Sunday, August 18, 2013

Fun in Bodkin Creek (after a frustrating sail)

[Kyle]We left Veazey Cove on the Bohemia River right at sunrise, nicely coinciding with a favorable tide shift. The wind was practically nothing, but it was from behind, so we set up the spinnaker for the day’s sail down the northern part of the bay.

Setting off at sunrise, the ospreys are on most of the navigation markers in the Bay so far

For the next six hours, we fought a constant battle with the shifty winds and a temperamental spinnaker sail. It was the most frustrating day of sailing we have had in a long while. What an emotional roller coaster ride. We’d get the thing up and pulling and life just couldn’t be better. We had a big, pretty sail up, we were going fast and the weather was perfect.

Thirty seconds later, the sail would collapse and make a suicidal dive into the water, where the bottom would submerge and start streaming past and sometimes under the boat. We would then have to go forward, pull it out of the water and slowly try to coax the wet sail to fill again. After three or four minutes of this, everything would be looking great and we’d be happy. I would walk back to the helm and by the time I got there, the whole process started all over again. I must admit, after a few hours of this, my frustration went from mild annoyance to getting a bit stompy. There just wasn't really enough wind, but I refused to give in. Maryanne managed to avoid making it worse by becoming sweeter and more understanding with time. {Maryanne was laughing her ass off at Kyle's frustration, but he clearly wasn't seeing the funny side of it, so Maryanne was trying hard not to do so in front of him}. She knew I just needed to yell at the sail, so she made a very deliberate effort not roll her eyes in front of me, nor to yell back at me in response, which I’m sure she really wanted to do. She is such a good wife!

When the wind was just right, Kyle was very happy, but most of the time the sail needs constant attention or refuses to assist at all - Much to Kyle's frustration

For hours, all I wanted was a chance to sit still and rest for thirty seconds. I didn’t get it. The worst moments came when we were converging on another sailboat coming in from our left. With the spinnaker pulling, we were much faster and would pass ahead. When it collapsed, we would slow down and be on a collision course. In the zero to three-knot winds, we couldn’t get the thing to stay filled reliably enough to be sure we would clear. To make matters worse, the other boat had the right of way. The spinnaker in the light wind was really sensitive to course changes and we could only turn five degrees or so either way before it would collapse into a huge mess, so we really didn’t want to turn if we could avoid it.

With the variable speed of both boats, it wasn’t apparent that we were enough of a collision hazard to need to make a course change until we were a couple of boat lengths away on his starboard side. Just then, the spinnaker filled and we pulled ahead. At that point, we had a couple of less than desirable choices: I could stay at the helm, prepared to make a big turn when the spinnaker inevitably failed us, leaving Maryanne up there to fend for herself when it all went to hell, or I could help her babysit the thing at the bows so it stays mostly filled, and let the autopilot do the steering.

Eventually, it looked like latter would have the best chance of success, so we chose that option. Since our average speed was only twenty or thirty feet per minute faster, it took us a long time to finally pass a boat length ahead. It was a real nail-biter, though, because we couldn’t simultaneously look at the boat behind and the sail ahead. If we weren’t staring up at the sail, it inevitably started to collapse and the other boat would start gaining. It was really hard, then to look away at the sail and hope we were picking up enough speed to be pulling ahead again.

While all of this was happening, Maryanne was able to have a conversation about the whole thing with the other skipper in normal tones. He seemed much less concerned about it than we felt. I suppose that was because, although technically we had to do all of the maneuvering to avoid him while he stood on, which we were desperately trying to do, he still could maneuver and knew exactly where we were, so there was no danger we would actually hit.

Shortly after that mess, the wind finally shifted enough that we were in normal mainsail and jib range and the spinnaker was finally stowed. We picked up speed, and finally had enough time to sit down and have a whole snack.

Maryanne was just getting ready to read to me for a bit when a Mayday came over the radio. Apparently, a 27-foot powerboat had an explosion and burst into flames at the fuel dock at the Baltimore Yacht Club (which is not actually in Baltimore itself, but nearby). It had either burned through its lines or been deliberately cast off to separate it from the pumps and was adrift in the harbor, heading for other boats. A towboat responded, followed quickly by the marine police and a fireboat. The owner and two occupants were blown overboard by the explosion. He suffered burns over 50% of his body, the other two had minor burns.

The Coast Guard radio communication seemed a little lacking, and appeared to offer no actual assistance or coordination effort. The most irritating question was, ”Do you have a GPS position for the vessel in distress, over?” They asked this several times, often stepping on communications between boats fighting the actual fire. The initial call and several subsequent ones identified the location as the Baltimore Yacht Club fuel dock. For goodness sake, look it up!

Once things died down from that, Maryanne was checking her Facebook page, and found out that a couple of people who we knew from the Gemini users groups, Chuck and Mary Ritenour, were on their way to the same anchorage we planned to use that evening. A few email exchanges later, we were invited to raft up for the night and then go to dinner at a nearby restaurant with some people from their yacht club (Yacht Club of Cape Saint Claire).

Entering Bodkin Creek: More ospreys and plenty of other sailors

We passed on actually rafting up, since our fenders were buried deep and we planned to stay at the anchorage for a couple of nights, but joined them for the 'taxi' ride to the restaurant and for dinner at a local place called the Cheshire Crab. The restaurant has a free launch that came out to pick us up and drop us off, so we didn’t even have to deploy the dinghies.

Waiting for the water taxi to take us to meet Mary and Chuck and other members of Yacht Club of Cape Saint Claire

The group turned out to be most of the people from the yacht club. The ones who didn’t sail there drove in. We ended up with about twenty people, all sitting on a long picnic bench made from a bunch of pushed-together little ones. The food was average and took a long time to arrive, but the company was good and the setting along the river was perfect. I picture one guy in the back suddenly having to make forty dishes at once. At least the rest of the clientele’s orders were staggered. The wait gave us plenty of time to chat, which is why we were really there. We were going to stay all night anyway, so that spared us the uncomfortable “when are you leaving” part after the bill came.

There was good live music to boot, and a couple of the tipsier members even got up and danced. In all, it was a great, unexpected evening.

Actually dressing up for a Saturday night out with live music!

In the morning, we emerged to find the whole raftup was gone. It seemed that just as quickly as it emerged, the whole get-together vanished like a mirage, and we were left to enjoy the peaceful river on our own while they headed

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