Monday, April 24, 2023

Rookie Mistakes

Wednesday was going to be glorious. I had sailed Ruth Ann enough to be quite confident as a sailor again. My personal and business calendars were cleared to take advantage of a weather window. And I had stocked up on provisions, moved down the river, hauled the dinghy aboard, ran the jacklines (safety lines), and made some pasta to eat along the way. 

And then I made two rookie mistakes. Even worse, I also failed to heed previous advice from two salty sea captains; ironically both from the nautically rich State of Massachusetts. 

First Rookie Mistake: In my planning, I had become fixated on how good the winds were going to be on Wednesday and Thursday for sailing north. I had looked at the waves and swell patterns in the early planning stages but had not checked again nearer to my departure. I had done a lot of planning and preparation, but I had let me focus get too narrow. 

Second Rookie Mistake: Along the same lines as the first, I failed to recognize a potential hazard in my plan. The East Wind was going to be great for sailing once I had gotten out into the ocean and I was timing my departure so that the tide would carry Ruth Ann and I out; rather than flowing against us. The cardinal sin of that logic was to ignore what can happen when the wind is pushing against a current; tidal or otherwise. 

Both mistakes are basically the same mistake. Getting busy planning in a very narrow sense rather than being open, purposefully open, to a wider range of possibilities. It was a perfect example of what Nicholas Nassim Talib calls a “Black Swan,” an unexpected event that had out-sized effects on the full situation. 

In the image above, we started from the Marriott Anchorage which is just out of the frame in the upper right corner. Ruth Ann and I backtracked down the ICW to the St. Lucie River and turned out toward the Atlantic. As we meandered down the shifting channel of the inlet, I could begin to see some waves crashing on the shore. The inlet is not very wide and there is significant shoaling on each side. By the time I got to the oddly shaped jetties, I knew I was in a bit of trouble. 

The main flow of water is down the channel, of course. There is some water sluicing off through the shallows, but the main volume follows out through the jetties. All that water meets the ocean – and the east wind that day – right where the jetties pinch together. The waves were amazing and stood straight up as the flow collided against the ocean and the wind.

A full third of Ruth Ann’s hull was out of the water several times. Not from our speed (obviously) but from the violence of the steep angry waves and the short period between them. Ruth Ann would climb up a wave and hover in the air before crashing down, not into a trough but on top of the next wave as they were so close together. A wave or two later and the bowsprit went skyward again and crash downward all over. In such violently confused seas, it would have been near fatal to try to turn around in the small space inside the jetties. Turning around meant that at some point Ruth Ann would have been side to the waves which were big enough to just roll her over. There were a couple boats fishing in the wind shadow of the jetties and they must have thought I was either a salty son of a bitch, or stupid or crazy. I’m quite certain it was one of the latter two. My only choice at that point was to gun the engine and push through. 

We made it through the jetty gauntlet and into the ocean. 

Outside the jetties I had hoped for relief, but the problem was we were still in the flow from the river and tide. The waves had mitigated slightly but were still quite big and close together. I couldn’t turn sharply out of the flow for Ruth Ann could still get in danger when side to the waves. It was a fight to keep from getting physically thrown around by keeping Ruth Ann headed into the waves. I angled her as gently as I could to the ENE and slowly fought our way out of the flow. Turning around was slightly less dangerous outside the jetties, but turning around meant going back through the roller coaster. I did not want to turn back but I especially didn’t want to go back through that maelstrom. The inlet was sure to settle down, but not until the tide changed which was five or six hours from then. There was really nothing to do but to ride it out and try to make some way north. 

A few years ago, I wrote an article about marine consignment shops for Good Old Boat Magazine. In doing so, I met Capt. James Corbett in Salem, MA. I’ve mentioned the good captain several times over the years. His sage advice was “You’ll remember all your sins at sea.” I “heard” him and hear him still, but need to heed him.

