First Day Under Sail

Among the auspicious dates in the continuing saga of my life as a boat owner, add April 11, 2018, to the list. This past Wednesday I took Further onto Chesapeake Bay and hoisted the sails for the first time.

I’d been on board under sail back in early November when I did quick sea trial before buying the boat. We motorsailed in the barely-there breeze for about half an hour and that was that. And then, after a long winter living aboard at the dock, on March 29 Further threw off her lines and I motored around Back Creek, Annapolis Harbor and Ego Alley under the tutelage of Capt. John Cosby of the Annapolis Sailing School. I practiced maneuvering and docking (and filled up the diesel tank after it fed my cabin heater for the winter) and found that I knew what I was doing. I was rusty, to be sure, but I didn’t endanger anyone or anything, and had a good time.

But it wasn’t sailing. And sailing is what Further was built for.

So this past Wednesday I was joined by my friend Meghan Mathews of Orca Green Marine and we took Further out onto the bay. The report from Thomas Point buoy (south of Annapolis a couple of miles) wasn’t promising: wind was south at one knot with gusts to two knots (how the hell can two knots of wind be called a “gust”? More like a breath). But by the time we’d cleared the mouth of Back Creek we could tell there was more wind. The skipjack belonging (I think) to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation was farther out and under sail, and wind was definitely visible on the surface of the water.

With Meg at the helm, I unfurled Further’s headsail and hoisted her mainsail, and we began tacking south toward the Annapolis Harbor One marker, a three-piling navigational mark that signals the beginning of the Annapolis Harbor area. And we were moving, too: ranging from mid-five knots to mid-six knots, and we were not pushing things one bit. But we were moving well enough that we began heeling properly—which I realized when everything down below in the cabin went helter-skelter all over the place. That’s right: I’d neglected to secure the cabin because I didn’t expect there to be any real wind. I’d thought about it in the morning but decided it wasn’t necessary. Whoops. Lesson learned.

I also learned that electric winches are really nice. Pathetic laziness-inducing, but nice. I learned that, as expected, the huge wheel the previous owner put on the boat because his wife was so petite is a pain in the ass when it comes to getting in and out of the helming position. I learned that the wooden guards the previous owner installed on the shrouds were as flimsy (and as pointless) as they looked. And I learned that the big-ass headsail Further carries is really nice.

But more importantly, I learned that I still have a frightening amount of stuff to learn and relearn. I need to learn Further’s systems better, to the point where dealing with the various pieces of equipment becomes second nature. I need to learn how Further handles and performs best under various conditions—wind and sea. And ultimately, I need to develop that feel for the boat that can only come from time under sail.

We got down south of the Annapolis Harbor One marker and it was time to head home. I wanted to be back at the dock before the 3:17 p.m. high tide so there’d be no doubt about getting Further back into her slip. With whitecaps showing on the Chesapeake, I lowered and secured the mainsail and we skittered back north off the wind under genoa alone. And we were still doing a good six knots.

With the wind blowing up the cove, maneuvering Further and backing her into her slip was the most challenging part of the day. But once I applied what I knew—setting the starboard spring line and utilizing the boat’s prop-walk tendencies, she settled right into her nest and we were home.

A successful, fun first day out. The first of many, many days on the water for both me and Further. I hope you’ll stay tuned and join in the fun.