the Weekly Whiffle
Wayfarer news that's crossed Uncle Al's desk this week
Monday, April 21st, 2003
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Subject: lots of Nughes from Lee: two reports from the Chesapeake Bay
----- Original Message ----- 
From: Adrienne Faherty 
To: Sue Hughes ; ...
Sent: Sunday, April 13, 2003 5:19 PM
Subject: Hughes Nughes 20

Hughes Nughes 20

Just a quick note. After weathering 6 cold wet windy days in Elizabeth City and on the Dismal Swamp (which, as I've said before, is actually very pretty), I'm now back in Norfolk, Va. and set to enter the Chesapeake Bay. The forecast is for 5-10 knot southerlies for this week with temps in the mid sixties - a vast improvement over the 30 knot winds and 40-45F temp range of last week. I plan to sail to the York River, then the Rappahannock and then cross the bay to the eastern shore and work up it past the Choptank River and on towards the Chesapeake Bay- Delaware Bay Canal. I'd like to be in the head of the Delaware Bay by the end of the month. 
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Morale soared yesterday and today with the sunshine. I managed to dry out some dampness in my sleeping bags, and of course I've also finally licked the recurring problem of a leaky boom tent. If I spray it with waterproofing goop, it works fine for a day or a week or two - there's no telling how long - but then the next rain reveals annoying drips and drops that wet my sleeping bags and sometimes land on my face. Sooo - in Elizabeth City, I saw a sign advertising people to come and look at The Tarp Room in a hardware store. I'm always up for bizarre offers like that, so I did and found a perfect 8 x 12 foot blue plastic tarp for $2.50. I attached bungee cord and hooks to it, and now I can put it up inside and underneath the boom tent if it looks like heavy rain is due. Did this the other night in the Dismal Swamp and waited for the rain to seep through. Nothing got inside the boat - it all runs over the side. So now when it rains, I laugh at the bastard and yell 'Send her down, Hughie'. (Welsh people will understand this behaviour.)

Did I tell you that when I was in Oriental, I gave $20 to a woman in a rental car who was stranded miles from home after her purse was stolen? I doubt it was a con, and the Great Pumpkin agreed, because twice since then, I've been offered unsolicited lifts by people when I've been trudging to and from the grocery stores. 'What goes round is a wheel most likely' as they say where Adrienne comes from.

Righto, that's it for now. Looking forward to joyous warm sailing now (as opposed to frigid motoring of late) so I'll be writing less and chortling more till the end of the month I hope. Over 1500 miles done and only 1000 to go. Now If I can just get it all done before the Visas (both card and passport) run out!

Toodle pip

Lee

PS. Frank Dye - do you remember a couple by the name of Ed and Carolyn on a boat called Moon Shadow? They remember you and as soon as they saw Wanderer, they said - that's Frank Dye's boat. So it's happened at last. I knew if I bought this boat, it'd be like buying Elvis' Cadillac. It's famous and I'm not.

Huroo.
 

----- Original Message ----- 
From: Adrienne Faherty 
To: Sue Hughes ; ...
Sent: Thursday, April 17, 2003 2:10 PM
Subject: Hughes Nughes 21

Hughes Nughes 21

What a strange couple of days. I left Norfolk in pleasant weather, and sailed north up the bay for hours and hours and then made it into a lovely wee spot - Horn Harbour on the western (Virginia) shore north of the York River. 
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While looking for a spot to anchor after topping up with gas at a marina, I got into shoal water and broke the shear pin on my prop. I was able to anchor and fix it, as I carry two spares. Then I motored off to a deeper niche. Had a good night and set off happily on Tuesday in the same sort of weather - SW 10-15 kts. By mid-pm though, it seemed to be a little stronger, and the seas started to get short and steep. I was on a run (i.e. a following wind) with the sail full out, when suddenly I was surfing down a wave with no steering and I nearly broached. It was strange because there really wasn't that much wind, and I wasn't in shallow water, and all around me the waves were smaller. It wasn't residual wake from a freighter as it kept on chucking up horrible tall waves behind me for another half hour. Finally, after careering along and not knowing really whether it was better to reef or to trail a bight of rope (seems excessive in 4 foot seas), I elected to drop the sail in the bottom of the boat and motor the last three miles. Basically, I bottled it. I should have hove to and done something nautical instead of just dumping the boom into the boat and running for my next harbour. I'm happy to hear from experienced 
Wayfarer sailors about what to do. Frank, Al, this means you.

