Kiss the Bay

August 20, 2016


A day of fits and starts.  There was very little time that I felt I wasn’t making some progress, and I was happy not to have to overwork Hercules and use the sails instead.  I went full sail again because the winds started to fall toward the middle of the sail.  It seemed reasonable to head to the bay given the wind direction, but I wasn’t taking into account the huge number of powerboats in the river at that time, though I did think a lot might be out because of the incredible weather.  Well, I was right, and there were several times as I moved toward the bay that I had my progress slowed by massive wakes from power boats.  I also came face to face for the first time with a strong wake made by a little Personal Water Craft — a Jetski.


During my sail, I saw Bay Break on the way in and making decent time.  He is a good person/ boat to watch since he is always faster than me, and I can only assume that has more to do with the sailor than the boat.  But, I kept my trim tight (still making sure the telltales were in basically the right place) and hung tough.  As we were coming in toward the marina, I saw him heel over and really go faster and about 20 minutes later, I got the same puff.  Then I thought I noticed him going back out, and thought: “Dang it: if he can go out, I can go out.”  I then played more in the area of west basin, and finally decided to use the shifting wind to sail up and kiss the bay by the Drum Point buoy before I came in for the last time.  It worked and I got up to a maximum of 5.6 knots on the day.  One really odd thing was that there was a group of people climbing up the buoy and diving off of it, which has to be illegal I would think.


One thing I noticed as I have in previous outings is that I am more comfortable on a port tack than a starboard tack regarding heeling.  I don’t know if this is because of the wind during these different tacks, or because I’m right handed and have less control steering with my left, or just a matter of sitting port well over half of the time; — who knows.  I did feel I made some good tacks on the day, and even allowed myself not to get annoyed that other boats, including the 40 foot boat on A dock were moving a lot faster than I was.  I would still say “I won.”


Engine:                        40 minutes

Sails                             Full

Chop, current              Moderate, 1-2 feet; lots of wake from powerboats

Wind                            5-9

Time                            4 hours

Full Sail

August 19, 2016


My sense is if you can’t get out sailing during the week, hit it hard during the weekend, which is exactly what I decided to do late Friday afternoon.  I always like to head out reefed and shake it out rather than find myself in heavier winds and have to put one in — it just seems easier to me.  However, because I don’t have a topping lift or Boomkicker, it can be challenging to put a reef one in as well, I need to work on those priorities for next season for my own safety and comfort.


This wind on Friday was light, so I shook out the reef and played with the wind for a while.  I couldn’t see getting to the bay, so I just played back and forth on the river, catching whatever puffs I could. It was very relaxing.  Of course, other boats did make it to the bay, but I decided to just enjoy what I had.


Engine:                        ½ hour

Sails:                            Full

Chop, current              Moderate, 1-2 feet

Wind                           Peaking at 6

Time                            3 hours


Hercules Down; Hercules Restored

July 30, 2016 – August 13, 2016


It never fails.  Today was the last day of the toughest and most intense two weeks of the year for me, our Summer Bridge program.  It was also the start of my vacation, during which I had planned to sail as much as possible, and even try a little cruising across the bay.  This was not to be.


I took out Ilya from the slip on July 30, first being annoyed that the battery had died because the lights had been on since the last outing.  Using the pull rope, I motored slowly around the west basin to raise the main.  Unfortunately I also inadvertently pulled out the fuel line, which is why the engine stopped.  After a while and several pulls, I got the engine going again and headed out to the river.  The wind wasn’t bad, but at some time I decided to lower the engine to move closer to the bay and I couldn’t get it started, no matter how hard I tried.  I could tell the wind was going to be great, and Bay Break even shouted at me to go out, but I had to shout my dilemma back to him.  My alternative was to sail back to the marina, which I did as the wind died and I was caught in the breakwater.  Many minutes (probably well over a half hour) later, I paddled my way back to the fairway and began the truly arduous task of getting a 2,000 lb. boat down a wide fairway and finally backed into the slip and secured.  With every pull I made on the engine, nothing happened.


I was convinced that perhaps I had damaged something when I pulled out the fuel line, but I also noticed that whenever I pressed the priming bulb I didn’t hear the squishing sound that indicated the fuel was flowing.  This necessitated calling up Spring Cove Marina to schedule service and calling BoatUS for a tow.  Thankfully, I have the unlimited gold towing package and I spent an hour and a half or so with a delightful couple who had moved to this area from Brooklyn and had recently taken over much of the BoatUS towing for our area.


The service department indicated that the fuel line was really shot because of ethanol in the fuel, so they had to replace it.  Four hundred dollars later (mostly labor, of course) and we were back in business.  The entire way from Spring Cove to West Basin I was nervous that we wouldn’t make it, but Hercules is truly restored.  Now I understand why boaters/ sailors are so dead set against adding additional ethanol to gasoline.


Engine hours:              2


First Guests Since….

July 11, 2016


In one of my few to days in a row times out on the Patuxent, I happened to take out two colleagues from work, our program coordinator and one of our mentor students, along with my wife.  Neither of them had ever been on a sailboat before, and in fact, the student thought I had a powerboat.  they and my wife joined me at the slip once my wife had gotten changed, and I was thinking and rethinking about whether I wanted to go out, since the chop and current seemed a bit stronger than I wanted, especially when taking out first time people.


