The Real Real First Day of Spring

If yesterday was a fantabulous day on land, today was equally wonderful out on the water.

That’s right: Further and I went for a sail.

We left the dock around lunchtime (after successfully filling up on diesel, unlike our last outing) and wandered out into a light-air day on the Chesapeake. Winds were 6 to 8 knots so we were ghosting along under main and genoa at 4 knots or so. Not blindingly fast but the sun was shining, the air was warm and it just felt GOOD. Further, especially, seemed pleased to be back in her element.

We headed easterly toward the Bay Bridge and were off Greenbury Point when the wind pretty much died out: 3 to 4 knots and we were doing maybe 1 or so. There was a J World sailing school boat nearby and they were going just as slowly as we were so I didn’t feel bad about it.

At one point I wandered up to the bow and looked over the edge just to make sure. I could confirm that Further was, in fact, cutting through the water. We were moving. And then we were moving a bit faster. And then a bit faster still. What the…?

By the time I got back to the cockpit the breeze had filled in, blowing in the 10 to 12 range and Further was doing a good 6 knots. It was amazing how quickly everything changed. One minute we’re just floating, the next we’re rocking across the bay.

The USCG cutter Eagle doing “engine maneuvers” on Chesapeake Bay. Click on the photo to enlarge it and see how beautiful a ship she is.

And out there on the bay, in the main channel south of the Bay Bridge, was the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Eagle (which, I just learned on that page I linked to, when it was brought to the U.S. after we took it from the Germans following World War II, came first to the town in New York where I spent a good chunk of my youth. Far out!). They had announced over the VHF that they would be doing “engine maneuvering” for about three hours so Further and I moseyed over there to get a look. This being the Paranoid States of America I didn’t get too close, the Eagle being a military ship and all, but even from a distance she sure is a beautiful vessel. I’d love to see her out at sea with some of her canvas flying, but even under bare poles she’s a pretty vessel.

After getting to roughly the eastern edge of the channel, I tacked Further over and we headed back to the southwest, toward Thomas Point. The wind by now was a steady 14 to 16 with gusts up to 20-plus and we were rockin’. In fact, I may have had Further a little overpowered but what the hell…it was our first time out this year, really. And it was sunny. About halfway back to the western shore I did roll in a bit of the genoa, but other than that we just rocked and rolled.

Another tack and back northeast toward Eagle, then another tack to head back to Annapolis, and by now the wind was a steady 20. Boo-YAH!

The ospreys are back and once again building their nests on pretty much every navigational aid in the area. A sure sign of spring.

Off Back Creek I turned into the wind and started the engine so I could roll up the jib completely and douse the main. Coming into the marina was pretty straightforward, though the strong southerly wind would have made it interesting to tie Further up by myself. As it was, the guy on the boat in the slip next to ours was on the finger pier to help.

So, yeah, here we go into another season. I had hoped that by now I’d have a dozen or so days on the water but the weather and Further‘s diesel engine had something to say about that plan. No worries, though. We’re underway again and I’m stoked. I know Further is too.

I will say that as much of a solo guy as I am, it would have been nice to have a friend or a few friends along for the ride. So if you’re in the mood to get in a little sailing, gimme a shout and c’mon down to Eastport. Further‘s a-waitin’.

The Real First Day of Spring

A sliver of moon on the western horizon. The next lunar cycle is underway.

The vernal equinox was a couple of weeks ago but today, April 6, was the REAL first day of spring this year.

A glorious Saturday, the sun burned through some light morning fog around 9 o’clock and shone the remainder of the day. A light breeze caressed the waters of Chesapeake Bay and anyone who wasn’t working to bring their boat out of its winter slumber was out on the bay enjoying themselves.

Me, I was at work. Woohoo! <groan> And by “work” I mean: I sat in the office waiting for someone, anyone, to come by and express an interest in buying or selling a boat. None did. I wandered the docks at Port Annapolis — it was too nice NOT to go for a walk — but anyone I talked to was elbow-deep in getting their boat out of hibernation, so no leads there. Oh, but I did deliver a message to a client for the other broker in my office. He had gone home for the day after popping in for a few minutes. I know, I know…

Mmm…pasta, salad and a Pounder Pils beer for dinner in the cockpit of Further. Now THAT’S livin’!

