Friday, September 25, 2015

A day unraveled...

I slept 10 hours last night.

Back Creek, Solomons sunrise. Red in the morning...

Yesterday the hook came off the bottom of Back Creek in the Solomons at 0700. Sailing the day before (Back Creek Annapolis to Back Creek Solomons – lots of Back Creeks in these parts) had Kintala covering 48 miles in 9 + 15. Routing suggested it would be a 50 nm sail to Fishing Bay that would take nearly 12 hours, making an early go necessary to get in by nightfall.  Kintala's crew is still making the transition from “hanging around the Bay visiting friends” mode to “making tracks south” mode. This our first multiple days sailing strung together since last spring. We had been planning to make one more jump today, then stop for a bit to visit.

 But after yesterday Kintala will be taking the day off.

Winds for the last two days have been in the 20 knot +/- range, making for fun, if somewhat busy, sailing. The first day out, we had started with just the staysail. It was enough power to have us going nearly 5 knots but not really enough to keep Kintala happy banging through the waves. Tucking the little sail away and flying the jib was the ticket. The GPS track logged a max speed of 7.7 and our old Tartan romped happily south. Yesterday looked to be more of the same.

Waves were noticeably fuller as the bow cleared into the bay. Not taller or steeper, just more robust somehow, suggesting extra heft and power. We didn't bother with the little sail, just spun out the jib and set off. For much of the day we were in and out of the ditch, with the waves rolling the boat side to side. Day long winds built the waves fuller and taller, the roll becoming more pronounced. Those heading south were enjoying a fast but busy sail. Those heading north, presumably toward the boat show, looked to be taking a serious pounding. For the most part the sailboats were keeping pace with, and often passing, the trawlers. I can't imagine what the ride was like up on a fly bridge and assume they had stabilizers running at full song.

About a third of the way into the day, the winds moved more toward the bow and we needed the main – with two reefs – to help hold the point. It wasn't a particularly balanced sail set, one we haven't used before. The auto pilot struggled, though still working much of the time, and we pressed on. A kink in the bay moved the winds aft again and the main was dropped back onto the boom. The winds faded some more, the speed bled away, the waves kept rolling the boat and the jib started to slap itself silly. Time for the pole, which started the unraveling of the day.

Normally we set the pole without using a topping lift, which often had me struggling to keep it under control until both ends were secured. It had been a real struggle the first day out, so trying something different seemed like a good idea. And it was. Attaching the spinnaker halyard to the far end of the jib pole made life much easier, even on a rolling deck. The sail quit flogging, another knot was added to the speed, and all was well with the world.

Then the winds came back.

With the headsail poled out and the winds in the mid 20s +, Kintala flat launched herself into high a 7s romp with a max speed recorded of 8.2 on the GPS. Boat speed was showing 9+ with big, broad shouldered waves shoving the stern around at will. In the back of the mind lies the thought that the edge of the cliff is getting kind of close, but you just have to go along for the ride.

One thing about going fast is that ground is covered in a hurry. Instead of doing 50 miles in 12 hours, we had done nearly 60 in about 10.  The destination inlet hove into view with plenty of daylight left, but it required enough of a turn to put the wind on the other side of the stern. A flying, downwind jibe would be required, something that simply can't happen with a pole. Since we needed to slow down anyway, the decision was made to roll in the big sail and roll out the little sail on the other side. We have rolled up the big sail with the pole deployed before and it has always just swung forward to lie against the furled sail, waiting patiently to be taken down whenever we got around to it. But we have never rolled it in while using a topping lift.

Which, in the wind, got wound up at the top of the sail, jamming everything to a stop and making it impossible to drop the pole to the deck. All of the necessary un-jamming and dropping would have to be done out on the fore deck, the one place I didn't want to be at that moment. Fortunately, the jam happened late in the rolling up process. We let the small part of the jib still hanging just hang. The pole wasn't going anywhere with the topping lift tangled as it was. The little sail went out on the other side of the boat without a problem, we were still under way, under control.

And all was well with the world.

Ah, but then we needed to jibe once again to keep from running into the shore; impossible with the fore deck in the mess it was in. We tried, but the little sail's lazy sheet got twisted up somehow. The sail was mostly furled when it jammed to a stop, so I locked the line on a cleat and let it be. Pretty much every sail on board was now out of commission.