I love my little boat, but if I had actually recognized the intricately designed French mast and rig, I might not have ever bought her! When I converted the rig from stainless steel wire to Dyneema rope, I was confronted with stem balls. Stem balls are a highly engineered flexible terminal on the upper ends of the stays. They were not obvious to me because they were at the top of the 35 foot mast. I had already decided to rig Ruth Ann in Dyneema and had, in fact, already bought the rope before I saw the stem balls. It took good deal of research to find stem ball terminals that could accommodate Dyneema, but I finally did and they work great! They did, however, cost me a couple months in the boatwork process.

My last post described a beautiful and angry squall that tore through the Stuart anchorage last Sunday. In the aftermath of that storm, Ruth Ann’s boom had disconnected from the mast. The boom is the spar (“stick”) that holds the bottom of the mainsail. It attaches to the mast by a swivel called the gooseneck. When I removed the boom to take the mast down last year, I recognized that the gooseneck was unusual, but I did not stop to study and understand it. Huh. 

While cleaning up from the storm, I lifted the boom with a halyard and topping lift and fit it back on the gooseneck. It seemed to click into place and I never thought about it again -- until after the roller coaster ride through the St. Lucie Inlet. After crashing and crawling our way out into the Atlantic, Ruth Ann’s boom was hanging limply by the sail rather than the gooseneck. My sin was thinking, or accepting, that the gooseneck had fixed itself when the boom seemed to click into place. Capt. Corbett came back to remind me. And now I remember. Don’t cut corners. Don’t make assumptions. Don’t let stuff fix itself without explanation. 

We were out of the river flow but it was still pretty rough. I was doing all I could to keep Ruth Ann pointed into the waves, but there were two wave sets about 30° or 40° apart. I contemplated trying to fix the boom, but when I set the autopilot into one set of waves and held on for dear life as I crept forward, by the time I reached the mast, the next wave set was nearly abeam and Ruth Ann rolled so violently from side to side that she was likely to throw me overboard. Now I knew, whether I accepted it yet or not, that I was going to motor all the way to Fort Pierce and pull in for repairs. 

My fate was sealed when I checked the tides at Fort Pierce and my arrival would time quite well with a tide to carry us in. There was no sense in burning up diesel and hoping against hope that the seas would abate. I’ve come in at Fort Pierce before and know it well. Although the tidal current is very strong there, the Ft. Pierce Inlet is wide without any pinch points to cause surprises. I only had to hang on for four more hours or so. 

And that brings me to the other Captain I did not heed. Hanging out in the Stuart Anchorage, I had the pleasure of meeting Capt. George and his family. At some point, George made an ominous reference to the sea state off the coast of Florida in an east wind. I remember hearing it but forgot about it in the time since. There is basically nothing between Europe and Africa to interrupt any winds out of the east. I remembered Capt. George for sure, when I got out into the Atlantic with a stronger than forecast east wind, having to fight to keep my boat and me afloat and alive. Whenever Ruth Ann got more than 45° off the waves, the next one knocked her into a strong roll. I had to concentrate on the waves as they approached while trying to judge the changing wave sets and how to steer into each subsequent change. From time to time, I snatched a glance at the compass, and knew that we were headed mostly due east straight offshore. I thought that the waves would settle down if I got into deeper water. Ruth Ann and I wrestled our way at least four miles offshore and got into sixty feet of water with no discernible change in the wave action. I had to change tactics and just concentrate on getting in at Fort Pierce. 

When I finally turned toward the shore, Ruth Ann rode the waves much better when they were coming in under her stern quarter than when we were crashing into them head on. However, we needed to make our way north, so I was holding our heading tight; right at the edge of comfort and chaos. When it became dangerously rolly, I would head back out to sea for a while and later turn in again. We zigged and zagged in the changing wave sets, and I pulled every foot of “north” I could hang on to as we rollicked in the waves. Hilariously, my SPOT satellite tracker only pings every 10 minutes, so our course looks like a pretty direct path toward Fort Pierce rather than the drunken line that it was. 

