23 July 2010 | Block Island, RI
Tuesday July 20 to Thursday July 22
In the morning I moved CURLEW to the fuel dock to top up the diesel tank. Tom and Barry, the crew for the first part of the trip to Block Island, came on board and we left at 1015, at high tide to benefit from the south bound current down the Delaware River. The Delaware (River and Bay) must be one of the most boring stretches of water you can imagine. It is completely featureless (except, perhaps, for the Salem Nuclear Power Plant) and is very shallow outside of the channel. It almost always involves lots of motoring, and this time it was no different. We motored all the way down the Bay and around Cape May and did not get any wind until 0545 on Wednesday morning when a gentle breeze (10/12k from the SW) sprung up.
We set sail and turned off the engine. During the morning and early afternoon the wind shifted around a bit and dropped below 10 k for a while before it increased again and settled at SW 15/18 k in the late afternoon. That resulted in quite a few sail changes. First: main to SB on a preventer, and jib to port on the telescoping whisker pole. The whisker pole has its own fore and after guys, an extension control line and a topping lift, so including the jib sheets and the jib furling line there are 7 lines that control this set up. After the wind had shifted and we had sailed with the wind over the SB quarter for a while I decided to jibe. This goes as follows: Change course to port to bring the wind on the port quarter, release the boom preventer, winch in the main sheet, do a controlled jibe, reset the boom preventer, furl the jib, take the whisker pole down and move it to SB, reset all the lines and jib sheet and unfurl the jib.
This involves quite a lot of work on deck, so while you do all this juggling you wear a safety harness that allows you to move around while being attached to the boat with a tether. I admit that a safety harness and tether is important, but it also restricts your movements. It often just comes up short or ends up wrapped around some piece of deck hardware, or it somehow wraps itself around one leg and you have to untangle yourself before you can finish the job at hand.
After an hour or two the wind had become so light that I decided to furl the jib and hoist the big drifter (aka "Code Zero") to SB. This is set on its own halyard and has a removable furler with a continuous furling line. Of course it has its own set of sheets, so we just added 4 more control lines to the mix. Within an hour the wind started to shift and after a while I decided to jibe again and set the drifter on the whisker pole to port.
Around 1700 on Wednesday the wind started to increase and we furled and lowered the drifter and put the jib back up. The wind continued to increase and at 1950 we put in a reef. On the radio we had heard of severe thunderstorms in the New York and Long Island area, and after nightfall we could see cloud cover building from the west. They hit us around 2300 but seemed to have lost most of their punch. We got some gusts and sudden wind shifts besides rain, but I don't believe the gusts were over 35k. We had already furled the jib, and out of precaution I lowered the mainsail, but it was all over in 30 minutes. We were left with no wind and a confused sea. We turned on the engine and set the main (with one reef) to stabilize the boat a bit.
At 0215 on Thursday the wind had picked up from the northwest. We turned of the engine and set the jib. The weather forecast was for wind increasing to 15 to 20k, with gusts to 25, so I left the reef in the main. At 0420 the wind had increased to 18/21k and gusty, and we furled the jib and set the smaller staysail instead. At 0820 we were able to set the jib again and at 1045 I decided to take out the reef. Two hours later the wind picked up again to 19/22k and we put the reef back in. On 1445 on Thursday we entered the Great Salt Pond at Block Island and dropped anchor after 53 hours underway.
It was a very successful trip with some great sailing. Most of Thursday was broad reaching under jib and main with one reef; it does not get much better than that.
Despite some quirks the AIS box was informative (although it lost its GPS signals twice for no apparent reason) but we did not have to hail any other vessel on the VHF.
We saw dolphins, 2 pilot whales (briefly), shearwaters and stormy petrels.
Today (Friday) we are are spending a lazy day at anchor in BI (it's raining anyway).