11/18/2013, West River
Yesterday was Cordelia's final sail of the season, and it was a pretty great one to go out on.
I took advantage of the damp and foggy morning to drain all the water tanks, empty all the cabinets of perishables and finally work out the kinks I'd been having with the furler. By the time I finished all that, the sun finally broke out and the wind filled in to a steady 8 or 9 knots with frequent gusts up to 11 and one breaking past 13. We pulled out of our slip at the same time as Sassy - the J Boat across our fairway heading to the Frostbite races - and glided past each other a little too closely.
We did a quick sail a couple Sundays ago and the air was as crisp and clear as I'd ever seen it. The Eastern Shore looked as close as the other side of the West River. That was not the case this time. The fog had moved out of the West River, but it still hung over the Bay. It was amazing to see sails appear out of nowhere or hear a motor minutes before seeing a boat. We made it out into the Bay, but never saw the channel markers the GPS said were right next to us.
Gliding through the fog, we thought about all the places we could be. There was no land in sight. Nor other boats for that matter. It really was like we were sailing in the middle of the ocean and if someone had been plopped in the cockpit with us, they wouldn't have known land was less than a mile away or that there were about two dozen boats racing just on the other side of the fog.
We tacked back to toward the dock and then turned back out to the Bay. The GPS inched closer to 500 miles. I felt like that was a respectable tally for the season considering we mostly did day sails with friends or overnighted at the dock or on the Rhode, only doing a few real cruising weekends. Hopefully that will change next season. When I zoomed out to see where all we had sailed - South River, Annapolis, Eastern Bay, north of the Bay Bridge - I noticed our trip to St. Michaels wasn't on there and only one Annapolis sail was. At some point during the season, we must have accidently reset the GPS - therefore easily surpassing the 500 nautical mile figure.
One last gust of wind hit as we passed the mouth of the Rhode River and stayed with us until it was time to drop the sails. We stopped at the fuel dock for the last time this year to pump the holding tank and top off the diesel. We stripped the sails, loaded them in the car and locked. Fastened all the lines and locked the pad lock. I sent off the paperwork for the winter storage this morning. Cordelia's ready for her winter nap. I've got a few projects to tackle over the winter - nothing major - but enough to require some visits.
Meredith even admitted she was a little sad the season was coming to an end. I think we'd both be a little more disappointed if the reason we were putting Cordelia up this weekend instead of after Thanksgiving wasn't because we are doing a bareboat charter in the BVIs with friends next week. This was our last sail on the Bay for the year, but luckily not our last sail. Maybe next time we're in the BVIs Cordelia will be with us instead of on the hard. Here's to hoping, I guess.
|Sailing On Board Cordelia||
10/06/2013, Annapolis, MD
Remember how I "fixed" the rolling furler and how Friday was the "best day" of the season? Well, just a few dozen hours later, things took a dire turn. Sunday was one of those days where you are afraid to say, "Well, everything that could have gone wrong has," or "At least we didn't ____," because doing so would inevitably lead to that very thing happening.
The day started out benignly enough. I was planning for a quick, relaxing, easy sail with coworkers. I even set out the table so we would have a place to eat the snacks everyone brought along. Only one of the people going had sailed before - and his only time was on my old boat - so I was excited to introduce everyone to the joys of sailing. And there were even a few "I could get used to this" as we chugged along in a steady 12 knot breeze just behind the Sunday afternoon racers leaving Pirate's Cove.
Everyone took a turn at the wheel while I grabbed drinks and snacks down below. It was an easy sail into the Bay, around some racers and up the Severn into Annapolis. I'll admit that I lost track of time and before I knew it, it was already 3:00. Time to hustle back for sure. The winds had a different idea all together. No, they didn't die. Just the opposite, in fact.
Heading back out of the Severn forced a lot of tacking. A couple of tacks were forced by the boats that were racing in the Bay heading back to port. J-Boats, with spinnakers flying, were darting in and out of the river's normal weekend traffic and forced us to execute a quick - and somewhat sloppy - tack in tight quarters, cutting right between two boats no more than 30 feet apart. Sorry guys. It was one of those times I wished for a non-descript, white-hulled, one-design. Far less memorable.
The benign 12 knots quickly shot up to 15, then 16, then slowly built to about 20 - I saw a couple 22 knot gusts. When we were leaving, someone asked what was the highest winds I'd head out in. I said once the wind his 20, things get a little less leisurely. I kept the building wind speed to myself.
This was my second visit to Annapolis this season, and the sail back both times were nothing short of rotten. Annapolis might be the sailing capitol of the US, but next I visit it will be by car.
We beat almost to Thomas Point Lighthouse when I decided it would be best to fire up the engine and pull in the jib. Well, that "fix" didn't work. The roller furler was jammed. I tried taking the housing apart, pulling harder, manually spinning the furling system. Nothing worked - and doing anything was impossible while beating into the wind and waves. All this had to be done while sailing downwind, simply for stability. We had now sailed north of Annapolis - the wrong direction - and it was getting late. Frustrated and tired, I dropped the entire sail and crammed it in the cabin. During all of this I managed to get a pretty nasty rope burn on three fingers. That's why they make sailing gloves. Got it.