I was hungry and tired and holding on for dear life. It only took a few seconds of distraction to miss that the next wave set would hit us badly. Ruth Ann would twist and roll and I would hang on to the wheel with a death grip. Thankfully, out on the ocean the waves were a little more spread out. Though some of the troughs were surprisingly deep. We would suddenly crest a wave and then float down through space in infinite time until the bowsprit buried itself in the next wave. It was sickening and exhilarating all at the same time. What a ride!

Along the way, I thought I saw a sail. It was comforting that I might not be the only fool out there. But as I got closer and noticed the depth was decreasing, the chartplotter finally showed me that the odd triangular shape I was seeing was not a sail but a buoy marking a shoal. I was, indeed, the only fool. Well, me and a ship so large they weren’t even feeling the waves, but only one. 

Then a dolphin swam by. At first my brain only noted that a large living creature was in the water next to the cockpit, but just before I might have panicked I recognized it was a harmless and friendly mammal. It was a pair of dolphins actually, and they played in Ruth Ann’s bow wave for thirty or forty minutes in the semi-clear waters of the Treasure Coast. 

I passed the nuclear power plant, the trees where I knew the Blind Creek Nude Beach was, and finally approached some buildings I could recognize as the north end of Hutchinson Island. I was getting close finally. A large ship, actually the one I mentioned above, came out of the inlet so I could judge exactly where I needed to go. I was still steering in toward the beach, riding the waves, then out toward the ocean again and back. It was still amazingly violent. I don’t know how else to describe it. I rocked back and forth with the boat as we careened over waves and fell into troughs. I would still get caught occasionally by the next set and had to hang on while Ruth Ann rolled side to side and I leaned each opposite way like I was riding a mechanical bull. But now each time I swung her bow through to the other heading, I could see the sea buoys marking the entrance to the inlet. 

Finally, we arrived at the channel markers, but had to go just north of them before turning into shore in order to ride the waves comfortably. And as soon as I turned … peace and quiet came back. The waves would gently lift Ruth Ann’s stern, she’d do a little shimmy at the top before dipping as the wave passed underneath her. It was such a contrast to the maelstrom we had come from, it felt like rowing on a pond. Nevertheless, I had to mind our heading and keep the waves coming under her from a tight angle. Off to the north, a catamaran was coming in as well. After several glances, I could tell that we were on a collision course and that they had the right-of-way, so I cut our speed slightly. The catamaran eased into the channel just ahead of us and we were out of the ocean. 

Here's the calm part, after the turn into the Ft. Pierce Inlet:

On the way in, the Jetty Park was off to port. I spent many hours there a few years ago. When I had a boat project here in Fort Pierce, I would head out to the jetty after a long day or sometimes for lunch if I had run into town. I sat there and watched the boats going in and out and dreamed of sailing my own. It was then that I recognized how strong the current was and I was glad to have the tide with us rather than against us. 

After coming all the way into the inlet, I circled around the big spoil island to check out the anchorage below the North Ft. Pierce Bridge. There is a less current there, but it was fairly full, so I pulled in just behind the same spoil island and dropped the anchor. 

What a day. I was disappointed that we had only made it to the next inlet, but I was exhilarated as well. My little boat had brought me in safely. She had gone wherever I had steered her; even in the worst seas that I have ever experienced. We fought together for more than six hours and hadn’t turned back. It wasn’t as far as we planned but it was forward, toward our destination. We had not turned back. Ruth Ann is strong and seaworthy and I trust her now, even more than I had before. I made supper, did some research online about my fancy French gooseneck, checked the anchor again, and went to bed. 


If you enjoy this blog, please consider supporting the project. There is a link to become a Patron at the top of this page and just below that is a Paypal link for one-time donations. Patrons get early access to the blog, and depending on the tier: sunrise/set images, BtP swag. excerpts of my coming book, Live Q&As and more. Even a couple bucks can help a lot. Thanks for your support

Friday, April 21, 2023

Sunday Squall

I promised bliss from now on. This post actually is about bliss but of a kind that many people, especially landlubbers, might not understand. It's about the difference between scared and prepared; and the freedom of the latter. 

