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Our New Capri

Hi Everyone!
Thanks to winning an Ebay auction, I'm a proud owner of a new (old) Capri 14, number 4350. The auction ended on a Monday, we took possession on Wednesday, spent Saturday making her sea-worthy and got her wet on Sunday.

She's a '94 model with four previous owners. The first three skippers owned her for a couple years each, and the last owner kept her under his deck for most of the last six years, having sailed her only twice. There were no dings in the leading edges of the centerboard or rudder, and the sails still felt crisp, displaying vibrant colors. I suspect she's done a lot more sitting than sailing.

But that doesn't mean she came ready to go. She was missing a main sheet, centerboard shock cord and the pin that anchors the mast to the tabernacle. She also has lots of incidental damage from trailering and careless rigging. There are six deep chips through the gel coat, the worst of which is on the transom where either the mast or boom was dropped. At one point her cockpit was the storage bin for some rusty paint cans which left some pretty deep rings on the port seat. I'm not thinking she'll ever win any beauty contests.

Still, I couldn't be more pleased. This is my third small sailboat with the first two being a Sunfish and a Moth from way back when I was teenager more than 30 years ago. The Moth, constructed of solid Mahogany, was lost when the local sailing club burned to the ground - she was stored underneath. Since then I satisfied my sailing Jones from either crewing on other people's boats or renting a Hobie Cat now and then. From where I am with my somewhat meager sailing experience, the Capri 14 is a perfect fit for our small family. I really want to teach my two daughters how to sail just as soon as I learn enough myself.

The First Day Out

My in-laws live in a neighborhood on the Severn River outside Annapolis, MD, and I'm pretty familiar with their community marina. This past Sunday we hooked the Capri to the Toyota and headed out for my Mother-in-law's birthday celebration - a barbecue held at the marina's pavilion. They have a small runabout in a slip at the marina, and if the winds were too light for sailing, at least we'd get some time out on the water wasting precious gasoline. As it turned out, not enough air was the least of my worries.

The marina takes up most of Sullivan Cove which opens up into Round Bay which is a big, wide spot in the Severn River. Round Bay is fed by half a dozen small inlets, and is where the big sailboats on the Severn usually kill their motors and hoist their sails on their way out to the Chesapeake.

Sullivan Cove is on the North side of Round Bay and when we arrived at the marina, I was a bit concerned to find the wind blowing 15 knots out of the South. Normally this wouldn't bother me except this was a new boat I hadn't sailed before and the harbor was littered with motorboat slips and sailboat moorings. Without a motor, right from the beginning I would have to sail around these immovable objects. Oh well, down the ramp we went. Even if I completely chickened out, which seemed very likely, at the very least I would get some practice raising the mast and hoisting a sail or two, something I hadn't done yet with the Capri 14.

Once the mast was raised and the Capri was beached next to the ramp, I sat on one of her rails and considered the options. Directly opposite the ramp is a narrow channel most sailors used to exit the harbor. But it was due South and headed straight into the stiff wind. No sailboat has ever pointed that high. To the East of the channel is a pier and a row of 20 motorboat slips. West of the channel, about 20 yards offshore and parallel to the beach, is a row of 10 shallow slips not connected to land where motor boaters waded out to their boats.

The only option, barring having someone tow us out of the harbor, was to tack along the North side of the shallow slips between the motorboats and beach. Hopefully at the end of the row the water was deep enough to set the centerboard down low enough to come about and head directly into the sailboat mooring field. If we didn't make that turn, we would get blown ashore where the landowner at the end of the row had reinforced his eroding shoreline with some good-sized rocks. Have I mentioned the wind was about 15 knots, maybe gusting to 20? :eek:

It was at this point my wife walked up and asked, "Is there a problem?"

Even though she has sailed with me about six times, the last two times on the Atlantic; even though I'm usually the designated skipper when the family heads out on the runabout for a day of skiing and tubing; I never got the impression my wife ever really accepted me as any kind of competent sailor. With a bravura I didn't really feel, I replied, "Of course not." I didn't want to tell her we had only one chance of sailing off the beach and that chance was pretty slim.

We began with her holding the bow of the Capri about 15' offshore while I raised the sails. Then I beckoned her to join me amidships where I instructed her on her duties. "We" had never sailed a jib before and the little Cats we rented didn't have centerboards. Usually all she ever had to do was come along for the ride and switch sides during a tack. Today's sail would be far more complicated.

Not wanting to confuse her too much, I settled on a nomenclature I thought she would find easier to understand. The starboard jib sheet became the "right rope", the port jib sheet the "left rope" and the centerboard control was the "center rope". I told her that once underway it would be her responsibility to lower the centerboard gradually as we got into deeper water while I lowered the rudder. Piece of cake!

With her steadying the boat, I climbed aboard and told her to push the bow to starboard and hop on. In a matter of seconds, the main filled and we were off. While I fiddled with the rudder she uncleated the centerboard and I aimed the boat at the end of the row of slips. Unfortunately the shock cord I got for the centerboard wasn't strong enough to pull it down and I struggled to explain to my wife how she had to grab it manually and pull aft. Eventually she got it to swing down but by then we were already dangerously close to shore, headed past the end of the slips and for the rocks.

