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Life on Chesapeake Bay

I finished the sailing season with a series of solo day sails, as my mate was deeply involved in an art show for the past two weeks of the season. Now with holiday madness upon us, it’s time to haul and put Cay of Sea to bed for the season. Here’s a photo from one of my final days on the water.

One of those beautiful light, sky, and water moments.

As usual for haul-out time, I pumped all the water out of the bow tank and “shop-vaced” the water lines clear. I pumped antifreeze into the holding tank (which was empty except for that last half-gallon that you can’t get out), and left the head as-is this year.  Next spring will require a head rebuild anyway, so no need to disassemble now.

The next morning I warmed up the engine, then extracted the old oil. Removed the filter, installed new, and refilled with oil. Now we’re ready to motor across the creek for haul-out and winter storage. On the way over, I met the boatyard crew in the yard skiff – they were coming to get Cay of Sea, as today was the scheduled time to haul and they wanted to get it done! They turned around and followed me back to the travel lift slip, promptly lifting her out as I stood and watched.

Hanging in the slings.

I’m still happy with Hydrocoat anti-fouling paint. Second year on this application and there were very few barnacles. Lot’s of “muddy” soft growth, which is typical for this area, though. I scrubbed the bottom twice this year, so there was certainly less growth than if I had not done so, but I was still pleased with the shape she was in. I had maybe six or seven barnacles on the prop, and six or seven scattered elsewhere on the hull.

There are a of couple barnacles left on the prop after power washing. Not too bad. Hydrocoat stays on the prop through the year. I repainted the prop last spring.

Scotty is blasting the mud-growth off.

Soft growth before power washing.

Heading to her parking spot for the winter.

Shipwright Harbor, where I haul out each year, has changed ownership. The new owners are investing lots of money into the property and have re-landscaped, renovated the pool and deck area, cleared out all the storage (aka abandoned) boats, rebuilt piers, installed new pilings and aprons along the bulkhead. They’ve also changed practices for blocking and hauling, which seem much safer than before. I was never concerned with the safety elements before, but these changes make a lot of sense to me: now they block the boats much lower, keeping the center of gravity lower and less exposed to shifting in windy conditions. They also now place a plywood pad underneath each foot of each boat stand to keep the stand from sinking into the gravel through freeze and thaw cycles. Each boat now has a bow chock (never did before). Finally, the travel lift never moves without a spotter, and the boats aren’t parked as closely together as they used to be. All this seems like common-sense precaution and safety to me. I really appreciate it.

Blocked, chocked, and set for the winter.

I still have to finish altering the fit of her canvas cover, then install it. Another couple of posts on that forthcoming.

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This was one of the days you dream about. Wind 13-15, temp 72F, crystal clear sky. About 1430 I said to my wife, “I have to go out on the boat. Wanna go?” She really did, but couldn’t – had stuff to do.

I got the boat ready and cast off. Went 200 yards and turned around. The engine was surging suspiciously. Fuel, obviously – filter? No. . . that’s the way it acts when it’s low on fuel. I eased back into my slip and didn’t even tie up. Dug my two jerry cans of fuel out of the lazarette and put all 11 gallons in the tank. It holds 13. That pretty much confirmed the symptoms I was experiencing as low fuel. Like many sailors, I have a fuel gauge on board, but it doesn’t work! It used to, but was never very accurate. I’m pretty sure I can bring it back to life with a little cleaning and adjustment of the float mechanism, but it’s not one of the more fun maintenance items, and if you carry extra fuel, it’s not really a problem.

Back out the creek, out into the bay (no engine surging now), out of the traffic area. There are white caps, the wind is SE with lots of fetch kick up the chop. I set reefs in both sails before raising, and off we go at 5+ knots – late season hull fouling taking half-to-three-quarters of a knot off our speed.

I love the way the reefed headsail sets. The shape is perfect!

With the reefs I was comfortable and controlled, but hard on the wind, we were heeling a fair amount. Out 5 miles past the pound nets. Not many other boats out today. I passed one other sailboat. He was on the opposite tack, sailing down my reciprocal course. We waved. By then we were out in the open bay and shore breeze had stopped affecting the wind strength and direction, so our angle of heel was less.

I tacked, and followed the other boat back the way we came. The afternoon was getting old and the wind was consistently more moderate as evening drew near. Still, the reef was a comfortable way to sail.