We motored out of the slip (my staff person claiming this whole sailboat thing to be too  much work) then raised the reefed main within the west basin.  I was still not sure about what to do.  As we left the west basin, I noticed the other MacGregor in the marina (a 26) heaving to and lowering its sails as I was heading out.  This was also not encouraging to me, and I thought again about turning back, but even in about the five minutes we were out, it seemed as though the chop was becoming smoother and the winds steady or perhaps even lowering.  So, the other MacGregor (Irish Lady) came in even after being briefly visited by the coast guard.  Another boat from the marina, a Pearson 28 named Providence also left the marina when we did, bound and determined to motor to the bay.  I chose instead to just stay going back and forth from Solomons to west basin, and did so for three rotations.


As we were enjoying rather slow but steady time in Ilya, my staffer asked what I did while sailings: did I listen to music, read, what?  My response, was that I can’t really read very well while tacking in the river.  (Perhaps I could on the same heading for a couple of hours in the bay, but for the back and forth day sailing I tend to do, reading is out of the question.)  I did mention that I listened to old radio shows frequently, but mostly I just sailed and listened to the wind.  It was pretty clear that my friend and staff person would be much more at home with a powerboat rather than a sailboat.


It occurred to me with this interchange that those of us who are sailors don’t usually think about the fact that when we get on the water, we have to do some work — it’s all part of the experience, and in all honesty, I don’t reflect on the amount of work I have to do to get moving where I want to go:  I just relish being able to play with the wind to get where I want to go.


It’s definitely about the journey and not the destination, right?


Engine                                     25 minutes-ish

Sails                                         Reefed main, reefed Genoa, though more was deployed later

Chop, current                          2-3 feet earlier, then calming

Wind                                       8+ mph then calming to around 5 mph

Time                                        2 hours


July 10, 2016


My wife and I were able to get Ilya moving out of the marina, though I still wasn’t very happy with the amount of chop in the river.  I thought about heading to the bay, but also realized that just sailing back and forth and watching my points of sail would be good practice.


As we sailed, we were able to heel to about 15 degrees comfortably, and I also realized that my wife is probably braver than I am, though perhaps that’s because generally I don’t panic.  If I don’t she won’t, which is probably a good thing.  I made the mistake of saying “I hope this works,” which didn’t make her very comfy, so I quickly corrected myself and maintained my cool.  That made those last maneuvers of heaving to and lowering the main tolerable by her.


It wasn’t a great day out, nor a crappy day, it was just “meh.”



Engine                                     30 minutes

Sails                                         Reefed; Genoa as small “storm jib”

Chop, current                          3 foot waves, medium current

Wind                                       Up to 8 mph

Time                                        3 hours

Preventive Maintenance

July 9, 2016


As mentioned previously from July 8th,I noticed as I was furling the Genoa (actually, after I was safely back in the slip) that the furling line had a serious chafe in it, as pictured below:


I could just envision myself having another challenging time with a quick build of windspeed and having the line snap, then I would have been unable to furl the sail at all.  That idea was really unappealing.  So, after several trips to Lowes the purchase from which just didn’t feel right as I furled the Genoa, and two to West Marine, I installed the new furling line.  Of course, if the line from Lowes had worked, I would have paid only $8.99; the proper line from West Marine cost about $36.00, but it was definitely the proper line.


I think it was a wise purchase.

Could Have Made a Better Choice Coming In

July 8, 2016


Yep.  Heaving to would have been the right choice — if I could have kept all of my head about it.


As I started out, I raised the main before leaving the breakwater then headed out from the marina with very few people out there.  That all went smoothly, and because the wind was light, I raised the full main and deployed the full Genoa.  The wind picked up just enough for me to have some fun sailing back and forth across the river.  Shortly after I left, Auk left the marina and motored toward the bridge.  I considered a few times sailing there as well, but also remembered the one time my wife and I did that and it wasn’t pleasant — far too many powerboats play around the bridge and I didn’t relish having to deal with the wake and proximity to the bridge pilings at the same time.  It just looked like a recipe for disaster.  I’m sure that was the I right decision.  After all, Auk is about 38 feet long, and probably outweighs me by 4 to 8 times, so they can handle a lot more wave action than Ilya can.


Another good decision was to simply sail back and forth, rather than being drawn by the bay, though I did change that decision eventually.  As the wind built, I hunkered down and got as high as 5.8 knots, which is only 6.43 miles an hour, and I also tested myself to heel more and more.  Eventually, I decided to start going in at the last tack, nearing the helicopter area of the base near the river.  But as the heeling got too severe, nothing I could do with the Genoa worked, and it kept flapping out of control.  I quickly decided to reel it in rather than what I probably should have done, which was to heave to and settle the boat down.  That would have allowed me to then lower the main with the Genoa shielding it from what was about 13 mph winds, and waves up to around 3 feet.  Instead, I deployed Hercules, used the self-steering device and very painstakingly lowered the main by pulling on the bottom of the sail.  I was able to get enough of the main down to motor in, but even the small bit of sail that was still up made motoring very slow and scary.  I kept my head enough to eventually get in and thankfully, once within the breakwater the water calmed as did the wind.


What really surprised me was that one of the old Coast Guard boats was out with me and didn’t seem bothered at all, while another was heading out while I was coming in!  Are these people crazy?


I was somewhat satisfied that the one out with me came back in right after me, so perhaps I wasn’t as much a scaredy-cat as I thought was.


Tying up at the slip was simple, though I perhaps should have followed the example of the other Coast Guard boat and flake my main more carefully.  That’s tough to do alone, but not impossible, so I think I need to do that.  Something I definitely need to do is replace the furling line: some chafe has damaged it and the last thing I want is to be unable to furl the Genoa in high winds.




Engine                         20 minutes

Sails                             Full

Chop/ current              Mild, then very challenging

Wind                           Light like less than 4 mph to 13

Time                            4 hours