Friday, September 16, 2011

Fair Weather Sailors

Posted: July 19, 11:08 am | (permalink) | (3 comments)

283942_2236251626415_1251710304_32688522_3903802_n [photo: sunset at La Trappe Creek near Cambridge]

Yep, fair weather sailors, that’s us. And the weather for last weekend was perfect, if you’re a sailor. Warm but not hot, a sky full of fluffy white clouds, moderate breezes. Okay, sign me up.

A few of our friends are former liveaboards and cruisers now living in Cambridge, MD. One friend in particular keeps posting tantalizing photos on my FB page, sunrises and marshes and flowers, while gloating about the peace and serenity and good life there. We’d never visited either by land or by water and decided, with 4 days of mild weather before us, that this was as good an opportunity as we were going to get.

We made only 3 nautical miles in the first hour and a half – heck, I can *walk* faster than that, so on went the engine and we headed down the Bay. After a pretty, and happily uneventful, trip, we anchored in La Trappe Creek, about 4 or 5 miles from town. Our Chesapeake Bay cruising guide gave this anchorage five stars, and their advice is usually spot-on, as it was in this case. Ah, bliss. Our boat is its own little world here, with everything we need – everything we OWN, thanks to living aboard and taking our home with us – set in this beautiful surroundings. An orange sunset sky, blue water, a glass of white wine … what’s not to like? And then the five-star anchorage became a million-star anchorage, as the night darkened and the moon rose.

We were so delighted with the spot that we decided to spend all 3 nights there. So next day, instead of taking the boat on into Cambridge to tie up at the free town dock (okay, really, a cement wall, but the encouragement to visit was there all the same) to meet friend Cathy for lunch, we decided to keep our great anchorage spot and use the dinghy to go into town. The Choptank River there was pretty wide-open, and here we were going out in the equivalent of a little rowboat. Other boats that I would think of as our approximate equals seemed HUGE as they passed us, and the water reminded me of how little we really are against the power of the natural world. But the dinghy’s outboard engine was running fine and fast and we were skimming along … until we were about 2/3 of the way there and Dan said, “Babe, uh-oh, I forgot my SHOES.” After living on the boat for days with no need to go ashore, you forget some of the niceties of civilization. But there was neither enough time, nor possibly enough fuel, to turn around and go back to the boat and then back again to the restaurant. Now what?

We ate outside on the restaurant’s deck and then after some teasing from Cathy, walked the few blocks into town from the free dock where we’d tied the dinghy. Cathy knew one of the shopkeepers – ah the advantage of living in a small town and shopping locally. Soon the barefoot boy had a new pair of flip-flops and we were off on our walking tour of downtown, narrated with historical anecdotes from Cathy – it was clear she really loved her adopted hometown. And on the return trip, Dan promised to keep his new flipflops in the dinghy from now on, to avoid the possibility of similar problems in the future.

Next day I just wanted to drink in the loveliness of the creek we were anchored in, so the day included nothing more strenuous than reading in the cockpit and a dinghy trip up to the head of the creek. I tried a short swim in the warm water, and was startled by little fishes that started nibbling at my toes. My friend Moni tells me that fish pedicures are all the rage in Europe, with a special type of fish to nibble the dead skin off your feet. Um, maybe not my thing, but it was nice to know that the creek was clean enough to support marine life!

Next morning, Sunday, we were up before the sun, hoping to start our sail home before the bay got too crowded. It was an odd sensation where we felt the time pressure to be headed home before Monday morning, like we used to have to do when we had regular jobs – but in this case it was not because we had to be back to work, but because we wanted to be plugged in to air conditioning before the week’s heat set in! We were able to sail the first part of the trip, but the wind lightened up and the currents were against us, making the water choppy and slow, so again we motored. We passed Sharp’s Point Light, and Bloody Point, and had just reached Thomas Point Light about an hour from home when suddenly the engine revved to maximum but our forward speed slowed to a stop. A quick look showed that – again! – the v-drive had failed as it had on our way home from the Bahamas. Okay, up go the sails, we’re a sailboat, we’ll SAIL home (however slowly). But, we’re also a sailboat with an unlimited towing option from BoatUS, so ultimately we had them bring us home. Ironically, the wind picked up again part way back, making me wish we were still sailing, (I always wonder why a sailboat would call for a tow, when it has those canvas triangles for propulsion) but then the wind died again so I felt vindicated in our call for assistance.

(Snug and safe and cool in the marina, now. Shear bolts did their job – they broke when they were supposed to. What would you rather replace – 3 bolts that cost a few dollars, or a v-drive for a few thousand dollars? I thought so. Now, just to find out why they broke…stay tuned.)

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