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On Board Cordelia
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All About Tonight
Nick / 80, 14-16 knots, South
07/27/2013, Rhode River

Meredith and I woke up Saturday with pretty vague plans for the day other than sailing, spending the night on the boat and having BBQ chicken. A pretty laid back day and good continuation of her birthday weekend.

Our friends Dan and Tara were nice enough to watch Bailey for the night. After packing - and giving Bailey a bath - we dropped him off and headed out to the boat.

I've learned to pretty much ignore the weather forecasts because the weather in Galesville isn't the weather on the West River. The weather on the West River isn't the weather on the Bay. And, the weather on the Bay is rarely what they forecast it to be. We got to the slip and were greeted by a fresh southern breeze that built the whole way out of the river. By the time we were raising the sails, the wind was a nearly constant 16 knots. Meredith was a little nervous since we hadn't been on a good sail in a few weeks and we decided to put a reef in the main. There were boats out with all types of configurations ranging from full sails to jib alone, to several reef arrangements. Besides, it's easier to shake a reef out than put one in.

We made quick work of sailing north to the mouth of the Severn with the winds coming from our back quarter, as well as the waves. Once we got past Thomas Point - and the growing swells caused by the water going from 25 to 10 and back to 25 feet - I set the auto-pilot. It seems to steer downwind better than I do. Our speed was down to about 5 knots and I figured now would be a good time to take out the reef.

Meredith laid out while I watched a one-design race out in the Bay. A boat was on the same heading as us and appeared to be making up ground - which is the real reason I took out the reef. No need to get passed when you don't have to, right? Once we started going up into the Severn, our lack of plans had to come to an end. We toyed with the idea of staying in Annapolis then heading back Sunday morning, but getting under way early enough for a three hour sail before a 12:30 tee time didn't seem too appealing. We tacked back toward the West River. As we did, I saw that the boat behind us was Muse. Peter had told Meredith they planned on visiting Annapolis Saturday night. They tacked right behind us and I saw Judi taking a couple pictures of Cordelia under sail. I've been wanting a picture of us sailing. I grabbed Meredith iPhone and did the same for them, though their photos turned out MUCH better than mine.

The wind was still blowing pretty good and we had a nice sail back to the West River, even though we were beating into a pretty good chop. The seas got a little confused as we went over the end of Thomas Point shoal and Meredith gave me a heads up just in time to see a big spray douse the cockpit. Our speed started to really pick up as we headed into the West River. It's easy to tell when we break about 6.7 knots just by the sound of the water flowing past the transom. Get close to 7 and it sounds like the water passing under the hull has started to boil. I love it. Especially when we are on a nice reach, with balanced sails, a shoulder in the water. Cordelia roars along like a locomotive on the tracks.

We turned further off the wind until we were going into the Rhode wing-and-wing. We can't grill at the dock, so dropping anchor near the islands in the Rhode for the night seemed like a good compromise. We're still anchoring out and the wakeup call wouldn't be too early. Now that we've spent several nights on Cordelia, getting up with the sun isn't an issue anymore. Great for sleeping. Not so much for maximizing sailing time.

The weather, aside from a short-lived sprinkle, was perfect for lounging in the cockpit. We had a cocktail, some snacks and Meredith took a quick nap. I finally got around to hooking up the grill and making the BBQ chicken, which had been in the ice box covered with some marinade from The Shed in Ocean Springs, Miss. After dinner we straightened up, played cards (the ever-classy game of War) and called it a night.

The house battery cranked the engine on Sunday morning without too much protest, even after running the instruments, anchor light and stereo. Hopefully our battery issues were as simple as returning the "bad" one to West Marine.

Meredith motored us back to the slip, even though she did admit to wanting to head back into the Bay, and we loaded the car to head home.

Sailing On Board Cordelia
Whatever Floats Your (Sushi) Boat
07/25/2013, Deale, MD

I've complained about restaurants in Galesville and Deale before. Not about the food or the lack of options, but about their love for closing early. With the sun not setting until 8:30 and everyone taking full advantage of every second of daylight, I can't imagine how much how much business these places lose by locking the doors at 9:00. Luckily, there are a few places that don't shut their doors after the early-bird special.

