Nice and Easy

May 19, 2017

First time out this year was nice.  I usually want the first day out to be simple since I tend to forget more than I remember during the winter months, and having a slight breeze rather than a big gust is the best way to start the season.

I headed out after work just to play and found Ilya as responsive as always, and all systems go.  I had originally intended to just sail back and forth in the river, but eventually thought about heading to the Bay.  Once I decided that, however, the way out became a tad more complicated.  Probably if I had intended to head that way at first, I could have made it out there completely.  On the other hand, I was able to sail right into the west basin, which was kind of fun, and found it quite easy to back into the slip with no trouble at all.

Engine                                     40 minutes-ish

Sails                                         Main reefed; Genoa mostly out

Chop, current                          Moderate

Wind                                       Low, about 7-8 mph

Time                                        2.5 hours

That Was A Surprise

November 5, 2016

Decisions, decisions.  A good decision I made today was not shaking out the reef in the mainsail.  I was sorely tempted.  My ghosting during the first 15-20 minutes or so almost had me coming back in the marina, as a boat from the sailing club did.  The water was very unusual: it seemed to be uniformly rippling, but that seemed to be an indicator of almost no wind, and I was very frustrated before I saw another boat heading toward the bridge.  Mind you, that wasn’t where I wanted to sail, but it seemed like I might catch a puff by heading that way.  I did.

The puff I caught took me back and forth for about 30-50 minutes, as I sailed toward Solomons, then back toward the base. I even thought I might sail into the marina again.  After some pleasant minutes at this little pastime, the wind built incredibly fast, so much so that I reefed the Genoa into a storm jib.  That was harder than it should have been, but I kept my head about me, and also lowered the main so I could motor back to the marina.  While not at its best, Hercules did get me back into the west basin.  And surprisingly, it didn’t stall at low idle, either going forward, or backwards down the fairway.  And that was a win.

Engine                                     40 minutes, and in need of maintenance

Sails                                         Main reefed; Genoa mostly out, then storm

Chop, current                          Completely dead, then moderate

Wind                                       Low to very high: storm jib worthy

Time                                        2.5 hours

Sailing Back In

October 26, 2016


The sailing into the west basin wasn’t the primary feature of today’s sail, but it’s probably the only truly unique event.


I headed out at around 2:40 pm allowing myself to get out and back in prior to the sunset and cold weather.  I chose this day because it was probably the only day I could go out other than Sunday, plus other days the wind was going to be too high for me to sail.  As I went out — after having to start Hercules four or five times — I noticed that a couple of boats were coming in, and very few were out at all.  This always makes me nervous, so I decided I didn’t really need to hit the bay.  Actually, during my back and forth time toward Solomons, I was making good progress toward the bay, and probably could have made it perhaps 30 minutes later.  As I began making more and progress through my tacks, I noticed that another boat was heeling nicely and moving a bit faster than me — and it seemed to be sailing parallel to me but with a different direction of wind.  While that didn’t make sense, that what I thought was going on.


Today was also the time to try different points of sail.  Usually, I sail between a beam reach and close hauled, so today I thought I might sail in front of the marina by sailing at a broad reach.  It was actually fund, and one more illustration that I need to be conscious and more active in sailing on many different points of sail.  This latter point of sail, basically a broad reach took me close enough that I decided I would sail into the marina, and after a couple of tacks and a lot of patience, I made it!  Just as I was lined up perfectly I noticed one of the schooners from the sailing club, and it looked as though it was heading out which would have screwed me up incredibly.  Fortunately, they didn’t come to the breakwater, and I very slowly made my way in.


Once within the breakwater, I lowered and secured the sails as two Coast Guard boats looked at me quite curiously, but I wasn’t worried about safety given the low winds and control I had.


A quick start of Hercules (4 or 5 again) and I motored toward the fairway, and reversed without stalling into slip # C-27.


So second time sailing into the marina.


Engine                                     30 minutes

Sails                                         Main reefed, Genoa mostly full

Chop, current                          slow current; low chop

Wind                                       about 7 mph

Time                                        2.5 hours


October 15, 2016


I got a chance to head out for a few hours on a Saturday, and didn’t really think anything of it.  I mean, I thought it would be nice, but just didn’t want to have a crappy time.  My only real concern was about the stalling and odd throttle issue with Hercules, and it turned out that was a reasonable concern.


Well, the sail was actually good enough.  The wind was blowing such that I really didn’t feel the need to head to the bay, so I preferred to just sail back and forth from the west basin to Solomons and back.  I allowed myself to ghost along and let the sails catch the wind when I could, and it was nice and comfortable.  I did notice that boats started coming in a lot earlier than I thought they would.  I eventually found out why: as the sun just started to think about setting — still around 5:00 or so, mind you — it got cold — cold enough that I started kicking myself for not turning back to shore about 10 minutes sooner.


