Chesapeake Summer Squalls

I sailed today from about 1545 to 1815.  It was a hot day on land, but the bay was breezy and comfortable.  With SE winds 10-12 knots near the creek entrance, I began with a partially furled headsail and full main, making a comfortable 4.5 knots.  We were close hauled at 90-100 degrees true. It’s the weekend, so there was a lot residual chop from power boats, plus the breeze had no less than 10 miles of fetch to kick up the chop, so the ride wasn’t so smooth compared to sailing during the week with little boat traffic.  Still, it was very nice sailing – the boat responding well, locked into the groove on that point of sail.

I passed a fish trap about three miles due east of the creek entrance, continued on about a quarter mile more, and came about to return on my outbound track.  I had been sailing an hour at that point, and I had at least an hour’s sail to get back.  I noticed rain clouds approaching from the SW and wondered if I would get wet.  10 minutes later the wondering was over.  The rain started slowly, but increased rapidly, as the wind built from 10 to 20 knots in minutes.  With gusts up to 20+ knots, I rolled up the headsail and did okay for five minutes with just the main.  When the gusts increased to 30 knots or more, clearly I had to do something.

I clipped on to the coach roof jackline, unclipped from the cockpit, and made my way hands-and-knees to the main.  I had the forethought to release the halyard before leaving the cockpit, so all I had to do was pull the sail down and tie it off to the boom.  This went quickly and I had it wrapped up in 3-4 minutes.  Meanwhile, the rain absolutely poured and blew sideways.  I was soaked in about one minute.  I returned to the cockpit, unclipped/clipped in as appropriate, then noticed that I didn’t have the forethought to secure the jib sheet while the sail was flogging earlier.  I clipped/unclipped, scrambled 10 feet to get the sheet, clipped/unclipped again.  Safety can be so inconvenient…

Still clipped into the cockpit line, I stretch forward to reach the coach roof line. When that is fastened, I unclip from the cockpit and go forward.

Finally got the lines sorted out and my glasses wiped clean – and the rain and wind stopped.  Now that I was ready for more foul weather, it was gone.  I unrolled the headsail again and made 2 knots’ progress in the left-over slop from motor boats and squall, continuing on for 10 minutes in this fashion until I noticed a big dark cloud, now in the west and it seemed to be getting closer.  As I looked, I saw a lightning bolt jag down.  Yeah – time to get back to port.

Roll up the headsail again, crank the engine, close the mile remaining to Rockhold Creek entrance. Lightning is falling regularly now, and I jam the throttle all the way forward, inching up to a screaming… 6.4 knots.  That’s as fast as she goes.  I’m in the creek with only 8/10s of a mile to go, which I cover in about 5 minutes.  Make my approach to the slip, turn, hit reverse and backdown, pulling the aft port quarter into the slip backwards.  A quick burst of forward with opposite helm straightens me in the slip and stops the boat.  I go forward and grab the bow lines, make secure, and do the same with stern lines.

Another 5 minutes and I’ve got her put away in a quick-and-dirty fashion.  Good enough for now.  I’ll finish up when the lightning storm is over.  I head for the house.

  1. Anonymous said:

    Great sail, you really had me with you. Great read. Thanks.

    • Thanks. It was pretty exciting for a few minutes. The wind and rain I don’t mind. The lightning is a different story. Do you sail? And where do you sail…?

  2. Mike Crosa said:

    Great sail. You had be with you all the way. Great writing and great read. Thanks.

    • Okay Mike – I see from the IP address that yours was the previous comment. Hope you can return to sailing. It continues to be an adventure. Every time I cast off the lines something interesting happens.

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