Just a Touch

September 13, 2017

Took a quick exit from work and headed to the marina for a short sail.  While the wind wasn’t perfect it got me where I needed to go.  There were a number of puffs along the way, and I sailed almost to the little outpost (including the fuel dock) by the edge of Solomons Island a couple of times as I tacked back and forth on the river before finally heading up toward the bay.

I did make the bay and just kissed if before coming in.  I tried a couple of times to sail into the basin, but just couldn’t make it safely with the current: perhaps one more pass would have done it, but it wasn’t worth it to me.

I did notice while I saw sailing that I should probably go back to the old method of self-steering with wraps around the tiller versus the newest method; it would just be a lot more secure.

Engine                                     40 minutes

Sails                                        Reefed main, Genoa reefed in several different positions

Chop, current                          Moderate, with strong current

Wind                                       5-7

Time                                       3 hours


Not a Big Fan of Gusts

September 4, 2017

Given that the approaching storms and my C3 writer’s conference were coming up this week, this would be my only day to sail, so I took advantage of it.  I arrived at the marina at about 3:40, and saw a number of sailboats and powerboats out on the river.  I also noticed that the big 44 foot catamaran, Sand Dallor was not in its slip, so I thought I might get to see it in action.

Well, that didn’t happen, but I managed to raise the reefed main and head out.  It was very difficult to gauge the wind, as there were times when I was tempted to go to the full  main, then a minute later, the wind would gust, and I would be worried about how much of the Genoa or main I could let out to sail safely.  This went on for about an hour, with my going back and forth on the river to get to the bay, which I finally did.

Eventually, I decided to use my weight on the leeward side of the boat as much as anything to control heel and forward movement, and it ended up being a decent sail, especially when the wind moderated a little bit.  The current was strong though.  I will say that my changes with the Genoa produced a smoother sail than I’ve had I a while, so I think my attention to the headsail was a good thing.

Engine                                     40 minutes

Sails                                        Reefed main, Genoa reefed in several different positions

Chop, current                          Moderate, with strong current

Wind                                       5-10

Time                                       4 hours

Worth It

August 30, 2017

After enduring more training than I cared to this day, I was able to motor out of the slip at 4:00 pm.  I quickly shook out the reef in the main and headed out, not really being able to tell if it would be worth it to head out, but I also knew there would be higher winds on Thursday.

Well, it was worth it.  Given how the wind was blowing, I was maybe 30 yards from the breakwater when I shut off Hercules and pointed toward the bay, and was able to get out into the bay on a single tack.  As the wind varied, I shifted from windward to leeward to keep moving and enjoyed the serenity of the sail.  I saw a lot of a Hunter 380 sailing on my side and then passing me. (Hey, 13 extra feet of waterline and a much heavier keel — he almost had to be faster).  But we handled ourselves quite well, thank you very much.

I decided to turn around at 6:15 and head back and while the Hunter was way ahead of me at that time as was another boat, we all seemed to turned back at the same time.  With a couple of tacks, I was heading back toward West Basin, but made a couple of other tacks to avoid the sailboat races.  Of course, this also meant that I was not heading straight in for a while, until I finally decided because of the lowering wind that I needed to lower the sails and motor in.  It was so late, I had to turn on my running lights, which is something I usually don’t want to do, especially since I don’t have a working stern light.  Fortunately, the Coast Guard wasn’t around to site me.  My next time sailing on Wednesday, I’m not going to worry about the races — make them go around me for a change.

All in all, definitely worth it, especially when I headed into the marina on almost pristine water.

Engine                                     45 minutes

Sails                                        Full sails, then reefed Genoa

Chop, current                          Moderate, with strong current

Wind                                       5-10

Time                                       4 hours


Dolphins and Bell Buoys

August 20, 2017

Thanks to Ellen for asking when we were going sailing today.  I had thought about going out either in the morning or afternoon, and I was sitting outside reading the paper when Ellen asked when we were going out.  That prompted me to head to the computer to check the hourly forecast, where I discovered that the winds would be fine for the morning and non-existent for the afternoon.  We took that cue and headed out within 15 minutes.

There wasn’t too much action on the water as we headed out, and I knew it would take us awhile to hit the bay, but no matter.  On perhaps our second shift in direction back toward the river versus the bay, we encountered what must have been a pod of dolphins.


This was awesome!  They just swam around silently all around us.  Eventually, we turned away back into the bay and finally made it.  In fact we made it all the way to the bell buoy which is a fair distance away from West Basin, a little over 3 nautical miles as we were sailing.

Bell and Whistle Buoy 1

The wind was pretty high out there, probably 10 mph, and the wake and chop was uncomfortable.  We were thankful that we both took the motion sickness medicine before heading out.  And it was annoying that our top speed for that day was only about 4.5 knots, even with me adjusting the sails.  I’m not sure if I didn’t do it properly or not, but I was trying to balance the sails.  There was a good deal of weather helm however, so I know I still have a lot to learn.