By way of completely jinxing myself, I posted on Saturday a reel of some lightning off in the distance and typed, “Rain tomorrow here, but not a storm (... I think).” That day, I had moved the boat back down to the Stuart anchorage. On Sunday, I made three trips ashore and got 25 gallons of water and hit Publix for a big batch of provisions. I had gotten an early start because the wind was supposed to pick up (again) in the late afternoon. The outboard conked out but got me to shore the last time. Nevertheless, I had to row back out with all my groceries. 

The outboard quit running and needs some TLC, but I was out of time in Stuart. There is a good weather window for me to head offshore to get north on Wednesday. I really needed to do some laundry and the uncooperative outboard was putting a wrench in the works. I checked the weather and decided that Monday morning, it would be calm enough to row back to shore to hit the laundromat. 

And then the fun began.   

A bit later on Sunday, there was a bunch of lightning off to the northwest and because I had just spent a week hunkered down for weather, I posted “WTH is up with the weather this week.” 

Soon after a huge ominous cloud was looming over the entire western horizon and the wind started gusting. I was working on my laptop, sitting at the drop leaf table that surrounds the mast (foreshadowing). Lightning was, once again, dazzling the clouds to the west. Then the rain hit and the winds came in earnest. 

It was an amazing display of raw natural power for three or four hours. The rain spewed horizontally like the firehose of the gods and the wind howled like a crazed beast. There was lightning all around me; some quite close. I stood in the companionway, soaked from the spray, and watched in awe at the pure beauty of Mother Nature’s power. 

Then I noticed Ruth Ann was getting really close to Murphy’s Law. The Murph is an old fishing boat that had been left in the anchorage, likely for many years. She rarely moved much in the wind or tide and I suspected that she sat on the bottom at low tide. In the midst of the squall, I was amazed at how much anchor chain she had out when it got stretched. A big heavy workboat will react to the wind very differently than a little, lightweight sailboat like Ruth Ann. With a squall blasting, however, all our anchor chains were taut. I squinted into the wind and rain to evaluate the situation. After getting soaked to the bone, I assured myself that we would not get any closer. 

Then I started thinking more about the lightning. 

At times, I have contemplated what would happen if Ruth Ann got struck by lightning. Mostly, I'm a bit fatalistic about it. When a boat, any boat, gets hit by lightning all hell breaks loose. Most of the electronics aboard will be fried and there is a good chance of a fire and/or a hole getting blown through the hull under the water line. Nothing good would ever come from a lightning strike. Another wrinkle in the story is that I re-rigged my boat with Dyneema, a synthetic rope. Most sailboats have stainless steel wire rope holding the mast up. My rig is a synthetic rope made of ultra high molecular weight polyethylene; think if milk jug material had a second cousin who was a weight-lifting, steroid-swilling wrestler. My aluminum mast is keel-stepped; meaning the mast comes through the cabintop and rests on the top of the keel inside the boat. Bottom line is my mast will conduct electricity but my rig will not. Not only is this different from other boats, I have no idea what difference, if any, it would make in a lightning strike. 

I have done a little bit of research on boats and lightning, and less on lightning and dyneema, so I have no idea if Ruth Ann is a bit safer, or a bit more fragile. Regardless, if 30,000 amps hits my boat it’s either going to really suck or really suck a bit less. Just the same, Sunday evening I had to start thinking that I’ve never been closer to getting struck by lightning. 

Well … there was a time when I was a kid. The family had made a huge trip car-camping out west and stopped at the Rocky Mountain National Park. Dad, brother Tim, and I hiked up to a spot that was supposedly the highest point in the park you get to without hiking in; a casual walk uphill from a parking lot. There were fifteen or twenty people up on this peak and a ranger who was talking to us. I’ve always been fascinated by sunrises, sunsets, and the sky in general. I can still vividly remember the angry dark clouds creeping across the ridge on the opposite side of the valley. We watched the shadow of the clouds move down the side of the mountains. The rain under the larger clouds, was thick and obscured the land behind and beneath it.