Luckily, just as we started coming about for the starboard tack, the centerboard ran aground stopping us shy of the rocks by about 10 yards. I forgot my own naming convention and instructed my wife to, 'Loosen the starboard jib sheet and pull in the port line". She looked at me dumbfounded saying, "What?" :confused:

With the jib still cleated tight to starboard, we came about just enough for the wind to fill it and quickly push us the rest of the way around, pivoting on the centerboard which was firmly stuck in the mud. As the main filled we started to seriously heel over which freed the centerboard. I reached around my wife to jerk the jib loose, the boat settled back down and we were off again on our new tack, past the row of slips, away from the rocks and headed directly for a large sailboat moored in our path. Did I mention the wind was blowing 15 knots and this little Capri is FAST. My adrenaline was pumping.

By now we were in deep(er) water where it was easy enough to steer the nimble little boat past the big sailboat before us. As soon as we made sure the rudder and centerboard were all the way down, we crossed the channel, heading into the Eastern field of moored sailboats. We waved to some of our relatives who were gathering on the end of the pier to watch. I doubt any of them knew how little confidence I felt barely a minute into our maiden voyage.

In the Eastern field the spaces started to get wider because many of the sailboats were out cruising. It was a spectacular day for sailing. I deftly steered the little Capri through the obstacles hearing my wife say occasionally, "You see that boat in front of us, don't you?" Half the time we came about she loosened the wrong line, leaving the jib hung up on the weather side of the boat, forcing me to loosen the main sail to keep from flipping. Lucky for us the jib alone isn't powerful enough on it's own to capsize the Capri or else we would've gone over at least three times. My confidence started to return.

In the end we had to tack 6 or 7 times to escape the cove, sailing around 20 or 30 moored sailboats. I suspect we were doing 10 knots when we crossed the 6 MPH buoy, heading into Round Bay. Out in the open I could start to think about little things like, 'What does a cunningham do anyway?'

All along I was exhilarated by how fast we were going. There was a light chop but our speed had us skipping across the wave tops as if the water was calm. Dead ahead were a couple of thirty footers sailing only 50 yards apart. They had reached the end of their tack on our side of the bay and came about in unison, suggesting they were racing down the salty river. Never before had I seen such large boats heeled over so far, almost exposing their keels. For joy, for joy. :)

I was tempted to steer the Capri into the race but my wife started to complain about how far we were heeling, too. The wind blew harder out in the open and frequent puffs threatened to send us swimming with the nettles. I tried hiking out to level the boat some, but every time I thought my butt was solidly hooked over the side, a gust would come along to push the boat over and slide me back into the cockpit. Has anyone ever hung a trapeze off one of these puppies? And do they make stickum for sailor pants? ;)

We sailed back and forth for another 30 minutes or so before deciding to head in. My better half was emotionally spent and I wasn't far behind. Running back down the channel into the harbor, I had trouble keeping the jib on the opposite side of the main. Is that what a whisker pole is for? I have so much to learn.

We beached the Capri 14 in the same spot we set out from but with a lot less excitement. While I was dropping the sails, my wife casually informed me I would have to invest in a motor before she would let me take our daughters out sailing. This seemed perfectly reasonable considering how tough it was exiting the cove. I figure we saved about $5,000 by purchasing a used boat compared to a similar boat purchased new. That's plenty of money for a motor and what's more, it will buy a lot of free time for getting to know this little gem of a sailboat. I can't wait!

Respectfully submitted,
Jim Mattson
Bon voyage

:cool: Just had to comment on a recent experience with my Capri that might get some smiles. I had just made the decision to sell my Capri in favor of something a bit larger (Daysailer or something). I decided to take it out for a final sail before the prospective buyers came to see it. I was questioning the sail as there was hardly any wind perceptible. Not even the leaves on the trees were moving. There were some dark clouds over the lake, but it was clearing nicely to the west. No rain or anything was in the marine forecast. I decided I would take it out for a brief sail. Upon leaving the mooring under sail, I suddenly felt the wind pick up. I was encouraged. Then some rain drops and the wind shifted. The boat went into irons when I tried to tack. I brought the boat back and suddenly a HUGE gust of wind caught me and capsized the boat. Suddenly there were two foot waves rolling into the harbor and I had attracted quite a bit of attention. I grabbed the centerboard and brought the boat up, but the wind grabbed the sails and threw it over again. It turtled and the mast bounced off the bottom as I tried to keep the boat from hitting the pier. Eventually, with the help of some people on the pier we managed to right the boat and get the sails down. All ended well as I tied back up at the mooring. I couldn't help but to speculate on the meaning of the whole event. I had never capsized the boat in 2 years of sailing on Lake Erie and Lake Ontario and this was really strange! I wasn't sure if it was a sign that I should be selling the boat or shouldn't be. I guess the debate is over as the boat sold today. I'm not sure if the buyers noticed the seaweed in the shrouds! Anyways, she was a great little boat to learn on and I'll probably be signing off from this forum. Thanks and best to all.



