That Was A Surprise

November 5, 2016

Decisions, decisions.  A good decision I made today was not shaking out the reef in the mainsail.  I was sorely tempted.  My ghosting during the first 15-20 minutes or so almost had me coming back in the marina, as a boat from the sailing club did.  The water was very unusual: it seemed to be uniformly rippling, but that seemed to be an indicator of almost no wind, and I was very frustrated before I saw another boat heading toward the bridge.  Mind you, that wasn’t where I wanted to sail, but it seemed like I might catch a puff by heading that way.  I did.

The puff I caught took me back and forth for about 30-50 minutes, as I sailed toward Solomons, then back toward the base. I even thought I might sail into the marina again.  After some pleasant minutes at this little pastime, the wind built incredibly fast, so much so that I reefed the Genoa into a storm jib.  That was harder than it should have been, but I kept my head about me, and also lowered the main so I could motor back to the marina.  While not at its best, Hercules did get me back into the west basin.  And surprisingly, it didn’t stall at low idle, either going forward, or backwards down the fairway.  And that was a win.

Engine                                     40 minutes, and in need of maintenance

Sails                                         Main reefed; Genoa mostly out, then storm

Chop, current                          Completely dead, then moderate

Wind                                       Low to very high: storm jib worthy

Time                                        2.5 hours

Sailing Back In

October 26, 2016

 

The sailing into the west basin wasn’t the primary feature of today’s sail, but it’s probably the only truly unique event.

 

I headed out at around 2:40 pm allowing myself to get out and back in prior to the sunset and cold weather.  I chose this day because it was probably the only day I could go out other than Sunday, plus other days the wind was going to be too high for me to sail.  As I went out — after having to start Hercules four or five times — I noticed that a couple of boats were coming in, and very few were out at all.  This always makes me nervous, so I decided I didn’t really need to hit the bay.  Actually, during my back and forth time toward Solomons, I was making good progress toward the bay, and probably could have made it perhaps 30 minutes later.  As I began making more and progress through my tacks, I noticed that another boat was heeling nicely and moving a bit faster than me — and it seemed to be sailing parallel to me but with a different direction of wind.  While that didn’t make sense, that what I thought was going on.

 

Today was also the time to try different points of sail.  Usually, I sail between a beam reach and close hauled, so today I thought I might sail in front of the marina by sailing at a broad reach.  It was actually fund, and one more illustration that I need to be conscious and more active in sailing on many different points of sail.  This latter point of sail, basically a broad reach took me close enough that I decided I would sail into the marina, and after a couple of tacks and a lot of patience, I made it!  Just as I was lined up perfectly I noticed one of the schooners from the sailing club, and it looked as though it was heading out which would have screwed me up incredibly.  Fortunately, they didn’t come to the breakwater, and I very slowly made my way in.

 

Once within the breakwater, I lowered and secured the sails as two Coast Guard boats looked at me quite curiously, but I wasn’t worried about safety given the low winds and control I had.

 

A quick start of Hercules (4 or 5 again) and I motored toward the fairway, and reversed without stalling into slip # C-27.

 

So second time sailing into the marina.

 

Engine                                     30 minutes

Sails                                         Main reefed, Genoa mostly full

Chop, current                          slow current; low chop

Wind                                       about 7 mph

Time                                        2.5 hours

Brrrr….

October 15, 2016

 

I got a chance to head out for a few hours on a Saturday, and didn’t really think anything of it.  I mean, I thought it would be nice, but just didn’t want to have a crappy time.  My only real concern was about the stalling and odd throttle issue with Hercules, and it turned out that was a reasonable concern.

 

Well, the sail was actually good enough.  The wind was blowing such that I really didn’t feel the need to head to the bay, so I preferred to just sail back and forth from the west basin to Solomons and back.  I allowed myself to ghost along and let the sails catch the wind when I could, and it was nice and comfortable.  I did notice that boats started coming in a lot earlier than I thought they would.  I eventually found out why: as the sun just started to think about setting — still around 5:00 or so, mind you — it got cold — cold enough that I started kicking myself for not turning back to shore about 10 minutes sooner.

