Uncle Al's report on a perfect five days - with a possible rebuttal by his W3854
last updated: 30 August 2020
As the three - two and a half? - Wayfarer teams that had not had to cancel out arrived at Crisfield, Maryland's Somers Cove on a perfect Saturday 23 May, marine forecasts were calling for four straight days of warm sunshine and south winds of 10-15 knots, gusting to 20. Perfect sailing weather. And the forecast was spot on each day.
First to arrive - just after 1300 hrs on Saturday - was Uncle Al whose sailing partners, Tony and Mary Krauss, had had to cancel out due to health issues with Tony's nonagenarian mom. Nonetheless, W3854 (above) was nicely ensconced in the Somers Cove Marina by the time our second crew arrived from North Carolina: Ken Butler (W7372) with AnnMarie Covington. Our third team was expected late Saturday night: Cleveland's Dick Harrington would be sailing with New York's Tom Goldsmith. So only three of us dined at the Crab House that evening (below).
(l to r) Uncle Al, AnnMarie, Ken across the Cove from the launch ramps
Sunday morning: Guard cats on duty outside Al's room at Captain Tyler's motel
By Sunday mid-morning, we had all launched at the beautifully maintained Somers Cove state launch ramp (above) and were all set to head west by north to Pauli Zmolek's marina on Smith Island via the Big Thorofare. Wind and weather were as advertised, and we expected the usual one-tack beat on port across that part of the Bay.
Ken and AnnMarie looked well rested after sleeping aboard. Meantime, Blue Mist's mast had been spotted across the cove in the launching area. The $7.00 launch fee is an absolute steal, considering how well the state of Maryland maintains every one of their facilities that I have seen.
Before long, Commodore Harrington and Blue Mist made a perfect entrance while Tom was moving their vehicle and trailer around to the marina which permits us to store them free of charge for the few days we are away. Having been run ragged by life's demands on him, Tom (below) was thrillled to be "off duty" for a few days.
First to leave were AnnMarie and Ken who executed a well thought out departure from their dock flawlessly (above) - note the wake. Al followed soon after while Dick and Tom took a little longer to stow their supplies for four days "at sea" before they, too, set sail.
Once out on the open Bay, Ken and AnnMarie were very happy with their reefed performance which was hull speed of about 6 knots, the same as Uncle Al who had not reefed. We all enjoyed a glorious ride across to Smith and down the Thorofare.
Uncle Al learned several materially costly lessons as he got his first full solo challenge on this cruise. Previous experiences had been sailing around aimlessly while crew was ashore having lunch or Frank Goulay was out becoming Wayfarer Man by helping Wayfarers in distress. The first of the lessons was provided just before Al snapped the picture above: Having cautiously stowed the camera under the forward deck but needing the picture, he assumed the R&R position (board full up and sails completely luffing) before going forward to grab the camera. Without really feeling a thing, Al had his glasses flicked to Davy Jones' locker with surgical precision by the flailing jib sheet. Luckily for Al, his emergency pair (barely more than 20 years out of prescription date) were in the water-proof bag. And this pair even came with a glasses string. Lesson learned: Next time heave to with board full up while getting stuff from the spinnaker bag, and/or use a glasses string.
It was near low water, as we wended our way down the narrow Big Thorofare channel. The prognostication "Gusting to 20 knots" was, if anything, an understatement here!
We were all at Pauli's by well before 1500 hrs, Dick and Tom (above) zipping in perhaps 30 minutes after the other two boats.
Don't Dick and "The Captain" look like brothers?!
Pauli got the Bayview Inn (above) to stay open longer than normal just for us, so we lunched in non-alcoholic style on the "dry" island. Pauli had also been to the mainland (Crisfield) to lay in the wherewithal for a fine BBQ we enjoyed that evening:
Hugh and his wife (left) were overnighting at the Marina in their big boat. Hugh was also our fine chef BBQ!
After our energetic sailing endeavours of the day, sundown and its attendant bug throngs made us soon decide bedtime had arrived.
Monday: Dick arises after a comfy night aboard Blue Mist.
Pauli and Tom prepared us a fine breakfast which we consumed al fresco.
All signs pointed to the forecast conditions materializing ...
... sunny, warm, winds south 10 to 15, gusting to 20.
A beautiful day for ...
... a stroll around Ewell.
Soon it was time to begin our beat of 12 n. mi. to Tangier, which we wanted to reach while dining facilities were still open, i.e. well before 1600 hrs. Pauli and Amy came to say farewell.
The intrepid mariners were soon ...
... leaving the sheltered marina ...
... and heading out the west end of the Big Thorofare.
AnnMarie and Tom helmed their respective boats
in a very competent style that was captured for posterity by Uncle Al.
All three boats were brought into Milton Parks' marina in fine style and ...
... we were in plenty of time for a tasty Memorial Day dinner at the Fisherman's Corner.
