Late Afternoon Sail without GPS

I left the marina about 1630 with no way to know my speed or location.  Fortunately, I was sailing in waters well known to me.  Still, I like to know my speed, and sometimes when the weather is hazy, it’s nice to just look at the GPS and confirm my heading back to port.

My faithful handheld Garmin eTrex has been guiding me for about 6 years, but recently it has been acting erratically.  Slow updating, powering down for no reason I can understand, unusual lines across the screen.  Several days ago it finally failed to power up.  Or rather, it powered up momentarily, then shut down.  I thought there was moisture in the case (it’s been rained on innumerable times), so I brought it inside to the dry air conditioned house.  After 3 days, no change.  I think it’s dead.  There are other methods I might try to revive it, but if it’s really dead, that’s okay, because for as little as it cost and as much as I’ve used it, it owes me nothing.  But today one was one of those hazy days on the bay…

I cleared the last green marker and pulled out of the channel to raise sail.  There were white caps, and the wind was a solid 15 knots from SE, which meant that any heading was going to be a close reach.  I reefed, which turned out to be a good decision.

It’s a bit breezy today.  You can see Herrington Harbor South off in the distance.

First reef and a partially rolled headsail turned out to be a prudent decision.

It took me another 10 minutes after raising sail to get in proper trim.  Finally I got the sails looking right and pulling well.  We must have been making between 4.5 to 5.5 knots (in the gusts).  I was headed nearly due east, heading up and falling off as the breeze dictated, keeping the sails full.  I noticed several boats bearing down on me from the north.  It looked like they were racing each other – no reefs for these guys.  They were hard on the wind on the opposite tack from me, and had plenty of crew on the rails.

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I caught some pretty cool photos as they went by – which was a challenge, because I was alone in the boat and steering at the same time.  I must have shaped a pretty inconsistent course for anyone who was watching.

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They're moving pretty fast

They’re moving pretty fast

Then I happened to look back to the north, and saw another 20 boats at least.  It dawned on me – this must be St. Mary’s College Governor’s Cup Race – the oldest and longest overnight race on the Chesapeake. It occurs the 1st weekend in August.  The route is Annapolis to St. Mary’s Maryland.

The traffic kept coming, and I didn’t want to interfere with the race so I came about and headed for the home port.

Lots of boats out there

Lots of boats out there

I wanted to come about before I got in this guy's way

I wanted to come about before I got in this guy’s way

I made the turn, trimmed sails and… where am I going?  Where is Rockhold Creek?  It was a hazy day, remember?  One of those days when I would look at the GPS for assurance.  The shoreline was about 4 miles away, and it all looked pretty much the same.  Well, I could see both arms of Herring Bay, and I knew generally where the creek was in relation to those boundaries, so I aimed towards my best guess. I was on a beam reach now, so I let out the headsail and eased the main sheet.  We surged ahead, probably touching 6+ knots.  45 minutes later I was recognizing details.  I had been right in my estimation, and needed little adjustment to get into the channel after striking sails.

By 1845 we were tied up and I was walking to the house.

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