And then my brother (we’re all geeks) said “I smell static electricity.” 

Dad and a few people turned to look at him and saw me standing there, apparently with my hair standing on end. I couldn’t see it, but I raised my hand and thought that I got a shock … from myself. The ranger stepped through the small crowd and body blocked me to the ground, shouting, “Run back down to the parking lot and keep your head as low as possible as you go!” 

Imagine what my Mom and sister thought, standing next to the car down the hil, and suddenly I am running like a mad man with sciatica; loping down the hill and ducking as I went. 

Back to Ruth Ann and the squall, I couldn’t decide if I had had my close call with lightning back then or whether I might actually attract it.       

It is already getting warm in Florida and for a few weeks now, I’ve been knocking around the boat in nothing but a pair of swim trunks. I had to consider the possibility that we could get struck. There was so much thunder and lightning, whether my new rig was going to help or not, whether I attracted it or not, was less meaningful than the fact that it was crashing all around us. 

There was nothing I could do but prepare – just in case – and perhaps not sit at my laptop right next to the mast. An amazing wave of peace came over me and I got into a forward cabinet to get a dry bag. A dry bag, of course, is a waterproof gear bag. I got my wallet and some clothes. I dug out my passport and the boat’s registration, and stuffed it all in the sack. I set the bag, still open, in the galley so that I could stash my phone at the last moment.

And then I watched the storm some more. It was beautiful. I wasn't scared; I was prepared. That was enough. That was all I could do and all that was necessary. 

I’m a midwesterner (or was) and all I could think of was snow snakes on the highway. It doesn’t take much wind to send the wispy snakes of snow crawling across the road, but this squall was pulling spray up off the water, atomizing it, and sending snakes of spray running all through the anchorage. I don’t have a wind gauge, but a couple miles away friends measured 53 knots of wind, that’s almost 61 mph! And I forgot to mention the tornado warning that night. 

The squall gradually passed, I finally made some supper, and all was well in the world again. Monday morning early, I rowed (without the outboard) back to shore with my laundry and a water jug. While my clothes were drying, I bought some more beer rather than hiking the extra couple miles to get some bourbon. I don’t drink at sea, but a sailor needs to celebrate arriving at port. I got back to Ruth Ann with clean clothes, clean sheets, beer, and another five gallons of water.  

It’s now Tuesday afternoon, I am back in the Marriott Resort anchorage right near the St. Lucie Inlet. Late morning tomorrow, I’m going to head offshore and try to get to the St. Johns River and Jacksonville. There are a couple spots I can pull in if I’m tired or the weather changes, but it looks good for sailing north.   


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Thursday, April 6, 2023

Happy Sailor's Heart

I have felt a little funny about some of my recent posts. In reporting on real-life-on-the-water, I kept feeling like I was being negative or telling stories about drudgery rather than the blissful days that I had expected; perhaps some of y’all had expected too. Well, bliss has arrived and will be emphasized in future. 

My last two project boats kept me off the water for several years; far too long. As a result, when I got back on the water aboard sv Ruth Ann, I was feeling like a rookie again. It didn’t help that winter weather was chasing me down the coast when we first started moving. On top of all that, I had installed the new-to-me engine and re-rigged the boat’s mast myself. Once we were moving, I had to learn all the creaks and groans of my boat while trying to determine which noises were normal and which needed attention. I was kind of on edge and Imposter Syndrome was hitting me hard. 

When I finally arrived in warmer waters and could slow down, it occurred to me that I had just traveled about 900 miles and put nearly two hundred hours on the engine that I had installed. I must have done alright or something would have slowed me down or stopped me along the way.  

And then I finally started sailing. 

