Mini-adventure No. 2

Evening twilight settles over San Domingo Creek, Maryland

Unable to secure crew for an immediate run to New England, I opted to take Further out for a short cruise on the Chesapeake Bay this past weekend. The impetus for the trip was that my former marina-mate, Renee, and another friend, Kathy, were heading out for a week-long bay cruise and their first stop was to be San Domingo Creek. Renee had a friend with a home on the creek near the town of St. Michaels, and this friend had invited Renee to bring others to a crab fiesta at his house. Free food? A chance to get out of dodge? Anchoring out? Yes, please. And to top it off, St. Michaels was going to have fireworks Saturday night. I was in.

Sadly, the forecast was for scorching temperatures and no wind, and that’s exactly what we got. Renee and Kathy took off early aboard Kathy’s lovely Bristol, Caribu. I did our regularly scheduled group breakfast at the Boatyard and then left my slip around 10:45 a.m.

Motoring south on the Chesapeake was mind-numbing but it was still nice to be on the water. At one point it seemed like there might just be enough wind to get some sailing in so I hoisted all my canvas. It was short-lived and pretty pointless but hey, I gave it a shot. The genoa was rolled up and the main sheeted tight amidships and the motoring continued.

I turned into the Choptank drainage before veering off into Broad Creek and finally into the San Domingo. Caribu was already anchored so I pulled Further alongside and we rafted up. After putting everything in order, we dinghied off to Renee’s friend’s home.

And, oh brother, what a feast. Lee has a beautiful home right on San Domingo Creek that’s at the end of a long driveway so there are no neighbors too close. There’s a semicircle of lawn fronting the creek, with a hammock and Adirondack chairs scattered beside a comfortable patio that extends from the house. And it was at a picnic table on the patio that a monumental food coma was induced.

I had never really done a crab feast before but Lee was a wonderful host and demonstrated how best to proceed. And proceed I did — to the tune of more than a dozen crabs, all doused in Old Bay seasoning as is standard on the Chesapeake. A few beverages to wash in all down and after a while it was all I could do to roll my fat ass to one of the chairs on the lawn. Which is where we proceeded to hang out and enjoy the gathering twilight on San Domingo Creek.

My dinghy doesn’t have any navigation lights on it so before it got too dark I had to pull the chute on the evening and shuttle Kathy, her dog Rio, Renee and myself back to our boats. And that’s where a fabulous afternoon and evening segued into a sublime evening.

Yes, St. Michaels had fireworks to celebrate the coming Fourth of July holiday. And we could sorta see them back over where we’d come from at Lee’s. But right in front of where we’d anchored some local was putting on a fireworks display that rivaled anything a municipality might have put on. Seriously. No, it wasn’t like something I’d seen put on by the cities of Boston or New York or D.C., but it was definitely on a par with what I’d seen put on by Newburyport. And it was just one person out in their backyard and off their deck. And it went on and on and on and on, all the way to 10 p.m., at which the final display faded into the dark…and we had the best seats in the house.

But it wasn’t dark for long because the now-past-full moon rose bright and orange in the east, with Saturn above it and bright Jupiter higher and farther west. Anchored in the quiet creek, taking it all in…just a fantastic way to end a wonderful day and evening.

(And in a brief, nerdly aside: being away from the dock for the first time since I’d installed my SSB/ham radio aboard Further enabled me to try the rig out away from all the radio interference in Annapolis. And boy howdy, what a treat! Worked an operator in Bulgaria as clear as day and easy as pie. I was stoked.)

On Sunday, Kathy and Renee and Rio were headed farther south to continue their cruise. Their destination was Solomons, over on the western shore of the Chesapeake where the Patuxent River enters the bay. They asked me to go but another day of no wind and blazing heat sent me scampering back to Annapolis. And again, it was a motor-the-whole-way kinda day. But upon nearing Tolly Point on the approach to Eastport, the wind freshened a bit. I killed the engine and drifted a bit and yes, it seemed like this was legitimate wind. So up went the main and out came the genoa and boom! Further was romping east across the bay.

What a little bit o’ breeze does: makes me smiiiiiiiiiiile.

