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Published: June 17th 2011
We always have a “Plan B” when we set out, even if it is just for a short day run. When I write in the Log Book I put the point and time of departure but the destination is always blank until the hook is down. Of course we have a IDEA of where we want to go, and 90% of the time that is where we end up… but winds change, bridges close for repairs, and friends call on the radio and suggest a get together. There are any number of good excuses to change the “plan” and we call it Plan B.
We decided to leave the Chesapeake because the heat was oppressive. Water temperatures from Georgia north were never under 80 degrees and often much higher. The prospect of cooler temperatures gave us the incentive we needed to head off shore to New England even though the opportunity for a good SAIL was not apparent. We could end up motor-sailing a good part of the trip which is noisy and wastes fuel. Like I said… the heat made the decision for us.
We have made the run from Norfolk direct to Block Island several times and we always check “ditch options” along the Atlantic side of the Delmarva, and of course Cape May. We moved our departure up and left Norfolk/Portsmouth in the early afternoon to take advantage of the ebbing tide. As we cleared the Chesapeake “tunnel-bridge” we were pleased to see we kept the favorable push for six hours into the evening run up the coast. We kept the engine on lower than usual RPM’s to decrease both noise and fuel consumption and were pleased to be getting a consistent 1 to 1.5 knots of faster speed over the ground than through the water. The kitties were fine and we had a good 24 hour run.
Day two was to bring us freshening breezes and an angle of sail conducive to a confortable run. Contrary to the favorable expression, “wind at your back” is not the thing we hope for. Better than on the nose, of course, but wind directly astern requires a “wing-on-wing” sail set that uses the wind to simply PUSH the boat. There is also an unavoidable wallow sensation as the hull rolls alternately to port and starboard. With an angle off the wind the aerodynamics of flight take over and the wind over the curved shape of the sails PULLS you along. You also lean in only one direction for as long as you keep the wind from that quarter. For those who are not sailors we call wind coming from the left side as you look forward a “port tack” and the boat leans to the right. The opposite is a “starboard tack” and the boat leans left. I always think we do better on a port tack than a starboard… but some of that is convenience to me. I am more comfortable in my berth, in my head and at the chart table on a port tack because I do not need to brace myself against the “lean” of the boat in the opposite direction. The advantage of the starboard tack is mostly Christian’s as his berth and head are on the opposite side from mine—and the refrigerator is MUCH happier. I Wanda has an unusual front opening fridge and on a port tack you can open it freely and nothing falls out. Pretty sure you can picture what the risk is when the contents are leaning 10 to 12 degrees toward the opening door!
The passage had been comfortable and pleasant with us initially motor sailing and then sailing in light winds wing on wing. We knew from the forecast that winds were expected to freshen (increase) and clock giving us the prospective of a 24 hour sail on a port tack. Unfortunately last night the wind freshened directly astern and we started to roll unpleasantly. Neither of us could sleep as we are not set up for ocean passages (lee cloths are on all our bunks that allow you to be hugged in tight on both sides so you don’t roll with the boat). Our berth has a lovely custom- made mattress topper and custom sheet casings that would have to be pushed aside to access the lee cloths, which would be fine to do if you are going to be rolling for days on end but not for only a few hours.
The choice was to continue on course with reduced sails at a much slower pace, add the engine which would increase the pace but not avoid the roll, or tack. By tacking you move the boat to an angle where both sails work on the same side and you eliminate nearly all of the roll. You can also sail much faster even with the engine off. Since we were well past Cape May our new Plan B was Sandy Hook instead of Block Island. We tried a few minutes on a heading to Sandy Hook and the boat responded beautifully. Good speed with a reef in the sails and a very comfortable ride. Off went the engine and everyone enjoyed the ride. Both kitties came below and were playing with their toys on the pilothouse rug. Earlier in the rolling Carter had been very unsettled and went frequently to the bow and back and we worried he would lose his balance in the roll and pitch overboard. That problem went away.
So at midday today we will make Sandy Hook and head into Atlantic Highlands. A good stop for whatever you need INCLUDING a walk-to-it movie theater. We had other “ditch” spots along the way of course but it looks like we will make Sandy Hook. We will check weather and tides to see if the next leg will be off shore (south of Long Island) or inside. We will keep you posted!
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