27 Tales –
Lark on the Beach

by Fred Butler, Lark's present owner (see also Lark's entry in The Fleet)

Here is a sad picture of Lark on the Beach – it goes back to the winter of 1999 before I owned the boat, but I was part of the crew.

Lark On The Beach

It was a very blustery Sunday in January. The winds were gusting over 30 knots from the southeast, the seas were extremely choppy with white foam flying all over the place. The main was reefed and the genoa was wound up on the furler to about 1/4 size. The helmsman, an experienced skipper on his own J-36, was pushing the envelope as he is wont to do, trying to equalize as much as possible, the big ebb tide running.

But when he pushed the helm alee, Lark wouldn't tack beyond head to wind. Not enough power in the head sail! Quickly, try again – not much time to build speed – the beach is coming up fast. But alas she still wouldn't tack. One more time now, no time left. But still no response!

Move fast now, start the engine, time's up! Reverse, reverse! But that was like spitting into the very same wind – totally useless.

Then we felt the first bump and we knew we were in deep doo-doo. It was just 'sit on the boat' as it settled in the falling tide, at which point we just stepped off the deck onto the beach. All except the helmsman who stayed down below, out of sight as long as he could.

Epilogue: The insurance man (he moors his boat next to Lark at the WVYC and has crewed on Lark) arranged immediately to have Lark pulled off the beach at the next high tide, about 11:30 that night. The only problem was that the waves, as big as they were, tended to push Lark higher and higher onto the beach as the tide came in. We tried to minimize that by setting an anchor as far as possible seaward, but somebody stole the anchor – can you imagine?

The damage was surprisingly minor – the rudder was destroyed as Lark was pulled off the beach and there was some cosmetic damage done to the topsides. That's all! There were some nasty pointed rocks on the beach that would have written off Lark if we had landed on one.

Since Lark took me over as her owner, we have made several changes. We put a main traveller system on, and we still use the furler and that genoa, but only for cruising. We now carry a 153% genny, a #2 and a #3 for racing, and we added a second reefing point on the main. With Larry Bayer's help in getting the position right, we added genoa tracks on the deck this year which has made a tremendous difference to the sail shape and to our performance – we won the Wednesday night races in our division. If we had been flying the #3 and a double reefed main, I am confident we would have tacked OK and the helmsman wouldn't have had to wear a bag over his head to the awards banquet.