Poof. Everything was different. Last week was summer, and this week it wasn’t.
The high temperature wasn’t predicted to be that different from the week before, but nothing about the air felt like summer air. I could chalk it up to humidity or the path of the jet stream or some other measurable feature, but it seemed so much deeper—more akin to whatever imperative compels chipmunks start hoarding acorns and barn swallows to fly to South America. One week after Labor Day and it was like a circuit breaker had been tripped on the bay: there was no one out there. And it was fantastic.
Part of it may have been the forecast. Some other sailors at the marina were telling me that they’d been seeing forecasts of 20-25kts, which may have caused a lot of people to bail. If I had seen that, I might have skipped sailing too, but none of my sources had anything that high, and I think they proved to be more accurate.
It was windy enough for a reef, but nothing out of hand or particularly uncommon for Barnegat Bay. We reefed down at the dock and I hoisted the Windjammers’ club burgee for the first time this season. My burgee has been sitting on an end table in my living room for possibly a year? I keep meaning to take it, but that’s also the end table where my laptop usually goes, and sometimes my designated living room guitar amp winds up there among other things, so it hasn’t been screaming to be observed. Last week, I had to arrange my living room like the set of Between Two Ferns for a nonsense interview, so it finally made it to the top of the rotation among things I barely care about. I asked Jenn to sing the official Windjammers Song while I raised it, but she refused, claiming that she didn’t know it (there isn’t one). She agreed to at least stand at attention and salute while I sang it. I realized only later that I’d actually sung “The State Anthem of the Soviet Union” (which I only know from watching The Hunt for Red October 800 times), replacing all of the Russian words with the single word “Windjammers.”
The wind was on our nose as we exited the creek, so we raised the main as we neared the end of the channel. In my mind, the creek is exactly perpendicular to the length of the bay, which would have meant that we should have been able to beam reach up and down its length, but I seem to get this wrong every time. We deployed most (but not all) of the jib as soon as we had room to turn, and continued to the south with the wind well aft of the beam.
Jenn sailed us down past Oyster Creek. There was another sailboat off of our starboard beam coming from further inland that was generally being funneled toward Marker BI along with us. Jenn asked if I thought we could pass them. I asked, “Do you really want to see?” and unfurled the rest of the jib. They had more waterline than us and were maybe on a hotter point of sail, but we paced them until they ultimately tacked around to head the other way. I was about ready to do the same, but didn’t want to try to carry the entire 135 upwind in those conditions on a leisure sail, so we took a moment to furl it back in slightly and then tacked ourselves.
I couldn’t point high enough to get us back to Marker 40 in a straight shot, so we had to throw in a couple tacks. In a previous log entry, I mentioned that we had encountered crab pot floats (or something like that) with small flags attached to them. While tacking out, we saw more of those, north of where we’d seen them before. This is still pretty odd, but I appreciate the attempt at enhanced visibility. I’m sure the owners don’t want anyone to run over them, and I certainly don’t want to get tangled up with one either.
We continued past the creek and sailed up toward Marker 38, near Berkeley shores. We tacked around and started generally sailing back. That circuit may have constituted an entire day’s sailing on a typical day, but it was still early. We were consistently above hull speed and knocking out the miles faster than usual, and I can not overstate how few boats were out—just a handful of sailboats and a couple fisherman. It was fairly close to ideal.
We continued on past Cedar Creek, tacked around…and then sailed by it again. I asked Jenn on each pass if she wanted to head in. I don’t know if she was enjoying it as much as me, or if she was just correctly interpreting my quiet contemplation and constant sail trimming as my version of “glee,” but we sailed on. It was one of those days that makes me think that I could sail to Papeete.
I didn’t have my foulies on the boat for some reason, and could have used them toward the end. It looks like we’re to the part of the season where I need to do more thinking about the conditions and my gear to stay comfortable, but I will gladly trade my short pants for having the bay to ourselves. Autumn is my favorite part of the year, and I hope we can make the most of it.