Once the sails were stowed, I started up Hercules, which didn’t want to stay on for the first few times, then motored safely and smoothly into the breakwater and the west basin without having to keep pressure on the throttle.  This means it’s all good, right?  Nope.  Once I changed direction to reverse. Hercules stalled.  Twice.  Fortunately I was able to massage Ilya into the skip without hitting anything, and all was well.


It’s a terrible irony that the wind is so poor during the summer when the air is warm, yet it’s often a lot stronger when it’s just too cold out there!


Engine                                     40 minutes

Sails                                         Main and Genoa reefed

Chop, current                          moderate current; intermittent high chop

Wind                                       slow at first then building to 10ish

Time                                        3 hours

Could Have Been Better

September 24, 2016

This should have been a better day, and it was.  The wind started out light even for me, but I was still reluctant to raise the main fully.  That eventually turned out to be a fine decision: I could have shaken it out, but I really didn’t have to.  I mean, the wind did die down, but I’m not convinced that having the main at full would have made much difference.

The wind was very odd.  In the beginning, I could only sail back and forth in the river, kind of in front of the marina, but since I am very uncomfortable heading toward the bridge, I thought it best to try to head to the bay.  After several tacks and playing with the wind episodes, including direction changes of almost 90 degrees (seriously!) I made my way into the bay, just as the wind was dying.  To be fair, it was dying as I moved toward the bay, and the smart sailor would have taken that as a sign to turn back in, but that’s hardly me (the smart sailor, I mean), so I stayed in the entrance to the bay far too long, and had to motor all the way back in, though I allowed myself to ghost for quite awhile, even once I lowered the main and had only the Genoa deployed.

It might have been possible to sail slowly back toward the marina, but I doubt it, given how light the winds had become.

On the way back in, Hercules performed well, but that was partly because I put very minimal pressure on the throttle so it kept up the rpms.  When I finally left off some of the pressure, it began to sound like it was missing.  I still did okay, until I lowered it to an idle and reversed.  The reverse kept trying to stall, and there’s nothing more nerve wracking than an engine stalling in the fairway when anything — boats, piers, etc. — can get lamed into.

After gunning the reverse gear several times, I backed into the slip, but I still don’t know what’s going on with Hercules.  I was more confident coming back in but now much less confident once back in the marina.

Engine:                        40 minutes

Sails:                           Reefed main, mostly full Genoa

Chop, current              Moderate, 1-2 feet

Wind                           Peaking at 10, then dead

Time                            4 hours


Nope, Not Gonna Happen

September 23, 2016


I wasn’t sure about this from the beginning.  My hope was to head out for a few hours before heading to the county fair with my students.  Given the wind and the wave motion, I was antsy even before I left the slip.

Given my doubts, I decided not the raise the main in the west basin, and shortly after clearing the breakwater completely, I deployed the Genoa at about half way, and immediately, was pushed back toward the rocks.   Given that I had (also wisely) not turned off the engine, I simply turned more radically and went back in, though the process of getting through the breakwater was very difficult, and I still don’t understand what happened — or in this case didn’t happen.  After all, I had the engine at a nice rpm, and I didn’t think the current was that strong, but perhaps it was.

I also noticed some hesitation with Hercules as I lowered the rpm, which concerned me.

I was happy to park Ilya back in the slip.

Engine:                        ½ hour

Sails:                           Only Genoa for 2 Minutes

Chop, current              Medium current, with 1-2 feet chop

Wind                           Peaking at over 12


Well, That Was Unexpected

September 18, 2016


This was really not the better of the weekend days for a sail, but I had a project to work on for my boss’ boss, in addition to watching my favorite college volleyball team play.  So, since Saturday was out (as was any night during the week) my wife and I went out on Sunday.


The wind seemed extremely light in West Basin, though I maintained the single ref the sail as we headed out.  The current didn’t seem too bad, and the wind was practically dead so I decided shake out the reef and go with a full main.  It took a while to get going, but eventually, the wind increased and we go some great tacks as we headed — sort of — to the bay.


We handled the tack pretty well, and few powerboats were out to annoy us, when the wind suddenly grew in intensity, and we were forced to reef the jib.  I probably could have (should have!) reefed the main as well, but the wind was high enough that I was concerned we would lose too much control.  Of course, that’s what reefing is designed to address, but I was concerned that it would be tougher with my wife in the boat as compared to when I singlehand.


When we finally looked to come in, we heaved to, but even that didn’t work as normally planned because of the very strong current.  Having my wife control the tiller as I lowered the sails was certainly a blessing, and we finally motored back into West Basin.  This could easily have been the strongest current in which we’ve sailed, and it really caught me off guard.


Hercules concerned me with what seemed like missing in the engine.  However, when I held my hand on the throttle at a slightly higher rpm, it hummed beautifully.


Engine                           40 minutes


Sails                               Full, with some reefing of Genoa, including going with a “storm jib”


Chop, current                 Moderate to begin with, then very strong and high


Wind                              Slow, then gusting as high as 13 or 14; a steady 11+ back in

West Basin


Time                               3 hours