Part 3: Sailing home in heavy winds and rolling seas
12 November 2012 | HHN to Dividing Creek and return
Ko Barrett: Windy, highs in the low 70s
When I made it into Eastern Bay and hoisted the sail, I saw how windy it was. Nice, winds from the South. Perfect for sailing Northeast around Tilghman Pt. I was making 5 kts and it was pleasant sailing. But then I rounded the point and had to sail Southeast, almost into the wind. And the wind was strong - consistently showing over 20kts on my wind instrument. After half an hour of being severely heeled with wave after wave hitting the bow, I reefed. Well, I tried to reef. I was able to let the sail partially down with the halyard while pulling in the left side reefing line. That went smoothly. But when I switched to the right side to pull the back reefing point down, I could not budge it. The front of the sail was nicely shortened but the back was full height. Not good. Eventually I figured out that I needed to point into the wind in order to reduce the force on the sail and I could, with all my might, just pull in that reefing line.
Good thing I did that. Even reefed, I was heeled about 45 degrees (okay...probably 30). I was still going about 5 kts but it was rough going. Lots of spray over the bow and a fair amount of drift Northward. This was making for slow going and I was having a hard time pointing into the wind at the angle I needed to exit the Eastern Bay into the Chesapeake. Eventually, I started up the motor and motor-sailed into the Chesapeake at almost 7 kts.
There I had to avoid a gigantic cargo ship, a tugboat pushing a barge and a number of small fishing boats. It was a long three hours of hard sailing before I made the turn into Herring Bay. Then I had the wind behind me and sailed downwind at almost 7 kts...reefed! Turned and dropped the sail and motored into the marina.
The wind was blowing from the back of my slip. I backed up on target and put the boat in neutral well before I entered the slip, remembering how I had come in too hot last time. Well, I soon learned that this wind required me to be in gear well into the slip. Things worked out...not effortless of elegant, but home safely.
I'm wiped out...but happy. Another single-handed adventure under my belt.