Solvable Puzzles

Categories Sailing Log

I’ve been playing the New York Times crossword puzzle, despite the fact that it is frequently irritating to me.

1 Down. Blunders. It starts with G A. I know damn well that the answer is GAFFES, but that’s six letters and I only have five boxes. I’m a sailor who used to work in politics, so I have no hesitation about the difference between a gaff and a gaffe. Maybe all the other things are wrong? I move on.

3 Down. Native Arizonan. It starts with M O. This is obviously MOHAVE, but again, I’ve only got five boxes. I just cheat, because I’m not giving up my winning streak over this nonsense. The internet tells me it’s MOHAE. I tell the internet, “that’s not a word, hon.”

Sunday. Late morning. I’m wandering around the docks. I come across some folks from my club who are messing around with their shore power cord. I ask them if they’re going out. They say, “Nah, we drove up to the park and it looks like it’s blowing 25kts out there. That seems like work.” I look at their 35 foot, 15,000 pound boat, with its self-tending jib and freestanding mast that will casually bend to spill speed-giving wind off the top. This is not a MOHAE situation. This is a solvable puzzle.

I walk back to Fortuitous and put a reef in.

Of course, I couldn’t leave immediately. Something about my boat has made it extremely attractive to wasps, and Jenn spotted another nest in the coaming box.

Another Wasp Nest
Pay no attention to the varnish on the trim. I certainly haven’t.

This was a much smaller nest, with only one obvious hole, as opposed to the multi-tenant nightmare that I had to deal with earlier in the season. I have been assured that these are just mud daubers (or something like that) and that they’re docile, but the most fun part about an irrational fear is that it’s irrational. Jenn evacuated the boat. I extended a boat hook to its maximum length, steeled myself, and frantically harpooned it like Queequeg on Quaaludes.

With that out of the way, we headed out. It was a little blustery.

Chart of Wind Speeds, Indicating Gusts to 25mph
Wind report courtesy

The above is in statute miles per hour, so even the strongest gusts weren’t quite 25kts, although it’s also possible that the wind speed was higher on the water. The sensors on the mainland side of the bay (this one is at Trixie’s) are most sheltered when the wind is from the northwest. Still, it wasn’t that bad. This is why sails have reefs.

Fortuitous Heeling

We sailed upwind first, tacking a few times to get near 38, and then coming about and sailing a fast beam reach back past the creek. We wound up going all the way to BB, by the entrance to the Forked River. At some point, we saw what I believe to be the scow schooner Nina, motoring upwind toward Toms River. We have very few historic-looking boats on Barnegat, so they really stand out when we spot one (although if this is the Nina, my boat is actually older according to the American Schooner Association’s Registry of American Schooners).

The Scow Schooner Nina

I thought we were sailing fast on the way back toward the creek, but I spotted Daylight, a Hunter 35.5 from my club, chasing us down under only a jib. I brought the traveler up and briefly considered unfurling the rest of the headsail, but it clearly wasn’t going to help with as high as they were pointing. I stood on and let them pass. I actually asked them about it later, and it turned out that they were running their engine.

I don’t know if Jenn liked that much wind or not. I tried to exude even more nonchalance than usual and gave her the tiller a lot so that she could get a feel for it. I’m apparently not good at teaching this stuff, partially because I’m not 100% confident that it can be taught. I doubt I would have ever learned if I had the option of deferring to someone else. I mean, I read a lot too, but there is no substitute for just getting out there and having no choice but to figure it out. Sail or die. The stakes were never actually that high, but I didn’t know that at the time. This is what I like about sailing, though. Most of the time, it’s a solvable puzzle.

Speaking of which, I did eventually figure out that sometimes in the paper version of the crossword puzzle, there are slashes across cells that indicate that you’re supposed to put two letters in there. Regardless of whatever other anachronisms I may be interested in, I find paper newspapers to be of a ludicrous size, smell, texture, and functionality, and these two-letter indicators are left out of the online version of the crossword. So this may technically also be a solvable puzzle, and to each their own, but give me decent wind and a reef any day.

"Prepare to fend off the bridge abutment."