Thursday, June 27, 2013

More of the Wrong Wind Coming Our Way

[Kyle]With a big blow on the way, we had to keep moving in order to avoid the worst of it. From just outside New Bedford, we resumed tacking southwestwards down Buzzards Bay. As we approached Cuttyhunk Island on what we hoped would be our last outbound tack, our course had us passing outside of the actual end of the land, but inside the rocky shoal of Cuttyhunk’s southwestern tip. We weren’t quite going to make it past the island. We tacked and found ourselves pounding into waves that were wrapping their way around the island, costing us a couple of knots.

We could have put up more sail, but we really didn’t want to be hitting the waves any harder, so we stayed reefed down and relatively slow. With the wind the way it was, it looked like we would not need another tack as long as there were no unfavorable shifts.

We stayed hard on the wind for another ten miles or so, punching into the waves until we were absolutely sure it was safe to bear off for the Sakonnet River mouth. We turned fifteen degrees further off the wind, unfurled the sails and shot across the bay as if we were in a French catamaran. The wakes went from a rapid gurgle to a high-pitched hiss. Oh, that’s the stuff!

The newly restored Sakonnet Light (said to look like a spark plug)
We are finally in Rhode Island!

We turned further downwind as we entered the river. We were still flying past the banks on either side, but all other sense of movement stopped. Boats going the other way were getting thrown all over the place as they punched into the waves and sent spray flying over their cockpits. On our first downwind stretch in days, standing on Begonia’s decks felt as stable as standing at a bus stop, it felt good (finally).

We found a big, wide spot along the bank and put out all of our ground tackle for safe measure. It blew like crazy all night as the predicted wind increase arrived. We were glad to be essentially already where we were going with no more need to tack into that.

Since we had covered more than the average distance in the last few days, we could finally take it easy for a while.

Well, sort of.

Since leaving Jewell Island, the water temperature had risen from 13.2C to 25.7C. I really wanted to finish cleaning Begonia’s bottom and now no longer had the excuse of the water temperature to keep me from it. Since it was the only thing I really had to do that day, I kept stalling and stalling. It was much more appealing to alternate naps in the cockpit with watching the dinghies of the local sailing schools go by.

My excuses ran out however, when one of them capsized nearby. They do this all of the time and everybody aboard is trained in how to right the boats, and has life jackets on, so there was no real concern. After a while, though, all of the other boats were gone and the two teenaged occupants of the capsized boat were all that were left, tenaciously trying to right their boat.

Maryanne couldn’t bear watching on any longer and decided to go and assist. For some reason I still don’t understand fully, she pulled a Jedi mind trick on me and I ended up deploying the dinghy and rowing over by myself to see what I could do.

It wasn’t much, but I did have snorkel and fins. I dove down, relieved to find the water temperature was perfectly comfortable, and found that the end of their mast was buried in two feet of mud. I tried digging it out for a while but the tide was dropping, the mud was too thick and the bottom was too deep for me to stay more than a few seconds. We tried tying a line to the Pudgy and using it’s feeble power (that is, me and oars) to turn and work it free to no avail.

The presence of our little orange boat trying to help the capsized dinghy finally got the attention of a local launch, which had them pulled out and on their way in a couple of minutes. I’m sure that being the last ones back with mud at the top of their sail will get them a pretty good ribbing at the sailing school.

Since I was already wet and since I already knew the water was much more tolerable, I jumped right back in once I was back at Begonia to finish my long overdue bottom scrub.

It was a huge mess. There was no way I could have finished the job in Maine in less than six dives. I spent three miserable hours on it and, finally, Begonia is clean below the waterline. I emerged covered with bottom paint smudges and hundreds of little shrimp, which had apparently been living in Begonia’s underwater forest. They cling on for dear life when removed from the water, so it took quite a while to pick all of them of both my clothes and myself.

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