One problem solved, we turned back South - into the wind and waves. We watched the sunset as we approached Tolly Point Shoal - more than an hour from the slip in ideal conditions, much longer pounding a whopping 4 knots into the waves. The thought of spending the night on the hook in Annapolis and giving it the ol' college try bright and early Monday did cross my mind, but we pushed on.
I'm sure everyone on board was thinking Meredith must be out of her mind for going out on a boat with me weekend after weekend. Or that I must have a very warped since of fun if this is was anything like the great sails I always talked about at work on Monday when people mentioned that I looked like I got some sun over the weekend.
Finally, the West River was in sight - or at least the flashing channel markers were. The sun left us a long time ago and the moon was nothing more than a sliver. About that time I heard something. I asked if it was the door to the head flopping open, but it sounded different. Much heavier. And then I heard a loud bang and right when I knocked us into neutral we lost steering and ground to a halt. There was 11 feet of water underneath us, so must be a crab trap. I jumped below and pulled out a headlamp. I eased the main all the way out so we weren't still fighting whatever had us firmly stuck to the muddy bottom of the Bay. Looking around I didn't see a float. When I shined the light off the bow, there it was...
The spare anchor was up on the deck. Confused, I ran up to see what was going on. The clamp holding our anchor in the anchor roller had straightened out in the banging and our 35 pound Manson Supreme anchor was now on the bottom, along with 20 feet of chain and 50 feet of rode. The spare anchor, tangled in the extra line and the bow pulpit, was holding it all together - and putting a growing gash in the anchor locker decking with every wave.
My coworkers were now recruited crew - and not during the best of conditions. The waves were nearly burying the bow and I tried to pull the anchor back on board. I'd pull a few feet up, cleat it off, then pull some more. I finally got it on board and strapped down.
Back at the helm, we were cruising along at over 6 knots - the wind having yet to die down. We rounded the final red marker, lowered the main and pulled into the slip about 9:00 p.m. I'm not sure I've ever been so glad to dock the boat.
And to think I foolish threw the spinnaker pole on the deck, just in case we didn't have a lot of wind.
So, from best day of the year to the worst, in a span of a weekend.
|Sailing On Board Cordelia||
10/05/2013, West River
I woke up at the crack of dawn to take Meredith to the airport and the thought briefly crossed my mind of heading straight out to the boat. But our king size, pillow top beats the v-berth any day of the week. So back to bed I went. After waking up at much more civilized hour I headed back out to Cordelia. I enjoyed sailing solo so much the other weekend that I was looking forward to spending the day on the Bay.
I caught up to a Catalina pulling out of Hartge to heckle them over the LSU pendants flying from their rigging. With a 3:30 kickoff, they didn't have much time to sail.
The weather was just as nice as Friday - but the wind was pretty much non-existent. If I sailed all day long I might have made it to the Bay, but the two hours I spent slowly plodding along didn't get me much past the mouth of the Rhode River. There weren't a lot of boats out and the LSU fans motored all the way to the Bay, raised, then lowered their sails and motored back. I followed suit shortly after.
Cordelia needed a good scrubbing and the total lack of wind made for perfect conditions to stop by the fuel dock. I added 10 gallons - just in case - scrubbed the deck on my hands and knees, then headed to West Marine to buy a new fairlead for the furler. The block on the old one snapped so the furler was jamming. West Marine, of course, didn't have the exact right part but found something that might fit the bill.
Boat cleaned, furler "fixed," and the fuel tank a little closer to being topped off, there was nothing left to do except throw some ice in the cooler and switch on the refrigeration so everything would be ready for sailing on Sunday with some coworkers.
With that, I was ready to watch Ole Miss play (and lose to) Auburn.
10/04/2013, West River
With the federal government partially closed due to a lapse in funding (legislative talk for a government shutdown), my office has started a revolving furlough schedule so we are operating with minimal staff, but no one gets too far behind and things continue to chug along - albeit a much slower, less efficient pace. I know those are phrases most people think about when they describe the federal government...
Anyway, back to the topic at hand.
Meredith also took the day off and after a leisurely morning of reading in bed and going to the gym, we headed out to Cordelia.
The winds were light, but enough to keep us gliding along without too much effort. We raised the main while motoring away from the docks and had the jib out soon after. By the time we were just above Galesville, where the river turns toward the Bay (the area I consider the "real" West River), Cordelia was cutting through the water at a comfortable 4 knots in about 8 knots of wind. Meredith crawled up on the catwalk to get some sun - on an unusually warm October afternoon - while I just enjoyed being on the water.
After an hour or so we tacked back into the river. The autopilot came back on (I'm furloughed, so it's illegal to work after all) as soon as we were heading straight through the float free zone. I joined Meredith up on the bow and we popped the cork on our last bottle of rose - a pretty fitting way to say goodbye to the summer.
