40-Degree Day

Categories Sailing Log

I think I’m in serious need of a sailing adventure. We technically sailed, but it was like a 40-degree day. Ain’t nobody got nothing to say about a 40-degree day.

I am, of course, not referring to the temperature. This is a quote from The Wire (S03E03), where Stringer Bell is chewing out his subordinates about their middling performance by comparing it to something patently unremarkable. The actual air temperature was closer to 90 degrees, making it about almost a full-40-degree day hotter than last weekend. This is fine. Everything is fine.

I rolled down the car windows a couple intersections before arriving at the marina so that we’d have some time to acclimate. It was quite warm and fairly humid, even at the shore. The dew point was around 65, which is the top end of the range where weather forecasts start including words like “sticky” or “muggy,” which are disgusting words regardless of context. The wind was predicted to be light, and there was almost none in the marina as we were preparing the sails. The following graph clearly indicates the moment when I made the decision to not tuck in a reef.

Chart Showing Wind Gusts Jumping to 25kts

The thing was, I knew it. While motoring down the creek, I specifically made comments like, “Are there waves in here? Are these wakes or something? Because there shouldn’t be waves in here,” and “The forecast said like 10-12kts, but with this much heat over land, a sea breeze will probably kick in.” I honestly don’t know if I was being dumb or if I was secretly trying to add a little spice to keep my inner Stringer Bell from yelling at me.

The wind wasn’t crazy when we hoisted the main, and we definitely hoisted all of it, followed by the entire jib. The wind was from the south, and we started on a starboard tack across the bay. I intended to go as far as I could to allow for a long leg down on port. A large Beneteau had crept up on us while we were getting underway, and followed us across. As soon as we tacked, they tacked, which I took as an act of aggression. It’s entirely possible that this was just a normal family out sailing who happened to tack around the same time as us, but I was taught to sail by a super-aggressive priest who explained to me that whenever two sailboats were going in the same direction, they were racing (with the same solemnity he used when speaking about eternal damnation).

Beneteau Chasing Us
Objects in mirror are closer than they appear.

The wind continued to slowly build, and it was around this time that I realized that we were overpowered. Not ridiculously sofor racing, it probably would have been ideal to have had the entire main up but with the outhaul all the way on, a lot of luff tension, and three dudes on the rail, but none of those were the case, and of the adjustments that we could have made, making them seemed far-fetched in the moment. As the Beneteau closed, I pulled the traveler up and let the mainsheet out to allow a little wind to spill off the top and footed off for speed, thinking that I’d at least make them work for it. They could have caught us if they wanted to, but eventually turned around without passing us.

In the process of fending off the Beneteau, I barely got to appreciate passing the O’Day.

Passing an O'day
Fenders out for safety.

We continued on to the south. We haven’t sailed that much this season, but this was definitely the busiest day for boat traffic that we’ve seen so far. I had to adjust course to give room to a cutter coming out of Forked River. I guess he thought he was on starboard tack, despite having zero sails up.

Cutter Crossing

We had more room to continue sailing south, but we tacked early to put distance between ourselves and the main ICW channel where most of the boat traffic was concentrated. By then, the wind and waves had built significantly and we were uncomfortably overpowered. I started trying to pick my way through the drifting fishing boats to the east of the channel, but we were heeled a lot, the helm was heavy, and everything was difficult. I was kind of frustrated with the situation (and my lack of decisiveness in just putting a reef in), and decided to fall off onto a broad reach to calm things down. Jenn eased the jib and I attempted to let out the main, but the main sheet became hopelessly tangled. It looked like one of those experiments where scientists dose spiders with LSD and make them spin webs while listening to Captain Beefheart’s Trout Mask Replica. I guess some of it seemed like a 90-degree day.

Jenn took the helm while I got it situated. We had more than enough power from the genoa, and once the main could be trimmed, we rocketed north. We crossed paths with Restless, close enough that we could say hello by voice, and continued on well past the creek. Near Ocean Gate, we turned around, and briefly tried to sail, but it was obnoxious and we furled the jib.

Closeup of Waves

Fortuitous doesn’t sail that well on just the main, but the jib is easier to get rid of in a hurry, and we were still able to move around. We tacked a few times and slowly clawed our way back upwind toward the creek.

Scene under the Boom

I suppose that the sail was more eventful than the 40-degree day that I was initially giving it credit for, although it was still a basic daysail to nowhere. It’s great to be out on the water, and great to be tuning up the boat and our sailing skills for the season, but I still have an unusual thirst to go somewhere or do something more interesting. It seems like it’s been forever, since basically everything was closed last year and we had no options. Things are now weirdly open in New Jersey (I went into a Wawa without a mask?) and we’re taking proactive steps to prepare for last-minute getaways when the weather windows present themselves. Hopefully the preparation will calm me down in the short term, and that it pays off with an actual adventure sometime soon.

"Prepare to fend off the bridge abutment."

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