Third Time’s the Charm and How Fast Again?

August 16, 2015

This was an awesome day. With my wife and our friend doing the shopping thing, Ellen said “why don’t you go to the boat today.” She didn’t have to ask me twice. I arrived at the marina sometime around 2:00 – 2:30, and was easily able to head out onto the river. The wind was coming from the marina shore, so I was able to raise the reefed main pretty early and head toward the bay, not because I had to “get to the bay,” rather because it was the logical place to head. Once I unfurled most of the genoa, I was off. The current was working against me as it usually does, but I was still able to make steady progress. However, I could see that on the tack I was taking, I was unlikely to be able to sail within the red marker on the Solomons shore. That proved to be the case. On two occasions, I was unable to make it and had to change tacks. One time, I had to change tacks by turning ¾ of the way around because a powerboat’s wake had sapped all my forward momentum. On the third time trying to head out, I made it, and continued for quite a ways out.

I was tempted to try to head all the way across the bay to the eastern shore, but knew that wouldn’t have been a good idea. Apparently, to get to the community of Fishing Creek would be about 15 nautical miles from west basin marina, which would take perhaps no more than 3 hours on an average day, so I think that will be my first across-the-bay destination.

The heading that I took to get out to the bay was held for about another hour as I sailed through a number of buoys indicating crab pots, and by a number of fishing boats, with their entourage of seagulls and pelicans. The pelican can be seen in the distance ahead of Ilya in the picture. 20150816_160650 with pelican

My speed got up to and beyond 6 mph, and I began trying to notice how far I was from west basin versus the eastern shore. Eventually, at about 4:10 pm, I took the opposite heading and headed back to the marina. For a while, another boat was behind me to my right, and eventually passed me. Can’t say I was happy about that, but I did realize that their sails were fully out, while mine were reefed, plus it was a bigger boat, so it has higher speed potential. What was really impressive was that this boat was closer to Drum Point than I was, yet still managed to avoid going aground. I was conscious the whole time that I needed to sail close enough to the wind to avoid grounding, yet this boat just seemed to get nowhere near the shore enough to worry about it.

One thing I learned today was that I could sail a lot closer to the wind than I thought I could — maybe this comes at least partially from the higher wind velocity today. I was able to sail with the wind indicator actually on the rear flags, and so long as I didn’t get the rear of the indicator inside the flags I was okay, which allowed me to sail another 5 degrees closer to the wind. After unfurling the remainder of my genoa, I continued to build speed once inside Drum Point, and got up to 7.1 mph, which translates to 6.17 knots, and is less than .3 mph away from theoretical hull speed. It’s funny how while the speed was up there, it didn’t feel as fast as I thought it would, though that is probably because I’ve been pushing myself to become more comfortable with speed and heeling so much this year.

Though I gotta tell you, 7.1 still felt good.

Surprise, Surprise

August 15, 2015

Yeah, I was surprised. The winds didn’t suggest anything particularly great, and we (my wife, a long time friend and I) got a later start that I would have liked. I was still reefed (Capt. Reef will never die) and headed out with only the expectation that there was at least some wind so it would likely be a whole lot better than my no-wind sail on Thursday, August 13.

Well, the wind was good enough for a lot of back and forth runs across the river, and we were able to handle several annoying powerboaters who kept taunting us with their wakes. We also encountered a really nice powerboater who slowed down long before and after going by us, then sped up. I wish I got the name of his boat to include here.

We — actually it was me, since I was doing pretty much all of the work — eventually shook out the reef and got up to about 5 mph (about 4.4 knots), and while not fast, certainly felt pretty nice. While sailing, we saw two ospreys carrying fish they had just captured, and saw a cormorant on a large metal float. We almost got to the bay, but just then the wind died, so we turned around and headed back to the river. At some point, some of the motion got to my wife, so we started back to the marina in earnest.

Today was good practice in figuring out how to take multiple people out on the boat, since I have promised several of my students that I would take them out. Learning how to sail the boat with more people on board — and finding things they can do to help — is always tough for me. But, today was definitely a good day and a step in the right direction.

Wind and Powerboaters

August 9, 2015

Moral of the story first: never go sailing (okay, try to seldom go sailing) when you’re on a schedule. I headed out to the river at around 9:00 am, and was surprised by how serene it was. The water was almost like glass, and there were very few boats out. I thought: this is the perfect time to head out. Why do I always go out in the late afternoon?

Of course, with all that serenity and steady water came the very low winds which would plague me the whole time I was out. Never mind that I also realized my fuel was low and I needed to head to the Calvert Marina to get more — that was really a pain.

Beyond that, I still struggled with the wind, though I got a few nice puffs. The greater hassle was that as it got closer to noonish, all the powerboaters came out, and unfortunately, the nicer powerboaters stayed in, while only the jerks were out. Do they really have to race each other when they see a bunch of sailboats trying not to capsize from their powerboat wakes? They must think so.

