Its Own Virtue

September 7, 2016


Yeah, the patience thing, which is not one of my strengths.  I definitely had it in spades tonight.  My wife and I went out hoping to sail before the storm blew in.  The weather seemed a little dicey, though the wind was in some ways the opposite — a little light.  I didn’t even want to think about the bay, and know that when I ask my wife to shift from side to side on the boat, that she doesn’t like it.  So, back and forth would have to do.  Unfortunately, the wind kept dying on me.  I decide to use ghosting, where I sat on the leeward side to help the boat heel and thus increase its speed.


Eventually, my patience was rewarded and we had maybe three really quick sails forward and backward across the river.


I looked and started sailing upriver and think I might have been able to sail into the marina if we had another hour.  However, it was going to take a long time, and my wife wasn’t up for that much more time on the water.  It has been my goal to sail in specific directions via tacks and other measures to get where I want to go, but this was not the day it was going to work.  But, at least I have a better idea of how I might be able to sail into the marina someday.


We also found ourselves out and around the sailboat races.  Fortunately, they were racing near the bridge rather than closer to Drum Point.


Maybe next time I can get greater control over the destinations and points of sail….


Engine                                     40 minutes

Sails                                        Reefed main and mostly full Genoa

Chop, current                          Moderate

Wind                                       Up to 8 knots

Time                                        3 hours

Back and Forth

September 4, 2016


A decent but not particularly exciting day on the water.  My objective as always, was to get myself to the bay, and while I thought it might happen, it became clear quickly that I was going to be relegated simply to going back and forth on the river.  The wind was blowing strangely, in such a way that I was trying to sail across the river smoothly, but the wind was pushing me ever so slightly toward the bridge.  It was cool to use the sails to make some things happen without using the iron wind.


As the wind built, and the powerboats continued coming out in huge numbers, I considered coming in, but then a couple of larger boats from the sailing club came, and I figured if they can come out, I can come out, so I stayed.


Later during the sail, the two club boats sailed close to the helicopter area, then whipped around toward the bay, and I decided to follow them and do the same thing.  Of course, I couldn’t do that, but I think that has as much to do with their boats being ketches, and with staysails that can probably help the boats sail closer to the wind.  As a less experienced sailor and one with a simple Bermuda rig, I couldn’t do it, though I had a good time anyway.


Engine                                     30 minutes

Sails                                        Reefed then full

Chop, current                          Moderate

Wind                                       Up to 8 knots

Time                                        3 hours


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