Tuesday September 25, 2012
(Corny title, I know, but this post is mostly about speed. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.)
When we left our creek in Middle River today there was only about 20 miles left to travel before we got to Annapolis and I thought we’d be there in 3-4 hours. For the past few days our average had been about 6 knots and I had no reason to think today would be different. This held true as we left the river and pointed East to get past an island before we could go South. We cruised by it at over six and a half knots and now I was sure we could make Annapolis in three hours. I could just make out the outline of Bay Bridge in the distance and once I got the ok I pointed South towards it. We knew winds were coming from this direction but once we put ourselves on course we were basically in irons. Thinking it would be best to motor through it we turned on the engine. Our speed had dropped by three knots and it felt like we were making no progress. Letting this go on for thirty minutes we thought back to how fast we were going under sail on our beam reach and figured by rolling out the genoa once more we could tack back and forth and a 45 degree angle to the wind and still make more progress than we were just motoring straight into the 25 knot winds. The sail was unfurled, the course was changed, and the engine was shut off. Even after we gathered back our momentum after the original course change our speed had gone from 3.5 under motor to 2.6 under sail. Trying to gain more speed we’d fall off the wind more and more, but that left us on a mostly East to West course and were not making much movement in the right direction.
We fooled ourselves for way too long that this plan of sailing and tacking might actually work before we gave up and turned the engine on again. Pointing ourselves South again we were fighting the wind and waves once more and speed had decreased to 1.5 knots. What happened to the 3.5 we had earlier? Could we not win? Sometimes we’d do ok and start to get our speed up again and a huge wave would crash into our bow almost bringing us to a standstill, then we’d have to start all over again. For the next few hours we plugged along, trying to get closer to shore to block some of the wind. This seemed to help a lot and we settled into a speed between 4 and 5. Just as we were getting to the bridge I settled into the channel which allowed me to not have to keep a constant eye out for crap and oyster traps that cluttered the bay.
While I was enjoying this break from keeping my eyes peeled on the water I looked up at the bridge to watch the large barges about to come under. There was one very large one passing through and it took a minute after he got under that he’d probably want to share the channel with me. I added a few degrees to the autopilot to allow space. Matt looked over at me as if to say ‘Get out of his way!’ which I told him that I already added five degrees. That should be plenty. Just as we were sitting there arguing if there would be enough room for the both of us we heard five blasts from the behemoth. Yes, he was definitely telling me to get the F out of his way. Quickly adding twenty more degrees I got out of the way just as he passed us by. I’m sure he was shaking his head thinking ‘Pshh, women drivers’.
All was going well as we passed under the bridge, the entrance to the Severn River and Annapolis were in sight when all of a sudden the engine cut out. I moved the RPMs down and threw it in neutral. We’d had this happen before when large waves would shake around the fuel and a near empty tank would think it had run dry. Then when we’d calm down it would sputter back to life. This time it didn’t happen. It shut itself completely off and I had harsh winds trying to push us back into the pillars of the bridge we had just crossed under. It wasn’t a dire situation yet, but it was on it’s way there. Just as I was about to fully panic we turned the engine once again and it came to life. Only to die again a quarter mile further. Emptying a five gallon jerrycan into the tank we hoped this would not become an issue again since the sun was setting and there were still a few miles to go upriver. It must have done the trick though because we made it back to Weems Creek without any more engine issues. There was the slight issue though of the anchor taking three times to hold in the silty mud below us. I’m sure the cat we were anchoring next to felt very confident in our skills as we’d throw it in reverse to dig the anchor down, only to fly backward closer and closer to them. I’m sure they had the same thought as the barge, ‘Pshh, women drivers’.
Okay, so I may have been in his way a little bit.
Anyone for a game of Battleship?