Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Marion Harbor to Padanaram, MA

22.7 nm
Wind: SW 20-25 knots, gusting to 30 knots
Seas: 4-6 feet
Maximum speed: 3.7 knots
Average speed: 2.5 knots
Latitude: 41°57.74’N
Longitude: 070°94.63’W

We did it. We actually left Marion harbor. I feel like a couple of lively renditions of the Hallelujah Chorus are in order. We didn’t have an easy time doing it, though. Yesterday, when I posted, it didn’t seem likely at all, in fact. The quantity of things left to be done seemed insurmountable, as they had since last December.

But we did it. That email from Rob, the friend from the Newport Boat Show, really kicked us into gear. That, and the storm this weekend. We knew we had to get out now or else. So we went and got new batteries, the last thing on the list, loaded the rest of the last-minute things into the dinghy, docked after dark and slept there last night, after stocking the boat with ice and fresh groceries.

This morning, we woke up at six, the first time in probably eons, which was a very good indicator that we were serious. We made one last dash to Sally’s for cereal, coffee, and showers, and set sail by nine in the morning.

That was when the fun started. It wouldn’t be a day sailing on Secret without misadventures of epic proportions. While motoring out of the inner harbor, we finally turned on the VHF. We had been religiously watching the NOAA website to track the weather this next week, but hadn’t listened to the VHF broadcast until there was no turning back. Guess what? “Small craft advisories issued for Tuesday, at noon.” We weren’t heading back to Marion after winning our hard-fought freedom. We decided to reef the mainsail before we even got out into the bay, figuring it was better to be safe than sorry.

Have I mentioned that we’ve never reefed the mainsail before? (For the uninitiated, reefing a sail means tying it down so only part of it is able to catch the wind. It’s safer in bad weather. And I only learned that a month ago.) We figured it was simple—there are lines on the sail, called reef points, and you tie them with reef knots. Simple, right? Not quite. Instead, while trying to raise the main halfway so we could tie our reef knots, the boom collapsed on deck. After Karl reattached the topping lift, and got the boom into place, I tied the reef knots only to discover that the sail still ballooned out on both edges. There were holes on the edges, with no reef points, and we had no idea what to do with them.

Eventually Karl found some lines, tied the ends down, too, and we managed to limp out of Marion harbor. The worst of it was that our farewell committee, Ralph and Sally on the beach, watched the whole doggone thing, taking scenic photos of us sailing off into the wild blue yonder. These people are supposed to sail around the world? They must have been thinking. They can’t even get their sail up!

The rest of the day was fantastic, though. Our mainsail didn’t have the best shape, but we were able to unfurl part of the jib for balance and make a fair amount of speed. The most amazing thing was how little the boat heeled! All summer we’ve been gritting our teeth and bearing it as our rail touched the water, only to discover that our rig was completely untuned. (Everything holding the mast up was saggy.) Ian, our wonderful Scottish friend at West Marine, helped Karl tighten the rig, and couldn’t even believe we’d been sailing with it like that. That, combined with the reefed main, completely stiffened the boat up. It’s actually comfortable to sail! And this, on a day that’s a small craft advisory!

The highlight of the day—we saw a seal, heading into Padanaram Harbor. It was just a glimpse, but I figure it’s an omen. We’re doing the right thing. We’re on the right path. It’s going to be hard, but fun.

The icing on the cake was that Rob and his wife met us and took us out for a prime rib dinner. Talk about trail magic. The boat magic continues. He not only explained to us how to reef, but gave us hints for the whole trip—where to anchor off the Statue of Liberty, what to watch for off the New Jersey coast, the best towns for marinas in North Carolina. Talking to them was inspiring, and as delicious as the steak, potatoes, and giant slab of chocolate cake was, I think the conversation was better.

Now we’ve rowed back to the boat under a gibbous moon. I’ve celebrated Keatsmas (the anniversary of John Keats’s birthday, which coincides with Halloween) with one of my best friends, Stephanie, by cell phone, and Karl’s chatting with his father. I’m exhausted. I can barely see. My back is sore, my legs are sore, my stomach is stuffed. And I can’t imagine a better day. I am completely content. And I think I’m starting a novel tomorrow morning.

1 comment:

Rand said...

We made one last dash to Sally’s for cereal, coffee, and showers, and set sail by nine in the morning.

Exciting words to read! Sounds like the beginnings of a great sea going adventure. I'm hooked!