob and I switched places, I'd say that I had so-so success with coordinating the jib while Bob tacked: Too soon, no good, too late, just as bad. But we got it just right a few times, and Kate always lauds us when we do.

The least successful event of the evening was jibing, for Bob and me both. After several flubs by both of us, we finally started to grasp Kate's point that jibing is a very small movement. In fact, she helpfully pointed out many times throughout the lesson how just a matter of degrees, be it jibing or trimming or letting out the sheets makes a world of difference. Point taken.

Kate talks a lot while teaching, and Bob and I aren't shy about asking questions, so there's a boatload of information being bandied about. It borders on sensory overload, and I suspect I might not remember every little thing I've learned. But I'm light years ahead of where I was when I started.