That's pronounced "Pie- rate- in" with the emphasis on the pie. The exact genesis of pirating slips my memory but I'm reasonably sure Dave was the first victim. He was the new guy at the sailing club and although there was nothing at all wrong with him, we didn't want him hanging out with us. Not only was he a year or two older but no matter where we went, Dave seemed to be there as if he were following us. The harder he tried to fit in, the more we ignored him.

One sunny Summer afternoon, my buddy Bob and I were on an expedition aboard my family's Sunfish to the head of the lake. We were surveying for a good campsite near the water. Most of our sailing lake was undeveloped and surrounded by dense forest. A secluded hideaway for our teenage antics would be all the more exciting if it were only accessible by boat.

Then we saw Dave set out on his Sunfish and pretty soon we noticed he was following us up the lake. We didn't know him very well but both of us agreed that revealing our mission might ruin everything. He had to be stopped.

I stalled the Sunfish so Dave could catch up. As he neared, we could see him smiling, not the least suspicious. Did he think we were letting him play in our reindeer games? I hope not.

When Dave's boat was near enough, Bob jumped off my boat and into the path of Dave's. Then he climbed aboard, grabbed Dave's mast and pulled hard, capsizing the Sunfish. Once Dave's sailboat was sufficiently immobilized, Bob swam back over to my boat and we were off. The whole operation took a minute and a half. In our wake came, "I'm gonna get you, Mattson!" Dave never sounded happier; he had finally got our attention. More importantly, we accidently discovered the most fun any fifteen year old kid could have on a small sailboat.

Dave confronted me with trash talk the next day at the sailing club. Rick, another older kid, was palling around with him, which gave Dave the gumption to say, "If you go out today, you're going over."

I laughed, "You couldn't sail your way out of a soggy paper bag, much less catch me on the lake."

Dave, "Oh, Yeah?!!!"

Me, "Yeah!"

And that's how it started. Dave and Rick jumped on Dave's boat, and Bob joined me on mine. We sailed out to the middle of the lake, jockeyed for position and then commenced pirating. I don't remember the details of our first sea battle except Rick pulled my boat over a couple times and Dave went over at least as often, laughing the whole time. Hey, that Dave fella was alright.

It became quickly apparent we would need some rules of engagement. First, no hitting or wrestling with the pirate capsizing your boat. Through dint of good seamanship, the best a captain could do was avoid being caught. Once the pirate grabbed your bow handle or mast, or any other part of the boat, that was it; you couldn't do anything more to defend yourself. A skipper in a boat had a major physical advantage in defending against the swimmer trying to climb aboard, and we were afraid of someone possibly drowning.

The second rule simply stated no turtling or permanently disabling the boarded vessel. Once the sail hit the water, that was it, the pirate had to quit. No uncleating the halyard or yanking out and tossing the centerboard. No riding the mast until the boat was upside down. No one wanted to tell their parents the family sailboat was wrecked, or major parts were on the bottom of the lake.

Of course, we were very young and naive. Little did we know how much we needed just one more rule.

The next day another boat got involved. Word spread and a few more kids drifted down to the water to see what was happening. Our club house wasn't anything fancier than a large wooden shack. There really wasn't any reason to visit the sailing club unless you wanted to sail, that is until we started pirating. Eventually we had upwards of five boats on the water at one time, partaking in a free-for-all real pirates likely never enjoyed.

It was exciting! You tried to position your boat close enough to the competition so your crew could jump off and board the enemy. Timing and wind direction were everything. If you judged your approach correctly, the other skipper would get caught and his crew would miss your boat and be left treading water. As a crewman, the last thing you wanted was jumping too soon and getting stranded. If a captain lost his crew in the water, the other fully manned boats could lay in between, waiting for the rescue. It's funny, but I can't remember any of us ever wearing any PFDs.

After a few days of pirating we were tired and thrilled all at once. The best skippers could often avoid a poorly-swimming pirate. The most successful crews were fast in the water and strong enough to pull themselves quickly up on the Sunfish. I became adept at sailing backwards where you held the boom to windward which propelled the boat in reverse. We also developed a very pirate-like tradition: when two boats went over simultaneously, the crews would switch sides, forming new allegiance to the captain of the boat they had just capsized.

Then it happened. It was Friday and two guys showed up early for pirating. John was out on his Sunfish with Rick's younger brother for a crew. They got bored waiting for the rest of us and made the fatal mistake of pirating the innocent and unsuspecting Robin. She was giving a sailboat ride to one of her new friends. The girls were not amused.

As it turned out, the passenger with Robin was the niece of the sailing club's commodore, who's family was enjoying a summertime visit to our neck of the woods. That night she told her uncle about the attack. He was not amused either. The next day, Saturday, as everyone gathered at the club for our weekly Sunfish regatta, us pirates were summoned before the commodore who told us in no uncertain terms if pirating didn't stop now, we would all be looking for someplace else to store our sailboats. Arrrrgh!!! :mad:

And now you know the final rule of pirating. Enjoy!