We turned around at the bell buoy and made our way back toward the marina even as the wind continued to lessen, and in fact not long into the river from the bay the river died completely, so Hercules was deployed for a while to get us home, and that happened very smoothly.

A lot of boats were just heading out as we were coming in, and I’m happy Ellen asked me that original question, because it gave us a great morning and early afternoon on the water.  A definite win.

Engine                                     50 minutes

Sails                                        Full sails and reefed sails

Chop, current                          Medium

Wind                                       Up to 10 and down to 0

Time                                       4 hours

Okay, So I Haven’t Conquered It ….

August 17, 2017

The plan was simple: given the poor weather on August 16th, I decided to mow the lawn that day and head out to the marina on Thursday.  Simple, right?  Well, except for the fact that the weather was a little challenging at 3:45 – 4:00 o’clock when I decided to head out.  But, I needed to head out to make the marina charges worth it, so I sucked it up and headed out of the slip.  A neighboring sailboat wished me well, and I still wondered if going out made sense.

As I ventured out of the fairway, I raised the main with the single reef point, yet still thought I had too much sail out.  This required me to pull down the mainsail to the second reef point — even though I don’t have the hardware to do that.  Well, I accomplished it anyway by tying the ropes for the second reef point and just looped a separate rope in the aft location where I would normally have placed the single reefing line.  But this begs the question: if you have to put in a second reef point before going sailing, why are you going sailing at all?  Good question.

I did head out and found the sailing to be less than pleasant.  First, there was a navy vessel close by that was doing tests or playing — who knows?  It was going back and forth from the marina to Solomons Island, which is a couple of nautical miles away.  The vessel was big enough that the wake it created was hellacious, and did a number on a poor little 25 foot sailboat.  And the weather was chancy too, with light sprinkling and heavy clouds and I couldn’t tell is they were coming in to produce more rain, or heading out.

I fought it for about 30 minutes and made it almost to the beach area before just coming in.  I started Hercules and headed back, but at the same time was annoyed that the one day I could come out this week ended this way.

The ultimate disappointment was when I finally got close to the breakwater and saw that the sky was clearing, the navy vessel was put away, and the day was probably going to be good the sailing.  This was confirmed when I saw Bay Break in the marina raising his main and heading out.  I might have followed him except I was worried about my fuel levels with Hercules and didn’t want to be stranded.  As I was tying up, I could see Bay Break in the distance beating toward the bay.

I guess since he conquered haste, he had a good day out, and if I had just waited about 45 minutes I could have had one, too.

Engine                                     35 minutes

Sails                                        Double reefed sails

Chop, current                          High, with lots of wake action from large vessel

Wind                                       About 10

Time                                       1.5 hours

Managing Just Fine

August 4, 2017

Good day out.  I went out at 9:30 am since I knew the winds was going to be getting high in the afternoon, and I didn’t want to be out when I wasn’t comfortable with the wind or chop.  As I motored out to the bay because of the very low winds, I decided to be out for about four hours, meaning I would sail two hours out, then the two hours back.  Once I raised the Genoa, I sailed very slowly into the bay, I had hoped to sail toward the buoy with the bell, but that would have been a much tighter angle toward the wind, so I kept up with a close reach and headed out probably more directly east than the buoy with the bell.

As I reached about one hour and 40 minutes or so, I decided the chop was just too high and scary, so I headed back.  The way back in was actually pretty nice.  I managed to work both sides of the boat alternately ghosting by sitting in the leeward side, or hiking out on the windward side.  I was happy I could manage the sails, not only reefing the main as necessary, but also playing with the Genoa, deploying more or less of it to control the luffing.  My guess is that this is what I am supposed to be doing, since when the luffing stops, the boat hunkers down and sails better.  This is probably something I was supposed to learn in ASA 101, but perhaps I wasn’t paying attention….

Engine                                     40 minutes

Sails                                        Reefed and Full Sail

Chop, current                          Moderate, up to 2 ½ feet

Wind                                       0 to about 10 mph

Current                                    Moderate

Time                                        5 hours


To Reef or not to Reef

August 2, 2017

Does it make sense to try to sail to the bay using the engine for the shortest possible time, or is it just better to get out there with the engine, so I can have fun?  I’ve always tried to get out into the river and use the sails to move toward the bay or across the river rather than to motor everywhere.  Isn’t that what sailors are supposed to do?  I only asked that of myself because so many other sailors from both West Basin and Solomons seem to motor out with perhaps their mains raised then deploy their jibs once they’re into the bay proper.  I of course raise mine in the basin because it’s generally easier than raising it in the river because of the generally lower winds within the west basin.

Dealt with a great deal of wave action on the bay proper, and had to contend with the Wednesday night races on the way back.  I managed to avoid colliding with the sailboats and finished for first ever five hour day in the boat.

And going out later did seem to make a difference — at least for today.

Engine                                     40 minutes

Sails                                        Reefed and Full Sail

Chop, current                          Variable, especially on the bay

Wind                                        Variable, 5-9 mph

Current                                     Moderate

Time                                         5 hours