July 9, 2011
I knew from one of my conversations yesterday that today (Saturday) would be a good day for sailing, so I was prepared. I also hinted to my wife that I wanted to go out — like she wouldn’t already know that — and she said she’d like to go as well. At the time, however, she was with my daughter watching a series of rugby games. So, we decided I’d go out then, and she would go out with me some hours after the rugby games. Once we decided that, I was off.
Since Hercules had been repaired the day before, I had no hesitation about going out, since I knew I would be very careful about tilting the engine and lowering it. When I got to the marina, the sister of the owner of the other MacGregor was there and greeted me. They were apparently headed out as well. She was there along with her sister, brother-in-law and nephew and another older woman I hadn’t met before. I started on my tasks as they got ready to go out as well. Soon afterwards, they asked if I had a cotter pin for part of their rigging. While I looked for it (and didn’t find one — gotta get some spares), the gentleman to their left came over with a neatly organized box of items and gave them one. I mentioned to my MacGregor neighbors that he was the one I said could pull into his slip so neatly and effortlessly. I’d spoken to his wife and daughter before and they were clearly seasoned sailors. After the requisite checks and decisions on how to get out of the slip, the other MacGregor went first, followed by me and finally the Hunter by the more experienced family.
Once I got out of the fairway, I saw the other Mac family ahead of me, and I stayed in position. Once we were in the river, I could feel the extra wind and the waves become much stronger. The current was at this time leading us back into the marina. Because of the high wind, I had tried again to reef the main, and only determined afterwards that not only do I need the little ropes to reef, I also need lines on the leech and luff to tie onto the boom. Next time I will have this right.
Eventually, I unfurled my jib about 2/3 of the way, and tried sailing, though it was really difficult to fight the current. I noticed the more experienced family using their jib as well (that’s where I got the technique from), and also the Mac family not putting up any sail. I kept trying to get greater control of the jib and sail properly, and sometime during this experience, the Mac family went back in. They didn’t have a jib, and may have felt they were over their head. I almost felt that way, too, but since I had been out in a little greater wind, I wasn’t really worried.
As I looked off in the distance toward the bay — the Holy Grail of eastern sailing — I noticed the experienced family with their main up and making steady though slow progress toward the bay. There’s obviously no substitute for experience. I tried putting my main up, realized again that something was wrong with the reefing, and eventually, took out the reefs and tried again. The wind and current were pushing me toward the rocks, so I kept gybing over and over again to make progress toward the bay.
I took a long time — well over an hour of work to get past the “point.” I don’t know what the “point” is, except that it’s got rocks and wouldn’t be a good place for my boat to go. This point is about right across from Drum Point on the Calvert side. More on that later. Once I got past that point, I still had to work, but I still kept sailing inexorably toward the bay. This was fun. I actually had to work and think, yet I was making steady progress. I gybed a couple more times, and continued. Eventually, I ended up almost parallel to Cedar Point, which was what I thought was the entrance to the bay from the Patuxent River. It was probably the farthest I had ever gone out, and just as I was almost getting to Cedar Point the wind died and I mean died. Which meant this was also going to be the farthest I had to motor back to the marina. I started off doing that, and though I tried using my jib a few more times, I basically motored back all the way. Of course the current didn’t help me back to the marina, as it had changed. I got myself back in the slip, and noticed that both the Mac family and the experienced family were already back in their slips as well. I never saw the experienced/ Hunter family, but they probably went by while I was messing around in or near the bay.
I had originally gotten to the marina sometime around 12:30 – 12:45, and I docked back around 7:00. My longest day, and longest distance solo. Subsequently, I asked someone on Sailnet where the entrance to the bay is, and was told it was Drum Point, so by being almost to Cedar Point, I was definitely sailing in the bay! At least now I know….