If our sailing activities were a sportsball team, the talk radio pundits probably would have classified 2013 as a “rebuilding year,” since that seems to be the predominant cliché to describe any consistently down season. But it was not without its highlights. Here is our annual review:
What Went Wrong
- Early in the season, much of the northeast was literally rebuilding after Superstorm Sandy. Fortuitous came through unscathed, thanks to Val for letting us keep her at his house (again), but the storm was still at the forefront of people’s minds. Along with the property damage came a certain amount of uncertainty, and few were eager to test the revised topography of the bay by running into it. Between the damaged marinas, the boats that were lost, and the trepidation of the remaining boaters, I think there were fewer boats out there early (which may have helped the Army Corps of Engineers and state with their clean up).
- Regardless of any apprehension on our part, we were further delayed because our bad covering job broke off most of our stanchions. I get that boats require a lot of maintenance, but this was especially annoying because it was entirely preventable. A mix of hubris and embarrassment (hubrisment?) on my part may have also made the repairs more cumbersome and expensive than they needed to be because I refused to ask for help, although we made the best of it by stirring up some epoxy and colloidal silica and moving on. We didn’t splash until May 17, which was our latest start by a significant margin.
- I got about 80% done with the installation of our depth sounder, but failed in many, many attempts to locate a place to mount the transducer where it would reliably get a reading through the hull, resulting in 0% effectiveness of the unit, overall.
- The weather sucked. The region set records for the wettest meteorological summer (29.71 inches of rain), the wettest June (10.56 inches), and the most rain in a single day in local recorded history (8.02 inches). When it wasn’t raining, there was often a threat of thunderstorms or high winds.
- We didn’t go on any big trips. We tried to go on a couple different occasions, like our failed trip to Beach Haven, where we were thwarted by winds gusting to 35-40kts, which is absurd for our boat.
- In addition to the lack of cruising, our total number of sails was down from last year, mostly due to weather.
What Went Right
- While we didn’t make it to Beach Haven, we did sail that day. Given that an America’s Cup race was postponed this year for sustained winds of 20.1kts, I’m proud that Fortuitous can be safely sailed in sustained 30kts (at something like 1/10,000th of the price tag). It’s work, and it’s not necessarily my idea of a good time (after the initial shot of adrenaline wears off), but we can do it, and that wasn’t always the case. I think the skills that we’ve cobbled together sailing a 22-footer in heavy-ish weather will translate well to a more capable boat in the serious stuff. A light boat is a strict teacher, but it’s a quality education.
- We sailed fast. Maybe not in the abstract, but we tacked up a couple more pictures on the Wall of Shame and I feel like we’re sailing the hell out of the boat. I say all the time that I equate sailing fast with sailing well. I don’t know if that’s actually true or not, and I’m not saying that we’re there yet, but squeezing the most out of what you’ve got to work with demonstrates a certain mastery to me, and it’s something toward which I strive.
- Part of that mentality, and part of what makes me a better skipper on Fortuitous, is crewing on Revolution every Tuesday. Sailor Steve and I had probably our best season since moving up to the East End Yacht Club’s A-fleet. We were consistently competitive and had our first race win, which will be a great launching off point for next season. I was also on the first place boat when the Windjammers Sailing Club reclaimed the Tall Oaks Challenge Cup!
- Jen and I also continued doing things to make Fortuitous better. I built an anchor riding sail and, surprisingly, it actually works. As my first foray into the arcane world of the sewing machine, I think it has been an outstanding success, although I already have plans for improvements. We also put together a kellet, which is an old-school anchoring aid that keeps our rode from wrapping around our keel when anchored in an area with shifting tidal currents. I hadn’t intended to replace the stanchions and lifelines, but it was probably time and it was a good lesson in boat maintenance (on multiple levels).
- Despite the lack of big trips, we did spend lots of nights at anchor. We sailed at night several times, which is always exciting for us, and we even saw a rocket launch from the boat. Those sea-crazed swabbies from the Golden Age of Sail may have seen mermaids or the Flying Dutchman, but none of them saw a moon rocket.
- I think we did a better job of providing photographic evidence of our sailing activities this year. We got a couple new cameras, including a GoPro video camera and a waterproof still camera that we can more easily keep at hand in the cockpit. While any decent photos can largely be attributed to the “blind squirrel” concept, we did get an occasional artsy shot, like this picture of the pilings at Downe’s Fishing Camp in still air and fog:
- I made use of the sailing downtime by adding a bunch of dumb tools and sites to the boat log. Check out the Fun Stuff section if you’re interested in such fascinating topics as calculating jib overlap, what’s on our current Smooth Sailing playlist, or what sailingfortuitous.com would have looked like in 1997—all “features” added this season.
- We made up for our late start by continuing to sail into December. It was cold and I was singhlehanded, but it was just trying enough that I felt like I got my money’s worth on the season. If we’d pushed it one more weekend, we’d have been sailing in snow.
While we can’t point to many flashy adventures this season, I do think that we’re sailing better than ever and it’s still crazy fun. There will be less rainy summers and more opportunities to push our boundaries, and despite my occasional frantic ranting to the contrary, I can be selectively patient when required. Here’s to a happy holiday season and a fantastic 2014.