The Journey Southward

November 20, 2010

This entry was first made after taking our new to us MacGregor 25 sailboat from north of Annapolis to Solomons, Maryland, in November 2010, where it was to be stored during the winter of 2010-2011.  At the time, the boat didn’t have a name.

First of all, I really did need assistance and guidance from more experienced sailors to bring this boat home, even though much of what we encountered I could have handled just fine.  Here’s how the day went:  Two of us arrived at the marina at 7:00 and loaded onto the boat the gasoline, food, charts and other equipment we needed.  The third person arrived a bit later.  Among the three of us, there was nothing we needed that we didn’t have.  We attempted to start the engine which hadn’t been used for 2 months.  Give that it only had 10 hours on it, that was annoying.  Eventually, we got it going, but it wouldn’t rev up.  After a few judicious taps, it started to run more smoothly, and ran that way for the entire trip.  This Mercury 9.9 is a wonderful engine.  Even if we don’t name the boat, I’m going to name the engine Hercules.

We left Arnold, MD and started down the Magothy River.  The weather report had said average temperatures and winds from the west all day, so our plan had been to motor sail the whole day on a beam reach, which Dooley1 had gotten from the NOAA website as well.  Well, the winds all day were from the south, and while our sail was up and probably wasn’t hurting us the whole day, it’s doubtful if it gave us any significant extra speed.  That was a bummer, because we were going about 50+ nautical miles in a day.  Since we were fighting the current for the first few hours, our fuel consumption was higher than expected, too, so we had to stop about halfway and fill up.  We had brought two fuel tanks, the 3 gallon in the boat, and an additional 6 gallon.  I’d estimate we used between 10.5 – 12 gallons for the whole day.

The biggest feature of the day is how blessed long it takes to travel and how boring it is to motor at 5 knots for 12 hours.  And when you see something like a bridge in the distance, it takes forever for that bridge to finally get there.  But I got practice using the charts, and both of the guys sailing with me are very experienced sailors, so they shared lots of tidbits with me.  We also were motoring down until about 9:00 pm that night.  With reasonably calm Chesapeake Bay waters, and a full moon, it was kind of cool, and would have been really cool if I had been sailing near home and having fun a little after dusk instead of being at the end of a long and very slow day.  When we finally got to the marina where the boat will be stored for the winter (we are still arguing about what name to select if we have a name for the boat at all), we docked it at the fuel dock, because I didn’t know where to put it.  This morning — very early — I went back to marina, found that the boat was on a different side of the fuel dock, and was told to move it to a slip on either side of their lift.  Thus began the shorter and probably more interesting part of the journey.

Keep in mind that I’ve used a sailboat under power only in my sailing class of last June.  Our little racing sailboat doesn’t have any kind of engine.  I started out carefully enough.  Oh, actually, the engine took awhile to start (someone — I don’t know who) had left the engine in the start position so the electric start wouldn’t work.  But, I got it running, and warmed it up, and got the boat started.  I didn’t quite make the turn out of this slip and had to push off with the boat hook from a boat directly across from the slip.  Then, I got myself turned around a bit more, and started off again, and only got around the other boat by — shall we say “kissing” the inflatable dinghy off its stern.  Lesson number 1: when you use a boat hook from the stern, and push off too hard, you can swing the bow of your boat in the opposite and less desirable direction.  I’m hoping that the other boat owner put his dinghy there because other people have bumped into his boat from the fuel dock before me — at least I hope so.  I managed to move the boat carefully and slowly toward the lift.  I took my time and tried to keep away from the other boats.  Well, I motored toward the slip, and turned left to get ready to back up, and had my shrouds kiss the bow of another boat.  Just a kiss, mind you, but annoying and frightening all the same.  Lesson number 2: give yourself plenty of room — then double what you thought you needed.  I motored far beyond that boat and the others and gave myself more room and after a few more anxious moments, I got the boat in the slip without slamming it into anything else – -though I should have moved the fenders before I got there.  Of course, I didn’t know on which side the pier was, so that might be somewhat forgiven.  I took me awhile to figure out what lines to use and where to put them, but in the end, I thought I got it in the slip with enough slack in the lines that tides won’t impact it and it still won’t slam into the pier.  It was very nerve-wracking.

Why did I do this by myself, do you ask?  Well in terms of getting family to help, it was early and my son, who is usually the best help was asleep, and I didn’t want to wake him.  I also wanted to go early because I hadn’t gotten approval from the marina to dock at the fuel dock and I didn’t want any bad blood.  I did consider asking the guy at the marina if he could help me move the boat, even something as simple as standing on the boat to watch and guide me.  But — and this is not a pride or “guy” thing — I really felt I needed to get experience in doing it myself, and I hoped I wouldn’t do anything really boneheaded in the process.  And while I got close on two occasions, I do feel I learned some things today that I might not have learned as well even with a guide.  Maybe I was wrong, but if so, I’ll live with it.

What did I bring to this extravaganza?  Food, including sub sandwiches; bottled water (that we didn’t finish); two thermoses of hot coffee, one of hot water; apples and oranges that no one ate; an extra set of warm clothes; boat hook; sunglasses and lip balm; lines; jacket and stocking cap; PFDs; flashlight; throwable and anchor and rode.  My colleagues took care of the charts, gas radio and GPS.  It was truly an adventure.

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