It was a four-and-a-half hour motor to Tolly Point. I then spent three gleeful hours tacking back and forth across the Chesapeake out in front of Annapolis, just smiling and gallivanting and romping around. It was the culmination of a great outing and while I wish I had gone on to Solomons for another evening on the hook, the sailing I did off Eastport had me all fired up on Further, sailing and the adventures to come. Running on the engine is fine but moving under sail is magical and makes it all worthwhile. Between the wind and Saturday’s crab feast, fireworks and moon, it was a great weekend and another step on the path. Stay tuned for more.

Crew-finding Fiascoes

Last night’s full moon was glorious from the foredeck of Further.

Here it is, the last few days of June, and Further is still tied up to the marina in Annapolis. I had hoped she’d be bobbing at her mooring in the Merrimack River back home in Newburyport, Mass., in mid- to late-May, so I am now a month-plus behind schedule.

Some of the delay has been due to various projects that needed to be done on the boat. But by far the biggest impediment has been my inability to find any crew who can join me for the sail north. I tried reaching out to friends with sailing experience but no one’s schedule has allowed them to get away yet. One friend-of-a-friend who, I was under the impression, was unemployed and ready to go ASAP told me yesterday that he was ready to go…after July 10. That revelation sunk me into a deep funk that I’m hoping will lift a bit as I write this post and get things off my chest.

There’s an added tragedy to the saga as well: This week’s weather has been perfect for the offshore leg from Cape May, N.J., to Rhode Island. I’ve been watching the weather forecasts for a while now and had hoped to be headed north by yesterday or today, but obviously that’s not the case.

It’s now at the point where I am contemplating making the trip singlehandedly. Going solo is very do-able — plenty of people are sailing around the world by themselves right this moment — but not prudent, especially since I haven’t been offshore in a few years.

The full moon was even nice when walking back to Eastport over Spa Creek draw bridge after an ice cream cone in Annapolis.

But I am so jones-ing to sail on blue water, to see the ocean, to anchor in a spot where I can jump off Further into the water and not worry about the health implications, that I’m almost to that point.

One friend wisely counseled patience, pointing out that another couple of weeks is no big deal, and also pointing out that I enjoy Annapolis. All of that is true, but on the other hand, it’s time to GO. If I were sailing locally more often, that would be one thing, and several times recently the conditions have been perfect — except for the fact that the water level in my cove was so low that Further was stuck in the mud (this despite the assurances of locals that such conditions NEVER happen in the summer). So yeah. Time to go.

These are all first-world problems, I realize, and I apologize for my whining. I mean: I just finished reading a book by a woman who’d been diagnosed with stage IV cancer; my “problems” are not even problems; they’re scheduling challenges. So again: my apologies.

But if you have any interest in going for a sail, experienced or not, gimme a shout. We could do it one fell swoop: Annapolis to Newburyport would take about four and a half days. Or we could break it up: I’d like to head straight from Naptown to Block Island, stay there for a day or two, and then head home. Or if you’d like to join for one or more shorter legs we could even break it up a bit more: a day to the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal; a day from there to Cape May; two days offshore to Block; a day from Block to somewhere on Cape Cod (or a side trip to Martha’s Vineyard?); a final day back to Newburyport. Whatever works best for you, I’m game. I would counsel that if you’ve never been offshore, you start out with something shorter and closer to land. Things can get monotonous when you’re out there for more than a few hours. Just sayin’.

And if it doesn’t work out and I don’t get home until mid-July, well, come along for a day sail out of Newburyport or maybe even a journey down to Maine. Seriously. I’d like to join a gathering up in Penobscot Bay the last weekend of July and would love to have company along for the trip.

Again, if you’re interested in any of this, drop me an email at the Gmail address listed on this site. Thanks!

I Bit. Now It’s Time to Chew

Here we are, a third of the way through the month of June, and I’m still in Annapolis. Not that that’s a bad thing — Annapolis is a great town and I enjoy being here. But the plan has always been to take Further and head back home to Plum Island for the summer, and to sail on the Atlantic as opposed to the Chesapeake. So why am I still here?

Well, a couple of reasons. And in the spirit of open honesty, I’m here to admit that those reasons are procrastination and fear.

