10 April 2010

Fair Winds

Wow... so many things to catch up on, so little battery power!

When I announced that I was ready to sail off on Cabin Boy's Big Adventure, a bunch of people -- presumably experienced cruisers -- wished me 'Fair Winds'.

Now, I must admit that, as a long-time day sailor in Long Island Sound, I didn't really 'get' this expression. Frankly, in the Sound in summer, any wind is a fair wind. Most of the time no wind is the problem.

But after trying to sail from the Steinhatchee River to Cedar Key -- a distance of nearly 50 nm -- against a southerly wind on Wednesday, I now 'get' it fully!

For day sailors, the direction of the wind isn't very important. Particularly if you've got a 30' racing boat designed to go up wind. Going up wind is the 'fun' part. Going down wind is the boring bit when you break out the beer.

But if you need to make 50 nm, preferably arriving before dark so you don't have to navigate a new channel by flashlight, you need to have the wind at your back. Just do the math... if you can make straight, downwind legs at 5 knots (i.e., no tacking back and forth into the wind to make your leg), it's going to take 10 hours to get there.

Against the wind, even a racing boat is going to take double that. A small cruising boat like the Blue Moon would take an unbearably long and uncomfortable time.

So, I called my Wednesday sail a 'sea trial', which I needed anyway. I found a number of things I wanted to change, including some worn lines, and the main sail gaff bridle, which was too long to allow the sail to be 'peaked' properly.

Cabin Boy enjoyed the little outing:

On Thursday, the winds were still from the south, so I decided to use the day to get organized. The biggest problem was the state of my 'cargo hold'. The Blue Moon is basically a bare hull, down below. There's one bunk, and a small cabinet. That's it.

Because Helena had to rush back to NY and her piano students, we had just dumped all my supplies into the boat. This made it almost impossible to find anything. It also made it impossible to move! My plan was to use hammocks to get most stuff off the floor, and to organize stuff as much as possible. After a good bit of work, here's how my 'cargo hold' looked:

Helena, who saw the original state of the boat, will be amazed.

Finally, after a front rolled through on Thursday night, the winds shifted round to the North, and I was off to Cedar Key with a 'Fair Wind'.

The storm had kicked the Gulf into 2-4 foot seas, and the wind was still 15-20 knots, but the Blue moon handled those with no problem. I sailed the entire 50 nm distance under the main sail alone. The gaff sail really excels down wind, where it is like a big square sail.

Unfortunately, I didn't do enough advance planning (more on that, tomorrow), so I arrived at the mouth of the Cedar Key northwest channel just at dark. This channel is probably 3 nm long, and fairly twisty-turny, but with a good flash light and a chart, I managed to navigate it with only a few uncertain moments. Dropped anchor at 10 pm just off the Cedar Key ramp.

Today (Saturday) the winds are still 'fair', so I'm going to take advantage of them to sail down to Crystal River.

Fair winds!

Next Episode: The Word 'Crew'

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  1. The journey has begun! Great start John!

  2. Great job in tidying up the inside, I should be amazed, but somehow I new you would get things just the right way. Wishing you fair winds all the way... you will be back sooner ;)

  3. For those sore hands you mentioned, in case you haven't heard this before, use a product called "Bag Balm" available from Agway.

    Dairy farmers use it to treat the udders of cows who have scraped them raw on rocks or rough ground: the farmers found their own rough hands would heal almost overnight if coated with "Bag Balm" and covered with cotton gloves as they slept.


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