(l to r) Tom, Al, Dick, AnnMarie, Ken - the entire group
As Uncle Al departed to make his way to the Bay View Inn B & B on the west shore of Tangier,
the other two boats had clothes drying over their booms after the several hours of wet sailing.
It was going to be a quiet relaxing evening and early to bed for all after the day's exertions.
Tuesday: Another glorious, sunny day outside my Bay View door at 0800 hrs, and ...
... signs of the usual on the Bay (above): winds 10 to 15, gusting to 20.
By the time I arrived at the marina, Milton had put in an appearance
and given permission for his front steps to be used as a breakfast nook.
Another fantastic morning! Not even too hot!!
Hmmm! There was/is? a snake just like this, living under the T-dock at the Lake Eustis SC
- a watermoccasin/cottonmouth
Imagine growing up with this kind of a "playground"!!
Ready to put today's plan - a picnic sail to Watts Island - into action,
Dick and Tom stride purposefully towards Blue Mist.
With the south wind blowing off the dock, Al has cleverly undone his bow line and let SHADES a.k.a. Glory Days swing downwind by her stern line until the bow came within reach of the furthest-out piling. Having tied his painter to that post, he untied the stern line and now hangs head to wind and is ready to raise sails when the spirit moves him. But first ...
... some shots of Blue Mist and her crew in this lovely ...
... light. Dick has commissioned artist, Pauli, to paint him and
his Wayfarer Blue Mist, and I want to contribute resources photos.
Having also hop-scotched to the outer piling, Dick and Tom now hoist their sails and are set to ...
... depart in style: a perfect demonstration of how to sail backwards. And after ...
... letting the main go back to leeward, Dick now correctly waits for his sails to fill
and sternway to cease, before trying to steer in forward mode.
Trying to back out from the dock itself here has yet to be done without entanglements by any of us. Join the club, AnnMarie. Those reefing lines at the leech seem to have a fatal attraction to the mooring line hooks high up on the pilings. No damage done however, and soon we were ...
... heading out the east entrance to Tangier harbour with ...
... Watts Island a mere five nautical miles off our bows, a close reach of well less than an hour.
After rounding the north tip of Watts around noon, AnnMarie, Ken and ...
... Uncle Al moored in the shallow water, happy to note that the tide was pretty much at low water and that we would not find our boats high and dry when we returned later. Even though there was no shelter here from the gusty wind, wave action was pleasantly minimal.
Evidence of numerous storms and their effect on Watts is everywhere.
I do believe we just heard "Bugger off, assholes!" in Great Black-Backed Gull language.
Or perhaps Mom was just lamenting the discomfort being caused by having to sit on her future offspring.
There you have it, the first Black Skimmer I have ever seen that is not a Wayfarer Mark IV.
Dick and Tom sailed to Dick's usual Watts landing spot half-way down the east side.
Better shelter from the wind here, a perfect spot ...
... for our picnic.
No opportunity to unwind is left unexplored by Tom.
Soon however, the urge to explore ...
... wins out.
An hour or two later, we were ready to sail back ...
... in slightly ...
... stronger ...
Nice to be able to cut corners. Eat your hearts out, keelboaters!!
The essence of intrepid marination? Let me try again: The essential intrepid mariners.
Well less than an hour later, we were re-entering Tangier harbour
with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation on our left.
Fine form, a credit to Wayfarers, as Ken and AnnMarie enter the spectator zone in Tangier.
Solo sailing lesson #2 for Uncle Al: First back to the dock at the marina, Al was ghosting to a fine landing when a sudden backed gust propelled the boat forward at speed. At this high dock geared to big boats and high tides, there was nothing useful I could grab so I aimed for the wooden piling as the softest thing to hit, and got it dead on. A man not far away on the dock watched it all, then turned and walked away. Obviously not a local, or a sailor. Twit!! Lesson learned: With no assistance forthcoming from anyone on the dock, I should have come in very cautiously under jib alone. Paddling was not a good option against the strong gusts. In the event, I ended up hanging head to wind off the next piling out (I think), got the sails down and waited for assistance from Ken and AnnMarie who landed in enviable style.
Having researched the situation, Uncle Al discovered that there is indeed a restaurant on Tangier that is open evenings: Lorraine's There we had a pleasant, tasty supper before trundling off to our various sleeping accommodations.
Wednesday: I awoke to another day that matched the auspicious forecast. Turned out that
my neighbour was the leader of group of bird photographers who packed a serious lens.
After another fine breakfast at the Bay View, I travelled to the marina in style, driven by David in the Bay View limo.
I finally got to see my friend, Milton Parks, who looks as great as ever, and who has spiffed up his ...
... pride and joy even more with some beautiful, new wood trim.
With rain in the forecast for the next day (Thursday), we all decided to head back the 12 or so nautical miles north to Crisfield while the healthy southerly breezes were available. Using the "hang off the furthest out piling head to wind" technique, the other two boats quickly were off. Al then untied his bow line and was soon hanging downwind with his bow pointing out. Being the great fan of the short cut that he is, Al assessed the situation and realized that in his current position he could save himself a lot of scrambling around in the boat if he just hoisted the jib, cast off his stern line, sailed past the last pole, luffed up, hoisted the main and sailed away. What could be simpler? What could possibly go wrong?
