Thursday, April 6, 2017

Wind is My Nemesis

I hate wind. Always have, since it started playing with my skirts as a schoolgirl, and moving right on to messing up my my hair as a young woman playing the dating game and exacerbating my uphill toil on long-distance bike trips. At the top of the hills in New Zealand's Coromandel Peninsula (video above), it was so hard to walk against the wind I decided to...forgo hiking and drive on.

I understand that wind is integral to the thermal protection of our atmosphere. But I don't have to like it.

The first couple of times I went out on a sailboat (first Greece then Chesapeake Bay), there was no wind. We stayed put. Stagnated. Not a bad fix to be in, to my mind.

Then Pope and I sailed to Smith Island, a crab-pickers' paradise threatened with global sea rise. A sudden 30-mph gust ripped our jib sail. A few seasons later, heading north on the Bay, we were spun like a top by an unexpected waterspout. Oh, wind. My nemesis.

For two days this week, motoring northward on the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, we were held back by strong adverse wind, pushing back on our boat and blowing in our faces all day.
My eyes felt like sandpaper.

Last night, we pulled up to a dock and tied down securely in anticipation of major thunderstorms--lightning, heavy rains approaching 20-30 mph. The night was restless.sandpaper.whistled through masts and ripped sail covers nearby.
Our boat heeled over at tbe dock and leaked from every hatch and porthole as well as a few of the screws through the deck that Pope resealed only last fall.

This morning, a third crew member came on board in anticipation of a calmer day.
But wind favors no man. Only one motorboat passed by today, struggling even with hundreds of horsepower. All swing bridges (which have to open to let sailboats pass) closed because of sustained winds of 20 mph and gusts over 30 mph. The forecast for tomorrow is the same.
In this video, you can hear the wind gusts here at the marina. Where we just signed up for a second night, to wait for the wind and the bridges.
We are stagnating. Stuck. As always, wind is my nemesis.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

It's a Game We Play: The Boating Game

Despite yesterday's blog about a commercial shipping channel, most of our days on the inland waterway are a trial and error of zigzagging back and forth between sandbars, seeking water deep enough to avoid running aground--especially among the shifting sands behind the barrier islands of North Carolina (now heavily developed with McMansions and condos--though, as much as that offends me, it may not be relevant to channel depth).
All the while dodging crab pots, small fishing boats, and dredges; checking charts; periodically dabbing on more sunblock; taking jackets on and off; scratching the persistent itch of no-see-um bites; and intermittently expelling gnats that fly up your nose. When I'm off the helm, I dry out cushions and towels that soak up salt and humidity like a thirsty sponge, scrub the floor, and other assorted chores.
Sound like fun? Unh-uh. Yet the days are ultra relaxing compared with the pressures of being home. Those demands--house, car, utility and appliance breakdowns, bills, volunteer work, organizations, even friends--gently peel away like the layers of an onion. Letting go, feeling time slow down, taking the channel at low speeds (the best you can achieve in a 30-foot O'Day), and sacrificing long hours to internet-free relaxation and meditation. Sometimes I read a book; just finished Isabel Allende's "Daughter of Fortune." Started "Our Story," about the 2012 Quecreek mine rescue.

Many days, for long stretches of those shallow channels, the view is serene. Some might even say boring. Marsh grass, an occasiinal sea bird, a pair of dolphins.
We retire shortly after sunset and rise at dawn, taking advantage of daylight to clock miles.
Once in a while I remember to exercise (boat-sized calisthenics) and eat (lunch is peanut butter and crackers; on a gourmet day, grilled cheese with olives on the side; dinner ranges from pasta to stir-fries).

The salt air clears the cobwebs in my mind, along with my sinuses, skin, and other ailments. Aboard the boat, I stay a lot healthier than at home.
It's all part of The Boating Game. Ready your vessel, select your mate, and come aboard for an unfolding adventure.

Oh, Just Another Routine Adventure on the Nation's Waterway

How does this sound? 

The captain rose before dawn and inhaled coffee while the first mate hauled anchor, the vessel slipping quietly out of the crowded harbor as the sun cracked the horizon, aided by electronic navigation--because the early light was too dim to detect the red and green of the channel markers.
Into the northbound shipping channel they crept, joining work boats, deep-sea fishing captains headed for their daily catch, research ships, local ferries, and unwieldy coal barges.
The vessel rallied against one knot of adverse current, soon to increase to three knots as the tide swept relentlessly out to sea, a force as old as the earth and immune to all of man's desires and engineering miracles. 

Sounds like a novel to me. Ripping adventure? Tragic hard-luck tale? Another Hemingway?

Nah. Just another routine day on the inland waterway, bringing the boat home from Charleston where we stored her for the winter, after our aborted attempt to sail to the Bahamas for a second glorious adventure.

Of course, the waterway is an adventure too--frequently one we would prefer to avoid.
Yesterday we crossed into North Carolina. One state down, three to go.