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Life on Chesapeake Bay

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.

 

 

Exciting day. We didn’t pick up the anchor, and we didn’t move the boat. In fact, we didn’t do anything. My metabolism conspired against me when I when to bed last night – I was awake for a long time after midnight, then woke once in the early morning hours, and stayed awake for a while.  Finally falling back asleep, I slept til nearly 0900! Ruth slept like the dead, but woke early. Finally rising, we drank tea (I’m off of coffee for now), ate breakfast after 1030. . . it was a very slow start to the day.

The anchorage is so pleasant, the weather so beautiful, the crew so lazy, that we simply stayed put, reading, napping (repeat 3x), ’til it was dinner time. In fact,the most ambitious we did today was to talk about taking the dinghy for a sail – but we never got past talking about it.

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All in all, a very satisfying day. Tomorrow we’ll move, probably over to the Wye River, approximately 15 miles to the east.

 

Although our wedding anniversary was in August, we couldn’t get away to celebrate until this week. Even so, we just had to carve out a few days from the calendar. Retired life can get fairly busy! So today through Saturday we’ll be on the bay visiting our favorite haunts, as the weather and wind allow. I will post daily, provided that I have cell service.

We finally got away from the pier at 1600 and made for the Rhode River, as a northerly course seemed to promise a more favorable point of sail. And it did, for an hour and a half, but as we got clear of the shadow of Herring Bay, the breeze clocked around to a vector more directly astern, losing strength at the same time. I finally dropped the headsail, sheeted the main to centerline, and started the motor. We didn’t want to be caught dodging crab pot floats in the dark. We made good time with a fair current, motorsailing until we made the final turn up the river.

I stowed the sails as Ruth steered, then mustered the sea-and-anchor detail (me).

We’re at anchor now, in a spot we’ve been many times, finished with dinner and waiting for the critical mass to accumulate for showers and bed.

Until tomorrow. . .

This is the time of year when sailing is good almost every day. Breeze is strong, temps are moderate, even the rain is tolerable. So I’ve posted a few photos from recent sails. Not great stuff, but just to give you the feel of sailing on the Chesapeake in October.

Weather looks a little doubtful with respect to rain, but the wind was good. It was a fantastic day to sail.

Weather looks a little doubtful, but the wind was good. It was a fantastic day to sail.

. . . and I wasn't the only one who thought it was a good day to be on the water.

. . . and I wasn’t the only one who thought it was a good day to be on the water.

Photo from yesterday. Started out with fog in the morning. By the time I got on the water the fog was burning off. You can see the remnant mist off the point of Rosehaven (at right).

Photo from yesterday. Started out with fog in the morning. By the time I got on the water the fog was burning off. You can see the remnant mist off the point of Rosehaven (at right).

The cliffs, where I anchor in shallow water and scrub the growth off the bottom. I can anchor in about 4 feet and stand beside the boat brushing the growth off.

The cliffs, where I anchor in shallow water and scrub the growth off the bottom. I can anchor in about 4 feet and stand beside the boat brushing the growth off.

The work boats are always out here. Weather smeather ! - they've got to make a living. This is a hard job.

The work boats are always out here. The water is never too rough, the weather never too bad to make a living. This is a hard job.

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And I'm not the only pleasure boater who thought that a Tuesday morning was a good time to sail.

And I’m not the only pleasure boater who thought that a Tuesday morning was a good time to sail.

I think this boat has a throttle setting titled "plow," or "maximum fuel usage." He was at the perfect speed to send out maximum wake. I'd hate to have his fuel bill.

I think this boat has a throttle setting titled “plow,” or “maximum fuel usage.” He was at the perfect speed to send out maximum wake. I’d hate to have his fuel bill.

Canada geese making their way. One of the iconic harbingers of autumn on the Chesapeake.

Canada geese making their way. One of the iconic harbingers of autumn on the Chesapeake.

Hands-free steering.

Hands-free steering.

Salty skipper and the obligatory selfie.

Salty skipper and the obligatory selfie.

Learning more about sailing alone - heaving to affords a controlled way to drop and bag the sails. Heaving to is the answer to many moments when you just need a to create a space of calm, reduced motion without having to mind the helm.

Learning more about sailing alone – heaving to affords a controlled way to drop and bag the sails. Heaving to is the answer to many moments when you just need a to create a space of calm, reduced motion without having to mind the helm.

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