Sailing back down the outbound course, opposite tack.

We crossed the channel, out of the traffic lanes, and hove to. Dropped and bagged the sails and motored towards the creek entrance.

Backing in with a little trouble – wind on the stern, I kept having to bump back into forward with opposite helm to get lined up – then we were parked, tied up, cleaned up, closed up.

I took a few photos of the varnish-fortified Cetol teak.

As it turns out, the shiny bits are hard to capture with a cell phone camera. I’ve gotten lazy – I used to use my dslr for all of this stuff.You know you have the right boat when you keep looking back at her as you walk away.

Hey, this is a different view for me –

Without the tiller pilot, I can rarely leave the helm. Note the fishing rods along the starboard side of the coach roof.

It’s really cool to get out of the cockpit and stand on the bow while motoring. I can do this under sail also, if the wind is moderate. Not a big deal I guess, just novel for me.

I’ve been on the bay several times lately – not sailing so much, as the wind has been very calm – but drifting, and. . .  fishing! Yes, another novel thing for me to do. I fished with my dad all the time growing up, but haven’t done so for years. When we moved from Jacksonville to Washington DC, I got rid of all my fishing gear, seeing that the kids we grown up and I didn’t have that much interest in it beyond the kids’ interest. But I’ve gotten my line wet several times this year (acquired some gear at the second-hand store near me). Sadly, my skills are less than poor. I haven’t even gotten a bite this year! Truth be told, I was never a very good fisherman and things very obviously haven’t changed in the intervening years. Oh well. . . actually, it’s kind of better if the fish don’t bite. That way my solitude isn’t interrupted. Still, my son and I are going this Saturday, and we are anticipating catching more fish than we can manage ;-).

I’ve started my fall rounds of varnishing with the nice weather. I discovered something interesting last year, and have decided to experiment a bit more with it. Last fall, I had a little varnish left over in my container, and wanting to use the same container for Cetol. . .  I mixed the two together. It was mostly Cetol, so I didn’t think a very little bit of varnish would have any effect. I was wrong. The varnish made the Cetol finish glossy. I noticed this fall that the small piece of wood finished like this suffered almost zero degradation since last fall, unlike the Cetol-only pieces. Hmmm. . .  So I mixed some varnish and Cetol and recoated all the woodwork that usually got only Cetol. We’ll see how it stands up over the next year. I like the way it looks too – it’s the dark natural finish Cetol, but has a hard glossy shine to it. I’ll get some photos of it next time I’m down at the boat.

Drifting around today, I hauled out my light-air sail and hoisted it. It’s actually (probably) a mizzen staysail from a ketch, but it’s so light-weight that it works okay as a sort of asymmetrical spinnaker with a high clew. It filled and drew well in about 3-5 knots of breeze. It’s fun to just slowly ghost along with a sail that draws that nicely. I should have taken a photo, but, well, I didn’t!

Roller furling headsail opened by strong winds.

One morning a few days ago, I looked across the creek and saw the above. It was a miserable day, weather-wise – rain and strong winds all day. I mentioned to Ruth that I hoped someone in the marina would help that boat owner and go re-furl his headsail. Obviously, I don’t live far from this marina, and was considering going over there myself to do it.  Several minutes later, I noticed that it had been rolled up. Good on several levels: 1) there were live-aboards in that marina (I knew there were) who were looking out for other boat owners, and 2) I didn’t have to go out in the rain and wind and do it myself :-).

Last week, when sailing by myself, I realized I didn’t miss or regret giving up my roller furling. I know most people love their roller furling sails, and that’s great. I liked mine too, when I had it. But I was always a bit anxious about a problem with rolling up, or unrolling. There was always the possibility of something going amiss, and then I would really be in trouble, especially if alone. So now I keep my headsail in a deck bag, and hanked onto the fore stay. I have absolutely no trouble with it, even if it takes a few minutes more to stow at the end of a sail. And best of all, I don’t worry about it coming unfurled if the wind blows hard and long, and I’m not there to take care of it. I always tied a piece of line around the furled sail as far up as I could reach, but that’s not too far up – there was a lot of sail left unsecured above my head.

Here’s a link to the post where I discuss my decision to switch from roller to hank-on: https://wordpress.com/posts/middlebaysailing.wordpress.com?s=roller+furling

Anyway, still happy with my decision to switch to a bare stay and hanked on sail.

