Boat Journal

Chronicling a love affair with sailing

Month: October 2008

We Made the Front Page of the Paper


The story is no longer available. But you can see the summary at:

Wasting Money

The lower Chesapeake Bay is a great place to have a boat; you can sail almost all year long. But the weekend weather hasn’t cooperated the past few weekends. It’s been rainy or too windy to feel ‘safe’. But there are other things to write about, such as money spent before research was done on purchases for the boat. And that’s not smart, since unwise purchases can be expensive.

I don’t have alot of upper body strength. That being said, when the mainsail came with no winch, I put that on the list of things to purchase. And I did, for about $125 at the local used boating supplies store. Well, with all the other stuff I got done and spent money on in the winter and fall, the winch never did get installed. Now, at the end of the summer, I have developed a bit of upper body strength and have no problems hoisting the main myself. So, get rid of the winch, right? Well, I can get about 1/4 that for it on eBay. Ah well!

The compass onboard when I purchased the boat had no liquid in it. Filling it would cost about $150, for which I could buy a new one. So I did, using the dimensions the marine mechanic gave me. Afterwards, I found out that the previous (or a previous) owner had created a tube to stick on top of the pedestal to hold the compass. But there was no way to attach the compass; the old one had just been dropped into the tube. I’d already thrown out the receipt by the time I’d figured this out. So I did sell this one on eBay (at a loss, of course) and bought one with housing.

So now I’m trying to figure out how to get the new compass installed. Problem with this one? The bolts holding the wooden plate in place at the top of the steering column are just inside where the holes for the much smaller screw holes are in the compass housing. Well, I think I can get it in by cutting holes in the housing in order to get the bolts in place. But hopefully, this, too, wasn’t a waste of money.

The rubber/plastic(?) gasket on the top of my Anderson winches had cracked. One of my crew thought it a good idea to remove it for me. It was cracked, after all, right? Nope. That rubber was allowing the mechanism to turn correctly. So I put the broken pieces back in and purchased a maintenance kit for the winch. The picture online looked like it had what I needed. Wrong. It didn’t. So I called the supplier. What I was needing was a spring. Why it’s called a spring when it doesn’t look like a slinky, I don’t know. But that’s what it’s called. So I bought two, one for each winch, to the tune of $40 apiece! Ouch! For a piece of molded plastic! Luckily, this did do the trick!

Lesson learned. Figure out if you really need it. And, if so, do some careful research to make sure what you buy is what you need!


Sailing Solo

I have quite a few friends that enjoy taking the boat out with me. Which is great, because it’s meant I could sail just about every available weekend since I got the boat.

Yesterday was different. I had sent out the schedule the middle of last month, but hadn’t had any responses for this weekend. I sent out notice again on Thursday, suggesting I might divide it up since it is a 10-hour journey between Bennett’s Creek (origin) and Wormley Creeek (home, our destination). But still no takers.

Then, Petra asked me to help crew Fair Winds with her for an upcoming race. I said I’d be happy to. She said that they’d be practicing, to figure out who what have what position, and to learn to work as a team, today. So that meant trying to get the boat back in one day. And, since I hadn’t had any takers, that mean doing it solo.

Well, the weather report looked unimpressive: highs in the mid-70’s, winds starting from the north, then moving to the east in the afternoon, 5 mph. Although I had learned from bitter past experience not to believe the weather reports, I held onto the hope that they were going to be right this time and that it would be an uneventful sail. Eventful is fun when you have others aboard. Eventful is to be avoided the first time you solo!

I slept aboard that night, hoping to get an early start, and set the alarm for 6:30 a.m. I had an awful night’s sleep! My v-berth is warm and cozy and I usually sleep in it like a baby. But I was nervous about going it alone so spent alot of time conscious that night.

The alarm went off at 6:30. I listened to it, then finally got up and turned it off. I used the head while I was up and discovered to my dismay that the holding tank was so full the head wouldn’t flush. 🙁 Then I went back to sleep, or tried to. After about an hour of just laying there, I got up, changed clothes, and started preparing for the trip home. I pulled covers off of winches, sail and steering wheel. I put the GPS in place, double checking that the batteries were in fact new. I boiled some water and made a cup of instant French Vanilla Capucchino. I poured a cup of bleach into the water tank (it’s pretty dirty and I wanted the bleachy water to slosh around in there a bit). I pulled up the fenders and removed the lines holding us to the dock. I started the engine and started to pull forward. It was immediately obvious that there wasn’t enough room to move forward; I was too close to the dock perpendicular to the one I was moored to. So I backed up instead.

