Sunday, September 4, 2011

Sailing Her Home: Baltimore to Solomans Island

Sixty-nine nautical miles, a full tank of diesel and light southerly winds forecast -- not a great scenario for a sail. Still, my brother in law was available to help me sail her home and we had to go for it -- even if it meant motoring the whole way. Thankfully my sister was up for driving us to Baltimore, an hour and a half away from home in Southern Maryland.

We got off to an early start, departing Oak Harbor Marina around 7:30 am. The winds were non-existent and we had an easy motor out into the Bay. As we headed toward the Bay Bridge the southerly winds began to pick up. Unfortunately, the wind speed indicator was not working so we were not really sure just how much. By the time we got to the bridge we were motor sailing and making about 6 knots.

By this time we should have put a reef in the main, though it was not obvious yet. Steve and I took turns at the helm, with Steve carrying the larger burden while I played deck monkey. This being her first sail for a couple of years the tackle was stiff and everything was new to us. Fortunately a sailboat is a sailboat and there are only minor details to be sorted. For example, I didn't at first realize she had two-speed winches! Alas.

The waves were getting bigger but Elizabeth sailed very well. Her sails have all been refurbished and held excellent shape. Turns out her original owner must have taken her sailing performance rather seriously, despite the family cruiser design of the boat.

11 hours later and we were entering the Patuxent River. Things were a bit hairy now. We were definitely overpowered and thundering through 6 foot waves. We were over heeled which slowed us down and the weather helm was massive. Fortunately, Steve was at the helm and held her firm. As we motored up Cuckold Creek, Elizabeth's new home, Steve commented that it was a "spirited" sail. A bit much for me! I'd have opted for more control, less heel and greater comfort, but I guess that is why I am into cruising and not racing.

Looking straight down. Thank God for the cooler!

The trip took 12 and a half hours, beating into the wind and averaging more than 6 knots the whole way - with a couple of moments where she passed 8 knots! (Ok, that was surfing down a 6 foot wave where we immediately lost 4 knots when we became sandwiched in the trough!)

I did not get my land legs back until the next morning. A spirited sail indeed.

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