Uncle Al's attempt follows:

Hi, Lee:

I'm not sure what to make of your experience with the waves. I do know that the helm does feel very light when you're surfing down a wave with the boat balanced just right, i.e. so that there is neither lee helm (related to you, is he????!!!) nor weather helm. (just in case: weather helm = tendency for the boat to luff up if you let go the tiller, lee helm is the opposite (dangerous since the boat would gybe if the rudder was left to its own devices) - in general, weather helm increases as you heel the boat to leeward and lee helm is caused by heeling to windward - all of this directly proportional to you speed through the water as well, of course - if you're ever stuck in bad weather near a library, you could check out my article on this kind of stuff in the educational part of my web sites at http://www.angelfire.com/de2/WIT/efficient1.htm .

Regarding the waves themselves, the only thing I've heard of (but not really experienced so that I noticed), is that short, steep waves are caused by wind against current (e.g. tide) such as a tide running south (at a good clip) against a south wind (interesting that currents are named for where they are headed but winds where they come from...) In the conditions you describe, a nice saw-off might have been to sail under jib alone since you were going downwind. No worry about accidental gybes that way, and with your furling gear, you could sail downwind like that in virtually any wind strength quite safely by just rolling up a suitable amount of jib to suit the conditions - and of course, you can easily uncleat the jib sheet and just rag the jib completely (unlike the main on a run).

Easy for me to say, sitting snug and dry in my basement at the computer (-2C outside!) but the W is a super wave boat. She does occasionally ship some water - especially in weird wave patterns bouncing off various things like breakwaters, but in my experience, there is very little she can't safely handle. Like most things, I imagine that kind of wave action is something you'll quickly get used to and learn to handle confidently in a short time. And remember: if stuff is making you nervous, slow the boat down or stop it - perhaps not the board up and rag all sails method which I recall we couldn't get to work off Cocoa and which would leave you sideways to those steep waves, but down the main if you are on a run and reef enough jib (partial furl) until you reach your comfort zone. Then have a beer and contemplate the matter. On other points of sail (reach or beat), you can simply spill more and more wind from the main and jib (or furl the jib altogether) until the speed is such that you can relax and control the little dear.

Hope this helps and that you've enjoyed your shore break. Wow! 125 straight boat days!! Even a sailing fanatic like me would find that a bit much and a few days off would sound in order. Let me know how the VISA thing goes. If necessary, I'll see if we can't raise some funds from your fellow W's - e.g. at the Cottonwood Regatta next weekend. Oh, nearly forgot: Happy Easter!!

Best regards,

Uncle Al (W3854)

Further note: Now that I look at the chart below, do you suppose the waves could have been caused by the Potomac flowing into the Bay?
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Anyway, I made it into Smith Point at the southern mouth of the Potomac River half an hour later feeling quite nervous and a bit ashamed. Smith Point is an ideal harbour with shelter from everywhere so I anchored and then, because it was so hot and I was feeling guilty about sailing so badly at the end, I hopped into the water and washed the hull. Then I had a fresh water rinse and shave and settled down for the night. Went to bed early, as I didn't think I'd earned my usual relaxing reading session. (he sounds like Dobby in Harry Potter!  Adrienne)

Wednesday morning, the weather was forecast to be SW 10-15 kts again but with winds getting stronger overnight and becoming NE at 20 25 knots. That meant I had to sail or else I'd be stuck there for two days. I was still very nervous about these short steep fast moving waves that seemed disproportionate to the amount of wind. Admittedly, the fetch of these waves is about 60 miles up the bay at this point. So they could have come a long way from the south where winds might have been bigger but that was an explanation that:

a. seems unbelievable
b. doesn't help me sail happily on days when 10-15 knots are predicted.

