A Few Lessons Learned

I took Further out today with an instructor from the Annapolis Sailing School aboard. Capt. John Cosby was aboard a few weeks ago when we motored around Annapolis Harbor just getting the feel of the boat. This time, I wanted his help working out a few systems on board Further.

And boy, did we.

The forecast was for decent wind and the forecast was accurate: blowing from the south — right up Chesapeake Bay — in the high teens and above, with whitecaps and two-foot waves marching along to the north. As when I’ve been aboard with friends lately, I tried to do everything myself in order to simulate singlehanding the boat. And I did that today as well. John monitored what I was doing, offered pointers as I worked through various things and was a good safety net just in case.

Exiting Back Creek, I steered off toward the southeast and set the autopilot to head us right into the wind. I hoisted the mainsail and returned to the cockpit, where I shut down the engine and fell off to the north to let the sail fill. That set, I unfurled the jib and we started rollin’, baby.

We went over 9 knots a few times and, to be honest, steering the boat was getting to be a good bicep workout. We were overpowered and Further exhibited quite a bit of weather helm: she kept wanting to turn up into the wind. It’s part and parcel of how she’s designed, and it can be exhausting to the helmsman. Not to the boat, however: Further handled it like a champ. She’s MUCH happier rolling along in some real wind.

But wearing out sailors at the helm is not how any non-racing boat should be sailed, so after John and I got out near the Bay Bridge we tacked back toward town, still rockin’ along at an 8-plus-knot pace. I rolled up the jib to the second furling marker on the tack and that calmed things down, and as we neared shore the wind eased a bit  more. We turned the boat back to the east but this time we let the jib stay backwinded: I wanted to see how Further would handle heaving to. And while we were hove-to, I went back amidships and, with John’s help, sorted out the various lines all clustered at the base of the mast. That accomplished, I then set a reef into the mainsail — turns out I knew what I was doing but I wanted a pro’s supervision the first time I did it aboard this new boat — and returned once again to the cockpit.

Falling off the wind this time, Further was much calmer. She sailed a bit more upright and the weather helm was gone — I didn’t even need to hold onto the wheel to keep the boat on the proper heading. But we were still doing 6 to 6.5 knots. So it was a couple of lessons learned AND a great time out on the bay on my boat.

There was one other lesson learned today, this one yet another in a long line of lessons along the same theme. John and I returned to my dock where he stepped off and another instructor, Andrew, took his place. Andrew and I were going to head out and try out the asymmetrical spinnaker aboard Further. Sadly, however, when we pulled out the sail and all its attendant lines and equipment, it was clear that things were missing. So yet another item highlighted in the sales listing for the boat turned out to be a fallacy. I’ll have to get a rigger in to figure out what’s needed to get the asym to work. That’s a theme — the reality of buying a boat — that I’ll explore in a later post.

But no matter. For a couple of hours today I got to experience Further rockin’ and rolling at hull speed and 45 degrees of heel. The learning process continues…

The Best Alarm Clock

This osprey and its mate have been building this nest high in a tree across from Further.

I’ve mentioned a few times that one of the perks of being at this particular marina is that we’re located up at the head of a cove where a small creek enters Chesapeake Bay. There’s a little, untouched natural area — trees and thick brush — at the mouth of the creek that the city of Annapolis has protected. As a result, we get all sorts of critters around here, which is something this nature boy just adores.

Thus far I’ve seen raccoons, foxes, a muskrat and countless squirrels (on the con side: apparently a pair of squirrels made a nest in the furled mainsail of one of the sailboats in this marina…destroyed a $6,000 sail). Just this morning a snake swam by the bow of my boat. Yikes! And the bird life is out of control: a lot of herons of all types, big and small, feeding on the tiny fish at the head of the cove; more cardinals than I’ve ever seen in my life; same with the robins; geese making a ruckus and ducks coming to the boat for handouts; vultures by the score; a couple of eagles; and lately, a host of ospreys — including a pair that have been building a nest high in the tree opposite Further’s slip.

And with this week’s explosion of summer in the mid-Atlantic — temps in the 80s and low 90s, hot sun — I’ve been sleeping with my hatches wide open. Which meant this morning I was awakened by the piercing cries of those nest-building ospreys and the repetitive whistles of some cardinals. Beat any ring tone my phone could have delivered, that’s for sure.