After church, after lunch, after a nap, I threw off the mooring lines and motored out into the bay with the wind in my face. I was heading south, the wind was heading north. The wind forecast said 8-10 knots on the bay, but in Herring bay it was more like 15-20. With sufficient sea room to drift for a while, I went to work taking a reef in both sails. After sorting out the lines and making sure all was ready, I hauled up the sails and heeled pretty far over. Cracking off the wind a bit helped put me more upright, and I guess I really should have loosened the main sheet as well, but I wanted to go “that way,” which meant I had to stay fairly close hauled.

Crystal clear weather, puffy white clouds, about 80 degrees, and moving between 5.5 and 6.5 knots (just about as fast as we can go) – life just doesn’t get too much better. I’ve been waiting for this all winter and spring. I love sailing by myself.

I noticed that I had missed a reefing line in the jib, so I hove to and went forward to tie it in. Now it’s neat. I followed the wind around, jibed the main, and was back on track. The depth sounder flashed in and out, alternating between the depth and giving an error message. It did this last spring as well, for the first couple of sails – it settled into reliable service just as I was getting serious about shopping for another instrument. I’ll keep my eye on it.

Taking spray over the bow, realizing I forgot to seal the fore hatch. A two-inch opening in the hatch can get things damp. Not going to close it now – I don’t want to leave the helm again. A little water will dry soon enough. Starting to see crab pot markers, and I can see a fish trap in the distance – that stand of sticks in the water, with water birds waiting like vultures on top of each one. Must be an easy meal for them. Past the trap another half mile, and it’s time to turn around. This time I pass to the south of it, and the birds are still undisturbed.

I guess the wind readings on the open bay were accurate, because I no longer need the reefs. I’m not going to shake them out, though. I’ll be back in the land breeze area pretty soon, and I’ll need the shortened sail area again. Cross the channel again and heave to, dropping first the main in the shadow of the backed jib, then releasing the jib halyard and going forward to pull it down. I have a down haul, but never attach it. I’m not satisfied with how I’ve got it rigged. I think I must need to run the line through the hanks, right next to the forestay, to keep it out of trouble.

Sails are bagged or covered, and I’m motoring back up the creek. By the time I reach the slip, I’ve covered 9.75 miles, and the depth sounder is behaving better.

Should have neatened up this reef too.

Cay of Sea was hauled for the season in the first week of December. Winterized and ready for freezing weather, she sat and patiently shivered for a month before I had time and inclination to work on the canvas cover I acquired several months back. So two days ago, knowing that rain and snow were in the forecast, I got to work.

If you’ve looked at the link above, you know that the cover itself is in two sections. Already stored on board the boat, I wrestled both sections on deck and began the process of sorting which end went which way.

I first spread the aft section over the boom and deck – not knowing for sure if the cover would reach down to the gunnel if tented at boom-level. It didn’t, but I wanted it to, so rather than build a set of crutches and ridge line pole, I thought I could perhaps suspend the boom with a piece of line a foot lower than the gooseneck would ordinarily allow. This would allow the edges of the cover to extend just past the gunnel. This worked well, but I needed a way to suspend the aft section of the boom also, as there was no cut-out provided in the cover for the topping lift. I made a cut-out in the canvas, and reinforced it with some .25 inch cow hide that I had on board. The 3″ x 6″ piece of leather was hand-stitched into place around the outside of the patch. After it was sewn to the canvas, I cut a slot just where the topping lift shackle would go through to attach to the end of the boom. Then I sewed around the slot attaching the canvas to the edges of the slot – this was with a locking stitch. Following the locking stitch, I went around the edge of the slot again with a continuous loop stitch.  Wish I had a photo of this . .  .  Most of this sewing was accomplished with my Speedy Stitcher (no sailor should be without one of these tools).

After adjusting the end-of-boom height, I was able to get the after end of the cover sorted. The bow-end presented a different challenge. There are three lifting points above the deck on the bow and getting these semi-balanced was difficult – in fact, I didn’t really get them right, but I think it will be okay for this year. In the spring when I remove the cover, I’ll mark it for alterations which I can accomplish without the press of bad weather bearing down on me.