I finally took off around 5 p.m. and moseyed back home to Further. And in the midst of cooking up a pasta dinner and doing a few odds and ends around the boat, I took in a superb evening. And while enjoying the first dinner in the cockpit of the season — while listening to my beloved Grateful Dead, of course — I glimpsed in the west a super-young moon. Just a sliver visible above the trees and buildings on shore, but there it was. The photo isn’t so great — my eyes are such that I can’t really tell when I have the damned camera focused sharply or not — but you get the idea.

I should have known it was coming after seeing a really old moon — an equal but opposite-side sliver — early in the morning on Tuesday en route to play hockey. That sliver was just coming up with the sunrise while this one was just going down with the sunset. The new moon was around Thursday or so.

Point is: a view of a sliver of moon while listening to the sound of bird song capped off a glorious day and a sublime evening. Spring has well and truly sprung now, thank goodness.

A Tale of Two Seminars

Actually, it was only one seminar. But you get the idea: that whole good-and-bad-simultaneously thing.

I’ve been meaning to attend the Safety At Sea seminar for some time now. And since it was here in Annapolis, as it is each spring, I was able to do so this year. So I spent this past weekend on the campus of the U.S. Naval Academy listening to really cool presentations by sailing experts and also got to enjoy some hands-on fun in the Naval Academy pool playing with life jackets, pumps, throw ropes and life rafts.

And it really was two different seminars.

I came out of Saturday’s lectures thinking, “Holy shit. EVERYTHING about sailing offshore not only CAN kill you, it will. In fact, it’s going to. And soon.” One boat inspector told us just how fast THIS much water can come into your boat from just a one-inch hole. A two-inch hole? You’re screwed. And jeez, hit something big and put a serious hole in the boat? Kiss your ass goodbye.

A doctor (who was actually quite entertaining) talked about how debilitating seasickness is. But boy oh boy, if you think THAT’S bad, just get injured at sea and you’ll find out what really bad is.

Misery upon misery upon misery will be visited upon those who are silly enough to buy a boat and contemplate a life at sea. That was the message from the Safety At Sea seminar. So I came out of Saturday’s session thinking, “I think I’ll sell my boat and go walkabout on this wonderful planet — via plane — for a while.” ‘Course, then I realized that I’d probably board a Boeing 737 Max 8 and, well, we know how well THOSE things have been flying lately.

And then Sunday happened. Sailing author John Kretschmer spoke of his love for being at sea — and he’s been out there for some really nasty stuff. He keeps going back out there…that’s how much he loves it. And the way he characterized what it’s like out there, and the fact that it wasn’t so much about buying more damned stuff for the boat, got me back into the concept of sailing over the horizon and searching for golden shores, warm water, cold water even and good times. After Kretschmer’s presentation, and while walking to the Naval Academy pool, I was not only fired up again but I also felt like I could do this, and soon…and that felt good.

The thing is: NONE of the presenters told me or taught me anything I didn’t already know. Have I done some of the things those with more experience than me have done? No. And that’s why my chief takeaway from the sessions was the need to practice, practice, practice before you really go for it.

Which is why I signed up for the seminar in the first place: because for Sunday’s pool session participants donned their foul-weather gear and inflatable life jackets and played with things that we all have but have never used — and hope never to have to use.

My life jacket inflated properly upon hitting the water. The manual bilge pumps that I have on board for emergencies really do move a lot of water. The Lifesling and throw bags deployed their rescue gear as I expected. And while climbing into a life raft from the water wasn’t easy, it also wasn’t as hard as I’d always heard it was. Granted, I wasn’t climbing into the raft after abandoning my sinking ship in the middle of a gale. And yes, now I know I need to inspect some parts on my pumps and check the packing of my Lifesling (see above re: practice, practice, practice). But now if, God forbid, I should ever have to use any of this survival gear in real life, it won’t be for the first time. And for that, the seminar was a far, far better event than I had expected.