 

Once the sails were stowed, I started up Hercules, which didn’t want to stay on for the first few times, then motored safely and smoothly into the breakwater and the west basin without having to keep pressure on the throttle.  This means it’s all good, right?  Nope.  Once I changed direction to reverse. Hercules stalled.  Twice.  Fortunately I was able to massage Ilya into the skip without hitting anything, and all was well.

 

It’s a terrible irony that the wind is so poor during the summer when the air is warm, yet it’s often a lot stronger when it’s just too cold out there!

 

Engine                                     40 minutes

Sails                                         Main and Genoa reefed

Chop, current                          moderate current; intermittent high chop

Wind                                       slow at first then building to 10ish

Time                                        3 hours

Could Have Been Better

September 24, 2016

This should have been a better day, and it was.  The wind started out light even for me, but I was still reluctant to raise the main fully.  That eventually turned out to be a fine decision: I could have shaken it out, but I really didn’t have to.  I mean, the wind did die down, but I’m not convinced that having the main at full would have made much difference.

The wind was very odd.  In the beginning, I could only sail back and forth in the river, kind of in front of the marina, but since I am very uncomfortable heading toward the bridge, I thought it best to try to head to the bay.  After several tacks and playing with the wind episodes, including direction changes of almost 90 degrees (seriously!) I made my way into the bay, just as the wind was dying.  To be fair, it was dying as I moved toward the bay, and the smart sailor would have taken that as a sign to turn back in, but that’s hardly me (the smart sailor, I mean), so I stayed in the entrance to the bay far too long, and had to motor all the way back in, though I allowed myself to ghost for quite awhile, even once I lowered the main and had only the Genoa deployed.

It might have been possible to sail slowly back toward the marina, but I doubt it, given how light the winds had become.

On the way back in, Hercules performed well, but that was partly because I put very minimal pressure on the throttle so it kept up the rpms.  When I finally left off some of the pressure, it began to sound like it was missing.  I still did okay, until I lowered it to an idle and reversed.  The reverse kept trying to stall, and there’s nothing more nerve wracking than an engine stalling in the fairway when anything — boats, piers, etc. — can get lamed into.

After gunning the reverse gear several times, I backed into the slip, but I still don’t know what’s going on with Hercules.  I was more confident coming back in but now much less confident once back in the marina.

Engine:                        40 minutes

Sails:                           Reefed main, mostly full Genoa

Chop, current              Moderate, 1-2 feet

Wind                           Peaking at 10, then dead

Time                            4 hours

 

Nope, Not Gonna Happen

September 23, 2016

 

I wasn’t sure about this from the beginning.  My hope was to head out for a few hours before heading to the county fair with my students.  Given the wind and the wave motion, I was antsy even before I left the slip.

Given my doubts, I decided not the raise the main in the west basin, and shortly after clearing the breakwater completely, I deployed the Genoa at about half way, and immediately, was pushed back toward the rocks.   Given that I had (also wisely) not turned off the engine, I simply turned more radically and went back in, though the process of getting through the breakwater was very difficult, and I still don’t understand what happened — or in this case didn’t happen.  After all, I had the engine at a nice rpm, and I didn’t think the current was that strong, but perhaps it was.

I also noticed some hesitation with Hercules as I lowered the rpm, which concerned me.

I was happy to park Ilya back in the slip.

Engine:                        ½ hour

Sails:                           Only Genoa for 2 Minutes

Chop, current              Medium current, with 1-2 feet chop

Wind                           Peaking at over 12

 

Well, That Was Unexpected

September 18, 2016

 

This was really not the better of the weekend days for a sail, but I had a project to work on for my boss’ boss, in addition to watching my favorite college volleyball team play.  So, since Saturday was out (as was any night during the week) my wife and I went out on Sunday.

 

The wind seemed extremely light in West Basin, though I maintained the single ref the sail as we headed out.  The current didn’t seem too bad, and the wind was practically dead so I decided shake out the reef and go with a full main.  It took a while to get going, but eventually, the wind increased and we go some great tacks as we headed — sort of — to the bay.

 

We handled the tack pretty well, and few powerboats were out to annoy us, when the wind suddenly grew in intensity, and we were forced to reef the jib.  I probably could have (should have!) reefed the main as well, but the wind was high enough that I was concerned we would lose too much control.  Of course, that’s what reefing is designed to address, but I was concerned that it would be tougher with my wife in the boat as compared to when I singlehand.

