To see as much of the world as we can,
Using the smallest carbon footprint we can,
Spending the least amount of money we can,
Making as many friends we can.

Team Red Cruising

A Million Things to Do

She's a boat — there are always things to do. We have enumerated the jobs using Trello. There are 51 things on the backlog. Okay. It's not a million. Some are really complex. Others are a trip to Home Depot to find the right gasket for the faucets.

Instead of work, we practiced our boat handling skills. Which is code for "took a trip." Specifically, we went up to West River Sail Club to eat crabs and visit with the folks there. And dodged weather.

There will be other weekends to tackle the jobs.

Winds were light when we started. When. We. Started.

Below 4 kn, we don't really move. But a 5 kn breeze will push us along, slowly. It's a 16 nm trip. Anything better than 3 kn and we'll get there in time to eat crabs.

Simrad Autopilot Control
The Simrad Autopilot Control

Here's the autopilot display when sailing. The "W" means we're sailing by the wind. The 109 is the current angle to the wind. the 106 is the desired angle.

Yes. The display says "Simrad". The B&G unit that performs essentially the same function didn't look right. (The existing holes were evenly spaced. The narrower-than-everything-else B&G Autopilot control didn't look right.)

It's summer on the Chesapeake. The clouds were big and getting bigger.

Then. The dreaded VHF WX alert. Severe thunderstorms in central Maryland, headed east at 40 miles per hour. Gusts to 60. Seek shelter.

It's central Maryland. Storms tend to drift northeast. Why worry?

On the other hand. We've been through this on the Bay. And it's not a lot of fun. We got hit at the mouth of the Patuxent River by one of these "seek shelter immediately, small-craft advisory, you're all going to die" storms. Red Ranger can handle it.

We got hit by a waterspout in the Neuse River. It was an amazing amount of wind and rain. It was not anything we care to repeat.

Storm Clouds
That is some nasty-looking weather

Mr. Lehman to the rescue. We brought in the sails, aimed the new B&G chart plotter to West River Green "1" (38° 51.84′N, 076°27′W.) After that, it's a little hand-steering for about five more miles to the WRSC. And a chain of WX alerts on the VHF radio. Different locations. But the same devastating wind and rain.

Then the alerts to mariners started. Because CA suggested we get under cover when the first alert come over the radio, we were only 3 miles from the WRSC when the marine alerts started.

We had about a half-hour to go. And the clouds were low, dark, and getting darker.

We passed boats heading out into the bay. Did they not have radios? Were they not looking at the clouds?

Skill #1 — Watching the Weather. We read the forecast for late afternoon thundershowers. This wasn't a surprise.

And more important than that.

Skill #0 — Cooperative Decision-Making. By which I mean, when someone says we're seeking shelter, we went in.

We picked up the mooring ball on the first try. We got to be pretty good at it when we lived in Coconut Grove in the Dinner Key mooring field. We missed the ball a few times. Once we lost two boat hooks trying to get the ball when it was breezy.

It's essential to approach the ball to windward. That sometimes means threading a path through the mooring field. For WRSC, there are only five balls and no one was using them. So the only tricky part is aligning with the wind. The B&G computer calculates the true wind by factoring boat speed and current into he apparent wind, making it easier to judge the approach in general.

From the helm, I can't see the ball below the bowsprit. But, I can see Queequeg on the bow with the harpoon. She points the boathook at the ball, and I steer to keep it to starboard. When the hook goes down: hard reverse to stop at the ball. Then run forward to help. The boat's massive. The balls often have a heavy pile of chain on them.

Skill #2 — Steering.

Skill #3 — Mooring. Which has a long list of skills that coalesce around securing the boat.

Since we don't have a good sail cover for the main, I tied it to the boom. This is one of those sailorly things. As with securing the boat to a mooring, all of the sails need to be secure. We tighten the furling drums on the headsails. Tie down the main and zip the cover on the mizzen.

We can see the tent were the crabs are cooking. We can see people. And the wind is starting to pick up. As we're standing on the foredeck, getting ready to launch Scout (the dinghy,) the wind starts to shift.

That's enough of that. Tie Scout back down, grab everything loose and throw it into the cockpit.

Here's the strip-chart recorder.

Wind Speed and Direction Chart
The "Strip Chart" recording of wind speed and direction

Up until about 10 minutes before I took the picture, we had wind below 8 kn, from about 180°. Then the wind switch to about 350° and jumped to a peak of almost 30 kn.

The 30 kn gust, BTW, almost knocked me down. I was scrambling across the foredeck. Pow!

Skill #4 — One hand for yourself, one hand for the boat.

Skill #5 — Patience.

The blow lasted less than 30 minutes. The wind stayed about 350°, but dropped to a sensible speed. We deployed Scout, dinghied in, ate crab, drank beer, schmoozed with sailors, helped clean up, and went back to Red Ranger. Great sail. Great party.

The next morning was a glorious, calm, quiet creek. Coffee. Oatmeal.

We took on 60 gallons of fuel, and worked our way back to Deale. The storm pattern was the same as Saturday. We pottered around in the light air. Then we started the engine and powered into Herring Bay watching the clouds build. We got into the slip without breaking anything. Tied up the sails, and hunkered down in the cockpit just as the first guts of the thunderstorm hit.

By 16:00 the skies and cleared, and we could pat ourselves on the back for escaping two nasty squalls in two days and eat plenty of crab at the Sail Club.