One of the consequences of writing down all of your sailing activities is that when your sailing activities aren’t all that exciting, and you have to keep writing “we sailed upwind, then we sailed downwind and came home,” it tends to reinforce that you’re not exactly pushing the boundaries. We haven’t even used the anchor this year, so we decided to go down to the shore a little later than usual and have dinner on the hook.
But not without first sailing upwind then returning downwind, as per usual.
Our friend the liftboat was still out there with its survey boat buddy, but they were positioned far more to the northeast than they’d been. This must be an intense survey. Jenn said that she thought the survey boat was moving, but it looked anchored to me. I was pretty sure that I could see its anchor line.
We sailed down to about Oyster Creek, then did an over-sized tack of about 225° to get going the other way without having to jibe. I gave a lengthy and probably incoherent lecture on the concept of the “chicken jibe,” even though that’s not exactly what we did and it wasn’t really necessary given the benign conditions. But at least we were headed back, with the wind just aft of a beam reach.
I don’t have a bow roller, which annoys me deeply every time I want to use the anchor. Also, since the anchor does not fit through the pulpit, if I want to the rode to go directly from the anchor to the bow cleat to the locker when deployed, I need to feed the entire rode through the opening in the pulpit backwards and then have it go around the pulpit when it’s stowed, so that the act of dropping it over the pulpit puts it on the “correct” side (I’m probably not explaining this well, but it’s like the Good Ol’ Boy Brain Teaser in the lobby of a Cracker Barrel made out of a horseshoe, some twine, and a bent nail that I also don’t care to solve). Suffice it to say that it was still in “winter mode,” so while sailing back, I gave the helm to Jenn and went forward to prepare it for “active anchoring mode.”
I was up there for a while, focused entirely on tangling and untangling the rode (How about if I just cut this horseshoe in half with a torch? Will that get me my chicken-fried-gristle with white slop any faster so that I can get back on the highway?) I looked up and saw the survey boat going by us in the opposite direction at relatively close range. It definitely had been moving, and the thing I thought was an anchor line was actually some static contraption affixed to its bow. Behind it was the liftboat, looming with its ungainly lifting sticks raised as if were an insect getting ready to leap. It seemed to be headed straight for us. I asked Jenn to turn significantly to the left, to pass it on the same side as the survey vessel and not cut between them. I don’t know how much of my communication she actually received—it is always surprisingly difficult to have a conversation from the bow to the stern—but she turned only a little to the left, and it seemed from my [unusual] vantage that she’d pointed us directly at the marker BI. I would have taken the helm if I wasn’t wrapped up like a kitten in a shoe box full of yarn, but I had no choice but to try to point out the obstacles from the anchor locker. In the end, she navigated successfully around the liftboat, the marker, and everything else, and did great, despite whatever I was hollering.
I finally got the anchor situated and made my way back to the cockpit. On my way, I noticed that we were slowly being overtaken by another sailboat. I immediately took the helm and trimmed for speed.
It was Rest Less, the Bristol 35 from my club, coming in fast. She was in her element, and I was not able to stop her from passing us—I just made it take as long as possible. I may have wrung out enough speed that we were keeping up once she got off our starboard bow. It was late in the day, and I assumed that she was going to need to make a wide turn to port to head back to the creek, but we were intending to go past the creek and anchor at Berkeley, so in order to give her room, I turned sharply to starboard and ducked behind her. I think it was only at that point that her skipper noticed who I was, and he turned to intercept. We were faster on that point of sail though, and would not be passed again.
At one point, we were close enough that Rest Less was able to call out to us and let us know that we were dragging a line off the bow. I had a brief moment of panic that I was somehow dragging 175ft of anchor rode, but it turned out that it was just the control line for my whisker pole, which had become unwrapped and was barely dangling into the water.
When we had room to safely maneuver, we made our own turn to port and came dead downwind to sail wing and wing toward Berkeley. We started the engine and lowered the sails as we got close, and talked through the anchoring procedure a few times. It all seems so straightforward when you’re preparing…pull up, stop the boat, drop the anchor, back up. And then you get there, and it’s suddenly a Zen koan.
How do you know when the boat is stopped?You are the boat. The water is Zen. Burma-shave.
We got it sorted out eventually. There were a few boats in the cove, but it wasn’t overwhelming. We ate mediocre hoagies. “Subs,” I guess. You never know at the shore, because it’s a weird mix of Philly influence, New York influence, and the local pidgin, but these rolls were definitely not befitting of a proper hoagie. Just relaxing on a boat was a refreshing change of pace though. It was cool as the sun was setting and there was a pleasant breeze. The clouds soon took on the high contrast of evening, with bands of pink and peach in the sky near the horizon.
Retrieving the anchor was a completely different koan (who knew that the Zen masters had such filthy mouths?) but after some initial difficulty, we switched jobs and got it unstuck and aboard. We motored around Berkeley Island, and saw the nearly-full moon opposite the setting sun.
This probably doesn’t seem like a radically different outing on the surface, but it was important to do things like get the anchor sorted out and practice using it so that we can work up to more interesting trips. I’m glad that Jenn is trying, and I’ll try to be a more coherent and patient teacher.