It took some doing to combat the inertia of just hanging out and rationalizing with my discomfort, but I gave myself a mental shake and set the boat up for sailing. The anchorage where Ruth Ann and I have been is in the South Fork of the St. Lucie River and there is a nice, wide open area in the North Fork not far away. I got out and started sailing!! I can’t explain how important that was. 

The first day, I only hoisted the jib. There was plenty of wind and it was good practice to tack the jib between the forestay and the staysail stay on Ruth Ann’s bow. Soon after, I was sailing with jib and main. The North Fork reminds me of the three sections of Thornapple Lake in Michigan where I did much of my early sailing as a kid. There is a small patch of water separated from a wider area by a point that pinches the river from the north shore. Beyond that point is a large expanse of water, deep enough out to its edges for some really good sailing. I got lots of practice. 

And then my friend Nancy came for a visit. We motored up the North Fork of the river so that I could introduce her, in person, to some friends that she had introduced to me online. After hanging out for Cockpit Coffee with The Sail Bums on Sunday morning, Nancy and I were going to sail back down the river. The wind was a little boisterous that day and had I been by myself, I could have easily rationalized my way out of sailing, but I was too proud to wimp out in front of an old friend. Turns out, it was a great afternoon of sailing! My confidence got a boost.

Watching the weather, we adjusted our schedule and decided to hang out on Monday for a day of rest and then go offshore on Tuesday. The weather gods had decided to shine upon us. We got up and had breakfast, stopped by the neighborhood marina for some fuel, and headed down the river to the ocean. I thought I had gotten away from obnoxious and clueless drivers when I got off the highway, but a lot of those fools own boats and traffic is traffic. But the day was so nice it overshadowed the other boats. We got down the river, through a couple curves, and past the Manatee Pocket Channel. After crossing the Intra Coastal Waterway (ICW), we motored out the St. Lucie Inlet, got past the last channel marker, into the ociean, raised the sails, and turned off the engine. 

It is always a pleasure to turn the engine off and start sailing. The first moments are so wonderfully silent by contrast to the rattle and hum of the diesel. But to have had that peaceful moment after stopping the engine and see only water before us … was just plain magical. In fact, as we headed out, because the Florida peninsula leans toward the southeast, the water surrounded us from well west of north all the way around to nearly straight south of us. There was nothing between us and the Bahamas.

Such a good feeling. 

As on Sunday, I was letting Nancy steer and call the tacks to share the experience and what little knowledge I could offer. She has been sailing a while now and was doing great, but Ruth Ann was in her glory. I love my little boat! She is just right for me and loves to sail. We meandered off to the northeast watching the time to determine when we should turn around. There was a little more than three hours of daylight left, but neither Nancy or I, nor especially Ruth Ann, wanted to turn around. 

Eventually, we did tack out to the east and then again southwest toward the inlet. On the way in, we tacked twice more to aim our course right at the outer St. Lucie buoy. The wind was straight out of the south and steady; not strong but just right. 

Once we got close to the outer buoy, I had an idea; a challenge had occurred to me. I told Nancy that I wanted to take over the helm and attempt to sail all the way into the inlet without turning the engine on. 

From the ocean, the St. Lucie Inlet begins almost straight west toward the shore. About halfway in, there is a dogleg to port and then a gentle curve to starboard as the inlet approaches the ICW. The south wind had eased but was nearly perfect. We were on a beam reach to the dogleg, and then a close reach swinging to a broad reach as we got around the curve. I assured my crew that I wouldn’t do anything stupid, but I wanted to keep the engine off. I thought that I could turn up the ICW and run with the wind behind us, but I planned to start the engine as we approached our destination. 

When I glanced at the water sluicing past a channel marker, I realized that we were going up against the outgoing tide. The gentle wind was just enough to push my beautiful boat up current. We were doing less than a knot (about 1.15 mph) much of the time. At least twice, I saw our speed bottom out to zero, but we made it through the spots where the tide was rushing and sallied forth. Basically dead ahead of us, the sun was going down in the west and it was beautiful. I was so full of joy I could hardly stand still. That was just what I needed; just the right challenge to break the crust off my neglected sailor’s heart. 

