Wednesday, April 8, 2015

a postcard from Belhaven

from Mike Wick....

 It was late March, but it had been a long winter, and the boats seemed to call to us. The weather in the Outer Banks appeared to be warmer, and in spite of the distance, a little over 500 miles, Pamlico Sound would be a fine venue.  We were five sailors in three boats. At first  Curt was supposed to ride with me on JACKAROO, but he decided to commission ANNIE, and then my trailer needed maintenance, so he invited me to ride with him with the extra incentive that we could do some sketching on the side each day. Curt is an accomplished Maritime artist, and I am a stark neophyte. My accomplishments were modest, my enthusiasm was quite recent, but  I made a start under his tutelage. The Caledonian twins, Peter Gottlund and John Shinaberger, who had left his sistership, DELIGHT at home, to ride on Peter’s Caledonian Yawl, NIP, and Eddie Breeden sailed his Sooty Tern, UNA.

 Sunday noon, we met in Belhaven, the only large town for miles around. The wind was brisk from the North, and we were cautious about the cold water, 50 degrees,  but we were in protected waters in the Pungo River, off Pamlico River, so we launched and set sail, out of Belhaven Harbor and west into Pungo Creek, really just  a few miles, but there we found a lovely beach right at the entrance of the creek. We nosed up on the beach and broke out our various rations to share for a late lunch. This is a favorite tactic of small boat sailors. After a long drive South , we were ready to stand down  and snooze in the warm sun. Later, we sensed that it would be cold, so we headed off the beach, anchored,  and broke out various boom tents for the night. Boom tents are a small but creative industry, all amateur and all different. When boats are small, a full cabin can be an impediment, and a watertight tent is more handy if less airtight.  That night  I started with a fleece blanket inside my sleeping bag, but it wasn’t enough. I couldn’t get warm enough to sleep.  Both Curt and I got up and made coffee in my Jetboil for a short break and I got out and put on my raingear. That did the trick. Raincoat inside sleeping bag was just warm enough. Maybe it’s a little crowded .  but uncomfortable and warm is better that shaking from cold. (Eddie has a picture of our fleet anchored and under boom tents.)

 Monday was windy from the Southwest with reports of steady rain. We considered heading out to Pamlico, but Pungo Creek was so cozy. We sailed up the creek and found the Cee Bee Marina, a little down home,  but it had a remada type recshed that would keep us out of the rain. There were showers and toilets, and they were reluctant to take any money from such small boats  who were visiting so early in the season. We had found our spot.  Peter had brought  along a Pennsylvania delicacy, Bag Balogna; not the horse _________ of my Navy days, but more a rich  salami that he sliced with a sheath knife. It went down  well as we watched the rain .  There was  wine and beer and Cornish Pasties enough for all as we sat under cover and remembered past trips and planned future passages.  We groaned about the long winter and the cold   that had kept us from the pleasant winter tasks of sailors. We had had a  hectic week getting boats ready for this trip, but we were glad we had made the effort. All were graduates of either the MASCF regatta in Saint Michaels or the Small Reach Regatta in various parts of Maine. The boats were a little crowded for sleeping, so John and Eddie set up their tents on shore for the night. We were all glad that the weather was a little warmer, and as usually happens we slept soundly on the second night of the trip. First night of camping  takes some adjustment, but you make up for it the second night. I am always surprised that I can go to sleep at dusk and sleep the clock around when I am small boat camping. I bring along an old paperback and a headlamp, just in case, but it almost always stays in the bottom of my drybag.

 Tuesday was gorgeous. After changing crews around: I rode with Peter while John sailed with Curt. We made a leisurely start  in a brisk Southerly and beat down the river toward the Pamlico, but there was enough swell and spray to make us reluctant to face  a long haul to either Bath or Rose Bay. We dhose  to turn downwind and  go up the head of the  Pungo, above where the Intracoastal splits off to the Aligator-Pungo Canal, South of Leechville. A couple of bends in the river  would offer protection from the steadily building southerly.

 In flotilla sailing we tend to stay close together, and that turned out to be fortunate.  Peter and I had a reef tucked in but still were a little anxious about jibing as we went upriver. Going downwind it is easy to overlook a steadily building wind. The first jibe went smoothly, but NIP  quickly tripped on the second jibe and swamped in a moment. She was on her side, and we were swimming. Peter immediately loosed the halyard and brought the main down, and I swam around to get the centerboard. I worried that it might slip back in the trunk, but there was enough board down so  I could grab the edge and extend it. Peter climbed up first then we both stood on the board, and she slowly righted. 

Curt had dropped sail and powered alongside so the two boats were parallel. He and John then helped us aboard ANNIE, anxious it might be hard to get us up, but Curt said I wiggled up just like a Salamander. There was an incentive program operating, and I was glad to be out of the water.  We got a bow line on NIP and put the bailing bucket in action. The boat was full of water and we were anxious that she might fill again through the centerboard trunk, faster than we could bail, but that was not the case.  Peter dug into the bow and found the second bucket (secured by its lanyard). Curt steered, while the rest of us held NIP upright and bow up, and bailed as fast as we could. It was fast enough; we didn’t have to lift the water much and soon had the trunk above water.  Peter led the action. He carefully climbed aboard NIP and struck the mast which we brought aboard ANNIE. Meanwhile, Eddie, now reefed, was going  around recovering the loose gear that had drifted away. A fisherman friend, John Jenkins, a new friend but a good one,  had the courtesy to stand by and watch us recover, then he offered to lead us to a nearby launch ramp.

Peter was shaking, still in his wet clothes, so we brought him aboard ANNIE, stripped him down, put him in a sleeping bag and fed him hot tea. His work was done, he’d recovered NIP. Our capsize drill was over, nothing broken, nothing lost. He seemed to like the idea of a launch ramp.

John Jenkins offered to drive us to Belhaven to get our trailers. We drove back two trucks with trailers. There was a kind of feeling that our trip was over, so NIP and UNA were strapped to their trailers and headed toward home. Curt and I decided that jthere was still food and a heel of Schnaps in a bottle, so we headed out and anchored for the night. Next day, Belhaven.

We have learned new lessons from our capsize drill, and they will stand us well in future events.

Thanks, Mike.  More about the sail can be found Eddie's blog and at Curt's page.

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