It’s amazing what little faith I have in simple machines, maneuvers, and mechanisms. Rather, how surprised I am when they actually work.
I corralled one of the dock boys to hold the bow line and directed my first mate Gina, who had never been sailing before three days earlier, on the stern. I had no idea how it would work. Pulling in and out of docks is my weakness. Rather then over think everything, such as where the stern will swing when I push the tiller in one direction, I just did it. The force was with me. We were off to a good start.
We reached our way across the bay in about 10 knots, but knew that it was going to get more intense when we rounded the point and were in the open fetch of Lake Champlain. The forecast predicted a consistent 10-20 knots.
I’d been staring at that pass for a month, and now I was finally cutting through it. A huge gust had us heeling hard over. I was glad I’d reefed the main at the dock and only had a small amount of headsail unfurled. The gusts were reaching nearly 25 knots.
I was scared. My friend, too. But I never showed it. I wasn’t scared in the sense that my life was in danger, rather it was an intense and uncomfortable motion of the boat. I sheeted in and tried to point up a little higher to balance out but it didn’t really work, so we rode the gusts out until they dissipated. That’s the good thing about gusts.
As we headed north towards our first anchorage we were dead downwind, surfing down the little 2-3 foot waves that felt a lot bigger. I had the sails wing and wing, which was quite an accomplishment for me. I had to steer carefully to stay directly downwind and gain as much speed as possible. A trimaran and windsurfer raced past my little heavy displacement hull.
To enter the harbor we had to pass through a small cut in a breakwater rock wall. I was warned to keep left as there is an uncharted “stack” underneath the water. We wanted to sail into the harbor but I thought it best to furl the sails and use the engine.
While motoring the wind and waves were directly abeam and while we were in no immediate danger my instincts as well as my knowledge of seamanship told me this is not where you want the waves to be hitting. So I headed downwind to gain some sea room and then cut back up into the waves bow first.
We reached the harbor. Slowly motoring past all the beautifully moored boats to the open anchorage we had nearly all to ourselves. After circling a few times I dropped the hook for the first time and she set right away. We cracked open a beer for we had arrived.