The West River ran out before we were ready to call it a day, so we turned back toward the Bay. The wind slowly began tapering off until it wasn't even able to keep the sail from flapping over us like a sheet. We laid on the bow a little while longer before reluctantly heading back to the slip and declaring it the best sail of the season.
|Sailing On Board Cordelia||
09/29/2013, West River
There was a decent chance I was going to have to work on Sunday, but as of late Saturday it looked like I was off the hook. The weather was perfect for a day outside, but not really a day sailing. The winds were light and a tad shifty - a combination that allowed me to watch the windex do a complete 360 a couple times while we were sailing. But I didn't care. I've been in a sort of mild panic since Labor Day about the sailing season coming to an end and the prospect of pulling Cordelia for the winter. Between football games and travel, sailing weekends are quickly slipping away.
We pulled out of the slip a little after noon and with the winds again coming from the North, the main was up before we even made it to Thursday's.
The West River was the place to be on Sunday. Between the Seven Seas Cruising Association (Can you name them? Or, after you ask Google, have you ever heard of them?) annual gam breaking up, the West River Sailing Club's J-105 Sunday races, and people just out enjoying the great weather, Galesville might have taken Annapolis' title as the sailing capital - at least for the weekend. Meredith and I tried to go check out what was left of the gam, but the wind had shifted a little more to the East so the wind completely died as we entered the mouth of the Rhode River. I turned us around to head back to the Bay, sails flogging due to the lack of wind. I had flashbacks of the South River as powerboats plowed through the water, creating massive wakes, a few feet off our stern - there were a few so close I wondered if they even saw us.
The winds slowly picked up as we sailed back into the more open waters of the West River. Even then, the biggest gust - and just one - I saw was a whopping 8 knots. Not exactly white-knuckle sailing, but a great day to be on the water.
Meredith read and napped while I tacked out to the Bay. I eventually decided it was time to head home when I glided up to a J Boat and saw that the wind couldn't even muster enough strength to fill a set of Kevlar racing sails.
Meredith took the helm to motor us back to the slip while I flaked the main, furled the jib and coiled the lines. Neither one of were ready to head home so we spend the next couple hours reading, snacking and napping in the cockpit while listening to some music on the stereo - which I don't use often because the sound of the wind and water is so peaceful, but it comes in handy at the dock.
Who says you need wind to enjoy a great day on a sailboat?
|Sailing On Board Cordelia||
09/22/2013, West River
Meredith decided that she got her money's worth on Saturday and opted to stay home to cook dinner since we had friends coming over that evening. But I still needed to go out to Cordelia since we left lunch in the ice box, the refrigeration on and the battery charger charging just in case we wanted to squeeze in a quick sail Sunday morning.
I headed to the marina about 10:30, after going to the grocery store with Meredith. There were a couple little projects I took care of, and I almost decided to just go for a run instead of attempting to sail single handed. But it was a perfect day. Sunny, nice steady breeze, bright blue sky and the temperature was in the low 70s. You couldn't have asked for a better first day of Fall. It was simply far too nice to let an opportunity to sail slip by.
Sailing wouldn't be the issue. I knew I could handle tacking and gybing without any help. Docking was another story. The wind was blowing about 11 knots from the North. That meant it was blowing me into the slip and at an odd angle. The bow lines were the first to come off. From there the wind took over. After about 5 minutes of pushing off pilings, giving a little throttle, cutting the wheel, pulling on stern lines and some other not so graceful maneuvers, I managed to slide out of the slip.
I flipped on the autopilot right when I got out of the fairway to raise the main - with a reef. By the time I rounded Thursday's the engine was off, the reef was gone and about a third of the jib was out. Cordelia was heading up the West River at about 4 knots. I tacked all the way out to where the West River widens, gaining confidence and letting more and more of the jib out as I went. A J Boat was coming up behind me, and since I was the one going slow, I tried to do a quick tack so they could pass. Of course, with an audience, I straighten up too soon and back filled the jib. No worries. I cut the wheel hard and executed an effortless heave to and waved as they passed. I fell right back in behind them and we both continued out to the Bay, just like I meant to do that the entire time - fake it til you make it, right?
The wind died down some until a big 17 knot gust came out of the mouth of the Rhode River. Cordelia suddenly sprang to life, buried her shoulder and that J Boat wasn't moving so fast anymore. Every few minutes I'd slide a little more of the jib out and gain a little more speed as I headed toward Thomas Point Lighthouse.
By the time I slipped past the last red marker before entering the Bay the jib was all the way out. I did my last tack and ran back to the West River between a broad and beam reach, hitting 7.5 knots while passing several other boats.
Cordelia has always handled well, but you don't really get a feel for how well she sails until you are out there alone. There's no need to even touch the wheel when the sails are trimmed. I have more faith in Cordelia and confidence in my abilities. I'm not sure if the perfect conditions or having my total attention tuned in on sailing made the difference - probably a combination of both - but Sunday was one of the best days of the season.
And, surprisingly, docking was much easier than leaving the slip.