Taunting Cthulhu

Categories Sailing Log

As is so often the case, we got to the shore late. If I were going to include a meme to describe this phenomenon, I’d look up “morning people,” but I’m sure that whatever sentiment it would convey would apply to me equally at mid-afternoon, and I try not to communicate by meme.

Before we could even consider sailing, I had to address the water tank. As mentioned in the previous log entry, there was some sort of sea monster growing in there. Since the latent memory of it was causing me to go insane, I assume it was Cthulhu-related and needed to be stopped, or at least appeased. Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn.

The first step was to drain the tank. Since there is no direct drain and it would have taken me forever to drain it from the manual pump faucets around the boat, I brought my Beckson Thirsty Mate, which is a different, larger manual pump. I refer to it exclusively using the complete name “Beckson Thirsty Mate” as a sort of exposure therapy because I am disgusted by this moniker, but it is a great pump. I did not take any photos, so here is is the official glamour shot from their website:

The Beckson Thirsty Mate

Thank goodness I don’t live in California, as it apparently causes cancer and reproductive harm there. I’m not a scientist, but I feel like any reproductive harm that it might cause would be from usage well outside of its intended performance envelope.

In our use case, it was thirsty as ever and made quick work of draining the tank. The process was actually somewhat less gross than I thought it would be. The smell certainly tickled that part of the brain that says, “Hold up there, caveman; don’t drink that,” but it wasn’t overwhelming. We filled it back up with clean water and drained it completely several more times until the pumpout ran clear. I then added bleach. I think the recommendation for sanitizing a tank is something like 8oz of bleach per 10gal of water, but as previously mentioned, I’m not a scientist, so I gave it the old “glug, glug, glug…glug?” until it seemed sufficiently excessive. We topped off the tank with water and sealed it up, and I said, “We should go for a sail to stir it up a little.”

One does not meddle in the affairs of Cthulhu and then openly request a stirring sailboat ride on Barnegat Bay without being backhanded by the powers that create our wind.

It was a little rough out there.

Even the creek was churned up, so I tucked in a reef. We put the main up early since the wind was well-aligned with the channel, and immediately had to pick our way through a swarm of windsurfers and kiteboards reaching across the mouth of the creek. I guess they mostly avoided us, but there were so many zipping all over the place at high speed, some on foils, that they put me in a heightened state of alert.

Not Great Photo of Windsurfer and Kite Boarder

I had originally intended to go south, and turned to starboard to proceed in that direction on port tack, but between having the sail up in the creek and trying to stay out of the way of windsurfers, I made the turn too early and started sailing toward the shallows around the entrance to Laurel Harbor. With only the reefed main up, I almost put us in irons trying to tack out of it. We came about, but with no boat speed, and continued to turn well past close-hauled. I had to ease the main and build up some speed again before the rudder would bite and I could get on a course that would actually get us out of the creek. As soon as I had control, I unfurled the jib, mostly just to make sure that I would have the power to sail away from Berkeley Island.

The jib sheet came taut and Fortuitous was on her ear, blasting away from the creek at speed. I would have personally classified this as only “an interesting amount of wind,” but I was a little concerned for Jenn, who had never been out in 20kts true, gusting to 25. That is definitely the wind speed where everything starts to get more difficult on this boat. She mostly seemed fine though, and I let it all settle in for a few minutes, continuing on without any further course or trim changes until we were well away from the lee shore. I then eased off until the wind was more on our beam and furled the jib a bit to calm things down.

Taunting Cthulhu

The waves were surprisingly big considering the wind direction, and there were whitecaps everywhere. We were occasionally encountering heavy spray as we pounded through. At one point a huge sheet of water came over the boat and got my telephone wet in the leeward coaming compartment. I had to have Jenn take the helm while I took it down into the cabin. I removed it from its case, which appeared to have done its job, and stole a moment to check our speed on it, which was almost 7kts, according to my simple GPS app.

At that pace, we made it to 39 in no time, and we tacked and started heading back. It is always my dream that if I’m sailing with the wind right on the beam (according to my windex) and do a 180° turn, that it will be on the beam on the other side, but I routinely underestimate the effect of boat speed on apparent wind. On the way back, the windex looked more like we were close reaching.

Diagram of True vs. Apparent Wind
Fig. 1: Exaggerated Example

As we approached the creek, I asked Jenn if she wanted to head back to the marina. She said that she was fine to stay out, so we continued on past 40 on that course. Jenn took the helm for a long portion of that leg and did pretty well considering the stronger wind and waves. It was difficult to navigate since there wasn’t much for her to reference on land, and she’s not yet comfortable steering to a compass direction or just eyeballing it, so we spent a lot of time creeping further east than I would have preferred, but we stayed in deep water and successfully made it past Tices Shoal (the actual shoal, not the place where the bros go to anchor on top of each other and fist pump with other bros, or whatever it is that they do).

The wind continued to build, and sneakily clocked around to the northeast, or, as I like to call it, the nor’east. (Note: I do not call it that). That meant that after turning around to go home, we’d have yet another upwind jaunt, just like a grandpa walking 27mi to school through 12ft of snow, uphill in both directions. I took the helm for most of that, which allowed Jenn to shoot some video.

I believe that the water tank was sufficiently stirred. I’m glad that Jenn got to experience a little bit of weather, and particularly that she chose to stay out in it even when I gave her outs. More than anything, I think what helped me learn how to sail was just going out there and mixing it up, so it was great to see her opt in.

"Prepare to fend off the bridge abutment."