Sunday, January 14, 2024

New Year's Revolution

I am a conservative sailor. I like it that way, but I have been leaning into that to rationalize chickening out. My New Year’s Revolution is to correct that. I’ll not be abandoning my cautious seamanship but I will be pushing myself. I am a sailor. I sail. I am so tired of burning diesel and will do my best to default to sailing. I could use the joy in my life. Twice in the last five days, for the challenge of it, I have sailed off the anchor without using the engine and had great days of sailing. I pledge to continue. 

As reported in the last post, I battled my way south through a bunch of fickle weather and three major storm systems. Now I have finally made it into Florida to Green Cove Springs, up the river from Jacksonville. I got here a few days before Christmas to take a break from the windy weather I’d been in but it has been cold! 

The boat has been shut up for over a month between the rain and the cold and condensation has been a huge problem. When the weather gets below 45 degrees, water starts dripping from the portlights, the walls, and the ceiling. When it’s cold enough to light my little propane heater, it just gets worse as burning propane kicks off a lot of water vapor too.

My stowed clothes got damp and moisture was everywhere down below. Mold and mildew started appearing on the edges of the cupboards. My surfer straw hat may never recover from the vegetation in the weave. 

And then it warmed up the week between the holidays and I could open some hatches. Usually by midafternoon the temperature was just high enough that I could stand opening up for a couple hours. What a difference! Just trading the stale moist air for fresh started drying the boat out and making it livable again. 

I set about to clean all of the dank surfaces with a spray bottle of white vinegar, water, and eucalyptus oil. I was also cleaning up because my friend, Nancy, was coming for a visit. Nothing like company to cause a bachelor sailor to clean up.  

Nancy and I have known each other since we were about nine years old. She’s one of my oldest friends and it was great fun to hang out. I cooked up a bunch of dinners and breakfasts that will soon show up on a cooking channel I'm developing. Watch for Two Burner Life on the social platforms.

The first couple days after she arrived were going to have wind out of the east and make the anchorage uncomfortable, so we motored across the river to Hallowes Cove. It is a beautiful little spot with just trees and wildlife; and protection from the coming wind. Nancy had just bought a kayak and tried it out from Ruth Ann.  

Nancy is also a sailor, so it was inevitable that we would watch the weather for a good day to sail. That day came on Friday. It had been a terribly long time since I had actually sailed, so I set about to get Ruth Ann ready. Whenever Nancy is around, I am inspired to challenge myself, the boat, and my crew. After the fore sails were bent on, I told her my plan - we were going to sail off the anchor without using the engine. 

We hoisted the mainsail and I hauled the anchor while Nancy steered us to starboard. If we leaned that way as the anchor came aboard, we would slip easily into the wind once we were free. When the anchor clanged into the bow roller, we were off without a hitch. Ruth Ann trembled with anticipation as we started sailing again. Finally, she sighed. 

We sailed out of the little cove and Nancy steered us south and then west across the shoal to get out into the St. Johns River. On the way, I raised the staysail and Ruth Ann romped toward deeper water. Out in the river, I raised the yankee and we headed north down the river. With a little help from the current, Ruth Ann was galloping along. She seemed as happy as we were. 

It was a glorious broad reach in the wide waters of the St. Johns. After a couple hours of great sailing, I relieved Nancy at the helm; boat and skipper were reunited! My skipper mojo was coming back and it was simply soul-enriching to be sailing again. Ruth Ann danced across the waves as if to thank Nancy for getting me to sail her again. 

After a time, we chicken-gybed all the way around and headed back toward Green Cove Springs. We didn’t even lose much speed now heading upstream. At one point, Ruth Ann was so excited she let a gust of wind put her rail right down in the water. It was raucous sailing joy!  

We made it most of the way back on a strong close reach. After tacking back toward the east, we tacked again and headed straight down toward the City Pier and the anchorage. Just before arriving, I started the engine and had Nancy steer while I dropped the sails and tied them up. The next day was forecast to be gusty again, so we found a good spot to ride out the squall and dropped the anchor. After a nice pasta dinner, all that fresh air and excitement caught up with us. It was a great day followed by a quiet sleepy evening.        

The day that Nancy left, I motored over to a little cove I had spotted to ride out a storm front that was supposed to pass. It was a bumpy afternoon yesterday, but could have been worse. Ruth Ann and I were well protected from the worst of the wind and I have a lot of faith in my oversized anchor. We didn’t even budge.  

This morning I decided to keep the momentum going and set up to sail after breakfast. I was going to sail off the anchor again too, but this time solo! As I was getting the sails ready the wind gusted strongly a couple times, so I decided to idle the engine just in case things got sideways. There was shallow water and land downwind of me. After waiting for a pause in the wind gusts, I hoisted the mainsail, started the engine, and then raised the anchor. Ruth Ann drifted back and gradually pointed her bow toward the river. I got back to the helm, steered her away from a couple nearby anchored boats, and never put the engine in gear. I raised a jib and we were on our way. With our destination off to the northwest and the apparent wind was just west of north, it was hard work to get there, tacking five times, but it was wonderful!

I was flying a jib I hadn't used before. About 15 months ago, I traded some soft shackles that I had made and some boatwork advice for a sail that I had offered to buy from my boatyard neighbors. It is larger than my yankee jib and seemed to balance the boat quite well. The shifty wind was blowing about Force 4 and we were flying much of the time. I often have Ruth Ann on a broad reach where we both like it but today we were primarily close hauled. She points so well it is easy to start pinching the wind. I had to remind myself to fall off a bit and get our speed up. We sailed pretty hard today; harder than I have previously. I am so happy. What a way to start the New Year. It’s not a resolution, it’s a New Year’s Revolution: sail, don’t motor; in fact, sail your ass off.
Image of Ruth Ann and I by my friend Kurt.
Image of me at the helm by Nancy. 
If you enjoy this blog, you can leave a tip at the Paypal link above; even a buck or two is a great help! Or become a Patron at Patreon! Patrons get early access to the blog, and depending on the tier: sunset images, BtP swag, excerpts of my coming book, Live Q&As and more.

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...