"What's that sound?"

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written 17 June 2008
6:00-7:00 pm

Captain is not exactly fond of river sailing - compared with the open sea, rivers leave a fair bit to be desired. Truth is, sailing on the Connecticut River is what I know best, so far. (Last year's one serious foray into the Long Island Sound was not exactly a party.) Captain is actually of two minds about river sailing: it's (often) an awful lot of work for little headway, and - it sure gets one prepped for the Big Water!

We made eighteen miles the first day (Thursday, 12 June) - putting in at Riverside Park, Hartford and anchoring off Gildersleeve Island, five and ½ hours later. We started with two reefs, letting one out at Buoy 137 and the second between Memorial Bridge and Crow Point Pond. I'd forgotten the names of everything (peak halyard, throat halyard, main sheet...) but the feel came back to me pretty quick - that's been fun. :-) What wasn't so much fun :-( was having to coordinate getting a chapter completed (deadline Sunday) on top of re-acquainting myself with the how to's of upwind sailing.

Day Two began auspiciously (06:44, under sail, with current) but became the first of a series of mere four or five mile days. The thing about river sailing is that there are so many things that can happen. And most of the things that happen occur instantly in the midst of some peaceful stretch of calm time. So....there we are sailing along, tacking back-and-forth, making slow, steady progress, admiring nature. The shoreline of the Connecticut is quite beautiful. Trees line both banks, punctuated occasionally by fancy houses. Periodically a town appears although one doesn't see much unless they're large and have their own marina. Herons, swans, osprey, ducks, and geese are present in abundance. Birdsong trills constantly from the woods. Yes - the sound of traffic on the highway is usually present, but one can relegate it to the background.


We were admiring a flock of geese resting on the shore, getting up and moving away in unison as the boat approached. Perfect for a photo! Then we were aground - too deep into the wind shadow. Then Steph was in the water, shoving the bow around and leaping for the mast in order to clamber aboard and not be left behind. Captain tacked us back across the river. The sail needed reefing - now! The sail wasn't sure which way it wanted to go and the boom was knocking me all over. I was wedged in fine but there was some blood getting on the sail so I knew I was cut, somewhere. Didn't feel it but was worried about making a mess; Captain was unperturbed, getting the reef in was priority. Combined, the two events were probably no more than five minutes of high intensity. I finally wrestled in the last knot and sat down, facing away from the upcoming river's edge. A strange noise emerged from behind me. "What's that sound?" "Oh," Captain replied, "probably the centerboard" (dragging along the bottom). I was not ready to be grounded again!

:-) We escaped that time without me having to go overboard, but that's pretty much the way sailing goes: everything is calm, seems perfect - maybe we're making great speed maybe just plodding along but it's gorgeous out and hey, we are sailing, after all! Then wham, six things happen at the same time. Sometimes they happen because attention wanders for a millisecond, other times they just happen. Many things are more-or-less predictable - such as turkey motorboaters tossing us around on their wakes, the timing of the tide's flood and ebb stages, and the rising and setting of the sun and moon.

Our planet is so cool! I'm serious - the way the tides work is totally awesome. They push miles up rivers in the flood stage, during ebb they flush back down to the sea: a steady, rhythmic pulse. Every day. Always. Flood, ebb, flood, ebb.

My paper not being done was really a stressor. :-/ It provided an underlying tension - we weren't fully free, not yet. And we weren't getting anywhere fast - like, to a dock that might have wireless. On the evening of our third day - the day before the deadline (gulp!), the paper was finished. I'm to leave the details of that feat to my Trusty Sidekick (or is it Nefarious Accomplice?) At any rate, the chapter was completed and submitted on time. "Humanity," imagines my faux altersuperheroego (!), "might be saved!"

Day Four introduced us to a new marina, a kind of Huck Finn adventure down a narrow entry to a deeply hidden cove. Not only that, we found fans! Seriously! Early in the afternoon a fairly large boat cruised by and the people cheered us! :-) We are rather a novelty - relatively few people actually sail anymore. Lots of people have sailboats, but they aren't out in them, and if they are, chances are they're using a motor. And no one is out in as small as boat as the Peep Hen. It isn't unusual for folks to ask questions, but this is the first time I've been with Captain when someone broke out in full-throated cheers! A few hours later, they found us again in our Huck Finn hideaway. We had a chance to converse for a few minutes and they let us know that in addition to their boat, Runaway, they run a helicopter up and down the river, too.

After shore support (and a surprise call for Steph from Matt at the FBI - payment for the criminal background check required for my visa was rendered improperly and needed to be re-done, correctly, now), we set off for another short day of sailing. Interpersonal dynamics ensued. No sweat, we worked it out, but its inevitable that there will be some "storming" as we adjust to the reality of living, two human bodies/thoughts/feelings in a 14 x 6 foot boat - with twenty-four more days to go! Symbolically, we did lose a "crewman" at sea. Captain's vest (mixed history) used as a headsupport went overboard and Captain immediately called it rescue practice. We both had a chance at it, she grabbed as it fell and I took a swipe with a pole we use to hold up the canopy, falling short by a mere inch. :-/ By the time we circled around the thing was already underwater but visible . . . gone. Captain's Log reads:

Crew overboard rescue attempt FAILS. Capt's favorite vest/pillow lost at sea. Sank too fast for recovery. Lifejackets dispensed.

We have, indeed, been wearing our life jackets since. Captain always planned them once we got closer to the ocean. Here we are! As I type (Day Five), we're anchored in the Back River off the Long Island Sound.

Back River, CT.JPG.jpg

Earlier, Long Island was visible as we waited just outside the entrance to North Cove waiting for the tide to shift and the wind to turn favorable. Last night we anchored in Hamburg Cove and endured a pounding rain replete with massive thunder and lightening. We were dry inside except once a mighty gust blew in one side of the awning, showering a cascade into the cockpit. While makeshifting some supports to prevent a repeat, lightening struck within a tenth of mile, first off starboard, then off port. As unlikely as a lightning strike might be, if one did hit our mast, Captain calmly informs me, it would probably blow a hole in the hull on the way out and we'd sink fast. Hmmmmmmm. Maybe not a bad night to sleep in the lifejacket?!

Woke up dry, managed to escape against the wind and the tide (!), then had a leisurely morning awaiting favorable conditions. Soon we were off again....and a gorgeous day, too (unlike the previous day's grey gloom and chilly drizzle), punctuated with a visit from our new friends! The Runaway caught up to us somewhat south of Essex and inquired as to our destination, as well as how we weathered last night. We're kinda liking having friends! Next, we made it through the Old Lyme Bridge even though the annoying operator sounded the alarm to lower the drawbridge while we still underneath it (Captain moves fast when compelled!) After the bridge we fought a wicked chop, laboring to the entrance to North Cove, unable to actually get in. Just as we dropped anchor to wait out a tide change and see if our luck would turn, we were buzzed by a helicopter! True business, there were our buddies again! They circled us then hovered some 60 feet to starboard, waving while we waved and grinned back.

We'll hang around for shore support in the morning, then head out in the direction of Mystic, Stonington, and Fisher's Island. If the wind will take us there . . .

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