I motored from my anchorage a half mile out into the bay and the waves were just like the day before but the wind was rising and seemed to be more than 15 kts already. I had the most ominous feeling that things were going to get far worse. At this point I turned back towards the Smith Point harbour and started beating into the wind and waves but as I did, I thought that basically, this was the end of the trip. If you bottle out here in 15 knots, where waves have only a 1/2 mile fetch, then you really can't sail anywhere safely now, I thought. That was too horrendous to think of, so I turned around downwind and 
of course the waves and wind always appear to die down as soon as you do that. Having gone from downwind unhappiness to upwind misery, the turn downwind was naturally an improvement. Just enough that I thought maybe, if I hoisted a reefed main, I could tough it out. (The day before I was unreefed). I cut the engine, hoisted sail, reefed and set off. To cut a long story short, the wind started to die down and eventually dropped off completely about 2 hours later. The seas smoothed out and by the time I got 12 miles out, I had to motor again. This was just as I came up to the entrance to Smith Island. 
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On the map, you might see that if you sail NE from Smith Point on the western shore, you come to Smith Island, someway out in the middle of the bay. To its north, is Martin Wildlife refuge. They are separated by a shallow narrow stretch but 
there is a winding channel through the middle. My plan was to go between them, and then head east to the town of Crisfield on the eastern (Maryland) shore. I did this, and motored through flat calm lagoonish water past the lovely wee town of Ewell where crab boats are anchored. As soon as I got out into the bay again on the other side, I cut the engine, whacked up all sails and reached across the remaining 10 or so miles to the town. The wind never kicked up again, though it did shift to the SE which wasn't forecast. 

For once I decided to make a good entrance to the town, which has a lovely big protected harbour in it. I sailed to within a few hundred yards and then hove to, flaked the mainsail and then sailed into the harbour and up to the dinghy dock on my jib. I furled it and tied up with smooth precision and that was it. Nothing scary, nothing unusual, all was well. And yet, I can't help feeling that there's something wrong with the way those waves got up yesterday and I worry that they'll come back again. Oh well, that particular worry can get in line behind all the rest.
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At least I made good miles - 39 miles on both days puts me 78 miles from Norfolk and about half way to Annapolis. I'll probably cross back to the western shore to see it, as I've decided to skip Washington, DC and Baltimore, too. But I'll have to buy charts somewhere for Delaware Bay and New Jersey and New York. Annapolis should supply them. Geoff Orr gave me charts for NY to Nantucket so that saves me quite a few bob. Going to DC or Baltimore would require a lot of sailing that I can do without. I've been on the boat for 77 days straight now and, apart from 9 days in Geoff house in late January, I haven't slept on land since Dec 13 which is about 125 days ago. I guess I'm getting tired more easily now, and that seems to make me more timid. Hmmm.

So here I am, snugged up to the harbour wall, paying $10 a night to the marina. I'll be here till Friday morning, as tomorrow is a foul cold NE at 20-25 kts, and though I once would have sailed in that, I won't now. I've showered, done laundry and tonite I plan to eat a crabcake (I hate seafood, but when in Rome ...) And the crabcakes here are world famous.

I'm also waiting for word from my bank as to whether they'll extend my credit, as I've been leaving my budget behind lately. And now I need to buy a boat compass, too, as the one Frank Dye so kindly gifted me is leaking fluid and the bubble inside is causing the card to stick. I must have trod on it and damaged the glass cover. It's not likely it can be repaired here, but luckily, I have my little handheld Silva orienteering compass and I can sail with that very well. I'll keep the old compass and send it home. But I think I should have a reliable replacement, so I'm going shopping tomorrow, when it'll be raining and 
cold. And the laundry here ate my tee shirt, so that's another few dollars to spend. Where's Adrienne when I have shopping to do?

Today though, it is a glorious, hot, breezy day, and I made it here by 1.00 pm. The marina have lent me a bicycle, so I've got wheels and the prospect of 36 hours off. That, and the fact that I did sail today and didn't bottle out, makes me feel a bit better than I did last night. Plus, that's another state ticked off!

Toodle oo

Lee

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