An Exhilarating Ride

Monday 11/5, E20>25, 965.4 engine hours, 1” rain - We awoke to rain pattering on the deck. I goofed in setting my alarm clock (I picked the wrong day of the week), so morning started at 5am instead of 4. This worked out just fine since, with all the rain, mist, and cloud cover, the sky was barely light at 7am. The anchor was up and we were underway around 7:30am. Dobbs motored us down the Rhode River while I washed the dishes. As we turned the corner to head out into the Bay, Grace was faced with a strong east wind and 2-3’ white-capping waves. It’s times like this that I appreciate that one deadrise that’s out working - it’s good to have company in foul weather. Grace was able to average about 3 knots during the hour it took her to muscle out to Green 1A where we could at last raise sail and turn south. I set the main with the 3rd reef and we unfurled the genoa to the 2nd reef - plenty of sail to make 6.5 knots toward our destination of Solomon’s. Rain poured down. Grace sailed along comfortably though it was obvious NOAA had low-balled the forecast.

Then, around 9:30am, an impressive gale/white squall swept over us. The breeze increased to 30+ knots, driving the rain stinging onto our faces and the waves into steep rollers. We reefed the jib down to about 100%. Thank goodness the course was a beam reach, a gentle point of sail. Rainwater ran in a stream off the mainsail and the decks were constantly awash in puddled rain and spray. Visibility came and went, from about 1/4 nautical mile to 1-3/4. We made a point to remain west of the shipping lane.

These were the most extreme conditions I’ve been sailing in where we were able to maintain an efficient sail plan toward a destination. Other times have been as windy, but the breeze was from ahead and we couldn’t so much beat into it as hold our position and patiently wait it out. We LOVE the new 3rd reef!

Occasionally we spotted another boat. We were disheartened that none of the sailboats we saw were under sail. They would have had a much easier ride - the sails keep the boat stable and moving gracefully through the water, and the only noise is the wind. At no point were we scared or over- or under-powered.

Shortly after 11am, as quickly as the storm arrived, it left, taking all the wind with it - but not the waves! Grace got tossed around a bit until we could figure out a good motor-sailing configuration - 2nd reef main, no jib, and motor. Around noon, a northerly breeze filled in and we went back to sailing under full sail, making about 5 knots pushing into the flood tide. We continued in this manner all the way to Cove Point. There, the wind packed it in for good and we motored, sopping wet and exhausted, but pleased, into Solomon’s.

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The mooring field at Zahniser’s was full EXCEPT for mooring ball “G” (for Grace! - it’s the one we always get) - we snagged it right away. Immediately next to us is “Child of the Wind”. Bobby poked his head up to greet us as we tied off. Eager to square away responsibilities so we could rest, we launched the dinghy and Dobbs rowed Murphy and me to shore - this was around 4pm. Finally back on Grace, we changed into dry, warm clothing, lit the oil lamps, and snugged in with steaming hot mugs of tea. I made spaghetti with homemade meat sauce and we slurped it down like true hungry sailors. I was in bed at 8pm!