The Beast came to the rescue but, with all the sails in and the hull sideways to the waves Kintala was rolling and yawing madly while Deb tried to pick her way through the channel markers. I kept offering unneeded advice while tangled in cockpit mess of lines; jib sheets, main sheet, traveler, furling... Out on deck, reefing lines lay scattered about, sheets flogged, and a wayward halyard snapped back and forth. Kintala looked like the scene of a multi-colored spaghetti factory explosion.

Eventually, Fishing Bay lay under the keel. The hook went down.  We set it hard and laid out 80 feet of new-to-us BBB chain. It actually fits on our gypsy, runs off cleanly, and comes up even better. (Thank you Kokopelli!) Winds are forecast to be in the 30s before the weekend is out.

Kintala is taking the day off, so we will be in Fishing Bay until the wind blows itself out.  Then we will make tracks south once again.  Maybe invent some new kind of way to unravel a day.

A stunning ketch rig anchored next to us in Back Creek, Solomons

A fellow traveler in the rolling waves just outside Fishing Bay


S/V Island Bound said...

The Bay can get pretty nasty in that part. Good thing it was not on the nose!!

Carolyn said...

Depending on how big of a course change that jibe with the pole up was going to be, we've learned (yeah, the hard way, in a gale) that we can leave the pole on the "wrong" side and sail by the lee up to a good 20 degrees off the wind. Once we learned that, it made going downwind in a big blow much easier, particurly if you don't have the main up. Just set the pole, roll the genoa in and out as more/less sail is required, and change course as needed.

Deb said...

@Carolyn - We've discovered that Kintala sails quite nicely by the lee with the pole up and we were already doing that by almost 20° so there was no more left. Our jibe was going to be a full 90°.

Robert Sapp said...

Well, I probably don't need to point this out and forgive me if you already know this, but you really shouldn't use a spinnaker halyard as a pole lift. It's above the forestay, which means it might foul the jib if you try to roll it up. A whiskerpole topping lift should exit the mast below the forestay so that it cannot foul the jib as its furled. You can also rig a bridle that will hold the pole fore and aft, so that you can tighten the topping lift, locking the pole in place and allowing you to roll up the jib without touching the pole. It just stays put. I'm assuming you don't have a proper topping life for your pole, but I'd be surprised if you didn't already have a block in the mast at the right place.

Glad to see you guys are finally on your way south. :-) Our latest adventure is diving lessons. After reading about a boat that fouled its prop with a drifting net while motoring across the Florida Straits, we decided we need to be able to deal with problems under the boat that take longer to fix than we can manage by holding our breath. So we decided to get certified and keep at least one set of diving gear onboard.

Rhonda & Rhonda
S/V Eagle Too
Pensacola, FL

TJ said...

Robert, NOW you tell me. We have been on several different boats and seen jib poles set differently on each and every one. Some are stayed top, fore and aft. Some are just stayed top. Some not at all. Some use a barber hauler to pull the sheet in at enough of an angle to keep the pole in place. Something we sometimes do, though usually I must move the car all the way forward, which accomplishes the same thing.

To be honest the only reason I tried using the halyard as a topping lift was to aid in putting the pole up while rolling in the ditch. It is a big pole. I have visions of it going over the side and taking me with it. Something that would earn me the wrath of Deb as soon as she dragged me back on board.

Deb and I are both certified divers, though neither of us has been on a tank in decades. We are thinking of getting some gear as well; just to make changing zinks and bottom cleaning easier. Not sure where we would store the stuff though.

It is good to be on our way again.

Unknown said...

A bit late coming in on the conversation. . . Even going with the weather, it's a tough day in the water with winds in the 20s. We sailed South from Herring Bay (Deale MD) to Deltaville in June. We did it in three days of approximately 30+ miles each. Three days of rock & roll, winds tearing at everything, 4-6' chop. Everything happens fast and extreme under those conditions. Lines twist and jumble, escape the deck (and sometimes their blocks and fairleads), sails snap, leachlines knot. Rained as well, so we soaked through all our foul weather gear as well. Cockpit was a disaster at the end of each day.

Fun on the water!