The biggest realization was that I could have easily stayed longer and taken advantage of the building winds, but I wanted to see my daughter in a 6 v 6 tournament at her volleyball camp. Which just reminded me that having a schedule when you’re trying to enjoy time on the water may not be the best thing.

Bang the Mast Slowly

August 8, 2015

Well, I finally went back to the boat and decided to be more aggressive when trying to close the slot in the mast for either a bolt rope or slugs. The conventional wisdom says to use a hammer and a wooden block — the wooden block helps to spread the force of the hammer blow so it won’t unduly damage the mast. I tried that with a variation — I used a rubber mallet and the wooden block. And while this did close the mast somewhat, it didn’t have the effect I wanted.

So, I went back to the boat and tried doing it with the rubber mallet hitting the mast directly. A risk, but I was willing to take it. It worked! So well that while I could still install the slugs, I couldn’t install the sail stop, but I just widened one part of the slot enough to accept the sail stop, and I was done. Now, I have to find some kind of pin that will prevent the slugs from dropping out then remove the stop, and I should be done.

I hope this works as well for me as it has for other people.


August 5, 2015

Thanks to this blog and a half decent memory, I remembered to keep the mainsail reefed to begin sailing today. Winds were somewhere around 8-10 miles per hour, so I decided I could always shake out the reef if necessary. It was only when I was safely out on the river and raised the sail that I noticed that I had improperly rigged the reefing line. The line is supposed to go through the reinforced hole in the luff of the sail then eventually back to the cleat. However, I had neglected to use that hole at all. Mind you, it still worked, though not as efficiently as it should have. And it looked really bad while I was sailing.

Also, when I lowered the sail, I saw that the reefing knots I tied in the individual lines had been loosened by the wind pressure. I’ll need to figure out how to run the line properly before my next time out.

The time on the water was really nice. I got up to 6.2 mph, which is around 5.38 knots. I don’t think this is fastest I’ve ever sailed alone, but it is the fastest I’ve sailed when I could measure the speed. Theoretical hull speed for my boat is 7.38 mph, or 6.43 knots. So, not the fastest I could have gone, but close. And that was what a reefed main and only partially deployed genoa. Other boats on the water had the full sails up, but again, I’m gonna do this my way and comfortably. And having watched one particular boat, I’m not convinced he was that much faster than I was.

In any case, it was very a relaxing and kind of lazy sail, especially when the wind slowed and I was only going 3.5 – 4 mph. And did I get to the bay? Not really, and it really didn’t matter.

It was really fun goin’ back and forth fast, though….

Conquering Haste

August 2, 2015

I’ve said this to myself time and time again: wait to put up the sails until you are far enough across the river that you know you can raise the sails, turn and then make it to the bay. Of course, I hardly ever listen to myself. Such was the case on Sunday. I made sure I was properly reefed, then took off across the river toward the Solomons side. I probably should have gone farther, but I always feel like I’m cheating if I use the engine that much.

I did make progress toward the bay, but also found that I was fighting the current and basically going back and forth across the river rather than heading out past Drum Point. At one point, I lowered the genoa, and used Hercules to move closer to Solomons, hoping to then deploy the genoa and make it past Drum Point. Well, by the time I shut off the engine, the wind died — and I mean died. I drifted and tried to find some wind, but also noticed another boat doing the same thing. Eventually, we both decided to call it a day.

It also occurred to me that rather than always trying to make it to the bay — regardless of how much fun that can be — that perhaps it really isn’t so bad to just go back and forth in the river. If it’s all about the journey rather than the destination, I guess the river can be just as good as the bay.

Point to ponder….

Captain Reef

July 26, 2015

Reef early and often. Now, where did I hear that? More importantly, why didn’t I listen to it before going out today? Actually, the sail with both my wife and me started out pretty nicely, and we took a single tack pretty much into the bay from the river. Even when the wind picked up, we stayed calm, though if I had had the main reefed, it would have certainly been a smoother sail. It also made for a few tense moments when we needed about 2 more hands to try to control the lines. My wife was absolutely a trooper and remained a lot more calm than I had expected she might be. Though when she wondered out loud how I could possibly do all this sailing stuff by myself, I realized that might make her even less comfortable with my usual singlehanding. And that would have been a dilemma.

Our fun sailing continued until I thought: “Maybe we should try to sail under the (Thomas Johnson) bridge.” Let’s just say that didn’t work out as planned. We ran into the beasts of power boats who just insisted on going faster rather than slower near us, and I absolutely know now not to try to head over to Solomons for ice cream. It was a nice idea, but it just wasn’t gonna happen.

But maybe if Captain Reef gets back, we can have a few more nice sailing days together….