We jibed and headed north with the wind behind us, angling out of the channel, across some open water, and cutting the corner toward the ICW. I was beaming and so excited! We were ghosting along, but it was just after sunset and almost no one else was on the water. Once we had the wind behind us, we were sailing wing on wing for a time and I had to be very careful to mind the sails and not let the boom crash across the boat. 

It was getting quite dark, but we were headed toward the Stuart Causeway where the bridge was all lit up. Many of the channel markers along the way were unlit day markers, which I occasionally flashed with a powerful flashlight to eye the channel. Approaching the bridge, it was about time to consider turning on the engine. To get to the Marriott anchorage, I had to turn east into their channel and then south again just past the first pair of private channel marks. And then the wind shifted! Just a small veer in the wind opened up the possibility of sailing on without the engine!!  

Right near the marina channel, I had drifted to port while observing the changing conditions and Nancy called out “Depth says two feet. Two point four!” I quickly steered back into the ICW and aimed for the private channel. That would have stopped us in our tracks, but luckily my temporary depthsounder is measuring the water under the keel, not the depth of the water around us. Ruth Ann draws three and a half feet, so 2.4’ on the depth display is actually almost six feet of water. 

Unscathed, we sailed toward the Marriott Resort, a huge golf and tennis complex with a marina full of fancy fishing boats. Their channel markers were unlit, of course, so I shined the flashlight toward the bright lights of the resort and picked up a pair of marks in the water a dozen yards or so off the ICW. With the veering wind behind us, I could easily turn out of the channel and into the anchorage on a broad reach again. We came in past a mast-less sailboat that I saw the last time I had been in that anchorage. There was another small cruiser near the entrance, a catamaran further back, and another boat I could just make out in the darkness. 

Our route off the ocean (yellow line)

We had made it from out on the ocean all the way into the anchorage – under sail alone!!! My happy sailor’s heart could have burst open! Most importantly for me, my confidence in myself and in my boat, had skyrocketed. I was suddenly my old sailor self again. I had been reborn! 

Then I made a small strategic error. I was trying to decide if I should go past the catamaran or turn into the wind before I got there. My initial plan was to sail astern of the catamaran, to where there was lots of open water behind them, but also another boat. That other boat was lying differently in the light wind than the catamaran. At the last minute, I decided that I should turn before the catamaran and avoid getting near the other boat off in the darkness. Turning straight into the wind is a way to nearly stop a sailboat. There was a little tidal current, just a breath of wind, and Ruth Ann started to drift toward the catamaran; a boat probably worth more than all I had made in the last five years. My sails were already hanging limply and I could not get Ruth Ann to steer. If there is no water moving past the rudder, the rudder will not steer the boat. It was time to start the engine. 


I fired up the Yanmar and we moved about fifty yards -- less than five minutes of motoring -- to anchor safely west of the boats that were already there. I don’t even count those five minutes. We had patiently sailed for almost four hours, roughly four miles, squeezing every foot out of each breath of wind. We had gotten all the way into the anchorage that was our destination. I will take that as a win!! 

Wow! What a glorious day of sailing!! I will be bragging about it forever more. Plus, I had a friend with me, I had a witness, I can claim it! That has not always been the case.


If you enjoy this blog, please consider supporting the project. There is a link to become a Patron at the top of this page and just below that is a Paypal link for one-time donations. Patrons get early access to the blog, and depending on the tier: sunrise/set images, BtP swag. excerpts of my coming book, Live Q&As and more. Even a couple bucks can help a lot. Thanks for your support. 

Homeward Epilogue

sv Ruth Ann in Beaufort, SC, 12/23 Ruth Ann is the last in a series of boats on which I was attempting to escape. I found her when I found a...