Smooth Sailing in the Middle
20 January 2012 | Thompson Bay, Long Island
We did take off today for Long Island. We thought this was our best chance to sail as the wind was supposed to be a bit north of east today. It was also supposed to increase starting at about 13 knots and increasing to 17 or 18. Because of the direction, Bud was worried about the entrance channel at the marina and wanted to get an early start before waves built up. We finished the last of our chores and set out before we even readied the main for sailing. We figured once we were through the channel we'd be fine, the wind was still going to be light enough we could easily do those things underway. Wrong. The wind was over 15 knots, the waves were 4 to 5 feet (and this was wind chop, not rollers, so it's like 5 footers on Lake Ontario) and doing anything proved to be difficult.
Here's what went wrong. We always tie our mail halyard (the line that pulls the main sail up) under the boom to keep it from slapping against the mast at night. Usually we untie it and pull it straight using one person to untie and control the line while the other takes up on the halyard. Bud had to do it alone because I was at the helm keeping us going into the waves in a reasonable direction. He did get it up OK, but pulled it up a bit too far. More on that later. Meanwhile, he had to unzip the stack pack and loosen the lazy jacks, lines that help to control the main as it's taken down. They need to be loose so the stiff battens in the main don't catch on them on the way up. Bud got those jobs done and went to raise the main. We had left a bungee cord around the mast way up. I climb up the mast steps and winches on windy nights and warp a cord around the lines and slide it up as high as I can reach, again to keep lines from slapping the mast. It was still up there. So I had to go get my boat shoes on (we were both wearing life jackets for deck-work today) and climb up to the top mast step and the top winch, which are about four and a half feet off the deck. Then I had to reach up as high as I could and unclip that cord and bring it down. Now we could raise the main. But wait, remember that halyard? Bud had pulled it a bit too far and the wind had caught the top of the main and further loosened the halyard, which had now been blown in front of one of the spreaders on the mast. The spreaders are the arms that stick out to the sides of the mast and have the cables (or in our case rods) that hold the mast centered running down at the ends of them. The halyard was stuck on one. I went and got the boat hook, braced myself at the bottom of the mast, extended the hook as far as it would go and grabbed the halyard with the end of it. I pulled a lot of slack in it and we moved the boat about in the wind until the halyard came loose. Yeah, we're now ready to raise the main. We put it up with two reefs in it and pulled the jib our with a bit over a single reef and we were off. Except, once we started sailing we noticed that the lazy jack on one side had come un-cleated and the line was now blowing way up where we couldn't reach it. Nothing we could do now. Eventually it came out of the pulley it goes through about half-way up the mast and fell on the deck. I untangled the lines and gathered them up and tied them neatly under the boom. Now we had lazy jacks on only one side of the main. No problem until we go to take the main down.
So we sailed. and it was a good sail. We sailed outside Stocking Island, all along the east side. On the west side is the miles long Elizabeth Harbour. When we got to the other end of the harbor a boat was coming out the southeast cut. They came out the cut about a half mile ahead of us. It was a ketch (two masts) with a full jib and full main up, but not the mizzen (the smaller sail that's flown on the second and smaller mast). They were towing their dinghy, which I'm sure slowed them down, especially because the waves were still in the 4 foot range. Anyway, we passed them before too many miles. It's always nice to pass another boat. Not long after that, they turned aside. I'm not sure where they were going. We'd seen two other boats but they were gone, too.
We had to turn directly east for one leg of the trip and we thought we wouldn't be able to keep sailing. However, the wind stayed enough north that we could just do it. Earendil was heading about 35 degrees off the apparent wind and we were still making about 5.5 knots. We decided we had time to sail and didn't want to run the engine. After almost 8 miles of that we turned a bit to the south again, but so did the wind, so we were still sailing about as close as we can and make any time. However, we ended up being able to sail the whole way. The wind dropped a bit and we pulled the whole jib out. We would have taken at least one of the reefs out of the main, but we didn't want to pull more of the sail up as it was going to fall all over coming down. Even so we sailed almost 51 nautical miles and made it here in about eight and a-half hours.
When we took the main down, Bud turned so the wind was just off the nose and the sail was blowing towards the side that still had lazy jacks. Not all the sail fell down when it was released, so I tied the back part up before I went up and pulled the rest of the front down. I tied that, too, so it's all secure to the boom, it just looks pretty ratty.
Our next fun was anchoring. I had the anchor loose and let it out until it was hanging down from the bow. That way, when Bud tells me to let it go I can take the brake off the windlass and it will just drop...except today. Nothing happened, I couldn't get it to go down. So Bud drove the boat in a circle while I went below and crawled up on the berth in the forepeak and opened the door to the chain locker to see what was going on. One problem was that the chain had fallen over on itself and had to be yanked free. The bigger problem was that the hawse pipe, a PVC pipe that extends down into the chain locker to help guide the chain, had come loose. I had to shove it back up in place and hope it stayed, because the chain was running through it so I couldn't just pull it out. It stayed, the chain played out nicely. The only other issue was that I couldn't find our fifty foot mark. I'm not sure if it's gone, or if in the late afternoon light I just missed it. Anyway, we probably have out more chain than we need, but there's plenty of room here and we're secure.
There was a beautiful sunset. I'll post a photo once I find internet. I found one good signal, but it seems to have security and I'm not sure if it's one I can purchase or not. We'll see. Anyway, we're here and we sailed here and it's a lovely place.