Stolen from autumn’s inconsistently inhospitable weather, we sneak out for daysailing when the sun shines and the rain abates. Sometimes we’re deceived, like we were today, into thinking that we will have a gentle sail in sunny, cooler conditions.
The breeze was brisk as we cleared the breakwater, but not too strong. I confidently raised all working sail and set off to the northeast, keeping the wind just forward of the beam. Southerly winds were prevented from developing their full effect as a result of the windward shore formed by the southern arm of Herring Bay. We were deceived. Once we reached the middle of the Chesapeake, there was no obstruction to moderate the wind’s full force. We found ourselves in winds 15-20 knots with a building chop. In that kind of breeze, all sailing handling and boat handling becomes more difficult. The prospects of eating the lunch that Ruth had brought became speculative. I had hoped to create 20 minutes of reasonably calm motion by heaving to, but was thwarted by the heavy chop. Yes, the boat would heave to – no problem. But when the swell period is between 1 and 3 seconds, you simply have no opportunity to create that serene calm amid chaos. The classic Chesapeake chop – short and steep – left us little option but to reduce sail and run the five miles back to Rockhold Creek. That was absolutely the best way to control our motion in the chop. So with tiller in one hand, and bagel sandwich in the other, I steered toward home port. The sandwich was good regardless, and the sailing was exhilarating. We spend all our time under sail at speeds between 4.5 and 6.3 knots – pretty quick for the short waterline and broad beam of a Watkins 27.
After nearly two hours on the water, we made our return approach to the jetty just as a neighbor was making sail. He moors across the creek from us, and although I didn’t catch an image of him under sail, I did get a photo of the boat – sort of a rarity these days. This is a fiberglass International Folkboat 26. With a full keel (like a Westsail) and outboard rudder, these are extremely seaworthy boats. People have made ocean crossings in boats like this – not something I would attempt in my Watkins (or any other boat, come to think of it!).
We entered the creek and marveled at the calm waters, the warmer temperatures, and absence of the half-gale blowing outside the jetty.