Umai Sushi in Deale really is a hidden gem. They are open until 9:30 - only Happy Harbor might be open later - and before you think eating at a sushi restaurant in Deale strip mall is the fastest way to spend a night having your stomach pumped, think again. I'll admit I had my doubts at first, but I like Umai better than any sushi place I've been to in DC.

The weather was too nice not to sit outside, surrounded by the dozens of potted plants taking up at least six parking spots in the strip mall. My favorite part is that the plants are in five gallon soy sauce buckets. Five gallons of soy sauce, talk about some MSGs...

Any time we eat at an Asian restaurant, I let Meredith do the ordering. We started with the complimentary cream cheese wontons, followed by some hot gyoza and edamame. As for sushi, we had a tempura sweet potato roll, spider roll, oyster roll (an Umai specialty, I think), and some sort of spicy something or other.

The sweet potato tempura was amazing and the oyster roll didn't disappoint either time we've tried it. The ship was soon empty and the waitress was making fun of us for how fast we polished off our food, I think.

So, if you're in Deale looking for great service and good Japanese food, give Umai a try - regardless of the time of day.

Boat Drinks & Nautical Nosh
Stress Relief
Nick / 81, 12 knots, NNE
07/25/2013, West River

Boats are kind of like bipolar disorder. The highs are high and the lows are low. High or low, it's hard to think about anything else while you are on a boat.

The highs melt away whatever worries you might have and the lows are generally stressful enough to make you forget about whatever else might be going on because you can only focus on undoing whatever mess you are in at the moment - the weather is usually really bad right now, too, just for an added shot of stress.

So far, knock on wood, the highs have far outweighed a few very minor lows on Cordelia. And last night was no exception.

Meredith picked me up after work and we headed down the familiar route to the marina. Meredith usually gets in boat mode when we turn on the two-lane cut through to Chalk Point. It doesn't really hit me until I see the water. By the time we park at the marina, we are both relaxed and whatever was going on less than an hour before is a distant memory.

Last night the weather was perfect and we were even surprised with a nice cool breeze. I'd be lying if I said we didn't think about just sitting there at the dock - until at least Sunday. I think our blood pressures continue dropping as we walk down the dock and by the time we're actually on board it takes some motivation to get ready to cast off the lines and raise the sails. It had been more than a week since we left the slip so I knew we needed to knock off some of the slime that seems to be worse than usual this year. Everyone on the Bay has been complaining about abnormally quick growth and even baby barnacles, that are essentially little worms clinging to the hull. I'm glad I was blissfully ignorant of all this when I cleaned the bottom the other weekend.

The Wednesday night racers were just crossing the finish line, spinnakers flying, as we navigated around them. We only raised the jib since we weren't going to be out long. We moved along about 5 knots for about 45 minutes before Meredith took the wheel to complete a gybe and start heading us home.

The wind started to fizzle out as we approached the dock so I decided this would be a good time for Meredith to practice docking the boat - by practice, I mean try for the first time. The wind of course picked up right as we entered the fairway, but Meredith got us in the slip. We only lost a little bit of paint on the stern. Meredith decided docking might not be her cup of tea. Truth be told, I didn't feel too comfortable grabbing the lines and she's really good at it. So, responsibilities defined.

It was a great, relaxing evening and we're planning to get back out there on Saturday.

Sailing On Board Cordelia
Running Against The Wind
Nick / SSW, 18 knots, 3ft seas
07/23/2013, Solomons Island

It's taken me so long to get this post up because instead of writing it, I've been looking at upcoming races on the Bay. Who would have thought staying up all night, in the dark, and beating against waves could be so addictive? But it is - or at least it was for me.

Dock call was at 4:30 Friday afternoon, just in time to watch a couple storm cells blow a little too close for comfort. Luckily they all moved north of us and provided some much needed shade as we sat in a slip at the Eastport Yacht Club. I was the novice as everyone else on the crew had raced before, including some in last year's Solomons race.

I'm not sure what my favorite part of the race was, but the starting line was amazing. All the boats circling just outside of Spa Creek was really a sight. This was the part I was most anxious about, but once you're in the scrum it seems much more organized than it appears from the shore - kind of like soccer. I assume there is some sort of formation or plays they are running, but to me, it just looks like chaos. Our division crossed the line at 7:35 p.m. and we were in pretty good position on the far left side of the course. It gave us a straight shot directly to Tolly Point, our first mark, but the wind seemed to be more favorable a little close to shore as those boats slowly pulled ahead.

