Starting the New Year (Sorta) Right

Further‘s first day in her new home, back in November

Long time, no write. That’s obviously on me, but the simple fact of the matter is that there hasn’t been much Further-related about which to write lately. I moved the boat over to a new marina, which I quite like but will have to vacate come April, and since the move Further has been firmly connected to the dock nonstop.

Further in her festive Christmas lights

That changed, somewhat, yesterday. For Christmas, I had hoisted lights to the masthead, but given the mild winter we’ve been having in Annapolis thus far (knock on wood), I knew I wanted to get the boat out onto the Chesapeake Bay. Why not, right? All you gotta do is wear warm clothes, right? So I took the lights down on a New Year’s Day that was so warm, I did the work while wearing a T-shirt. That day would have been a great day to go out — brisk winds and the aforementioned warm temps — but I wasn’t going to be able to raise a sail until I’d taken down the lights.

That done, I watched the weather forecast and yesterday was looking good: temps in the low 50s, sunny, wind in the low teens. I figured it would be a great day to get out on the bay, shake off some rust and play around for a short while. And at the same time, I could swing by the fuel dock to top off my diesel tank which is starting to get low since I’ve been using it to heat Further‘s cabin.

I awoke yesterday and got to it: stowed things down below that could get tossed around, removed the tarp I had rigged up over my ripped-up dodger, removed the two sail covers (I added a length of Sunbrella fabric as added protection over the now-very-holey original sail cover) and prepped to head out.

Further‘s engine fired up on first try and hummed for the first time since November. I dropped my dock lines and backed out of the slip with no problem. And then I motored over to Annapolis Landing Marina…where I found the fuel dock closed. Shit! Oh well, I could always head around Horn Point and into Spa Creek to Annapolis City Marina and their fuel dock, right?

Well, I made my way toward the mouth of eerily empty Back Creek. It was like a ’80s TV show about a nuclear apocalypse and everyone was gone. Where there would usually be a steady stream of traffic and anchored boats, there was now, literally, no one but me and Further.

When I got to the mouth of the creek and could see out onto the bay, I was stunned that there was NO ONE out there. I figured the racing boats would be out for their weekly Sunday event, but no. Four tankers were anchored out in the middle of the bay, but other than that, not a soul in sight.

And as I got out by the Back Creek marker I learned why when a couple of splashes were blown into Further‘s cockpit by the strong northwest wind. Whoa! Bracing, to say the least. I knew there was a small-craft advisory but that’s not that big a deal, especially on the bay where the waves can’t really get big — except I realized I didn’t feel like dealing with it solo. And motoring into said wind toward Spa Creek, and then trying to tie up for fuel with the wind blowing me onto the dock, was not something I really savored. So I did a big 180 and headed back to the marina, where the wind made it a sporty venture getting tied up again by myself. But I did it, at which point I replied to a friend’s text message asking me if I wanted to crew for her to take her boat out.

Lauren is a very experienced, badass sailor (I believe she’s done the Newport-to-Bermuda singlehanded race). We had traded text messages about taking our boats out and since I decided going solo sucked I gathered my warm clothes and headed over to her marina. Two other friends of Lauren’s were going and we all headed out onto the bay.

We tucked two reefs into the mainsail and proceeded toward the bridge aboard her 34-foot boat. And we had a grand time, just putting along. A couple of other boats came out behind us and screamed past, their full assortment of sails rigged and drawing on the strong wind. And the dinghy racers were finally out in full force, flying around the buoys in the harbor in front of the Naval Academy.

We were out and about for about four hours and it was wonderful. It was educational to see some of the systems Lauren has on her boat to enable her singlehanding, and I plan to steal some of those ideas. It was also a treat (and a bit chastening) to realize just how big the difference is in handling a 34-foot boat versus handling my 42-foot boat. For instance, when Lauren wanted to trim the main a bit to enable us to point a little higher, I was able to grab the boom and pull it inboard, thereby making it easier for her to winch the sheet tight. And when I lowered the sail at the end of the day, grabbing it and flaking it on the boom was easy compared to the wrestling match that is required to get Further‘s sail secured.

A foggy New Year’s Eve day on Back Creek

So…it was a good day — I got out on the water and learned some things — and it was a not-so-good day — I was humbled enough that I didn’t go out solo, and I couldn’t fill up my fuel tank. I guess that’s par for the course when it comes to sailing: good AND bad, all in good measures.

But it was a gloriously sunny day and I was sailing so…that’s a win.

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