Fortunately, I have a great deal of extra line on board, because I needed a lot of it to secure the edges of the cover. I passed the line from side to side to pull the edges taut, and was able to identify the sections of cover that will have to be changed for future seasons. Most of the cut-outs for stanchions and shrouds are in the wrong place, but I don’t think it will be difficult to add the right cut-outs and grommets for pulling down the edges. I’m sure there will be some water and snow accumulations in baggy pockets where the cover won’t allow me to pull it taut, but it’s not too bad, and certainly a lot better than leaving it uncovered again. Here are a few photos:

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Stern needs a few more grommets and a cut-through for the backstay.

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All that sewing and custom fitting is why these things cost so much.

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Big saggy pocket at the mast. I can just take a fair amount of material out of this section to tighten it up, and add a couple of rings to lift the mast accommodation until it’s taut.2017-01-05-15-59-332017-01-05-15-59-582017-01-05-16-00-33

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Got the cover on just in time – we had three inches today.

 

I’ve got a bit of catching up to do, since I didn’t have much cell service last night.

After a fairly leisurely morning, we upped anchor in the Rhode River and started towards the Wye River on the Eastern Shore. It wasn’t a windless day, but pretty near so. Once into the West River we raised sail and ghosted along at 1-2 knots. When the wind quit completely, we started the motor and made wake for the Eastern Shore, slowing down briefly for the hopes of sailing again, but with no substantive progress towards our goal. When the very light wind failed again, we motored on, finally dropping the hook in the first large creek to starboard on the Wye. We had hoped to go all the way up to our favorite place an hours’ motoring up the river – Ward’s Cove (our name for it) – but with an eye towards the weather forecast for the next two days, we decided to stay near mouth of the Wye. Rain was/is predicted today (this afternoon), as it accompanies a major cold front blowing through. Then tomorrow, temps are to drop into the low 50s with winds on the open bay up to 25 mph. Not dangerous for cautious sailors like us, but certainly not comfortable. We made the decision to come back a day early, and easy access to the mouth of the Wye took an hour off our trip.

Sunrise on the Rhode River

Sunrise on the Rhode River

Windless bay and another motoring sailboat.

Windless bay and another motoring sailboat.

We dropped anchor in six feet of water. There was much honking amid the many different groups of Canada geese in the creek. We were flanked by several of the typical Eastern Shore mansions one sees on the waterfront of many creeks, rivers and estuaries of the bay.

2016-10-20-17-23-052016-10-20-17-22-30I guess the is the country get-away for the east coast one percent. You can see why – it’s just beautiful up here. We relaxed a bit, had dinner, went to bed, and the wind picked up pretty good. 15 – 20 mph gusts made me anxious about my rode to chain splice, but we were fine through the night. Our new Delta 33# anchor held us fast.

Relaxing with a book before dinner.

Relaxing with a book before dinner.

Bugs not welcome. Although a bit worse for wear, our bug screens are indispensable, keeping the buggy wild life on the outside.

Bugs not welcome. Although a bit worse for wear, our bug screens are indispensable, keeping the buggy wild life on the outside.

Morning dawned clear and cool, then a brief fog rolled through, clearing up in about an hour. We got underway at 0930, and as I stowed the rode and chain down the hawse pipe I inspected the rope/chain splice – it was fine: no chafe, no rot, no problem, and no worries. Back out on the Eastern Bay, we raised the jib, as the wind was behind us (my least favorite point of sail with jib and main raised together) and made 3 knots. Turning left on to the Eastern Bay put us hard on the wind, at which point we raised the main. We had about 4 miles to go and a point of land to leeward to clear to get out on the open bay. I wasn’t sure we could point that high the whole time. We actually made it handily. Watkins 27s don’t have a reputation for being very weatherly sailboats, but I think they are fine if handled well and have a set of sails in reasonably good shape. Once we turned into the Eastern Bay, we followed a single compass course for the next 13 miles. Exiting from Eastern Bay, the wind gradually strengthened to about 15 mph and backed around from South to SSE. I kept easing the sheets until we were on a beam reach, and hitting 6.1-6.2 knots from time to time. The sky was blue, it was 70 degrees, and we were on a beam reach for close to two hours. Glorious sailing!

As we approached our home port of Deale, we saw the clouds moving in from the SW. We were moored by 1430, had the boat unloaded by 1500, and the rain began at 1600.

Tomorrow, cold and windy. Glad we’re home snug and warm.

 

 

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