It was pretty smooth sailing once we exited the Severn and cruised past Thomas Point, the South River and said goodbye to daylight around the West River. We were making good progress cutting along the rhumb line between 5 and 6 knots. By the time the Calvert Cliff power plant came into view, we started to see more stern lights on the horizon and were able to catch a few boats. Much of the night was spent scanning the darkness for specks of white, green and red, trying to figure out which boat might be tacking off in the distance. The boats looked like ghosts as the outline of their sails came into view and then vanished as we headed off in different directions, only to see them reappear a hundred yards off the stern a little while later.

Overall, the two things that surprised me the most were how busy we were throughout the night and how much light an almost full moon gives off.

The wind and seas slowly started to build near Chesapeake Beach and continued as we moved south. The waves became a series of speed bumps and potholes killing our momentum and the call was made to add a reef in the main. Needless to say that was an interesting experience in the dark. With the reef and shifting wind, we were able to fall off a little while still holding our speed around 6 knots. This smoothed out the ride a good deal and I found a seat by the mainsail traveler so I could ease the sail during the gusts. Who would have ever guessed you would need to put in a reef on the Bay in July?

The moon set shortly before 4:00 a.m., just before we reached our last mark and began heading for the Patuxent River and the finish line. Sailing from the Eastern Shore to the river, without the moon, was another highlight and might have been what really got me hooked. All you could see was a white sail piercing into the starry sky.

Until I looked up and saw a tug boat, straight ahead that is... I called it out and after a little discussion about light configurations we tacked to avoid a fairly lengthy barge being drug directly across the mouth of the river. After sailing nearly 40 miles down the Bay with only two sets of tacks, this was the first of what would be many, many tacks across the finish line. We had been just off the wind all night, but were now heading directly into it. We tacked every five minutes, adding nearly 8 miles to our total. The sun was just beginning its journey as we were ending ours.

Looking at the finish line while we sailed into Solomons we could see at least seven boats behind us, including two who were fighting it out to cross the line. In the end, they finished about 30 seconds apart. It's amazing that after 10 hours of sailing, two boats could be that close.

Everyone considered the night a success. We finished in the top five for our class. The second through fourth place boats were all within an hour of our time. The boat we had been chasing all night came in fourth, they slipped past us while we were putting in the reef. But the real reason we knew it was a successful night is because we pulled into our slip six minutes before the Bloody Mary Bar opened... Just enough time for a quick shower.

I took some really great shots on my BlackBerry, but it didn't fare as well as I did. So, those photos are now lost in the ether. The above photo is from the SpinSheet gallery of the start.

Maritime Musing
On Your Mark… Get Set… Sail.
07/18/2013, Eastport

I have never sailed overnight. I've also never raced a boat - unless you count that carved bar of Ivory soap in Cub Scouts. But I want to build up some experience and I found a captain who is either a glutton for punishment or really hard-up for crew. Maybe both. So, if all goes according to plans, I will have a race and an overnight sail under my belt come Saturday morning because I'm crewing on a Pearson 30 in the Eastport Yacht Club's Solomon Island Invitational Race.

The impetus for all this is because at some point I'd like to do some long-distance cruising on Cordelia. Day sails with friends aren't really going to give me the experience I need for everything that entails. I figured a race would be the best way to get a lot of new experiences crammed in a short amount of time. If all goes well, maybe Cordelia can enter a few races that don't consist of me finding a relatively slow looking boat to pass in the Bay.

This is the third or fourth Eastport to Solomons race the boat I'm crewing on has participated in, improving in each race from a "did not finish" all the way to the top ten in her class. The owner is hoping for a better finish this year since he has a new main and Kevlar 155. I'm hoping to reach the finish and not screw up too badly. He has assured me that since I know how to trim a sail, I will be more than simply ballast.

Looks like tomorrow will be a scorcher with light winds right on our nose for the start of the race, but they are going to freshen and clock all the way around until they are... right on our nose for the end of the race.