And YOU missed it!!!
What indeed! With no one at the tiller to offset the lee helm effect of even the totally luffing jib, the main was not eager to go up. I quickly gave up and tried to yank the half-raised main back down and abort the procedure. By now, Glory Days was heading directly for her least glorious day: As I looked up two seconds later, having been alarmed by a distinct feeling of boat speed in a 20+ gust, I saw it was already too late. I was just entering an apparently abandoned slip on the far side lee shore. I reached the tiller just in time to choose to ram yet another piling in preference to some serious-looking aluminum wreckage beside it. With 20+ knots of breeze bashing poor SHADES onto assorted, semi-immersed junk, the effects of which on the hull did not bear thinking about, I finally got the sails down. Now I was able to grab a small jetty, tie us head to wind and rehoist the sails. Unfortunately sailing out from that spot was impossible as there was only a six-foot or so gap between the jetty's outer end and yet another of the ubiquitous pilings. But that piling was within reach so I was soon hanging from it instead, and with a good 15-20 feet of clearance before the next piling. Ah, the value of a crew. But first I should thank the waterman who was standing by in his motor boat and offered a tow. I should, in retrospect, have accepted. Having no crew makes everything far more than twice as hard when it comes to close-quarters manoeuvering. I made the right choice by untying the bow line, looping it around the piling, and holding it as I went aft to the tiller. I got the board down OK but made a mistake in letting go before the sails were full and the boat trying to move forward.
By the time I was doing the one-armed paper-hanger routine with the mainsheet, the boom was scraping along the piling to leeward. I goosed it as much as I could and was almost clear when a piece of the main leech caught on the piling and ripped. Then I was clear and heaved a split-second sigh of relief.
Until the main ripped right to the luff (see repaired main above). Continuing as close-hauled as possible under jib alone, I got some sea room and quickly got the remains of my mainsail down and stowed. When I finally got all set for a serious attempt to sail a close starboard reach out the east exit to the harbour, current and wind had blown me a few hundred yards out the west entrance. Lots of sea room there, at least. At last, start #2 was underway and I actually made reasonable progress and needed to put in only a couple of tacks (or were they gybes?) before the channel jogged left and I was able to dawdle off towards Crisfield, a mere 12 n.mi. away. Another unbearable thought: What if today's sail had been a beat?
Once well clear of the land, I unrolled and hoisted my Wayfarer trysail (above) in winds that were warm but now consistently over 20 knots - good news for my under-powered rig. This sail proved to be a most welcome addition but I should have spent a few seconds making sure that everything was ready to go before hoisting. As can be seen above, I might well have moved the trysail tack closer to the gooseneck. More importantly, I should have checked the trysail sheet which turned out to be detached from its boom entirely. Fortunately, the sail wanted to be all the way out to the shroud, so lack of a sheet would not become a real issue until I entered the channel into Somers Cove (marked by the condos just to the right of my jib above). Ah, hell, I'll deal with it when I get there. (For better or for worse, a guiding principle in my life.)
And that was still a good mile away so there was plenty of time for Uncle Al to venture into the realm of the "selfie". Here, the GPS had us doing well over four knots. The entrance, to my relief, turned out to provide a fairly beamish reach, and without my really thinking about it, a solution to the no-sheet problem quickly presented itself. This boom being thin and the sail loose-footed, I could stand in the boat and control the boom with one hand while steering with the other.
It would obviously be a bit of a beat to the ramps and I was a bit concerned as to how that would work out. In the end, I came close to laying the ramps and needed only one fairly efficient tack off the Coast Guard building before I coasted to the end of a dock on which, thank goodness, Tom was standing ready to grab the forestay. I must have looked like things were well in hand as none of the other three interrupted their dismantling routines to even watch my arrival. A bit disappointing, that, especially since I had really hoped to get someone's photo of my doing the Windsurfer routine - standing and hanging off the boom - in my beloved SHADES a.k.a. Glory Days.
A tiring sail it had been. So tiring that even an invitation to join Tom and Dick for lunch and beer was more than I could handle. I believe it was Ken who gave me a ride back to the Marina to retrieve my car and trailer. Then Tom again helped with haul-out. I did my fast haul-out routine: mast down, shove everything into the boat without fresh water rinse, cover on, and off to the Paddlewheel a.k.a. Captain Tyler's for a well earned nap. After all, the next day I would be driving to Tony's and Mary's new house in Bay Village near Cleveland and the next day, bright and early, proceed to Detroit's Bayview YC and its annual One-Design Regatta, the BOD, but that is another story.
A fine group of sailors to share the cruise with: Tom, Dick, AnnMarie and Ken. Thanks. For those interested, we plan next year to do a version of our 2012 cruise that went Oxford > Tilghman Island > Slaughter Creek.