I’m still checking off items on Further’s to-do list, and a lot of those things I really should have — and certainly could have — taken care of over the winter. But some of that procrastination was based on misguided faith in the boat and systems that I purchased.

For instance: I was under the impression that the dinghy that came with Further was in decent shape and just needed a few patches. But I couldn’t make those fixes during the cold weather of the winter so I waited until spring, at which point I realized I was not having success fixing the dinghy. I took it to the folks at Annapolis Inflatables who let me know that no, the dinghy was in sad shape. So finding a decent used dinghy took a while (and thanks to Jesse at Fawcett Marine who hooked me up with an Apex inflatable in great shape).

Similar situations arose with many other to-do items, and compounding my procrastination was the island-time mentality in the sailing community here in Naptown. Seriously, if you want to get that “mañana” or “soon come, mon” vibe without going to the tropics, just come to Annapolis and get involved with the boating industry. “I’ll be able to look at it this week” means they’ll get to it in two-plus weeks. And even the seemingly honest accounts — “We won’t get to it for three weeks” — means you have to chase them down after three-plus weeks so they’ll look at it. A lot of this is due to the fact that the marine-related companies around here are swamped with work, but some of it is definitely due to a laid-back attitude that surprised even laid-back me.

The other factor delaying my trip north is the challenge in finding experienced crew able to make the journey. And that has actually raised some very ominous specters for my longer-term dreams.

I have every belief that I could take Further north by myself, but for a first journey offshore in several years (for both boat and me), going solo is not especially smart. Simply keeping watch for the entirety of the trip — much of which is spent crossing the shipping lanes going into and out of New York City — would be an exercise in ultramarathon endurance. And it would be a hell of a lot smarter and safer to have others aboard to help with sail trim, steering, navigating, anchoring/mooring and so forth.

I’ve sent out a couple of group emails to friends who are experienced sailors but no one’s schedule permits them to make the run. And I have some fear — or rather, a nervousness — about making the journey home on my own. I’m nervous about the seasickness I always feel on my first evening at sea after a long time ashore. I’m nervous about crossing all those shipping lanes. I’m nervous about dealing with the tidal currents in the Delaware Bay and the Cape Cod Canal. I’m nervous about dealing with the mouth of the Merrimack River and the currents upstream in Newburyport where Further’s summer mooring awaits. I’m nervous about dealing with all of the systems on board Further when (not if) issues arise. And I’m especially nervous about dealing with all of them alone. Sure, plenty of people sail around the world solo in all sorts of contraptions. Sure, I know what I’m doing and Further is strong, solid boat that can cross oceans without batting an eye. But I’m still nervous. I’d like to have some help along the way.

There. I said it: I’m scared/nervous/fearful.

And going forward from a few-day trip back to Massachusetts, I’m nervous that I’m SO close to my dream but won’t be able to realize it because I can’t (or don’t want to) do all of this on my own. I’m wondering now if maybe I’ve bitten off more than I can chew with regard to the whole cruising dream. Is Further too much boat? Can I really go and chase those adventures I’ve dreamed about since I was a teenager? I always figured I might have to go solo for stretches, but I was optimistic friends would want to join up for some of the fun parts; indeed, that’s one of the reasons I wanted a boat with two separate cabins. I also figured I’d meet similarly minded people along the way (and I may yet) but now I’m not so sure. And I’m now grappling with the fact that as much as this has been my dream, and as much as I’ve wanted to do this — even solo — for so long, now I’m thinking that maybe doing it solo isn’t really what I want. That maybe even this curmudgeonly old loner might prefer a little more people time than he likes to admit.

I’m confident that I just need this one trip under my belt and everything will fall into place: my sea legs will come back, I’ll rediscover that joy I feel when I’m offshore, my adventure-lust will come back full force and my deal-with-it attitude will enable me to address anything that might arise on board in the future.

It turns out the procrastination was the easy part; that just meant a delay. No big deal. But the fear, well, that’s created a big obstacle to a short trip and a lifelong journey. I’m dealing with that every single day right now. Stay tuned.

(Note: This post also appears over at my personal site.)