Tonight is dedicated to preparation. I need to throw a change of clothes, lifejacket, flashlight and sailing gloves in a bag and then meet some friends for a birthday dinner of carb loading. Unlimited french fries? Yes, please.

See you in Solomons.

Maritime Musing
Dodging Jelly Fish
Nick / Light winds, Near 90
07/16/2013, Rhode River

Even with Friday's rain and Saturday's lack of wind combined with temps hovering around 90, it was a pretty great weekend.

Meredith and I threw some clothes in a bag Friday afternoon and, hoping the rain would go away, packed a cooler for a day on the water Saturday. After a quick stop at the storage unit to grab our spinnaker, we were off to our usual Friday-night-on-the-boat spot, Pirate's Cove in Galesville. I was a little disappointed that the weather wasn't cooperating and we had to drive instead of taking the dinghy, our usual means of transportation. The lounge was packed, every table was reserved but we did find two prime seats at the bar for dinner, drinks and some great people watching. We had decided before we even go there that tonight was the night we were going to dance - and possibly make friends with the Melanie & Friends groupies. We did both - even had a piece of Kurt's (he is the & Friends) birthday cake - before heading back to Cordelia around midnight.

As an added bonus for me, for once I didn't have order envy. I went with the blackened flounder, while Meredith got the pan-fried rockfish. Meredith is usually an ordering rock star but she had a bit of a swing and a miss this time.

The weather forecast was a bit spotty for Saturday, but I woke up at 6:00 to a beautiful, sunny day - and then went back to sleep for another hour or so. Once I was up for good, I went on a run and emailed Andrea and Adam to let them know sailing was a go. Things were going pretty well up until that point and it looked like I would even be able to squeeze in a trip to West Marine to pick up new spinnaker sheets and the grocery store for a couple galley items. Then I lost the car keys... A marina-wide search ensued to no avail. I looked one last time after Andrea and Adam arrived and found them on the window of a car - another Volvo. Out of a fairly small marina, it's kind of surprising there are enough Volvo's in the parking lot that a lost key would end up on the window of the wrong Volvo. Oh well, I was glad that we would be driving home instead of hitchhiking.

Once everything was stowed away we tossed the dock lines, only slightly later than planned. We were all surprised at how nice a day it was shaping up to be. Not too hot and even a nice, cool breeze. I had never flown a spinnaker before but since the winds were so light and Adam is incredibly helpful when he's on the boat with us, it seemed like as good a time as any. I am also crewing on a boat this weekend in the Eastport-Solomon Race. They have a spinnaker so I wanted at least a vague concept of how it works. We got it up with only a few very minor hiccups and the whole process was surprisingly easy - I know I didn't have all the lines run for optimal performance, which simplified things some. This was the first time Cordelia has sailed with a spinnaker since at least 2005, the previous owners said they had never used it. I was very pleased and considered it a successful weekend already.

We bobbed around admiring our handiwork for about an hour before the heat really got the best of us. We decided it was time to douse the spinnaker. This might have been harder than hoisting it. Instead of the mental image of I'm sure you all have of an experienced race crew seamlessly pulling down and storing the spinnaker, our attempt was more of me hanging onto the bow with one arm, the spinnaker pole in the other and about 600 square feet of fabric wadded in my lap.

We motored to the Rhode River to take a quick dip before calling it a day. Everyone took turns standing jelly fish watch so the others could swim relatively sting-free. I scrubbed the waterline and tried to un-gunk the speed-wheel. Didn't have much luck with either. Next time I'm going to have to use something a little stronger than my boat brush.

We didn't go out on Sunday, but I did finish washing the boat and finally put two cans of Scotch-Gard on the mainsail cover. Hopefully next time I raise the sail, it will be a relatively dry affair. We'll see...

Sailing On Board Cordelia
07/16/2013 | Bob
Hi guys. Another great post. Sounds like you had a great weekend. Also, congratulations on using the spinnaker for the first time. If you got it up and down with minimal problems you will find it gets even easier. After your race you will see how others douse the chute and you might find it even easier. I look forward to seeing you guys when I am home in August. Until then, enjoy your sailing adventures.

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On Board Cordelia
Who: Nick & Meredith Simpson
Port: Chalk Point, West River, MD
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"There is nothing - absolutely nothing - half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats." -- The Wind in the Willows

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