Since 1978 I have been fortunate to sail wooden boats. In 2006 I set out to find a Drascombe Longboat Cruiser for single-handed expedition sailing. This is the continuing story of how it came to be, our adventures, notes on the maritime world and other things I don't want to forget...

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Turning to Windward

Yesterday I drove over to the Bay. Spring is coming on hard, the pollen is almost gone and the brown has turned to green almost overnight. After picking up supplies in Gloucester and sorting out gear onboard I launched Annie into a stiff onshore wind. Maybe 15 knots at the time and quick about face at the launch readying for a safe cast off. Hailed the Milford Haven bridge tender on channel 13 and slipped through as the she swung around, bell dinging. Under full jib and mizzen she broad reached into Hills Bay and on to the Piankatank. It was later than I would have liked so we came about and got wet. Lots of white caps and short chop. Short, then long, then short tacks back to the bridge never touching the double reefed main lashed to the deck.

I remember another log entry long ago. I had spent a leisure couple of days in Beaufort, North Carolina. I was 29 and still a bit green. The weather was beautiful and I decided to head south offshore. After clearing the last sea buoy I eased the 24' wooden sloop's jib sheet and started running south. Had planned to raise the main but the wind was fresh and as I headed up the chop became very apparent. About 4 feet and knarly. No way to raise  an unreefed mainfor a green single hander even hove to. Without the main I couldn't make headway and after about a nasty half an hour I decided to run south. It was 1630.

The wind slowly picked up out of the northeast as night fell and the rollers grew. Radar reflector in the spreaders, dinghy riding well on a long painter, one wash board in, and 14 hrs at the tiller as we rushed forward and up and then down into the dark. The waves grew to 10 feet and as the eery white glow of dawn set in I turned her a bit to starboard and started searching for a sight of land. Then it happened.

For a second it was all different. The feel. I quickly looked over my shoulder and saw the wave break, the painter snap and the dinghy disappear. I thrust the tiller hard alee and she spun into the next wave and we were back in the familiar up and down rhythm. My heart was pounding. Water had filled the cockpit and was slowly going down the thru-hull. Water had breeched the washboard and I stooped to pump the Gusher. As we regained stability I reached for the VHF and called the Coast Guard. The operator asked if the shore was visible and I noticed what seemed to be a condo with three vertical stripes. He identified it and said that I was approaching Masonboro Inlet above Wrightsville Beach. There would be a large rock jetty protecting the inlet and that I was to stay as tight to it as possible as I turned in. 

In about 15 minutes I saw it. Waves were crashing over and it came up fast. I started the old 2-cylinder... always a bit suspect.. and closed in. As we turned sharp at the point we dropped. It felt a bit like a roller coaster drop. And then calm.

The tide was dropping and it was all she could do to make way into a protected area. I went forward, dropped the jib and the anchor, and fell on the wet bunk below sheathed in foul weather gear. 80 harrowing miles, a lesson learned.

These days I am hopefully more prepared with more manageable gear and better planning skills. I need to remember this story. I will need to turn into the wind again.