 

When we finally looked to come in, we heaved to, but even that didn’t work as normally planned because of the very strong current.  Having my wife control the tiller as I lowered the sails was certainly a blessing, and we finally motored back into West Basin.  This could easily have been the strongest current in which we’ve sailed, and it really caught me off guard.

 

Hercules concerned me with what seemed like missing in the engine.  However, when I held my hand on the throttle at a slightly higher rpm, it hummed beautifully.

 

Engine                           40 minutes

 

Sails                               Full, with some reefing of Genoa, including going with a “storm jib”

 

Chop, current                 Moderate to begin with, then very strong and high

 

Wind                              Slow, then gusting as high as 13 or 14; a steady 11+ back in

West Basin

 

Time                               3 hours

A First and an Almost Second

September 10, 2016

 

My time on the river and in the bay was really different today.  Once I was out on the river, the wind just died, yet I could see two of the sailing club boats in the distance turning near the helicopter pad area then heading toward the red marker for Drum Point.  While I had already deployed my sails and started ghosting, I decided to use the iron wind a bit more so I could catch a puff.  Eventually, I cut the engine — probably too early — and found myself just dead in the water.  Since I learned to have patience, I was eventually rewarded with a really nice puff that took me toward the middle of the river.  This started a back and forth sailing time routine catching the same puff over the over again from different directions.  After about a half hour, I found myself in a position to make it to the bay.

 

The forecast from NOAA for today was a bit scary, as it was talking about high gusts up to 20 but certainly in the mid teens, while the weather channel forecast talked about 8-10 miles an hour winds.  As I started to beat toward the bay very smoothly, I could feel the wind hitting somewhere near 10, but since the wind was so dead earlier, I didn’t have my windmeter in the cockpit to be sure of this.  The beating into the bay was actually nice, and it reminded me of a time earlier in the season when I shouldn’t have gone out there.  I did see a couple of boats, including Wavedancer, which is either in my marina or across the river in Spring Cove, and it is owned by someone I know from boy scouts.  There was also a large boat with an R on the sail that was handling things quite well.  I considered going back in as the wind and chop built, and some boats were doing just that, but I soldiered on.  Finally, I decided to go as far as the green buoy (#1, though I’m not really sure) and turn back, which is what I did.

 

Since I was determined to use the sails as long as possible, I had to tack and lot more back and forth to get back in the river, and even had to avoid a PWC and a couple of fishing boats, but I felt real “sailor-y.”  That’s when my first happened.  I heard something hit the bottom, and thought “I’m still in the channel, I can’t have hit bottom.”  I also remember a big ass boat that had gone in probably the same area and hadn’t hit bottom.  Ilya’s swing keel is only around 4 feet in depth, so I shouldn’t have hit anything.  Then, I hit again and slowed down.  I quickly went to the crank, raised the keel some, and eventually sailed myself off.

 

I just kept my sailing going and thought as the wind got more moderate that I might be able to sail back into the marina.  This would probably be tough, but as a bonehead anyway, the fact that I considered this shouldn’t have surprised me or anyone who knows me.  Thus began the second challenge, and I really thought I accomplished it about three times.  On two of the occasions, large schooners from the sailing club were coming out of the breakwater just as I was getting in so I had to do a 270 degree turn to avoid hitting them.  It seemed like no matter how much speed I had as I got to the breakwater, I just couldn’t get in without hitting the rocks by the green buoy.  I didn’t actually hit the rocks, mind you, but that was going to happen if I didn’t watch out.  One reason for this is that the current was rather strong coming out of the marina.  If it hadn’t been for that, my forward momentum would have let me in the basin.  So, I almost sailed in the marina for the second time, the first time four or so years ago being out of necessity when I broke the on/ off switch on Hercules.  The only consolation is that Bay Break didn’t even try to sail in — though I am reasonably sure that he could have done it and that would have really ticked me off.

 

Engine                                     30 minutes

Sails                                         Full, with some reefing of Genoa

Chop, current                          moderate current; intermittent high chop

Wind                                       slow, then gusting as high as 13 or 14

Time                                        4 hours