I learned something new about my boat with backing it up there. When it’s in gear and backing, it turns towards port. When it’s in neutral and backing, it turns starboard. I’ve known for a long time that you can’t steer the thing when you’re backing it up. But now I know how better to maneuver it!

Low tide was about 7 a.m. and I was pulling out about 9. That made me feel safer about getting under the power lines again, but a bit nervous about getting stuck in the mud somewhere along the way. But pulling out of Bennett’s Creek was a dream. I stayed to the middle of the creek and had no problems at all. I did move a bit more towards port when going under the power lines, just to give myself some room.

When I reached the mouth of the creek and started to enter the Nansemond River, I had the second issue of the day: I did get stuck. And, since this was a new area for me, I wasn’t sure which way to go to get unstuck! Part of it was the flow of the river problem we had coming in: the water was moving so fast that it tended to pull the boat off-course fairly easily. It took about 1/2 an hour moving back and forth, left and right, to get out of there. I was almost ready to call a boat tow when I finally started seeing the depth gauge rise.

Getting into the James River was no problem from there. But when I hit the James, the traffic picked up. Maneuvering around wasn’t bad; I just had to pay close attention.

I crossed the Monitor-Merrimac tunnel without a problem. Once on the other side, I started checking the GPS for the points that Dave had programmed in on our trip up. I knew that he’d kept us to the Hampton side of the river since it was shallower, to be able to work with the current. I also knew that, much like other sailing around here, you can get too shallow! So I plugged in the points, kept to the course, and motored to the Hampton-Roads tunnel.

The temperature was great and the water glassy, meaning a power boater would have loved it. And the folks on the river were mostly fishing, it appears. So I’m guessing they loved it, too. But this sailor was hoping for just a bit more wind.

The wind showed up about the time I crossed the Hampton Roads tunnel. But it was coming from directly behind me. Since I didn’t want to worry about accidentaly jibes, I left the sails down.

There was less traffic in the bay than there had been on the river, so I let Auto Helm start do some of the sailing so I could grab breakfast and fiddle around with the music and other toys on the boat. Auto proved to be a great companion for the journey! I could head down into the cockpit for quick trips without worry what what happening. Mind you, I did make sure there were no crafts within miles of me before I did! Bad part was, towards the end of the journey, I’d step away from the wheel and assume I’d put Auto on task when I hadn’t. But when the boat started turning on its own, I realized my mistake and fixed it quickly.

The wind shifted direction a bit farther down, around Grand View. So I hoisted the main and gained about a knot an hour. A little farter on, it picked up more, so I unfurled the jib as well. I then tried putting the boat in neutral, found all the speed I had was from the wind and not the engine, so I finally killed the engine and enjoyed the quietness of the sail.

It was great! This is why I enjoy sailing. The quiet. The water. Playing with the sail trim to get the optimum speed and stability. It is absolutely awesome!

The wind picked up quite a bit more not much later. It also shifted more to my rear, so the jib was doing me no good and I rolled it back up again.

I was still sailing pretty well under just the main. But, as I reached the mouth of the York River, the wind got stronger and the waved got pretty choppy. Rather than pull the main down all the way though, I used what I had learned from Dave on the trip up and reefed the main instead. I also started the engine, to keep the speed up.

That was pretty cool, reefing it myself. I put Auto in charge of the wheel, put on a life jacket (just in case!), unlatched the main cleat, pulled the sail down a bit, then tied the reefing line at the luff. I then pulled in tight the lines that brought in the leach and cleated them. It worked pretty well! I did go back into the cockpit, and the leach was folded in an awkward manner. I went back to the mast and tightened the lines again. That seemed to do the trick!

I turned the motor back on and took over for Auto, who didn’t seem to handle the waves too well. Kept changing direction, then overcompensating.

The stormy seas didn’t really last too long. But the wind stayed pretty strong. But rather than try to remove the reefing, I just unfurled the jib again. That worked like a charm! I actually did about 7 knots then, the fastest I’d gone all day.

Good thing, too. I can see the towers from the refinery and power plants that sit right beside the marina when I keep 4 Degrees before I get into the York River. And, just like the long trip home in a car, when you get real antsy when you reach your home town, those towers start making me antsy to get back home.

But I was able to keep that sail configuration the entire way back.

Coming into port was uneventful. I didn’t hit bottom once. And, of course, Wormley Creek is a protected harbor, so I couldn’t even tell there was a storm on the other side.

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